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
-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+

-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
-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+

- 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)
-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
-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'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 (  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.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Scratching a 30/06 itch: or : Savage Axis barrel chop attempt #1

One of the great things about having machine tools is you suddenly find a use for other peoples unwanted gun stuff often cheap or free. Old sights, action parts, rails, stock parts and of course day while going through the swap and sell forums on a popular shooting forum I came across a few ads for Savage 110 barrels very cheap, which really got my gears turning. The Savage Axis if you do not already know is the economy hunting rifle offering from Savage and has a ton to offer every shooter if you are not a prude that looks down their nose at rifles that don't have a comma in the price. First a bit of back story with what I'm starting with here.

Long story short one of my FFL buddies got a flyer in one of his industry mailings offering dealers a really great price on lots of half a dozen or so Savage Axis rifles that came with a 3-9 scope of some flavor. The price was VERY attractive and I of course showed some restraint only getting one of the rifles. The blowout was due to the AXIS II coming out that fall and the wholesalers needed to clear out the old to make room for the new.  Savage was running a $50 rebate so iirc the rifle was well under $200 delivered and having our choice of calibers I went with the 30/06 since you simply cant go wrong with an "ought six".

When I got the rifle I was somewhat impressed with what we got for the money with one exception, Savage rifles are popular for their ease of re-barreling and upgrading. Lots of guys online have reported the Axis rifle is a fantastic shooting rifle and is WELL worth the money but everybody seems to agree the factory stock is not rigid enough to really instill a ton of confidence to the owner but they do work. There are guys who are reinforcing their stocks, something I might do someday but today is not that day. This more or less is about wanting to make the Axis into more of a working rifle, something that is easy to carry, wont get left behind etc. The only real place we can change dimensions is at the barrel end of things, the factory supplied us with 22" of pipe to work with and that got me thinking something like the following... "hey 20 would be pretty handy...but what about 18".....has anybody ever done a 16.5" 30/06 on a bolt action before?"...turns out the Canadian search and rescue teams field a 14.5" Ruger 77 with a folding stock for bear protection when parachuting or trekking long distances to and rescue. I would love to get my hands on one of those stocks as they look pretty good to me. Well back to the point at hand I started getting some factory take off barrels for the Axis, as it turns out barrels from the Savage 110 and the Stevens 200 will fit. Pick the caliber you want and if you already have the correct bolt head you're mostly good to go to do the swap. As I did not wish to alter the factory barrel just yet I got a few barrels to modify first...At well under $40 each the barrels were a pretty good way to try something else out without putting out a ton of money. The Savage 110 barrels I ended up with were all from different models but all pretty much the same contour and 22" long just like the factory. So lets make a 16.5" 30/06 bolt action!

Factory rifle disassembled 
                          At this point I laid out the barrel I chose to chop with the factory barrel I had marked at 18" for some time seeing how if it FELT like it would be too short or not. The cheap 2nd hand barrel allowed me to go whole hog here and just go super short.

The top barrel marks 18" and the bottom is 16.5...I marked them to get a rough idea of how much thickness I would have if I choose to thread the end for a brake or flash hider.
A quick read up on re-barreling Savage axis rifles will bring up the annoying fact of these tiny tiny beads used to finish the action. I'm not entirely sure if these are tumble type beads or bead blasting type beads but either way they need to be fully removed. Trying to unthread the nut with the beads in place is a good way to cause undue wear.

One major complaint is the beads used in finishing the rifles.
Once I got the old barrel off I needed to chop the new barrel that was going on the rifle. Now here is where I got a bit of a shock....After I cut the barrel with a horizontal band-saw I looked at the new muzzle and WOW was it off center by a LOT. Turns out this is pretty common with mid-grade barrels, the part that threw me was that the breach and old muzzle were pretty straight with the OD of the barrel. which means during the drilling process their bit walked.
Off center muzzle as a result of 5.5" being lopped off the barrel. Wondering if the factory barrels were profiled between centers.

A new muzzle face and crown is important for accuracy as well as having pride in ones work, I set up the barrel on the lathe with a center in the headstock with a dog leg and a cats head to try and get the muzzle to turn true. Nobody ever told me how difficult it is to center something with 3 jaws before using a out of round barrel and a cats head that could probably be cleaned up some. A steady rest with bearings is now on the "to do" list as there is another method I could have used from one of my gunsmithing books that may have been easier and less frustrating than my set up here.
A .302 pin gauge was used as it offered a friction fit in the muzzle to check run out.

Dog leg set up with 30/06 case drilled out for a center installed to protect chamber. 
After I got the barrel as close to true with the BORE as I could I faced the new muzzle cutting from the ID to the OD so as not to risk rolling any material into the bore. I settled on a 11° taper for the new muzzle as this is what most target barrels use.  Part 2 in the works will cover barrel installation and of course the range results. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Butler Creek lens covers or "CYG"....COVER YOUR GL-ASS!

Anybody that knows me in the gun culture context knows I'm not currently a huge user of optics but I do use them. In fact I recently purchased my first "good glass" this past summer with a midway birthday discount and the need to put some good optics on a long range rifle. Oh sure I've had "decent" glass in the past, lots of BSA target scopes which work perfectly fine for the small bore applications I was using them for. A low power Leupold scope on one of my belted magnums and a array of older Weaver "K" series scopes, my favorite being the K2.5x1" I have mounted on my Ruger 77/357.  The "good glass" I purchased this past summer was a higher end Vortex scope and right away I wanted to make sure that the lenses were kept clean and protected. I sought out one product I have used on a few other scopes and think highly of. Butler Creek lens covers....its like floor mats for your don't really think of them but you're glad you have them when you get into some mud or wet weather.

Eyepiece cover, press the red toggle with your thumb and...

I'm not sure when Butler Creek came out with these handy lens caps/covers but they sure do make a world of difference when you're hunting or "snap shooting".  I recently purchased a objective lens and eyepiece lens cover set made by Butler creek to accommodate my Weaver K2.5x1". In a quick ebay search a "blizzard" objective lens cover in the size I needed (#1) was found for a couple of bucks shipped new in the package. The "blizzard" has a clear or yellow (depending on model) window which will permit use of the scope while the lens is folded down. If you need to use the scope "full range" then you simply flip up the cover and have at it. The thinking is the lens does distort some light and thus where your cross-hairs are might not be where you think they are.  For the eyepiece I went with the red button pop up cap (#9) new from ebay as well, both caps came in combined for under $14 delivered. 

"Sproing" the cover flies open.

Not a super frugal option but you not going to lose these like you would the production bikini type covers or similar home made inner tube scope covers. Not to mention the flip up caps are very fast to use, rugged and reliable. If you spend $100 or $1000 on a scope for your pistol, rifle or what have you then I would suggest you invest a few more bucks in a fool proof method to protect your investment.

"blizzard" objective lens cover allows the shooter to use while still folded down.

Cap flipped up for use of the scopes full range, when not snap shooting or in close.

The view with the front cap down is just a bit darker than if it were up. No readily noticeable distortion though in this application it would not be used pass 100 yards with the .357mag/38spl

Ruger 77/357, the "Hearing Protection Act" and a job well done.

2016 has come and gone and with it Ruger fans everywhere got a little sad news in mid September that the  rim-fire and pistol caliber series of the rugged, reliable and typically Ruger, 77 bolt actions rifles would be temporarily discontinued. For how long who knows....but when I got the news I thought about how much I've been enjoying my 77/357 and was hoping that Ruger would not only continue its production but also come out with a .327 Federal version as well as other pistol caliber bolt actions. Keeping one eye on what companies were starting to bring into production towards the end of 2016 and the other on the political climate that was Bedlam, USA in a presidential election year I asked myself if there was any work I wanted to get done that I didn't feel comfortable doing myself possibly before things got more tumultuous.  I thought to my beloved 77/357 and the rumors that the HPA was going to make for another push to pass and remembered researching smiths that specialized in 77 barrel threading jobs. 

Barrel prior to front sight set back and threading by JP Grips
For me I not only wanted my 77 threaded for 1/2x28 but wanted to keep a usable front sight with most of the aesthetics that one gets with Ruger sight bands. These days few rifles have serious iron sights and as such the barrels are easily threaded without regard for the irons sights. Factories have caught on now and ship rifles threaded, such as the Savage Axis and other Ruger bolt actions (among many many others, MVP etc) but few such as the Axis have iron sight options which make aftermarket threading of the muzzle easier for home smiths or mail order places, not having irons to index makes life easier. So these jobs where sights are involved start to get more complicated.

Barrel with thread protector in place
I recalled seeing a few photos of some other 77 fans who had their rifles threaded and the front sights "set back" and went in search of who they trusted with their guns. Jim Pixley of "JP Grips and Machine" came up time and time again. I emailed a few individuals who had work done and they were all very pleased with his service. I contacted Jim and arranged to have my action sent out right after Thanksgiving, his quote of $175 for threading, a thread protector, sight set back and return shipping was reasonable to me as this was not something that should be done by somebody who thinks this sort of work can be done quickly or with short cuts. Jim's turn around time was quoted as 1 month and he delivered under that time frame. As I'm giving this review prior to having a can on the barrel I can only give my thoughts on how well the job looks, and I think he did a marvelous job, I don't expect the accuracy has been altered at all from how the rifle has performed prior to the threading but only a trip to the range will tell.

Ready for any 1/2x28 devices, flash hiders, compensators or cans. 
Of course the Hearing Protection Act  is still being hashed out in D.C. as I'm typing this but I think we have a good chance of seeing it pass. If it does I plan on pursuing a Liberty Mystic X as soon as I pun intended.  The Ruger 77/357 is one of the most versatile guns I have ever owned and so far all the little upgrades have made it more enjoyable and more practical for my style of shooting. 

I highly recommend if you plan on getting into any "canned goods" if/when HPA passes that you start considering now what you want as hosts. Getting the threading done now will alleviate what I think will be some painful wait times as I can see custom job shops such as JP Grips getting VERY busy in short order as he also works on the Beretta 92, Buckmark's, Remington 597 and all sorts of other flavors of guns. Below is his website and contact info

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"He looks like a deranged Easter bunny" :or: "You'll shoot your eye out kid"

My sister got me the bunny suit for a good laugh with all of our family and friends, dad got me the reproduction 1803 Harper's Ferry .54 cal flintlock. A rifle I have been wanting for awhile but they are not all that common. Strange how you have to have a background check for a Ruger 10/22 but you can mail order this state of the art (in 1800) .54 military grade "assault rifle" and have it shipped right to your door.  Lots of "watch out Elmer Fudd" jokes went around this Christmas as one can imagine. I will surely treasure this rifle...and the bunny suit as I am thankful for all the gifts and the time that I am able to spend with my family. As we should all be thankful for the time we are given. Merry Christmas and I hope your 2017 is a fine year for you and yours. ~Wonderwolf (aka pink bunny)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Skinny reload options for the revolver, two revolver reload options for concealed carry.

This past year I have been looking at different options for carrying extra ammo either loose or on speed strips for the 38/357 combo. I thought  I would cover two options I dug out of "misc leather" boxes at gun shows this past year. One is a component for a shoulder holster rig, using either loose rounds or speed strips (.38 spl only with the speed strips too long otherwise).  The other is a old school ammo pouch for a service revolver rig. The black pouch as far as I can tell was intended to hold 6 -.357 or .38 spl rounds loose and then when required the bottom was opened in much the same fashion as the shoulder holster pouch and you caught the loose rounds and fed them as needed. Dexterity under stress being required, I'm not really sure how I like these two options but it does give one options that are much much thinner than speed loader pouches. The speed loader pouches are not bad however I'm looking for more concealed options don't stick out so much from the body.

Belt option and shoulder holster option pictured above. 

I will be repairing the black pouch in short order as some of the stitching has degraded to the point of failure. The nice thing is the black pouch could also easily hold 2-5 round rimfire magazines if one was carrying a mag fed bolt action. Could also hold loose rounds for the lever actions as well as anything else you may want to have you in the city or the woods. The only issue is the bottom opening feature needs to have a very positive snap so you are not losing your goods.

Simple design and won't take long to fix.

Black snaps would attract less attention but with all the cell phone cases out there it wouldn't take much to make this blend in even without an over garment. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Time for a mihec .308 hunting bullet mold?

A few months back I was offered a 2 cavity .308 rifle mold made by Mp molds (aka mihec) out of Slovenia  and I turned it down after a lot of thought. My reasons were simple, "I don't need a hollow point .308 rifle mold...I mean...why?".  The thought kept creeping into my head from time to time about getting a .30 cal rifle mold with hollow point options to try but I have been happy with the lee ~150gr FN mold so far I couldn't really justify another ~150gr .30 cal mold. At least until I found myself looking for another Lee 150gr mold to modify for casting hollow points....its at that point I knew I was curious enough about just how versatile a .30 cal hollow pointed rifle mold might be.  The ability to cast both a solid and a HP bullet in the same basic bullet design is highly appealing and even more so with such a versatile caliber platform that is the .30 caliber rifle realm. I've yet to modify the lee mold I acquired but that should happen around the holidays as time permits. I did break down and put my name on the wait list for mihec's rerun of his ".308 hunting bullet", wide meplats and big lube grooves appeal to me as they seem to shoot well and feed well through a wide array of firearms. Looking forward to try this out in the bolt action, semi autos and lever action that are currently sitting idle as I'm currently wait-listed to get a membership to a range in my new location.

As I've covered in previous posts, "mihec" makes (imho) possibly the worlds finest bullet molds. With lots of options, quality materials and superb craftsmanship his molds are quickly surpassing the RCBS and lyman molds in a lot of areas serious bullet casters care about. I own several of his "semi custom" molds and as much as I would like to have free product or be paid for my word I was not paid to say any of this. His molds are simply good enough for free props.  I look forward to try what will be the 2nd rifle mold of his I'll have purchased in the last 2 years. I've been a customer of his for almost 10 years now and am averaging about a mold a year from him....something to be said about quality, though it does come at a is well worth it in the end for the amount of utility one gets from one of his molds.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

CZ 527 7.62x39: or: your Czechoslovakian quickie (review)

CZ has long made quality bolt action rifles in both the center-fire and rim-fire offerings, I'm a huge fan of the 452 and 550 magnum type actions (for the most part) and have recently come into possession of a CZ 527 carbine for a quick review. This 527 is termed a "micro carbine" by CZ and when you pick one up you'll know why. At just under 37.5" long (just short of a meter) and a fuzz over 6 lbs this little carbine is a handy package for the woods. Available in a number of chambers including .204 .223 .222 .221 fireball, .22 and .17 hornet as well as 7.62x39 this carbine offers something to everybody looking to hunt ground hogs to deer sized game.

The example I have in front of me is the 7.62x39 version, I picked this as one does not come across a true .310 barreled 7.62x39 bolt action rifle easily. Most 7.62x39 offerings domestically tend to use a .308 bullet which is noble however annoying if you're trying to use surplus ammo sometimes.  All my 7.62x39 guns thus far are of Russian decent so I'm not sure how much of a issue surplus ammo might be in those .308 barreled guns but I'm willing to bet many a forum thread has been dead horsed on the subject. 

Annoyingly (for one handed carrying) the balance point is right at the magazine

As it were I thought the 527 in the 7.62x39 selection would be a handy package for the compact carbine collection and kind of is but it has some draw backs. Some of which can be fixed....others that can't be so easily.

I like the gun, its size and weight are great and holy crap does this thing shoot. When fed top shelf ammo (Lapua) it will give you some impressive groups. Now admittedly I never shot this with a scope (con- proprietary scope rings) so my groups were all with the irons. 5 shots in a playing card is easy with the irons at 50 yards, 100 yards you can double that unless you go with glass in which case you'll probably clover leaf shots.  Even the steel cased ammo shot very well, anybody who says the 7.62x39 is not a accurate round can go ahead and leave now. The rifle has a set trigger that can also help shrink groups even more. The gun bucks as a 6 lb carbine chambered in a mid power 30 caliber cartridge should and throws quite a muzzle flash when conditions are right.

After the first or second range trip I had to send the rifle back to the factory to be restocked. The recoil and the tight fit of the stock in the rear did not go well together and split the stock in 2 places at the tang of the receiver. CZ put the action in a new stock and bedded the recoil lug for me and I've had no problems since.  A friend who shot it noticed the bolt key-ways need cleaned up a bit and I agree they could be smoother as well. 

Inline image 1
Cracks in stock after fewer than 50 rounds

I do like the carbine but I'm not SOLD on it fully yet as a useful addition to the selection. The shortcomings are pretty significant,  adjustable sights being a huge one for me, for what you pay for the carbine I feel as though adjustable sights should be there. At least give the customer a few different height front sights to swap out, the rear is drift-able (word?)  for windage but one front insert is not enough especially if you are using steel cased ammo vs something hotter like older Yugoslavian stuff.

Light weight
Ammo availability
Strong action

Balance point for carrying (is ok to carry magazine up one handed)
Carbine & spare magazine cost
Semi fixed irons
Slippery stock out of the box
Backwards safety ( forward is safe)

So there it is, my thoughts on the CZ 527 in 7.62x39, its a great little carbine and has a TON of potential. If you're looking for a bolt action rifle to share ammo with your SKS or AK's this is your answer....scope it and you'll be very happy.  It is very utilitarian in all areas except cost if you decide to try and grab one of these sweet carbines prepare for a little sticker shock.  I think a suppressor would be marvelous on this as well but as of now CZ does not offer any threaded from the factory.