Range Report for 6 March 2018


Astra .38 Special Police model

I had a couple of guns to test and several new guns to fire on the range today, so it was never not going to be interesting.

Linda and I recently procured a pair of Astra .38 Police model revolvers. These guns were made in 1985-86 and used by the Policia Municipal Vitorria in Spain. Some time back they switched to automatics and these guns are now being surplussed to the US. These guns are a heavy-framed .38 Special with a number of unique features- one of which is the crane and cylinder, which may be removed simply by pushing a button. The other is that the trigger-pull is user adjustable via a clever system that uses a wheel to provide four different settings for the mainspring.

These guns feature excellent double action trigger pulls, and they are easily solid enough to handle +P loads. Today was basically just test-firing them to make sure everything was in order. Both guns shot well and were quite comfortable, even with stout loads.

‘Thumper,’ an ASM 1847 Colt Walker reproduction converted to fire cartridges

It was also time to finally give Thumper a good workout. This is a Walker repro converted to fire a proprietary cartridge, .44-50 Walker. Accuracy is good- I fired five shots at the target, and I guess they are all there; there certainly weren’t any other holes in the target. The gun recoils rather like a large-frame .357 Magnum- noticeable but not really unpleasant. It’s a pretty fun gun to shoot.

The brass used for this cartridge is made from shortened and expanded .303 British brass. The final shaping of the brass is done by fire-forming, and even though the previously used brass and the new brass bore identical loads the difference between them was obvious.  Previously-fired and reloaded brass was easy to eject after firing. Newly fire-formed cases had to be driven out with a cleaning rod. None of the brass showed signs of excessive pressure, and the theoretical maximum load is 13+gr. of Trail Boss- the current load is 10 grains. I may experiment with increasing the load, but I’d like to have more experience with this gun first

The Dandy got a good workout as well- .44 Colt ammo is finally sorted and working properly.  I had thought the collet-crimp was the answer to my ammo issues with this caliber, but nope. It just doesn’t crimp hard enough for consistent results. The solution? Yep- glue the bullets in with blue Loctite and then crimp them. The combination works.

The load uses the same 200gr. LRNFP-HB bullet as the .44-50, this time over 6.5gr. of Trail Boss with a CCI300 primer. Just enough recoil to let you know you’ve shot something. I do need to adjust the front sight; the gun is shooting a bit low. That being said this gun is a pleasure to shoot.

The Armi San Marcos .45 was a little disappointing, but only because it was shooting extremely low with the Winchester PDX1 225gr. JHP ammunition I was trying out. Like 6″ Low at 7 yards. The gun is consistent, easy to shoot and reliable but a conventional sight picture will have you plowing the dirt in front of the target at any real range. Fortunately it’s not a tough fix. I’ll shoot some of my regular ammo through it next time and see what kind of POI that produces.

It was also the first time shooting the Taurus Model 608 .357 Magnum. This N-Frame 8-shooter has a 6″ compensated barrel. It’s a pussycat with Remington 158gr. SJHPs, and equally nice with my hand-loads using a 158gr TMJ-FP over 7.7gr. of Unique.  Recoil is less noticeable than the muzzle-blast, and a hundred rounds downrange didn’t leave my hand feeling even slightly abused.

I fired the three-shot group about standing unsupported/single action at 25 yards. I usually shoot a five-shot group, but after three I had no idea where I was hitting so I reeled the target in to look… except I didn’t. The trolley was stuck. They had to call a cease-fire to free it, and that was the end of shooting at 25 yards. Still, the 3 shots were sufficient to show there’s nothing wrong with the gun’s accuracy.  Yes, I know it’s not a S&W, but there’s not much to ask of this gun; it’s nicely finished, it has a nice action and trigger, it’s accurate and pleasant to shoot. I like it quite a bit.

Here’s an unpleasant surprise- the last cylinder of empties was sticky, and when I got them ejected I found this-

Yeah, that was factory Remington ammunition. Not cool.

Lastly we come to the Fitz Special.  I fired this using two loads, a 158gr. TMJ-FP and a 173gr. LSWC over 4.0gr. of Unique. The Fitz is meant to be a close-range proposition but I started out at 7 yards and the results were alright-

7 yards, modified Weaver stance, 10 rounds

Shooting a bit low, but not so bad that it isn’t easily compensated for.  I put rounds on a few targets and then decided to go old-school and shoot the gun as it was meant to be used. I ran a silhouette out to 3 yards and thrust the gun out one-handed and blazed away.  The result was quite satisfactory-

5 rounds to 158gr. TMJFP

Feeling emboldened by my success I loaded up with the 173gr. LSWCs and had another go-

5 rds. 173gr LSWC.  The bullet-hole below the grip is from the previous group.

I am really, really liking the Fitz! You need to mind that unprotected trigger, but I’d happily carry this gun.

Altogether it was a very satisfactory afternoon out.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 7 March 2018

2 thoughts on “Range Report for 6 March 2018

  1. Brad Bradsher

    So Michael, the case failure in the Taurus…any guess if that’s a bad round of factory ammo (overpressure, defective case) or a chamber problem in the revolver (oversize chamber)?


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