Friday, December 23, 2016

A Customized 10/22 Target Stock

This is a customized 10/22 target stock that a friend of mine put together and that I used in my own custom 10/22 build. Right off you can see the adjustable cheek piece he made from Kydex, which is often used for making holsters. 

The really important part is what's inside. This stock has a dual epoxy and pillar bedding system:

There are two brass pillars epoxied into the stock to provide solid anchor points.  Two? Yes, a lot of serious 10/22 tuners drill and tap a second hole at the rear of the receiver to provide a more stable stock-to-action connection.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Great customer service from Champion Products

Almost 30 years ago I bought a Champion .22 bullet trap for indoor pellet shooting. This is a solid, welded steel trap, and it's a lot better than any of the cheap bolted and riveted copies on the market. It handles magnum pellet rifles with no difficulty, and after all these years it is still in like new condition. Unfortunately two years ago, during flood cleanup I lost the metal bracket that targets clip on to. I called Champion hoping to order a replacement- and they sent a replacement out at no charge. Now that's customer service!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The New Walther PPK/S in .22

Back in the early days of this blog I wrote about my .380 Walther PPK built under license by Smith & Wesson. I've always been a big fan of the PP and its various derivatives, as it was the model for so many guns that followed. All the Russian Makarov autos are really clones of the PPK  as are just about every other fixed barrel double/single auto pistol. But as much as I liked it, I sold the PPK as I just couldn't get used to the sharp recoil. The PPK was designed around the .32 ACP (aka 7.62 auto pistol) and that's the best cartridge for that gun.

I've been looking for a .32 PPK since then, and then the other day I spotted what turned out to be a used PPK/S in .22 at a very attractive price- and in what looked like unused condition. This is a relatively recent gun from Walther that differs from the earlier .22 PP-type pistols in one significant way. The original guns were of all steel construction, like the centerfire PPs and PPKs, but in order to make the slide light enough to operate with .22LR levels of energy, it had to be thinned to the point that failures occurred at weak points. For this new version, Walther has chosen to use Zamak, a zinc alloy that's lighter than steel and allows Walther to make the slide as thick as the centerfire versions. Zamak has gotten a lot of bad press, mostly because it and other zinc alloys have long been the choice of makers of very cheaply made guns. But used properly it's a good material that should hold up in use, and in the years this pistol has been in the marketplace there haven't been any reports of slide failures. 

It looks and functions just like any PP-family gun, it's accurate enough for plinking, and it's fun to shoot. I put about 100 rounds of CCI Standard Velocity (my all around go-to quality .22) as well as some high velocity Federal Automatch. I had a few FTE failures with the CCI-SV but this is an almost brand new gun that hasn't even been broken in. The single action trigger pull is not too high, but the double action trigger pull is one of the highest of any gun I've fired (including the Nagant revolver!) This is something characteristic of a lot of double-action .22s, as rimfire primers require a stronger hit than do centerfire primers, but the PPK/S is significantly higher than, say, my Beretta Bobcat 21a. I'll keep it for a while, put some more rounds through it, and eventually sell it and move on to something else.

Footnote: If you're confused by the PP, PPK, PPK/S nomenclature, it's really pretty simple. Walther designed the original PP (Polizepistol) in 1929. This was followed in 1930 by the PPK (Polizepistole Kriminalmodel) which was not for criminals but for detectives- those in the kriminal division. 

The Gun Control Act of 1968 banned the import of the popular PPK as it was too small to qualify for import under the (somewhat arbitrary) points system implemented by the law. Walther responded by creating the PPK/S which combined the shorter barrel of the PPK with a longer grip- just long enough to earn enough points for import.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


Bipods are very popular with the Tacticool crowd- the guys who like to fill every rail on their carbine with as many accessories as they can fit. But they're actually very useful. I recently purchased a Caldwell XLA Pivot bipod for under $37 that delivers solid functionality for not very much money. Here you see it mounted on my Crosman Marauder Mk2 air rifle, but I think I'm going to buy a few more for two of my .22s for range and field use. 

If you like the idea of a bipod but want the best you can get, the US military favors Harris bipods, I'm told. They offer even more variety in styles and attachment at somewhat higher cost. The Harris equivalent of the Caldwell XLA is the Harris S-BRM, and it can be had for about $97.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Russian TOZ-35m 50 meter free pistol: Part III

Since my last post I've obtained a custom made 3-D printed grip for my TOZ from Andrew at Precision Target Pistol Grips. These start at only $120, which is pretty amazing, as non-custom wood grips will run you close to $400. Choosing wood-poly composite rather than plain plastic raises the price another $25, I think, and the full wrap-around grip is another uncharge. I think the whole package including shipping was around $205.

Like all grips these require a small amount of fine tuning- for mine it was a little bit of work with a rasp and a tiny amount of wood putty. which you can see in the wraparound, in the third photo.  They're very lightweight, which greatly improves the balance of the gun. I liked these so much I'm having Andrew make a set for my Daisy 777, too.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Chiappa Little Badger, part 1

I am a great fan of .22s, miniatures, curious and unusual arms, and guns that cry out for customization, so it was only a matter of time before I found my way to buying a Chiappa Little Badger. My local FFL (Paragon Arms in Berkley, MI) quoted me a better price than any of the stores or on-line discounters, and a few days later I had the little box seen above in my hands. 

Inside, as you can see, there's a backpack case (with a large printed logo-not very low key!) and the gun itself in folded configuration. I loaded up an fired a few Aguila Colibris (a primer-only round with a muzzle energy of 3 foot-pounds) and discovered that the gun has an excellent, trigger, and that the sights are almost unusable for me- either my head is too big, or they're too low. No matter. The gun does come with enough Picatinny rails to please the most ardent fan of the Tacticool style.

However... these rails are made of HDPE, not metal. That's fine for attaching flashlights and hand grips but suboptimal for optics. Luckily you can get an anodized aluminum replacement from Long Shot Manufacturing (, which is what I did.

Here's the new rail seen next to the stock rails:

And here it is installed. You can see it looks identical to the HDPE side plates, but it's a lot more rigid. I used LocTite on the screws to make sure they stayed in place. 

Another interesting feature of the gun is the threaded muzzle- another increasingly popular feature on firearms these days:

I have no plans to buy a moderator for it, but I did think the supplied plastic thread protector was a bit tacky, so I bought this sharp looking steel muzzle brake on eBay for about $15:

The sights were too low for me to comfortably use, as well as being made of plastic, so off they came:

I tried a few different optics on the Badger and decided that the best choice was either a Millet dot sight:

or possibly this compact Burris 4x20:

...which is a bit too close to the hammer. I could use higher mounts, but a better solution would probably be a hammer side extension. Chiappa offers one for $15, and there are several others available from Uncle Mike's and other vendors.

 I also decided that the stock and the rest of the plastic Picatinny rails needed some improvement. The cartridge holder is cheap looking and has sharp edges, and should be removed. Maybe I could make  a walnut forearm and butt- but that will have to wait until my next post.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Sightmark Photon 4.5x digital night vision scope

Night vision scopes are very popular these days, especially with hunters of feral wild pigs. They're excellent for all sorts of nocturnal vermin, which is what led me to start thinking about getting one. We've had rats showing up in our city in the last few months and while I managed to bag a few during the daytime with an air rifle I thought it would be more effective to hunt them at night.

After several weeks of debating the various options with myself (cheap Gen 1 scope, better Gen 1 scope, digital scope, unaffordable thermal scope...) I decided to order a Sightmark Photon 4.6x digital scope from Amazon, as they have far and away the best return and customer service policies. It arrived yesterday and I mounted it on my Benjamin Marauder.

Installation is very easy, as it mounts in standard 30mm rings. Setup is almost as easy, as there are only two controls on the scope. One is a power/illumination button. One press turns it on. Successive presses cycle through various levels of IR illumination, and a long press turns it off. The level off illumination is displayed in the viewfinder, along with battery life. The other control is a combined button and knob that normally controls display brightness. Press and hold, and a menu comes up that allows you to select between reticle shape, color, and position. The position adjustment allows for one-shot zeroing, or close to it. Shoot a group at a target, then move the reticle to point to the group. That's it.

Last night I took it out after dark to search for the rats that have been showing up in our neighborhood. Like those of many animals, a rat's eyes reflect light, which makes them very easy to spot, as the IR illuminator turns their eyes into bright white spots- you can see the eyes long before you can pick out a rat's body hidden by vegetation.

The scope uses two AA batteries to power both scope and illuminator, and the manual says they're last from 4-6 hours, depending on how much IR illumination you use. I found the lowest setting was more than adequate at garden ranges, but I might add an external illuminator just to stretch battery life.

At $490, it was $190 more than the cheapest Gen 1 sight I looked at, but from what I've been able to learn from other reviews, the image is much clearer and wider. Sightmark warranties it for three years, which is better than most electronic devices. So far I'm pretty impressed.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Russian TOZ-35m 50 meter free pistol: Part I

The most difficult of all the Olympic/ISSF (International Shooting Sports Federation) pistol sports is 50 Meter Pistol. This is a sport in which a shooter holds a pistol with one hand and fires 60 shots over the course of two hours at a target with a 5cm (2") 10-ring, 50 meters away. Unlike NRA-style bullseye matches, in finals rounds the 10-ring is further divided into zones, so a bullet striking the 10-ring may be scored anywhere from 10.0 to 10.9.  50 Meter Pistol is also known as Free Pistol, as there are very few rules regarding the pistol itself. It has to fire a .22LR cartridge, no optical sights are allowed, the grip can't extend over the wrist, it must be held and fired by one hand, and that's pretty much it.

I have admired the elegance and the simplicity of free pistols since I first saw a picture of a 1950s Hammerli when I was a child. I have long wanted one, but they typically cost $1,600-2,000 or more. A bit much for a sport that I'm not really going to actively compete in. But then not long ago I discovered a less expensive route.

In 1962 the Soviets introduced the TOZ-35m to international competition. The gun owed an obvious debt to earlier Hammerli designs, but included some novel features of its own, including an amazingly adjustable trigger. Like many Soviet made industrial products it was crude externally, but refined in the details where it mattered. It quickly became a world-class competitor, and despite not having been made in over a decade, it still shows up in international competition.

As I noted, there haven't been any new TOZ35m pistols made in a long time, but they still keep showing up in the marketplace as old stores of them are discovered by enterprising Russian exporters. I recently saw a few showing up again at specialist dealers in ready to compete condition for around $1,300. I also saw them popping up in used ("fair" to "excellent") condition at prices ranging from $475 to $575 at various online dealers. I asked knowledgable people at an online forum for ISSF/Olympic shooters if this was a good deal, and the consensus was that I should jump on it while they were available. I asked my local FFL if he could get one, and he found me an excellent, unused one for $585 out the door. The toy account was flush, thanks to some recent sales, and I told him to go ahead and get me one. Of course when you pay less than half of what the specialist dealers are charging, there's a bit of a catch...

Above is the gun as I received it. You will note the handy carrying case full of accessories, and you will probably also note that the grips as supplied are a bit, um, blocker than the one n the gun at the top of this post. There's a reason for that. There were no standard sized grips available for the TOZ. Fit is more critical in 50 meter pistol than in any other shooting sort, and shooters in the USSR were supposed to work with their coaches to make a customized grip that would fit them like a glove. I've done some carving and refining stock blanks beginning in the 1990s, when I customized my Field Target air rifles, but never anything quite this complete. Before, I've usually started with rasps and files. This time I think I'll have to start with a bandsaw, or possibly an axe.

The Russian TOZ-35m 50 Meter Pistol: Part II

Following up on my earlier TOZ-35 post, let's take a closer look at the gun and the accessories included in the case.

Pulling the left grip off, you can get a good look at the main components. The long lever extending the length of the grip frame and out the bottom opens and closes the breech and cocks the striker. The short lever above the trigger sets the trigger, and can also be used for dry fire practice.

Inside the box you'll find an assortment of tools, a cleaning rod packed in the lid, and a mysterious round wooden box:

The curious white object turns out to be a handle for a reservable screwdriver blade that put me in mind of a similar tool that came with my Nagant 7.62x38R revolver:

The round wooden box contains two spare mainsprings, several different front and rear sight blades, a spare firing pin, a sear spring, and one other spring I haven't yet identified. They're wrapped in an oiled paper and I've left them wrapped up so i don't accidentally spill them out and lose them. TOZ parts are available, but the supply is shrinking and prices are going up.

I haven't started carving the grip yet as (1) I've got a bad cold and shouldn't be handling sharp tools and (2) I'm still collecting photos and visualizing the final form. The next step is to sketch the lines on the grip pieces and do the rough cutting with bandsaw and coping saw. From there it's a matter of using files and rasps and slowly refining the fit to my hand. A good free pistol should fit like a glove.

Update: Beginning to shape the grip:

Getting closer. Notice the judicious use of epoxy wood putty by the the novice grip carver:

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Der Gladiator

This blog is mostly about guns that I have collected or at least tested, but every so often I come across something I just have to share. Like this gun, from a For Sale ad on a German web site:

The text says that this revolver (called "The Gladiator") was made in small numbers in Germany from Smith & Wesson model 65 and 66 revolvers. That's a "Maximumkompensator" at the end of the barrel, in case you're curious. Price, 985 Euros.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Fitting a new stock to the Savage-Anschutz 10A

I I've never been entirely happy with the stock that came with my Savage Anschutz 10A, and so when I  saw that Boyds had a stock for the Anschutz 64 action, I ordered one. This wasn't a trivial swap, however,  as the Boyds stock is inletted for the sporter version of the 64, which has a magazine and a narrower, tapered, barrel.

First step was to widen the barrel channel, which I did with a set of scrapers I purchased many years ago, when I was fitting custom stocks to airguns I used in Field Target competition. That was the easy part. The trickier part was going to be filling the magazine well and finding some sort of escutcheon to retain the screw that holds the action in place.

I sawed and planed a filler strip of rosewood, as I had a strip of 1/8" stock on hand. This was glued in place and scraped to level it with the stock. The escutcheon was turned from a threaded brass insert, using my drill press and a dangerous looking setup involving holding a lathe tool in a vise. It was then epoxied in place, and the wood filler strip was stained black with a Sharpie, and finished with MiniWax Wipe-On Poly, as the stock is poly finished.

I didn't want to shorten the screw used with the original stock, in case I wanted to use that stock again, so I cut an M5 screw to length and turned down the head to fit in the escutcheon. I then blued it using Brownell's Oxpho-blue and dipped it in Brownell's Water Displacing Oil.

Last step was to shape the bulky, symmetrical, cheek piece to fit my head. This was done initially with a belt sander, and then with a random orbit sander, a scraper, and finally hand sanding with 320 grit paper. Boyds gives you plenty of material to work with; I probably could have started with a saw.

The result fits me well and looks decent, but the real test will be when I take it to the 50 yard range. As the current weather has been giving us temperatures in the teens and 20s, it may be a few months before I get around to that.