Monthly Archives: May 2018

.450 Boxer

This is reprinted from a Facebook post.  It’s a bit repetitive/redundant here, but I want to document the process.
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My latest reloading adventure has been .450 Boxer/ .450 Adams (also known as .450 Corto, .450 Colt and .45 Webley. In 1868 this became the first metallic cartridge to be officially adopted by the British Military. Even at the time of it’s adoption it was acknowledged to be somewhat under-powered, but it was felt that it’s logistic advantages offset this. It was replaced in service in 1880, but remained a ‘second standard’ issue item through WW2.
 
The standard load for this was a 225gr. RNL bullet over 13gr. of FFFFg powder. This gave a velocity in the neighborhood of 700 fps. in a service-length gun- rather less in the compact ‘Bulldog’ style guns it was commonly used in. For that application- police and civilian self-defense- the cartridge was viewed as quite satisfactory and it was widely used throughout the latter half of the 19th and well into the 20th C. in small concealable revolvers. Since the early 20th C. it has been loaded with smokeless powder.
 
This cartridge is now almost entirely out of production, though Fiocchi seems to still do a run of it occasionally, packaged as .450 Corto. There have been reports that this ammunition has been unreliable, resulting in damage to some guns. It is usually advised to view this ammunition as a source of primed brass- pull the bullets and reload it.
 
I planned from the first to ‘roll my own,’ so the first hurdle was brass. I was able to look up the cartridge dimensions and the rim thickness. I started with .45 Colt brass. The first thing was to grind off the headstamp on de-primed brass. This left a rtim approximately .040″. I had intended to use a primer-pocket reamer to deepen the primer pocket, but this proved unnecessary. Then I shortened the brass to an overall length of 17mm.
 
For bullets I first turned to my standby, a 200gr. RNFP lead. But what to do for a load? All I could find were black powder loads, which were all basically the same. I decided to try Trail Boss, which is designed for mild loads in black-powder cartridges. It has a high volume-to-weight ratio, so it’s difficult to dangerously overload a cartridge. Following the manufacturer’s recommended methodology for developing a load- which amounts to filling the case to the base of the loaded bullet, measuring that and them backing off a little to start. This yielded a load of 2.0 gr. of Trail Boss. Huh.
 
I was a little dubious but took them to the range for a trial, firing them out of a SAA clone. There was virtually no recoil and ignition was somewhat inconsistent; there were a few rounds that went *Pamph!* rather than *bang* and scattered some un-burned powder, but everything cleared the barrel and went downrange. Accuracy was reasonable and none of the bullets key-holed.
 
For the second trial I used the same load, but this time with a heavy roll-crimp. This made a difference- ignition was consistent, the report was notably louder and sharper and recoil was noticeably increased (though still mild.)
 
The gun I was loading for arrived along with a couple of hundred 200gr. Hollow-base RNL and some brass, so I loaded these over 2.0gr of Trail Boss with a CCI 300 Large Pistol Primer, again with a heavy roll-crimp. When fired from the antique Bulldog revolver these performed quite satisfactorily as a range load.
 
I have to guess at the velocity as I do not have a chronograph, but I know that the paper targets I am using tear when hit with projectiles travelling less than 500 fps. Even before using the roll-crimp that wasn’t happening with these loads. I am guessing that I am currently getting 550 fps. or so.
 
They fly straight, they are reasonably accurate and they all get out the barrel, which is good enough for a range load for an antique gun.
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I’m also going to work up some loads using Unique and Red Dot- but very, very carefully! I’ll let you know how that goes.
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Range Report, 25 May 2018

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Not a great night out for the .38 conversions…

First up was testing the two .38 S&W conversion revolvers, and it was not a great success. Goldie, the brass-framed gun, fired a cylinder-full as nice as you please. It was her first-ever firing so I had no expectations. Despite two key-holed bullets I was pleased enough…

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…but on the second cylinder she locked up tight. With no tools on hand there was nothing for it but to retire her for the evening. I have no idea what is happening, but it has something to do with the breech-plate.  The other gun was doing fine- but after four shots it launched it’s firing-pin. Totally my fault, too; I apparently did not stake it in adequately.  OK then, moving on.

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Last time out the Forehand & Wadsworth British Bulldog .38 was spitting lead from the cylinder-gap. Spitting is a nasty habit and naturally I wanted to correct the little guy’s manners. I accomplished this by removing the trigger and taking a bit of the curve out of the hand and twisting it slightly to give is more positive engagement with the ratchet on the back of the cylinder.  This seems to have done the trick- the cylinder locks up much better, and test-firing saw no lead exiting the cylinder gap.

Targets were shot at five, seven and ten yards, all double action. No lead exited from anywhere but the muzzle, so the timing is fixed. Again with the key-holing though… I put a full box of .38 S&W reloads through the gun and it’s a fun little critter to shoot.

The load used in all of the .38s tonight was a .361 diameter/150gr. LSWC over 2.5gr. of Unique with a CCI500 Small Pistol Primer.  This load does not keyhole out of my S&W top-breaks.

 

Last but not least was the Abilene .44 Magnum.  I’m not pleased to report it, but this gun and I do not get on at all. I love single actions, this gun feels great in the hand, has a good trigger and sights… and I simply cannot wring anything like decent accuracy out of it. I bought this gun specifically for hunting, but if I cannot learn to shoot it well it was money wasted.

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The gun is also shooting low even with the elevation cranked as far as it will go- or perhaps I am shooting low.  Whatever the case I would be sorry to see this fine revolver go, but go it will if I cannot master it. I’ll keep after it for now.

 

Michael Tinker Pearce, 25 May 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheap Guns and Self Defense

According to statistics reported to the FBI annually there is about a 1/1,000,000 chance that a given person will need to use a firearm to shoot a criminal within a given year. Honestly that isn’t a very big chance. It is true that the odds that you may use a firearm for self-defense without shooting someone are much greater- such incidents are not reliably reported however, so it is not certain how frequent this is. Estimates vary from about 1/5,000 to about 1/100,000. These incidents aren’t the focus of today’s blog though- today we are concerned with the odds of your life depending on your firearm to function.

Your gun does not need to function to defend you; while the statistics are debatable it is clear that most instances of defensive use do not involve shots being fired. What we are talking about is how reliable your gun needs to be for legal, justifiable defensive use in which the gun must fire.

On a personal note, and excluding use in a professional capacity, I have used a firearm to defend myself without firing on 3 occasions. None of these incidents were reported to law enforcement.  Interestingly for the last twenty years I have lived in a ‘bad neighborhood.’ Only one of the three incidents occurred during the last twenty years- and it did not occur in my own neighborhood.

Back to the point- there is approximately a 1/1,000,000 chance that you will need your firearm to function to save a life, either your own or another innocent’s.  Now, the odds that you will need a firearm to avert crime without firing are, as stated, much greater. We purchase insurance to protect us from circumstances that are comparably unlikely, so carrying a gun for self defense is arguably not ridiculous- and much less expensive than insurance. While it can be argued that carrying a gun is maybe a bit over-cautious it’s not actually silly- statistically speaking.

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No really, I’m fine- he shot me with a cheap gun!

So what brings this up? Online gun snobs. A fellow in one venue asked to hear from people that routinely carry and practice at the range with ‘economy-priced’ revolvers, and this prompted a number of people to respond that they wouldn’t bet their life on an economy revolver, but would save up to spend twice as much for a ‘reputable’ product.

Over the course of a few decades I’ve gotten a feel for how often guns fail. I’ll grant that a Charter Arms is more likely to fail than a S&W- maybe twice as likely. Of course that’s still not bad- S&W revolvers almost never fail in use so how bad is ‘twice as bad’ really?  If you have a modern revolver in decent condition and it fired the last time you pulled the trigger then the odds are astronomically high that it will fire the next time you do as well.

OK, if I were to carry a revolver I would certainly fire it quite a bit, to insure both my accuracy and the gun’s reliability. That’s just sensible. If the gun goes bang when I pull the trigger and the bullets go roughly where I want them to I’m good to go- I’m not going to worry that I don’t have the right logo on the gun, nor am I going to worry about how much I paid for the gun. A Taurus, Charter Arms, Rossi or Weireacht that has proven itself to me is good enough. Given the literally 1/1,000,000 odds of a life depending on the gun working I think it is reasonable to anticipate that a proven gun will remain in working order.

So why would anyone spend more money on a gun than they, strictly speaking, needed to? Well, there are a lot of reasons. More expensive guns are very often nicer to shoot than inexpensive guns- more comfortable grips, better triggers etc.  Let’s face it, if practicality were the only measure we’d probably all own Glocks. But whatever we might tell ourselves, for most of it it’s about more than merely practical measures.  The supreme tacti-cool piece with all the right bells and whistles might win our admiration, but it’s the beautiful that garners the ooohs and ahhhs.

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“I’ll take it- just let me sell my house… what? That’s won’t be enough?!

There is a tactile pleasure in handling a high-quality firearm. The precise fit and finish, the grain and shaping of the wood handle, the clever mechanical bits… pleasure in ownership should not be discounted as a reason to spend more than is strictly needed for practical purposes. But this should not be conflated with need; let’s be honest with ourselves at least!  Yes, there is a fair chance that the more expensive gun will be more durable in the long run, and that is a practical consideration… for those of us that actually shoot enough for that to matter at least.

These are all good reasons to own a more expensive firearm, but all too often on the internet we encounter a less positive motive.  In all seriousness you will likely go your entire life as a civilian and never need to fire your gun in deadly earnest- but you can go online and rub other’s noses in your superiority every day. Given that day-to-day utility spending twice as much for your gun is a bargain!  Heck, if your primary philosophy of use for your gun is to use it to bludgeon others with their inferiority even a Korth is sensibly priced!

Yeah, we’ve all met That Guy, and for every person that agrees with him there are twenty that wish he would just go away.  The reality is we don’t all drive BMWs and Bentleys even if we can afford them; we may have other priorities or even preferences. Mind you I’m not saying that all you should buy for your EDC is a cheap gun; far from it. But if the best someone else can do is a cheap gun cut ’em some slack.

When it comes to cheap guns and self defense ask yourself this- will you really feel better if the bad guy is pointing a Taurus or Charter Arms gun at you than you would if it were a Colt or S&W?

Yeah. I didn’t think so.

Michael Tinker Pearce,  22 May 2018