Friday, February 18, 2011

Day 30: Picture of the Day

The Grease Gun.

Nothing says 'industrialized nation' more than a fully automatic firearm that can be produced for around $20 and in quantities that would make Ford's production line blush.

The M3 and later M3A1 'Grease Gun' is a superb weapon. Firing the 45ACP round at around 450 rounds per minute the Grease Gun was as distinguishable on the battlefield of the second world war as an AK-47 was in the jungles of Vietnam.

Simple, reliable, robust, and a blast to shoot!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day 29: Fun Without Cartridges

Who says you need brass cartridges to have a great day at the local range?

Pictured above is the Benjamin Legacy 1000 0.17 caliber air rifle. It's a fun little tool useful for dispatching country pests, and it has helped me with a bit of a possum problem I recently encountered (with the proper license, of course). All you need to shoot is an arm to cock the break-barrel spring, and a small box of lead pellets. It's subsonic and there's no powder or primer explosion, so it's reasonably quiet. I picked this air gun up almost exactly five years ago and have only shot it a handful of times, so I brought it to the range with me today this afternoon.

Next up is the Connecticut Valley Arms (CVA) Bobcat, a bottom-of-the-line imported percussion cap muzzleloader with a synthetic straight English-style stock. The Bobcat has a reputation for durability at the expense of good looks or pleasant handling, but it gets the job done. I like to shoot .50 caliber lead round ball ammunition with 80-100 grains of Pyrodex powder, and it's perfectly accurate for deer at medium-close range. I was given this particular rifle used as a gift, and I'm grateful for the free opportunity to expand my hunting season into black powder territory.

For those of you that know anything about quality axes, you may share my humor in photographing one of the cheapest Brazilian-manufactured black powder rifles ever made with a handsome handmade splitting axe by the Swedish company, Gränsfors Bruks! But the artistic potential was too much to pass up.

Make sure to keep your black powder firearms clean! They foul up badly even after a single shot, so take care of them if you want them to last. Following disassembly, the rear plug on the barrel is not removable, so it can be a trick to clean. The usual treatment is to soak it in soapy water. If I've only taken a few shots, I find standard solvents do the job just fine.

The first part to block up is the nipple, so I replaced the stock part with the CVA Perfect Nipple with a wider bore for more shots between maintenance. Other than that, the standard CVA Bobcat is good to go right out of the box for less than $100. The following picture illustrates the sidelock action on the Bobcat, with the upgraded nipple. The Perfect Nipple ordinarily has a shiny steel finish, but that is quickly obscured after a shot or two (until you clean it again).

Below is a target from today, shot from 20 yards. I can't say I'm proud to show these groups, but it demonstrates reasonable expectations for a casual rifle shooter like me. I got a few comments at the range from guys who had heard great things about this rifle, but I can't say I'm completely impressed yet. I may need to do a little more maintenance and fiddle with different pellets to optimize accuracy. For small game hunting I'd much rather rely on my .22LR rifle instead of my .17 air rifle, unless the intended range is under 20 yards and I'm really concerned about the noise.

As far as the muzzleloader's group, I'm definitely impressed. I'll admit it takes some getting used to when you're new to a percussion cap rifle, since the delay between primer ignition and the actual powder firing provides ample time for flinching. However, I found the stock iron sights to be surprisingly accurate (more accurate than me), after reading about how most shooters have to grind down the front sight due to it shooting high. I haven't seen that problem, and I'm looking forward to next fall for my first black powder deer season!

That's all for now!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Day 28: Picture of the Day

Winchester Heavy Game Loads are my personal favorite for high-volume target and practice loads. Their budget construction and low-height steel heads make them less than ideal for reloading, but I personally haven't been able to put forward the start-up cash for reloads yet anyway. At $6.00-$6.50 a box, they're more expensive than cheap Wal-Mart ammo, but I feel their price is justified by their quality.

Below I posted a picture I took of a deconstructed (2 3/4") 20 gauge hull with 1 ounce of #8 lead shot and 2.5 dram equivalent of smokeless powder. I've purchased thousands of rounds of this ammunition so far, and I'm happy with it. I generally don't use this type of ammunition for hunting, but it's perfect for a day shooting clay targets when you have to balance price and performance.

I copied the below image from the IHEA web site to acquaint anyone new to shotguns with the basic structure of a load. It might help you interpret the components of the above shot if you're unfamiliar.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 27: Picture of the Day

The theme of today's picture of the day? Night sights. Below is the Heinie Straight Eight sight pair on my Glock 20. While it rises a bit higher than standard Glock sights (more in line with a 1911), it provides fast target acquisition, even in low (and no) light. It's a quality aftermarket upgrade that can be installed at home with just a brass punch and some time. Recommended by the Ann Arbor Gun Guys!

Day 26: Ruger Red Label

My Ruger Red Label is currently my favorite gun. I use it for hunting as well as semi-competitive trap, skeet, and sporting clays, and it has a certain charm that only a classic American-made shotgun has to offer. It may not be one of the true classic doubles, but as the last production double-barrel shotgun still designed and manufactured in the US, I think it occupies an important place in shotgun history.

This particular version is an old-model 20 gauge, with the blued receiver that was discontinued only a few years into production. It has 3" chambers, a 28" barrel, and fixed modified over improved cylinder chokes. The quality of the wood is excellent, and the red rubber stock pad made by Goodyear gives a distinctive look to the older models. While the newer Red Labels are also nice, I'm aesthetically displeased with the stainless receivers and black stock pad in comparison.

Ruger shotguns don't have the best reputation. This may come as a surprise, knowing the quality of their other firearms and their outstanding customer service. However, they're known for accumulating small problems with wear that cause the use to send it in for (free) service, which is a definite inconvenience. This is supposedly more of a problem with the newer models, versus the older ones.

My only direct experience with Ruger's customer service was for the replacement of the barrel rib. A previous owner incorrectly installed an aftermarket middle bead sight off-center from the sighting axis, and bored completely through the rib, scratching the top of the barrel. I received estimates from several private gunsmiths but Ruger beat all of them. (This kind of major user-caused repair isn't free, but most things are.) I sent the gun into their New Hampshire based factory, and spoke with gunsmiths on multiple occasions. I had the shotgun back in about 3 weeks, including shipping time. They completely reworked the aged internals, replaced the rib, and (unfortunately) re-blued the entire gun. I should have told them not to do the re-blue since it had developed a nice plum patina over the years, but I don't think much of it, since its a shooter, not an investment piece.

Over/under shotguns aren't just for recreational clay shooting. They share a distinct advantage with the side by side in that they allow quick selection of two different chokes (and potentially two different loads) in the field. In a hunting situation, a flick of a switch can change your payload from a 3" magnum round of #4 buckshot through a modified choke to a 2 3/4" standard #8 birdshot load through an improved cylinder choke. Try doing that with a pump or autoloader. Of course, your ability to react to a flushing bird, for example, may hinder this selection process, which is why some traditional hunters still favor double triggers. For me, the configuration of the Red Label is effective and ergonomic.

I've done a few small repairs on my Red Label that others may have sent theirs in for. I made a small adjustment to the sear levers to adjust the timing, as one of the shell ejectors would occasionally catch on the sear. I also did a full takedown and cleaning of the action to rectify a dirty firing pin that would occasionally cause light-strike failures, with the help of the Radocy manual, which I purchased online. Many people are afraid to get into those parts, but if you take your time and have any mechanical skills whatsoever, you can do it. It's also nice when you know 100% how your firearm functions. Not everyone can say that.

From my experience, Ruger shotguns hold their own in the high-throughput category of shotguns. While I can only speak from my own experiences, I've put 2,500 rounds through my Red Label in the past 4 months without a hitch, and I plan on continuing this rate for a long time. Admittedly this isn't a "high round count" for a clay target gun, which may see tens of thousands of rounds in a year in the hands of a highly competitive shooter. But for someone who shoots target games for fun 2-3 times per week like I do, it will last a long time.

Ruger conveniently offers information concerning serial number history as well as electronic copies of old user's manuals on their web site. The serial history is only approximate, but it's easy to send them an e-mail or give them a call for an exact answer. The serial chart places this particular shotgun in their 1983 production line, but contacting Ruger, I was told it was actually manufactured in October 1981, which predates the introduction of the 12 gauge model! Really cool information to know as someone who appreciates firearms history.

Happy shooting!