Monday, October 19, 2015

1980 High Standard Supermatic Citation, Part III: Mounting the LSP barrel

In my last post on this pistol, I noted that the new Lebanon Screw Products barrel I purchased for it wouldn't fit, as the frame was out of spec and the barrel that it came with had been somewhat crudely filed to fit. But then three weeks ago I stumbled across the premises of a really excellent custom gunsmith, just a mile from my home. Jason, at Atlas Custom Firearms in Berkley, Michigan, specializes in highly customized 1911s and ARs but he's very skilled in all manner of gunsmithing. He did an extremely precise job of milling a few thousandths of an inch off the LSP barrel, and now it fits on the frame like the two were made together. You can't even see evidence of where he milled it on the breech.  

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Crosman Custom Shop 2300 CO2 Pistol: Part II

As I discussed in part I, the Custom Shop 2300 has adjustable sear tensioning, which allows to lighten the trigger pull but doesn't do anything about getting rid of the long, scratch trigger pull. My first attempt at fixing this was to smooth and polish the sear. To do that, you have to remove the right hand side grip panel, exposing the inner panel:

Place the safety in the FIRE position. (This important, if you don't want to go chasing tiny parts). Remove the three small screws, using a 3/32" hex wrench, and carefully lift off the plate.

If you carefully remove the spring under the sear, you can lift out and remove the sear. After doing that, I smoothed all the rough edges on the sear and polished all metal-to-metal contact points.

Result: Marginal improvement. The next step was to buy a replacement sear. Air guns of Arizona has a very nice adjustable one with hardened inserts for $30, but I cheated out and bought a $18.95 kit from Archer Airguns. This was a simple one piece sear that came with three additional washers for removing play from  the sear and trigger:

That's it on top. I inserted in the gun, along with the shims:

After reassembly, the long, scratchy, trigger pull was gone, and in its place was a solid, crisp, trigger with no take up at all. Not bad for less than $20. 

Unfortunately I did manage to pop out the safety spring and detent ball while doing this! I made a new spring from a Bic lighter spring, but the second time the ball popped out I lost it for good. I'm off to the hardware store tomorrow to look for 3/32" ball bearings.
(They didn't have them, so I bought a pack of 100 on eBay. I'm set for a while at least!)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Crosman Custom Shop 2300 CO2 Pistol: Part I

Michigan changed their laws regarding air pistols recently, no longer classifying air pistols as firearms. Crosman updated their policies to reflect that effective July 1st (previously they wouldn't ship direct to Michigan residents),  which meant that I could finally order a custom Crosman 2300, something I've long wanted to do. I've had (and customized) a few 2400s, but going straight to Crosman is a bit cheaper, and gets you options and parts you can't normally buy.

My pistol spec was as follows:

  • 10" Lothar Walther 0.177" barrel
  • Black muzzle brake
  • Black trigger shoe 
  • No sights
  • Plastic grips

I skipped the sights as I meant to use my Swift pistol scope, or perhaps a red dot sight. I went with the plastic grips as wood grips would have added $45-60, and the gun was already over $170. I skipped the custom printing as I figured I would help speed up delivery. As it was, the gun arrived exactly four weeks after I ordered it.

First impression: This is a nice looking gun- much nicer than the stock $45 model. 

Second impression: This is the worst trigger of any gun I own, including my Russian Nagant revolver. 

Okay, maybe not THAT bad. But it's long, scratchy, and heavy.  There's an adjustable trigger stop, but even with the stop set for minimal travel, the pull is long. Luckily there's a fix for most of that, but curiously, it's not mentioned in the manual. 

If you take off one of the grip panels, you'll find a knurled adjustment wheel: 

Spin the wheel a few times and you can get the trigger pull down under two pounds. It's still long and scratchy, but it's manageable, although it means using a different technique than most of us have been taught. Just about everyone learns that you should take up the slack in a trigger and then slooowwwly squeeze until the gun fires. The idea is that the actual discharge should almost be a surprise, and will help prevent flinching. The technique has its origins in military shooting, with its heavy triggers and heavy recoiling cartridges.

It turns out that bullseye shooters often use a very different technique: They don't put any pressure on a trigger until they're ready to fire, and then they pull straight through. With low powered target ammunition, flinching is not an issue, and with light match triggers, squeezing is not practical. I've been practicing this technique with my Daisy 747 and with some of my my .22 target pistols, and I've found that it's a much better way to shoot with high accuracy than the old slow squeeze. When you're shooting offhand, your point of aim is wobbling all over the place, and it's only settling on the target for brief instants, you want the gun to fire when it's on target, not at some random moment.

While I ordered this gun thinking I'd use an optical sight to accommodate my aging eyes, lately I've been finding that with practice, and with techniques learned from Bullseye shooters, I can shoot as well, or better, with iron sights. And so I've decided to add iron sights to the gun, which gave me two straightforward choices, both from Crosman. One is a custom sight from Williams, here in Michigan, that clamps to the 11mm scope grooves. I've owned the peep version of that sight, and had it on my R7 for many years; it's an excellent sight, but in many ways it's overkill for this pistol. Crosman's other option is a simpler, smaller sight from LPA that fits in the dovetail slot. LPA has made a good name for themselves in recent years with their sights, and the LPA costs about half of what the Williams costs, so I ordered one last night. 

The sight arrived and I mounted it on the pistol. It's a very high quality sight, but it points out that the Crosman front sight is really too narrow.

Postscript: I ordered a replacement sear to see if I could get the trigger pull a bit smoother and crisper, but in the meantime I removed the stock sear lever, smoothed out the rough edges (it's a pretty crude stamping) and polished the surfaces. The result is much smoother. The replacement sear uses hardened steel engagement surfaces and has a screw to adjust the amount of engagement, so it should be an improvement over that. I'll write it up when it arrives in a week.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Smith & Wesson 422

I'd been reading about the now-discontinued Smith & Wesson 442 and its relatives (622, 2013, 2206) in one of my favorite rimfire forums, and that encouraged me to go looking for one. After a  few weeks of searching I managed to find a relatively inexpensive 422 with fixed sights.

The various versions of this pistol could be had with aluminum, steel, or stainless steel frames, with 4" or 6" barrels, and with fixed or adjustable sights. The 422 is one of the least expensive variants, with an aluminum frame and fixed sights. That would seem to relegate it to the role of inexpensive plinker, but that isn't actually the case- as we'll see shortly.

The muzzle reveals an interesting detail of the construction of the 422: A threaded barrel held in place by a nut:

This system of attachment holds the barrel in tension, which is a good way to achieve accuracy in a short, light, barrel. The Dan Wesson revolvers made in the 80s used this system, and my Dan Wesson .44 was one of the most accurate center fire revolvers I've owned. It has a secondary benefit as well: Threaded adapters that replace the barrel nut are available from a few gunsmiths and class III dealers that allow a silencer to be attached.

Pulling back on the slide (which locks open on an empty magazine) we see what looks like the breech opening on top of the gun- but a close look indicates that's not the case:

This can be a bit puzzling to first time 422 handlers until they remember that the magazine is located in the grip, and look there:

Note that the barrel is located very low in the receiver- just above the trigger, in fact. That's a common characteristic of high end target pistols and it produces straight-line recoil and minimizes barrel lift, something thats very important in timed and rapid fire stages, when you're trying to get back on target as soon as possible after each shot. It also minimizes the perception of recoil. 

A lot of people don't like the magazine release, which is right smack in the middle of the grip frame:

I like it. I found it easy to release, and not at all prone to accidental release.

Those familiar with the S&W 41 may note a strong resemblance, and that's because design of the 422 and related guns is a simplified version of S&W's high-end Model 41 target pistol, with lighter materials and a nonadjustable trigger. The similarity is such that the 422 takes exactly the same magazines as the 41, which means there are plenty of new and used magazines available. 

Being mainly aluminum, the 422 is pretty lightweight- the 6" version weighs only 23.5 ounces, compared to the 42 ounces of a Ruger Mk-III Target- and you'd think that would mean it's not as accurate or easy to shoot as a heavier gun. That may be true, but this is  very easy to shoot, and very accurate gun all things considered. I took it to my club and set up a few targets at 50'. My first two shots went right where I was aiming:

That's  lot better than I usually shoot, and that's with iron sights. The fixed sights were dead on at 50' and I'm guessing that should be pretty close at 25 yards. Back in the 1950s you could probably have been a competitive shooter with this gun. I'd been thinking about mounting a dot sight, but I think I'm going to leave it exactly as is. Given the light weight and great accuracy, it's a great gun to pack afield. Of course now that my appetite has been whetted for these guns I'm looking for more variations, starting with an adjustable sight 2206, and maybe even a Model 41. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

1980 High Standard Supermatic Citation Military, Part II: Mounting a new barrel

In a previous post I discussed the 1980 High Standard Supermatic Citation I recently purchased. It's by far the best target pistol I've ever owned, and to take full advantage of it I decided I needed to install a dot sight. The barrel on my gun isn't tapped like current guns are, so rather than have it drilled I decided to order a new barrel that came drilled and tapped. There are four good options out there: The new High Standard in Texas, Volquartsen, Connecticut Presiusion Chambering, and Lebanon Screw Products. All four are said to produce exceptional work. I decided on LSP as they also offer a scope mount, and ordered both barrel and mount from Brownell's.

The package arrived a few days later, but sans the mounting screws. I sent a note to Brownells, and a package showed up two days later with the screws, so I set about mounting the new barrel to the gun- and it wouldn't fit! There was a tiny amount of interference where the barrel short have fit snugly against the frame. It was then I noticed there was a difference between the new and old barrels:

The original barrel, on the left, has been somewhat crudely been filed to fit! Either this is a bit of expedient work done on the gun when it was assembled in Hanford back in 1980, or this is a non-original barrel that was fitted later to a non-conforming frame. Either way, the new one ain't gonna fit. After some conversations with the current owner of High Standard, I saw that I had three optiuons:

1. Complain to the seller (Gander Mountain) and try to return the gun. But it did shoot well.

2. Have a local gunsmith or machinist mill .010-.015" off the new barrel so it would fit.

3. Send everything down to High Standard in Texas and have them make it right.

I'm kind of tempted to go with option #3, and I may eventually go that way, but after some more research I realized there was a fourth option: BME makes reasonably priced scope mounts for many guns, including several for the High Standard models. I called them up, ordered the HS-U model and attached it to the old barrel:

There it is, with my newly purchased Ultradot 25 mounted. I was going to mount a Millett SP-1, but as long as I'm going with a first class gun and mount, I thought, why skimp on a dot sight? I took it to the range the next day, where it exceeded all my expectations. I shoot far better with this gun than I do with either of my Rugers or my S&W 14-3. In fact, it has me thinking that maybe I should start looking for a good deal on a 10x or Victor. Time to go through the collection and sell some of the less used toys. Anyone looking for a Dramatic?

Postscript: I found a superb local gunsmith who did an excellent job of fitting the LSP barrel.

The Daisy Avanti 747

FullSizeRender 2

I decided to celebrate Michigan's recent airgun law reform (they're no longer considered firearms) by buying a new Daisy Avanti 747 pellet pistol for basement winter and rainy day practice. I'd owned two of the simpler 717s, one of which I wrote about here a few months ago, and one back in the late 1980s. The 747 adds two improvements to the 717: An adjustable trigger, and a Lothar Walther barrel. While Don Nygord won a  California state air gun championship with a modified 717 having the stock Daisy barrel, and while the stock barrel no doubt shoots better than I can, it's still nice knowing you have that little extra edge. 


It even comes with its own special tool for adjusting the trigger and the piston:


Thanks to the light trigger, I can shoot this gun much more accurately than I could ever shoot my 717s. I have it at minimum let off, which brings it to around 2-1/2 lbs, close to the trigger weight of my Rugers and my High Standard Supermatic.  Trigger adjustment is easy- there's a little screw head recessed in the front of the grip frame, just below the trigger guard:


At $200 to $235, depending on where you buy it, the 747 remains the single outstanding bargain in competition air pistols. The next step up would be to an FAS ($385-500, depending on grips) and I'm not sure the novice would do any better with that gun. While there it much about  the way that that Daisy is made that looks kind of crude, nothing has been compromised as far as accuracy is concerned. The bolt is a rough looking piece of plastic that is a bit rough in operation, but smooths out with use. The piston is a zinc casting that again works just fine. The rear sight is plastic (!) but it's adjustable, and anyway I'll probably be mainly using the mini dot sight on mine  I do have some plans for eventually mounting a better sight, as Nygord did with his 717.)

First tests were very promising, with the gun grouping tightly off a rest in my basement range. After a few days of practice my groups were noticeably smaller, and that carried over to my  .22 Bullseye guns. Practice does make a difference!

 I do have two minor complaints. One, the gun is very nose heavy, even more so than my High Standard. The mass does contribute to steadying the gun, though. Two, the grips just don't fit my large hands very well. No one currently makes replacement grips, and Daisy quite making the wooden-gripped 777 version a long time ago, so they don't have any spares. Sometime this year I'm going to try and carve myself a set that'll fit me, but it may not be until Fall or Winter, when I'm looking for indoor projects. As for the balance- BME make a mount for the 747 that allows you to place the scope farther back- I might just get one. Adding an $83 mount and a $75-150 dot sight to a $200 gun does sound a bit excessive, but this gun is worth it.

PS: You can buy the 747 at Amazon with free shipping here.  They also have the scope mount I used (it's designed for the IZH 46 but works perfectly on the Daisy), and of course a great many reasonably priced dot sights, of which my favorite is the Millett SP-1. It costs less than a third of what I paid for the Ultradot 25 that's on my High Standard, and on a non-recoiling air gun it should give many years of trouble-free service.

As for the mini dot sight shown on the Daisy: It's unmarked, and I'm not sure of the brand; I think it was an eBay purchase. I might just mount a spare Millett SP-1 there next.

[About that barrel: A lot of people think Lothar Walther is part of the same Walther that makes guns- it's not.  Lothar Walther was the youngest son of Carl Walther, the founder of the company that bears the Walther name. The Walther company was taken over by Carl's eldest sone, Fritz, after Carl's death in 1915. Ten years later, Lothar left to start his own firm.]

Monday, June 1, 2015

Fitz "Duramite" Grips for the S&W Masterpiece

One of my favorite guns is the  Smith & Wesson 14-3 "Masterpiece," one of the most accurate revolvers ever made in the U.S. There was a time when it was regularly seen on the firing line at Camp Perry, but that was a long time ago, before target autos replaced revolvers. It's still popular, in modified and tuned firm,  at PPC matches.

I don't shoot PPC or competitive bullseye, but I do enjoy informal bullseye shooting with this gun. It has excellent sights and a very good trigger, thanks in part to some work my friend Ric did on the sear, mainspring, and trigger return spring. The only thing keeping it from being a first rate 1950s era bullseye gun was better grips.

Good bullseye grips are not cheap. Randall Fung will make you a custom set for $180, and there are some European makers who go a lot higher. The cheapest halfway decent grips I found cost $65. But then I was searching on eBay one day and came across several sets of Fitz grips.

Fitz was a popular maker of match grips, both in wood and later in synthetic. The story was that the founder carved a set of 1911 grips for a friend who remarked, "it fits!" I first saw them in Col. Charles Atkins 1953 book, "The Pistol Shooters Book."  I saw this posted in Facebook and  a few other places:
Fitz Grips was established in 1924 with the patent of the Accuriser grip with a palm swell plate that was adjustible for right and left handed target shooters. Grips were made for Smith, Colt Ruger and High Standard weapons only. My last production was in 1975 for 500 Smiths our Govt sold to the Egyptians who demanded my ebony Gunfighter grips on them for the sale to go through. I retired in 1979 and have had a few grips in storage since then and my wife convinced me to dig them out of the barn to sell them off to assist our social security. They are available in Cherry wood and Duramite, a Nylon-Plastic blend (Very Tough) in Olympic, target, Gunfighter styles and a very realistic Stag for cowboy shooters. There are well known to your Parents and Grandparents that were competitive shooters and our slip top blood red Ammo Safe boxes from the 50's are still being used as they are a lifetime ammo box. Many sizes sold out but there may be one for your favorite weapon. fitz_grips send your email address for information and picture attachments Thanks Paul "Fitz"
The most recent post (in Facebook) was in 2013 so I don't think the info is very current.

These may be plastic, but they're an identical copy of the hand carved walnut grips Fitz sold. The price? $25, shipped, from an eBay seller. I've since seen them a few bucks cheaper. No, they're not as pretty as wood grips, but they're just as functional.

They fill my hand and have a good thumb rest, two things lacking in the stock grips. I'm anxious to take them to the range and see how they work. I might even start looking for an original wood set.

Postscript: I did take them to the range, and they make a huge difference in my offhand shooting. The biggest difference is the improvement in shot-to-shot consistency. There's no fussing about to find the right grip. Now I'd like to find a set in wood- or even better, a similar but larger set of grips to fit my XL-sized hands.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

1980 High Standard Supermatic Citation Military, Part I

After playing with my newly-aquired High Standard Duramatic for a week, I was both impressed with the quality of what was sold as a budget .22 and very interested in finding one of their competition guns. Prices for the Victors and 10X guns, which were High Standard's best and most accurate,  run $800-$1,200 and more, with especially collectable models going for several thousands of dollars, but the various Supermatics are very affordable.

There were so many different High Standard models it's sometimes hard to keep track. Add to that the evolution of the designs over 30 years and it gets even more confusing, but this is an (over) simplified and incomplete list of models that probably misses number of details:

1. Top level competition guns: Victor, 10x, Olympic.

2. Competition guns: Supermatic Tournament, Supermatic Citation, and Supermatic Trophy. 

3. Fixed sight guns: Sharpshooter, Field King and Sport King

4. Budget model: Duramatic

HS produced several successive generations of guns between the 50s and the 80s, ranging from the "Letter" models, through the numbered series (101 through 104, 106, and 107) and finally the SH series, the last series made, and the basis of the contemporary High Standards. The earliest guns used a hammer action; later guns use a striker mechanism. Guns through the 105 series have a more angled grip, similar to the Ruger Mark guns. The 106, 107, and SH series guns use the so-called "Military" grip that matches the 1911 in angle. The Olympic was a Supermatic version designed for Olympic rapid fire competition that was chambered for the .22 Short cartridge and had a muzzle brake. 

This particular gun is a 107 Series, made in 1980, according to the records. It's in exceptional condition, with almost 100% of its blue and only a few nicks and scratches. The two stage trigger breaks cleanly, with just a minuscule amount of creep that could probably be eliminated by a good gunsmith or perhaps better lubrication. There's too much over travel in the trigger, too; there's a screw in the trigger to limit that, but it looks like it hasn't been adjusted by the previous owner:

One thing I like about older guns is the amount of visible hand work of the sort that's just about unaffordable these days in factory guns. Take a look at the stippling on the front of the grip:

That's done with a hammer and a punch, and it takes time. There is similar stippling on the rear of the grip. Everything about this gun tells you it was made by gunsmiths, not just machine operators.

The sights are the best iron sights on any gun I've ever owned- sharp edges, perfectly square, and sized so you get a narrow band of light either side of the front post that makes it easier to center. I took the gun to my club's indoor range, and got these results with Aguila Pistol Match shooting two handed, resting my arms on my shooting bag:

That's with the gun right out of the box, as I bought it. It probably hadn't been fired in years, from the looks of it. My offhand shooting was not quite as good ;-)

Real bullseye shooters will not be impressed, but me, I'm thrilled that I got five out of ten in the black. Besides having a pretty wide wobble, I'm obviously pulling the trigger too hard; over travel adjustment should help that. Next step is to do a proper clean and lube, and mount a red dot sight to accommodate

Update: I took it to the range again, after some air pistol practice at home, and shot much better with it, getting all my shots in the black. Surprisingly (or perhaps not) I shot it better with the stock iron sights than I shot my tuned and customized Ruger Hunter (which sports a Volquartsen trigger, Clark hammer, and Herrett target grips). I think the Ruger might go up for sale soon.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

High Standard Duramatic M101: First impressions

While most of my collection consists of revolvers, I have long been a fan of the old High Standard pistols, which combined solid steel construction with great reliability and accuracy. While I'd like to find one of their high end competition pistols at an affordable price,  I'm no less a fan of their lower end pistols- like this Duramatic M101 that caught my eye at the local Cabelas. This is one of the cheapest High Standard .22s, but it's just as solid and well made as the better guns, and it came with the original box and all the original paperwork. I managed to negotiate the price down $50 from the asking price (it had been there for a while) and it followed me home.

This pistol is very well designed, with a lot of attention given to service and maintenance. The safety is a simple cross bolt, located in the rear of the receiver, that performs several functions. 

See those two notches in the slide? The rearmost one is engaged by the cross bolt when the slide is forward, locking the slide in place. The forward notch is used for locking the slide open, as you see in the photo above.

Once the slide is locked open, turning the large wheel in front of the trigger guard loosens the screw holding the barrel in place. This is very different from just about every other HS pistol, which all used a push-button barrel release, like the S&W 41 and 23A.

One the barrel is removed, the slide can be removed by simply sliding it forward:

Note that the striker/firing pin is in the fully cocked position, held in place by the sear; locking the slide back also cocked the striker. Don't touch the trigger while the gun is disassembled unless you want to see the striker shoot forward with a lot of force! (I accidentally did that the next time I had the gun disassembled for cleaning. Now I put the safety back on after moving the slide.) The rear end of the striker is painted red, and protrudes slightly out the back of the receiver when cocked, giving a nice visual indication.

Once the slide and barrel are off you can loosen the trigger guard retaining screw (just a few turns are needed) and the screw that holds the grip in place and remove the grip. At that point you'll notice that there's no metal grip that's part of the frame; the plastic grip is both the band grip, and the support for the magazine! I like to remove it when cleaning the gun as I'm concerned that some of the solvents used in cleaning might attack the plastic. (If you do manage to damage the plastic grip, all is not lost; modern replacements are being made from the original mods and can be had for $50 or so.)

I brought the carefully cleaned, lubed, and reassembled gun to my club this morning, early enough that I had the indoor 50 foot range to myself for several hours, so I was able to do testing at distances from a few yards to the full 50 feet. I used several different standard velocity .22LR cartridges, including CCI Standard Velocity, Federal Match, Federal Auto Match, Aguila Pistol Match, Wolf Match, SK Match, and Aguila SSS 60gr. The gun functioned flawlessly with everything for the first hundred or so rounds, but as it got dirtier some of the rounds didn't feed as well, and the bullets hung up on the feed ramp. 

Accuracy was hard to judge, as the gun shot several inches high at 50' with the ammunition I was using. The rear sight is a battered-looking thing with no adjustment, so I was stuck with that for the moment. It did seem to group reasonably well; I plan on going back with more targets and a brass hammer and punch so I can move the rear sight. I might even find a small adjustable sight I can install.

I have to say I really like the feel of this gun. The all-steel construction goes it a feeling of solidity and mass you just don't see in many other .22 auto pistols. Shooting it made me think I might want to get one of High Standard's actual match pistols, and that started me looking around. What I found will be in the next blog entry.

Postscript: Six months after buying this pistol I sold it. I was tempted to keep it, as it's a beautiful example of the kind of design and solid construction you simply don't see in modern pistols, but I only have so much room.  I also have a really nice High Standard Supermatic Citation now that's the most accurate and the best shooting pistol I've ever owned.

There is one  modern pistol that's built the way they used to be built, and that's because it's the grandfather of all modern auto pistols: The 1911. The best ones still have that solid feel and give the impression that they were milled from a block of steel- because they were. I've never owned a 1911, but I've always wanted either a standard Government model or a serious wadcutter target model.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Custom Ruger 10/22 Part V: First Range Tests

In the last installment (Part IV)   I described the installation of a modified trigger assembly, my final mod to what began as a stock slightly used 10/22 purchased at Gander for $207. With warm weather having finally arrived, I took the gun and a selection of .22 ammunition to my club for some long awaited testing. Is my $478 project gun as good as, or (hopefully) better than the $550 Ruger target version?  The first thing I discovered was why everyone was selling the BSA Sweet .22 scope so cheaply- it's just not very good. I was not able to dial out all of the parallax in this scope, which meant my results were not reflective of shat this rifle is actually capable of. I also discovered that while a 3-9x scope is perfectly adequate for hunting with a .22, it's not not really adequate for critical accuracy testing. 

First group (Federal Auto Match) was almost 2". That's around 4MOA:

Not what I expected after all that work, but the new barrel had only had a dozen shots through it, and I was still struggling with the parallax error. I changed my grip, and tried to view the scope the same way every time to reduce the parallax:

Once I got settled in with a consistent position, to minimize parallax, most of my groups looked like this one (above), which was 3/4" in size. That works out to 1.5 MOA, which isn't too bad, but I'm betting I can so much better with a better scope.

I tested Federal Auto Match, Aguila Rifle Match, CCI Standard Velocity, and Wolf Match; the Wolf gave the best groups, like this one, which measured 5/8", or 1.25 MOA. Getting there, but still short of what I think it can do:

Vertical dispersion on that 5 shot group is only 3/8", or 0.750 MOA. That gives you an idea of what this rifle might be capable of. Weather permitting, I'm going to try again this coming week with a BSA 6-24x44 scope I picked up at a swap last year, but I should probably buy a new scope. The obvious choice is a T36 Weaver, but I'm going to see what the BSA can do first.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Return of M6 Survival Rifle

The M6 Aircrew Survival Weapon was USAF issue from the 1950s until the early 1970s. It was a simple over/under, with a .22 Hornet rifle barrel over a .410 smoothbore barrel and was intended, as the name implies, as a way for aircrews to harvest wildlife in a survival situation. They're rarely seen in the private marketplace, in part because the 14" barrel means they're regulated as an AOW (Any Other Weapon) by the BATF, and that means not only is BATF permission and paperwork is needed to transfer ownership, but until recent a $200 transfer tax had to be paid as well.

A number of companies produced civilian versions o the M6 between the 70s and 2008, with Springfield Arms being the last that I'm aware of. Springfield also produced a pistol version, which I wrote about not long ago. I've long wanted one, but never got around to buying when they were available. Now Chiappa Arms, makers of a wide range of curious arms (like their Rhino revolver)  has produced two versions of the M6 design as well as an interesting multi-caliber package. Compared to the Springfield design, the Chiappa M6 adds a more sophisticated trigger guard and three separate Picatinny rails.

The basic M6 is available in .22/20 gauge or .22/12 gauge. (I'd prefer the original .410 version made by Springfield arms, but at 6lbs the Chiappa is probably heavy enough to damp the recoil from reasonable 20 and 12 gauge loads.)  The multi-caliber version, called the "X-Caliber," consists of the .22/12 version along with a series of steel inserts for the shotgun tube that allow you to use eight pistol calibers (.380 , 9 mm , .357Mag/.38SP , .40 S & W, .44 Mag, .45 ACP , .410/.45colt ) and two shotgun shell sizes (410 ga, 20ga). I'm not sure how practical the pistol cartridges are, as the point of aim would be different for every cartridge.

So how much does this all cost? has the standard M6 models at $438.99, and the X-Caliber for $614.19. To that, add shipping, sales tax,  and FFL fees, and you're probably at around $500 and $700, respectively. I still want one... but not enough to spend $500.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Herrett Nationals bullseye stocks for the Ruger Mk-III

The last time we saw this gun (Ruger Mark-III Hunter) it was sporting a set of Volquartsen molded plastic grips and a silver Ultradot sight. I sold the Ultradot as I was shooting this pistol with iron sights, but recently I mounted another dot sight (Millett SP-1) and purchased a set of Herrett Nationals grips. These can be a bit hard to find; not many retailers carry them, and has had them on back order for a long time. But I found a set at a good price ($69 + $5.95 shipping) on eBay and they arrived a few days ago.

I took the newly configured pistol to my club yesterday and spent about an hour on the 25 yard outdoor range with the Herrett-equipped Ruger and a box of the Federal Auto Match I bought at Field & Stream last week. First impressions are that these grips are definitely easier to hold steady than most previous grips I've tried. The palm self makes it easier to get a solid grip without excessive gripping force that can make the hand tense up. A light squeeze in the grip causes the hand to push down on the shelf, which pushes the muzzle up.

The screws that hold the shelf in place are not as secure as I'd like; I may add some star washers, or perhaps a couple of pins to better secure the shelf. But overall I like it. My XL-sized hands require that the shelf is set almost at the bottom of its travel. Those with hands significantly smaller than mine have reported that they can't set the shelf high enough for a good grip, but some small handed target shooters have added padding to the shelf to fix this.

As for the Federal, it all fed without any problems (I fired around 100 rounds). I can't give any real reading on the accuracy, as it was pretty windy that day. I plan on shooting some indoors from this gun next week, and that should give me a better idea. Reports from other shooters say it's a lot more consistent than most bulk-pack .22LR, but certainly not up there with the low end match ammo like Ely Club; it might be in the same class as good old CCI Standard Velocity. I'll reserve some for comparison with other ammunition in my Anschutz and my custom 10/22.

Friday, March 27, 2015

A trip to the Field & Stream store

One of the new Field & Stream stores opened just seven miles from me this week so of course I couldn't resist a visit to check it out. Despite having the name of a venerable sporting magazine, the chain is actually part of Dick's Sporting Goods, and as you can see from the photo, they're aiming for a Cabelas/Bass Pro Sports look, inside and out. They got that part right,  though the F&S store I visited was much smaller than either the Cabelas or the Bass Pro Sports stores I've been to. 

While the stores are much more attractive than the average Gander Mountain (though this is changing), the stock is similar, and prices are pretty much all list, like their other big competitors. The archery section was of course all compounds and crossbows save for two inexpensive OMP Adventure 2.0 recurves hanging behind the counter. There were just a handful of scopes and perhaps half a dozen red dot sights in the gun section- far less of either than my local Ganders carries. The reloading section was one very short aisle with a few RCBS dies sets, some jacketed rifle bulls, and an uneven selection of primers, which admittedly are also in short supply in most places. Not a single cannister of powered, either. I did geab a box of Federal Match Small Pistol Primers at $44.95. (Midway has them for $37.49 but  they're out of stock.)

One thing they did have was a fair selection of ammunition, although the popular handgun calibers  (.380, .38, .40) were in short supply, and the only rimfire to be found was a pallet full of Federal Auto Match .22LR that was being carefully guarded and doled out two to a customer:

My friend Ric tells me these are a good choice for our tuned .22 pistols so I got in line for my two bricks at $19.95 each (which, incidentally, is $3.16 more than Midway sells them for). Just about everyone in line was clutching a couple of boxes, so I assume that was the big draw. I was told by another fellow in line that yesterday they had 50 round bricks of Remington High Speed,  so I'm assuming the selection may change day to day. 

Followup: I went back a week later, after the opening celebration had died down. No more .22, retail prices on everything, and not a terribly large selection of guns. I don't think I'll be back.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Custom Ruger 10/22 Part IV: New Trigger

In Part III, we looked at some specialized tools for the 10/22, one of which came in handy for today's project update. Around two weeks ago I sent my stock trigger assembly off to Brimstone for their $70 Tier 2 trigger job, which involves reshaping the sear, a new trigger, replacing the trigger spring with a torsion spring, and an over travel stop, It arrived last Friday with a note from the gunsmith who worked on it:

Before I installed the trigger in the gun, I wanted to replace the stock plastic magazine release with an aluminum alloy replacement from Rimfire Specialties:

I used the punch end of the tool from Gunsmither to move the pin holding the magazine release just far enough to allow me to remove the release. Note that I'm keeping the actual magazine retention button pushed in with my thumb:

 New release in, original goes into the parts box. 

Final task, of course was installing the trigger assembly in the gun and returning the borrowed modified assembly to the friend who loaned it to me. 

Now it's off to the range- as soon as it warms up a bit more. We're looking at two more days of really cold weather (down to 4F) and then a good warming trend. 

n.b.: For anyone interested in what this project has cost so far, here's the breakdown:

Slightly used, like new 10/22: $207
Fedderson barrel: $145 + $15 postage
Kidd recoil buffer: $8
Magazine release $14
Brimstone trigger job: $70 + $14.50 postage ($5 sent, $9.50 return)
Used, modified stock: $50
Sold the stock barrel: -$45

Total: $478.50. If I can sell the synthetic stock, it'll knock another $30 or so off the total.

Ruger's Target version of the 10/22 lists for $550, and the big box stores sell them for right around $500. This one has a much better trigger,  hopefully a better barrel,  easier magazine release, and a better stock. Does it actually shoot better? I'll know after the weather warms up again and I get back to the range.

Next: In Part V, I actually make it to the range!