Thursday, April 30, 2009

An American Heritage - Leverguns by Paco Kelly

I was recently gifted this book. I don't know that I should say who gave it to me as that might be a private concern for them. However, I am humbled and honored to have been given this particular copy. There really aren't words to express how I feel to have been considered worthy of this gift. Thank you.

Paco Kelly has had a varied and truly storied career in the military, law enforcement, writing and as an inventor.

Back in 1985 he wrote this book, An American Heritage - Leverguns (ISBN 0-935737-57-X), about what was considered a mundane and obsolescent firearm, the leveraction rifle.

In just 163 pages he delivered a wealth of information (which I truly wish I had available to me then). This book has rightfully been appreciated by those in the know. Demand for this rare book has reached the point that it now trades for about $200.00 on the used book market. Even at that price it might be considered very undervalued.

You see, to get all the information here, you'd have to clip magazine articles on all the firearms and cartridges mentioned for the past 23 years. You still wouldn't have Paco's experiences or the results of all his experimentation (which most writers/editors wouldn't dare put out there).

As you might know, Paco Kelly has a founded a forum just for leveraction aficionados. If you have an interest, visit, you'll like it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Holsters, What I Have and What I Use... Part I

Anyone who has bought a handgun might have once thought that the handgun is the thing. I mean, you need the gun to have something go bang. But that is far from the end of the matter. You need ammo of course, but a with handgun, well you NEED a holster. Handguns have to be carried in some manner. When you have a rifle you generally carry it in your hands or in the truck as you go about your activities. You certainly don't carry the rifle into the bank (at least not in my area). That's why one often gets a handgun, for concealed or open carry to have it with you at all times. To do that you need a holster.

Holsters do more than just hold the gun so that your hands are free to do other things. A good holster protects the gun from scratches, bumps and unintentional contact with the trigger or movement of exposed hammers. A good holster has to be comfortable for the wearer as well. It doesn't do for a holster to be more an instrument of inquisitional torture than shooting aide. Shooters have used just about every design and material for holsters. Not all designs or materials were really suitable. Today, leather, Kydex/plastics and nylon lead the field in materials.

I have holsters made of both and one of plastic (not kydex) by Fobus. While the purpose for all is the same, the application is different. Frankly, I prefer leather. Sometimes, unfortunately, a quality leather holster simply isn't available at the time a holster is needed and we get something that will work (after a fashion). Some guns just don't excite us enough to get a quality carrier.

One example of that is the Chinese made Norinco Tokarev 9mm adaptation (M213) which I carry in an old M7 shoulder holster intended for a revolver. Fits just fine and suits my purpose for this gun.However, the cost was nil as the holster came in trade.

Also, there is, in some circles, a rather pointed debate on retention straps versus no straps. I find them useful in some instances and almost always in a nylon or plastic holster. That is because most plastics and nylon is very slick and won't grab the gun at all. Not so necessary in an inside the waistband (IWB) holster made of leather. There will be, of course, differing opinions and experiences. I don't want to be the last authority on this so don't look to me to tell you which is best. As I said, I use both.

Anyway, I thought I'd go down a list of guns and the holsters I use or have used and my thoughts about those holsters.

I had for a time a .25 ACP Colt Junior and I carried it either in my pocket (mostly unacceptable as it squirreled around everywhere and picked up lint) or in an Uncle Mike's ankle holster. That was neat for one reason. With my baggy pants style the gun was well hidden. I did have to be certain to wear dark socks and wear the sock on that foot up over the bottom of the holster. I didn't want the gun to show when I sat down. It was sometimes impossible to use such as when I wore anything but a low shoe. It does not work even when wearing 6" boots. The gun went back to the guy I bought it from (it had been his dad's) and the holster went with it. I did learn that only a small AND light pistol would be at all comfortable for me in this carry mode. There are few pistols indeed small and light enough for me.

Concealment holsters are very important to me. Many of my handguns are so used. Some holsters can, during certain times of the year, be used both as field holsters and adequately conceal the firearm under a coat or jacket. Simply Rugged's Sourdough and Silver Dollar Pancakes are one such holster. Rob Leahy has extended the holster design's usefulness with his inside-out straps allowing the holsters to be worn inside the waistband (IWB) comfortably. In one form or another I have a Simply Rugged Pancake for my Ruger Bearcat, Colt Detective Special, S&W M34, USFA SA/Ruger New Vaquero, and S&W M629. All of these could be adapted to use and IWB holsters. The one shown here is for my Detective Special. It is very comfortable to wear.

After much shooting, thought and gnashing of brain cells what do I use? Well, I've seemed to sort out to the Tom Threepersons (T3P), the pancake, pocket holsters and various forms of inside the waistband (IWB) types.

The T3P is a great holster designed by a working Texas lawman, Tom Threepersons. A minimal holster designed for fast draw, it is a high ride, strong-side carry, with a forward cant (also known as the FBI tilt/cant). The first one was made by S. D. Meyers. Later the design was slightly altered by Elmer Keith and produced by George Lawrence as the 120. Many makers produce a copy of the T3P or 120s today. The one shown is by relative newcomer Rick Gittlein and carries my Ruger .41 Mag Old Model Blackhawk. The T3P is suitable and made for just about every handgun produced.

The T3P is very comfortable to wear but as with all holsters a suitable "gun" belt rigid enough to carry the weight of the gun is necessary. Many if not most belts normally worn are not up to the task. Consequently just about every holster maker has a quality belt in their line. If you intend to wear the same belt to hold up your pants, measure those belt loops.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

On early mornings and hunting...

Before you read my few poor words on the subject, go to Home on the Range and read Brigid's thoughts which begat mine...

Now that you've returned I can continue the "conversation"...

I think the key to real revelry in early rising is companionship. I used to get up a lot earlier and enjoy it more when I had a companion, dog or human, with whom to share the experience. Yes, sunrises can be beautiful in many ways, but alone one can't know that another sees and appreciates the view.

I have had to hunt to eat, at least for part of the month, and that will drive you and you can enjoy such "work" but it isn't the same. One is much more analytical about the whole experience. I know that I am constantly thinking about where the sun will strike me first. When it might first shine in my eyes blinding me in what direction or reflect off my glasses and give my position away. I find myself yearning for the warmth of those early rays of light. It is more like a military ambush than a recreational experience.

Now, I am aging. Not so old but I feel the changes. I see things differently. I stumble more. I miss the companions of former years more because now I am able to know their true worth. I have no hunting dog with which to share the ride or to watch as they go about their reconnaissance of the area. I don't hear the rustle of legs through grass or the sniffing or feel the vibrations of an eager tail beating the air. There is no one with whom to speak.

So, now, I rise a little later. I tarry over a hot breakfast a little longer. I drive to my chosen hunting "field" a little slower. I most often arrive after the sun has risen enough to ensure the wildlife has completed the daily shift change. I live in a different world.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

20 ga. vs. 12 ga. for self-defense

What the gentleman (Mr. Massad Ayoob) is talking about is the use of the 20 ga. rather than the 12 ga. for self-defense due to the reduced recoil of the 20 ga. compared to the 12 ga. People of smaller stature will likely (although not necessarily so with a properly fitted gun) find the 20 ga. easier to control than the 12 ga. This is important in firing follow-up shots in the event of a miss or multiple assailants (and, no, we're not talking zombies but home invasion).

Many times the 20 ga. guns, when built on 20 ga. frames, are much lighter and so easier to handle for that reason as well. Perhaps then the recoil reduction won't be the main thing, but rather the ease of handling the slightly smaller and lighter gun will be.

It is VERY important to note that every person is different. Even of the same height and weight they may well have different proportions as well as pain tolerance levels and these both affect how any given firearm handles for them. How a gun handles is often important in the level of confidence it gives the user. Confidence can be critical in how we handle crisis. I know of no more immediate crisis than the need to defend your life or the lives of loved ones with a firearm. Every advantage that you can have increases the odds that you will win and the criminal will lose. That is down to the nitty gritty and about as basic as it gets.

Hat tip to Xavier.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

NYPD Serial Number Data

From R. M. Vivas:
For any of the folks who are not aware of it, I have copies of all the surviving NYCPD purchase records for Colt (and others) handguns.

These records start in 1921 and run through 1987. They are by no means complete, but they are all that have survived.

Perhaps %90 of the pre-war records were lost. About %60-70 of the post-war records survived.

The total number of entries which I've computerized is about 100-110 thousand guns.

For Colts, it covers the Army Special, Official Police, Commando, Detective Special, Cobra and Metropolitan.

For S&W it covers M&P/M10, Regulation Police, M36/Chiefs Special, .32 HE, Terrier/M30 and Victory.

If you provide a serial number and it 'hits' it will usually say the date it was sold by the department, to whom, his shield number, command, and sometimes a few other little tidbits of info.

If you have a gun and you want the serial number run, send me an email. I can email you back the specs if it hits.

RM Vivas

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Del-ton, orders and production...

Back on December 23rd I placed an order for an upper and some parts. Del-ton had a 8-12 week wait posted on the home page which soon went to 12-14 weeks. It having been 12+ weeks since the order was placed I wrote asking for a status. I received an automatic notice that it would take up to 2 weeks to answer the e-mail! I did get an answer though.
We are currently Processing orders from the end of NOV we are trying to
get to your order as soon as possible but I did notice that you have a
1x7 barrel on order we are out of these and do not know when they will
be in stock we do have the 1x9 if you would like to change just give
us a call and let us know Thanks Pam
I made the call this morning to change to a 1-9" twist barrel. I am fortunate in that I selected the Winchester 64 gr. SP as the bullet I'll use rather than one of the long heavy weights. I'll keep my eye out for a 1-7 and switch when/if I can. It would seem that I might have as much as 2-3 weeks longer wait!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Unexpected Project - BP .45-70 loads

I have 2 .45-70s but I don't shoot BP in them. I have the .45-75 1876 SRC for a BP cartridge rifle. I cast the Lyman 457122 and 457192 which I lube with SPG lube for that rifle. I am using GOEX 2F for this and my Brown Bess carbine. So, I had all the fixings for an "express" loading of the .45-70.

The other day while working at Nuckols, a local conservation officer came in and was talking about his father and an old trapdoor rifle he had that he wanted to shoot. Our gunsmith is the person who got the gun in shooting condition and he says it is safe to fire but the owner's son is convinced he'll "blow himself up" with the old gun. Ammo is needed...

I was standing there having a conversation with somebody else and the next thing I know a box of .45-70 ammo taken in during a trade is being handed to me. It is now my task to help them load some BP .45-70 loads.

It went all right. First, I removed the bullets from 20 of the loaded cartridges using my kinetic bullet puller. The bullets are set aside for later use. They were 300 gr. Sierra JHPs.

I dumped the powder (the previous loader had used both 2400 and IMR 3031) into a single container and dumped the powder on the lawn. Why? Because I'm pretty sure he used 2400 and 3031 but I don't know with absolute certainty that he used 2400 and 3031. I'm not taking any chances. The lawn is a safe place to spread the powder, the rain making certain it fertilizes as well!

We then ran the 20 cases into a Lyman "M" die (this one marked for the .45-60 did just fine with the longer .45-70 case). This allows the soft cast lead bullets to seat without deformation.

An adjustable volumetric measure was set to 70 gr. and a charge of 2F poured from my Bess horn directly into the measure. The charge was tapped and leveled and then poured into a case. The powder was settled/compacted by tapping the case with a plastic ball point pen. I don't have a drop tube yet (I thought I'd ordered one, wonder where it is?) but this works well. These are modern Remington cases and with a properly seated 405 gr. bullet they might hold closer to 65 gr. 2F by volume. The shorter 350 gr. bullet allows the use of 70 gr. (by volume) of powder.

My original intent was to use a grease cookie (although I was going to use SPG) but this was considered unnecessary (we'll see) so the Lyman 457192 was seated directly over the powder compressing the charge by about 1/8". One does NOT want any air space between a BP charge and the bullet. As my dies were set up, this crimped the cartridges just behind the front driving band of the bullet. In the .45-75 I would be certain to adjust the die to crimp over the top of the front driving band (as the bullet is designed for this) but since this was to be used in a single-shot, a trapdoor, I felt this would have minimal negative consequences. So, I left it as it was.

The end result is a cartridge which should move the bullet out at about 1300-1350 fps muzzle velocity. Usable for deer hunting and certainly for getting the feel of shooting a black powder cartridge arm. The only thing left for it is for the fellow to shoot his gun with his cartridges. I hope it does for him what it would do for me.

Friday, April 10, 2009

What is old is new again, the heavy bullet .223/5.56

When I started my Army career the issue ball ammo was the 55 gr. bulleted M193. Things have changed. Use of the M16 system in the middle east has resulted in a demand for better penetration at longer ranges and the M855 62 gr. bullet (which became general issue about the time I retired) came into use as did 1-9" twist barrels to stabilize the bullet. Now, the 77 gr. bulleted M262 is the thing and 1-7" twist barrels are the rage. The 1-7" twist rate is what I got for my AR15 and I ordered a quantity of the 64 gr. Winchester bullet to load for that gun. I was already using the Sierra 63 gr. SP but the Winchester bullet is cheaper and has a good reputation.

In doing all this and examining the various EBRs such as the AR180B, I was suddenly struck by how much the 77 gr. bulleted load resembles the old .22 Savage HighPower. Both cartridges move a 77 gr. .224" bullet at about 2700-2900 fps. What is old is new again!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Snow on April 8

It isn't unprecedented but it is unusual.  It isn't any great amount but it is on the ground and still falling this morning.  It certainly isn't a harbringer of global warming.  I remember my last April snow in Virginia.  That brought forth warnings of the coming ice age.  It was "our" fault then as well.   

It is a pretty safe bet that there will be global climate change.  We see evidence that there has been such many times over the life of the earth.  Species have come and gone at least partially as a result of these changes.  For most of that time man made absolutely no impact on "greenhouse gas" levels.  Still, compared to volcanic activity, man's contribution to these levels is relatively minor.  There is even a case to be made that warming, if it were to occur, could have benefits such as extended growing seasons and reduced energy needs for heating of homes and offices. 

Regardless of the politics or popular perceptions, nature will do as it will.  It certainly seems colder these past few years. 

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Small Semi-Auto Pistols - the .380 ACPs

A waaaay back when I saw a Llama .380. A kinda copy of the Colt Government .45 but scaled down in size to handle the .380 cartridge, it had every appearance of being a neat gun and a wonderful training/transition pistol for people with small hands. Actually the model was Micro-Max. Like all Llamas, it was built in Spain. The .380 (I think they were also made in .22 LR and .32 ACP) had an 8-round capacity and weighed 24 ounces. Reports on these guns were mixed but I did shoot a couple enough to like them but never enough to actually spend money on them.

Colt introduced the .380 Government Model automatic pistols in 1984. I wanted one of them as well. Still, I couldn't quite bring myself to pay real (and limited) money for one. The local shop just had an new in box one come in but it immediately sold. The price? Now it is a "reasonable" $800. There is a demand for these guns, particularly the Mustang variant which is both smaller and lighter.

Enter the SIG Sauer P238 (Nitron) -
Reacting to many requests from the marketplace for a subcompact SIG SAUER pistol, engineers designed the new P238 as a smart looking, small handgun built with the same accuracy and reliability as large frame SIG SAUER pistols. With an overall length of just 5.5 inches a height of 3.96 inches, and weighing just under a pound, the SIG SAUER P238 is the ultimate firepower in an all metal frame concealed pistol. The P238 is built on an anodized alloy beavertail style frame with fluted aluminum grips for comfort and a secure hold during rapid-fire usage. The stainless steel slide features the popular SIG SAUER slide serrations and improves overall performance and accuracy. Additionally, the contrast or SIGLITE® Night Sights are removable and adjustable for windage. The sear and trigger return spring are redesigned to prevent spring over-ride of the ejector during assembly. Two finishes are available; Two-tone and corrosion resistant Nitron®. The new SIG SAUER P238 is shipped in a lockable hard case with one 6 round magazine at an MSRP starting at $515.00 for the Nitron® with contrasting sights.
Seems that somebody got the message and the price is right. My dealer tells me that street price will be something less than MSRP. Might have to get one of those...

As I write this .380 ACP (aka 9mm Korto/Corto/Court) ammo is in short supply. It seems that the owners of these mostly seldom shot guns are hoarding ammunition right along with actual shooters. Very interesting and the shortage occurred very quickly and somewhat unexpectedly. I think it is in part due to the fact that even many who reload other cartridges have never bothered to do so with this cartridge.

One company that produces .380 ACP not only has quite a bit on hand, but loads probably the best performing .380 ACP ammo available anywhere. That's Buffalo Bore Ammunition. Their product is available in either 100 gr. hardcast or 90 gr. hollow-point.

One of the coolest little .380 ACPs is the Remington Model 51. It FEELS good in the hand. I've shot one, once, a long time ago, but as I remember it it felt good in shooting. It looks modern but it is made with old time attention to detail. I think I read once that it undersold the Colt of that time (the 1908) by $5.00. That was a lot of money in 1930-something!  These guns were also made in .32 ACP. 

Today, a retired Virginia State Trooper brought one into the shop to see if we could get it apart for cleaning. It took a bit. We pushed the pin out the side then it was a free for all. Seems to me it takes both hands and a monkey to get the thing apart. You have to grasp the barrel AND slide and pull them apart and at the same time lift them from the frame. Must be a trick I don't know. At least I didn't know it until actually seeing the manual.  When in doubt, read the directions. Taking out the breech block is another push and lift exercise. THEN, to get the barrel out one has to get the timing of lifting the breech end of the barrel out while compressing the action spring. I think. Like I said it was a free for all.

The Remington Society is doing research on these pistols and has a research form. If you own one you might consider adding to the body of knowledge on these guns buy letting them know some details about yours. They also have a manual on the 51.

The DB380 is the only gun that Diamondback Arms makes. It is a .380 ACP chambered small pistol designed to compete with the Ruger LCP, Kel-Tec P3AT, Taurus PT738, S&W Bodyguard 380, Kahr P380, SIG P238 and Magnum Research Micro Eagle.

It is a striker fired, locked breech, .380 chambered, polymer framed pistol with an MSRP of $430. Likely street price will be something less. I've heard that it will actually retail for about $350 which is competitive with the LCP.

I haven't shot one but I have gotten to handle one a bit and dry fire it. It has several features going for it. The first is that the size is about perfect as it is small but I can easily get a grip on it. Also, the sights are actually usable. Neither would be great shakes for the gun if the trigger wasn't also lovely. It is no great trick to keep sights on target all the way through the trigger pull. This is the first pocketable .380 that I have actually considered buying.

An interesting aside. It was suggested that the Kel-Tec P3AT magazines would work in the DB380. While the baseplate is much smaller on the P3AT magazine, it does work in the DB380. By the way, the first magazines were made by Mecgar. Quality mags are needed in a semi-auto pistol and Mecgar makes a quality magazine. The pistols are now shipping with magazines of a different make but no problems with these magazines have been found.

- Diamondback Firearms DB380 Semi-Auto .380 ACP Pocket Pistol by Jeff Quinn

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

"Farthest North - the Epic Adventure of a Visionary Explorer" by Fridtjof Nansen

"Farthest North - the Epic Adventure of a Visionary Explorer" by Fridtjof Nansen was given by my youngest daughter to me for my birthday. The kids always know that a book is a "sure thing" for such occasions.

The book recounts Nansen's adventures both aboard his purpose designed ship, the Fram, and on foot in a push to the north pole although he didn't make it. These early explorers wouldn't be considered heroes now, they lived off the land quite a bit and killed many polar bears and walrus.

All in all it was a good book about a great adventure by a man whose life was a continuous great adventure but in the end my mind really got only three things from the story. First, these folks managed to live together in very cramped quarters, in cold weather (which would have been very uncomfortable for me), for several years. Then Nansen and Johansen wintered on an island they found and subsisted the whole winter on polar bear and walrus (including blubber). That is simply impressive. The last thing I remember is poor Mr. Nansen lost his prized double rifle in .577 Express over the side early in the adventure and that that gun cost him £28 in 1893. He did drag the bottom for the rifle, but didn't find it. I can well imagine the disappointment he felt.

What is also interesting to the wooden boat lovers is that this ship withstood 3 winters being frozen in the ice and went on to go to Antarctica. The Fram was so excellent an arctic explorer ship that Roald Amundsen used it. The Fram still exists and is at the Fram Museum in Oslo, Norway. Indeed, the Fram is a perfect example of why Nansen was successful. His planning was attentive to detail. I've discovered that is usually all you need.