Monthly Archives: December 2018

.45 x 5: Range Report for 30 December 2018

From left to right: .450 Adams, .45 ACP, .45 Cowboy Special, .44 Colt & .45 Colt

Forty-five day at the range today! Two experimental loads for .450 Adams, two for .44 Colt, with the rest being old standards. I also had the new Remington .44 conversion on-hand for it’s maiden voyage.

From left to right: ‘The Dandy’ in .450 Adams, ‘The Pug’ in .45 Colt, ‘Nameless’ in .44 Colt, the Remington ‘Bisley’ conversion in .44 Colt, the Detonics Mk.1 Combat Master .45 ACP and an Armi San Marcos ‘New Dakota’ in .45 Colt

Starting with .450 Adams, I had picked up some .451 soft lead balls, usually used for percussion revolvers. I loaded some as round ball and swaged some into hollow-base round-nose lead.

Soft-lead round-ball swaged into hollow-base RNL. Finished weight is 132gr.

No real goal to this; sometimes I just like to experiment. I suppose if the round ball worked out it might make a nice source for cheap range ammo, but really I just wanted to see what would happen. For test purposes I used ‘The Dandy,’ a Pietta Remington 1858 with a bespoke cylinder chambered for .450. Both rounds were accurate enough, but the ball rounds- loaded by simply pushing the ball in over a charge of 4.3 gr. of Trail Boss- were super anemic; they shot very low even at seven yards and went off with a pop rather than a bang. I suppose if I actually properly crimped the balls in place it might make a difference, and a different powder might yield better results. I may continue to mess around with these.

Round-ball loads in .450 Adams- nope, at least not with this powder/charge weight. Hitting very low, even at seven yards.

The 132gr Hollow-base RNL did a bit better, but were still conspicuously underpowered. In a penetration test one of these bullets penetrated about 1/2″ in a kiln-dried Douglas Fir 2×6. Still, for punching paper they are OK, but honestly swaging them is a bit too much work for the payoff.

I started with a 6-o’clock hold and moved to a center-hold. Accuracy was acceptable at seven yards, but the low-volume report and complete lack of recoil make these less than satisfying to shoot.

For contrast I also had my standard .450 Adams load- a 200gr LRNFP over 4.0gr. of Unique with a CCI300 Large Pistol Primer. These were, as always, fun to shoot and accurate, with just enough bang and recoil to let you know you’ve shot a ‘real gun.’

The 200gr LRNFP bullet over 4.0gr. of Unique. Shoots to point-of-aim at seven yards and is quite accurate.

I put quite a few rounds of this load downrange; this gun/cartridge combo is very pleasant to shoot. I filled in the black on several targets before I felt the need to move on…

.44 Colt- which as I have said here before is actually a .45- was next because there is a new gun! Over the holidays I picked up a Euroarms 1858 and converted it to fire .44 Colt. I also modified the grip-frame to mimic the shape of a Colt Bisley, lowered the hammer-spur and made a set of custom Curly Maple grips. The gun is not quite ‘ready for prime time’ but I did want to test-fire it.

To this end I loaded up a box of my standard .44 Colt load, which uses a .451 caliber 200gr. heel-base RNL bullet over 6.5gr. of Trail Boss powder. I also loaded some .430 200gr. hollow-base wadcutters. My hope was that the skirt would expand enough to engage the rifling and stabilize the bullets. We’ll just get that one out of the way right now- 20% of them key-holed at seven yards. Unacceptable.

The new gun performed nicely however-

Fired at seven yards with a center-hold; the gun shoots quite close to POA, so I will not be changing out the front sight

With the new grip-shape the gun hangs very nicely in the hand, and recoil is mild. The trigger on this gun is quite nice, with little take-up or over-travel. When the gun is completely dialed in and finished I’ll start working at longer ranges. For now I am quite pleased with how it is coming out.

I also fired ‘Nameless’ a fair bit. This snub-nosed .44 Colt has notably more recoil than the long-barrelled gun, as you would expect. It also experienced a number of light strikes; CCI have a rep for being hard primers, so next time I will try a different brand and see how that works out. If need be I can make adjustments to the gun, but I prefer not to.

Nameless consistently shoots a bit high at seven yards, but not so much that I feel it is necessary to replace the front sight with a taller one.

The grip-shape on Nameless is an experiment in making one of these guns more concealable; they are small and flat so they will ‘hide’ better. Not that I intend to CC this pistol, but the reason someone in the 19th century might have made such a gun is as a hide-out, so it seems appropriate. It works well with .44 Colt, but I have to say I am not at all sure I’d want to fire a more powerful cartridge out of it.

I loaded a box of .45 Cowboy Special for ‘The Pug,’ my original Pietta Remington conversion that uses a .45 Colt Kirst Gated Conversion. These use my standard go-to .45 range bullet- a 200gr. LRNFP- loaded over 5.3gr. of Unique. The question comes up occasionally, ‘Why not just use .45 Schofield?’ It’s a fair question- ballistics are basically pretty much the same. The answer is that I have a lot of .45 Colt brass, and by shortening it to .45 ACP’s overall length I can use a .45 Colt shell-holder with .45 ACP dies without changing the settings on the dies, and I already have those.

Yes, I can shoot .45 Colt out of this gun, and have often. But I have started loading hunting loads for .45 Colt, and by sticking to .45CS for my conversions I avoid the possibility of accidentally slipping an overpowered load into them.

I shot the first seven-yard group at the lower edge of the target, then switched to a center-hold when it was obvious these loads were shooting to POA. A few fliers, but not too shabby overall.

I love this gun; accurate, mild recoil and it just feels good in the hand. There’s also sentimental value, since this was my first cartridge conversion.

The Detonics Mk.1 Combat Master .45 is also a pure pleasure to shoot. I find it almost ridiculously easy to shoot this gun well. This target was seven-yard rapid-fire. Not bad; a couple of fliers but I’ll keep working on it.

This target was right and left handed rapid fire at seven yards. I definitely need more practice, specifically with my left hand!

I also fired the ASM New Dakota. Its good looking, nicely made and is my favorite barrel length for a Single Action Army. It shoots well too, but somehow it’s just… not interesting. To me, at least. All I know is that it gets passed by a lot when I am picking guns for a range-trip. I suspect I will either have to find something interesting to do with it or sell it.

So, the last range trip of 2018- overall a pretty good way to wind up the year!

Michael Tinker Pearce, 31 December 2018

The Mercury Automatic Pistol

I happened across this little pistol- where else?- at Pinto’s Guns in Renton, WA. It was obviously a well-made gun, but I had never heard of it before. I was intrigued.

The gun is a straight blowback, striker-fired single-action semi-auto that is almost entirely conventional in details and operation. It is all-steel construction with a rather nice blued finish and black plastic grips. It came with two seven-round magazines and instructions in the original box.
These guns were manufactured by L.Robar & Company in Liege, Belgium. It is the .22 LR. Version of their “New Model Mélior,” which was renamed the ‘Mercury’ for the sale in the United States after 1945. These were imported to the United States by Tradewinds, Inc. of Tacoma, Washington. They were available finished in Blue, Nickel and reportedly there were even engraved models. After the Gun Control Act of 1968 was enacted these guns could no longer be imported.

I’ve only ever seen two of these weapons; this one and one that was offered for sale last year, which was finished in Blue with wooden grips. There is little available about them online; numbers produced etc. The serial number is not necessarily meaningful; it is stamped rather haphazardly into the frame and slide, and was almost certainly applied by Tradewinds rather than Robar.

While many of the features of this little gun are common, this is unusual- with the recoil spring around the very short barrel it is exposed in the ejection port. To make this less problematic there is a split sleeve fitted over it that partially covers it.

Field-stripping the gun reveals that, while much of the mechanism is ordinary there are some significant departures. You start by removing the magazine. The recoil spring is held in place by a screwed-in bushing in the front of the slide, for example. This is not an arrangement that inspires confidence; it’s all too easy to picture it unscrewing while you are firing the gun and spewing its guts downrange. In practice it works fine though. It didn’t budge even during a protracted range-session.

Once the recoil-spring is removed you simply pull the slide all the way to the rear and lift the back end, whereupon it shoots the firing-pin spring and retainer across the room. If you are smarter than me you cup your hand over the back of the slide so that the retainer slams painfully into your palm, but at least you don’t have to track the bloody thing down… Anyway, once you accomplish this the gun is field-stripped for cleaning.

There are not a whole lot of parts, but God help you if you lose them- spares are practically unobtainium. Except magazines- those turn up now and then.

There are some quite clever bits; the firing-pin spring is also the sear-spring. Instead of a heel-release to drop the magazine there is a Beretta-style button-release located on the left grip panel. Like a lot of Belgian guns it’s a liberal mix of features cribbed from all over and a bit of native innovation. The safety is another interesting feature; when in the ‘off’ position it is spring-assisted; start it moving and it snaps to the ‘fire’ position all on it’s own. I’m a bit ambivalent about this- on the one hand it makes it very easy to ready the gun to fire; on the other hand it seems a bit like an accident waiting to happen.

The slide does not lock back after firing the last round in the magazine, but it is possible to manually lock the slide to the rear using the safety. Honestly I am not sure why you would, but it’s an option.

I am relatively certain that this gun was carried a bit but had never been fired. A couple of reasons for this; one is that the patterns of wear and the lack thereof. There’s also the absolute lack of carbon or soot in any part of the gun’s interior. But most telling to me- it doesn’t work.

Here’s a size comparison with the S&W Escort. The Mercury is significantly smaller, although it is by no means the most compact pocket-auto made. It’s magazine also holds seven rounds compared to the Escort’s five rounds.

Both magazines took some fiddling to get a round to chamber, and experienced nearly constant failures to feed, and when it didn’t fail to feed it failed to go into battery. Occasionally it would fail to eject. I considered that this might be attributed to using fifty-year old Sears-brand ammo, but when I tried a box of CCI Mini-Mags (the gold standard for .22 Semi-autos) it was actually worse.

When it did go bang accuracy was quite acceptable for a pocket auto with micro-scopic sights. I had no difficulty putting rounds on-target at 3-7 yards; the gun points very naturally.

Working on the theory that the gun might need breaking-in I kept shooting, and it got better. A bit better. After a while it would chamber the first round out of the magazine pretty reliably, and it was possible to sometimes fire 2-3 rounds in a row. That was as good as it got, so I dug out the pliers and began to adjust the feed lips on the magazines. It took a bit of experimentation, but by the end of it one of the magazines was functioning quite well; I could fire all seven rounds without a bobble most of the time. The second magazine still had some small issues, which I eventually traced to the front-seam of the magazine, which was opening slightly near the top. I’ll solder that soon and try it again. In the end I put about 170-175 rounds through it.

Fired at 3 yards
Fired at 5 yards.

I fired the bulk of the shots at seven yards while I fiddled with the gun; basically the target looked enough like the 5-yard target (only with more holes) so I didn’t bother photographing it.

I’m pretty sure that I will get this gun to be pretty reliable in time, which is good; it’s kind of fun to shoot these little ‘mouse-guns’ and I have plenty of .22LR on hand to run through.

I expect that painting the front sight with bright-red enamel will make it quite a bit easier to shoot accurately, and I will likely replace the plastic grips with some nice exotic hardwood. Anyway it is an interesting gun, and I’m having fun with it- which is the point after all.

Merry Christmas! I hope that your holiday season is filled with joy and togetherness.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 25 December 2018

Range Report 18 December 2018- The Gang’s All Here

We got an invite to meet Pat Hillyer and Courtney Miller at Champion Arms for a bit of shooting this afternoon. Linda was all for it- any opportunity to shoot her Sig 238 Legion is OK with her!

Linda is getting nicely dialed in on the 238 Legion. The custom Desert Ironwood grips were a second Christmas present from me.

Linda happily put another couple boxes of ammo through her new love while I played with some of Pat and Courtney’s toys, including Pat’s Kel-Tec sub 2000. This is an interesting and economical pistol-caliber carbine, and this was my first chance to shoot one. The gun functioned perfectly and was quite easy to manage. I fired off a magazine at ten yards, and did several double-taps. For the most part things stayed nice and tight.

Kel-Tec Sub 2000, ten yards

Recoil was, as you’d expect, minimal. It was easy to shoot accurately at the short range I was firing at and experienced no malfunctions. For all that I found the gun quite unpleasant to shoot. The recoil spring is in the stock (a la AR15) and some weird harmonic made it sting my cheek- surprisingly painfully. I think if I were to shoot one of these regularly I would need some kind of pad on the stock.

I also got to shoot Courtney’s 10mm Glock. This is the first time I’ve really shot a pistol with an optic sight. It was a bit odd, but I’m sure that I would get used to it. This was also the first time I fired a Glock 10mm, and despite firing loads that Courtney described as ‘hot’ it was easily the most pleasant-to-shoot 10mm I’ve fired yet. It was comparable to shooting standard loads in a 1911 .45 as far as perceived recoil went.

First time using an optic on a pistol. Interesting.

My hits were consistently low at 7 yards, but that could as easily be me as the gun. I actually liked it quite a bit!

Both Pat and Courtney tried the Taurus M85 Sub-Compact Custom, and there reactions were similar- they went from ‘How on Earth does this work’ to ‘Holy crap- this really works!’

Taurus M85 SCC (Sub-Compact Custom) .38 Special

The ammo of the day was 158gr. handloads on top of a book-maximum charge of Unique. Neither of the gentlemen had any difficulty controlling the gun or firing it accurately.

Courtney Miller firing the m85 SCC

Pat Hillyer firing the m85 SCC

Both of them were surprised at the gun’s performance. After shooting it the first time Pat asked, “Would you sell this?” He was kidding. Mostly. I also did some shooting with this little revolver and performance was quite good- but not so good I figured I needed pictures of the target.

We also all shot the S&W 61-2 .22 pocket-gun. Everyone enjoyed it- Pat informs me that he has looked one up on Gunbroker and intends to buy it! Linda’s comment was, “It’s not as fun as my Sig…” When I came back from a break she was shooting it some more, so you be the judge. It’s really easy to run through a box of ammo in this little gun, and I did. Between the bunch of us we went through two boxes in total.

The upper target was shot with Linda’s P238, the lower was shot ‘at a brisk pace’ with the little S&W

Just for giggles I ran a target out to twenty-five yards and blazed away. When I reeled it in I found I only hit three of the five shots. ‘That will not do,’ I told myself. I taped up the holes and ran the target back out and fired more carefully. The results were much more satisfactory this time:

Not bad. Not bad at all!

We did experience two stoppages in a hundred rounds- in both cases an empty stove-piped on ejection. Given that the gun is over 45 years old and the ammo is probably 50+ years old I think I can forgive that. I like this little pistol!

I also did some shooting with the Astra Police .38, which has a new set of grips. As usual it’s fine double action trigger and recoil-absorbing mass made it very pleasant to shoot, and the new grip works just as it should. Unfortunately we’d all had so much fun shooting the Taurus that I didn’t have as much .38 Special left as I would have liked to shoot this gun.

Rapid-fire at seven yards. This is a really sweet-shooting gun!

On a less happy note I am not sold on the Federal #100 Small Pistol Primer. Last week I loaded a batch of .380 using a tried-and-true load, but I substituted the Federal primers for my usual CCI500 primers. This load (with the CCI primers) had functioned just fine in our .380s the week before. With the Federal primers neither gun would cycle- this was using the same bullets, the same lot of powder loaded into the same cases. The only difference was the primer. Not good… but the plot thickens.

S&W Double-Action Safety Hammerless (4th Model)

At the end of the session I pulled out my S&W top-break, again using a load that functioned well using CCI primers. Loaded with the Federal primers only one shot in five achieved proper ignition. The other four would give a dispirited ‘Thump’ and sling the bullet gently downrange. I still had some of the CCI-primed loads on-hand and fired them for comparison. Every shot banged as it should. With the only variable being the primer I can only conclude that the Federal primers were not performing well.

Something to bear in mind is that both of these loads use a very small quantity of powder, and the Federal primers simply doesn’t seem to be up to the task of getting good, uniform ignition with these small charges. I also fired 100 rounds of .38 Special loaded with Federal Primers and they worked just fine, as did the .357 Magnum rounds using them. Obviously I’m going to have to restrict use of these primers to loads with a large volume of powder, and use CCI for the rest.

It was a good afternoon at the range overall- it was great to see Pat and Courtney, and we all got to shoot some different guns.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 18 December 2018