.44 Colt- That Hollow Feeling…

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Custom 1858 reproduction converted to fire .44 Colt

.44 Colt ain’t what it used to be. No, really; originally designed for cap-and-ball revolvers converted to fire metallic cartridges, it had straight-wall chambers and used heel-base .451″ diameter bullets.  Modern .44 Colt (basically invented by Italian gun companies) has a .429″ bore and is basically a slightly shortened .44 Special with a smaller rim.

I’ve done conversions in .44 Colt before, and since cap-and-ball .44s are actually .45s, I swaged my own heel-base bullets. These work pretty well, and with a couple of extra steps in the reloading process they were only a bit of a pain in the butt. Enough of one that I started to wonder if there might not be another way…

Delving into history-  Heel-base bullets are the same diameter as the outside of the cartridge case, with a section of reduced diameter at the rear to fit inside the case,  like a .22 Long Rifle cartridge. On firing pressure caused the soft lead base to expand to bore diameter… or nearly enough. But in the days of black powder lubricated bullets were vital, and to insure they worked properly the lubricant had to be on the part of the bullet that was outside the case.

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Modern Heel-Base .44 Colt. Note the band of lubricant just above the casing.

This is problematic because the lube can pick up dust and grit, and under the right conditions even melt.  44 Colt waned in popularity as cartridge conversion and open-top revolvers were gradually phased out, but two other heel-base Colt cartridges lasted well the early 20th Century- .38 Colt and .41 Colt. These two cartridges, however, lost their heel-base bullets in favor of smaller-than-bore-diameter hollow-base bullets that fit inside the cartridge and would (hopefully) expand to engage the rifling when fired. This was desirable because then the band of lubricant was protected inside the case, as with other modern rounds. These more or less worked, but were never an ideal solution.

Coming back to the present I wondered if a .429 Hollow-Base Wad Cutter, cast in soft lead, might be the answer to simplifying my reloading. I could reload them like conventional bullets and it would all be good. I decided to give it a try– only to discover that no one seems to sell .429 HBWCs commercially. Perhaps I could eventually track down a specialty manufacturer that makes them, but that would inevitably come at a specialty price. Or I could swage my own…

Turning to the lathe I made a punch to create the hollow base, then I bored a .430″ hole in a block of mild steel to form a die- not entirely through, but deep enough to leave a hole approximately .320″in the bottom so I could punch the bullets out of the die.

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The punch, die and the punch used to drive the bullet out of the die after swaging, with two cartridges loaded with the resulting HBWC bullets.

Some time ago I picked up a small bag of 225gr wadcutters from the reloading odds-and-ends shelves at Pintos, and these seemed a good candidate for the process. Very shortly I was producing quite credible 225gr HBWCs.

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These are a fair bit longer than the original bullets, so I decided to load them with a portion of the bullet outside the casing like a more conventional bullet. Of course there is no loading data for this bullet, but after some research I decided 5.0gr. of Unique with a CCI300 primer would be a reasonable place to start. I loaded up a box of ammo and headed to the range to test them.

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First target shot with the hollow-base wadcutters.  The lowest impact appears to have been yawing when it hit the paper, but it did not key-hole.

The actually seem to work pretty well. Out of the box I fired three yawed and one key-holed (hit the target sideways.)  I reckon that’s not too bad for a first attempt.

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Three bullets passed through the uppermost hole, and one quite plainly hit sideways (at the bottom of the hole)
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The final target of the day I knuckled down and tried for accuracy, and was rewarded two hits in the 7-ring and one int the 6-ring… and yes, two in the 4-ring. nobody’s perfect, right?

Clearly accuracy of the bullets isn’t an issue; though mine could justly be called into question. At this point I’d call these bullets a qualified success. As far as the load goes it is quite light- maybe too light. I’m going to work up a little bit and see if that increases rifling engagement enough to get rid of the occasional yawing issues.

This is also the first time I’ve fired this gun on the range; that’s not really what this post is about, so I’ll just briefly say there were some minor issues, but nothing that isn’t easily fixed. It also shoots rather high, so I may replace the front sight. I might not too; hits are well centered when I do my part, and that’s all to the good.

Thanks to liberalgunowners.org for the targets!

 

Michael Tinker Pearce, 6 November 2018

 

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A Tale of Two Holsters

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Detonics Mk.1 Combat master .45, likely made in the early 1980’s.

I’ve been needing a holster for the Detonics Combat Master ever since Linda got it for me last June. Over the summer I used a pocket-holster, and that was fine, but now that the weather is cooling something less discrete would likely serve me better.

I’ve been making my own holsters since the 1980s (I’m a cheap bastard,) and eventually I got around to making one for this gun. Nothing fancy, just a simple OWB with a thumb snap for retention.

I like it pretty well; carries the gun high, nice and secure and disengaging the thumb-snap leaves my thumb ideally positioned to sweep the safety off. The leather is well away from the trigger-guard so I can get a proper grip when drawing.  The problem is it’s less discreet than I was wanting; the shape does not hold the butt of the gun in tight enough. Sure, it will work OK under a winter coat, but I really wanted something lower-profile. Something that might be hidden under a bulky sweater or lighter jacket.

I was talking it over with my buddy Pat and he said he had just the thing- it was even made for a Detonics.  I could try it out if I liked. Why not?

The holster in question is an OWB pancake holster made by K Rounds of Tukwilla, WA. In a fit of creativity they named it the OWB Pancake Holster.  It’s Kydex, very nicely molded to the firearm and curved to match the contour of the waist.

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Nicely shaped with a slight forward cant. There is an adjustable tension screw just ahead of the trigger guard that allows you to adjust how firmly it grips the gun. The sweat-guard completely covers the hammer and safety.
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Ask me how I know it was made for a Detonics. Go on, ask me.
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the curve holds the gun quite close to the body, and the kydex belt loops are very stout.

I didn’t need to adjust the tension screw; the gun was held quite securely, but remained easy to draw. Attempting to shake the (unloaded) gun loose required more force than one would be likely to encounter.  Being kydex the holster weighs basically nothing. Worn at the 4-o’clock position the gun was kept tight to the body. The gun was adequately concealed under a light jacket, and quite easy to access and draw. Overall it was very comfortable, but…

That sweat-guard. It isn’t my favorite. It would occasionally poke me when sitting or driving, and it was a bit in the way of my thumb when drawing the gun.  Understand, I’m picking nits here; it pokes me because I’m fat, and the thumb thing is a problem because I’m a dinosaur who insists on using a 1911-pattern gun. This would not be an issue for more modern guns like a S&W Shield or Glock. Anyway, I’ve been living with the holster for most of a week, and while I am not a big fan of kydex I would not be unhappy to keep right on living with it.

These holsters are available for right or left-handed people, and you can select the amount of cant etc. when ordering. They offer this holster for a lot of different handguns, and for $64.99 I think you could do a lot worse; this is a solid, quality product that delivers the goods. I would recommend it. You can find it here: K Rounds OWB Pancake.

So, is my search for a holster at an end? Nope- as good as the K Rounder is I’ll be making another holster soon. I really do prefer leather over kydex.  I also like the security of a thumb-snap; in the real-world I’m not sure it’s better than a kydex tension holster, but I feel better with one. Especially on a short gun worn high on the belt. Besides, making holsters keeps me from getting in worse trouble…

Thanks to Pat Hillyer for the loan of the holster!

Michael Tinker Pearce,  1 November 2018

 

 

 

 

 

Range Report- the Custom Taurus M85

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The first range trip for the Taurus is finished, and I have to say it went well. I took several loads ranging from mild to +P.  The loads used were:

125gr TCL over 5Gr. of Unique with a CCI500 primer (mild load) These were very  low recoil and easy to shoot.

125gr JHP over 5.3gr. Unique with a CCI500 primer (Maximum SAAMI load) Comfortable to shoot.

146gr HJSWCHP over 4.5gr. of Unique with Federal SPP (No data- may be +P) I’ve liked Speer’s Half-Jacketed Semi-Wadcutter Hollow Point since the ’80s in .357 Magnum loads. Had a few of them lying around so I thought I’d try them. Surprisingly comfortable to shoot.

158gr. LSWC over 4.5gr. Unique with federal SPP (+P load) These loads produced conspicuously more recoil than any of the others. It wasn’t too bad, but I wouldn’t want to shoot more than a few cylinders of them.

160gr. HJSWC over 4.0gr. Unique with Federal SPP   Comfortable to shoot.

At seven yards all loads shot More or less to PoA using a six-o’clock hold. As you’d expect the +P loads had markedly more recoil, but were still manageable. I shot mostly at 7 yards; this is the distance I use most for defensive shooting training, and I am well acquainted with what I can do with a short-barrel revolver at this range. All shooting was done double-action. While it is possible to cock this gun and fire single-action I don’t recommend it and don’t intend to do it. Here are the relevant results-

Targets
From left to right- all targets fired at 7 yards. The first target was two cylinders, five shots in five seconds each.  The middle target (after about twenty-five more rounds) is two cylinders rapid-fired. The final target was the last fired for the day and was rapid-fire.

Despite the unconventional grip it wasn’t hard to shoot this gun. As you may have seen in the video in my previous post about this gun the ergonomics of the handle force me into a very high grip, which aids a great deal in control. It didn’t take me long to get dialed in with this gun, and I have no doubt I’ll improve with practice.

I did try the 146gr. Speer bullets at 25 yards, and we will draw the curtains of charity over the results. The shots were mostly on the paper, but that’s about the best that can be said. I expect that too will improve with practice. I’m happy with the results so far; enough so that I feel comfortable carrying his piece for self-defense.

That being the case I made my typical pocket-holster- a simple piece of leather folded over rough-out, glued and riveted together and finished with Carnuaba wax. Ugly but functional.

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So far this little experiment seems to be working out nicely. I’ll be pocket-carrying this piece, practicing deploying it etc. and see how it works out. It’s possible that it will be necessary- or at least desirable- to tweak this design a bit here or there. I’ll keep you posted.

Happy Halloween!

Michael Tinker Pearce, 31 October 2018

P.S.- This thing needs a name. Linda has already expressed her intent to beat me with it if I name it Mini-Taur, so that’s out…

The J-Frame*- How Small Can It Get?

*Yes, I know a Taurus M85 and a Rossi M68 are not really J-Frames, but they are the same size. Additionally one of them is derived from the S&W and the other is a direct copy.

For many years custom gunsmiths have produced trimmed-down J-Frames for deep-cover concealed carry.  Then a while back (2014) Taurus introduced a gun called the 85-VTA, or Model 85 View. This was a Model 85 smoothed out and minimized for concealed carry, and as a special added feature the side-plate was Lexan so you could see the internals.

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This gun is seriously light. Like 9-1/2 ounces light.  Between that and the tiny grip most commentators have said that it is quite unpleasant to shoot; one thick-fingered individual was actually bleeding after ten shots. It is also difficult to maintain a consistent grip with two hands; the reviewers I watched all had to resettle their grip between shots, and this is death on rapid, accurate fire.

I don’t mean to insult this gun- except for that stupid see-through side-plate; I’ll happily insult that. This is a gun with a purpose- to be the smallest, lightest, easiest to conceal gun of its type.  They work well and can even achieve reasonable accuracy. The tiny grip and short sight radius don’t make this easy, mind you, and the very unpleasant recoil doesn’t encourage mastering it. That means that for all but the most dedicated users this will be a point-blank ‘Get off me!’ gun. Fair enough- that’s what it was made to be and it does that job well.

The very short ejector rod works surprisingly well- until you get a sticky case. But, given the gun’s mission, fast reloads take a back-seat to conceal-ability, and that’s not an unreasonable trade off. As a deep-cover gun or back-up it fits the bill admirably, but as a general carry gun it is compromised in a number of ways.  Personally I’m not happy with those compromises; I want a carry-gun that retains the capability of getting hits out to 25 yards, is easy and pleasant to practice with, but still as concealable as is reasonably possible.

This led me to wonder- how small can a gun like this get without being compromised? At least not more than a typical example of a J-Frame sized gun? I needed to establish my criteria for this project. First- sights as good as a typical factory gun. Second- a grip that, while significantly more concealable than a factory grip, does not brutalize you when you fire it.  Third- a more effective ejector. Fourth- a steel frame. This one seems to run counter to mission, but I believe you need a carry gun that is not actively unpleasant to shoot so that you will actually feel motivated to practice with it. But given the mission of a deep-concealment gun it ought to be reasonably light, leading to… Fifth- a target weight between 15-20 ounces.

I had an old Rossi M68 (a part-for part clone of a S&W Model 60) and set to work. I got it to an interesting configuration that met my goals, but that gun had a hard life, and failure after failure led me to eventually retire it and put the project on the back-burner. Then this week a Taurus Model 85 came my way, completely stock with the original-style wood grips.

This is a good, inexpensive work-horse of a gun, and made a fine starting point for resuming this project. Experience with the Rossi had taught me what I wanted, and I set about it.

A hammer-spur on a revolver like this is definitely a no-no, so I bobbed the hammer with a cut-off wheel and files, then polished the result. I have to confess I didn’t remove the hammer to do this, I simply masked off the gun to keep the nasty little metal bits from getting into the works. I polished up the result and moved on.

I made note of the maximum travel of the mainspring guide-rod, and cut the grip-frame just below this. (Note- S&W and Rossi guns have the serial number on the bottom of the grip-frame- cutting this entirely off is a Federal crime! There are work-arounds to do this legally but they are a major pain in the ass.)

 

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The cut grip-frame and a piece of spring-steel that will become the new bottom of the frame.
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Ready to weld, with all the bits held securely in place my my big-ass magnet.
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Here’s the back of the frame gas-welded…
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…and the front.

With the frame shortened I cleaned up the welds, re-profiled and refinished the frame.

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The grip-frame size is now comparable to the M85 View.

By this point the project had me in it’s teeth and I forgot to take more in-progress photos. Oops… Next I shortened the barrel by 1/2″ using my metal-cutting bandsaw and my belt-grinder. I re-crowned the barrel and re-contoured the bottom corner of the barrel-shroud, then polished it and re-blued it. During the cutting, grinding and polishing operations I had cleaning patches stuffed in the bore to keep the nasty stuff out. Afterwards I cleaned the barrel in the usual fashion to remove any residue.

To finish things off I relieved the trigger-guard at the front on the right side to make access to the trigger a bit faster and more comfortable, then took the corners off the cylinder release and polished it. I refinished everything and was ready to move on to the grips.

These are important- I had a frame sized similarly to the M85 View, but these are notably uncomfortable. I wanted something as concealable but significantly more comfortable, consistent with the mission of making a gun that was not obnoxious to practice with.  I had made a pair of custom Zebrawood handles for the Rossi, and these were easily adapted to the Taurus.  These grips were carefully shaped for the mission and are very flat.

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A bit hard to see, but the handles are very low-profile.

So- the gun was basically finished, and excepting the extra 1/4″ of barrel it’s as small as the M85 View. More than double the weight at 19.2 ounces unloaded, but I am a big guy and that doesn’t bother me.

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In this picture you can see the cut-way trigger guard, which makes it faster to transition from a safe trigger-finger position to a firing position.

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The grip has a single finger-groove, but it is actually a two-finger grip; the ring-finger actually wraps around the grip from underneath. It’s surprisingly secure and comfortable. But how is it to shoot?

Today I ran five rounds of ‘warm’ 173gr. LSWCs, and ten rounds of 125gr.JHPs loaded to maximum SAAMI standard pressure (but not +P. ) So how did that go? Unfortunately the video of the 173gr loads did not work out, but you can see the 125gr. loads-

Shooting the gun!

There is more muzzle-flip than it would appear in the video, but at 30 frames per second it shows up poorly. The gun was quite civilized to shoot with both loads, so much so that I expect even occasional +P loads would not be too abusive.  I wasn’t particularly focused on accuracy, but even so all rounds hit in a fist-sized group at five yards.

So it seems I have created what I set out to- a very compact J-frame sized revolver that does what I want it to do.  Now I am going to live with it for a while and see how well it does the job. I’ll be doing a more extensive test on my next range trip, and will report further on this gun then.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 28 October 2018

 

 

Range Report for 16 October 2018- Less is More!

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Custom Hawe’s Western Marshall .45 Sheriff’s Model

Two things to test today- two new .45 Colt loads, and the Helwan .380 conversion. The .45 loads in question are for when I am using this gun as a sidearm for hunting. Both use a 270gr. Kieth bullet, but one load uses 8.0gr. of Unique and should get about 825fps out of this gun. The other is a +P load with 9.0gr. of Unique, probably pushing the bullet out at 900+fps.  Both loads use CCI300 large pistol primers.

I started out with the 9.0 gr. loads at seven yards. They definitely have some recoil, but easily manageable in this gun. The problem was I could not get a good tight group with them. OK, moving on…

The 8.0gr. load is, make no mistake, a stout load. It was notably easier on the hand, and groups were acceptable. My instinct to not adjust the sights until I tried this load were justified; as you can see unlike the 200gr. loads this one does not shoot low.  Now if I can stop pulling them to the right…

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OK, time to test the Helwan .380 conversion. This was the first range outing for this gun and I was curious to see how it would go. I had fifty rounds of mixed .380 ammo; some 96gr. FMCRN from PPU, and some handloads with a Montana Gold 90gr BPRNL over 2.0gr. of Red Dot with a CCI500 small pistol primer. So, how did it perform?

I loaded the first magazine and dropped the slide using the slide-stop and- stovepipe. Not good. OK, cleared and reloaded and this time pulled the slide to release it. Fed like a champ. This proved to be the rule- if you release the slide with the slide stop it stovepipes. OK then. I ran a target out to 7 yards, took a deep breath and fired. The gun functioned flawlessly with both types of ammo. I loaded five rounds at a time for a bit, then started loading it with the full seven rounds it will take. Never a bobble. I was ecstatic.

Truth be told I was far more interested in the gun functioning than in shooting to the gun’s accuracy potential. Also, as you can see, the gun is shooting low.  There’s no room for shortening the front sight, so a taller rear sight is in this gun’s immediate future. There is one other small problem- it’s crunching about half the brass.

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Not certain what is causing this, but both my handloads and the PPU ammo are pretty wimpy stuff; maybe that’s the problem. Also there is a till some slight ballooning of the brass, but no worse than I have seen from some other guns.

So, 9mm converted to .380, and the lighter of two .45 Colt loads worked the best. Just today, in these cases, less is more.

 

Michael Tinker Pearce, 16 October 2018

 

 

 

Helwan .380 ACP Conversion, Part 2

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When we left Part 1 the Helwan was basically stock except for the magazine and the lock being disabled, and was more or less functional.  It would still feed 9x19mm from a stock magazine, and the .380 rounds were headspacing off of the extractor in the oversized chamber.  The chamber was causing the brass to ‘balloon’ noticably. Not good.

First things first- getting a proper chamber that headspaces off the cartridge lip as it should.  I put the barrel in the vice, mounted a .442″ drill bit in the headstock and bored out the chamber. Next I cut a piece of .356″ barrel liner slightly over-length. NOTE- I bought this rifled barrel liner from Numerich Arms, and both guns I lined with it will keyhole bullets at 7 yards– it sucks as barrel liner but is pretty good for lining chambers.  The outside diameter is .440″ so it fit snugly in the bored-out chamber. I slathered it with solder flux, pressed it in and silver-soldered the liner in place. After that I cut the extractor notch and re-ground the feed ramp. I then reamed the chamber so the ammo would headspace on the cartridge lip.

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From left to right- the liner in position ready for soldering, the extractor notch and feed ramp ground (post-solder,) and the chamber reamed to depth for .380 ACP

To decrease the ‘stock’ appearance of the gun and just because I liked the look I cut 1/4″ of the end of the barrel so it was flush with the slide and lightly re-crowned it.

I test-fired the gun, and the results were inconsistent. I kept having to tweak the feed lips on the magazine, Eventually I reached the conclusion that the magazine was so crappy that the feed lips got deformed every time the gun was fired. Fortunately I had bought two magazines, and the second was stainless, and a good deal stouter that the first. It was also slightly shorter, so I replaced the base plate with an aluminum spacer to make up the difference in length.

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Despite the magazine body being shorter it still holds eight rounds.

this pretty much did for the issues, and I was able to modify the follower\ so that it actuates the slide lock- the gun now locks back after the last round in the magazine is fired.

That being done I decided to modify the plastic grips. Yes, I’ll be making wood handles for it eventually, but I wanted to experiment with the shape a bit. I also domed the grip-screws and re-blued them. They are more comfortable now, and it’s much easier to remove the safety.

Lastly I ground off the writing on the slide and flat-ground both sides at the front. I then used the turbo carver and a tiny carbide bur to engrave .380 ACP on the slide, then re-blued it as well. The engraving doesn’t look too bad; it actually looks better IRL than it does in the photo.

So, this is the basic form of the gun. Eventually it will get wood grips and a modified front sight, but that’s about it.Here’s where we’re at as of this evening-

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Michael Tinker Pearce, 15 October 2018

Helwan .380 ACP Conversion, Part 1

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In the early 1950s Egypt ordered modified Beretta M1951 Brigadier pistols for their military and police. They liked them, but didn’t like the modifications that they themselves had specified. MAADI, Egypts largest gun manufacturer, then licensed the rights to produce the M1951, bought equipment and tooling from Beretta and produced them as the Helwan.  A few decades back Interarms started importing these guns.  They called them the Helwan Brigadier.

These guns were not well-finished like their Beretta counterparts, but they were cheap and for the most part worked well enough for while. MAADI, unfortunately, did not do a good job heat-treating the locking blocks that the gun depends on, and these wore rather quickly, unless you fired +P ammunition, in which case they wore out right now.  Before long these parts became difficult, then impossible to find. Locking blocks for the Beretta-made 1951s were out of production, and soon they were almost as hard to find as the MAADI parts.

When my Helwan packed it in one only very occasionally saw a Beretta barrel w/locking block for sale- generally for more than you would pay for a Helwan.  I had a Beretta m1951 by this point, and saw no purpose in spending money on the Helwan. It spent several years doing duty as a paperweight after donating it’s magazines to my Beretta.  I occasionally considered fabricating a new locking block in my shop, but it just seemed like more effort than the gun was worth. This last week it occurred to me- what if the gun didn’t need a locking block?  Dead simple top grind the locking lugs off the block, rendering the gun a blow-back.

Of course you’d have to be a madman to fire 9x19mm out of this gun as a blow-back pistol, and if you did you might just eat the slide. But what about .380 ACP? It could work. Of course nobody really needs a full-sized service pistol in .380, but it’s better than a full-sized service pistol paperweight.  Besides, Linda always enjoyed shooting the Helwan, and as a range pistol who really cares about the caliber? I’m set up to reload .380, and it’s even cheaper to reload than 9mm.  Besides, it would be interesting.

First things first- grind off the locking lugs from the locking piece, and grind down the pin in the breech that normally pushes the lock up to disengage it. reassembled the pistol and it hand-cycled fine.

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Locking block with the lugs ground off, so I guess now it’s just a block… Necessary to locate the recoil-spring guide rod correctly…
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…which it does just fine when the gun is reassembled.

I experimented to see if it would chamber a .380 round from the stock magazine. It would, and further it would hand-cycle rounds into the chamber and eject them. But would they cycle the gun? Yes, they will.  But the feed lips of the stock magazine are so far back the round actually leaves the magazine before it enters the chamber, which seems fine when you are hand-cycling the gun, but at the full cycling speed of the gun it either stovepipes the round it’s trying to chamber or throws it right out of the gun with the empty cartridge. Yeah, that’s not going to work…

I tossed around several schemes of varying practicality before arriving at a simple idea- use a .380 magazine mounted in a chassis that mimics the original magazine. This had the added advantage that I wouldn’t need to cannibalize a perfectly good magazine for my Beretta.

I swung by Ben’s Loans and pawed through their Box-o’-Random-magazines and found one that had the same angle as the Helwan magazine. I forked over $8 and was ready to get started.

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Left- the mystery .380 Magazine.  Center, the Helwan magazine and right, the piece of aircraft aluminum that will become the magazine Chassis.
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Fitting the magazine ‘blank’
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A few minutes of filing later…
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The magazine blank relieved for the slide-lock and with the magazine reliease notch… cut on the wrong side. Oops.

 

OK, I cut the mag-release notch on the wrong side- an oops, but easy to fix. Next up was turning my aluminum faux magazine into something useful.

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Here I have recut the .380 magazine to mimic the stock magazine,  removed the protrusion at the front of the base-plate and marked where to cut away the aluminum chassis
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Here is the magazine mounted on the chassis. It’s basically glued in place. I had serious questions about the strength of this, but it seems fine; there’s really not anywhere the magazine can go.

I had to modify the follower and tweak the feed lips, but soon the gun would hand-cycle cartridges reliably.  Time for the real test. I loaded five rounds into the magazine and fired into the bullet trap. It cycled, but the second round stove-piped. I tweaked the feed lips some more and tried again. This time it worked, but I needed to give the slide a little assist to get the next round chambered. The last three rounds worked fine.

Two more five-round magazines also worked, so it’s basically running, though I am not satisfied yet- there are still two things I want to fix.

1) I want to make a new follower that will activate the slide hold-open on the last round. This is pretty easy- it’s just cutting and bending a flat piece of metal.

2) I want to do something about the chamber. Since 9mm is not straight-walled the rounds are a bit loose, which is hard on the brass. Also, the rounds are headspacing on the extractor- which is not a good way to do things and will probably prove unreliable in the long run.  Worst of all if you stick a factory magazine in, the gun will still chamber 9x19mm, which would probably damage the gun and might be quite dangerous.

Most likely I will bore out and sleeve the chamber, them ream it for .380ACP. This will solve all the issues (and probably create some new ones, but I’ll deal with that as it goes.) The I may do something to address the cosmetics and make the gun more distinct. I’ll also mark the gun for .380 ACP

Anyway, the gun is functioning relatively well, so part one is complete.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 13 October 2018

 

 

 

 

Bring Enough Brain to the Fight

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Gratuitous .45 Picture

‘Bring enough gun to the fight.’ You’ll hear this a lot in self-defense circles. The question is what is ‘enough’ gun? Here’s the rub- nobody knows.  Every instance of self-defense is unique. A tiny .22 Derringer might be enough, or a Glock 17 with three spare mags might not be enough.  The only thing we can know in  for certain in advance is that no gun will never be enough gun.

A gun you don’t have with you when you need it is useless.  A small, easy to conceal gun is more likely to be with you.  The problem is that small guns, while more concealable, can be harder to deploy and shoot accurately.  Small guns are often chosen by people getting their first gun for self-defense because they are easier to hide and less intimidating to them- but they may be exactly the opposite of what they need.

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Really little pistol

Practice is essential, and small guns are often not much fun to practice with, especially for a novice. They are harder to shoot accurately, which can make them frustrating and less satisfying to shoot. Depending on the type and caliber the recoil can be punishing as well, which can teach the new shooter to flinch.  It’s easy  to give up.  Despite being harder to conceal a new shooter might be better served by a medium-frame gun, such as a Glock 19 or a K-Frame revolver.  Something with mild recoil and decent sights. After they become proficient with that they can move to a more compact gun with a similar or the same mechanism.

More advanced shooters will have less problem with small guns, and some (like me) will relish the challenge of shooting them quickly and accurately. Even a very small gun can surprise you- there’s nothing inherently less accurate about a gun with a short barrel. The short sight radius can make it hard to wring ultimate accuracy from them, but if you learn the fundamentals well enough- sight picture and trigger control- they can be very accurate indeed, and at much longer distances than most people suspect.  At any rate a small gun may be better suited to more experienced shooters, a medium or even full-sized gun better for a novice.

Some people feel quite adequately armed with a snub-nosed .38. Some feel better with a high-capacity 9mm.  Neither one is necessarily wrong.  Given the chaotic and unpredictable nature of an armed self-defense incident either or both could be right or wrong.  So how can you have the best odds of having enough gun when you need it?

Bring enough brain to the fight.

People think of Situational Awareness in terms of being observant of the world around them, and while that’s part of it there’s more to consider.

*Be aware of your limitations.  You need to have a realistic appraisal of your gun-handling and shooting skills. If you can’t reliably put hits on the target at fifteen yards then you probably shouldn’t try in a shooting incident if you have any choice. Better to put your energy into avoiding being shot and wait for your chance.  Likewise if you know you cannot deploy your weapon quickly,  if at all possible you should wait for- or engineer- an opportunity where you will have enough time. The point is to have a realistic appreciation of what you can and cannot do, and include those limitations in your planning or response to a lethal confrontation.

Of course it would be helpful to do a lot of practice so you know what those limitations are- and can start to improve on them.

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Token snub-nose revolver

*Be aware of the limitations of your weapon. You need to have a realistic appreciation of the capabilities of your weapon.  If you are packing a short-barrel .32 you probably shouldn’t be trying to shoot through windshields or barricades. If you are packing a .22 your are going to need to make those hits count, and realize it may take multiple hits; even a head-shot with a tiny caliber is not a guaranteed stop. If you are carrying a gun with slow follow-up shots engaging multiple targets could be problematic. Take these things into account and plan to act around them as needed.

*Be aware of your purpose. If you carry a firearm for self-defense be aware of the ultimate goal, which is to go home to the people that love you when it’s over. Everything else is a bonus or a distraction.  You are not the police; it is not your job to apprehend the bad guy. You are not Batman; it is not your job to punish the bad guy.  It is not even your job to protect innocent lives if you cannot do so without an unreasonable risk to your own. It’s called self defense for a reason.  Yes, circumstances may arise where you feel it is worth risking your life to save an innocent or innocents; I’m going to give us all the benefit of the doubt and assume we are all  decent human beings here. Just bear in mind there are people you love and who love you, people that depend on you. That needs to be balanced against the risks of intervening.

In addition you need to be mentally prepared. To some people this means having a plan for any possible contingency up to and including encountering multiple trained assailants with automatic weapons and body armor. (This plan at least ought to be simple- if you can’t run away you’re going to die. This ain’t a tv show.) You should give some thought to the sorts of encounters you are most likely to have based on where you live, what you do and where you go during the course of the day, and plan how to respond to or even avoid those.  This is not fantasizing (or shouldn’t be!) When thinking about these instances you’re not planning for glorious victory; you’re planning how best to insure you go home to your loved ones. With that goal in mind shooting is not the first or necessarily the only option. It is the last resort; be aware, be mindful and maybe things will never get to that point.

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No firearm fits every need or every situation.  there is no ‘one-size-fits-all.’ People have different levels of skill, different physiques and have to deal with different climates, which can constrain the ability to conceal a full-size weapon. Conditions and circumstances may mean we need to carry different guns at different times or in different venues. But no matter what gun you are carrying you always have the ability to observe and think, to plan and react.

A gun is not a solution; it is simply a tool that increases your options. You need to use your most effective asset- your brain- to chose the correct options and make the most of them.

 

Michael Tinker Pearce, 5 October 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Range Report, 2 October 2018- Drill Night!

Usually when I do a range report I go through gun by gun, but I am going to depart from that format tonight. Tonight I did some drills, and it was very informative.  I’m going to list the drills by range instead of the order I did them.

Drill Number 1: 3-5-2: Three yards, Five shots, 2 seconds

This drill was done without using the sights- strictly point-shooting. This was done first with a two-handed grip, then strong hand, then weak hand.

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First up was the Colt Detective Special. I fired two 5-shot groups from a Weaver Modified Stance, then one strong-hand and one weak hand.
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The S&W DA Safety Hammerless.  Quite good with the two-hand and strong-hand groups, not so much weak-handed. The four shots to the left of the tape were fired weak-hand. Not acceptable. 

Just for giggles I fired a 3-5-3 from the Weaver Modified stance using the sights .

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Gee… I guess those sights are there for a reason!

 

3 yard Point-Shooting

Obviously a single-action wasn’t going to do the 5-3-2 drill- not in my hands anyway. I just tried to see what would happen. No sights, gun brought half-way to eye-level.

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This was five shots as quick as I could fire them, two-hand, standing unsupported. Not terribly satisfactory.
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These were individual shots fired strong-hand, one at a time. rather more satisfactory.

The gun is a Hawes Western Marshal .45 (made by J.P.Sauer & Sohn) customized into a Sheriff’s Model with a 3-1/2″ barrel. This was not with a ‘cowboy load;’  a 200gr HG68 LSWC over 9.0gr. of Unique. This is a +P load.  I’d have shot more, but I had very limited ammo.

7-5-4: Seven Yards, Five Shots, 4 seconds

This drill is done using the sights, first in a Weaver Modified  stance, then strong hand, then weak hand.

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Again the Colt was first. I’m reasonably happy with this. What a difference a couple more seconds- and using the sights- makes!
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The Astra Police .38 Special did quite well. This is a strong-hand group of six shots to the head,  then five shot groups to center-mass, weaver Modified and weak hand.

 

25 Yards

I have been saying that I intended to shoot more at longer distances.  These targets were shot double-action, standing unsupported.

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The Astra Police .38. Cadence was about one shot/ 2 seconds. I’m OK with this, but I think with practice I can do better.
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Colt Detective Special, one shot/ second cadence. I am happy as hell with this target! I have to say, the trigger on this vintage Colt is amazing.

Miscellaneous

Just targets I shot, no particular drill involved.

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Five shots in five seconds at seven yards.  I have a suspicion that this is an issue with the sights. When I can load more .45 Colt I’ll do some more shooting. If I am consistently high and right I’ll see what I can do about that.
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Rapid-Fire at 15 yards with the S&W .38 safety Hammerless. Four out of five bullets key-holed. Interesting, but that was the last of those bullets, so we’ll see what happens next time with a different bullet.

So, a very satisfactory– and useful– evening at the range. The drills were interesting, and showed a few useful things- like I need more weak-hand practice, especially with the little S&W.  The more I shoot the Colt Detective Special the more it impresses me. More and more I am tempted to upgrade this to a carry gun; I am very confident in what I can do with it, and with a suitable load… this could be a thing.

Since I am planning to carry the Sheriff’s Special as a trail gun I’ll be buying and loading what I intend to use on the trail- 255gr. Kieth bullets over a +P charge. I’ll see how those work out before I decide to mess with the sights.

Special Thanks to LiberalGunOwners.org for the targets used tonight!  I try to keep this blog apolitical, and in these times we need to put aside our differences and focus on what we have in common- a belief in and support for the 2nd Amendment!

Michael Tinker Pearce, 3 October 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big-Bore Snubbies. Seriously?

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Astra Jovino Terminator .44 Magnum

Big-Bore snubbies are stupid. That’s right, you heard me. Stupid.  They are inefficient, heavy, bulky and do not do justice to the cartridges they are chambered for. A snub-nosed .44 Magnum like the one pictured above loses more than 50% of it’s muzzle energy compared to a gun with a six-inch barrel.  Take a typical 240gr. JHP in a commercial load; from a six-inch gun it has 1015ft/lbs. of energy. From the gun above? 475ft/lbs.  Mind you 475ft/lbs from a handgun ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at- but to get that you are going to have a massive muzzle-blast, trauma-inducing recoil and a long recovery time between shoots.

And lets talk packaging- yes, that’s a ‘compact’ gun… that doesn’t mean it isn’t big and fat.  Much harder to conceal than, say, a Glock 17.  ‘Yes, but POWER!’ I hear you cry. OK, let’s look at that. The gun pictured above holds six shots at 475ft/lbs for a total of 2850 total. Not bad at all. So a Glock 19 carries 15 rounds at- with a typical modern defensive load- 402 ft/lbs. each, for a total of 6030ft/lbs. Umm… yeah. Not much comparison, is there? So, heavy, fat, short of power both shot-for-shot and overall total. Yep, there’s no doubt. Big-bore snubbies are stupid.

Of course I absolutely adore them.

I’m not alone in that by any means. People have been making large-caliber, short-barrel revolvers for almost as long as they have been making metallic cartridges. Webley’s first cartridge revolver had a short-ish barrel and fired the .577 Trantor cartridge. Their first big market success with a revolver was a short-barreled .442- the Royal Irish Constabulary. This was followed by their British Bulldog revolvers in .442 Webley and .450 Adams, and these were so popular they were widely copied in Belgium, Spain and the United States.

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Webley RIC (top) and British Lion bulldog revolver, both in .450 Adams

Short-barreled large caliber revolvers were made all over- witness my previous post about Sheriff’s Models.  Even if the manufacturer didn’t offer a short-barrel option there was always someone around who was happy to lop the barrel off to a more concealable length. In more modern times Charter Arms offered the Bulldog in .44 Special (and still do,) and other makers have followed suit with five-shot medium-frame revolvers also chambered for that cartridge.

Too often these guns simply do not make ballistic sense. The large, powerful cartridges they fire turn most of their power into muzzle-blast.  The Charter Arms Bulldog originally came with a three-inch barrel. A typical modern defensive load fired from a six-inch barrel makes 525ft/lbs of energy. The same load from the 3″ gun makes 328ft/lbs. That’s not awful by any means; It’s certainly better than a .38 Special in the same size range- though the .38 will give you an extra round.

The real problem is that you aren’t trading recoil and bulk for extra stopping power, which has always been the argument for guns like these. In real-life shootings no caliber has distinguished itself as being noticeably better at stopping an attacker- there have been a few that stand out as worse (.22,.25 & .32) but that’s about it. This is because past a certain point where you hit someone is far more important than what you hit them with. We beat that dead horse recently enough that we don’t need to do it again here.

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Charter arms ‘Boomer’ .44 Special

So why do we love them? Some people love them because the are convinced they are more effective than the options. Some people, sadly, love them because it makes them feel manly. Sorry, dude, if you need a gun to make you feel manly you’re doing it wrong. Some people like them because they are fun.  Guess what? ‘It’s fun’ is all the justification you need.

Me? I love the look of a short gun with a ridiculously big hole in the end. It’s kind of hilarious. I love the meaty thump of the recoil.  I like the balanced aesthetics of a short-barreled revolver.

I got my first big-bore snubby in the 1980s- an Astra Jovino Terminator .44 Magnum. I thought it was stupid gun then, but I bought it because the price was ridiculously good and knew I could turn it for twice what I paid for it. It was a very nicely made gun with an excellent trigger pull. Of course I had to shoot it before I flipped it… and it was awesome. With .44 Special loads it was sweet as could be, and even shooting magnums it wasn’t all that bad. I fell in love; I was a little embarrassed to own it, but I just didn’t want to let it go. I sold it when my first wife and I moved to NYC, and I still wish I’d kept it.

Mind you, these guns aren’t useless by any means; it’s not like a .44 Special snubby will work less well than a .38.  And there are actual applications where they will do the job better- like if you are dealing with a dangerous animal. If you can fire a 250gr. hard-cast bullet at 1000fps. you can drop any animal that walks the North American continent, and no Glock19 in the world is gonna do that. A Ruger Alaskan, on the other hand, will do that without even flinching.

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Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan in .454 Casull

For walking the woods, whether camping, hunting, working or whatever, a compact gun in a potent caliber is a valuable companion.  Yes, it’s heavy and bulky- but it’s a lot less heavy and bulky than a rifle or shotgun, and if you do your part it can and will save your life.

As for self defense if we were all ruled entirely by the numbers we’d either carry a Glock 19 or a Glock 43, depending on our concealment needs. But the real world doesn’t work that way. I know a fellow that cut his teeth on single-actions, and he’s carried them on the trail, hunting etc. his whole life. Shoots ’em like they are hard-wired into his hind-brain too. He’s got a busy life; maybe for him a Sheriff’s Model in .45 Colt makes more sense than learning his way around the latest ‘plastic-fantastic.’

I know another fellow who got a Charter Arms Bulldog the day he turned twenty-one, and it’s been his hiking/trail/EDC ever since. I can’t honestly say he’d be better off with something more modern. There’s something to be said for a man that does it all with one gun.

So yeah, strictly speaking large-caliber snubbies may not be the most efficient choice in the world, but if it works for you then rock it with pride.  And if you happen across a Jovino Terminator at a good price drop a brother a line…

 

Michael Tinker Pearce, 27 September 2018