Friday, December 28, 2012

Reloading for the 7.62x38mmR Nagant Revolver, Part 1

I finally got around to ordering a set of Lee 7.62x38R dies for my Nagant Revolver from Graf & Sons, as you can see above. You can get these dies from all the usual sources- Midway has them at a similar price- but Graf had the appropriate bullets and the cases I needed in stock, so that's where I ordered from. This set is unusual for Lee, as it's the only die set they sell that doesn't come with any reloading data. For some reason there's a powder measure scoop included even though there's no data go with it. Even more curiously, the scoop is large- too large for any powder charge I know of for the 7.62x38R.

The set isn't designed for use with the the factory 7.62x38R case. Instead, it's intended to convert .32-20 cases into a sizethat will chamber properly in the Nagant revolver. To that end, only the recapping/resizing die is specifically designed for the Nagant revolver; the expander and seating-crimping die are actually .32-20 dies, as you can see:

I also obtained a hundred plated 98grain double-ended wadcutter bullets that resemble the Russian factory loaded bullets in profile:

The original bullet in the Soviet service round was a steel-cored jacketed bullet. These are impossible to find, and wouldn't be a good choice for someone trying to make an accurate round in any case. There are plenty of jacketed bullets around but using a jacketed bullet pushes the pressure up, not something desirable when developing a load for a gun for which there isn't a lot of data. Soft lead bullets keep the pressure down, and plated bullets are generally self lubricating.

Since I didn't have any .32-20s on hand, I ordered 200 Starline .32-20 unprimed cases. The choice of case is important here; most .32-20 cases are just a few thousandths too thick to work properly in a Nagant revolver, and either the gun or the cases have to be modified. Starline makes the rim on theirs just a bit thinner so that they function in the Nagant and still work in older .32-30 guns.

The .32-20 is a a bottlenecked case that was introduced in 1885 as a small and medium sized game cartridge. To allow it to chamber in the Nagant, all that's required is one pass through the sizing die, as you can see:

For primers I'll be using standard small Winchester primers, as I have plenty on hand. Choice of powder is the final, and perhaps most critical choice. Since the .32-20 based reload doesn't seal the cylinder/barrel gap like the factory load does, it's a good idea to use a fast burning powder to minimize fouling and maximize efficiency. Some reloaders have experimented with small (1.5-2.0) grains of Bullseye, but using very small amounts of powder in a large case can lead to erratic ignition. Luckily there's a powder that burns as fast as Bullseye but is much bulkier: IMR Trail Boss:

A number of reloaders have suggested 3.5 grains of Trail Boss as a good load for the 7.62x38R. Tables for similar cartridges suggest this will generate pressures under 16,000 CUP, and that's very close to the  working pressure of the Soviet military load, according to a few sources. I'll probably start with something like 3.2gr and work my way up to that. I also intend to experiment with other soft lead bullets. A lot of reloaders are using lead round nose bullets designed for the .32 S&W.

Click here for Part 2

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pedersoli 20ga muzzleloader

I got this gun in a swap with my old friend and mentor Tom, back when we were doing a lot of upland game hunting. My first muzzleloading shotgun was an original gun made in 1814 but I never got quite comfortable shooting a gun that old, and so I sold it and bought this from Tom, who was perfectly happy shooting his original percussion and flintlock shotguns.

This gun has been sitting in a safe or in a case for most of the last decade, which has made me think I really ought to sell it. It does have a few condition issues, like a patch of rust near the muzzle of the right barrel:

a few chips, worn finish where Tom had been working on reshaping the buttock and the usual wear and tear, but overall it's in fine shape. I only shot it a few times, preferring to hunt with my nice Spanish double, a gun I think I'll feature here in the near future.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hansen Cartridge Company (and Prvi Partizan)

I was cleaning up in the basement and came across a brick of ten boxes of Hansen .22 LR ammunition, purchased back in the 1980s. I don't remember how good this stuff was and so I did a bit of web searching. Turns out that Hansen was a brand that a US importer came up with for ammunition made by Prvi Partizan of Yugoslavia, and Prvi Partizan is a quality maker. [Note: See Alexander’s comment, below. ]They export ammunition to dozens of countries, manufacture Wolf Ammunition's premium Wolf Gold line, and they're the only maker* currently turning out new 7.62x38R ammunition for the Russian Nagant revolver:

... which is why they can get away with charging $25 for a box of 50. And that's why I've ordered a set of LEE reloading dies for the Nagant- but more on that later.

About those 500 Hansen .22s: I'm going to take a few boxes to the range and see how they perform 30 years after I bought them. More on that later, too.

* Correction: Fiocchi also makes 7.62x38R ammunition. Midway has it, along with empty unprimed Fiocchi cases for reloaders.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Polishing the Beretta Bobcat Feed Ramp

The Inox model Beretta Bobcats don't seem to feed as reliably as the blued models. That's been my experience, as well as that of a number of shooters who've posted in various forums. Some think it's because the Inox slide and barrel have a much rougher finish than do the blued guns. I've found that CCI Stinger rounds have a 100% reliability, but Mini-Mags generally fail to fully chamber the first round in the magazine. Lower powered rounds have even more FTFs. I decided to try and address one potential problem area by polishing the feed ramp on mine, using my Dremel Tool with a rubber abrasive tool, followed by a felt polishing tool coated with rouge.

As you can see from the photo, I managed to get a real mirror finish, and if I rub the nose of a .22 round along it it feels much slicker than the unpolished surfaces.  I did the surfaces where the slide rides in the receiver, too. And yet, feeding wasn't really improved all that much. Some say the spring in the Bobcat is the culprit- it's just too strong.

I alos noticed while doing this that there's a lot of what looks like pitting above the chamber. I don't know if that is erosion from firing, or a bad finish or casting in the barrel. When I bought my Bobcat at Gander Mountain I also bought an extended warranty that has another none months to run. I may just send the gun back to Beretta and see what they think.

Update: I sent the gun to Beretta (via Gander Mountain) and it came back 20 days later with a brand new barrel and slide. I haven't been to the range to test it yet, but when I do, I'll post the results here.

Update II: The gun fed everything I tried in it- standard velocity, high velocity and hypervelocity- with no FTFs or FTEs.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Watch those garage sales!

I had to pass this story on:

Just like a scene out of "Antiques Roadshow," a woman in Hartford, Conn., turned in an old rifle to her local police station's gun buy-back, only to discover the gun was worth anywhere from $20,000 to $25,000. The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, inherited the gun from her father who had brought it home with him from Europe as a memento from World War II. 
The two officers conducting the gun buy-back, who are resident gun experts for the Hartford Police Department, informed the owner she was in possession of a Nazi Assault Rifle, the first of its kind, that dates back to 1944. 
The gun is called a Sturmgewehr 44, literally meaning "storm rifle," and is the first "modern assault rifle ever made, eventually replaced by the AK 47 in 1947 by Russia, who copied the German design of the Sturmgewehr 44," Officer Lewis Crabtree, one of the two officers who discovered the gun, told ABC News. 
"It's like finding the Babe Ruth of baseball cards," said Officer John Cavanna. "The rarity, it was made for such a very short period."
Not that I'd want one- I have an aversion to Nazi-related memorabilia- though I wouldn't mind the $25,000. A reminder that when you attend garage sales it never hurts to ask, "Uh... got any old guns?"

Friday, December 7, 2012

Beretta Jetfire and Minx

I was at my favorite little Mom-and-Pop gun store the other day and spotted a Beretta Jetfire in the used cabinet... for $149. Very tempting. Practically speaking it's a pretty useless gun, but my interest is more as a collectable. While it's a much better gun than most of the small .25s out there, like the F.I.E. Titan I bought 30 years ago that spontaneously disassembled after digesting about 100 rounds, it has a few features I'd call fatal in a self-defense gun  (aside from being chambered in .25 ACP.)

First of all, there's no safety. That means it has to be carried uncocked, and cocked with the shooter's thumb before firing. Second, there's no extractor, which means a misfire involves a rather complex drill:
  1. Flip up the barrel via the release lever behind the trigger. (If you're lucky, the round might flip out of the barrel.)
  2. Pluck the misfired cartridge out with a fingernail on your weak hand
  3. Close the barrel with the thumb of that hand
  4. Pull back and release the slide to chamber another round and cock the gun.
Not quite as fast as your modern DA auto. Still, my interest in this gun is as a collectable, not a defensive gun. For that reason, I'd rather have the Minx, the .22 Short version of the gun. .22 shorts are increasingly rare in stores, but they're out there. lists Shorts from Winchester, Remington, and CCI.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Ruger .22 Automatic Pistol

Here's a page from the great Stoeger catalog from not long after the Ruger Standard was introduced in 1949.  Judging from the price, I'm guessing it was right around 1951. That $37.50 Ruger charged back then is about equivalent to $345.60 today, which is pretty close to the list price of the Standard today ($379) despite all the improvements that have been added since then. The target's price is equivalent to about $529 today, whereas the current model lists for $449 and comes with a scope rail as well as iron sights.

I'm a big fan of the Ruger .22 pistols and currently own two, a Mark-III Hunter and a .22/45 Target. There are those who prefer the Browning Buckmark and say it's a better shooter out of the box, but there's an amazing range of accessories and aftermarket parts for the Ruger that allow the home gunsmith to create precisely the customized gun they want. Both of mine are very accurate, and thanks to a Volquartsen trigger and sear work by a friend of mine, both have triggers with the proverbial "breaking a glass rod" feel, and both are far more accurate than I can shoot them.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

More Zimmerstuzen

I've talked about Zimmerstutzen, or "parlour guns" in a few previous posts. These were, and are, guns that use only a primer charge to propel a ball  or other projectile. They go back at least to the 19th Century and the invention of the percussion cap. but reached their peak in the late 19th and early 20thC, with the invention of rimfire cartridges and the CB Cap and BB Cap. The gun seen above is the Guardian Derringer, a modern interpretation of a mid-19thC Zimmerstutzen by Pedersoli. It's in .177 caliber (most period guns were closer to 6mm) and uses a modern shotgun primer rather than a percussion cap. This provides a bit more oomph than a percussion cap, and unlike the cap, pieces of the primer won't fly off on ignition. (This was a big annoyance with the Remington Rider reproduction I owned a while ago- pieces would fly off and hit me in the hand hard enough to break the skin!) You can find this gun at Dixie Gun Works for $255

Zimmerstutzen began as expensive toys for the wealthy, who could afford a gun with no real practical use, but by the 20thC you could buy an inexpensive BB-cap firing "Flobert" rifle for the equivalent of $42 in today's money:

These were outdoor rifles, although I suppose some were used by those who had a large enough house. They were a bit ore powerful than the percussion-cap propelled guns, and were used by boys for hunting small birds and rodents. I've owned a few, most of which I never fired. One problem with the simple lock mechanism of these cheap guns was that they didn't seal up as tightly as modern actions, and it wasn't unusual to get some gas escaping in the direction of the shooter's face!

Flobert guns weren't the cheapest of the primer-only guns. There have been a few that were cheap enough to be sold as toys for kids. One was the 1950s era Kruger Pistol, which used an extremely small .14grain powder charge- actually a paper cap!- to fire a ".12 caliber lead bullet," more properly called one pellet of #5 bird shot.

That $3 price tag translates to $28 in 2012 dollars, still very reasonable. The Kruger had a few problems, not the least of which was that the corrosive nature of paper caps resulted in the rapid corrosion of the thin metal parts of the gun. Regular cleaning and lubing would prevent this, but how many kids would do that? As a result, working examples are rare today.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Aguila Colibri Low-Power .22

I've written previously about my affection for CCI's Standard Velocity .22 cartridges, and Aguila's SSS Sniper Subsonic round. Here's an even slower cartridge: The Aguila Colibri. This is certainly the lowest energy .22 round on the market today, on a par with the old RWS CB caps. (You can still buy the RWS CB Caps, but they're ridiculously expensive. Cheaperthandirt wants $33 for a tin of 100!)

The Colibri uses a primer charge only, and no powder, to propel a 20gr bullet. It's recommended for pistol barrels only. Muzzle energy is listed as 6 foot pounds, which is 1/17th the energy of the CCI Standard Velocity cartridges, and muzzle velocity a sizzling 375 fps. Not very impressive. But very useful.

I bought a brick of these for basement practice, and they're ideal for that. Loading them singly in my tuned Ruger Mark-III, shooting offhand, I got one ragged 5-shot group at 7 yards. The report was less than you'd get from a CO2 gun, about on a par with what you'd get from a spring gun. The sound of the bullet hitting the steel bullet trap was much louder than the report of the gun being fired. And yes, you can hear these as two separate sounds, as it takes the bullets a lazy 56 milliseconds to reach the target.

My second test was in my Ruger Single Six, in which they were also accurate, quiet, and much easier to load. The last test was in my 1930 Iver Johnson Model X rifle, which is nearing completion in its restoration, and the Colibris were almost silent in that gun.

I'd planned on using my Daisy 717 for indoor practice over the winter on days when I didn't feel like driving through 27 miles of snow to get to my club, but with these I can shoot the same gun I use at the range. Same sights, same grip, same trigger. And I can also safely shoot older guns that I wouldn't trust with modern high-speed .22s.  You don't even need to use a heavy-duty steel trap like my Champion .22 Bullet Trap; a wooden box filled with Duxseal or a cardboard box filled with old magazines will easily do.

If you're looking for a slightly more powerful round designed for rifles, Aguila also makes the similar Super Colibri. Same 20gr bullet and primer-only propellant, but it leaves the barrel at a smoking 500fps with an ME of around 11 foot pounds or what a moderately powerful spring-air pellet gun can generate. A little louder, but with the guarantee that the bullets won't stop midway down a long barrel.

Postscript: After doing a bit of research, I have learned that Aquila's rimfire cartridges use lead styphnate primers, which means that shooting indoors without good ventilation is probably not such a great idea. I'm currently looking into making a portable air filter that would be effect for trapping the lead in the air- perhaps the 3M HEPA type furnace filters might work.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Best Gun Cleaner

The new aerosol gun scrubbers are great, but you can get the same thing in a cheaper package at the local auto parts store. Yes, good old spray brake cleaner. It'll dissolve powder, carbon, lube and more.

Just make sure you buy one of the ones labeled "Non-Chlorinated." The non-chlorinated ones have a lower VOC content, won't damage your nervous system, are non-flammable, and won't attack plastic and rubber parts in your gun.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Marble Game Getter

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Springfield Arms M6, which was derived from the Air Force's AR-6 survival rifle/shotgun. But the AR-6 itself was probably inspired by a much older gun: The Marble Game Getter.

The Game Getter was designed, as the name suggests, as a small game gun that was light and compact enough for the sportsman to carry on every outing, with the hope of bagging whatever small game they might come across. The price? $27-30, depending on barrel length. (Sounds pretty cheap, but $27 in 1918 was equivalent to about $400 today!)The original Model 1908 Game Getter was produced from 1908 to 1918, and generally featured a .22LR barrel above a .44 smoothbore barrel, intended to fire a .44 caliber shot shell.  15" was the most common barrel length, with a lesser number of 12" and 18" barrel versions also produced. The Model 1921, which was offered as late as 1962, replaced the .44 barrel with the more familiar .410 shot shell barrel.

What initially killed off the Game Getter was the 1934 Federal Firearms Act, which banned rifles and shotguns with barrels shorter than 18".  While the Game Getter without a stock was a legal pistol, albeit an ungainly one,  the smoothbore barrel made it a sawed-off shotgun, and that made it an AOW, or "Any Other Weapon," requiring a $200 transfer tax to buy. Marble lengthened the barrel to 18" and appealed to the government to establish the legality of the gun, but by the time it was approved, the market for the gun was gone. Some examples continued to be assembled from the company's stock of spare parts until 1962, but the gun was essentially gone from the marketplace.

A few years ago Marble brought back an exact reproduction of the Game Getter at a suggested retail price of $1,995. That's a lot, but good examples of original Game Getters are going for $2,000 to $2,995 these days. Kind of makes the $600-700 people are asking for a Springfield AR-6 these days seem almost reasonable. If you're interested in a Game Getter of your own, or Marble's line of modern and vintage sight products, you can read about them at Marble's own web site. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Blank Guns, Gas Guns, Flare Guns and Cheap .22s

I was cleaning up in the basement the other day when I came across these two old blank firing guns. I don't remember where I got them, but I think it was back in the 1980s. These are just two of the countless variations on the same basic design that has been made in Germany and Italy and probably other countries I don't know about. Rohm, one of the German makers, also made blank firing revolvers, some of which were modified into the RG10 .22 short revolver that was imported imported by FIE.:

This gun has the reputation of being the worst .22 revolver ever sold. It's made principally of zinc castings and is known to quickly go out of time, and to spontaneously disassemble when fired.

All these auto-styled, double action blank firing pistols operate on the same basic double action principal. 6mm (.22) crimped blanks are loaded into a carrier that's inserted into a rectangular opening just below the "barrel":

The blanks are loaded into the bottom of this carrier strip, and the carrier is pushed in until it stops, with the front flush with the front of the pistol. When the trigger is pulled, the carrier is pulled rearward, lining up the next blank with the firing pin below. The pin strikes the blank, which discharges, and gas fills the chamber above, exiting out the muzzle. Some models I've seen had an insert in the muzzle, further obstructing it and preventing the insertion of a projectile.

I've also seen 6mm tear gas cartridges fired from these. They held a small amount of powdered CN that was dispersed by the primer charge in the blank. I think I had a few of these at one time but if I did, they're long gone. They're still around, but I have no idea of their current legality in the US:

There were also version with adapters that would fire small flares, using the blank to both ignite and propel the flare.

Some time ago I found a more modern version specifically designed to fire flares and noisemaker projectiles- note the 15mm projectile adapter built into the muzzle. It's marked "Made in Germany," and sold in this country as the "Scare Away Launcher" and sold mainly for agricultural and runway clearing use:

This blank gun make much more effective use of the energy of the blank. Instead of pointing up, the blank is oriented at a 45 degree angle, making a smoother passage for the expanding gas from the fired blank:

It's designed such that it's impossible for an actual cartridge to be inserted in the gun, let alone fired. You can't even fit a .22 CB cap into the chamber, and if you could, it would probably destroy the gun. Only the very shortest crimped 6mm blanks will fit. This is a single shot gun, and as you can see, it has an orange polymer body, making it less likely to be mistaken for a firearm. I bought it some years ago for hiking in bear country, the idea being I could load various noisemaker projectiles designed to scare off animals. But after thinking it over I decided that it's more effective and safer to carry an actual firearm. If you're interested in getting one to clear your runway or cornfield you can find them at Gempler's.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Yes, this is really a gun

GarE (pronounced "Gary") Maxton is a sculptor and machinist who makes sculptures, jewelry and puzzles out of a variety of metals. One of his specialties is intricate puzzles, like the one shown above. It's called the "Intimidator", it measures 8x5x4", and it weighs 40 pounds. If you have the special key needed to begin disassembly, and you can figure out the sequence, eventually you'll end up with a collection of parts that looks like this:

And if you know what you're looking for, you can select this subset of puzzle parts:

Which in turn can be assembled into a muzzle-loading .45 caliber pistol:

You can read more about the Intimidator here, and more about all of GarE's puzzles, jewelry, and sculptures here.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Sheridan Knockabout

You probably know Sheridan as the maker of the classic Sheridan Blue Streak pump-up air rifle in .20 caliber. Today, Sheridan and Benjamin are both a part of Crosman, and many of their classic designs are available in .177 and .22, like this version of the classic Sheridan CO2 pistol (now sold as a Benjamin). But between 1952 and 1960 they manufactured a very simple and inexpensive single shot .22 LR pistol, the Knockabout. Made largely of stampings, it originally cost $17.95, which is about $150 in 2012 dollars.

It was advertised as a great tackle box gun, or a good gun to carry on the trapline, and sold well enough to keep the gun in production for nearly a decade. What eventually killed it, I suspect, was the flood of cheap guns from Europe. For the price of this crude single-shot gun you could buy a cheap imported auto, and for the price of two, you could buy the new Ruger automatic pistol, a far superior gun.

Personally, I'd still like a Knockabout for my own collection. A Knockabout and a few boxes of Aguila  Colibri shells would make for great low-noise, low-energy plinking fun. But Knockabouts are rare, and what examples I have seen go for close to $300. And for $300, I can buy something more modern and reliable.

Huron Valley Guns, Milford, MI

I was visiting a friend near Milford the other day, and he directed me to a brand-new (they opened Summer 2012) gun shop at the North end of town, right on Milford Road. It's called Huron Valley Guns, and it's an impressive place. Large, attractive, and well laid out, they have a large collection of new and used guns (I found several original Hi-Standard pistols and three Winchester Model 62 rifles!), reloading supplies, a very large selection of books on gun related topics, and an exceptionally friendly and helpful staff. I was favorably impressed.

The MTM 200 Round Small Ammo Box

I shoot a lot of .22, and the MTM 200 Round Small Bore Ammo Box is one of my most useful accessories. It can hold 200 rounds, with 100 in boxes in the central compartment, and another 100 in the loading blocks on either side of the central compartment. The holes are arranged in 5x10 arrays, which provides a handy way to keep track of how many shots you've fired. That's useful in competition as well as casual plinking. It's also much easier to load a gun or magazine from the loading blocks than from out of the box.

Spotting Scopes

I'm often surprised by how few spotting scopes I see at the range. Bullseye shooters all have them, as do other kinds of target competitors, but that's about it. I don't do any regular competition these days, but I find a scope to be invaluable for sighting in, and for improving my shooting. You can't correct your aim if you don't know where the bullets are going.

The one seen above is a 1960s Japanese "Apollo" 20x50 scope that's very simple but has good glass. Images are crisp and clear. Older scopes like this are cheap when they show up at swaps. You can easily spend $600-1100 or more on a new scope from Leitz or Swarovsky,  but you can also buy a serviceable new zoom scope relatively inexpensively. The Celestron 20-60x60 mm Spotting Scope offers a big 60mm objective, and magnification from 20 to 60x for under $90, and for a few dollars more the Celestron Ultima Spotting Scopes offer larger objectives, and even better contrast and brightness.

The Ruger Single Six Convertible

I wanted one of these or a Ruger Bearcat for a long time, though I'm not quite sure why. One reason, I suppose, was that I was looking for a pistol that would digest any and all types of .22 rounds, from BB caps to hot hyper-velocity LRs.  Autos are a lot more ammunition sensitive, and even the Ruger autos won't digest everything. I was thinking about a T/C Contender pistol, with interchangeable barrels, but never could find a used one in .22. I did find a used one with a .45/.410 barrel, but then I'd have to sell the barrel and buy a .22 barrel, and by then I'd probably be well over my budget.

Then I came across this Single Six Convertible in excellent condition at Huron Valley Guns in Milford, MI. It's like new, aside from very light marking on the cylinder, and I decided I needed it. From the serial number, it looks like it was made in 1995, and for a 17 year old gun it doesn't look like it's been fired or handled much. There's no bluing wear, and only faint drag marks on the cylinders. From what I've read, it's a very accurate design. Colonel Charles Askins was a big fan of the Single Six and noted that it pointed very well, much better than the smaller Bearcat which he didn't care for. He wrote in 1958 that "if a man could only have one pistol, he could scarcely do better" than the Single Six.

I took my new toy to my club with a collection of ammunition, ranging from wimpy little CCI CB Longs to 1330fps WInchester hollow points. Right away I noticed that the trigger was very crisp, with no creep whatsoever. If I didn't shoot well with this gun, I couldn't blame the trigger. The CCI Standard Velocity .22LR was accurate, and grouped a few inches above point of aim at 25 yards. The Winchesters and CCI Mini-Mags shot right to point of aim. I tried a few CCI Maxi-Mags in the auxiliary cylinder, but I don't see using them much. The .22 Mag is best used in longer barrels where it makes a great 50-200 yard small game or varmint cartridge. In a short barreled sixgun there's too much muzzle blast.

The Single Six has been around since 1953, and the New Model Single Six, with the transfer bar safety used in all Ruger single actions now, since 1973. Besides the .22 and .22/.22 Mag convertible models, you can also get the Single Six in .17 HMR, though reviews I've read suggest it's not terribly accurate in that caliber. Even the .22 Mag is a bit much for a pistol, I think.  Muzzle blast is excessive, and you don't get the full advantage of the .22 Mag in a short barrel.

There's a common story I've seen repeated a lot on line that the convertible model isn't as accurate as the older .22LR only models, as the barrel is bored for the .22 Mag (0.224") rather than the .22 LR (0.223"). Others have said, just as vehemently, that a thousandth of an inch one way or the other doesn't make a white of difference as it's only about a third the thickness of a human hair, and besides, if you mike a sample of .22LR bullets you'll find that they run from 0.222" to 0.225". I have no idea who is correct, but I'll report back after more testing with more different loads.

My Single Six has a 4⅝," barrel, but Ruger also currently offers  5½, 6½, 7½, and 9½ inch models, which should cover just about everyone's taste. Besides the basic convertible model there's the Hunter, with scope rings, the Single Nine (a 9-shooter in .22 Mag), the Single Ten in .22 LR and the .17 HMR six-shot model. Various models are available in blue and stainless finish. (Stainless is more practical for the outdoorsman, but I think most guns look better in blued steel.) All models except the Convertible come with the new style fiber-optic sights, which are much easier and faster to use than the standard partridge sight in a wide variety of lighting and background conditions, but I have to admit that they just don't look right to me on a single action revolver, and the front sight is more fragile- I always worry about the plastic piece popping out or becoming damaged on my Mk-III Hunter.

If you find yourself shopping for a used Single Six, here's a tip: The cylinders will always be marked with the last three digits of the serial number of the gun they're matched to, like this:

If the numbers don't match, the cylinder may not line up properly with the barrel, and it will have to be modified by a gunsmith or sent back to Ruger.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Ann Arbor Arms

We dropped into  Ann Arbor Arms, a new gun shop on 5060 Jackson Road in Ann Arbor Township yesterday while on our way to the Dexter Cider Mill. It's a nice place, clean and well organized, with very friendly staff. I was pleased to see that that carry a wide range of the Maxpedition cases and packs- I'm a huge fan of Maxpedition gear.

Most of what they carry is oriented towards personal protection, but I was pleased to see used three single-action revolvers under the counter that were there on consignment. One was a .357 Ruger Blackhawk, one a Super Blackhawk with some engraving and ivory-looking grips, and the third, which interested me the most, was a replica of a Colt Single Action Army in .38-40. We couldn't find a maker's ID, but I suspect it was an Uberti Cattleman, like this one:

Whatever it was, it was very nicely finished.  .38-40 is an odd caliber that Winchester introduced in 1874 as a black powder loading for rifles. It was created by necking down the popular .44-40 to a diameter of .401", which means it really should be called a .40-40, I suppose. It's been obsolete for decades, but the recent popularity of Cowboy Action Shooting has revived its popularity, and there are now probably half a dozen makers producing SA replicas in .38-40.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Iver Johnson's Arms & Cycle Works Model X

Iver Johnson made very few .22 rifles. I found a beat-up Model X (that's it in the lower right) a while ago. It had a cracked stock someone had screwed together, a fair bit of rust, and very little finish, but I was attracted to the nice stock swell, the old-style "Iver Johnson's Arms & Cycle Works" name engraved on the barrel, and the very low price. It had been sitting on the safe while I worked on other projects, and as it was raining today I decided to ignore my other pressing house projects and work on it for a few hours.

First job was to fix the cracks in the stock. Here, you can see the very obvious holes that were formerly filled by three large round-headed plated screws. Very elegant. I cleaned out the cracks, brushed on a thin layer of slow-setting epoxy, and clamped the stock together with a combination of small toggle clamps, waxed paper, and string.

While that was setting I went over the barrel and receiver with #000 steel wool to remove any remaining rust, and followed that with Brownell's Oxpho-Blue. I wasn't trying to get a like-new finish but to simply keep it looking like an older gun with wear while keeping it from rusting away or cracking any more. A full restoration with require draw-filing the barrel, and a lot of polishing, and it wouldn't really be worth any more. An original 100% Model X, even a very early one like this gun, is worth $250. A 60% gun goes for $140.

You can see the remnants of the original blue here on the receiver. I haven't touched this up yet though I've given it a good steel wool scrubbing. Everything works perfectly, but the trigger engagement is way too light, owing to wear on the trigger sear. I trued to deepen the engagement using a file on the sear, but in the end decided to order a a replacement, as Numrich still has a few left in stock for $8 and change.

The stock still needs a fair amount of work. Besides filling the screw holes and hiding the glue line, there's this area of the stock that was gouged (I've started to file the wood down a bit here) and a small chunk of wood missing at the butt.  I'm hoping I have a scrap of walnut around here I can use to patch that.

Being an older gun (the low four-digit serial number on this gun  suggests that it was made in the early 1930s) it's probably best to stay away from high-speed loads. The modern .22 spec calls for 30,000 psi, but if I shoot this I plan to use  low-powered .22 rounds, like CCI's CB Longs or their new Quiet .22. Both of these rounds fire a bullet at 710 fps. The CB long develops 32 foot-pounds of energy using a 29gr bullet and the Quiet .22 develops 45 foot-pounds firing a 40gr bullet. The Quiet 22 would probably be as loud as a .22 short.

Update: While working on the barrel I discovered something I didn't notice when buying it- a slight bulge about 12" from the breech. It didn't show up until I reblued the barrel, at which point it became obvious. No doubt this occurred when someone fired the gun with something blocking the barrel. This'll teach me to check guns more carefully when buying, and to be a little less likely to do business with the shop I bought this gun from ;-)

Postscript: I received an offer for the bolt (see comments below) and my first impulse was to refuse... but my second was to think, why not? I'll part the gun out. He'll have a working gun, and I'll hopefully break even. The bolt is now gone and the rest of the parts are on eBay, except for the receiver, which is the ATF-regulated bit, the barrel, which is useless as is, and the stock, which is partially restored.

Here's the bolt in its new home:

I still have a few parts for sale, including the trigger guard and complete trigger assembly. Email me if you need these pieces.

Update: All parts have been sold, sorry.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The .221 Askins

Back in 1937, Col. Charles Askins, who was then in the US Border Patrol, was looking for a way to improve his centerfire Bullseye pistol scores. He experimented with a number of wildcats based on shortened .380 cases, various .32s, the .25ACP, and others, trying to create a round that was accurate and as low in recoil as the .22LR. Then one night on patrol he intercepted a smuggler carrying an old 5.5 Velo Dog pistol like one of these:

These were cheap revolvers that originated in France, intended for bicyclists as a defense against against dogs attacks. They fired a curious centerfire cartridge, the 5.5 Velo Dog, that was similar in size to the .22LR, but much longer- and it was a centerfire cartridge:

The Velo Dogs were loaded with a jacketed bullet, as opposed to the heeled lead bullets used in .22 rimfire cartridges. The bullet diameter was the same as the standard .22, but the case diameter was larger than the bore, like most modern cartridges. Although longer than a modern .22LR, they were less powerful. The Kynoch load generated 42 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, and the domestic Remington load, 55. 

Askins managed to buy up or otherwise acquire several thousand rounds of of these obsolete cartridges. He pulled the bullets on several hundred, and shortened them on a lathe to .22LR length. He then found a supplier of lead bullets in the correct size, a set of reloading dies, and had one of his Colt Woodsman pistols modified to take the new cartridge, which he dubbed the .221 Askins. His load was a cast lead semi-wadcutter over about 1.5gr of Bullseye or DuPont #5, depending which version of the story you read, and with it he won the All-Around pistol championship in 1937. Following that match, the NRA amended the "any centerfire" pistol rules to read "any centerfire (.32 caliber and above.)"

Footnote: Askins was not the first to produce a wildcat based on the .22 Velo Dog. According to J.J. Donnelly's 1987 The Handloader's Manual of Cartridge Conversions (Revised Edition), there was a .14 Velo Dog produced by necking down the Velo Dog. I don't think there's ever been a commercial .14 caliber cartridge, but the caliber is popular with some wildcatters.

As of several years ago Fiocchi was still loading the 5.75mm Velo Dog; I don't know if it's still available in Europe; I couldn't find any domestic suppliers with new stock.