A Bit of Fun With Obsolete Guns

Been a good while since I have posted; my apologies, but this is a hobby, and essentials of life occasionally take priority.

Today was my first range-trip in weeks, and I had a number of things to test. Based on past experience I also took several guns that I know work and that I enjoy shooting. It’s annoying to make a range trip and discover that none of the guns are working as they should… Ask me how I know. Go one then, ask!

First up was the Webley RIC. This wasn’t so much a test of the gun as the ammo. Yep, working a treat! Shooting low, but I am reluctant to cut the sight down to bring the POI up; it is a collectible antique, after all. I think I can live with it.

Five shots at seven yards. of course there just had to be a flier…

Next up was Thumper- again, more a test of the ammo than the gun. This gun uses a bespoke cartridge- .44-55 Walker. Essentially a ‘stretched’ .44 Colt, my typical load for this has been a 200gr heel-base bullet over 10 Gr. of Trail Boss. I haven’t fired Thumper a lot because the brass was formed from .303 British- doing this was a major PITA, and only 15 of the original 20 shells survived the process. “Hey Tinker, you know that’s a lot easier if you anneal the brass, right?” Sure, now I know that! Anyway, I’ve also learned that it’s much easier to form the brass from .460 S&W, and wanted to try some of the new shells.

Hey, Champion Arms actually does allow Black Powder on their range- the air-evac/cleaning system whisks the smoke away quite adequately. I decided it was time to try my latest heel-base SWC bullets ( a 200gr. .451/.430 heel-base) over 55gr. of FFFg black Powder. In the picture below the taped-over shots were from an older bullet design, and the dispersion should make it clear why I abandoned that design! The new bullets worked much better.

Shooting a bit low at 7 yards…

I gotta’ tell ya… this thing is a hoot to shoot with black-powder loads! First off the are notably more powerful than the Trail Boss loads I developed for this cartridge. They actually produce enough recoil, even in this 3-1/2lb gun, to rap my middle-finger sharply with the trigger-guard if I am not careful with my grip. The BOOM was impressive enough to make the Range Officer look to see what the hell I was shooting! Very satisfying.

What was not satisfying was that with the BP loads the firing pin is piercing the primers. Have to look into that. I think that in the future I am going to be mostly loading this cartridge with BP.

Another satisfactory test was my third scratch-built cylinder. This is a five-shot .450 Adams cylinder for my second 1858 snubby, made to replace it’s .44 Colt cylinder.

I turned the cylinder from half-hard 4340 round bar, cut the cylinder-notches, line-bored the chambers and then cut the sprocket. It needs a bit of refinement and to be properly finished, but it works. I need to finish it to 320 grit, hone the chambers and tweak the breechplate a little, then rust-blue the lot before I can call it finished. Oh, and remove the .44 Colt marking on the side of the barrel.

No more .44 Colt for this gun- from now on it’s .450 Adams!
The cylinder is relieved between chambers, so that the firing pin can rest securely between the cartridge-case heads with the hammer down.

Next was a new gun. This one is likely to get it’s own blog post- suffice to say for now It has both a .44 Colt converter and a percussion cylinder, both of which need to have the cylinder dismounted for loading/unloading.

The 1858 ‘brasser’ in it’s fitted case with accessories.

The first test was with the .44 Colt cylinder, and it was both satisfactory and rather not. The gun functioned very well, but the ammunition was dramatically underpowered. For all of that it was accurate enough at seven yards-

I think I am done trying to use Unique in this caliber; I’m just not getting consistently good results. Time for another powder or even FFFg black powder. I thought about it and decided, ‘what the hell’ and loaded five rounds into the percussion cylinder. Much more satisfying to shoot- plenty of boom and velocity was much, much better. Accuracy, however, left something to be desired.

cap-and-ball shots- not particularly accurate at 7 yards. I’ll fiddle with it and see if I can’t improve on this.

The gun appears to be shooting consistently low, but I’m not going to mess with the sight until I have a decent .44 Colt load working.

Last but not least I made my third cylinder from scratch for an 1858 Pug. This gun was originally fitted with a .44 Colt conversion cylinder, but I wanted to convert it to .450 Adams- what the heck, I already load that for some of my other guns, so why not? I turned down a piece of half-hard 4340 rod, cut the lock-notches then line-bored the cylinder. After that I reamed the chambers and cut the ratchet. I made a base-plate with a firing-pin mounted and tried it our in the gun.

The new cylinder. It’s relieved between the cylinders so that the firing pin can rest securely between the case-rims with the hammer down, so that all five chambers may be loaded safely.
Mounted in the gun- now that it’s tested I need to hone the chambers and sand everything to 320-grit and rust-blue it to finish it up.

I’ll need to remove the .44 Colt marking from the barrel, naturally.

The business of testing finished it was on to the fun stuff. A facebook group I’m part of is running a Postal Match, and I was about out of time to get my entries in. It’s a very simple course of fire- five rounds at five yards and five rounds at ten. For my centerfire target I chose my S&W 6-1/2″ Half-Target Hand Ejector in .38 Special, loaded with some stout 158gr. RNFP loads. The results weren’t embarrassing- 97/100-3x-

…of course there’s a flyer. Yes, the grips are temporary- theyw ere a Christmas present and are destined to fo on a different gun when it’s finished.

For my rimfire entry I went a rather different direction- my S&W 6. This little gun is hilariously accurate for a pocket-pistol, and the results reflected that- 96/100-1x

This weird little Smith is an excellent little shooter. I’m not sure I’d have done much better than this with a full-sized gun.

I finished out the session by putting practice rounds down-range from my custom Taurus M85 sub-compact. Satisfying but not noteworthy. It’s amazing how well this little gun handles heavy loads.

Overall a great morning at the range- hopefully I’ll be going back soon, but life has been interesting the last couple of months…

Michael Tinker Pearce, 31 March 2019

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Achievement Unlocked- Mauser C96 ‘Broomhandle’

Black Powder is dirty, dirty stuff- so dirty in fact that practical self-loading weapons simply weren’t viable, as powder fouling would quickly render them inoperative. But with the advent of clean-burning smokeless powders not only were semi-autos viable, but they also allowed the production of small-bore high-velocity bullets. This turned out to be precisely what was needed to allow an explosion of creativity in the field of handguns, and within a very few years semi-automatic pistols were being sold commercially.

‘Broomhandle’ Mauser

The Mauser C96 was not the first of these, but it was the first to achieve widespread acceptance and commercial success, with over a million of them produced by Mauser, and millions of ‘knock-offs’ being created in Spain, China and other places.

The C96 was introduced to the market in 1896, and it was a whole new ballgame. Chambered in the powerful 7.63x25mm Mauser cartridge, it’s fixed box magazine held 10 rounds. The .30 caliber cartridge launched an 86gr. copper-jacketed round-nose bullet at 1450fps., producing a respectable 402 ft./lbs. of energy at the muzzle.

Endless variants and knock-offs of this gun were made over the next 4 decades; a ‘compact’ version with a shorter barrel and a six-shot magazine, guns with fixed or removable ten or twenty-round magazines, even a full-auto version. Guns were often equipped with a wooden stock/holster combination that led to the Chinese nicknaming the gun ‘the box cannon.’ In the west it was known almost universally as the ‘Broomhandle,’ owing to the shape of its grip.

The gun was extensively exported to China as it circumvented restrictions on arms sales to that nation, and soon indigenous copies were being made in calibers ranging from .32 ACP to .45 ACP- the famous ‘Shanzu’ .45s. Mauser itself made the gun in 7.63 Mauser, 9mm Parabellum and even some in 9x25mm, which in it’s original loading spat a 128gr. bullet at 1340fps. for a muzzle energy of 510ft./lbs. of energy, making it one of the most powerful commercially available handgun cartridge until the introduction of the .357 Magnum.

There were military contracts for these guns, but Germany only used them as a ‘second-standard’ and special use weapons. They saw fighting in the Boer War, WW1, the Spanish Revolution and WW2 as well as many smaller, regional conflicts. By the mid 20th Century the Broomhandle Mauser was an iconic firearm, world-wide.

It’s not my intent to list a complete history of this gun and it’s variants; that’s the subject for a book. A book like this one, in fact-https://www.amazon.com/Mauser-Self-Loading-Pistol-Jack-Dunlap/dp/0875051081/ref=sr_1_4?crid=3PNJHMBL4XB7P&keywords=mauser+broomhandle&qid=1551635163&s=books&sprefix=Muaser%2Caps%2C200&sr=1-4-catcorr

No, this blog is because after wanting one of these guns for my entire adult life I have finally gotten one! Less than 24 hours after resolving to moderate my firearms purchases this year I encountered this gun at- where else? Pinto’s, and at a ridiculously low price; a previous owner had the gun nickel-plated, thus ‘ruining’ it for collectors. Well, their loss is my gain!

The gun is a ‘pre-war’ commercial production New Safety model made in 1915-1916. Yes, I know that is actually during WW1, but because series production began prior to the war these guns are still classified as ‘pre-war.’ The gun is overall in very good condition, and it was provided with two stripper clips for loading the ten round magazine. These only hold eight rounds, because these are not Mauser clips; I think they are actually for a Steyr. They work well enough for the moment, but I will be seeking the proper clips.

First thing to understand is that by modern standards this is a fairly terrible gun. It’s quite large for it’s barrel-length, cartridge and capacity, it’s a bit awkward, the high bore-line exaggerates muzzle-flip and the lack of a removable magazine is a serious deficit. Yeah, I don’t care. This represents the very first time someone got it right, so it’s unreasonable to expect them to have gotten it perfect.

The grip is actually more comfortable than it looks, and the thumb safety is easy to access and operate. The gun points well, and has decent sights. Highly optimistic sights, mind you; they are calibrated out to 1000 meters. I imagine that, using them, an unusually proficient shooter might manage to hit a decent-sized house at that range, especially if using the stock/holster.

To load the weapon you pull the bolt to the rear, and it will lock open on the empty magazine. You insert a clip loaded with up to ten rounds into the guides at the rear of the magazine, then using your thumb you push down on the cartridges so that they are forced into the magazine. When all the rounds are in the magazine you pull the clip out and the bolt will close and chamber a round. With this gun the process irs rendered a little fussy from having the wrong clips, but it works. Apply the safety by pushing it upward and you are ready to go.

The safety deserves some mention here; originally the safety on these guns was on in the down position, but they reversed this relatively quickly. The New Safety on this gun may be applied with the hammer down or in the cocked position, allowing the gun to be carried ‘cocked-and-locked. According to sources this safety requires the hammer to be pulled back beyond the cocked position to apply it, which is fussy and kind of stupid, as it means you need to use both hands to apply the safety. Contrary to this mine can be applied with the hammer in the cocked position, making it much easier to use. It does cam the hammer back slightly. I’m researching this now. There is no doubt that this is a proper ‘New safety’ gun; it is marked as such, has the correct hammer and it’s production-date is right. The way mine operates could be a result of wear or deliberate modification. I’ll look at this when I remove the fire-control group.

So how does it shoot? Very well indeed.

Fired strong-hand at 7 yards
Rapid-fire at seven yards
Slow-fire at fifteen yards

As usual, the gun is more accurate than I am. The sights aren’t actually terrible, but being covered in nickel makes them a bit hard for me to resolve. I’ll be painting the rear sight black, and probably red for the front sight. That, and more importantly more practice, ought to improve my results.

I have to say that the gun has lived up to my expectations, and I am delighted to finally own one!

Michael Tinker Pearce, 4 March 2019