Currently Browsing: Shooting

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.

Falling Plates

My apologies for the lack of posting. I have a whole lot going on right now. It’s dues processing time at the club. In addition to fielding angry e-mails about dues increases, there’s a lot of set-up with the bank. I don’t really like being dues chair, but each year I’m trying to automate more and more of the process. Next year it will be stupid easy. We’re taking credit card payment this year for the first time. Because I’m apparently enjoying the lack of sleep, I’ve also taken on running a falling plates match.

We’re pretty much a Gun Culture 1.0 club. Previously we shot Bullseye, CMP, Trap, Silhouette, more Silhouette, and even more Silhouette. But I’m noticing those sports are getting really sparse turnout these days compared to when I joined. Matches are what suck people into club life, and a club that doesn’t have healthy matches won’t stay healthy overall for too long. So I decided a Falling Plate match started from the low ready was a good way to bring a somewhat more Gun Culture 2.0-like sport into the club. I’ve never run a falling plate match before, so my fellow match director and I are kind of making it up as we go. What does this take? I don’t know:

Obtain plate rack.

Plate Rack



That’s about how it goes, right? I’m thinking we can mix it up a bit to keep it interesting. Maybe one match you load 6, so if you miss one you have to do a magazine change. I tried to keep classifications simple, and this is just a “for fun” club match. But my co-director and I want to bring Steel Challenge to the club eventually.

If anyone has run a Falling Plate match and has advice, I’m all ears. I’ll also listen to stories about anyone who has helped move a club from GC 1.0 to 2.0 matches. We’re probably a long way from anything like USPSA, IDPA, or anything else that requires drawing from a holster, or running with a gun. But Steel Challenge is pretty tame.


Legends of the Clubs

Shooting clubs all seem to have their legends. One thing I’ve consistently heard since joining mine is, “If we have just one mishap here (i.e. someone gets shot), this place is finished and over with.” This has always bothered me, because if this is true, why do we insure against this eventuality? Sadly, suicides on gun ranges are not as uncommon as one might think, and the commercial ranges that suffer them seem to continue on. I also know of clubs who have had people shoot themselves accidentally, and that are still around. So it strikes me that this is quite a survivable thing for a club. Not that I would advocate clubs get complacent about safety, but there’s a fine line between safety and being afraid of our own shadows. In my experience with talking to other people in the shooting community, the primary cause of death for shooting clubs is poor leadership, not accidents.

Hardly a Truer Thing Could Be Said

Dave Hardy looks at the NRA Board elections. I couldn’t agree more with what he has to say, especially this:

I also try to compensate for my natural bias, and not to neglect the folks who focus more on shooting as such rather than activism. If we don’t have people to bring juniors into the shooting fold or promote hunting or arrange competitions, activism won’t do much good after a generation or two.

I guess you could say my focus lately has been preserving places to shoot, and trying to keep some kind of shooting community together at a local level. All the political activism won’t amount to squat if we’re not making new shooters, and that’s really hard if there are no places to shoot.

Join your local gun club. I don’t care if it’s run by curmudgeonly old farts. Most of them are, because any organization needs young people to not end up that way. I can say a lot of bad things about the Baby Boomers, but one bad thing I can say about my generation is we’re not joiners, and we’re too cynical about our ability to make a difference. But eventually, all those curmudgeonly old farts are going to die, and without young people waiting in the wings to take the reigns, those places to shoot will die with them and disappear forever. Take some non-crumugeoness with you. You might find a lot of curmudgeons actually aren’t all the curmudgeonly if you approach things the right way with them.

And eventually? You’ll be the one griping “about these kids, and their fancy electromagnetic weapons. You know, in my day, we didn’t have to plug in our ARs! Back then, 3000ft/sec was enough for anybody! Don’t need no fancy charger here, no sir!”

What You Feel When You Shoot

Bearing Arms links to a study that tries to understand how new shooters feel when they fire a gun for the first time.

Firing a gun can be startling. In response, first-timers can experience a fight-or-flight response – the body’s way of automatically responding to what it perceives could be mortal danger.

I remember the first time I shot in an indoor range, and I remember being startled by the noise, but I think that’s more aptly classified as the startle response. Even today, I can get that from gun fire if I’m not expecting it. But I’ve not experienced any of the feelings he mentions here.

The initial response and come-down that follows can lead to a strong sense of pleasure and reward in some people.

“That rush of serotonin feels good,” Fleming said. “A lot of people don’t like being scared, but there are people who like to jump out of aeroplanes or bungee jump.”

However, Fleming noted that most professional shooters he’s met – primarily police officers and military personnel – aren’t adrenaline junkies and espouse a “healthy respect for guns.”

Maybe people who don’t have that reaction are the ones who get into shooting.

The Lead Issue Will Continue Dogging Us

This study on lead exposure, which was highlighted by Bloomberg’s propaganda mouthpiece “The Trace,” is more of a compilation than original work, but I have little doubt that people who frequent indoor shooting ranges have higher blood lead levels than people who don’t. Just because these studies are being pushed by people who would love to shut down every shooting range in the country doesn’t mean the issue is fake. Here are the facts we face:

  • There are no good alternatives for lead in bullets. There are other metals with similar properties, but they are considerably more scarce. It probably wouldn’t take the shooting community long to shoot up, for instance, all the bismuth that can be dug out of the earth, assuming we could even afford it.
  • Bullets with steel cores, and cores made up of other less malleable but more common metals are problematic because they can be classified as armor piercing under the law. Additionally, they will tend to tear up range equipment more readily than softer lead core bullets. Typically lead free bullets are made of copper and copper alloys, but copper is more expensive and doesn’t perform as well as lead.
  • There is currently no reliable alternative to lead styphnate and lead azide in primers. Well, there is one: good old mercury fulminate and potassium chlorate. But obviously mercury isn’t any better regarded for its environmental friendliness than lead, and these types of primers are corrosive. There have been advances in Non-Toxic (NT) primers, and they are getting better. The typical NT primers use Diazodinitrophenol (DDNP) instead of lead styphnate or lead azide. The big issue with NT primers has been shelf stability and reliability.

Atomic lead is not nearly as dangerous as compounds of lead. The byproducts of primer combustion is vaporized atomic lead, and lead oxide. Lead oxide is readily absorbed by the human body and is mobile in soils. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever done a study to determine whether increases in blood lead levels or range contamination was primarily from primer byproducts, or from atomic lead found in bullets. I’d wager that most, and probably the vast majority of the lead exposure is coming from the primers. I think in the future it will be important to know because lead in primers is probably a solvable problem.  The military is doing the bulk of the work trying to develop and study the performance of lead-free primers, and I expect in a few decades, there’s a good chance we’ll all be doing most of our shooting with NT primers, even if carry ammo still uses lead-based primers. The problem of elemental lead in bullets I believe can be successfully managed with good range practices. I suspect the primers are actually the bigger health and environmental issue.

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