Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Hiatus

Fellow bullseye shooters, be advised that I will be absent over the next six weeks. Generally, I try and post on a weekly basis—and as such—it places something of a demand on me. Due to family, job and holiday obligations this blog will come to a standstill for the next few weeks.

Expect new posts in the early part of January.

Although, this might be a good time to remind my readers about my blog’s basic mission: to assist novice members of our sport. If by chance you’re a well skilled Expert (or God love ya, have a higher rating), your time would be better spent elsewhere. The contents within are something of a recap of my experiences, advice given to me by other creditable and skilled sources, or simply my occasional haranguing about the sport.

Most of the posts have been very personal, and at times, they’re recaps of events that have been enlightening for me and I thought would be useful to share with others.

…I’m very much aware how difficult it is to get started in the sport. And unfortunately, I’ve seen firsthand far too many newbies give up because they received little if any constructive encouragement.

In the meantime if you’re a new reader, consider pursuing the Resource Links and Topic Labels on the far right side of the main page. There’s a lot of stuff there, enough for various shooters with diverse skill levels.

In fact, when I initially started to post, the thought never crossed my mind anyone would find this blog worthwhile. If you go to some of my earliest posts they’re almost childlike. I wasn’t concerned about form, grammar, style, being informative, or for that matter entertaining (I was just banging ‘em out). I originally used the blog as my personal electronic shooting notebook. At the time, I was more concerned about not losing personal insights due to my very poor and dyslectic memory.

Finally, I’d like to wish you all a great and happy holiday season. And remember to enjoy the people in your life; they’re only around because they want to share your daily experiences, with you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rhino: The Future of DR?

Just the other day, a friend of mine asked me about the new Rhino revolvers and inquired about their potential lack of compliance with NRA DR rules. It’s a factory produced revolver, and as such, should conform.

At the time I didn’t remember it. Although, after Googling for it, I briefly remembered seeing it mentioned by various blogers in the early part of this year.

By reviewing the photo below, I’ll be the first to admit its design is striking, maybe even wicked looking; where some of my blogosphere comrades have even referred to it as having a metro-sexual look. I don’t know about that, but it’s certainly unique looking.

Chappia Firearms Group (Armi Chiappa, pronounced KEE-opp-a) of Azzano Mella, Italy teamed up with Antonio Cudazzo and Emilio Ghisoni, who labored on this concept for about two years before applying for a patent.

Strangely enough, it looks and functions much like a Mateba. It appears the Rhino is, at least visually, a cousin to this ‘somewhat’ known automatic revolver. Sadly, the Mateba went out of production when its Italian manufacturer filed for bankruptcy in 2005.

None the less, the basic benefit of both guns appears to be their vastly lower bore-line.

Competitive shooters have shied away from revolvers due to their inherent high bore-line, where the effects of recoil become exaggerated. For the better part of sixty years most major target pistol manufacturers, especially those located in Europe, have concentrated on building and redesigning semi-autos with a never ending quest of lowering the bore-line.

The Rhino accomplishes this by having the gun fire from the lower cylinder (6 o’clock). By that process, the barrel is located at or slightly below the web of the shooter’s hand. The intent is for the shooter to get a gentle push into their palm during recoil, and the frame’s rotation is minimized too. The designers’ goal from a recoil standpoint was to provide the shooter with an easier and much shorter time to reacquire the sight picture during sustained fire.

It looks attractive. I’m told it’s very solid even though it does sport an aluminum frame. But there have been some concerns about its DA trigger pull being a bit stiff. The cocking lever (it’s not a hammer, or maybe it’s a faux hammer) atop cocks the internal mechanism by linkage to shoot in SA mode. And if someone wanted a smith to massage the gun, I doubt there could be much accomplished to enhance the trigger’s pull, due to the use of wire springs being used internally.

Currently the gun’s availability is somewhat limited here in the States. Should this design platform catch on, the price point may even decline a little. Apparently Chappia produces most of them as a snub nose for the concealed carry market, where the snubby commands a price tag of about $800.

Additional commentary:

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Great (Gun) Recession That Lies Ahead

In a recent blog post, my friend Hobie talked about the floor traffic in his gun shop:

We've seen a noticeable drop in sales. At least one major distributor has been shipping lots less product in the last 3-4 months. Prices should be coming down, but perhaps ammo prices won't decline given that the Chinese economy is already winding up faster than ours.

...We actually stood around some today, something that has never happened this time of year in the 3 years I've been working in the shop.

Well friends, now that we’ve come full circle has the bubble finally popped with Obama’s gun-ban-scare?

Recently I stopped by a local friend’s gun store, to pickup a pistol, and I received similar words from him too. He regaled a few instances, where some of his recent customers simply came back and asked him to repurchase their recent gun acquisitions. One such individual purchased four new handguns from him over the past two years and arrived with the entire inventory in hand; acting like he operated a pawn shop instead of a retail gun store. And he even recalled a potential transaction with one humble person who had purchased ammo and then tried to return a half consumed box of the stuff.
Smith & Wesson Holding Co. 01/01/10 to 11/16/10

My retailer-friend’s take on all this is it’s simply a reflection of today’s economy.

Is it the current state of the economy or Obama’s gun-ban-scare bubble pop, or possibly a little of both?

Even mainstream news sources have noticed the abrupt decline in gun sales and their related items. Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, Daily Finance and even the ultra far-left Huffington Post have had articles addressing the market’s surprising and unexpected drop in retail sales since this past Spring and Summer.

This past July when I was at Camp Perry, I was thoroughly surprised with the huge availability of primers and other components at Commercial Row. If I remember correctly, in 2009, if one wanted components at outrageous prices you had to stand in a very long line on the first day simply to get scalped. Why? Because everyone anticipated entire inventories on the row would be depleted by 4:00 PM.

Today, legitimate business people advertise on the Bullseye-L offering bargain basement pricing for CCI large pistol primers. They’re here, they’re there, and they’re stacking up everywhere.

In April of ’09 and again in December I posted my forecast that this situation would play out, much like it did, during the end of the Clinton gun ban. For the better part of the past two years, general gun buyers have acted like they were obese food critics, trapped overnight in a posh four star restaurant. After much public hording, guns, ammo, components and all the other stuff that makes guns go Bang would slide right off the price chart and became down right cheap. [The two posts mentioned above are worthwhile to review and explains how we arrived here with current gun and ammo pricing. Amazing what can happen in only one year.]

All bubbles, whether they’re stocks, your neighbor’s house or the value of one’s 401(k) plan, have something in common: They’ve all had a retrenchment in their values that few would ever believe just a few short years ago. … All bubbles eventually pop but they’re never tidy events.

To quote Jim Morrison: “This is the end.” As such, it may also be the end for some manufacturers too.

And if you haven’t been to a gun show lately expect to see lots of inventory marked down, with fewer and fewer dealer tables around.

Over the next three to four years we should see extremely soft gun and ammunition pricing that we’ll probably tell—with gleeful joy—our grandchildren about. Think of it this way, there may be new opportunities to acquire equipment and components on an inflation adjusted basis similar to that of the 1950’s, in the not so distant future.

Monday, November 15, 2010

2010 Capital 1800

This past weekend I attended and worked a local 1800 match located at my home club in Harrisburg, PA aptly named the Capital 1800.

This event is a gem of a match, that for some reason, has been somewhat overlooked by the local BE community. And it’s got a lot going for it. It spans two days with morning and afternoon relays where just about anyone could easily fit it into their weekend. The range is extremely modern, well lit, has more than adequate ventilation (with preheated air I might add) and has the added benefit of being located near the confluence of three major highways.

The sponsor has been trying to make this event into a classic retro match, where it’s a little unique by modern benchmarks. They award Blackinton medals for all who place in their respective categories and classes.

I enjoy 1800s. Unlike most shooting we do indoors, it’s generally done with only a .22. I don’t know about you but being overly dependant with a rimfire pistol kind of makes me handicapped by the end of the season. Having the added benefit of using a centerfire gun keeps a marksman up to speed with all their equipment. So, when the outdoor season does roll around I don’t feel unaccustomed with my larger caliber pistols.

Your host calling the line

Besides, the matches are a little shorter and you don’t have to invest an entire day in it. You arrive, you shoot, and there’s still time for your spouse or family. Your commitment is little more than a morning or an afternoon.

Since the sponsoring club, Harrisburg Hunters and Anglers, has made a substantial commitment in expanding this match’s future participation, put this one on your calendar for next year.

Links for: match results, and brochure.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Electronic Scales Part II

Read this disclaimer before proceeding: The information provided herein is intended only for entertainment. I can’t be looking over your shoulder when you shoot or make ammunition. So get this straight: I, my agents, assigns, or anyone else that I might even remotely know ASSUME NO LIABILITY or RESPONSIBILITY WHATSOEVER. You’re completely on your own. It is incumbent upon you to be or become knowledgeable about the necessary safety requirements for this pastime.

Electronic scales tell you what the charge weight is. A beam scale tells you what the charge weight is, provided you’ve done this by way of happenstance and set the scale to the appropriate but unknown random weight. Unless you’re willing to mess around moving the hanging counter weights there’s no good way of knowing how far off you are from the set weight. Therein lays the beauty of an electronic scale.

I can recall the many times I’ve thrown all my charges with a beam scale to only just reach the last one and see its weight move.

With an electronic scale I am able to sort through my bullets and brass quickly and use the ones that fall into the same weight range. True you can do this with a beam scale but you’ll probably give up due to the mind deadening frustration caused by the extreme amount of time it takes.

The following are some common, and some not so common, uses for electronic scales.

Determine the Mean:

If you’ve ever tried to weigh out an entire lot of bullets—say 500—by using a beam scale, it feels like an act of futility. For those of you who weigh and sort their components for their long line loads, an electronic scale is a godsend.

Actually, if you don’t want to be bothered by working out a standard deviation calculation, the home reloader can easily craft a bell curve chart from their weighed cast bullets with little more than a piece of masking tape and their scale.

Randomly weigh a sampling of 35 to 40 bullets for every lot of 500, to determine their typical average and extreme weights. Then place a 3 foot piece of masking tape across your bench with a mark for their average weight in the center, and two other marks 1 & ½ feet in both directions from the center for both low and high extremes.

With tape applied to your bench, make additional evenly spaced increment lines on the tape noted in 1 or ½gn amounts. Then take the next 20 minutes and simply weigh the remaining bullets with your scale.

After each one is weighed, place it against the tape vertically above the corresponding weight mark. When you’ve weighed the entire lot, your layout of bullets will emulate a bell curve.

With such a chart you’ll learn a few things.

Let’s assume we’ll be checking a traditional bullseye bullet like a .452” 200gn LSWC. The first thing you’ll notice is very few of your 200gn hard cast bullets will weigh in at 200gn. Expect 200gn to be near the upper limit of the weight range. By my experience they could range from 190 to 205gns, with the mean generally weighing in at around 196 to 198gns. When weighing various lots you’ll discover the mean weight will change, from lot to lot, even from the same caster.

This will give you the opportunity to select a group of bullets to be culled solely for the long line; where their near identical weights will assist you in minimizing the potential of vertical stringing. [If you’d like to read about the importance of minimizing component deviations for increased bullet accuracy, take a look at the two photos near the bottom of this old post.]

The remainders of the original lot can then be identified for a separate batch destined for the short line or practice rounds.

If you’re inclined to keep most of the remaining rounds for the short line, return them randomly to their storage box; so that when you’re reloading you don’t consistently and sequentially reload by bullet weight. If not, you’ll be producing hotter rounds at one end of the course and lighter loads at the other. You want short line loads to be fired by random bullet weights.

Sort by a Known Amount:

Electronic scales also have a ‘tare’ feature which is a pretty nifty function. It may be labeled as ‘zero,’ because when you hit the tare/zero button, the weight in and including the pan is zeroed out. Then you can measure differences between like items.

If you were sorting bullets by weight all you'd have to do is find one that weighs what you wanted, then hit the zero button. From here on out the reading is going to display a plus or minus difference from the standard weight.

Another helpful use of the tare function is when we're adjusting the powder measure on a progressive loader. It's difficult to try to drop a charge in the scale pan, but all you have to do is tare out the weight of an empty case and use it to catch the charge. Since the weight of the case has been zeroed out, the reading is going to be just the weight of the powder.

Detecting Squibs and Double Charges:

By using the same method of reworking the tare setting, it’s easy to find suspected double charged or squib rounds. Simply sample several known good rounds and set the tare with this established round, and then start weighing for suspected problem rounds.

When you find that little culprit, keep in mind there will always be some moderate variations in weights even with properly finished rounds. Not all of your brass, bullets and primers will have uniform weights. But if you notice something on the order of +/-2grns or more in weight deviation, you’ve identified a potential problem.

Although the above works great for .45ACP rounds, I should point out much smaller rounds like 9mm or 32 S&W Long can’t be safely tested in such a manner. Due to their small size and light charge, the amount of deviation in the brass’ weight may be more than the typical charge weight for these diminutive rounds.

Uniform Case Volume:

For those of you who use the same head-stamps, weighing cases is another way of ensuring that your brass is uniform. It’s not the only way and certainly shouldn't be the only way to separate them but it has its role. If everything about the case is the same (uniform thickness, de-burred flash holes, primer pockets reamed, trimmed to overall length), then the weight being within +/- 0.2gn will have what is commonly referred to as ‘uniform water capacity.’ Uniformity between cases is a key to the absolute best accuracy you can expect.

Average Thrown Charge:

Regardless if you use a progressive reloader or a standalone powder measure, finding the average powder throw is extremely important. We all know there’s always some minor deviation from one throw to the next. It’s all too common for a home reloader to test one, two or three drops from their measure, and then declare it set. Only later to find out their average powder drops were slightly high or low. At the very least, to obtain a reasonable level of consistency, how’s a reloader supposed to know their measure’s average drop?

With an electronic sale it’s a snap to find an average drop. After feeling somewhat confident your powder measure is dropping the appropriate load, simply take 10 consecutive drops and place them into the pan to determine its cumulative weight. Then divide by 10 for the average.

If you’ve accepted the traditional +/-0.10grn deviation for a 45 ACP round, your average drop should be right on the money. Even if you’re only off by a single .10th, it’s time to adjust the meter and make another 10 drops.

Continue doing this until they average out to your desired charge weight. Then you can be safely assured of having reasonably consistent loads from one end of your lot to the other.