Friday, April 19, 2019

The devil is in the details : or : Redding competition micrometer seater die


I am not a benchrest shooter and honestly I don't want to be, I have nearly zero desire at this stage in my life to put all the bullets in one hole....I mean I pay for the bullets and they are made for punching paper so why not make sure you punch the most paper with them :) . All kidding aside there is a time for high precision, tight tolerances and exacting performance. But for what I do I need a balance between accuracy/tight tolerances and reliability. One thing I have realized though is with my match reloads I have a lot of variation in run out with my seated bullets which can contribute to the vertical stringing I see in my targets. I happened into a Redding competition micrometer seater die for a really good price after wanting to try one out for some time I snatched it up and put it to use right away.

The draw to this particular die is the fact you can control your seat depth by .001" and the literature included is a must read to set this die up correctly. It was as simple as setting the die up with a previously loaded round with my seat depth of 2.675" make two full turns of the adjustment knob which is .050" per revolution  and have a new seat depth of 2.775". In reading and looking over technical data my .308 handloads may have been seated a little far in so I'll be using the new die to load up accurately seated bullets from 2.675"- 2.775" and see if this hurts or helps my groups at all. Don't get me wrong, my 2.675" loads with 150gr SMK's shoot very well, but I'm wondering if they couldn't be a little better with a lot less jump .100" less to be exact. The gun I'm shooting these in might not care but only range time will tell.

Shooting these reloads out of a semi auto rifle that will eat just about anything you feed it I can only gain so much performance. No I'm not shooting benchrest but nobody has ever complained about a gun/ammo combination being too accurate. 



If you are on the fence about trying a micrometer seater I have to say off the bat they are a lot less of a hassle to get dialed in and are repeatable. If you load several different types of bullets its as easy as keeping notes of micrometer settings and dialing those in as needed. Game changer....

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Testing testing 1....2....3......: or : spare parts and trial by fire

Most of us know what to expect if we bring someone to the range that is a "Joe 6 pack" and maybe box of ammo a year kind of guy (or gal) and they bring that AR-15 or Mini-14 or XD they got during a panic ( just in case) and kept it locked in the closet with a few boxes of ammo and magazines still new in the wrap. We know that things are not going to go how "Joe" expects them to, ie everything running smoothly and no issues arising with their choice of equipment. Even well vetted and tested product lines have examples with issues that can be debilitating for the platform....  After you covered or reminded them of all the safety rules and how to use their particular gun and they start with one round in the magazine (then 2 or 3....just to be sure they are comfortable with the trigger and competent with their muzzle control) you move on to full magazines....this is where things can start to get interesting. Guns heat up....things start to vibrate loose or the simple process of sighting in the gun for the first time can uncover some ugly shortcomings of the chosen platform. Case in point we see below a borrowed example of very popular choice of rifle, zeroed for the first time since its production (presumably) and not one but BOTH of the set screws for the rear sight broke at the head with what was a appropriately sized screwdriver and amount of torque. This is something you want to uncover on the range and not anywhere else....gain confidence in your equipment before hand. Don't expect to get the same results in performance and reliability that you read about in that glossy magazine review of the firearm (or any other equipment).



Insult to injury...the locking wedge loosened up and allowed the rear sight to walk out on us....done for the day with the MINI-14. I believe the owner will be replacing the factory rear sight with a Tech-sight brand rear sight for better durability and utility.




Factories make mistakes, This one shown below is a interesting one, you will notice the hole on the barrel furthest to the top of the picture has a very thin white line shinning in the middle of it. This is indeed light shinning through a hole in the barrel. The factory not only drilled the hole off center (the lower hole was one I drilled top dead center so the iron sights could actually be used)  they also drilled the hole too deep and broke through into the bore enough to cause a gas port where one was not desired. I noticed this after running about 300 rounds through this particular .22 LR and saw powder deposits emanating from under the front sight. Since I had done some other custom work to the barrel and already fixed the factory off center sight I doubted the factory would be replacing my barrel for me. .22 LR being fairly forgiving I decided to clean the hole as best I could, degrease and use JB weld (Acraglas would be a excellent choice as well) to fill in the hole completely. Using a cotton patch with release agent stuffed in the bore I was not worried about JB weld going through the crack ( I doubted it was viscous enough anyways) and mucking up the bore. When the epoxy was cured and I removed the patch I was pleased to see a very clean surface in the bore where the flaw had been. This was an issue that was easily repaired with little hassle and did not harm the accuracy of the rifle in any way,  If I had solicited a fix from the manufacturer it would have at the very least cost me shipping and insurance one way I'm sure.




My point is you only know your equipment works correctly and as designed if you take it out and put it to work. Sometimes the materials used in your specific example are flawed causing a failure of the system to perform as intended. Sometimes the factory (even reputable names) have QC issues and allow lemons to leave the facility  and it sucks to be the unsuspecting customer about to put down hard earned money for a learning experience....to quote my dad though. "You paid tuition...now you're smarter".

1. Get spare parts for the stuff you know that will break.
2. Get spare parts for the stuff you think might break.
3. Get out and train, compete, practice, rinse and repeat with your equipment so you gain experience and confidence with your chosen platform. If your instagram followers only like to see clean gear you need new followers.



Saturday, March 30, 2019

Dupli-Color Truck bed liner Armor for Rifle furniture coating


Preparing for an event this past winter I knew I would have my hands on my aluminum handguard for a long time in possibly very cold and wet weather. Wool gloves are always nice but I wanted to add just a little bit of protection against having bare skin contact metal for long periods of time. Rattle can truck bed liner came up and I gave it a try on my handguard getting a can of the stuff from my local O'reileys. The match sticks you see are plugging a bunch of tiny screw holes I did not want to have bed liner applied to the threads of. After prepping the surface the best I could I gave the hand-guard two coats and let dry over the weekend.

 


In hindsight I should have done a little more surface prep in roughing up the surface as well as applied a 3rd coat and perhaps found a wood stove or hot lamp to set it near to cure as I don't believe the long dry time I had with the weather that day helped adhesion much. After a few months of use some of the Liner has started to wear off. It does not peel or chip, it simply wears thin. It offers excellent grip and I will reapply and continue to use it. However other textured rattle-can applications could offer better wear resistance.  Overall I'm pleased with the results....we never got the cold wet weather we expected but I did notice I had a better grip on the forearm while running the rifle instead of the slick aluminium I had before. Just something to keep in mind as a off the shelf option for a textured grip on your equipment.

Scavenged pick up ammo and short lane chamber adapters!

Picking up brass is a pretty good way to recoup some of the cost of the hobby but sometimes at the end of the month your account just runs too low and you find yourself in that ammo deprived state. Over the years I've picked up dropped "saved" rounds and had some idea to pull them down for the tips.....just the tips. Pretty much everything else would have to be trashed....saved powder may be fun for blowing up old pumpkins this time of year but for the most part just the bullets can be salvaged. Years ago I did this with a bunch of range pick up 9mm and discovered just how varied the recovered projectiles can be.

Really pulling down .223 is about the only thing I'll consider these days, its all loaded pretty standard (55 or 62). The rest I had to find something to do with it all. A idea came to mind when I recalled having laid back the chamber adapters made by Short Lane. A decent investment for one that carries a 12ga or 20ga shotgun afield as well as a handgun of some flavor. But what I had in mind was more....chaotic. 

What kind of groups would one get if they had purchased one of these adapters with the intent of using it post SHTF with whatever they happened to find laying around.

Here I had the perfect blend of various loads, factory and hand loads, jacketed and cast and even polymer stuff in a WIDE range of weights and designs. I could get some insight into just what one could expect from such a jumbled mess of ammo.

My adapters are of the "Scavenger" series, being around 3" long and not rifled in any way. These adapters I picked up on sale from their web site as well as on ebay from time to time in the various calibers I thought I would want to try them in. 

Mostly my adapters are for XX-20ga meaning I got most of them to fit a 20ga , I have a short lane 12-20 adapter so I can simply drop in my XX-20's into the 12-20 and get just a little more versatility out of them.  The adapters I had on hand which I thought would be the most prevalent are 9mm, 40 S&W , 22LR, 38 SPL and .22 WMR. I also have a 45acp-12ga adapter which can thus only be used in 12ga.

This was not so much a test of accuracy but of reliability and gaining REASONABLE expectations with the smooth bore 3" adapters. I shot from a very ambitious 25 yards for most of the test, some I snuck up to 10 yards with because I was curious what field results would be like for somebody who is worth their salt at stalking. 

The adapters are a decent insurance policy if a shotgun is your go to. Yes you can use the shorter ones in a pump action but it is VERY clumsy and pretty much is a one shot deal. If you find yourself in the lower income blue collar crowd of prepping and maybe need to get even more mileage out of your single shot or side by side shotgun you have squirreled away this is a decent way to do that. The adapters offer a lot to the hunter trapper and even more if you load your own ammo/cast your own bullets. A side by side shotgun can now be turned into a exceptionally versatile tool, one barrel maybe houses a rifled chamber adapter in .38 spl for rabbits and squirrel  and the other a deer slug for....well....deer. And your S&W model 10 is at your hip just in case.


The adapters can be had in longer rifled versions which are well worth the money if you are buying one or two of calibers to work with your handgun and shotgun of choice.  You can get surprisingly good accuracy so long as you have the adapter oriented the same way in your chamber each time. I've seen some individuals with scoped shotguns achieve some surprisingly good groups with their longer rifled adapters, good enough to keep the garden pest free at respectable ranges.

My results with the scavenger series was mostly about what I expected for the Russian dolled 20-XX gauge adapter slipped inside a 12-20Ga adapter and then into the barrel, there is a lot of room for wiggle there.
Adapters, bag of mixed range pickup ammo and shotgun with carrying case make a tidy package.

Just about one of every flavor 

Its a buffet!

Even badly dinged and damaged rounds still functioned in the adapters.

The results of several shots of 45ACP at 10 yards with the 12ga-45ACP adapter.

Minute of paper plate, tumbled and erratic flight patterns were the norm however at 25 yards this was to be expected. Getting closer to your target would almost ensure better hit probability.

Tumbling but on target.

Still more testing to do....little bit of everything. Note the hammer spur came off the shotgun after about 40 rounds....Time for some loctite.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Making the best of bad magazines: or: Re-purposing magazines.

A long while ago I got a large lot of HK-91 mags cheap all in various conditions. A few of the mags looked like they were dropped while fully loaded, the bottoms were blown out to the point the flanges that held the floor plate on were compromised. Seeing that the upper portion of the magazines were still in great condition I thought there was no good reason why the magazines couldn't be cut down into 3 and 5 round magazines for hunting and range use.  In one session and with the help of somebody who has worked sheet metal some before I cut up (down?) 6 otherwise ruined magazines and made them into stubby range/hunting mags. Shortening the spring and modifying some of the internals are required. I generally guessed at how long these mags should be and that got me a bunch of 6 and 7 round magazines. A quick weld job by a friend tacked on a piece of flat 1/8"x1/2" flat stock to the sort of "pelvic fin" of the magazine follower. Again I eyeballed the length knowing cutting off material would be easier than welding on more in the future if I guessed exact lengths wrong the first time.  Trial and error told me how much to cut off on the bandsaw and tuning them took little time. 

Followers for 2-5 round magazines and one 3 round.
It might seem a little over the top for some but I really wanted to pattern my modified magazines closely to the factory offerings as well as stay legal for any hunting I do in the future with my rifle. It seemed lazy to me to leave the magazines at 6-7 rounds especially when rifle restrictions in most states would have landed me in trouble with those capacity of magazines while hunting.

Range/field ready 5 and 3 round magazines!

AR-15 A2 adjustable gas block



The idea of being able to control the amount of gas operating your rifle has been a long toyed with problem in tuning certain platforms. The AR-15 pattern rifle has been the center of obsession with barbie gun builders and lego type gunsmiths. Bolt on, clamp on and drop in parts are the norm now for this ubiquitous platform that is America's favorite rifle to love and hate. Minor modifications can be done in the home workshop though that save money over the boutique parts companies offering the latest and greatest must have accessory. One such seemingly simple project is making an A2 front sight tower into an adjustable gas block, a friend of mine requested I take a look at this DIY project others had attempted and see if I could duplicate their efforts for him.  Having a bag of spare A2 gas blocks helped as I quickly learned that you really can not fit a 10-24 set screw in between the barrel rings and the pathway the tube occupies when installed. My first attempt using the 10-24 set screw would have resulted in having to further modify the gas tube prior to installing the set screw. 

The obvious conclusion that some had already come to and my weak google-fu later scared up was that 8-32 set screws were perfect for this job. A 6 series would also work though your restriction range may not be as great. The idea is drill the hole in the vertical path the gas takes, tap the hole and adjust the set screw so you get reliable function of the platform but not over gassing the system causing premature wear on parts and more recoil than is necessary.

My method for this project was 
1. locate along the vertical gas chamber where I wanted the set screw.
2. Using a center cutting end mill I milled a flat spot for the center and drill to work off of
3. Using a center drill locate exact place to drill hole
4. Using a #29 drill bit drill hole on right side of gas block (I chose the right side so that a right handed shooter could easily adjust/monitor the set screw) I went ever so slightly into the opposite side of the gas block with the bit so as to create a seat for the set screw if it was so desired to omit all gas from the system.
5. Tap for 8-32 screw.


If so desired locate and drill hold on the front for a long 4-40 set screw. Be sure to clear all chips out of the gas block....a good oiling and de-greasing with brake cleaner a few times will ensure all machining artifacts are cleared away.


As this is an experimental item for me it'll be interesting to see how this holds up over the long term. I know for the first couple of mags it would be smart to not have anybody standing to the right of the shooter lest the screw or taped threads decide to part company with the gas block.

Poor mans gun paint: or: Paint for those barrel melt down stages



One thing I'm always keeping an eye out for is a more affordable way to paint firearms in durable finishes. A friend recommended "Dupli-Color" Engine paint. It is an enamel with ceramic so I'm not sure about using it for internal parts but it seems plenty good for external parts. 

 The suspended ceramic did not seem to apply very evenly even though I tried my best to follow directions closely (shake a lot before use, and often during). It looks good however like most other off the big box store shelf paints only time will tell how it stands up to use and abuse, gun cleaners and other chemicals will be the real test. I've used Rustoleum camo specific paints in the past with really great results and those would be my go to recommended paints. For a raw barrel and other parts though I thought I would try something with a possibly higher durability. This paint would also serve as a good base for doing a rattle can camo job on top of as its textured well now....though unevenly.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Patterning Sellier & Bellot 12ga 2 3/4" "00" buckshot out of a riot 870 and TAC-14

Recently there was a pretty good sale on S&B 12ga "00" 9 pellet buckshot loads that I couldn't turn down. Yes, I load my own buckshot but sometimes factory is good to have around for a touchstone when you're loading your own ammo and want to have something to compare it against...or run out of time to load ammo for a match.

The weather here has started to warm up some so I decided to take the 870 riot gun out and see just how S&B's buckshot did at various distances. My distances are a little arbitrary as I judged them to be the lengths of various household distances one may come across.  I did not see a reason to pattern the gun under 7 yards since pretty much anything shot under 7 yards with a shotgun is going to be a softball size pattern at most.  The distances I chose was 7, 11, 15 and 20 yards. Anything past 20 yards in my experience with the choke on this particular shotgun is asking for a buckshot pellet out of the "D" zone on a IPSC size target and would be a distance I would start considering switching to slugs.  As a comparison I also shot a Remington TAC-14 at 15 yards to compare the spread of the buckshot at that particular distance having considered 15 yards to be max for buckshot out of that particular firearm.

For the money I am impressed with the factory S&B buckshot loads, it's hard enough to find buckshot under $1 a round and always hard to find buckshot in 25 round box lots. It has long since annoyed me buying any kind of non specialty shotgun ammo in 5 round boxes esp if one resides in a state where they tax each box of ammo. Anyways, my results are pictured below, note the spread on the two 15 yard targets the riot barrel is a imp cyl I believe where the TAC-14 is cyl. Each test target does indeed have 9 holes in each one, the 7 yard target immediately below shows the wad strike as well, some pellets nearly doubled up but there are 9 holes.








Monday, January 8, 2018

Savage Axis or Thompson Center Compass : or : Choices in economy


  Economy bolt action rifles have come leaps and bounds from decades past. Today's budget minded shooter, hunter and/or prepper has a very crowded market to choose from. Most major bolt action manufactures are offering very accurate (sub MOA a lot of the time) economy line bolt action rifles that offer a lot to those wanting a lot of features and not a lot of flash or shiny parts. You simply can't beat the durability and reliability of these two featured bolt action rifles I'm covering here today, either as a truck gun, companion to your semi auto rifle or primary hunting arm. The Savage Axis  and the Thompson Center Compass have a lot to offer but also have shortcomings that you may wish to keep in mind. Lets take a look....


Thompson Center Compass
Pros
-Magazines are 5 round, belted magnum calibers are 4 round.
-Available in 11 calibers from .204 ruger up to 7mm Rem Mag and 300 Win mag!
-Barrels are factory threaded for muzzle devices of your choosing.
-Adjustable trigger
-Very rigid stock
-Wide flat trigger, very positive.
-MSRP $399+

Cons
-Currently not available in stainless or left hand
-Comes with two peice scope base, recommend replacing with EGW one piece picatinny 
-Small safety tab (Mauser style) stays out of the way but does not feel super positive.
-Bolt is not smooth, if you are use to Remington 700's and Mausers you may find you have to practice manipulating the bolt on the compass quite a bit to get so it does not bind. 

Unfounded concerns
-Polymer magazine, though they seem sturdy the locking tab seems thin. The newness of the compass will also make these magazines less available and more pricey for a while.
-Barrels are not as easy to change for the DIY'er as the Savage is.


Savage Axis XP
Pros
-Magazines are steel construction
-Available in 9 calibers from .223 to 30/06
-Available in left hand, stainless as well as threaded muzzle versions
-Smooth action
-Natural bolt manipulation
-Ambidextrous safety, large very easy to manipulate with a glove on.
-MSRP $368+


Cons
- 4 round capacity magazines 
-Stocks have significant flex but can be remedied with stiffener modifications found online
-Comes with two piece scope base, recommend replacing with EGW one piece picatinny
-Trigger not adjustable
-Threaded muzzle version little extra $30+

Unfounded concerns
- I'll admit the stock flex is only a mild concern, accuracy out of the box is not bad but of course improvements can always be made. Broken Axis stocks are rare.
-4 round capacity is just annoying to me, spare magazines are a little cheaper but still ~$20+

Both are winners in my book
Its a matter of what features you are wanting in your rifle and perhaps caliber availability, The Savage Axis is not offered in any belted magnum calibers like the T/C Compass. The Axis having been on the market longer has a lot of after market upgrades that may appeal to somebody getting one then wanting to upgrade as funds allow. Laminated wood stocks from Boyds and other makers as well as custom barrels can give the rifle some improvement but these can be spendy and may defeat the initial purpose.

Both the Axis and the Compass benefit from after market support from several specialty shops. One piece scope bases in 0 MOA or 20 MOA are available from EGW (I'm not paid to advertise them, they just make great stuff) as well as extended/enlarged bolt knobs from Glades Armory can make bolt manipulation easier. After market triggers are also around for the axis, I'm not sure if any are in the works for the compass or not yet.

With rebates and scope combos these rifles are very attractive to even the most budget minded.  Depending on how good the sale it is possible to catch either rifle for under $200 without the scope combo or around $300 with it.  If you like to hunt with suppressors and don't mind a sort of abnormal short throw bolt or are looking for one specifically (compass is a 3 lug bolt) then I would give the nod to the Compass, it feels great in the hands and shoulders nicely. The Axis is a little lighter and action is much smoother. I've shot both rifles and though I like them both, the ease of changing the barrels on the Axis appeals to me as a hand loader who likes to experiment. Both are great choices....let your needs guide you in your quest for your rifle and enjoy your selection.



EGW one piece scope base


Friday, January 5, 2018

300 Blackout the budget .30 caliber battle rifle : or : the poor mans M1 Carbine

When a battle rifle in .308 Winchester is desired but out of reach financially and the AR-15 5.56 just does not give us warm fuzzy feelings of an effective round or appropriate round for our intended use some of us may find the 300 Blackout is a decent Goldilocks caliber. The AR-15 chambered in 300 Blackout may be ideal for somebody wanting 7.62x39 class performance but in a more familiar platform. Similar to the 30 carbine in concept it offers a modern day 30 caliber round for those who want light recoil and reliable terminal performance. M1 Carbine prices have been steadily going up and your choice in ammo is pretty limited in the 110gr realm +/- 20 gr depending on if you handload or buy custom loaded ammunition. The M1 Carbine still holds strong as a concept of light ammunition in a compact package for those who may not necessarily need everything a 30/06 or .308 has to offer. An AR-15 in 300 BO gives you excellent range, bullet selection and terminal performance. It is the poor mans alternative to a M1 carbine and will carry you through deer season as well as SHTF nicely as a long arm and if you ask me its the better caliber choice as well.
Why not .223/5.56?
Not every hunter or prepper desires to get on the 5.56 bandwagon, there are drawbacks that simply can not be ignored, light weight bullet, low penetration on harder targets. Deer hunting with .223/5.56 though legal in some areas is not widely accepted even in the hunting community as ethical. Bullet selection and shot placement though critical with any hunting shot is especially important with the smaller caliber chambering. The .223/5.56 does have its pros that make it a tempting pick for those looking to just get a long arm...and the mentality of "if its good enough for the military and law enforcement its good enough for me" makes it a popular choice...even with me from time to time though I find the caliber has limited applications. Then throw in the low cost of ammo, the HUUUUUGE abundance of accessories, magazines, platform specific optics, lasers, phasers and triple action intabulator and it becomes very attractive. With the AR-15 platform chambered in 5.56 cost continuing to go down its not hard to see why it has such a huge following. The 300 BO has been slow in coming full force to the market and as such prices have not been trending with the 5.56.
"The 300 BO is only meant to be suppressed and is useless with bullets under 150gr"
I kid you not, the above was a statement I heard probably 3-4 years ago on a podcast and for a time....I sort of believed it. That anybody with a AR-15 in 300 BO shooting 110gr or 125gr bullets without a suppressor was...wrong. When I heard that opinion the 300 AAC Blackout hadn't been on the widespread commercial market for long. It seemed to me the "new" AR-15 caliber was one that the rich yuppie shooters dabbled in with their surefire suppressors and custom loaded 220gr match bullets. If you shot it unsuppressed or with light bullets then you didn't understand the caliber or the purpose. If you're daily job is slitting gate guard throats and silencing guard dogs in the dead of night then the suppressed version with HEAVY bullets is more your cup of tea. As more load data and a wider acceptance of the 300 BO comes to pass we see just how much versatility this little round is capable of. It was out of reach for the budget shooter for a time as well but today is a different day. Brass, barrels and purpose designed bullets are more common now and as such prices have declined from "NEW iphone 10" prices.
The quality AR-15 as we know it today is very much in reach for anybody who can save $550-$700 for a off the shelf variant. If you are a DIY'er then $350-$450 is possible if you have access to the tooling to do a 80% lower or if you get a low cost 100% lower on sale (I have seen quality lowers as low as $35 each in recent months). The difference between the 5.56 and the 300 BO on the AR-15 rifle is simply....the barrel. Barrel production was drastically ramped up prior to the last presidential election cycle and as such the cost to get into a 300 BO has come down to nearly 5.56 levels.
The 300 Blackout has phenomenal versatility, bullet weights from 73gr to 230gr are fair game and can be run in the AR-15 rifle with proper magazines and buffer combinations. I've been impressed with range results I've seen out to 500 yards with the 110-125gr loadings out of a 300 BO....without a suppressor (eye roll). You don't need a suppressor to make the most of the 300 BO nor do you need to shoot 150gr + bullets.
The 300 Blackout has many advantages and few disadvantage for the modern carbine shooter be it a hunter or prepper looking for a mid-level round that offers versatility and effective terminal ballistics when compared to other platform cartridge options (ie 5.56)
Pros
-Wide range of bullet weights and designs for every application sought by hunters and preppers
-Availability of brass made from .223, .308 bullets, and powders.
-AR-15 needs only a upper swap or barrel swap to take to 300 BO
-Same magazines, same lower
Cons
-Not widely adopted by military or LEO enough to produce the level of surplus that 5.56 shooters enjoy
-MUST make sure muzzle accessories have clearance for 30 cal bullets, ALSO make sure you do not chamber 300 blackout ammunition in 5.56 barrels. It will ruin your day...and your face.

Monday, December 18, 2017

MP 358-180 mold, possibly the best one yet!

Some more love from Slovenia arrived in my mailbox not long ago, in it was another BEAUTIFUL brass mold from MP. This one was a re-run of a  custom group buy from the cast boolits forum and there were several things that compelled me to get in on this.



One is that it was a round flat nose profile....something that I've learned works well in both my bolt action .357 rifle and the revolvers. The bullets with a shoulder on them such as the 358429 Kieth styles though VERY effective do not consistently feed in my bolt action. The second reason is the weight, this boolit drops as a solid around 190gr and the HP variations are around 183gr depending on what style pin is chosen. This mold came with small and large round pins as well as the popular penta pin so there is some weight variation on the various HP options.  The higher weight of this boolit is attractive in both 38 special and 357 Magnum loads which lends much versatility in powder selections as well. Lighter boolits don't perform well with slower burning powders as they exit the bore quickly and don't always allow a complete burn. Something I've learned while experimenting with various barrel lengths ranging from 2" up to 18". Faster powders such as Red Dot and Bullseye can still be used with great success with these heavier options. Even the 230gr 38/357 loads I've tried have used a good dose of Bullseye which has proven to be a exceptionally versatile powder.

The meplat of this new addition of .2800" seems to be the widest that is permissible in my bolt action to reliably feed. Any wider and it would not mate up well with the factory barrel feed "ramp" of sorts worked into the barrel.

With the addition of this mold I feel like I've bridged the gap between the medium weight sport loads and the thunderous steer slaying weight bullets of 230gr etc...the one Keith variation of which does feed well in my bolt action oddly enough. This boolit loaded smartly especially for the carbine should handle any four legged creature North America has to offer. In the case of two legged creatures the 125gr boolit remains a good option for energy transfer and reduced risk of over penetration.  A sampling has been cast and about half are lubed and sized and loaded with 2400 in the 357 cases. I'll ladder load some others and see about a wet newspaper test.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Stump barrel T/C Contender project .22 LR and .44 Magnum!

When life gives you the chance to buy lemons at a steep discount, I don't care who you are...you're gonna make lemonade. Enter my .22 LR and .44 mag pistol barrel project! I had the opportunity to acquire a few Contender pistol barrels that were in "rough shape" recently on a forum and decided I was going to shorten them up to make them a little  more handy than the unwieldy 10" the factory has/had to offer in the past.  The .44 bull barrel had previously been cut down to about 8" and some weird hole drilled at around 6" that was very unsightly. So the .44 mag barrel would greatly benefit from a chop, crown and sight installation. The .22 LR barrel had some minor pitting towards the muzzle so it too would benefit from a chop and crown job. Though with the .22 I decided to also thread it to 1/2x28 TPI for any future muzzle devices I acquire.


Top is the .22 LR barrel, bottom is the .44 barrel that somebody had already chopped and abused.



New and properly tensioned band saw blade give a very satisfactory cut.
The entire process of modifying these barrels is pretty straight forward. Strip the barrels, this includes the forearm nut, sights and lock bar mechanism. Decide where you will cut, give yourself at least .1" to fall back on if you flub a crown or you don't factor in enough for the kerf.
The .44 Mag barrel cut down to 6.2" gets a new 11 deg recessed target crown.
After you chopped your barrel, you may want to use a 3 jaw chuck, 4 jaws will work if its big enough but mine is not and besides its simpler to center in the 3 jaw with the tail stock center and the steady rest.  shorten, turn down, thread and crown your barrel as you see fit. For just crowning a 3 jaw will be satisfactory.

Somebody take away my bandsaw....I'm having too much fun.

End result of a few hours of work.
After all the lathe work is done you may find yourself wanting to have sights again. Since you've probably chopped off the end of the barrel with the front sight holes you will need to locate, drill and tap new ones.
Drill depth stop and a double check of hole location are critical at this step.

The quickest way I found to locate the new sight hole location is to first figure out where the sight will sit. Decide where the front hole will roughly be located and make a sharpie mark. Take your drill center and with a fish tail or even a good parallel balance this on the top of the barrel so that when you bring down the drill you see if the bit is at top dead center or not. This of course assumes you did like I have done and used the lug as your work holding point in the vise. That is a sure and easy way to get square with the world when drilling sights for the contender.

Be sure you check your barrel thickness and the depth at which you are drilling. I've seen more than a few barrels done by amateurs who simply drilled right through them not realizing they couldn't just do it "by feel"?

New sights drilled and tapped, thread protector (made from part of old barrel) knurled and installed.

On the .22 barrel I also made a knurled thread protector out of part of the barrel drop. This worked out very well as the metal took the cold blue paste the same and blended fairly well. This little chop shop project went fairly quickly and would have easily cost me over $200 if I had sent out the work. The .22 barrel looks great though I admittedly messed up in a few spots. I learned a lesson about tapered barrels in roller steady rests I wont soon forget which resulted in a few messed up threads.


Above we see the reassembled and re-blued .22 LR barrel, save for the flubed thread job (which I may redo) everything looks great! I went out to the range with this set up and it shoots as well as one would expect a contender barrel to shoot. Final length on this was around 7"

The .44 mag barrel also performed very well and did not recoil as bad as I thought it may. At 6.2" it makes for a very compact package and also legal barrel length for hunting deer, at least here in Ohio. (6" min).

All in all this was a great way to give some more life to a pair of barrels that have seen abuse before they got to me. They will sure see a lot of use as they certainly have a lot of potential to the single shot enthusiast!

Monday, December 4, 2017

South Bend steady rest rollers : or : Getting my bearings


Knowing I had some more barrel work I wanted to do I decided it was time to upgrade my steady rest from static fingers to roller bearing fingers. Not being sure where to start I did some google image and ebay searches to see how others have done their roller bearing set ups for my model of lathe.

First item I needed to decide on was bearing size and type. In order to....get my bearings (cricket..cricket..)..I  needed to do some research on what type of bearing would be suitable for this application. Metal shielded I knew was a must and cost is also a factor as I've been told I'll be replacing bearings every so often as they do wear out relatively quickly. I settled on a 10 pack of 5/8" OD with 1/4" bore  flat bearing off ebay for about $7.50 shipped from a supplier in MI, Anything larger and the price drastically increased and I believed it was unnecessary. Next I ordered some 1/2" x 7/8" 1018 cold finished bar stock (18" for $7.11 before S&H) from my favorite mail order metal suppliers Speedy Metals  along with other materials I'll be needing for future projects.  A trio of 1/4"x20 Allen head machine screws 3/4" long would serve as the fasteners for the bearings to the new fingers.

Steady rest with static fingers removed in the project tray for surgery.

I made the new fingers the same length as the old static fingers, band sawed 3 pieces off my stock and set about squaring them up in the mill. I found that though the steady rest is designed to take 7/8" stock in its channels the paint added too much thickness to the channel for a bind free fit. I took .005" off the thickness of the bars and this gave ample clearance in the channels.

Bar stock cut and squared, next locate and drill holes for 1/4x20 tap

Simple quick trick to get repeatable angle for finger clearance.

Not wanting to get too fancy with the angled cuts for the work clearance I band sawed a 1/4" thickness of aluminum angle and used that as a quick and dirty jig for getting a consistent bevel for the finger tips.

Keep the depth of cut the same and you will be able to achieve excellent results. I was too lazy to swap out for the articulating vise.
After all the fingers were beveled it was time to mill the 3/8" slot down the middle of each finger for the locking bolt. I changed how long the slot was on these from the factory originals as they did not need to be so long.



Finished roller bearing steady rest ready for barrels of fun.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Shooting bag repair (Caldwell)

It has been a very busy summer for me, as my girlfriend is out of the country for a month and a half for school I have been busying myself with backlogged reloading and among other things additional range time. In my usual search for brass and misc stuff people dump at the range I found a typical example of somebody getting their muzzle WAY too close to there shooting bag. Though I believe this is more of a pistol rest than a rifle rest it could serve both purposes. I scavenged it out of the trash and Gorilla taped up the holes to keep from loosing any more fill....I dwelled on and off for a few days on possible permanent fixes until at last my brain remembered fixing my girlfriend's Converse shoes with "Shoe-goo"...AHA!  So for a patch material I used some patches cut from some old blue jeans I've been saving for just such a use....I used a backing patch and a top patch as best I could. Only the top patch got the "shoe-goo". First on the bottom and then I kind of worked it in by hand to get a homogeneous patch that wouldn't unravel and be somewhat water resistant as well.

What happens when a muzzle gets too close to a bag...

Repair materials at hand 

Patches in place and "goo'd" all the way through....


We'll see how it works. I have nothing in the bag and it'll be a good one to use/abuse and loan out. Hope your summer is going well and you are getting lots of safe range time in!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Some pulled pistol bullet wisdom : or: the 9mm that couldn't hit paper.

I recently purchased several thousand pulled  9mm "tips" or bullets though the industry seems to lean towards calling them tips when they are pulled I believe. Anyways, the price was VERY attractive and I was planning on doing a lot of work with 9mm in the next few months so I thought I "sure, $30 per 1K is cheaper than my time to cast, lube & size 1K" The bullets in question were 115gr round nose plated 9mm bullets. I've purchased lots of pulled bullets in the past but up to this point they have all been rifle bullets, with a lot of bearing surface. These pistol bullets turned out to be a whole other critter.

I loaded up a couple of test batches and headed out to the range to see what these bullets liked to run with.
I started with a medium load of red dot and at 7 yards got few hits on the 9" paper plate I had put up. I tried the hotter load out of my handgun and things only got worse....much much worse. Keyholes and even fewer hits on the paper plate. When tested out of my carbine barrel at 50 yards they missed a sheet of newsprint entirely. The lower slower loads shot much much better....but the velocity was very low and worried me about being able to knock steel down reliably with 1 hit.

After much head-scratching I finally put the mics to the bullets again but held them up to the light (the first time I just checked for bullet diameter overall) and what I saw astonished me....out of all the bullets I measured and held up to the light the entire bullet body bearing surface was tapered save for the very very rear portion of the projectile....causing highly erratic yawing during flight....higher velocity only exacerbated this situation.

In the future I would hesitate to purchase such light pulled pistol bullets. These will be good for sub gun fodder for somebody but when one is trying to knock down steel plates in a match...not so good. Something to keep in mind if you're looking at a large quantity of pulled pistol bullets....they may have been crimped too hard in the factory and are grossly undersized for your application.