Friday, April 30, 2010

"Hatcher's Notebook" by Julian S. Hatcher, MG, USA, Ret.

One of my recent projects has been to re-read a classic of firearms literature, "Hatcher's Notebook" by Julian S. Hatcher, Major General, United States Army, Retired.  Originally written in 1947 there is still a wealth of timely information for the modern shooter.  Clear, concise descriptions of headspace and powders as well as a wealth of historical information from a primary source make this book a must have.

While I had read the book many years ago, I'd forgotten how well it was written and much of the content.  You see, this book is so good that long forgotten borrower of my copy had failed to return it.  This copy was the result of that long ago accumulated good karma as it was given to me by Lewis, a co-worker at the shop.  A great gift! 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pistol or Revolver, Just What do you Call Them?

Oh, yes, we will discuss this first before moving on to that old standby about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin...

Seriously, Jovian Thunderbolt reports on this blog post where the HellinaHandbasket seems to ridicule those that enforce every hobbyist's favorite law, the law of semantics. Well, here's my take.

First, words mean something. One must use the correct term to avoid confusion. Unfortunately this only works with the educated and not everyone is educated on every subject. E.g., I'm not a brain surgeon. This leads to the next truism which is that meanings evolve.

A way back when Sam Colt was doing his patent application handgun=pistol=his invention the revolver. Now, not so much. In fact, there seems to be a legal reason to make the distinction. You see, one must differentiate on the forms an FFL holder completes when transferring a firearm. There is some redundancy in the 4473 and the VA state form. At some point one must specify whether it is a revolver (handgun with a revolving cylinder) or pistol (all other handguns). Note: One must also differentiate between shotguns and rifles even though, at one point, one checks the longarm block.)

However, hobbyists use the term differently and apparently the term is continuing to evolve. When I was "coming up" in the hobby I was told several times that all handguns are pistols and that all revolvers were pistols but not all pistols were revolvers. This is how I use it. I have never heard anyone discuss the Smith and Wesson catalog connection. I don't know if that has affected a BATFE form writer or not.

As to HellinaHandbasket's extreme clerk, that person should have been fired. One is always kind to customers. It is enough to use the correct term when speaking about an item and they will (or will not) learn from that and it might initiate a conversation. Either way, so long as they can safely use the object, a sale shouldn't be impeded by one's technical superiority. That ill serves the boss AND the customer. If one is going to ill serve the customer it should be because of ignorance not impudence.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Notes from the gun shop...

Today we were busy. Lots of people in and out, lots of questions, lots of guns and "stuff" sold. Busy.

I love working where people know I work. An old co-worker and friend came by. We discussed our recently departed friend, grand-kids, reloading, hunting, RVing, racing, personal health, home improvement projects, and even military retiree health care while I waited on others. John A______ is a great guy both to work and hunt with.

We sold a number of guns. Everyday there's one gun sale which stands out as the most enjoyable. Today's was the sale of a Browning A-Bolt in .243 WSSM as a wedding anniversary gift. Now there's a lucky fella.

We also got to see a bunch of guns, as we often do, including 18 or so LCRs complete with the Crimson Trace being given by a local manufacturer as gifts to high performing employees. I once worked there and although I had the best production record I never got a thing. Things have changed!

We also had something happen which gave me pause. A young fellow came in looking for a MAC-10 magazine and 9mm Hollowpoints. I wanted to know what was up. One shouldn't be prejudiced but then again we had the other incident where some burglars bought accessories for a stolen gun with stolen money...

Background checks or rather the speed of clearing on the background check is always a concern. We did 11 backgrounds today. 2 were delayed, neither more than 1½ hours. This is a tremendous improvement. Instant checks were instant with approvals returned in a matter of 30 seconds after on-line form completion.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Claude Phillip Diehl Jr., SFC, USA, Ret.

The obituary was published today...

HARRISONBURG — C. Phillip Diehl Jr., 58, of the Mountain Valley area, passed away Tuesday, April 20, 2010. Phillip was born Feb. 22, 1952, in Rockingham County, and was the son of Claude Sellers Diehl and Hazel Pauline Beverage.

Mr. Diehl graduated in 1970 from Montevideo High School. He served our country for 34 years in the Virginia Army National Guard and retired in April 2006 as sergeant first class. He was a member of Mountain Valley United Methodist Church, where he was a trustee. He was a former member of the VFW in Harrisonburg and the 29th Division Association.

He is survived by his wife, Judy Gibson Diehl. They were married Sept. 23, 1989.

Also surviving are one son, Christopher Alan Diehl and wife, Layna, of Mountain Valley; two stepchildren, Neil Daniel Roadcap and wife, Jennifer, of Broadway and Angela Renee Akey and husband, Thomas, of Charlottesville; two brothers, Michael "Mickey" Diehl and wife, Nancy, of Mountain Valley and Larry Diehl and wife, Victoria, of Waynesboro; one sister, Deborah D. Miller and husband, Bob, of New Hope; and five grandchildren, Grayson, Gavin, Josh, T.J. and Tyler.

A funeral service will be conducted at 11 a.m. Saturday morning at Mountain Valley United Methodist Church, with Pastor Erich Bennett officiating. Burial will follow in the church cemetery. The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday evening at the funeral home.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Mountain Valley United Methodist Church, 11583 Mountain Valley Road, Harrisonburg, VA 22802.

Online condolences may be sent to the family at
I am almost literally at a loss for words. Reports are that Phil took his own life. He was certainly wrestling with demons but when and where they had taken over his life, if they did, I can't say. For all the years I'd known and worked with him there was no hint of such things.

Oh, there was a bit of rowdy soldier type kidding and ribald humor but that was far and away overshadowed by a quiet and persistent dedication to accomplishing the mission. I well remember the many times Phil would hear the latest self-promotional mission statement from some commander at some level above us or the resultant administrative requirement and simply chuckle a bit, make a wry comment and move on. There were times we shared quarters, transportation and some of it less comfortable by far than our beds at home and he was always ready to join in joke or laugh at the circumstance. There were times when he demonstrated a wicked sense of humor and others when he brought others back to the compassion they ought to have felt.

There were several instances when Phil helped me or I helped him or we teamed up to help somebody else. It struck me that no matter what he might really think, Phil would always screw up to working with anyone (maybe even me!). Although he had started later than I in the full-time/active duty thing he was always professional.

This Saturday they will lay Phil to rest. I'm afraid that he's left his family without so much peace. I've prayed that they find the peace with his passing that they deserve and I hope God grants them that.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Notes from the gun shop...

Yesterday was interesting even if it wasn't a big money day. The boss man does say that we are ahead of average for this time of year. The interesting parts?

Well, right off a fellow comes in with a Winchester 250 lever action rifle. One doesn't see these often but they don't get much money around here either. Not quite sure why he wanted to sell but he bought some ammo rather than take the boss man's offer. We are seeing quite a few guns come in the door but many leave as they are often times junk and/or the owners think they are worth more and want retail rather than wholesale prices.

We thought that was pretty good, but next up, while the boss was out, was a couple with a couple of nice Winchesters in gun socks.

First one out of the sock was a Winchester 92 saddle-ring carbine with special order button magazine with a serial that goes to 1926 (and yes, we're aware of the new data on the polishing room records). A beautiful gun but... yes a "but"... it had been reblued. Apparently the couple's son had made his dad a "present" of the refinish job. That it was an above average job with very little over-buffing and and even blue, it was still disappointing. Next out was...

... a Winchester Model 94 carbine in .30 WCF made in 1953. It was a bit rough around the upper side of the magazine tube with a bit of worn bluing and there was a crack in the short wood forearm. Nice gun though. The boss man bought both.

One of the Diamond Back Arms .380s came back in the door. I didn't have a chance to see what the deal was but the gun wouldn't "fire" and it couldn't be dry-fired so that it could be taken down. The sear wouldn't engage? Not sure. Don't know if it was repaired or returned to the maker but I always recommend that the maker make it right.

Much of our work was doing the transfers of the guns won in raffles or auctions at the Friends of the NRA dinner this past Saturday. If you'll allow me to digress for a moment I would say that it was a great dinner in that Nana had a good time and is looking forward to next year. That's how I define success. I understand that this is the largest Friends of NRA dinner in Virginia and that it does a good job raising money. I don't know all the members but I do know Jon Ritenour, Ralph Xander, Ernie Nuckols, and Twyla Austin who have been working at this since it started 20 years ago (I went to the first dinner) and have persevered despite some personal struggles. However, there are many other volunteers as well and all should be commended as this was a very well run fund-raiser.

For me, however, the highlight of the day really had nothing to do with firearms but with one of those people who drop in regularly just to check out what's new and perhaps to exercise their jaws a bit. Today's treasure was a Mr. Lockridge of about 80+ years age. We talked local history and genealogy for about 2 hours without interruption. I hope my memory is as good as this fellow when I'm that age. Unfortunately I think he already has me beat. He is the expert on Lockridge genealogy on the east coast. A lot of that knowledge is in his head as well as on the 15,000 pages of written data he has in his home.

From Highland County, he was telling me a good story that also illustrates changes in our society. It seems that about 40-50 years ago (this is my memory failing, not his) a former owner of the gun store with a friend hitchhiked from Monterey to Staunton where they each bought a shotgun. They then hitchhiked back. That's about 42 miles. Can you imagine two young fellas carrying shotguns with their thumbs out on a primary road today? How long would it be before they were reported by a passing motorist or approached by some law enforcement agency?

For those who are following the background check situation here in Virginia, we only did 7 yesterday. 3 were delayed, 1 was a green-card holder (resident alien) and all of those were approved within 2 hours. I think that is an improvement.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Philip Burdette Sharpe, Writer and Ballistician

LIFE Magazine photo:  Sharpshooter, Phil Sharpe
Somebody asked about the mystery (so it is often reported) around the death of 1930s-1950s gun writer Phil Sharpe. For example, on page 105 of Dangerous Game Rifles, Terry Weiland makes note of the allegation that alcoholism drove Sharpe to suicide. Of course, I thought that was a challenge I could meet so I did some research. It appears the cause of death was simply a heart attack.

The paper's announcement of his death (The Gettysburg Times, Wed, Jan 25th, 1961)...


Philip Burdette Sharpe, 57, internationally known ballistics expert and author, died at 3:30 o'clock Tuesday afternoon at the Warner hospital where he had been admitted at noon after suffering a severe heart attack.
Mr. Sharpe lived along the Lower Tract Rd. in Liberty Twp., near Emmitsburg. He had suffered an earlier heart attack in 1957.
He was a veteran of World War II having served as a Captain in Army Ordnance, and since the war had lived near Emmitsburg where he imported custom made rifles from Denmark, did ballistics testing work and wrote technical works and fiction.
Active in Community
Before his initial heart attack he had been active in community affairs. He was a past commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars at Emmitsburg and a member of the Francis X. Elder American Legion Post there and of the Emmitsburg Lions Club.
He was also vice-president of the Outdoor Writers Association. Until recently he was a staff writer for the National Rifle Association in which he held a life membership. He was also a member of the Campfire Club of America. Most of his writing on been on ballistics and other technical subjects, but he also had done some fiction writing.
He conducted a business as an importer of rifles from Denmark, guns that had been designed to his specifications for cartridges developed by his own firm of Sharpe and Hart.
Burial at Arlington
Mr. Sharpe was born in Portland, Maine and was a son of the late Elias and Jennie (Clark) Sharpe. Surviving are his widow Marguerite Burby Sharpe, and two children, Phyllis and Philip Jr., both residing in Massachusetts. A brother also survives, Maurice, Cape Elizabeth, Me.
Mr. Sharpe was inducted December 22nd, 1942 and was discharged May 15, 1946, after having served as a captain in the ordnance department of the army. His overseas service was in the European theater where he was chief of the small arms unit in the enemy equipment intelligence service. After he returned to the states following the war, he bought a home near Emmittsburg and set up his business there.
Funeral services Friday morning at 10:30 o'clock at the Wilson Funeral Home in Emmitsburg with Rev. Philip Bower Emmitsburg Lutheran Pastor, officiating. Interment with military honors in the Arlington National Cemetery. Friends may call at the funeral home in Emmitsburg Thursday evening after 7 o'clock.

The Feb 3, 1961 entry in Time Magazine's Milestones column...
Died. Philip B. Sharpe, 57, author and firearms expert who financed his early research by writing detective and adventure stories and who during World War II proved the feasibility of a curved-barrel rifle for house-to-house fighting by putting six shots in an 8-in. bull's-eye at 75 yds. while firing around a corner; of a heart attack; in Emmitsburg, Md.

From the National Cemeteries burial locator:
DATE OF BIRTH: 05/16/1903
DATE OF DEATH: 01/24/1961
(703) 607-8000

This inquiry really piqued my interest in the subject of this rather well-known author's life. I couldn't help but wonder just why his death in what seems to be rather ordinary circumstances to be labeled as "mysterious". In my research I found several other references/questions about his "mysterious" death. There seems to be a lot of interest in his life, particularly among those of us who grew up using his books as a major source of information.

I have discovered the following (exclusive of his professional life):

Philip Burdette Sharp was born in Portland, Maine on 16 May 1903 to Elias and Jennie (Mabelmaylor Clark) Sharpe. Both his parents hailed from New Brunswick, Canada from which they emigrated in 1894 and 1896 respectively. Phil's parents were married in 1897. He had one younger brother Maurice E. (b. 12 Jun 1906 d. 14 May 1997). The family stayed in Portland where Elias worked as an upholster, bed springer, house carpenter and, finally, building contractor. This was a family pursuing the American dream.

He attended Portland University, specifics I don't yet know, and in Oct 1928 married Lotta Marguerite Burby at Portsmouth, NH. In 1930, Phil and Maurice were working for the newspapers. Phil as a journalist and Maurice as a copywriter. Phil and Marguerite (as she was known) divorced in 1936. I'm not yet aware of the circumstances. They had had no children.

Phil must have had a wicked sense of humor as he wrote a letter to LIFE magazine which was published in the Jan 22, 1940 (a lot of things happened to Phil in Jan...) which stated his opinion that there were few if any pretty school teachers. This apparently got something going and in Feb 12, 1940 issue, LIFE responded with an article with a "spread" of attractive school teachers.

Sometime in 1940 Phil married Ethel Marie Harmon and in August 1940 they moved to Fairfield, PA between Emmitsburg, MD and Gettysburg, PA. The 20 acre farm had been selected by Phil as the ideal place to pursue his shooting interests. On 10 Sep 1941 they had a daughter, Phyllis Eileen. On 2 Sep 1943, Philip B. Sharpe Jr. was born. It was during this period that Phil answered the call of his country at war and was sworn in as an ordnance officer serving in both the U.S. and European theater as a small arms expert analyzing small arms.

In 1947 Phil had a severe case of pneumonia. His wife picked him up from the hospital to take him home to fully recover. Imagine his surprise when she took him into a nearly empty house devoid of even the heat or cook stoves! She had also removed hay, chickens and other farm stock! She then turned right around and left for their house on Cape Cod with the kids. Apparently his mailman finally brought him some food. From Jan 1948 through Jan 1955 the two apparently continued their rather acrimonious separation and divorce proceedings. He tried to have her committed and she tried to take him for everything he had. However, she even appealed the final divorce decree issued in Jan 1955.

During this period he had his first heart attack and lost part of his right middle finger to a lawn mower accident. He wasn't to be denied a chance at a happy home life however, and RE-married his first wife, Marguerite, on the 25th of Jan 1955 in Frederick, MD. By October of 1955 Marguerite was presiding over the VFW Auxiliary meeting. In 1958 Phil and Marguerite celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary.

It seems that he was very involved in many civic groups and, after his service in WWII, in the VFW and American Legion. I don't think that the Gettysburg paper missed very much in the way of his activities and his name appears frequently with at least two extensive articles about his "gun farm".

I have found nothing to substantiate the rumor that alcoholism lead to his suicide. From all accounts that I can find, he was admitted to the hospital with a heart attack and a heart attack was what killed him.

Marguerite passed 16 Mar 1983 and is interred with her husband.  I don't know when Ethel died.  Although both Phyllis and Phil Jr. are deceased, I have found that there are other descendants including great-grandchildren. We wish them the best and hope that they might appreciate their grandfather's accomplishments.

He wrote "Complete Guide to Handloading" and "The Rifle in America" as well as many magazine articles.

- Real Detective Tales and Mystery Stories [v 9 #4, October 1926] ed. Edwin Baird (Read Detective Tales, Inc.; Chicago, IL, 25¢, 8¼" x 11¼" pulp, cover by Andrew Bensen) from ToC. pg 61 · Trapped!
- The Author & Journalist [v17 # 2, February 1932] ed. Willard Hawkins (The Author & Journalist, 20¢, 32pp+) pg 7 · Ben Ames Williams Discusses Titles
- Mystery Novels Magazine [v 3 #6, June 1936] (15¢, 128pp, pulp)pg 112 · The Bronze Arrow
- Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine [v171 #5, February 18, 1939] (Street & Smith Publications, Inc., 10¢, 128pp, pulp) [Richard Fidczuk] pg 78 · The Bullard Rifle
- All Western Magazine [v 7 #20, December 1933] ed. Carson W. Mowre (Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 10¢, 112pp, pulp) [Tom Daniels] pg 115 · Burnin’ Powder
- Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine [v163 #6, March 26, 1938] (Street & Smith Publications, Inc., 10¢, 128pp, pulp) [Richard Fidczuk] pg 36 · Running the Buff
- Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine [v166 #1, June 25, 1938] (Street & Smith Publications, Inc., 10¢, 128pp, pulp) [Richard Fidczuk] pg 92 · The “Colt” Frontier
- Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine [v164 #6, May 7, 1938] (Street & Smith Publications, Inc., 10¢, 128pp, pulp) [Richard Fidczuk] pg 71 · The Evans Rifle Tells Its Story
- Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine [v167 #4, August 27, 1938] (Street & Smith Publications, Inc., 10¢, 128pp+, pulp) [Richard Fidczuk] pg 80 · Those Old Ballads
- Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine [v168 #3, October 1, 1938] (Street & Smith Publications, Inc., 10¢, 128pp, pulp) [Richard Fidczuk] pg 73 · The Henry Rifle
- Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine [v169 #3, November 12, 1938] (Street & Smith Publications, Inc., 10¢, 128pp, pulp) [Richard Fidczuk] pg 91 · The Early Winchesters
- Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine [v170 #4, December 31, 1938] (Street & Smith Publications, Inc., 10¢, 128pp, pulp) [Richard Fidczuk] pg 42 · The Sharps Rifle
- Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine [v172 #3, March 18, 1939] (Street & Smith Publications, Inc., 10¢, 128pp+, pulp, cover by H. W. Scott) [Richard Fidczuk] pg 44 · Early Remington Rifles
- Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine [v171 #1, January 21, 1939] (Street & Smith Publications, Inc., 10¢, 128pp, pulp, cover by Saunders) [PSP/Richard Fidczuk] pg 52 · The S. & W. Lemon Squeezer
- Street & Smith’s Western Story [v218 #5, March 1948] ed. John Burr (Street & Smith Publications, Inc., 25¢, digest) asst. ed. J. L. McCulloch. from TOC. [JL] pg 50 · New Generation of Shooters
- Throwin’ Lead, (column) All Western Magazine Jul 1935-Oct 1938 Tells you how to convert those old military rifles into high powered sporting guns.
- Guns and Gunners, (column) Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine 1940-1949
- The Thompson Sub-Machinegun
- Taming a Wildcat Cartridge, Guns Magazine, May 1956

The Adams County (Pennsylvania) Historical Society has a collection of Philip B. Sharpe manuscripts/papers.

In the 1951 edition of Gun Digest, Mr. Sharpe reports that he left the service in 1946, found the Pennsylvania farm and moved there in 1947. This doesn't quite jive with the public record. However the Gun Digest article has photos and specifics on his farm and range setup. Pretty neat.

Notes from the gun shop...

I swapped days with another employee and worked Wednesday. I thought it was pretty slow today with a couple of "rushes" and some interesting items.

While we did do several transfers not one wasn't immediately approved. I consider that an improvement over the extreme delays we have been seeing. This is my second work day since the "improvements" were mentioned.

I was surprised to see that not only had one of the blued Ruger flattop .44 Special Blackhawks but a stainless gun as well! I'm a bit confused though. While the regular catalog blued gun exhibits the same fit and finish as my Lipsey's special guns, the stainless gun falls short. The stock/grip fit is relatively horrible with some near hits for matching the stocks and grip frame but some big misses too. The stainless gun simply doesn't come up to the blue guns in stock fit. Yet, the stainless gun is substantially more expensive. The boss man, who marks new guns up the same percentage (and a rather moderate amount at that) has a price about $70 higher on the stainless gun. Not worth it in my opinion...

A neat gun came into the shop and the boss man's possession yesterday. A locally used Winchester Model 1873 rifle in .32 WCF (Winchester Center Fire), aka .32-20, with a beautiful bore, blue turning to brown but still a beautiful blue where protected, color case still visible on hammer and lever, and beautiful bright toggle links (yes, we got to open it up and look inside). Built in 1894 according to Madis, this gun still had the dust cover as well. The boss man is considering getting it lettered but it has no special order features that I could see.

Of course, every old gun that comes in the shop comes with a story. Apparently, this gun was one of a "pair", the other gun being a .44 WCF marked "One of One Thousand"! Unfortunately this gun was taken by the original owner's son out west where he was working on threshing machines. It was never returned.

One of our regular visitors came in and in discussing a transaction and future trip to Africa mentioned, again, that he had nobody to whom to leave his "stuff". That stuff includes firearms (of course) but also three farms, houses, and numerous antiques. He was getting pretty emotional about it. I understand how he feels and I've talked about this before. Where your stuff goes after you've departed this world is worth your time to plan.

And finally, an observation on handgun cartridges. While I had several folks come in to look at 9mms and .40 S&Ws, I sold THREE .38 Specials! People actually put their money down on the old standard.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Spring Chores

We've been quite busy dealing with Mom's estate.  First some cows got in the yard and loafed for the better part of a week leaving their marks which all had to be picked up and moved to the field, and spread.  Then one of the spruces that was a live Christmas tree was blown over in the big wind and had to be cut down, cut up and carried away to appropriate places.  We had to make several runs to the dump and we're still not done.  Fortunately next week is spring clean up week for our dump community and I'll be able to get rid of a number of hazardous substances without penalty.  Had a good talk with the executrix and got permission to hire the neighbor boy to mow the lawn and to hire a fellow to replace some fence.  I am also going to be able to replace the vents I haven't already replaced.  Fortunate, also, we'll be able to hire somebody to come in to help wipe down all the walls.  Cat hair is still a problem. 

We've also been working on our own place, mowing, trimming and hauling out the debris left by this past winter.  Of course, even our rather paltry work schedule has demanded our attention.

All things considered there's been all too little time to shoot, load, or do anything that's worth recording here.  For that I'm heartily, and selfishly, sorry.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Saturday, April 03, 2010


Shooting incidents are unpleasant for all concerned. My family is from the Cooperstown area and when I saw this I was a bit put off... There's more from the Daily Star and The Associated Press.

There isn't a lot of detail. One 16-year old shot another. The other is black. The shooter says he hates blacks. Therefor this crime is worse than another shooting where he hates his victim, just 'cause.

Both shooter and victim seem to be doing well. My guess it was the family .22 LR rifle that was used. My second guess, though it might never come out, is that the shooter was on something maybe meth.