Monthly Archives: June 2020

Targets and Teachable Moments

Yesterday I packed up a bunch of guns and headed to Champion Arms bright and early to beat the crowds if possible. With only half of their lanes open there’s usually a waiting list to shoot, but yesterday wasn’t bad. Well… the wait wasn’t.

What was bad was that I’d been in such a rush to get out of the house I forgot my glasses, and since I don’t use them for driving I didn’t notice until I got to the range. Aside from driving I wear them full time, so shooting was going to be interesting, but my curiosity was piqued so I tried shooting without them. It was… interesting.

I started with the AR 9mm pistol, and with the Bushnell red dot mounted it was easy to hit at 25 yards, but the groups weren’t really good. Moving in to ten yards and running strings of double taps results were comparable; everything more or less where it should be, but a bit sloppy.

Then I tried my favorite carry revolver, my 3″ M1902 in .38 special. Uh oh. I couldn’t really see the front sight, and at seven yards rapid-fire groups were running 5-6″, but well centered. Double-taps were hitting pretty much centered but strung out 6-8″ vertically. Switching to my Colt Police Positive Special .32-20 results were similar, and I realized I was basically wasting time and ammo. Disappointed, I headed home.

Still, it was interesting and useful; it gave me an appreciation for what I can do if forced to shoot without my glasses. With the AR/red dot combo I did well enough out to 25 yards. With the revolvers my shooting was adequate at seven yards, but not terribly precise. I figure I would likely be able to defend myself adequately in most situations I might encounter… but I know I’d better not try for a ‘hostage shot’ at twenty feet. Having a realistic understanding of your limitations is important, and allows you to plan around those limits.

So, a teachable moment indeed.

27 June 2020:

This afternoon I headed back, with my glasses this time. I wanted to do some load and gun testing, but more importantly I just wanted to shoot. You know, for fun. Remember fun? It’s what we used to have prior to this year…

It being the weekend of course it was horribly busy. I put my name on the list and spent the next couple of hours, pleasantly enough, chatting with Chris from McCallen Tactical, some of the range staff and a couple other friendly folks also waiting for their turn. I also perused the shop and picked up some gun-cleaning supplies. Finally it was my turn, and I grabbed my stuff and headed to my freshly sanitized shooting position.

I’m not going to go into too many details, just captioned photos. Long winded captions of course; I’m still me.

I’ve finally gotten reloading dies for .30 Mauser, so time to free up some brass… It’s easier for me to shoot the C96 well than it is to shoot it fast; there’s a lot of muzzle-flip owing to the high bore-axis and powerful cartridge. This was one shot per second at seven yards. I’ve got more ammo on it’s way- 100 rounds was almost as cheap as a 100 pieces of brass, so I’ll just have to shoot some more. Uh, darn?
This little Hopkins & Allen .32 S&W is new to me, and for all that the double action trigger is awful it does put the bullets where you point it. I started at five yards, and the results were respectable given the trigger and tiny sights.
Moving back to seven yards and making an effort produced quite reasonable results. Both targets were shot with Remington factory loads. This little gun has some interesting mechanical features, so you can expect to be reading about it in some detail in the near future.
I decided to trot out Linda’s Colt Junior and have a go. With factory ammo it’s surprisingly accurate at five yards, and fun to shoot. No, the gun is not shooting low; this was due to an aiming error on my part. This target was shot using Magtech factory ammunition.
My 55 grain hand-loads at seven yards, one shot per second. Not too bad. I really like this little gun.
Firing at five yards with the Francotte velo-dog produced this rather decent group at five yards with the Magtech factory ammo. This gun is a hoot, and a lot of fun.
A less happy result with my 55gr. LFP load. The five torn-up shots were at seven yards. The five shots inside the ten ring were at five yards. They almost all key-holed; the Francotte really does not like these bullets. Disappointing.
This early Harrington & Richardson chambered in .38 S&W is also new to me, part of a trade that included the Hopkins & Allen above. This is not a model i have had good experiences with, but I cannot fault it’s accuracy at five yards. The double-action trigger is neither particularly good or bad, but it’s obviously serviceable.
The S&W Model 2 in .38 S&W shot as nicely as always at seven yards, but the chambers are rather sticky; need to address that. Of course there had to be a flyer, but at least you can feel reassured that I haven’t been replaced by an alien pod-person.
This H&R I am rather more pleased with. A Christmas present from my wife, it had been beautifully refinished by a previous owner. Nice results at seven yards; the trigger is quite smooth and not at all heavy, though the reset is so long I have to be very careful. With my big fat finger there almost isn’t room for it to reset.
Trying a new load for my .32-20 Colt Police Positive Special. This was double action at seven yards, once again with that ever-so-reassuring flyer. It makes pretty holes, and the drift to the right is all me. This load uses a 100gr reversed hollow-base wad cutter over 4.0gr. of Universal. From the Colt this makes a bit over 800 fps. and 145 ft./lbs. Not by any means a hot load, and it ought to make a good small game round.
Lastly I had a bunch of miscellaneous .251 TCR lying about, and decided to fire it off to recover the brass. I’m making a bespoke cylinder for this revolver so I’ll undoubtedly be wanting to reload specific rounds for it, so after the first few rounds I was pretty much just blazing away.

Well, there you have it, my weekend adventures and misadventures at the range. I gotta say, after all of this time it was nice just to shoot for pleasure. It’s been a long spring, and Lord only knows what the summer will bring.

Hang in there everyone, and I hope that you and yours stay safe.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 27 June 2020

If you like what you read here, please consider clicking the link above and supporting me on Patreon.

Advertisements

But That’s so… so Normal!

That was the reaction I got when my buddy that works at Champion Arms heard I was putting together an AR. Yeah, they know me too well…

In a recent post I detailed completing an 80% lower receiver. That being done it was time to decide exactly what I was going to build. Typically my main use for a rifle is hunting, and unless I get invited to an all-expense paid African safari I have rifles for that. I figured that maybe I’d go with a pistol build. Not an actual pistol, of course, but a short AR with a brace.

Let’s be honest here… the only people I’ve ever seen using a brace to stabilize an AR pistol were doing it to prove it works. Yes, the original ones were made to help people with only one good arm to shoot, but almost since Day 1 people used them as a stock, and eventually the ATF agreed that as long as you didn’t modify the device they couldn’t care less if you shoulder it. In practical terms this means people buy these braces to avoid the $200 fee for getting a tax stamp for a Short Barreled Rifle. If the ATF doesn’t have an issue with that, well then neither do I.

Woah, a complete upper for only $199! Thats… wait, is that a two-star rating?

Anyway, having established that I was going to make a pistol I needed to define what it was for. As I’ve already said I have rifles (and shotguns) for hunting. In addition to being a ‘man of a certain age’ and being of… ‘ample proportions,’ competing seriously is expensive and frankly of little interest to me these days. That pretty much leaves ‘home defense’ and fun. I’m good with that. Basically it’s a PDW (Personal Defense Weapon) in military terms; more than a pistol, but less than a carbine.

I live in suburbia, so home-defense is strictly a short-range proposition, and my house is tiny. The yard is big by neighborhood standards, which doesn’t mean it’s actually very big. Yeah, long range power isn’t really a thing for this, so a short barrel is a good idea. A short barrel limits my choice of calibers, because I think the rifle calibers perform poorly from short barrels and, more to the point they are LOUD. Pistol calibers are bad enough indoors… speaking of which I thought a ‘flash can’ would be a good idea. For those that don’t know this is a muzzle device that redirects the flash (and some of the noise) away from the user. It’s not a silencer; it doesn’t reduce the noise, it just makes some of it go away from you, and the idea of not being blinded by the flash in a darkened room has it’s appeal as well.

For short barrels the best readily available options are 9mm and .300 Blackout. The .300 is a lot more powerful than 9mm, which frankly isn’t required for the purpose, and it’s a lot more expensive than 9mm. Plus I already reload 9mm and am swimming in brass, so 9mm it is.

I was delighted to discover I could obtain a complete upper with flash can for $199 on sale. I was less delighted when I read the reviews… Um, no. Time to do some research… Foxtrot Mike Products 9mm uppers are highly recommended, and Primary Arms had one of FMP’s 5″ Glock-compatible M-lock upper with flash-can that looked tailor-made for my purpose. It was neither the cheapest nor most expensive option, but it looked the business and shortly it was winging it’s way to my door.

FMP recommends the Sylvan Glock Mag adapter for use with their uppers, so I snagged one of those too.

The SBa3 brace from SB Tactical is also well thought of, and I had fired guns that mounted them before, so that went into the basket too. Magpul for the grip, a Timney Impact single-stage trigger and ambidextrous safety, an Aero Precision lower parts kit, an Angstad 5.4ounce 9mm buffer… Soon parts were wizzing my way at the speed of USPS…

Timney Impact drop-in trigger. Very easy to install.

When parts arrived I fitted the pins etc. from the lower kit, then it was time to install the trigger. I’ve never done a ‘drop-in’ trigger of this sort, but it’s not rocket science and there are several good videos on Youtube. In a nutshell you drop it in the trigger well, line it up and pin it in place, then tighten two Allen-head screws to lock it down, and run two set-screws in on top of those to hold them. Easy-peasy, so naturally I didn’t do it that way.

I’d left some extra material in the trigger well, so using a flex-shaft tool with a carbide bur I slowly and carefully removed material until it fit and I could just barely run the pins through the housing. Now previously all of my AR trigger experience was with Milspec triggers. The Impact is a revelation. Travel is very short, it’s super-crisp and the reset is also very short. Timney claims it’s a 3.4 lbs. trigger, and I believe them. It’s fantastic. It’s way more trigger than a gun like this needs, but it’s not always about need, is it?

I won’t bother giving you a blow-by-blow of the assembly; it’s not difficult and there are plenty of how-tos online. Basically everything fit just as it should, and the Sylvan Magwell adapter was dead-simple to install. I did need to do a skosh of fitting to the lower receiver to get it to mate with the upper, but it was not a lengthy or painful process.

I researched magazines as well… but not well enough, perhaps. I ordered three clear polymer ETS 31-shot magazines from Gunmagwarehouse.com. These are pretty inexpensive and have good reviews overall, so of course as soon as I bought them a buddy who is deep into Three-Gun competition said they don’t hold up, and always crack sooner or later. They may be OK; those 3-Gun folks use their gear hard, and are far tougher on it than I’m likely to be. Nevertheless I’m going to buy three Glock mags just in case.

Last but not least I had a Bushnell TWRS-25 Red Dot to use as an optic, and bought a much-needed sight riser off of Amazon… and discovered I had hit the wrong button and ordered the 6″, which looked absolutely stupid with the stubby Bushnell sight. I almost ordered the correct one and thought, “Wait, I have a saw…” I cut it to the proper length and coated the exposed aluminum with some black lacquer I had on hand.

It’s basically done, though I am still waiting for the Magpul had-grip. Chris at McCallen Tactical gave me an A2 grip, so I could at least fully assemble it and test it. I played around with the idea of a flip-up magnifier, but they don’t seem to be an ideal solution, and on a short-range gun like this it seemed unnecessary.

Ain’t it cute?
OK, Maybe ‘cute’ is the wrong word, but it is certainly a handy little thing.

The Gun is 21″ overall, 24″ with the stock extended, and with a loaded 30-round magazine weighs just shy of six pounds.

I buggered up my back a bit, so no work today. Hell, it’s Father’s Day anyway, right? I figured the hardest part of heading to the range and testing it was the undoubtedly long wait to get a lane, and I could spend that in the car reading. I filled up the three magazines with some reloaded 124gr. 9mm, grabbed the earphones and headed out. Happily the gun just fits in my large range-bag.

So How’s it Shoot?

I researched carefully, got quality components and made sure all the bits would work and play well together, so naturally I assumed it wouldn’t work. I was not disappointed when it did work. Not a bobble the whole time. OK, there was one, but that was me; I’d failed to seat the magazine properly.

Sighting it in was an adventure. To start I ran a target out to ten yards and fired three shots. Blank paper. Not good. I reeled it in to 5 yards, and clover-leafed three shots 8 inches low and four inches left. Holy crap… I’d bore-sighted this optic on a carbine, and didn’t realize I’d had the sight dialed all the way down! After three adjustments I had elevation about where I wanted it, and ran the target out to twenty-five yards and adjusted POI to the right until hits were well centered. Good enough for now; I’ll refine that at the outdoor range later.

Twenty-five yards- standing/unsupported, center-hold, one shot per second. The flyers happened before I realized the riser had come a bit loose. Oops. I’d only had it finger tight. I cinched it down proper with a screw-driver, and things tightened right up.
Hmmm… had a bit of ammo left-over, so what’s a fella to do? Double-taps at ten yards of course!

I only took 90 rounds because I didn’t want to bugger my back further, and that’s a good thing… because I’d have kept shooting long past the point I should have quit. I certainly achieved the goal of making it fun! It is a ball to shoot. Mission accomplished.

Well… for now at least. I have no idea how long and well the hybrid-polymer lower will hold up. Reviews and indications are good; there is one fellow who torture-tested one with a .50 BMG upper and it held up… at least for as long as he could stand to shoot it. We’ll see. For now I’ll keep a close eye on it and see how it goes. It’s pretty cheap to replace it with a decent aluminum receiver, and at the first sign of trouble I will.

I like it. I like it a lot. If reliability continues this is going to be the new ‘nightstand gun,’ and I have no doubt I’ll be having plenty of fun playing with different loads, maybe add a light… hey, it’s Adult Lego, right? The possibilities are endless…

A happy father’s day indeed, and Happy fathers day to all of you.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 21 June 2020

If you like what you see here, please consider clicking the link above and supporting me on Patreon.

A Tale of Two Mouse-Guns, Pt. 2

Before the turn of the 20th Century the gun-makers of Liege, Belgium produced a lot of small revolvers for individual self defense- and by ‘a lot’ I mean like millions. Most of these were .22 rim-fires, often .22 Short. Most of them used a miniature version of the typical Bulldog revolver mechanism. One maker, August Francotte, offered 150 different revolvers in 1890, and he was not alone by any means. We’ll get back to Mr. Francotte shortly.

Typical mini-revolver patterned after the Webley Bulldog, chambered in .22 Short. Belgian gunmakers referred to these as ‘Puppies.’

In the 1890’s a French gunmaker, R.Galland began making a small revolver referred to by the trade name ‘Velo Dog.’ These fired a center-fire .22 caliber cartridge called 5.5mm Velo Dog. This was rather less powerful than .22 Long Rifle, but the very long casing allowed for cartridges loaded with pepper, lead dust, or wooden or rubber bullets. These were viewed as ‘more humane’ for use in the gun’s specific purpose- for cyclists to defend themselves from dogs. Lead bullets were also available of course, and these tiny revolvers were often employed for self defense.

Belgian gun-makers, of course, with their signature lack of respect for foreign patents, immediately began making revolvers to fire Galand’s cartridge and marketing them as Velo Dog revolvers. These were basically their standard ‘Puppy’ revolvers with elongated frames and cylinders to accommodate the new cartridge. Often these were shrouded-hammer versions so they would not snag on a cyclist’s clothing.

Galand Velo Dog Revolver. No, the trigger guard isn’t big, the revolver is small.

Galand’s revolver was of a fundamentally different design than these stretched ‘puppies.’ It was an open-top revolver, and had to be disassembled for loading and unloading. In the early 20th C. these were also offered in .22 Rimfire and .25 ACP.

.22 LR on the left, 5.5mm Velo Dog on the right. Fiocchi actually continued to produce Velo Dog ammunition until comparatively recently, calling it by its other name, 5.75mm Velo dog, which is actually the outside diameter of the cartridge at the mouth.

Returning to Auguste Francotte, between 1912-1914 his firm offered a copy of the actual Galand design, chambered in .25 ACP. Production was halted by the German occupation in 1814, and never resumed. This brings us to the second of the mouse-guns in our tale, one of these rare revolvers. Linda got it for me off of Gunbroker as a second birthday present.

Calling this gun a ‘knock-off’ may be doing it an injustice, as the Francotte is revolver is rather higher quality than the original Galands.
The gun is in spectacularly good condition for all that it’s over a century old. The only blemishes to its finish are on the rear of the grip-frame, where the original Mother of Pearl grips chipped away. There is some slight loss of the nickel and rust has developed there.

The gun is a ‘hammerless’ design, so the trigger is double-action only. The trigger is narrow and rather heavy, but exceptionally smooth with no stacking. Even Linda, a confirmed DA-trigger snob, pronounced it ‘good.’ The fit and finish is excellent, and it is overall quite an attractive little gun.

To unload the gun you rotate the lever on the right side of the frame forward 180 degrees. This allows you to remove the barrel and cylinder from the fixed arbor, which can then be used to poke the empty shells out of the chambers.

Ready to load- obviously there will be no quick reloads with this gun!

The gun holds five shots, and you’d better hope that’s enough, because you won’t be reloading in a hurry.

Despite it’s tiny size I don’t find it difficult to fire or manipulate the gun. This doesn’t mean it’s easy to shoot accurately; the sights are rudimentary and do not show up well. Since this designed to be used at very close range this isn’t realistically a problem. The barrel is only 1-1/4″ long, so the short sight radius doesn’t help… but it can be done within reasonable limits. I started firing at three yards as I had no idea where is would hit. As it turns out rather high, but the gun exceeds expectations.

This target was fired at a sedate 1-shot per second at three yards. If one allows for the high point of impact this would definitely “‘git ‘er done.’

Moving back to seven yards things got a bit trickier. Still not tragically bad, and no doubt practice will improve this.

Still shooting high. About a four-inch group (with one flyer) at seven yards.

The Ammunition I was using was Magtech 50gr. FMJRN. I am not best pleased with this ammo; I had several rounds that failed to ignite on the first strike. The primers showed a firm, deep strike on the first hit that should have set them off. One simply wouldn’t go off no matter how many times I dropped the hammer on it. Grrrr… I’ll try some different ammo for it, of course, which ought to show what’s what.

So what sort of performance does the .25 Auto offer from this diminutive gun? The Magtech ammo managed an average of 631 fps. and 44 ft./lbs of energy, with an extreme spread of 20 fps.

I am genuinely delighted with this little gun, as I am with the Seecamp LWS .32. My wife sure knows how to treat me right on my birthday!*

The Francotte and Seecamp; two very different mouse-guns from each end of the 20th c.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 19 June 2020

If you like what you see here, please consider clicking the link above to support me on Patreon.

*Pretty much all of the time, actually!