Wow, It’s Been a While…

Yesterday I went shooting for the first time since early March. Linda is High-risk for COVID19, so we went into social isolation quite early. Champion Arms, my local indoor range, has been closed much of that time anyway, as has the outdoor range I am a member of.

The range has closed every other lane, so they are running at half capacity, and they are insisting on people wearing masks. Being basically cool people they also offered members an added month to their membership to help offset the time they were closed. Once on the range I lowered my mask; the air-evac system blows from behind the shooter and straight downrange, so at that point infection just isn’t much of an issue.

After basically three months I had a lot of things to test, some loads and even a new gun… but you’ll need to wait on hearing about that one. It’s getting it’s own post.

I started off with the Detonics Mk.1 CombatMaster .45. Sometime back I was perusing Pinto’s and came across two unopened boxes of Speers’ legendary 200gr. ‘Flying Ashtray’ hollowpoint bullets. Developed in the 1980s, these were the first hollowpoints that expanded reliably at .45 ACP velocities. I loaded these over a charge of Unique that propels them from the Detonics 3-1/2″ barrel at 900 fps.

Accuracy was fine, but these loads were a little hot for the fast-cycling gun, and some of the brass got crunched. Nonetheless it was reliable out of the six-shot Detonics mags. The 8-shot full-length Shooting Star magazines were a less happy tale. These have always worked perfectly with milder loads, but on average they malfunctioned once per mag with the hot loads. Not a tragedy; I have plenty of the Detonics mags. I think I’m going to back these loads down a bit; they really don’t need to be this stout to do the job.

The first group, rapid-fired ‘cold’ because I wanted to assess my performance after months without meaningful practice. This was rapid-fire at seven yards.
Two magazines of double-taps at seven yards. Not dismaying, but there’s room for improvement.

I also wanted to shoot a new load in .32 S&W Long- another hot load, this one an 85gr. XTP Hollow Point, and it’s stepping right out, at over 1000 fps. from the two-inch barreled Colt. This is not a load I recommend; while it is comparable to some of the load data from the 1930s, it is definitely not range ammo, and I plan to load it as a defensive load and shoot it very, very little.

Despite the power this load has relatively little recoil, and the Detective Special, as always, was a joy to shoot. I did shoot some precision targets, and the round is more accurate than I am at 10 and 25 yards, so good enough.

A couple cylinders of rapid fire at seven yards. Yeah, that would do, but yeah I am out of practice.

People talk about not wanting to blow up old guns with hot loads, but in a good quality gun that’s not really an issue. What you do need to worry about is loosening them up or screwing up their timing, which is a pain to repair and sometimes can’t be done.

Speaking of loosening up old guns, I am not eager to induce a case of Wobbly Webley Syndrome in my Mk.1. It’s near as dammit 135 years old, so I think a little TLC is in order. Like most of the .455s imported after WW2 this gun had the cylinder shaved to accept .45 ACP using moon clips. Since .45 ACP is loaded around half-again the pressure of .455 this was a terrible idea, but importers thought it would be easier to sell the guns in a common US caliber, and I am sure they were correct. But if you want your gun to survive and prosper, you load it down to .455 specs.

I’m practically swimming in ACP brass, so to avoid confusion I shortened a bunch of it to the length of .450 Adams for use in the Webley. That way there’s no chance of inadvertently loading full-power ammo in the old gun. I call the result .450 Rimless, and load it like .450 Adams. I took a bunch of loaded clips to the range and went to town on some targets.

The .450 Rimless worked great. I was consistently shooting high and right until I cranked down and focused. Rapid fire at seven yards.

As an experiment I had tried some of these rounds to see if the would feed in the Detonics, and they did, so I loaded up a magazine and gave it a try. In most semi-automatic guns the case head spaces on the lip of the cartridge in the inside of the chamber, and in theory a 1911-based gun does too… but in reality they effectively headspace on the extractor, which is fixed in the slide. When the cartridge is stripped from the magazine it slides up and under the extractor, rather than having a hinged extractor snapping over the rim when the gun comes into battery. This meant, in practice, the short casings might work fine.

Guess what? They do, and are in fact pleasantly mellow out of the Detonics. Accuracy is fine as well.

.450 Rimless runs through the Detonics just fine, and with its mild recoil staying on-target during rapid fire was a doddle.

I don’t see any real utility in running the shorter cartridge through the Combat Master, but it’s nice to know I can. I think.

Lastly I had .41 Special loads to run through the Taurus model 415 .41 Magnum. Both used a 210gr. copper-washed Kieth bullet over a charge of 6.0 or 6.5gr of Unique with a CCI large pistol primer. The 6.0gr. load makes 875 fps. and 357 ft./lbs. from the 2.75″ barreled Taurus, and the 6.5gr load makes 919 fps and 394 ft./lbs.

Shooting very high and right at seven yards. When i really focused… a little less, but still high and right. The curse of fixed sights… sometimes they are fixed on the wrong place.

The 6.0gr loads had some pop, but were rather nice to shoot. The 6.5gr. loads had notable more recoil, but still not unpleasant. Not anywhere near as intense as shooting .41 magnum loads, but of course that’s why we load .41 Special.

Not sure what I’m going to do about these sights, but some sort of adjustment is needed, it’s just a question of how to do that. I’ll have to see how the front sight is attached.

I didn’t get to shoot as long as I wanted to since I screwed up my back earlier this week and it was starting to get fussy after an hour or so, but Lord it was nice to be back on the range!

I’ll cover the last bit of this trip in the next post, when I tell you about the new gun…

Take care and stay safe.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 11 June 2020

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