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In-Ear Hearing Protection

Now that I’m helping run an action steel program, I’m finding that being on the line all day wearing electronic earmuffs in hot weather is awful. I’d like to be able to wear a hat that offers more shade than a ball cap. I’m looking at electronic plugs, but it looks like anything decent is ridiculously expensive. Walker has the Razor line, which would be fine, but they don’t look to be binaural, which is a deal breaker for me.

I know there are mechanical earplugs which are open for conversation normally, but close in response to loud impulse, however I have no idea if they are actually any good. I know people who swear by them. But earplugs aren’t exactly something you want to ask your shooting buddy “Hey, can I try that?”

I’m curious how much these work, and whether they hush conversation too much. The thing I like about electronic muffs is that I can’t tell I’m muffed unless I’m trying to hear someone over a lot of gunfire. I’ll even forget I have them on in winter.

Anyone have any recommendations?

NRA Range Development and Operations Conference

I had the opportunity to attend NRA’s Range Development and Operations Conference in Pittsburgh. If you’ve ever been to NRA’s Law Seminar, it’s a similar format, except a smaller crowd. If you’re a Director or Officer at a gun club, I highly recommend you get your club to send you, or even go yourself if you can swing it. It was an eye opener for me. It’s three days. It can be rough to sit in a conference room for three days and hear presentations if you’re not the classroom type.

Takeaways for me:

  • First takeaway is that if you don’t do this for a living, in other words, if you’re not presenting at the conference, you don’t know everything. This conference will just explore the tip of the iceberg of things you don’t know.
  • The worst thing you can do as a club is stick your head in the sand and pretend everything is right, and everything is fine. Seek expert advise. NRA will come evaluate your range for free. The results are kept confidential. If you’re really worried, coordinate through your lawyers so any results are privileged. Ranges that stick their head in the sand likely do not have an extended future. When those ranges inevitably go under, we won’t replace them.
  • There’s lots of expertise and technology available to help ranges get on the right track. My club send people to the RDOC about 15 years ago, and we had a few Board members who figured it would just be the same. It was not. Range technology is evolving fast. One presentation on the economics of the industry mentioned that while there is definitely a “Trump Slump,” the baseline of shooters is still much higher than it was a decade ago, and there’s investment. Shooting ranges actually do less business when people aren’t buying as many guns.
  • At some point, the firearms industry will need to replace lead styphnate and lead azide priming with something non-toxic. That’s proven illusive, but it’ll have to be done. Lead bullets are a far more manageable problem than the lead emitted from primers, which have to be cleaned up and disposed as hazardous waste.
  • Does your range have an environmental stewardship plan? If not, you need one. This is becoming standard industry practice. We’ve long been big on recycling in our sport, but a plan will help ensure people know all the best practices. There are people who will help you write one who are experts in this stuff, know environmental engineering, and who are not tree huggers looking to shut you down. NRA’s Range Services and the professionals who work with them are trying to keep ranges open, not help them get shut down.

Now, some things I didn’t like about the conference:

  • The classroom format is a bit rough for some people. Not sure there’s so much you can do about this. I found the Vendor room, and networking with the pros, to be just as useful as the conference itself. Maybe more here.
  • Get presenters to hold questions off until the end. Letting an audience of people interrupt speakers with (often stupid) questions is a recipe for a presenter having to skip over material at the end or rush through. I wanted to see some of that material! It’s better to be able to cut off questions at the end. We had a few “class clowns” and various other people who liked to hear the sound of their own voice monopolizing or interrupting the speakers.
  • Asking people to introduce themselves at the beginning individually is a nice touch, but it does signal to a certain kind of individual that the world gives a shit, and primes them to believe the world wants to hear their wisdom.

And the biggest takeaway for me?

Shamelessly stolen from Tam.

New Shiny Thing: Mk.262

At my club, 200 yards is the max I can reach out to, so the regular old 55 grain FMJ-BT is my bullet of choice. These days what powder I use depends on where I can get some for a very low price or free. Since I’m still going through powder I have scrounged from various sources, I’m not all that familiar with the wide array of choices. I generally have been sticking to Varget, H322, IMR4895 and I just came across a few pounds of Varmint and IMR4198.

I know a couple of guys who occasionally head to a 600-yard range near Atglen to do some long-range silhouette shooting. I haven’t really shot Silhouette in years, because it’s honestly about as much fun as watching paint dry if you’re not getting better. I don’t have the time, patience, or desire to master the sport. Those Silhouette guys helped improve my shooting a lot, but there came a point where it had done everything it was going to do for me without devoting more time to the game than I was willing to give.

But turn it into a precision rifle event with half-scale animals at ridiculous distances? You once again have my attention. That’ll be fun even if I’m missing a lot, and it gives me an excuse to tinker, which never gets old.

However, the most precisionist rifle I have is my AR, which isn’t anything to write home about. I bought it during the height of the ban almost 20 years ago by this point and it’s 100% stock, save the bayonet lug and birdcage flash suppressor I put on after the ban. It has regular old A2 furniture. A few weeks ago I uncased at the club and had some young guy say, “Wow. That’s old school!” It seems like just yesterday it was me saying shit like that to grey haired shooters. I resisted the urge to come back with, “You know, back in my day, we didn’t have any of these free-floatin’ barrels and fancy-dancy ACOGs with illuminated reticles.”

Old school or not, I’m thinking of slapping a halfway decent optic on it, and taking it out to see how I do at that distance with so-so equipment. But no way I’m taking my regular 55 grain load. I’m interested in the capabilities of the Mk. 262 round for reaching out to 600 yards. For those of you who may not be familiar, the Mk.262 is a 5.56x45mm round developed by SOCOM for longer range work. It uses a 77-grain Sierra Match King bullet. It is about as decent a round as you can get and still be able to stuff them into a magazine. I want to work with a practical round and not with loadings that have to be single-loaded into the rifle.

The trouble is, I’m not used to working with bullets that heavy in this chambering, and I’m paranoid about overpressure. A few months ago, I ran into a supply of 75gr HPBT bullets, and I am starting with those. That bullet with 22gr of H322 driving it isn’t yet a compressed load at 2.26″ OAL. Hodgdon says that’ll push out at about 2785ft/sec with 48,100 CUP from a 24″ test barrel. For a 77gr bullet, 21.8grs of H322 pushes 2,721ft/sec a 50,900 CUP. Black Hills seems to get close to 2900ft/sec out of a 20″ Colt AR barrel, so I’m guessing they have to be loading over the SAAMI spec and closer to the NATO spec on chamber pressure, which is about 10,000CUP higher. Anyone have any experience trying to replicate this load to get the same performance as the factory Black Hills load?

Places to Shoot

It is basically impossible to maintain a healthy shooting culture without having places to shoot. Even if we change the laws in places like New York City, because they’ve been so utterly successful at destroying their gun culture, Bloomberg likely won’t ever have to worry about icky gun people in his city. There’s almost nowhere to buy a gun, and almost no places left to shoot. This is a city that once contained NRA’s primary shooting facility! Can you imagine that today? Actually, you don’t have to. This is where NRA’s range in New York City was:

Think there’s any chance of getting that facility back as a shooting range? Not a chance. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be possible to make new places to shoot in the Five Boroughs, but it’ll take generations, and a court willing to take the Second Amendment seriously.

It’s far easier not to lose those places to shoot in the first place. Generally speaking, I’m not going to air my club’s dirty laundry in a public forum. But I’ve spoken about some things either seeking advice or pointing out things that might be useful for people in the same position. I see a few comments here and there like this:

“Sorry, but, your club sounds like a Fudd club.  Are black rifles banned too?  Only 1 shot every two seconds?”

Now, my club it’s actually not a Fudd Club. It’s Gun Culture 1.5, to use that analogy. No issues with black rifles there: but we do have some rules that are… outdated. I am not likely as far behind as some other people would be in participating in an effort to bring Gun Culture 2.0 to a Gun Culture 1.0 club. But anyone struggling to help in such an endeavor has my respect: we owe it to future generations of shooters to try to preserve places to shoot.

I will fully acknowledge that some clubs and ranges are hopeless, and will die with their current leadership. I’m not suggesting every effort will always pay off, just that the effort is worth our collective time even if our individual effort fails. I can almost guarantee you that if you were to join a “Fudd Club” of sufficient size, you’re going to find allies in any effort to un-Fudd it. If you suddenly find yourself trying to take a Gun Culture 1.0 club into Gun Culture 2.0, I offer some advice:

  • Don’t be an asshole. No one likes someone who comes in with a personal agenda and has all the grace of a bull in a china shop. Those people are quickly flagged as trouble, because most of the time they are, no matter what they are selling.
  • Try some of the old shooting sports. I shot Silhouette for several years. I even shot air gun silhouette. It greatly improved certain aspects of my shooting. It’s also a great way to get to know people, which is key to changing anything. You’ll find friends in unexpected places. As I’ve introduced some more modern shooting sports, I’m finding a lot of unexpected crossover from shotgunners.
  • Be willing to help out. I was willing to help out when asked, or even when I wasn’t asked. Before I knew it, I received the ultimate punishment a club can administer to a member: I was given an officer’s position.
  • Don’t expect or push to change things overnight. I have been an officer for almost a decade at this point, and I’m just now starting to have enough influence to change some things. A lot of what got me to the point was circumstantial. It’s good to have an instinct for when an organization is ready for change, and when you’ll get resistance. When you get to those “ready for change” moments, go for it.
  • Talk to people. In deliberative bodies, if you bring an issue up and lose, that will be dead for a while. No one likes rehashing old shit that got shot down. So if you’re going to bring up an issue, be sure you have the votes. Have an idea which people are strong and weak yeas or nays. Think about compromise positions. Think about what you can do to firm up your weak votes.
  • Build systems and culture, not cults of personality. If you don’t bring other people along with what you want to do, even if you succeed in making changes, they likely won’t outlast you. People who are successful at building a legacy build systems and cultures. Culture is important, and it’s deliberate. It doesn’t just happen. It’s like a garden. You have to tend it.

I’ve heard stories of clubs that change through outright revolution. I recall a story told to me a while ago about a club in Pennsylvania who had a cadre of members that wanted to put on a machine gun shoot. The leadership said no. Next election, they replaced the leadership. That club now has an annual machine gun shoot. If you have the votes and the people willing to step up to affect that kind of thing, it’s an option. I am a reasonably good administrator. I’m a poor revolutionary. I’ve always wondered how the people who used the outright revolution managed it. I have to work within the confines of my own strengths and weaknesses, which I guess is a good final bit of advice. I’m always curious to hear stories in the comments from anyone who’s got one.

Draw From Holster

With club elections now behind me, a new system to manage prospective members in place and seemingly working, I’ll have some more time now. I’m interested in bringing a Steel Challenge match to my club. The only problem is we don’t allow drawing from holster. Maybe I could get an exception for the match, but I think that’ll be a tough climb. The fact is there are some risks associated with letting any yahoo draw and fire from holster, and I’ve seen enough sloppy gun handling there to be wary of it even myself. But I’m also finding people will rise to the competence that’s expected of them… in other words, as I’ve been running matches, I’m seeing gun handling practices get better.

If I were to run a Steel Challenge-like match, I’d probably need to get people’s gun handling skills up before we could do anything like draw-from-holster. I’m curious what other people might have done in this situation, and how other clubs that allow draw from holster or allow limited draw from holster manage it. If you run a Steel Challenge match, which means it’s an open match, how do you know the shooter showing up actually knows how to do a safe draw? Is there ever any safety check? Pre-qualification? Do you police equipment? I’ve looked at other clubs in the area, and some allow it, but only for qualified people.

A Big Fear of Mine

I’ve recently gotten into progressive reloading, and have several thousand rounds under my belt at the point. Enough to worry about this as a real possibility. While there are things I can get for my Hornady LnL press to boost the level of automation, a certain reduction in speed and some amount of manual steps forces me to pay more attention to what I’m doing, and offers more opportunity to catch something.

When reloading .223, I had powder stick in the mechanism and dump a light charge into one case, and then overflow the next case. Fortunately, with the powder I’m using, the charge pretty much fills the case, and all it made was a mess. But if that happened in a pistol round? Good chance I wouldn’t notice. I have Hornady’s Powder Cop, but there’s enough variation in how powder lays it would be hard to catch an overcharge. It’s useful, but not a precise instrument. It’s best, I think, for catching no-charges, which is also potentially fatal to your firearm if you plant the squib bullet in the barrel and follow up with another cartridge.

I also worry about this as a match director now. It’s not only my loads, I have to worry about the loads of the guy I’m standing behind. Shoot enough, and be around guns enough, and the law of averages will catch up with you at some point.

More Gun Blegging: Pistol Caliber ARs

I’ve never been into pistol caliber carbines all that much. I’d be interested in submachine guns if they were legal, but semi-auto pistol carbines have just never tickled my fancy. However, my club has steel targets set closer than 100 yards that are limited to pistol calibers, and our indoor range is limited to pistol calibers. We’re also about to get more pistol-caliber-only steel. So I’m thinking a pistol caliber AR-like carbine is something I could use.

But I’m not sure what to get. I’m not opposed to registering it as an SBR, and as long as I’m doing that I might as well register a can for it. To me a 16″ barrel on a pistol caliber gun is a bit pointless. But maybe I can get a pinned or integral suppressor that takes it out to 16″ and only need one tax stamp? To me if you’re going the suppressed route, the .45 ACP is a better option, but I believe that takes a more AR-10 sized lower. One thing for sure is I’d want it to take Glock magazines.

Anyone out there have any experience in this area?

What to Do with the 6.8?

Years ago, against my better judgement, I had an opportunity to buy a barely used 6.8 SPC AR-15 upper for a pretty good price, so I took it. My first clue there was trouble should have been was how badly the case head was marred after extraction. I always made my reloads lighter than factory, but reality is I could only ever push about 2100ft/sec at the muzzle without creating notable symptoms of overpressure. Factory ammo all exhibited overpressure signs.

Turns out that manufacturer’s supplier of that upper over-chromed their barrels, and so they all had pretty significant chamber pressure issues. Not knowing how safe it really was to shoot, and not liking the anecdotal evidence that suggested I could only avoid overpressure symptoms at positively anemic velocities, it’s sat in my safe for years unfired.

I’ve been debating whether it makes sense to re-barrel that upper in 6.8, or just repurpose the upper for a standard 5.56x45mm AR, sell the 6.8 brass, bullets, etc, and move on. The only reason I’d even re-barrel in 6.8 is because of just a little inner gun hipster. But I don’t really know how much of a future 6.8 has, and I can’t abide by modern guns I don’t ever shoot taking up safe space.

Sport Pistol Powder

Since I haven’t been spending as much time writing about shooting, I’ve been actually shooting more. A lot more, which has kept my reloading press busy. Up until now I’ve used Unique for most of my pistol loads. Recently I got a hold of some Alliant Sport Pistol powder, which was introduced last year. It’s very fine grained, measures very well, and doesn’t have as much of a tendency to jump out of the case and end up all over the press as the plate snaps into index. What does get on the press is too fine grained to really gum up the works, which means I don’t have to stop as often to clean up the mess.

The only downside is it’s harder to detect a double charge in larger calibers visually, and while I’ve had overcharges with Unique that were scary, it’s slow burning enough that I didn’t have a kaboom when I’ve done it. I have a feeling Sport Pistol overcharging will have more of a tendency to blow up the pistol.

The loads feel a little more crisp on recoil than my Unique loads. They also give loading info specifically for polymer coated bullets, and it’s advertised to be formulated to work with poly coated bullets. I don’t know how much that’s true, or how much is just marketing BS. Supposedly poly coated bullets are safe to shoot through pistols with polygonal rifling, like Glocks. I hope that’s true, because I’m shooting ACME “lipstick” bullets through mine. The poly bullets are dirt cheap and work well on steel targets. I’ve noticed they make a nice cloud of dust when they hit the steel, so I’d be careful with the rounds indoors. So far they seem to be working great for such cheap bullets.

4th of July Falling Plates

I had the plates turned around for the practice portion leading up to the match. Then the big reveal:

Falling Plates Pre-1801 Union Jack

I think we can all agree that King George was thoroughly trounced:

Falling Plates Shot Up

I think I may be wanted in the UK for a hate crime now.

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