Three New Loads Tested

I’m going to be doing less reloading in the future; the price of components has gotten so high that it’s genuinely more expensive to reload some cartridges. 9mm has been right on the edge for years, but then prices skyrocketed with COVID. Still, there are some cartridges that are worth it. .45 Colt, .38 ACP, .32-20, .38 S&W… the list goes on. So naturally two of these new loads are 9mm and .45 ACP. It is what it is. Part of the reason is that I am experimenting with Alliant Sport Pistol powder to see what it can do.

Loads were tested with three rounds each, so this is not definitive but should be in the ballpark.

.38 ACP

No, thosae aren’t stock grips. I made thes Model 1905-style grips because I like them better.

Now known as .38 Super and significantly hotter than the original load, this cartridge is only really applicable to people like me that will actually shoot an expensive antique. Normally ballistics are at the low end on 9mm performance, firing a 130gr. bullet at around 1050 fps. .38 ACP and .38 Super use exactly the same brass, but power-wise they are like .38 Special and .357 Magnum if you could stick .357 in a .38 revolver. You can use .38 ACP loads in a .38 Super, but using .38 Super in a gun made for .38 ACP (mainly Colt Model 1900, 1902 and 1903 Pocket Hammer guns) will have unhappy results; the gun’s design cannot handle the hotter .38 Super loads well or for long.

I test-fired this load through my Colt Model 1902 Military with a 6″ barrel.

115gr. FMC, 4.5gr. of Sport Pistol, Federal #100 Primer

 913 fps. 213 ft/lbs. ES: 18 fps

In terms of power this load is closer to .380 ACP than 9mm, and that’s deliberate; this is an old gun. I was looking for enough power to cycle the gun and get the bullet on paper, which it does admirably. Accuracy is fine, it cycles 100% and the extreme spread in velocity is relatively tight.

9 x 19mm

My custom 3-1/2″ 1911a! 9mm

My 9mm/3-1/2″ 1911a1 does not like wimpy target ammo like my match loads, so I set out to create something a bit stouter. This is within SAAMI Standard Pressure spec, but it’s at the hot end of that.

115gr FMC, 5.5gr. W-231, Federal #100 primer

3.5? Barrel 1186 fps. 359 ft/lbs ES: 31

This is a good, consistent load that cycles the gun reliably. Accuracy is good, and the load is nicely consistent. Probably best in a gun with a supported chamber; my one issue was a blowout (though the gun still cycled, much to my surprise.)

There was no damage to me or the gun. I attribute this failure to the fact that this is a hot-ish load, the chamber is unsupported and I tend to re-use brass until it fails, though it usually does so by splitting the case.

.45 ACP

My 1911 with a ported 5″ barrel. No, 45 ACP is NOT too low pressure to benefit from porting or a compensator.

This load is as much to test the Sport Pistol powder as anything else, and it is intended as a target load. I used an Xtreme Bullets 200gr. TMJ Hollow-point. These are a heavily-plated bullet and are not intended to expand; they are target bullets, not self-defense rounds. Firing from my 5″ ported barrel yielded these results-

200gr. JHP, 6.2gr. Sport Pistol

5? ported barrel 896 fps. 356 ft/lbs. ES: 14 fps.

This is perfectly acceptable for it’s intended purpose, which is putting holes in the same general area of the target very quickly. No issues with function, accuracy was good and the extreme spread was pleasingly low. This is my new range/match load.

Conclusions

Alliant Sport Pistol powder seems to do what it is made to; high consistency in target loads. Other experiments with other calibers have revealed that it does not excel in very light loads or heavy loads. Fit to purpose though, exactly as it should be.

Blowing out the case-head on the 9mm was exciting, but since I will for the most part be buying my 9mm ammo in the future my long-in-the-tooth brass should not be much of an issue in the future.

Stay safe and take care,

Michael Tinker Pearce, 23 September 2022

The Conventional Wisdom

The conventional wisdom evolves as a consensus among a group with related interests. It is usually guided by experts with experience in the field. Note the use of the term ‘usually.’ Back in the old days these were writers that wrote about hunting, competition or law enforcement because they actually did those things. Some of the conventional wisdom came from these folks, but some just seems to have always been there.

Black-powder only? When smokeless loads were introduced all guns were ‘black powder guns, and manufacturers designed the new loads for them.

‘Damascus shotguns aren’t safe to shoot,’ ‘You can’t shoot smokeless loads from a black-powder cartridge revolver,’ are two that you still hear a lot, and these have been around far longer than the forty-plus years I’ve been into guns. These are widely spread beliefs and people will defend these vehemently. They’re not actually true, but they are ‘the conventional wisdom.’ (like any antique firearm Damascus shotguns and 19th C. revolvers should be carefully evaluated before firing, and it is prudent to use low-pressure loads. They’re old.)

These two gems have trickled down to us from the early 20th C., but these days there are lot of folks that know stuff because they read it on the internet. Don’t get me wrong, the internet is a fantastic resource and you can learn amazing things. But like any body of knowledge it has to be used advisedly, not simply believed without question.

Is this fine old Parker a grenade? Probably not; thousands of people across the world routinely use shotguns like this all the time. European proof houses routinely ‘nitro proof’ such guns. They are antiques, and should be treated prudently, but no, as a rule they are no more likely to blow up than any antique shotgun.


People, a lot of them smart people, believe things because it has become the conventional wisdom on the internet. People read it, and having no direct experience of their own the accept it and pass it on. Pretty soon it’s just the way it is. Then someone who has that experience comes along and gets push-back because ‘internet says so.’
It gets worse when this conventional wisdom is reinforced by credible sources; people that genuinely do know their particular field but still lack personal experience in related fields. When a well-regarded instructor says something we give it more credence, but in reality they may just be parroting the internet.

I have an acquaintance who was in the army and worked in Special Forces. If he set himself up as a pistol instructor that would give him a lot of cred. The thing is SF has very different emphasis on the use of pistols that does not necessarily apply to civilian self defense or even police work. Oh, and he was a medic in a ‘hearts and minds’ unit. He knows his way around an M9 and M4. He’s even a decent shot, but he will freely admit he knows next to nothing other than how to make them work and put holes in paper. He’s even pretty good at it. But he is not the person you want to look to as an expert in pistol instruction. Got a question about field sanitation, improvised first aid and the like? He’s your man. But a pistol instructor? Nope.

Another fellow I’ve known for decades was also in SF. He was an analyst and intelligence support guy. Once again, he knows his way around the weapons and has had some, un, interesting experiences but none of that qualifies him to be a pistol instructor. The thing is these guys could use their ex-SF cred to pump themselves up as experts or instructors despite the fact that their actual experience genuinely does not apply.

I guess my point is that the conventional wisdom is often nothing more than parroted information that may or may not be true. Don’t reject it out-of-hand, but don’t accept it as received Gospel either. Think, do your own research and whenever possible consult a primary source when possible.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 22 Sept 2022

The C-RAAM- a Designated Marksman Rifle for Science Fiction

*The image is not a concept for this rifle; it’s an Evanix Ranstorm .45 air rifle, but I wanted a picture, so…

I am among other things a science fiction writer, and think a lot about science-fictiony stuff. I was musing over a future infantry weapon along the lines of a Designated Marksman’s Rifle. This is affectively a rifle that is heavier-caliber and longer-ranged than your standard infantry rifle, because sometimes you just need a sniper or enhanced anti-material capability. In developing for a near-future SF novel I came up with a concept, called C-RAAM. Militaries cannot resist acronyms, even tortured ones.

The Combined Assault/Anti-Material Rifle C-RAAM

The hyphen in the acronym is relocated to be behind the ‘C’ because ‘see ram’ sounds cooler than ‘cram,’ and the military does love their acronyms and will go to great lengths to make them roll trippingly off the tongue.

This is a bullpup configuration weapon that can be used as an assault rifle, an anti-material rifle, a sniper rifle or even do stand-in duty for accurate suppressive fire. The barrel and locking rotary bolt are actuated and the bolt us cycled by a linear solenoid attached to the barrel. When the gun cycles the solenoid acts in place of the gas system and recoil assembly. The most obvious questions are, ‘won’t that increase felt recoil?’ and ‘Uh, why?’

It won’t increase felt recoil, because the barrel, bolt and solenoid are jointly mounted with a recoil spring or springs, which is calibrated to ‘float’ in recoil, in other words it never hits a hard-stop to transmit a sharp shock to the user. Physics still works of course, but the recoil impulse feels softer and more manageable. The ‘why?’ part is answered by the cartridge.

The cartridge is a 10-12mm cylinder about 5 inches long with an extractor groove at the back. The body is carbon-composite bonded to a stainless steel base for extraction. The base has no holes of any kind; the gun is fired electrically, so there’s no need for a primer as such. The party-trick here is that the cartridge is five inches long because it holds three bullets, three propellant charges and three primers in tandem, like a Metalstorm serial gun system except the rounds are loaded in a cartridge rather than directly in the barrel. Ignition of the primers is though induction bands in the case-wall at the right places to electrically detonate the primers in the proper sequence.

When the round is chambered the front round fires, then the middle and then the one in the base. The rate of fire is entirely arbitrary depending on what the user wants. they can be fired singly or as a burst. The burst can be at around 700-1000 rounds a minute, depending on what experimentation proves best to get the desired spread and accuracy. It could even be variable depending on how much spread is desirable at the given range of the target, and this could be an autonomous function of the weapon.

The bullets are 6.5mm with a tungsten core and a muzzle velocity in excess of 3000 fps. Yes, this will accelerate barrel wear, but with modern developments in metallurgy this would not be so bad as to become a logistic issue given the weapon’s mission as a multi/special-purpose weapon in limited distribution. It can fulfill the anti-material role as a semi-automatic that only cycles every three shots, or it can fire an ‘anti-material burst.’ When it does this it fires a burst at such a high cyclic rate that all three bullets are actually in the barrel at the same time and land practically on top of each other at short to medium ranges, giving it a significant anti-armor punch.

Regardless of the firing mode after the cartridge is expended the solenoid fires and cycles the action, loading a new cartridge. If for some reason a cartridge fails it can be cycled out and replaced automatically.

Magazines hold ten rounds, which helps keep their size and weight manageable. Doesn’t sound like much, but ten rounds is thirty shots, so it’s not as bad as it sounds.

Issues

*It’s electrically operated and needs batteries. What if you run out?

You don’t. The sealed, factory pre-loaded magazines contain a next generation battery. When inserted in the weapon this charges the small, next generation ultra-capacitors under the barrel that help balance the weapon. If you’ve got a magazine, you’ve got power.

*What if the electronics break?

They’re solid-state and very tough. Bear in mind twenty years ago we could make electronics robust enough to survive a 10,000-G launch from artillery guns. They are also integrated directly into the body of the weapon for the most part; breaking them would require damage that would disable most weapons anyway.

*It sounds complicated; won’t it be expensive?:

Yes, it will be expensive, but with what are now bleeding-edge manufacturing methods it won’t be as expensive as you might think. As for complication in truth it’s mechanically less complicated than modern gas-operated weapons, and in terms of reliability you could make it pretty much bomb-proof. I mean, if you couldn’t you wouldn’t bother, right?

*Logistics

No worse than any other system that doesn’t use the standard infantry rifle’s cartridge and magazine. Depending on the application in the field it might actually reduce the logistic burden.

Deployment and Use

These would be deployed as squad-level weapons, with only one or two issued per squad. They would be used as a standard rifle when required (assault,) an anti-material rifle, a sniper rifle and at need it could be used for precision point-suppression fire.

Since the weapon would be comparable in weight to current designated marksman rifles this should not pose increased issues in portability and use, and being shorter it will be handier than current-generation systems. Unlike light machineguns it will not need heavy, bulky boxed belts, spare barrel kit etc. Barrel heating will be less an issue with a combination of burst-fire, heat being contained by the cartridge and removed when it is ejected and improved material science that is more heat-resistant.

Advantages

*Versatility- one weapon that performs multiple roles at need

*Reliability- moving parts are few, simple and robust

*Portability and Handling- The weapon’s relatively short overall length and electric/electronic operation allow it to be configured to be fully ambidextrous in both operation and ejection of spent cartridges,

*Workload- frees up more members of the fire team to focus on mission objectives rather than specialized roles.

*Reliability- operation is not dictated by the power of the ammunition, and ‘dud’ rounds can be cycled out automatically with no interruption of change of focus for the user

*Mission-specific Ammunition- Since the weapon does not use recoil or gas pressure to cycle, special-purpose munitions are restricted by the bore-diameter and rifling twist rather than the need to provide the impulse that operates the weapon. Different ammunition can interchange seamlessly to meet anticipated mission-specific needs.

For use In Fiction

All the tech used is either off-the-shelf or dependent on emerging technologies with a high probability of successful implementation, in other words tech that is mostly already in existence and being refined for commercial viability rather than needing to be invented. This could in fact be built today, but the batteries and capacitors needed might add enough weight to outweigh the weapon’s usefulness. It wouldn’t take much; the system as envisioned is already as heavy as a DMR, though it is lighter than current anti-material rifles. It also has high plausibility because it addresses genuine needs on the modern/near-future battlefield. It’s a weapon that makes sense and has real-world utility in realistic combat.

Of course this is far more detailed than most readers need or would be happy with, but the author needs to know how it works so that it behaves realistically and consistently in the context of the story. The reader only really needs to know what they need to know to believe it.

Anyway, that’s my idea for what it’s worth. It was a fun mental exercise and don’t be surprised if you read it in one of my future books!

Stay safe and take care,

Michael Tinker Pearce, 1 September 2022