Saturday, April 24, 2010

Day 14: Picture of the Day

People own firearms for a variety of reasons. They're fun to shoot at the range, enjoyable to collect, and capture important pieces of history. First and foremost however, they are purpose-built tools.

As I described in one of my recent posts, I have optimized one of my tools for hunting game. Spring turkey season kicked off this week, and after numerous failed attempts, I finally harvested my first bird on Thursday. It feels great to put your own food on the table after spending days in the field, and hunting can be a rewarding way to experience an American pastime while giving you a reason to keep your shooting skills sharp.

Turkey sandwiches, anyone?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Day 13: Picture of the Day

Today's picture of the day: the worst centerfire ammunition I've ever shot. This 9mm ammo is manufactured by MFS 2000 in Hungary, I bought it at Cabela's because it was on sale for $12 a box (now $10), making it the cheapest brass-cased 9mm that I could find. Today I had a 9% (!!!) failure to fire rate out of my Glock 19, which has NEVER had another malfunction. 2 of the 9 failed rounds didn't fire on their second strike, either. The primers are pure trash.

My Glock has worked flawlessly with Speer, Fiocchi, Winchester, Federal, and Sellier & Bellot, but this stuff is pure garbage.
Do not buy it.

On the other hand, I got the opportunity to practice FTF drills...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Day 12: Mossberg 500 Turkey Shotgun & Optics

If you didn't know, this Monday kicks off Michigan's spring wild turkey season! So I figured I would make a post introducing you to my turkey shotgun and the rationale for selecting good turkey hunting gear. My focus will be on shotgun optics, because this topic isn't often discussed but it can provide a distinct advantage out in the field.

The platform I selected was the Mossberg 500, because it's and can be configured for any possible purpose. It is pump-action, which brings down the cost, and is easier to field strip. I can use this gun for hunting deer, small game, turkey, and as a home defense weapon simply by dropping in the appropriate load. The 500 is durable and relatively inexpensive. The base model I purchased included a thumbhole Monte Carlo stock and fiber optic sights, with a 20" barrel and a threaded choke.


Like I said, I use my shotgun for turkey, deer, and small game, and I decided to mount a 1.5-4.5 x 20 scope to assist in hunting. If you don't already know, the first set of numbers is the magnification, which is adjustable in this case, and the second number is the aperture size. The larger the aperture, the more light gets transmitted through the glass, assisting in low light conditions.

If you get a Mossberg is like mine, it should be "drilled and tapped," and have 4 screws on the top of the receiver that can be removed to mount a rail. I bought a two-piece Weaver rail, which is just screwed in to allow attachment of scope rings. I got a nice set of rings that I trust to withstand the recoil of my 12 gauge without loosening up over time. Then there's the scope itself. So total, it's three pieces you'll need to get to mount a scope.

My scope setup consists of the following parts:
- Weaver 48473 Matte Top Base Pair For Mossberg 500
- Leupold Quick Release Weaver Style Rings 49853, 1", Low, Matte
- Nikon Monarch Turkey Shotgun Scope 6590, Turkey Pro Reticle

Scopes made specifically for shotguns usually have longer eye relief, which is helpful if you use magnum hunting loads. Also, keep in mind that the eye relief is shortened with a variable power scope at higher magnifications.

Any rail will do, as long as it's drilled for your specific shotgun. The cheaper ones are made of aluminum and the more expensive ones are steel. I just went with aluminum to save a few bucks, and I prefer the two-piece rails for aesthetic reasons. As for the rings, just make sure they match the diameter of your scope. Most scopes are 1" in diameter, but there are other configurations out there so just be sure you match them. I went with this Leupold model because I liked the quick-release style where you don't need a torx wrench to remove the scope, because I remove it for shooting clays. They come in several heights, and "low" should be sufficient for scopes with an aperture less than 25mm.

With the Turkey Pro reticle of this particular model scope, the center crosshairs are very faint, while the circle around the center is heavy. I think this is perfect for switching between shot and slugs, but a different reticle might be ideal for a dedicated slug gun. Nikon's Monarch African Rifle scope looks almost identical, but the parallax is set for 100 yards (vs. 50 with the turkey) and the reticle is a German variant.

There is slight chromatic aberration evident when the sun is positioned just right, but not noticeable unless you're looking for it. It works great with both eyes open and allows fast target acquisition. The optical quality seems pretty consistent at all zooms, and it works well in low light, considering the small aperture.

I don't have a ton of experience with scopes, but I do have experience with camera optics, and you get what you pay for. Nikon is a great trade-off of cost and quality in my opinion, and I have been very happy with this model.


One of the most important aspects of preparing a shotgun for hunting season is a task called patterning. Every shotgun, barrel, and choke will behave differently when fired, so it's important to try a large variety of different shotshells to see what performs best in your setup. After trying half a dozen different kinds, I settled with 3" Winchester Extreme Elite magnum turkey loads in #4 shot because they pattern most consistently in my particular gun.

Shooting trap is a lot of fun. All you need to guarantee several hours of fun at the range is a cheap plastic clay thrower, a box of sporting clays, and a friend. Shooting trap with a scope mounted is cumbersome, so it's best to either take it off or use a dedicated shotgun for this purpose. You usually use a wide choke while shooting clays due to the small shot size and close range.

Speaking of chokes, selecting one will be the topic of a future post. You can use whatever choke comes with the gun, but many choose to upgrade to attain more consistent patterns. I use a Briley Ported Super Turkey in this gun, and it was worth every penny.

I tried to cover a lot of ground in just one post. This was essentially an overview of my gear, why I chose it, and what you need if you're looking to build a similar shotgun. If you have any questions feel free to comment.

Good luck this season, everyone!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Day 11: Picture of the Day

The old saying of "a picture is worth a thousand words" isn't always true. Ever since the induction of the National Firearms Act of 1968/86 fully automatic firearms have been extremely regulated and pricey! That little engraved four letter word makes this $10.00 piece of stamped steel worth upwards of four thousand words - if the words happen to be United States Dollar...

Stay tuned for more pictures and information from your favorite firearm owning Ann Arborites...

Day 10: The 1871/88 Beaumont Vitali

Today we'll look at one of my newly favored rifles - the Dutch Beaumont Vitali. It's a long story on how exactly I came to learn about the Beaumont, but I am glad that I did as today it is one of my favorite rifles. First we'll look at the history of the rifle a little bit, then move into specifications, and finally what makes it a great rifle to own.

A Brief Beaumont History:
The 1871/88 Beaumont - Vitali is an original 1871 Beaumont with the famous Vitali box magazine installed in the late 1880s and early 1890s. The original Beaumont 1871 was a single shot and when it came into service it had an outstanding repertoire for being an excellent rifle. Designed for the Dutch armed forces by Edouard De Beaumont, a rather strange and eccentric man, to replace the Dutch variant of the Snider-Enfield that had been in use in the previous few decades.

Two things happened during the lifespan of the Beaumont that played a significant role in its future - the creation of the 8mm Lebel and of the Vitali magazine feeding system. Vitali was a general in the Italian army and a impressive thinker when it came to the future of firearms. Vitali created a small and odd, yet rather beautiful, box magazine. Shortly after its creation the Swiss and Italian armies bought the rights and retro-fitted its current breach loading rifles with the new design - thereby giving them a substantial increase in firepower over other countries of the time. While the Dutch were slow to see the benifit they eventually adopted the Vitali and began the mass retro fitting of all the original Beaumont, now being called Beaumont-Vitalis.

The other event that took place during this time was the creation of the round that changed warfare, the 8mm Lebel. The 8mm Lebel was significant for two reasons. The first being that it was a smaller projectile than the standard military rounds of the day. Second, it was the first military cartridge adopted that used the newly invented smokeless powder. The combination of these two made for an extremely accurate, powerful, fast moving round that required more than a significant amount less of rifle cleaning and maintenance compared to black powder. While the Beaumont was originally designed fire black powder propelled projectiles they were re-configured to handle the increase in pressure from smokeless rounds when they had their Vitali magazines installed.

Specifications of the Beaumont Vitali 1871/88:
When the retro-fiting occurred the Beaumont was already significantly outdated due to the recent progressions in technology such as the 8mm Lebel. The original Beaumont cartridge was 11.3x50mm with a rimmed case, similar to a 50/90 Sharps. It held a 345 grain projectile and was propelled by black powder. To get the most energy it could from the rifle it used a 32.5 inch barrel. When the rifles were updated in the late 1880s they had changed the cartridge dimensions to 11.2x52mm, still using a rimmed case, but now using a small amount of smokeless powder. Similar to other cartridge designs during the time many people did not know how much power they could really get out of the smokeless powder so the effective power of the round did not change much.A really neat thing that I had noticed on the Beaumont rifles is how the sight markings were inscribed. As if from a right handed person's point of view, when looking at the left side of the sight you see sight markings that graduate every 100m. If you were to roll the rifle over counter clockwise to see the other side of the sight, you would notice that they are upright even thought the rifle is now inverted! The right side of the sight is incremented by 50m and this ingenious setup allows the rifle's user to quickly make adjustments within 50m accuracy with just the roll of the rifle - very cool stuff!

Why the Beaumont?

But why the Beaumont? What is so special about this rifle that has singled it out amongst so many other possible purchases or intrigue. To be honest, at first it was price. I had found one for $150 which unfortunately had been "sporterized" and completely sanitized of its historical value. After I had bought it I immediately felt terrible, being the lover of all guns historical. At that time I had the good fortunate of meeting a truly amazing guy who not only gave me a stellar deal on a Beaumont that he was selling but also told me all the history I could ever want to know about them (even how to reload for them)!

Speaking of reloading for the Beaumont, its the only way to go! With prices well over $90.00 plus shipping for a box of 20 newly crafted 11mm Dutch you have two choices, hang the gun on your wall or reload. I had no intention on letting this rifle collect dust so with the help of the previous owner I got all the information I needed to reload. With the rifle the previous owner included a handful of custom shells to reload with. These shells are an unholy combination of resized 45/70 Government brass which is then wrapped up in a cut down 32 gauge shot shell to fit snugly in the chamber. With this "brass" I loaded it with 57 grains of black powder, a regular large rifle primer, and capped it off with a 345 grain lead projectile.

These bad boys shot like a dream. Not too much kick, but just enough. The end specs of the cartridge shot from my rifle is close to: 345gr Lead Projectile, with 57gr of Triple Seven black powder substitute, producing around 1570fps and a similar muzzle energy near 1600 ft-lbs.

In the end, the most simple and unthoughtful reason I could give for my extreme passion towards the Beaumont is the history it holds. I could go on and on about the many different aspects that make this rifle special but it would take books.

I hope you enjoyed this installment of the Ann Arbor Gun Guys! Check back for some reviews on the C-93 (semi-auto version of the HK33) and a new AK74 built by Lancaster Arms.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Day 9: Picture of the Day

To keep the content rolling I decided to post up a picture from one of our recent rainy range days. The authors of this site are busy finishing up the semester, but expect a drastic increase in post frequency starting in May. In the meantime, please bear with us!