Saturday, March 29, 2008

Marlin 39A Mountie

Once upon a time I looked at the Ithaca 49R Saddlegun and lusted after this perennial advertiser in the boys magazines. Then a friend of my father's managed to drop his guard and let me close enough to his Marlin Mountie to initiate the drool response. Although it was many years until money and a rifle were co-located in my life, the drooling never stopped. I had other, fully capable, .22 Long Rifle chambered rifles but still, the trim lines, lever and balanced layout of the Mountie continued to cause a Pavlovian response in this poor boy.

The Marlin 39 began as the 1891 and through improvements (models 1892, 1897 and 39) finally evolved into the 39A. One of the models of the 39A was the straight grip Mountie with a 20" barrel. The gun has further evolved into the 39AS with rebounding hammer and crossbolt safety (which are completely unneccesary complications to this fine design).

As is my habit, I buy Williams Foolproof Receiver sights for guns I'd like to have someday. It was my good fortune to find a poorly and inaccurately described sight for the Marlin 39. Joy of joy, I got the sight (and some others...) for about $30 delivered. Ever closer to my dream, I stored the sight in my parts box in the basement and went on with life.

But I never lost my dream. One day I was perusing with the reckless abandon born of empty pockets when I spied this Marlin 39A Mountie with a buy-it-now price of just $200. Obviously, there must be something wrong with it but at $250 delivered and background check it couldn't be that bad. It wasn't. Scrambling through the wallet, emptying the change jar, and the money was scraped together. Off it went together with the necessary FFL copy and in a matter of days the gun was delivered into my hands.

With, finally after 41 years, a Marlin Model 39 Mountie in my hands, I was as happy as I could be with a new-to-me gun. This one was made in 1956 which I knew because the serial began with the letter "N". The gun had one issue in that the latch/muzzle end of the mag tube is a bit buggered but a new mag tube was ordered (although I've yet to install it).

Of course, the first thing I did was install the Williams Foolproof Receiver sight (you can see in the photo that I tend to a certain pattern) and go to the range. I took along some Aguila Super Colibri, CCI CB-Long, Winchester Dynapoint (both modified to the SGB point and unmodified), Winchester PowerPoint and Aguila SSS (with the 60 gr. bullet) but forgot the chronograph. I don't know the velocities of the various loads from this gun but all proved to be usably accurate with the PowerPoints and SGB pointed Dynapoints being the most accurate. I was also very surprised to discover that the Marlin would stabilize the long Aguila 60 gr. bullets in the SSS load. None of my other .22s would do so. I converted a few to the SGB point and they were even more accurate but not so much as to be a critical difference at 25-50 yards. Perhaps at 100 yards the accuracy difference would be notable.

I then had to take it squirrel hunting. It was a treat. There is nothing like toting a classic rifle made of wood and steel into the woods after game. I was in a sort of heaven and shortly so were two of the local gray squirrel population. (They were excellent when cut up, stir fried and served over white rice...) The gun was everything I knew it would be. I only wish I'd been able to share the experience but, as usual, I was hunting alone.

I'm looking forward to many happy years with this fine .22 rimfire rifle.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

S&W M43 (Airweight Kitgun)

The Smith and Wesson 43 is an airweight version of the 34 "kit gun" with a 3½" barrel. The frame AND cylinder are both of S&W's aluminum alloy. These lightweight guns were made from 1954 to 1974. Most were squarebutt blued/anodized guns but there are examples with 2 and 4 inch barrels, nickled and with roundbutts. I understand there are even a few in .22 WMRF. A wealth of collecting trivia well suited to the obsessive collector!

This gun with SN M70XXX was made in either 1973 or 1974. This gun does not have the red front sight insert. It is of the standard configuration and is immaculate although it has been fired. It fits very well into a late 1980s Bianchi holster made for the 4" M34 or M63 kit guns. I'm pretty pleased with it!

One thing I have read is that some of these guns don't reliably ignite ammo when used in double-action as the force of the blow to the cartridge rim by the firing pin is lessened. I've also read that some think the firing pins were deliberately slightly shortened to avoid inadvertent dryfire peening of the chambers in these rimfire guns. I don't know which or if either story is true but now that I've fired mine with Aguila Colibri ammo I can confirm that it goes bang every time in single-action shooting but not so in double action shooting. Interesting as I don't have this problem with my S&W M34-1. I'm wondering, is it possible that the aluminum cylinder absorbs more firing pin energy than a steel cylinder? Was that the basis for the idea that the blow to the cartridge rim was less in DA?  An unreasoned explanation for a mis-understood phenomenon?

What I really need to do is to try different ammo to see if this is true with all ammunition or if it is brand specific. In truth, most shots with this gun will likely be fired single-action and this might never be an issue for me.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Marlin 336T .30-30

When I was a boy of but a few years I had many lusted for guns on my "list" of "to haves". Among these was the straight grip Marlin 336 sometimes known as the "Texan". Just like the normal 336C except for the straight grip in lieu of the standard pistol grip, this gun just seemed handier to me. When the time came for me to actually purchase a deer rifle, what I could find AND afford was a more standard Marlin 336 with the pistol grip and that is what I got. Oh, it was a fine shooter, but it never excited me as much as the straight grip guns and I traded it off for a Winchester post-64 M94 in .44 Mag. Hard to explain that one. In any case the desire for a straight gripped M336 stayed with me for years despite actually having other straight-gripped .30-30 leverguns in hand. So...

I got the urge and some few bucks saved up and went hunting one and found this one on an internet auction site. It must have been fated because my bid of $250 was the only bid on this gun! Lucky I was.

The gun came in and it was pretty much as described. Let's just say that it has been shot and carried a bit and a previous owner was enamoured of slings and had used the Marlin trademark bullseye as the location for the the sling swivel stud.

Let me digress a moment to unequivocally state that the Marlin trademark is NOT the location for such things. Indeed, screwing the sling swivel stud in there will usually shatter or crack the plastic bullseye and might even pull out under stress. One is then left with nothing more than a hole and possible embarassment. Don't do it. Just measure back from the toe of the stock about 1½-2¼ inches and center the sling swivel stud there. Be sure to pre-drill the hole to avoid cracking the stock.

So, back to my gun, I had this HOLE where the bullseye was supposed to be. I didn't have a replacement bullseye to hand (but you can get them from Marlin or Gun Parts Corp.) but I did have some deer antler. That seemed appropriate to me so I cut a plug that would fit the hole and epoxied the antler there and then filed and sanded it to fit the stock. I like it.

I also had to have better than the issue sights. My usual fix is to install a Williams Foolproof 94/36 and go shooting. However, I'd been reading the adventures of John Taffin and he'd recently published an article in which he'd found a Texan in .35 Remington (my knees weaken at the thought of such a find). Now Mr. Taffin had installed a Lyman 66 on his rifle and I thought that it would be a fine and different thing to do to my rifle as well so I ordered one from MidwayUSA.

The Lyman 66 is a pretty neat sight having an interesting feature not found on the Williams. That feature is that you can push a little plunger and remove the top part of the sight leaving the base and then reinstall the sight by reversing the procedure and right to zero. You can also easily adjust the sights via knobs with a coin rather than needing a screwdriver. AND you can zero the little side plate and then move the sight around as in matches from the ready reference point for that particular rifle. Pretty neat stuff except... I don't have a scope so don't switch sights. Being able to remove the top part leaving the base is more liability for me than it is benefit. Also, the screw which attaches/secures the side zero plate stripped its hole. A call and e-mail to Lyman products elicited zero product support so I epoxied the plate and screw in place. It looks right but it isn't.

The Lyman 66 does look retro, but it isn't as they are now made from aluminum, just like the Williams, and thus actually have more weaknesses than the Williams. I haven't bought another Lyman since. However, if I could get a vintage Lyman, made of steel, I'd likely buy it. All the old Lyman's I shot on other folks guns many years ago gave not one lick of trouble.

As to the rifle, a quick check of the serial number revealed that it was made in 1982. Of course this is prior to the introduction of the cross-bolt safety so we are happily lacking that homage to the ambulance chaser. That's a wonderful thing.

Wonderful too, is that this is yet another of my "sub-collection" of guns manufactured in 1982. It isn't as if I've set out to collect such. In fact, I don't check the age, or year of manufacture, until after the gun is purchased. If there is some sort of "message" in the coincidence, I can't find it, yet.

The gun performs about as well as any other Marlin 336 including my long since departed pistol-gripped 336. It easily groups into 1½-2 inches at 100 yards with all the ammo I've tried in it. The action functions smoothly but really no better or worse than other 336s or Winchesters. In short, there is nothing special or noteworthy about this gun except that I always wanted one and now I have one.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Colt Cobra from 1968

Don't you wish you'd bought all the guns you want now, then? I know I do. I looked at this gun (and my DS) in the catalogs and in the gun store display cases then but I'm buying them now...

Here's my latest. It is a .38 Special Colt Cobra, manufactured in 1968. The year my wife graduated from high school. The year of the Tet Offensive. The year that I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church. The year that Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. The gun looks so much better than anything else from that time (including me!).

The Colt Cobra is basically the D-frame double-action, 6-shot, Colt Detective Special with an aluminum frame. Cartridges for which the guns were chambered were the .22 LR, .32 Colt New Police (.32 S&W Long), .38 Colt New Police (.38 S&W) and .38 Special. +P .38 Special loads are not recommended as being to rough on the aluminum frame. Barrel lengths were the standard 2", 3", 4" and 5".

Thursday, March 13, 2008

S&W M43, Colt Cobras and Deals

I've been waiting a week to do a deal on one or a couple of S&W M43s and one or more Colt Cobras. I don't know how it is going to shake out but the next two days will tell. Have a good thought for me, please.

.50 BMG Bolt Gun

Ok, so it isn't high tech, cutting edge or whiz-bang. But it is his and he built it. Good enough.
Hi Guys, here is my new squirrel gun. It is a 50Cal BMG. It has a 20 X 54 powered scope. I hope to zero it soon so I can engage a squirrel or ground hog at a mile or two.

I'll just be standing back here a bit...

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Recommendations for Home Defense Weapons

I got pinged by a friend for recommendations for home/self defense firearms. He is about 5'7" and his wife is a petite 5'1" and both are slender. Neither are sport shooters and his shooting experience is mostly in the US Navy (22 year vet). Sent him the following message (photos removed)...

Got your message and I have some suggestions.

Previously, we talked about this and I suggested that this gun, the Bulgarian Makarov Pistolette (Pistol) was a good inexpensive alternative. You might remember it which is why I'm including a photo (deleted here).

It might still be a good choice price-wise but prices have gone up a lot. Given that your wife ought to be able to use whatever you have in a pinch and that it ought to be safe with everything at rest, I have another, albeit more-expensive-than you-might-have-expected, suggestion. The Ruger SP-101 in .357 Magnum.

The important points to remember are that you do NOT need to shoot .357 Magnum ammo in the revolver but can use ANY .38 Special ammunition. This is important for several reasons.

1. If you get a
concealed handgun permit this gun is small enough for you to carry and yet it has sufficient weight to make shooting .38 Special ammunition easy and controllable for your wife.

2. It can sit in whatever storage position (bedside table, small safe, etc,) loaded without any springs under tension and be instantly usable.

3. These guns have a wonderful reputation for reliability and accuracy, they are strong like little tanks.

4. Ammunition can be found anywhere and even the very mild target loads are
effective but if you guys get more competent you can move up in power to the
.357 Magnum barn burners without having to change guns.

5. The guns are easy to find and there is no premium tacked onto their price.

The model I'm talking about, KSP-331X, has a MSRP of $572 but you should be able to find it for less quite possibly for as little as $400-430.

As to shotguns, again, I'm thinking that your wife needs to be able to use it in a pinch. The standard thing is the Remington 870. You don't need anything fancy though and any good used 20 gauge pump shotgun will be both effective and light enough recoiling that your wife can use it. It will have the added advantage of not shooting out through the side of your house and hitting any of your nice neighbors. You will want to store it with the chamber empty, hammer released on the EMPTY chamber with ammo in the magazine. When you go to use it you simply operate the pump, point and shoot. For the Remington, you can get a "youth model" butt stock that will shorten the gun up to make it easier for your wife to shoot and you'll still be able to use it comfortably as well. In fact, Remington's 20 ga. youth model, order #25561, is about ideal for your use. You don't need all the tactical stuff the gun shop might try to sell you. Get 20 ga. #3 buckshot 2-3/4" shells.

I have a couple of other recommendations.

1. Tell NOBODY except the most trustworthy in your circle of friends what you're doing. Don't let them wander around and see your guns or where you store them. ESPECIALLY don't let their kids in on the "secret" as they WILL tell their friends and your home could then be targeted. Think, "loose lips sink ships."

2. Arrange for some remedial training for yourself and training for your wife. Take it separately at first. That way neither of you will be self conscious.

3. Learn the law in your state on use of lethal force (which should be part of your training above).

4. Have a plan. That is, pick a safe room, study the avenues of approach (how the bad guys would get there), and know where your bullets would go if you did have to shoot.

5. Have an alternative communication device (cell phone) as it is now common to cut the phone lines. Have a plan with the wife as to who calls the police and who covers the door, etc. Practice the plan.

Most importantly, and this might apply to your wife more than to you, but one needs to know that one can actually pull the trigger when/if put in that situation. Otherwise, having a gun might be a liability.

It is sad to say but the children of your friends must be suspect. I can't tell you how many people I know who were robbed or burglarized by people who learned of their particular valuables and the location of them through their children, children's friends or friends of friends. Kids talk without regard to consequences.
I should also have mentioned that one should read "In the Gravest Extreme" by Massad Ayoob. This book lays out all the considerations one must make before committing to armed self-defense in today's world. It is somewhat dated with regards to technology but the legal and moral considerations are still applicable. After all, the gun is only a tool.

I recently ran across this nifty size comparison for pocket pistols. It is a PDF file, so I recommend opening in another tab/window. Some neat info and graphic information!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

NRA Board Elections - My Votes

I just voted.

Steve Schreiner - he has the recommendation of several other people I respect.
Tom Selleck - we need a public persona that is attractive to other than our base.
James S. Gilmore III - former Governor of VA, he did a lot for this state's gun rights while here, has kept his word and has the ear of the nation's leaders (at least they know his name!).
Roy Innis - he's been on the side of right for a long time despite the fact that he's caught a lot of flack for it. Like me, he sees gun rights as the key to all rights.
Jim Taylor, Paco Kelly and John Taffin - I think these gentlemen would do a fine job if elected. I think they have the will to speak their minds and the ability to get along with other board members so that they can be effective. I acknowledge that unless there is a groundswell of support for them it is unlikely they'll be elected. However, if enough folks vote for them it might catch the eye of somebody who might actually recognize that there is a bit of dissatisfaction with the current drift of the organization.

I did not write in myself (as was suggested) because unless a LOT of folks write me in I'll just be some crank nobody knows. I also didn't vote for anyone else because I want "them" (the board) to see that some people took the time to consider their vote and didn't find all the nominees (however good they might be) worthy of a rubber stamp.

Thanks to those who carefully considered this vote.

Browning 1886 SRC

Shown to the left is my Browning 1886 Saddle Ring Carbine (SRC) together with the first target I shot using the newly mounted Williams Foolproof Receiver Sight (FP-71). You can disregard the bullet holes from outside the c-more target as those were from earlier experiments. Just note the tight 5-round group at the center. That's what this gun can do with this sight. I love it.

The Winchester 1886 from which it is derived, there are a couple of slight differences in the mechanism, was designed by John Browning for Winchester. It had to be done, after all Marlin's 1881 in .45-70 was taking market share from the Winchester 1876 because it was chambered for the real thing, the .45-70 Government cartridge.

The Browning guns were made by Miroku in Japan. They are quality throughout and good guns. The finish is excellent. You might notice that there is a difference in the profile of the buttstock. I've no idea why Browning or Miroku made the decision to do that. So, while it confounds and/or disturbs some hard-core afficianados of the 1886 it is of no issue for me. When I put this gun to my shoulder the sights align as they should and it settles into my shoulder as it should. All's well!

I've shot this gun with the factory loads in both the 405 gr. at 1200-1300 fps and 300 gr. at 1800 fps versions and prefer the latter, slightly. So, when I set up to handload/reload for the cartridge I tried to duplicate that 300 gr. bulleted "express" loading. It was easy to do with 54 gr. of H322 and using either the Speer or Sierra 300 gr. bullets made for this application I was right on the money velocity-wise. This was born out on target as using any of these loads, even mixed in a magazine full, produces the tight targets on point of aim at 100 yards. I like that.

I did get the gun for a bit more oomph and if that is necessary, I expect that I will use Elmer Keith's load of 53 gr. of IMR-3031 to push a 405 gr. bullet like Remington's to about 1800 fps. That should do for my purposes.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Winchester 1894 Flat-band Carbine

Once upon a time I lived in a land far, far, away aka California and was about to move. Sometime during my stay in that land of altered dream states, I had acquired a sofa on which to sit and watch Leon Panetta run for Congress. That sofa would not, could not fit into the cargo compartment formed by the topper on my Datsun pick-up truck. I had, or rather my then wife had, in a fit of generousity paid $55 for the sofa and that was what I was using as the asking price when trying to sell it to newly arrived soldiers in our apartment complex. Alas, like me, few had the ready cash to pay that for this thing. So it came to pass that one fellow spec four came to me with a "deal". His old winchester M94 carbine for my sofa. Well the gun was much easier to pack into the truck than the sofa and so the deal was done. I'm sure he felt like he got the better part of the deal. I know I felt like I got the better part of the deal. After all, I had a gun and all he had was a sofa in pretty good condition.

Of course he might have been taking the condition of the gun into consideration while I didn't. You see this gun came with a rather unique adaptation of the standard 2x4 as a buttstock for the carbine. Yes, it was pine, no it was not even varnished but it did have the original buttplate! Hey, that's a good deal, right?

Of course, the stock wasn't acceptable and neither was the lack of a good receiver sight. It wasn't long before I glass-bedded a replacement wood stock and had the gun drilled and tapped for a Williams Foolproof 94/36 sight. This gun is now a babe.

So, that gun which was, to me, worth a $55 sofa is the 1946 manufactured (according to the stamping on the barrel) flatband Winchester 94 herewith presented. A wonderful gun which has taken deer and groundhogs, the first .30-30 that my son ever shot (but hopefully not the last), this is a gun to keep.

A good load for the .30 WCF (aka .30-30) isn't hard to find. Just go to your local ammunition purveyor and buy the desired quantity of 170 gr. bulleted ammunition from any of the major manufacturers (Remington, Winchester or Federal). All seem to shoot to point of aim in this gun and all function slick as snot through the action. Want to reload? I use 30 gr. IMR 3031 under any standard 170 gr. RN or FP ".30-30" bullet seated to crimp in the cannelure and lit with a standard primer (I always use CCI). However if you're using one of the newer lots of IMR 3031 you might want to work up to a max of 29 gr. Other suitable powders include IMR or H 4895 and W748. Consult your loading manual for data on those.

As to accuracy, well I get what seems to be the standard for me of 1½-2" groups at 100 yards. That's more than accurate enough and probably more accurate than most future shooters will ever need. I'm glad I'll be able to pass this one on.

What's it worth now? Don't ask. I know I don't care but I will tell you this, it is worth considerably more than $55.

The "flatband" is third from the top. You might notice that I prefer a certain configuration for my lever-action rifles...

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Ruger Single Six .22

When I was a kid the best shows were the westerns, the best screen heroes were the Lone Ranger and the Cisco Kid. Of course, we had cap pistols but the goal was to someday own a real western revolver, a single-action sixgun. As I got older, practicality took over and a .22 rifle was more useful than the revolver, dittos for a shotgun and a Marlin .30-30 which took all my available money, the handguns would have to wait!

Then, I went into military service and on my first assignment in the Republic of Korea had as my supervisor Specialist 4th Class (now 1SG USA Retired) Verne H. who happened to have a photo of himself with his Single-Six and a Winchester 1901 10 ga. leveraction shotgun.

That got my interest up even though I'd been reading about them for years. Still, I didn't buy one. Well, I almost did. While stationed at Fort Hunter-Liggett, CA I was offered one I turned down. This one had had the serial, ummm, "altered" and in just a couple of days the "owner" was arrested for theft of the gun.

Later, I got the urge for a .22 pistol again. By that time I'd shot the Ruger Government models of their .22 auto and was more disposed to buying a semi-auto. Still the Single-Six occupied a space in my consciousness and when I finally resolved to buy one, two came my way in the space of a week. The first was a Single-Six chambered in .32 H&R and the other is the .22 version about which this post is written.

Here's my gun side-by-side with my New Vaquero. You can see that the grip frames are very similar and the guns are of a similar size but the layout of the frame/receiver is different due to the different requirements of the different cartridges. I felt the single-Six would be a good understudy for the bigger New Vaquero. That has been true to a point. Unfortunately, I haven't yet been able to shoot either gun as much as I would have liked. That's getting to be, unfortunately, normal around here.

I tried the gun with all the ammo I had on hand and, as seems to be the trend, the SGB point modified Winchester Dynapoints and the Winchester PowerPoints proved to be the most accurate. The Aguila Super Colibris don't shoot for beans in this gun and it won't stabilize the 60 gr. bullet of the SSS load either.

Of course this gun has a .22 WMRF cylinder as well and that ammo had to be tested. Well, "tested" is a bit optimistic, truth be told. But some preliminary range work seems to show that the premium ammo is all usably accurate to 50 yards or more and the most accurate load might be the Remington 40 gr. SP load. I also want to try out some of the 6000 rounds of Remington made .22 WRF (.22 Rem Special) ammo I recently procured but just haven't had the range time. I've yet to shoot anything with the Mag cylinder other than paper targets or plastic drink bottles.

- Ruger Parts Booklets
- Ruger New Serial Number History (all models)