Universal Background Checks

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OK, let’s talk about Universal Background Checks for firearms purchases. I see people on both sides of the argument that seem to be ‘stuck on stupid’ about this.Can we have a rational discussion?
There are people that object to this. Some feel that it will inevitably lead to gun registration and in the end confiscation. Others say it won’t help because there are too many alternative avenues for criminals to obtain illegal firearms. But most gun owners that I know object primarily because it’s a pain in the butt and costs money. In Washington State most firearms transfers (transactions which give a person unsupervised control of a firearm that they do not own) must be done through a federally licensed firearms dealer (FFL.)
Let’s say I want to buy a gun from a buddy. Instead of simply meeting at a time and place convenient to both of us we have to arrange to meet at a gun store and fill out a bunch of paperwork, then pay them a fee (often around $40.) We’re busy people and live in a city with some of the worst traffic in the country. It’s a pain in the butt, and since we are both law-abiding citizens it isn’t keeping guns out of the hands of a criminal. It feels like a penalty that we haven’t earned and don’t deserve, with the net effect that the gun store makes some money off a transaction that they have no investment in. This isn’t an argument against the practice as such, just an explanation of why a lot of people don’t like it and feel it is unfair.
It’s not hard to understand people objecting to something they feel is unnecessary and unfair, is it? Yet at the same time people who do not have a legal right to own a firearm still transfer guns with no regard for the law, so it’s arguable as to whether or not it’s really helping.
On the other hand I have never been comfortable selling a firearm to a random person with no idea if they are legally allowed to possess it. Generally I sell them to a gun store or on consignment in a gun store, or to people or family members that I know well.
So, what to do…
There is a system in place to do an instant background check- NICS. This allows an FFL dealer to instantly check if an individual is legally entitled to own a firearm. Nothing is perfect but generally speaking it works well. In this state if you have a carry permit- meaning that you’ve already been checked out and can legally possess a firearm- the dealer simply makes a phone call and gets a yes/no answer on the spot. It’s quick, easy and pretty painless, and gun purchasers actually like it. Of course they still have to fill out the forms, because that’s how FFLs work and have for decades.
How about this- while you are advocating universal background checks why not encourage your representatives to fund the expansion of NICs into a resource for individuals as well as FFL dealers? A lot fewer gun owners would object if you make it easy to do an instant, free check to transfer a gun. Instead of meeting at an FFL dealer, filling out time-consuming forms and spending money you simply make a phone call and are provided with an instant answer and perhaps a code to record on the receipt. You get the ‘background check’ without the hassle or expense. A lot of gun owners would welcome this, at least as an alternative to the current system.
All it would take is some money to expand the system and rules that allow it. People that demand universal background checks get them, and gun owners are at least less unhappy and resistant.
Sorry, I know this is a sensible solution that doesn’t cater to knee-jerk positions on either side of the debate, but it’s relatively easy and painless and who knows? It might actually help.
Michael Tinker Pearce,  18 November 2017
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Range Report, 11 November 2017

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From left to right- Abilene .44 Magnum, Colt Detective Special .32 S&W Long, Chiappa Rhino .357 Magnum, S&W M1903 .32 S&W Long, Rossi M68 .38 Special, Cimarron Richards-Mason .38 Special, S&W M1905 .38 Special

November has been interesting. I mean, if you consider getting migraines practically every day interesting. I don’t; it gets in the way of everything- including making a living. Then there was the fact that we had a novel to finish (we did,) a bit of hunting, stocking the freezer for the winter, butchering goats etc. In short there has been little time for shooting or writing about shooting. I haven’t been to the range in weeks.

That changed this afternoon. I needed to test some new loads in the .44 Magnum, test the modifications to the Rossi and S&W .32 and just do some shooting for pleasure. I took a fair selection of revolvers as you can see above and several hundred rounds in three different calibers. What I did not bring was the correct glasses- I accidentally brought my reading glasses. Bugger. So shooting the .44 at 25 yards was a matter of guessing where the target was and resulted in 5-6″ groups, which sucks. Basically I had a choice- wear readers and see the front sight, or wear regular shooting glasses and be able to see the target but not the sights.   OK, short range work then.

The Abilene shot well at short range. Recoil was quite easy to manage; between the porting, the 7-1/2″ ported bull-barrel and the reshaped grip it was very nice to shoot, and the loads were quite accurate- at least as well as I could shoot under the circumstances. It’s just that somehow posting targets from less than 25 yards with this gun seems a bit silly.

The Rossi M68 is an ongoing project. We got it cheap and it had been messed about with quite a bit so I fell no compunctions about experimenting on it.  It’s been a learning experience for sure; it’s a part-for-part copy of a S&W Model 60. In the past I made a custom grip, shortened the barrel to 2-1/4 inches and re-crowned it, made and mounted a new front sight. Recently I considered ‘Fitzing’ it, but I couldn’t bring myself to cut away the front of the trigger-guard. I did bob the hammer, narrow and reshape the front of the trigger-guard and reduced the handle to the smallest useful size I could do.  This involved modifying the grip-frame and relocating the grip screw. Now that I have sussed it out I’ll make a new grip. I wanted to remove the writing on the barrel so I slab-sided it because I liked the look.  I also smoothed and rounded the trigger and chamfered the chambers.

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So how does it shoot? Unreliably and like it needs trigger work. Despite the fact that it gets 100% ignition with primed cases if I fill those same primed cases with powder and a bullet ignition drops to about 70% reliable. I have no clue why this is.

Accuracy is alright and it hides marvelously in a pocket, but it’s an experiment, not a carry piece. Unless or until I can make it 100% reliable it never will be, either. Still, it’s serving it’s intended function of education, so it’s all good.

I also fired the M1905 and the Chiappa Rhino. Both shot well as expected, but results were pretty typical for me and none of the targets were exceptional. I had really wanted to wring the 1905 out at 25 yards, but with the wrong glasses on-board that was not going to be a happening thing.

Next were the .32s, starting with the I-frame S&W.   This gun had serious issues when I got it; rust and pitting, massive end-play and cylinder-gap, timing problems… the list is long. I’ve already documented resurrecting this gun, and now it was time for more test-firing. Suffice it to say it is now tight and right, refinished and ready to go. Rapid-fire at seven yards produced an acceptable group- rather to the left. Since I reset the barrel I probably need to tweak it a bit to get the front-sight aligned.

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After I get this issue sorted I am probably going to make a period-style target grip; this is a range gun but properly kitted out it might make a fine small-game getter.

The Detective Special was the star of the show; as always a delight to shoot. This is a 7-yard rapid-fire target-

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I was pulling a bit to the left- need to work on that. I shot this target at ten yards, also rapid-fire-

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This was rather better. I do love this gun, and wouldn’t hesitate to carry it for self-defense. I’ve considered a Tyler T-grip to improve the grip, but my pinky-finger falls naturally underneath the handle and locates the gun quite consistently so it is not strictly-speaking necessary.

Despite the ‘oops’ with the glasses I had a good, much-needed range session. Since it looks like circumstances have conspired against hunting tomorrow I’m glad that I got out for this.

The reloads used for today’s shooting were:

.44 Magnum- 260gr. HC SWC over 9.3 Gr. of Unique with a CCI Large Pistol Primer. This should be making 1175-1200fps. and around 800ft/lbs. of energy. A nice mid-range load for Blacktail deer.

.38 Special- 148gr. BBWC over 3.3gr. of Unique with a CCI Small-Pistol primer. This load needs to be a little stouter; some hits are tearing the paper occasionally and I want to punch nice, neat holes.

.32 S&W Long- 96gr RNFP over 2.7gr. of Red Dot with a CCI Small Pistol primer. This is a pleasantly snappy load with modest recoil and excellent accuracy

 

Michael Tinker Pearce, 17 November 2017

 

 

First Time out for Pheasant

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OK, not quite, but it was the first time I’ve hunted pheasant since I was stationed at Ft.Riley, Kansas about thirty-five years ago. It all started when I was getting my deer tag at Cabella’s.  The nice lady behind the counter asked, “Would you like Small Game and Migratory Birds?”

“Sure,” I said. “Why not?”

Well, because it got a lot more expensive. When Linda heard what it cost she said, “That’s it- you’re going hunting. Figure out what you need to do and do it.”

Uh… darn? OK, when I was stationed at Ft.Riley Kansas I hunted Prairie Chickens and Pheasant. Not a lot, but I enjoyed it. Of course living in the barracks I had no place to keep birds so one of my colleagues, whom we called The Great White Hunter, had to Tetris them into his already stuffed chest freezer.

When I got out of the army I never got back to bird hunting. OK, I shot some grouse back in the eighties, but that hardly counts. This consisted of walking down a logging road. The grouse would spot us and either stand there staring at us with their beaks literally hanging open until we shot them or they would run away. Straight down the middle of the road away from us. Until we shot them.

One time when we were driving in we ran across a group of six or so. They saw the jeep and ran. Straight down the middle of the road. We followed them for about a hundred yards. “Do you suppose,” I said, “That at some point it might occur to them that they can fly?”

It didn’t, so we stopped, got out and shot them. Stupid birds. Anyway I hadn’t done any wing-shooting since Kansas. I have some nice antique doubles and had been intending to go hunting. Y’know, some day.  OK, looks like that day had arrived. Of course I had no idea how to go about it.  Fortunately we live in the internet age. Pretty quickly someone said, “I could probably take you out on JBLM”

This is Joint Base Lewis Mchord, a very large military installation south of Tacoma. There was a certain symmetry to it since last time I hunted Pheasant was also on a military base. Linda was keen on it; she liked the idea that I would be in a controlled space with folks that knew what they were doing. It appealed to me, too. My host JB is active duty stationed there and explained the process. Basically I had to go to the Skeet range on post, register and pay a fee. That turned into a whole adventure all by itself but we don’t need to go into that.

There was an issue- you can’t use lead shot on post and none of my shotguns are good for shooting steel shot. I can order Bismuth on the internet but it’s heinously expensive and wouldn’t arrive in time. Fortunately JB had a gun I could borrow, so I picked up some #2 steel shot 12-gauge loads. Good enough.

There is a process for hunting on JBLM. First you need to look up where you can hunt what. Then you need to call the day before the hunt and make a reservation. I was advised to call in early, and be prepared to redial a lot. So I was up at 6 am. and started dialing. Over two hours later I finally got through- it turns out the system was down. Oh. Anyway when I finally got in I discovered that JB had already made my reservation. OK then. He also sent me a link to Google Maps that would take me directly to the designated hunting area.

This morning I put on thermals, a t-shirt and jeans and grabbed my ‘please-don’t-shoot-me-orange’ fleece pullover.  I took extra layers in case they were needed, clean socks and shoes to change into on the way home if needed, water, a knife, a cooler etc. A 53 minute drive later and I was there- too early but no problem; I brought my Kindle too.

JB showed up and we chatted- nice fellow. He provided me with a Tri-Star pump shotgun in tasteful woodland camoflage. He also brought a pair of dogs. In fact most people brought dogs. I’ve never hunted with dogs before, but it’s not complicated. I mean it isn’t when it’s not your dog. The primary rule, as you might imagine, is ‘Don’t shoot my dog.” I had kind of assumed that, but I can’t blame JB for mentioning it.

At 1PM we were lined up along the road at roughly 100-foot intervals. Everyone loaded their guns, let the dogs go and we started walking. The area was pretty open- the occasional old tree or stump but mostly wrinkled land covered in grass and low bushes. They guys hunting were great, communicating and making sure everyone was staying safe. When one fellows dog was working a bird too close to use he told us to take the shot. Now that’s a gentleman!

Now, on Ft.Riley we basically just walked through a field until a bird got tired of running away through the grass and took flight. Here the birds don’t flush unless you practically step on them. How stubborn are they? Two dogs actually got hens before they could flush. The dogs were absolutely necessary, and watching JB work the dog was an education. He kept it about 20-25 yards out with verbal commands, and he read the dog like a book. He knew when the dog was onto something, knew where to direct it and could reel him in with a word when he went too far.

Before long people were shooting, and then we flushed a bird. I shouldered the gun, fired… and missed. JB loosed a couple rounds, which also missed. There seemed to be a lot of that going around, which made me feel a little less like an idiot. After two misses I realized I was leading too much. The next two birds I knocked feathers off of but didn’t drop them. JB shook his head and wondered if the birds were in Kevlar. OK, at least I was in the ballpark. Then a bird rose and cut across right to left in front of me and I dropped it. A nice rooster, which the dog obligingly fetched and brought over.  JB knocked down a nice hen, but that was the last shot of the day for us. Around three we called it a day and headed back to the parking lot.

I felt pretty good; I hadn’t shot birds on the wing for 35 years. It would have been nice to take a second bird (there’s a two per day limit) but I was pleased enough. JB actually gave me his hen as did another fellow- damn nice of them! We arranged to do it again next saturday, and I have to say I’m looking forward to it. A nice day out, pleasant company and the added spice of taking home food that I shot myself. Well, a third of it anyway.

On arriving home Linda and Tony took charge of the birds, peeled them, cleaned them and cooked up an excellent dinner.

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Linda dredged the pieces in flour, browned them and simmered them with white wine, salt, pepper and onions for an hour. Not very tender, but very tasty. With a serving of my home-made coleslaw on the side it was wonderful. I’d forgotten how much I like pheasant, and Linda is already planning how to cook the next ones…

To top off an already great day a Facebook friend asked if I might be interested in hunting some geese this week.  Yes. Totally. This will be a genuine first since I’ve never hunted waterfowl before.

“You’re going to need a gun for shooting steel shot,” Linda said. “That bismuth shot is just too damn expensive. We should swing by Ben’s tomorrow.”

So she insists that I go hunting, cleans the birds when I do and says I need another shotgun. Yeah, she’s a keeper.

A special thanks to JB, who walked me through the set up, was good company on the hunt and basically went above and beyond to make sure this old veteran had a great experience.

Hunting Knives

Yeah, I know it’s ‘Tinker Talks Guns’ but this is related. Trust me.  As I mentioned in my last blog we slaughtered a goat last weekend. We’d hoped to slaughter a deer but having failed to encounter one we helped Joanne harvest one of her goats- a process basically identical to harvesting a deer. We used two knives for the entire process- dressing, skinning and butchering. I want to talk a little about those knives and how they worked; give you some food for thought when selecting your own knives for tasks such as these. This is not a tutorial on skinning or butchering, just a commentary on the knives and how they handled the task.

Here are the knives we used-

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The top knife is a Schrade 49er, and is probably 40-50 years old. I inherited it from my Uncle Jim when he passed away. I found it in the bottom drawer of his tool box with the handle and sheath completely covered in green fur. I removed the mildew, then treated the leather with Fiebing’s Carnuaba Wax cream. The blade was lightly polished and I honed the edge with a buffing wheel.

The lower knife is a Case slip-joint that started life as a trapper. Age is unknown, but I believe I bought it used in the 1980s. It went hunting with me frequently in those days and dressed a couple of deer. Eventually it was loaned to a friend and came back with a broken clip-point blade. I was only mildly annoyed; I think I paid less than $10 for the knife and was no longer hunting so it really didn’t matter. The knife floated around with other random possession until I took up hunting again a few years back, at which point I removed the broken blade and center liner and reassembled the knife as a single-blade- sort of a ‘half trapper.’ All I needed to do to prepare it for work was to hone the blade.

The two knives between them did an excellent job- the only thing they weren’t suited to was severing the spine to remove the head. I used a larger knife for this- it wasn’t suited either but managed the task eventually. I think with a little prying at the joints of the spine I could have managed the task with the Shrade at least as well as I did chopping with the larger knife.

I used the Case folder to ‘unzip’ the hide, starting with a cut at the neck. I used the slightly longer Shrade to core the anus. The point of the Schrade was useful in a number of places, like piercing behind the tendons to hang the animal.  The body cavity was opened with the Case since the spey-blade has a lesser chance of slicing the internal organs. We wound up skinning the animal together, Tony working with the Case folder and me with the Shrade. We were able to get the hide off in one piece with no nicks and very minimal damage to the meat. Joanne, the property and goat-owner, refrigerated the hide to be dealt with later.

Tony cut his finger about the time we finished skinning and had to bow out of the butchering. I used the Shrade exclusively for this (except for cutting the thigh-bones) and even though it’s only 4-1/2″ long it was up to the task. Joints were handled by cutting the tendons and breaking them apart, sometimes inserting the point and popping the joint loose enough to break it.

Using these two knives and minor assistance from a chopper the animal went from ‘on the hoof’ to fully butchered in about 2 to 2-1/2 hours. Neither knife needed resharpening during the process, and in fact show no evidence of dulling- impressive! After the work was done the knives were washed in soap and water and the Case folder was thoroughly sprayed inside and out with WD40.

My thoughts? The Case folder could not do the entire job by itself, with the lack of point being a fatal flaw. If the clip-point had still been there it could have done about 90% of the work, but a stout fixed-blade or a bone-saw would be needed for the joints. It was a great knife for skinning the animal though.

The Schrade 49er could have done the entire job by itself provided a chunk of wood or a mallet to hammer it through the thigh-bones.  It’s a great shape for the work- obviously why this basic blade-shape has been a favorite for generations at least. Enough point for the job, plenty of belly for skinning and slicing, long enough to core the anus. I’d thought I would make myself a hunting knife, but why? This one does a great job and has sentimental value.

Pretty happy with both of these knives- and the good news is if you shop antique malls and second-hand shops you could probably pick up both of these knives for $50 or less. It might be worth doing that; I’ve never used a modern equivalent of these knives that held it’s edge as well as these two did. I know there are some that will, but you’ll spend a lot more money on them.

I apologize for the lack of photos- I lost my iPhone somewhere along the way and no-one else thought to take pictures. I did take a picture of some of the results…

Goat Dinner

Goat shoulder and shank, brined overnight then slow-roasted for six hours at 225-degrees with sweet onions and herbs. Delicious, tender and not at all gamey; very like Ostrich actually. Served with home-made coleslaw and steamed asparagus. Wonderful.

These knives will be going with us again this weekend- possibly with the addition of a bone-saw or hatchet for the heavy work. Hopefully this time we’ll be using them on a deer…

Opening Day Report- Deer 1, Hunter 0… Goat -1?!

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About thirty years ago I gave up deer hunting. I hunted on public lands and despite wearing the requisite ‘please-don’t-shoot-me-orange’ vest every time I went out on public lands someone would shoot at me. OK, in fairness I don’t know they were shooting at me, but every time I would hear the passage of the bullet- it was that close.

I don’t know if you have ever heard the sound of a high-velocity bullet passing within inches of you, but it’s not a sound you will mistake for anything else, and it is not a sound you get used to. Trust me on this. Panic-stricken screamed obscenities do not help you to locate a deer either. I began to have an excessive amount of sympathy for the deer, and when I found out I could buy excellent venison at Seattle Exotic Meats my days of deer hunting began to come to an end. The final straw was when the temptation to shoot back nearly overwhelmed me.

Decades later we were visiting a friend on her property near Chehalis Washington when she commented that deer had torn the side off of her greenhouse and eaten pretty much everything. “If they can eat my dinner they can be my dinner,” said Joanne. “I’m going to invite people to come hunt them!”

My wife looked at me and said, “Would you like to do that?”

I considered it. Joanne has 45 acres, with terrain varied from open fields to dense brush. Most importantly it is surrounded by a stout 4′ fence topped with barbed wire and posted ‘No Hunting.’ I felt this drastically reduced the chances of some idiot shooting at me, it would help a friend and, when I thought about it I really wanted to.  I said yes. We discussed logistics and a pact was made. Come hunting season I would go and stay with Joanne and hunt her property.

Linda set out a budget for a deer rifle and gear and I bought an appropriate gun and reassured myself that I could still shoot a rifle. I could still put in MOA groups at 100 yards from the bench, so I geared up and started hunting most autumns.

I never got a deer. I saw deer, I even shot at one (and discovered my scope was broken- a clean miss at 50 yards) but I never got one. I have an unbreakable rule- I don’t shoot unless I know exactly what I am shooting at and what the bullet will hit after passing through the animal. On any number of occasions I could have fired but didn’t because either I could not see the animal well enough to be absolutely certain it was legal, the bullet wasn’t certain to end up somewhere safe or I wasn’t certain of a clean kill.

This is especially important as Joanne’s goats roam the property, and some of them are colored very much like deer. A couple of them would certainly have died if I were less cautious. So I never shot, even on occasions where I technically could have.

This is not to say I did not enjoy myself, and a couple of the stories I got were comedy gold. I rediscovered my love of going out in the brush, the pleasure of hot coffee in the blind in the crisp, still hour before dawn on an autumn morning. Watching and listening to the world wake up around me, the birds and small animals moving around, undisturbed by my quiet presence that made me feel like a part of nature rather than an interloper. Not to mention that Joanne is excellent company and a good cook, and ‘deer camp’ was a well-appointed and comfortable home.

I didn’t need to feel bad about not thinning the deer population either; others of Joanne’s friends managed that quite credibly. This helped with the critters eating her plants, and since the agreement is that we split the deer with Joanne it helped provide her with some  much-needed extra meat over the winter. But frankly the lack of success was getting a bit embarrassing.

This year I actually landed the coveted Opening Day slot at Joanne’s, and our room-mate/housekeeper/surrogate kid Tony was eager to go along. He grew up hunting in Pennsylvania and New England and hadn’t been in years. He was eager enough that he flew in from visiting his girlfriend in Boston after midnight on Friday morning, turned right around and headed out to The Happy Hunting Grounds with me at noon.

Friday was less than stellar- we will draw the curtains of charity over the events of that day except to say that I lost my iPhone on the property, and with no reception there was no good way to locate it. This is why there are no pictures from the weekend. We did manage to get the blind built and walk the property examining the plentiful signs of deer activity. Afterwards we had a lovely dinner and a pleasant evening with our hostess. Up at 5AM, coffee and breakfast and out to the blind.

I am happy to report that my streak of no kills is broken and we returned with a cooler full of meat at the end of the day. The shot was very close range- 20-25 feet- and the bullet passed cleanly through the brain-stem; the animal never even heard the shot and dropped in it’s tracks. You couldn’t ask for a cleaner, more humane kill. Even over iron sights it wasn’t a difficult shot, but I was very satisfied with it.

What? How many points? Well, two I suppose; the critter had two horns. Yes, horns. It was a goat after all. No, I didn’t break my rules. I knew I was shooting a goat and did it deliberately in the presence of Joanne and with her full approval.

The only deer we saw this weekend was the traditional ‘Taunting Deer’ spotted crossing the highway as we were making a run for ice. I’ve mentioned the goats, and the herd was getting a bit heavy on males so Joanne decided to slaughter a few. Tony and I had agreed that among other things we would show her how to dress, skin and butcher a goat in exchange for 1/2 the meat. If we’d gotten a deer we would have demonstrated on that; I watched a few Youtube videos and the process is basically identical. Since we didn’t get a deer Joanne pointed out a goat, a large male that was a certified pain-in-the-ass and said, “That one.”

The plan was to lead the animal away from the others and put a .45 through it’s head, but comedy ensued when the critter elected to demonstrate how it had earned it’s pain-in-the-ass status by refusing to be caught. Finally Tony fetched the rifle and I put a round through it’s skull. The other goats found this mildly alarming and ran off a ways. Dehlilah, the leader of the herd, came over to check out Ebenezer, the victim of our efforts, within moments. “You OK? No? Dead huh- tough luck old chap.”  With that she dismissed him from her thoughts and went about her goatly business undismayed by the intrusion of mortality into her affairs.

Skinning, dressing and butchering the animal went to plan, with Tony and I working together and explaining the process as we went along. Linda and her best friend showed up early in the process, watched and kibitzed. Linda was rather surprised that she wasn’t ‘grossed out’ and found the process interesting. “It’s really no different than watching the videos,” she commented.

I realized in the course of things that I hadn’t skinned an animal in thirty years. It was amazing how easily it came back to me. Like riding a bicycle I suppose. I mean, if the bicycle were dead. And made out of meat. We got the skin off cleanly in one piece, didn’t nick anything unfortunate (except Tony’s finger) and butchering was a doddle. Joanne fried up the tenderloins and we all sampled that- tough but very tasty and hardly gamey at all. We cleaned up the area, washed and oiled the knives and put them and the rifle away, split up the meat and socialized for a bit.

Joanne got to keep the ‘grinder meat’ as she actually has a meat-grinder and we got the kidneys, liver and heart which seem a fair split. Tony is particularly keen on organ meat.

By the time we were finished Tony was dying- or at least wanted to. The combination of jet-lag, lack of sleep and hard work did him in pretty thoroughly. We tabled the idea of further hunting or processing another goat. Since Linda had ridden down with Rena she was available to drive us home, which was a bonus.

For the curious the rifle used was the 7.35x51mm Carcano Mannlicher-style carbine I made from the brutally ugly sporterized rifle that I inherited from my uncle. Ballistics are comparable to .30-30, and the round used was a factory round-nose soft-point that I inherited along with the gun. It has non-adjustable iron sights and shoots to point-of-aim at fifty yards. From a bench it can easily produce 1″ groups at that range. I haven’t fired it at longer distances because I’m not likely to get a shot longer than that where I hunt.

Also used for the skinning and prep was an old Schrade 49er discovered in the bottom of Uncle Jim’s tool-box. The leather handle and sheath were covered with green fur when I found it, but it cleaned up and sharpened easily. Held it’s edge through the entire process too- I’m impressed.

Tony was an excellent companion in the bush- moves well and quietly, knows what to look for and when to keep quiet. I’ll hunt with him any time. Despite a rough start and no deer I can’t be unhappy about the results. As I write this there is a shoulder and shank brining in preparation to being slow-cooked with sweet onions and herbs for Sunday dinner. Yep, not a bad opening day at all.

Michael Tinker Pearce,  15 October 2017

 

Reloading- Cost-Effective?

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Late last winter I finally got a press set up and started reloading. Being a newb at it I am very careful and conservative; no hot loads for this guy.
 
I use a single-stage press, examine every cartridge at every stage, look into each casing after dropping powder to insure the charge looks correct (and is actually there.) After seating the bullet I examine it to insure it is seated to the proper depth and wipe off any excess lube. Every 15-20 rounds I weigh a charge even though my powder-measure has never let me down.
 
It’s not a fast process and I make it a little slower than it needs to be, but I enjoy it. If you factor in my time it’s more expensive than buying ammo- for the more common calibers at least. But a lot of the time it’s easier to make time than it is to make money.
 
Reloading is necessary for me- I like old guns that fire ammo that is scarce and expensive. I mean $35-40 a box. I’d splurge and only shoot them once a year, but now I can have a box of fifty for half the price of a box of cheap 9mm and an hour of my time. My time isn’t cheap, so that’s actually a lot more expensive than simply buying a box of ammo- but that time isn’t part of the cost; it’s part of the reward. I really enjoy reloading; it’s relaxing, both mindless and mindful. Like meditation in a way.
 
I also don’t need to do it all at once. Taking a five-minute break? De-prime some .32 S&W long. Or prime it. Or set the powder-measure. Or charge and seat a dozen rounds. You get the idea.
 
It’s also given me the freedom to indulge myself in terms of which guns I buy. A year ago I passed on a lovely .32-20 at a very good price. This year I wouldn’t need to. 9mm Largo? Why not? I’ll just ‘roll my own.’ Last year I couldn’t afford to shoot .45 Colt; this year I’ve fired over 500 rounds of it- and (original) .44 Colt would have been unthinkable.
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Maybe in a strict financial analysis reloading doesn’t make sense, but it’s the intangibles that make it all worthwhile. Cost-benefit is about more than just money, after all.

The State of the Union… Er… My Collection.

Someone on a forum asked about our satisfaction with the state of our collection, and I have to admit it set me back a little- because even though I don’t think of myself as a collector and never meant to be one I had to admit that I am.

That being said every functional gun I have is a shooter, and every non-functional gun is meant to become one. With the exception of one gun that was a present- an 1884-vintage S&W .38 Double Action (2nd Model) and I still shoot that at least once a year. But really I keep it because it was a present from my sweety and it’s cool.

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I do have a few collectible guns, but they were bought as shooters and I shoot them regularly. This time-warp 1958-vintage Colt Frontier Scout for example- which taught me that I really can still shoot at 25 yards-

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Collectible, yes. But I bought it because I wanted a .22 revolver and it was a smokin’ deal, and if I live long enough I’ll shoot it until it falls apart. Recently I picked up a .32 Colt New Police Detective Special (with a factory hammer-shroud!) for less than half of it’s fair market value. Amazing shooter; fantastic trigger, shoots dead to point of aim. Collectable as hell, but again I will shoot- and carry- this gun because it’s collectable because it’s an excellent gun and that’s what it’s for. All that excellence is there for a reason and meant to be used.

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In recent years my interest has run to modifying guns, so if there is anything resembling a theme to my collection that is it. It started with a Cimarron Richards-Mason conversion in .38 Special and have progressed to a rifle and even cap-and-ball cartridge-conversion revolvers.

That started with a Remington 1858 that I turned into a snubby and bought a Kirst Gated Conversion for that I call ‘The Pug.’

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It’s now progressed to where I did a complete conversion myself, making an 1858 into a .44 Colt by doing my own cylinder and breech-plate. Currently I am turning an 1849 Pocket into a .22 and will be converting a Walker reproduction to fire .45-60 Walker.

I also have non-collectible collectible guns- a pair of S&W Hand Ejectors that I repaired/refinished. Beautiful guns and great shooters now, but their collectibility was compromised long before I got my hands on them.  Then there are the guns referred to collectively as the ‘Steampunk Snubbies,’ a trio of modified S&W top-breaks with ergonomic grips.

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Then their are the shotguns- mostly antique doubles in 12 or 16 gauge. There’s also my M1938 7.35mm Carcano inherited from my Uncle Jim that I made a new stock for and turned into a Mannlicher Carbine. Again, all shooters (though there is one shotgun I haven’t shot yet… but I will!)

My collection isn’t limited to old and modified guns though; I have a Chiappa Rhino, a Para-Ordinance LDA.45 Carry, a 1911A1, and the other modern odds and ends lying about. Naturally there are others; I’m really just hitting the high points here. The common thread there is that they are either particularly interesting mechanically, unusual or they are icons. If I had to select a theme for my collection I think that the closest I could come would be ‘Eclectic, Interesting & Iconic.’

I’m pretty happy with the state of things. There will be more things added and occasionally the odd piece is likely to get weeded out but a collection isn’t a thing, it’s a process.

So how is your collection? What is it’s theme if any, and how pleased are you with the state of it?

Range Report for 23 September

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I’ve long admired the Colt Detective Special. Sized between the S&W J & K frames the Police Positive-based snubby seemed an excellent compromise between them for concealed carry. Unfortunately prices on these guns- never cheap- has skyrocketed in recent years with decent guns starting at around $700 and climbing from there. So when I encountered this example with the rare factory-installed hammer shroud in .32 Colt New Police (.32 S&W Long) for much less than that the hideous fake-stag Franzite grips did not even slow me down. Shut up and take my money!  I consulted Linda, and as she had been recently hinting that it might be time to part with some of the guns I was less interested in we did a little horse trading and took this little beauty home.

According to Colt’s online database the gun’s serial number indicates that it was produced in 1949- remarkable, as aside from surprisingly modest holster-wear the original finish is in excellent condition. The double-action trigger pull is phenomenal, light and super-smooth. But how does it shoot?

To find out I loaded some ammo and trundled off to the range. The answer is it shoots fantastic. This target was shot at a one shot/second cadence at seven yards-

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A second group at that range fired as fast as I could was only about twice this size. I’m deliriously happy with this gun. I’ll be on the lookout for a nice set of factory walnut grips and may add a T-grip adapter but other than that this gun will remain unmolested.

Naturally this was not the only gun that went with me today; a pair of home-grown single-shot .22s also went along for testing. Both had received new barrels made from a used stainless 10/22 barrel I picked up last year. In the case of the first gun, the TP22, I wanted a somewhat longer barrel. It shot pretty well, but my eyes are no longer playing well with the bead front sight; I definitely need new glasses this year. Still, this 7-yard target was not completely embarrassing, but I am loathe to adjust the sights until I can figure out if the seven-yard POI is me or the sights.

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The second gun was my .22 Magnum. After finishing it I pretty quickly found myself tired of paying centerfire prices for non-reloadable rimfire ammunition, so I made a new barrel and reamed it for .22 LR. Not bad at all-

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This target shot at seven yards with a 6 o’clock hold has the gun shooting pretty much to point of aim; more shooting will determine if thew drift to the right is me or the gun. Targets shot with each gun at 25 yards yielded well-centered 4-5″ groups so I am pretty sure it’s me. Need to tighten those up…  I’ll work on that; I have plenty of .22 ammo and if practice doesn’t make perfect it certainly makes better.

Both guns functioned well, and empties were pretty easily flicked out with a fingernail. Some day I’ll make a gun with an extractor; maybe the .22 rolling-block carbine that I’m working on…

A note on the Detective Special- it was being sold at such a low price with the understanding that it has a ‘timing issue.’ If you thumb-cock the gun very slowly it will not quite lock until the hammer actually falls. This cannot be reproduced double-action and as for thumb-cocking you pretty much have to make it happen deliberately. Several people have since told me that this is not a defect and that almost all older double-action Colts behave this way. Maybe so, maybe not but either way it concerns me not at all.

Loads used-

The .22s were firing 40-year-old Sears store-brand ammo inherited from my Uncle Jim. It seems to be pretty good stuff actually and has not suffered noticeably after four decades.

The .32 was loaded with a 96gr. LRNFP bullet over 2.7gr of Red Dot. This load has been chronographed at 900-950 fps out of 4″ guns and it is significantly peppier than factory loads (excepting Buffalo Bore,) but recoil was still mild and as you can see accuracy is excellent. Still I would not recommend it for anything but good-quality solid-frame guns. I would not risk it in a top-break.

Not a long session at the range this afternoon, but overall very satisfactory.

New Project- 1848 Baby Dragoon Conversion

Always on the lookout for a new and interesting way to molest a gun I was pretty excited when a friend that works in a gun shop back east reported that they has a .31 Colt reproduction going cheap- mainly because it had issues like a missing or broken cylinder stop and the trigger didn’t seem to be working. I have a couple feet of 5/16″ outside diameter .22 barrel liner lying around and a cunning plan to put it to use in a .31 Colt, so a quick phone call and it was on it’s way to my eager hands.

It arrived today and is is pretty much as advertised. The cylinder stop and trigger return spring are missing. Further examination found no proof marks of any kind. One side of the barrel is marked, ‘.31 Caliber Black Powder Only.’ The other is marked ‘Made in Italy.
 
Finish is crude in the extreme- there are tooling marks, the cast brass grip-frame is completely unfinished and the wood handle isn’t even close to being fitted to the frame. The finish- and I use the term loosely- appears to be very thin nickel that may have been applied with a garden rake. Sanding marks are plainly visible through it and it is worn away in many places.
 
When the barrel was held up to the light is was solid black inside with no sign of rifling or anything else but gunk. Without much hope I ran a wire-brush dipped in Hoppe’s #9 powder solvent down the bore and scrubbed a bit. It actually pushed a quantity of black dust out of the barrel, and when I looked again I could see rifling. Some patches later and the bore was gleaming and pristine! Running patches into the chambers produces mild rust stains and nothing else. Examining the nipples the are blued and in perfect condition- it has never been fired.
 
So how to explain the unfinished and missing parts, the fact that it has never been fired and the crude finished? It seems obvious to me- this was a kit that someone simply threw together without any attempt to finish it, and they left some parts off. Perhaps this was used as a child’s toy or for costuming; the right-hand side of the grip has ‘CJ’ scratched into it with 16 notches.
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Not at all a large gun- The Outlaw .45 for shown for comparison.
The gun sports a six-inch barrel currently and is complete but for the two parts- which can be had from Dixie Gun Works for $20 total + shipping. The actual parts are for an Uberti, but if the don’t fit I can likely modify them to, or at worst use them as a model to fabricate new ones.
The pristine bore almost convinced me to do a .32 S&W conversion, but I’m not all that sanguine about trusting the cylinder with that. No, .22 LR it is. I’ll get the parts ordered and proceed from there. Of course once the mechanicals are sorted I’ll do the conversion, then a complete finish/refinish. Might take some time to get to this one, but it should be interesting… Naturally I’ll keep you posted.

Test-Firing Two New Remingtons

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I’ve made a Percussion version of the Pug for a buddy and discovered that my First Konverter would drop right in so I decided to test-fire it and my new Remington project. Since the recoil-shield is not cut to load cartridges on either gun it was necessary to remove the cylinder to load and unload, but that’s really not that much of a pain.

The Pug performed flawlessly, firing a little low and left. This will be easily rectified; I won’t even need to remove the sight to do it. Another member of the range, Pat, Also fired it. He loved it- had an ear-to-ear grin, and loved the feel of the gun.

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The new Remington did not do quite so well, not the least because I forgot I had not yet mounted a front sight… oops!  Even so it was no real problem to keep the lead on the paper at five yards. The real problem was that the latch on the longer loading lever was not up to holding the lever against recoil and it dropped as seen in the photo. I will need to redo it with a more robust system. Oh well, live and learn, eh?

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So, a bit of a mixed bag, but mostly good. I very much enjoyed shooting both guns. I’m really looking forward to wrapping up these projects. Now if Grizzly Industrial would just get the damn drive-belt for my lathe to me…

Seriously, I am pissed at them. They held up my order because I had not updated my tax-exempt status- despite the fact that it was a taxable purchase and I had paid tax on it! Morons. It’s straightened out now and the belt will arrive next week. Oh well. Not much to be done except spread the word.

The load used to test these guns was my go-to .45 Colt load- a 200gr. LRNFP over 9.0gr. of Unique with a CCI large pistol primer.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 07 September 2017