Posts Tagged ‘firearms’
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
The See All Open Sight is revolutionary!
Today, we’ll test the See All Open Sight on a firearm! Last week, my shooting buddy Otho brought his Thompson Center Contender rifle to the range. It’s chambered in .17 HM2, a chambering and conversion he did himself.
With a scope mounted, this rifle will shoot about a one-inch group at 50 yards. He mounted the See All on it and proceeded to shoot groups.
At first, he wasn’t able to adjust the sight. That was tracked down to the sight being loose. That mounting system they use is really marginal — not just for spring-piston guns but for firearms, as well.
The base clamp of the sight relies on 2 screws that run down to push the jaws of the sight up against the Weaver or Picatinny dovetails. Those screws are seen on the upper left of the base.
But that problem was solved, and the test proceeded. Sight-in went quickly once the sight was stable. Otho discovered, as I did, that it takes only a very little movement of the adjustment screws to move the strike of the round. Despite there being marks on the sight, they aren’t helpful when adjusting. You have to just look at the position of the Allen wrench leg and go by that.
Once the See All sight was tight on the rifle, Otho was able to adjust it pretty quickly.
He shot 2 10-shot groups at 50 yards. While I didn’t measure them, the first one may be the best. It appears to be about a 2.50-inch group, with 9 shots in 1.25 to 1.40 inches.
I never saw this horizontal adjustment graphic until I took this picture. This is enlarged and enhanced.
The vertical adjustment marks are still nearly invisible, despite enlargement and sharpening.
Otho’s first group was the best. Ten shots went into about 2.5-inches, with 9 of them going into about half that size. An American quarter is just under one inch in diameter.
Otho complained that he wasn’t able to put the point of the triangle on the bottom of the target. The black line and green material above the tip of the triangle made it necessary for him to guess where the tip was located. He would like to see the material removed down to the tip of the triangle for greater precision while aiming.
The material above the point of the triangle, plus the horizontal black line, make it difficult to position the tip of the reticle precisely.
His second group is about the same size as the first, but more scattered. Look at how tight it is from side to side. It’s clear there is an aiming problem in the vertical direction but not in the horizontal.
This second group shot by Otho is about the same size as the first, but this one’s strung out more vertically. Yes, there are 10 shots here.
By the time he was done with the second 10 shots, he was finished. Guessing where the tip of the reticle was has taxed him. So, he turned over the rifle to me.
This is the first time I’d shot this rifle, so I was unfamiliar with it. But it has a fairly crisp trigger, and I didn’t have any problems shooting it.
As you can see, I had even more difficulty than Otho with the vertical component. Seven of my shots landed in 1.427 inches at 50 yards, but the 10-shot group measures 4.433 inches between centers. I had a very hard time seeing where the tip of the triangle’s located relative to the target.
My group is very vertical, measuring 4.433 inches between centers. But as you can see, I got 7 of them into 1.427 inches, which isn’t bad.
Otho brought up the point that the See All sight might not be ideal for shooting targets, but then he figured that the black bullseye was still giving the most exact aiming point possible. If the sight has trouble with vertical placement on a bullseye target, it will be much harder to control against a gray animal.
Please note that Otho is wearing glasses when he shoots. He has to wear them even when shooting with a scope, so the See All did magnify the reticle for him, as we’d hoped. He and I both believe this sight has something very unique to offer.
He wants to try the sight again on animal silhouettes. I have some nice Shoot-N-C animal targets he can try it on. That should give us the information we want.
Otho is also thinking of shaving off the top of the green plastic, to put the tip of the triangle at the top of the reticle. He wants to remove the horizontal black line, which I agree is distracting.
He also finds the green on either side of the triangle difficult to work with. He wishes it wasn’t there. I don’t have a problem with it myself.
Neither Otho nor I know if modifying the sight is the right move or not. The black line tells the shooter where the tip of the triangle is. But it’s so difficult to get the tip on the target where you want it. I think the See All folks must have tried several iterations of this already, and I am not convinced removing the top of the green is a good idea. When you look through the sight without a target to focus, the tip of the triangle is easy to find. It’s only when you aim against a specific spot that it becomes more difficult.
I’ll be shooting the See All next on my Beeman P1 pistol.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Blog reader Kevin asked me this question recently, and I embraced it because I usually don’t even have time to think about which airgun I would prefer to shoot. There’s always another blog, a feature article and 5 other deadlines pressing on my time…so thinking like this is not a luxury. It’s a fantasy! Then, Kevin asked this question and “forced” me to stop and think about it for today’s report. Ahh! Happy Friday!
The first gun that pops into my head when I ask this question is the Diana model 27 rifle. It’s just such a simple, uncomplicated airgun that I guess it serves as my happy place. But as I think about it, other guns pop up. The Air Venturi Bronco, the Falke model 70, the Diana model 25 are 3 more that come to mind immediately. They all share the model 27′s chief attribute — ease of operation. In short, they’re all fun airguns.
Diana’s model 27 breakbarrel is so light, smooth and easy to operate that it epitomizes everything that’s good about airgunning in my eyes.
Falke model 70 is another vintage breakbarrel that’s light and smooth like the Diana 27.
To take the fantasy a little farther, have these guns always been the ones that do that, or have there been others? Yes! There have been others!
My straight-grip Webley Senior pistol is exactly like the Diana 27 in this respect. It’s small and easy to operate. I still own this pistol, although there’s seldom any time to actually shoot it. But it’s right there in the drawer where I can put my hands on it whenever I want. I guess that’s good enough. I guess it will have to be.
I’ve owned this straight-grip Webley Senior since the early 1970s. It’s easy to cock, has a nice trigger and is fun to shoot. Not terribly accurate, but it’s one of those rare guns I let slip by because everything else works so well.
When I think a little longer and harder, my Beeman R8 pops into view. It comes in later because it has a scope, and scopes do complicate things. So do target sights, but my Walther LGV Olympia 10-meter target rifle now comes to light. And with it comes the new .22-caliber LGV. The target rifle took longer to pop up because it’s a heavy gun. The .22 took longer because of its power. When I want to play, power is the farthest thing from my mind.
Kevin didn’t ask me what my favorite firearms were; but since this is Friday, I’ll take a little license and include them, as well. Right now, my new PO8 Luger is a favorite because it’s accurate, recoils very little and it eats my handloads like they were candy! And when I think of that gun, I cannot overlook my Ruger Single-Six in .32 H&R Magnum. It has great power and almost no recoil. For cutting out the center of a bullseye, that little Ruger wheelgun is a dream.
The Ruger Single Six is chambered for the .32 H&R Magnum. It’s light, yet very powerful and will out-penetrate a .357 Magnum on a steel target. The 1917 Luger is such a smooth shooter that it’s like eating peanuts — I can’t stop! Both guns are very accurate.
Then, I think of my O3A3 Springfield. It’s one of the few military rifles that gives me an honest sub 2-inch group at 100 yards. If it didn’t recoil so much, I’m sure it would have popped up even sooner.
This O3A3 Springfield will smack you with recoil when you’re shooting full-house loads. The short stock gives it a running start at your shoulder. But the accuracy is stunning!
My M1 Carbine is also a favorite — not for its accuracy, which is just average — but for the fact that it drops the empty cases on top of the shooting bench! Most autoloaders throw their cases a country mile, but this little sweetie piles them up for me. With more training, I’m sure I can get it to put them back in the box!
My M1 Carbine is well-behaved. Next, I’m going to teach it to put the fired cases back into the box!
Guns I wish I still had
Now comes the Great Lament — the ones that got away! I had a Bernardelli Baby in .25 ACP that would put 3 shots into the bottom of a soda can offhand at 30 feet. Most .25s are lucky to hit dinner plates at that distance, but this little pistol was a good one. I let it get away. I recently bought another Bernardelli Baby in the hopes of doing the same thing. Alas, this one is a dinner-plate special.
Ruger .44 Magnum Blackhawk with 10-inch barrel
They’re very collectible now; but when I had my 3-screw Ruger Blackhawk, they were just good guns. I was too stupid to know that the one I had was an exceptional shooter. I figured I could always get another one.
Custom .458 Winchester Magnum
I have written about this rifle many times. I shot it with a 550-grain cast lead bullet, and it would put 10 shots into less than 2 inches (outside measurement) at 100 yards. It was like owning a target-grade 45/70. Stupid me — I thought I would always be able to find another one just as good. Haven’t yet!
What kind of shooting do I like to do?
I’m pretty easy to please. I like whatever kind of shooting I happen to be doing at the time — usually. The things I hate are magnum spring rifles that buzz like bottles of hornets, slap me in the face and have no accuracy. I also disdain black rifles that can’t group in less than 3 inches at 100 yards. In fact, I dislike almost anything that isn’t accurate.
I enjoy shooting a .45 Colt Single Action Army with accurate loads and feeling the plow-grip roll in my hand during recoil. I like shooting a nice 1911 and feeling the slight burp of recoil when I hold my thumb over the manual safety. I shot a Walther P38 recently that had a nice trigger and is very accurate. My experiences with P38s aren’t that good, but this one was memorable. I could burn up a lot of 9mm ammo in that one.
When I came home from the hospital several years ago, I received this Single Action Army as a gift from the readers of this blog. It is a favorite of mine because it mimics the feel of a Gen 1 Colt perfectly!
Same for the PO8 I got for Christmas. The ergonomics are legendary and the trigger is extremely good for a Luger (their trigger linkages usually make for poor triggers). My handloads are moderate enough that I can shoot this pistol for the rest of my life and not put any wear on it!
I enjoy holding a 10 with a target air pistol and seeing the pellet hit the pinwheel. I love seeing 10 shots from an accurate rifle sail through the same hole at 100 yards, knowing the hole they made is smaller than half an inch. I love shooting 5 shots from a 10-meter rifle and seeing a group smaller than a tenth of an inch.
Holding a 10 with a pistol is very enjoyable!
I love shooting my Daisy Avanti Champion 499 offhand and making quarter-inch groups. My shooting buddy Otho bought one for himself this past December and has been doing the same thing ever since.
I enjoy shooting a Garand and hearing the shot go off but not feeling the recoil. I know it’s there, but the push is so slow that it doesn’t seem to count. The same holds true for my .357 Magnum Desert Eagle. It’s got enough power to drop a steer, but the soft recoil feels like a 1911 shooting +P ammo.
Best of all
But the thing I like above all is when I solve some problem of inaccuracy and turn a bad gun into a real shooter. It doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, but from time to time I do hit one out of the park. I’m hoping to do that with my Ballard someday. And maybe my Meteor, as well.
by B.B. Pelletier
Today’s report is a little different, but I hope it will be informative as well as eye-opening. I plan to address several topics, but the principal theme is that not everyone understands the technology of shooting. Not even the majority!
What brought this out was a casual remark made to Edith and me at the SHOT Show a few weeks ago. We were in a gun manufacturer’s booth being shown their products and the salesman remarked that the rifle we were looking at was a single shot. I asked him how that could be since he had just shown us the rifle’s magazine.
He replied, “Well, it fires only one shot every time the bolt is worked and the trigger is pulled.” Oh, my gosh! I informed him that a rifle that has a bolt to feed ammunition from a magazine is most definitely NOT a single shot. It is what is known as a repeater.
Edith then launched in on the definition of a true single shot, using an 1874 Sharps falling block breechloader as her example — a Quigley-type rifle. I think the salesman felt the Sharps was not able to be categorized! In other words, a design so archaic as to almost defy description in modern terms.
In the salesman’s eyes, if the gun fired once when the trigger was pulled and the shooter had to do something before pulling the trigger again, it was a single shot. That begs the question of what constitutes a repeater? In the salesman’s own words, “Repeaters are guns that continue to fire each time the trigger is pulled.” To my way of thinking that could either be a double-action revolver or pistol, or a semiautomatic anything. But I guess the salesman hadn’t thought about it that much. He did tell us that the rifle in question was called a single shot in the owner’s manual that his company had just produced!
When I told Edith I was writing this blog, she told me this is a common theme in customer reviews submitted to Pyramyd Air’s website. In fact, just recently a customer submitted feedback to Pyramyd Air that he found an error on a product page, where a gun was listed as a repeater when it was really a single-shot. Apparently, some people think semiauto = repeater and don’t realize a gun can be a repeater without being semiauto.
I recently read where a gun writer described a certain revolver as having a single-action trigger because, again using his words, “…the gun fires every time the trigger is pulled. It only takes a single action to fire the gun.” Ooops! Good guess, but wrong!
A single-action gun is one where the trigger performs only a single action — releasing the sear. A double-action gun is one in which the trigger not only releases the sear, but also cocks the hammer and advances the gun’s mechanism to a fresh cartridge — two actions. Cocking and releasing the hammer (1) and loading another cartridge (2). Double-action. Get it?
Yes, they cry, but what about an M1911A1 pistol? The trigger fires the gun each time it’s pulled, and you don’t need to do anything else. Yet, it’s called a single-action. Why?
To answer that question, pick up a loaded M1911A1 that has a cartridge in its chamber. With the hammer down (i.e., not cocked) you can squeeze the trigger all day and the gun will never fire. The hammer has to be cocked first.
When an M1911A1 fires, the slide is driven back by the recoil of the exploding cartridge. As it passes over the hammer, it rocks it back to the cocked position, where the sear catches and holds it. So, it’s the action of the slide and not the action of the trigger that cocks the gun.
I have a Micro Desert Eagle pistol whose hammer doesn’t remain back in the cocked position when it fires. The slide does push it back, just like the M1911A1 slide, but my pistol is designed so the sear doesn’t catch the hammer. It follows the slide when it goes forward again. You have to cock the hammer by pulling the trigger each time you want to fire the pistol. It makes the trigger harder to pull, which makes the pistol safer to carry in your pocket. My pistol is called — get this — a double-action-only (DAO) pistol.
This Micro Desert Eagle is double-action-only for safety while carrying.
Single-action mechanisms have much lighter and crisper triggers than double-action mechanisms. I use the term “mechanism” (or action) because some air rifles are also double-action-only — like the Crosman 1077. Each pull of the trigger both cocks (and releases) the hammer and advances the clip to the next pellet. That explains why those guns have such long, heavy trigger pulls, where single-action guns like the M1911A1 have very light and extremely crisp pulls.
Incidentaly, the description on the Pyramyd Air website says the 1077 has a semiautomatic action. They do that because Crosman says it, and they want to conform to what the manufacturer is saying about their guns. But the truth is that it takes the action of pulling the trigger to cock the hammer and advance the rotary clip, and that makes it a double-action mechanism, by definition.
I’m sure there are people who think I’m a lecturing old dotard for insisting on the accurate use of definitions and terms this way. Well, those people never read 1984, or if they did, they missed the point of the novel. If you take away the precision of language, you dumb down the population until people no longer have the words to express complex thoughts. Every young person who calls me “dude” or “man” or even “brother-man” is doing this without knowing it.
There’s a line in the movie Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home in which Captain Kirk asks Spock if they can’t just mimic the sounds the alien probe is sending to earth that are ionizing the atmosphere so it sounds like the whales that have gone extinct. Spock replies, “We can imitate the sounds, but we would be responding in jibberish.” That’s exactly what some gun dealers, writers and even manufacturers sound like to me when they bend definitions and even invent new ones to describe things they know nothing about!
Calling loaded cartridges “bullets,” then discovering there is now no name for what comes out of the “bullets,” they label them “bullet tips” “bullet heads” and “bullet noses.” Calling pellet rifles “BB guns” and calling BB guns “rifles” simply extends the abuse.
When I write, I’m explaining things to people who aren’t familiar with the terminology or the technology. If I get sloppy, how many people will be confused? Lord knows, I’m sloppy enough without meaning to be. I at least have to try to be precise.
A second danger with language is to substitute emotion-charged terms for the correct terms. The nightly news is a stunning example of this. If police break into a home and find 5 rifles and 100 rounds of ammo in a closet, how they describe that find on the news depends on who’s doing the talking. On the NBS Nightly News, it’s an arsenal. On CNN, it’s a weapons cache. And on Fox News, it’s a gun collection.
The terms and definitions do matter. They matter a lot, as it turns out.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
I was getting ready to go to the range yesterday to shoot several airguns for this blog. When I go to the range, I usually try to take a couple of firearms along, just to justify the time and inconvenience of loading the truck and driving all the way out there. The range doesn’t cost anything, but the time spent getting there, setting up and getting back home again seems like an expense.
Anyway, I decided to take my Desert Eagle .357 Magnum pistol along this time, to find a good long-range cartridge for it. Up to this point, I’ve just function-fired the gun for a couple hundred shots or so at shorter distances because I read on the internet that this gun is unreliable with lighter bullets. Well, I’ve shot only 125-grain bullets that are considered light for a .357 Magnum, and to date the gun has never malfunctioned once. So, that much of what I read turned out not to be true!
Monday morning, I’m was online looking for some good accurate loads, and this is what I found:
“I don’t own a Desert Eagle .357, but I have read that they are unreliable boat-anchors. They are way too heavy and they recoil too hard! I don’t need that. They also cost three times as much as my Taurus wheelgun. Why would I spend that kind of money, just to have a gun that jams?”
So, you DON’T own a Desert Eagle? Then why are you commenting on its performance? I’m all for open discussions; but when you don’t have any experience, why not just say what you’ve heard and ask whether or not it’s true?
I DO own a .357 Magnum Desert Eagle and here are the facts. They DON’T kick very hard. They feel about like a 1911 pistol shooting Plus P ammo when they shoot full-house .357 loads. And they DON’T malfunction! At least mine has never failed to feed — ever! They ARE heavy, but I don’t find it debilitating to carry a 5-lb. pistol from my truck to the firing line — a distance of about 20 feet.
Then, I found another website with guy who lists all the factory ammo brands that don’t work well in his Desert Eagle. Excuse me, but who said anything about shooting factory ammo? I reload! Why would I care if one brand that does function costs more than another brand that has feeding failures? I’m going to make up loads for my gun that ALL WORK. Who buys an expensive handgun like a Desert Eagle and then shops in discount stores for the cheapest ammo? That’s like going to a 5-star restaurant and looking for their dollar menu. If you want to save money so bad, cut a slot in your head and become a bank.
Finally I find the worst one of all. I swear I am not making this up:
“When I shoot targets, I shoot Winchester White Box (a type of commercial ammo) in my DE. It’s the cheapest stuff I can find locally. I used to shoot some Lapua imported stuff that was really accurate, but it cost a lot more than the U.S. stuff. I can’t tell you how accurate any of this is, but most of the really hot stuff cycles the action fine.”
Is the last writer shooting his gun just to hear the sound? Is it News Year’s Eve and this is his noisemaker? What is he doing? He says he shoots targets, but he can’t tell me how accurate any of the ammo is. Is he closing his eyes when he shoots? Does he just shoot at the targets and then never looks to see if he hits them?
Applying this to airguns
I know what this guy is really trying to say, but he can’t find the words. He’s saying that he uses his Desert Eagle as a bragging-rights gun, and he doesn’t care how accurate it is. He doesn’t shoot it to hit things — he wants to be seen shooting it and to be able to tell his buddies that he shoots a Desert Eagle.
I’ve seen enough guys like this at the range to know what I’m talking about. A couple weeks ago, a man at my range was warning everybody on the line that he was about to shoot a .300 Winchester Magnum, and everyone should be careful of the blast! When he shot his rifle, it was anticlimactic because the guy next to me had been shooting a 7mm Remington Magnum for the previous hour that made just as much noise. But Mister Win Mag wanted to be noticed, and he needed to draw attention to the fact that his rifle was a tactical nuclear weapon!
And this is how it applies to airguns. These same folks buy those 1,600 f.p.s. breakbarrel cannons and shoot ultralight lead-free pellets in them. If they do shoot at anything specific, they aren’t paper targets — they’re probably metal plates. Then, they can determine how much mild steel their pellet gun is able to penetrate, and at what distance.
Everything they do is a weird science experiment. They’re the ones who wind up on You Tube with blood pouring out of their ears while their friends laugh maniacally in the background.
That’s not airgunning! That’s being back in the fourth grade and trying to light…well, you know what I mean. And if you don’t, you’re probably still doing it. And you aren’t reading this blog, either, because people like that don’t read much of anything longer than the label on a beer can or a juicy tweet on Twitter.
I shoot airguns to augment my shooting experience. And the point of that experience is to maintain and perhaps improve my shooting skills. Small groups are important to me, but so is standing on my feet and shooting the center of a target offhand — as I have done in front of witnesses several times.
I’m in this game to place my shots where I call them, or to know that I haven’t whenever something goes wrong. I’m in this partly to keep my shooting skills sharp and partly to find guns and pellets that can shoot better than I can.
And that’s what’s behind all my reviews. Sure, I like a nice trigger; but without accuracy, a good trigger is like a rusted-out car that has a deep, resonating tone coming from the tailpipe. HEY — I once owned a VW bug with a stinger exhaust that was just like that! It sounded like an expensive sports car and ran like a model A Ford delivery truck.
So, manufacturers, I am warning you here and now — send me your guns and you can expect me to shoot them for accuracy first, and all other things second. I will use every trick I know to make your guns shoot well…and with luck, they will. But if they don’t after I’ve exhausted all attempts to the best of my ability, you can expect me to tell everyone about how it really performed.
So, send me your mega-magnums. Just make sure they’re also accurate. Send me your gilt-edged light sabers, but expect me to turn them on and attempt to use them. I can put up with a lot of things when I shoot, but missing the target because my gun is throwing curveballs isn’t one of them.
The lesson of the wise barber
The wise barber said you can cut a man’s hair every month, but you can only scalp him once. Marketing departments and airgun manufacturers need to internalize this wisdom because putting a bone-jarring air rifle into a customer’s hands may be the ticket to losing him forever. On the other hand, give him a gun so good he’ll want more, and you have created a loyal customer. His business won’t just be worth the $300 he spends today, but tens of thousands of dollars that he’ll spend with you over the next 40 years as he enjoys his hobby.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today’s blog is going to be fun for me, and I hope for all of you, as well. I’m going to talk about one of my favorite subject — the accurate gun. You have to be a shooter to know what I’m talking about because non-shooters assume that all guns are accurate. They assume that it’s the skill of the shooter that makes guns work like they do.
That’s like saying all violins are the same, and a master can make a student instrument sound like a Stradivarius. Or a NASCAR driver can make a minivan perform like a Ferarri. But it doesn’t work that way. While expert handling can extract all the performance from anything, no matter what it is, there’s also no way to get more than it has to offer, regardless of who wields the bow or sits behind the wheel. Or, in today’s case, is on the trigger!
Accuracy is something that lives in the gun. And, in my experience, a really accurate gun isn’t that common. Though I shot a lot starting in my late youth, it wasn’t until I acquired a custom .458 Winchester Magnum in my twenties that I encountered my first really accurate gun. I bought…or more likely, traded…for the rifle at a local gun show when I was living in El Paso, Texas, in the early 1970s. It was a 1903 Springfield that had been rebarrelled to .458 Winchester Mag.; and it came with the reloading dies, a bullet mold, a batch of empty brass and even a recommended load. The seller/trader told me if I loaded it with his load, the rifle would be phenomenally accurate. I’d heard that before, but not as many times back then as I have today. In spite of my doubts, I did the deal.
I cast up some of the 558-grain lead bullets and loaded up the exact formula the seller had recommended, which I recall was 24 grains of 2400 powder and a greased but unsized bullet seated to a certain depth in the case. Then, I went to the range. Since this was a .458 Winchester Magnum, I was prepared to be kicked hard, but that load was so soft that it was very pleasing to shoot from the bench. When I checked the first 5-shot group at 100 yards and saw that it was only an inch across, I was thrilled!
That’s when I began shooting 10-shot groups, because, try though I might, I could not get those big lead slugs to go anywhere but through the same hole. In fact, the accuracy of that rifle became downright boring after awhile. I would load up 40 rounds and shoot 4 groups that were all less than 2 inches across at 100 yards. Big whoop! There was no challenge.
I didn’t know then that I would never again have a rifle so inherently accurate. I just assumed that was the way of things, so I eventually sold or traded that rifle…and have lamented the decision ever since.
This is why I want so much for my Ballard rifle to shoot well — because I believe that it can! If that old put-together Springfield sporter could lob them all through the same little hole, there’s no reason a purpose-built target rifle made in 1876, when American gunmaking was at its zenith, shouldn’t do the same.
My Ballard rifle is beautiful. If only it shot like it looks!
So far, the Ballard has been a heartbreaker. She taunts and teases me with her looks and then puts 7 out of 10 bullets through the same hole, while scattering the other 3 wherever she pleases! Time after time, I thought I found the secret and was about to turn the Ballard into the thoroughbred she is, and just as many times I’ve been disappointed. When that happens, I get so discouraged that I have to abandon shooting the rifle altogether and do something else. There have even been times when I’ve thought of selling the rifle just to get it out of my sight. But, then, I look at her and realize that I have to keep trying.
My latest theory is that the rifle needs a shorter bullet because the twist rate is very slow. It’s 1:20, where a normal .38-55 twist is 1:18. That would mean the 255-grain bullets I’ve been shooting are too long to stabilize. Please understand that I’m using smokeless powder in my reloads, and this rifle was designed for black powder. With black powder, you fill the case as full as it will go so there’s no empty space between the powder and bullet. If there were space, the powder would develop a shockwave that would destroy the rifle!
But smokeless powder doesn’t fill the case, and the pressure rises faster than black powder, so I have to keep the charges low. As a result, the gun cannot fire the bullet fast enough, even though it was designed to shoot that bullet. Because of that, it can’t stabilize it properly. At least, that’s my guess.
Another problem is that there’s no leade ahead of the chamber. The rifling rises up at the end of the chamber and that’s it. A bullet with a fat nose won’t chamber properly, as the rifling will prevent the bullet from being seated.
What I need is a custom bullet for this rifle and to own the mold made for it. I’m working on that right now.
I got an O3A3 Springfield from my buddy Mac a couple years ago. Most Springfield rifles are accurate in the general sense, but this one is special. It lays them in there better than it should. I can pull a sub-2-inch group at 100 yards when I do my part, and that’s with the battle sights that came standard on the rifle.
They made millions of them, but this one is special. It’s more than accurate — it doesn’t like to miss.
The O3A3 was the last incarnation of the famous 1903 Springfield bolt-action battle rifle. It was made during World War II to fill the need for rifles until Springfield could catch up with the Garand production. What made it an O3A3 were several minor design changes that substituted stamped and welded assemblies for machined parts. Oh, the hue and cry about that was great! Even in the 1960s, old soldiers still bemoaned the cheapening of the Springfield rifle!
But there was a funny side to it, as well. The cheaper rifles were also often more accurate! Instead of the antiquated Buffington peep sight that had been around since 1884, the O3A3 has a modern rear peep sight that adjusts for both windage and elevation. And mine has a 4-groove Remington barrel that’s renowned for accuracy. Put the package together, and you have an American battle rifle that shoots like a target gun. The one I have does even better than most.
For 1884, the Buffington rear sight that combined a peep with an open notch was high-tech. It was used on all U.S. rifles through the M1903 Springfield, but it’s dated today!
The O3A3 rear peep modernized the Springfield rifle during WWII. It made the rifle easier to shoot accurately.
It’s a natural shooter! For some reason unknown to me, my O3A3 puts all its bullets where I want them — with iron sights! When Mac traded it to me, he apologized for the Social Security number that some former owner engraved on the receiver with an electric pen. It’s barely visible, but its presence makes this 99-percent rifle a $600 shooter rather than an $1,100 collectible. But there’s also an upside to that. I don’t have to worry about the wear I’m causing by working the bolt because all the value has already been taken away.
I’ve owned six 1903-type Springfield rifles in my life. All of them were accurate, but this one is special. It goes beyond being accurate and crosses into a realm that’s hard to define. Those readers who own accurate guns will understand what I’m saying.
I’ve owned super-accurate handguns, too. One of them is a revolver I got just recently in a trade. It’s a gun I never would have considered before shooting 12 rounds offhand into pretty much one hole at 15 yards a few months ago. And the caliber — .32-20, which is also called .32 WCF — is a caliber I thought I would never own.
The gun is a Smith & Wesson Hand Ejector with target sights. It’s from the 1930s and shows it’s heritage proudly. It was carried for years in a handmade leather holster until the owner, my pal Otho, finally decided the gun had become too valuable to carry anymore. He no longer shoots handguns for medical reasons, so he was kind enough to let me try his pride and joy earlier this year. When he saw that I shot it well, too, he offered it to me.
This 32-20 S&W Hand Ejector looks dated, but it shoots like the target pistol that it is.
Most revolvers have one chamber that’s just a little out of line with the barrel and shoots just a little off. This one has six good chambers that you can’t tell apart downrange. But that’s understandable; because when it was made, Smith & Wesson used skilled craftsmen to fine-tune their revolvers — especially those with adjustable sights.
I own lots of accurate firearms and airguns, but today I’ve been discussing something more than that. The guns I’ve mentioned, with the exception of the Ballard, are beyond accurate. They have something that’s hard to define and harder to give a name to. When I pick up one of them, I know where my shot will be going — every time! I don’t know what to call this thing I’m talking about, but it does warm my heart to shoot one of these special guns.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today’s report is for blog reader J-F, who asked this exact question: “Why do airgunners need high-magnification scopes?” And let’s define high magnification as anything over 12x. That’s arbitrary, of course. It’ll be arbitrary no matter where you set the limit. I set it there because that’s 3 times the power that the average deer hunter’s scope had in the 1950s.
But airgunners delight in 24x, 32x, 40x and even 60x scopes. I know because I’m one who does. But I also know why I want this level of magnification and what purpose it will serve.
One reason for high-magnification scopes is pure bragging rights. Like the pilot who has to have the largest, most complicated watch, the biggest scope gets the most attention — at least in the minds of the guys who think that way. And I know for a fact that some people do think that way; I’ll tell you how I know in a moment.
One good reason for owning a scope with high magnification is so you can use it to determine the ranges to targets. No one needs to do that more than the field target competitor. Rangefinders are not permitted in field target matches, but the parallax adjustment on a scope provides something very close because it focuses the scope when the distance to the target is dialed in. This isn’t a true rangefinding function like you might find on a coincidence rangefinder built especially to do this, but it’s close enough to satisfy most people. And, it’s all you’re allowed to do.
Field target courses run from 10 yards to 55 yards, so the scope has to work in those boundaries. You want a scope that has most of its adjustment range between 10 and 50 yards. The best field target scopes are made that way — with 3/4 of the adjustment (the distance that the adjustment wheel or bell is turned) between those 2 distances.
To determine ranges accurately, you have to be able to see when something very small comes into sharp focus at your desired distance. To see things that small, you need as much magnification as you can get with the image still being clear.
The kill zone of this field target is the small hole above the dime. Your pellet has to go through the hole without touching the sides to score a point. This is why field target competitors need to know how far away the targets are!
Let’s get something clear right now. Just because a scope adjusts to 40x does not mean that you can use it at that setting. I own a Tasco Custom Shop 8-40X56 scope that cost $650 back in the 1990s, and it’s unusable above 30x for anything other than a bright target in direct sunlight. Field targets are often shot in the deep woods, where the light is either low or dappled with bright sun and dark shadows. In that light, my Tasco isn’t useable above 30x.
There are cars whose speedometers go up to 120 m.p.h. It doesn’t mean the cars go that fast. Same is true of scope magnifications levels. If you want to see at 40x in a field target setting, you’re probably going to have to pay close to a thousand dollars for your scope.
Small field of view
Here’s how I know that some people buy big scopes just to be envied. On several occasions, I’ve seen a field target competitor start the match and then not be able to find the targets! They sit there burning everyone’s time, looking though their powerful scopes but are unable to see the targets because everything looks so big and dark through the lens. This got so bad, in fact, that AAFTA (the American Airgun Field Target Association) started enforcing the time rules that typically give a competitor 5 minutes per 2-target (4-shot) lane.
The reason this happened is because these guys had never looked through their scopes at anything besides paper sight-in targets until the day of the match. They assumed things would be as they always were; and, of course, they aren’t when you move from a well-lit range into the woods.
The other thing powerful scopes do is bring out the anal side of some shooters. They will sit and range and rerange to the target, acting like some clueless manager examining a spreadsheet. They can’t get off the dime and take the shot because — what if they were wrong?
On the other hand I suffer from the opposite affliction. I don’t take my time and just charge on through the course. Great instincts for a first-wave armor officer — not so good for longevity on the battlefield or to win a match.
The other shooter who really needs a powerful scope is the benchrest shooter. “Aim small, miss small” is their motto. A few weeks back, I showed you my 100-yard box targets that help me sight my most accurate scoped rifles.
My best centerfire rifles are, in descending order — my Rock River AR-15, which I built from parts; my HW 52 in .22 Hornet; and my Savage 1920 bolt-action in .250-3000 Savage. The AR has the Tasco 8-40X56 scope on it; and even on sunny days, the power never goes above 30 or the scope gets foggy. The Weihrauch Hornet has a vintage Weaver K10-T that’s a fixed 10-power scope with an adjustable objective. The Savage is carrying a vintage Weaver V9-W 3-9X32 variable with a widefield view.
My 3 most accurate centerfire rifles are (from the top), AR-15, .22 Hornet falling block and .250-3000 bolt action.
One of the main reasons two of these scopes are vintage is that they have fine reticles that are perfect for my box targets. I can see when they split the box, even at these relatively low magnifications. Would I like more power? You bet! But I need to get it in scopes that will fit in fairly exotic rings and clear the guns when they’re mounted. That’s a tall order because high magnification usually comes with a large objective bell.
Who doesn’t need high magnification ?
As a general rule, hunters don’t need high magnification; and they do need the wider fields of view and brightness that come with lower-powered scopes. Varmint hunters might disagree with me on this because they’re more like benchrest shooters, but squirrel and rabbit hunters will probably agree.
Exterminators can also get by with lower power, with a few exceptions. When they hunt quarry that’s extremely wary, such as rats can sometimes be, they may want more power to place their pellets precisely on the little part of the animal that does show. But we’re talking 12-16x here — not 40! But the guy who’s killing birds in a discount store or mall at 3 a.m. can get by with a good 6x scope most of the time.
So, J-F, the answer to your question is a combination of things. There are those airgunners who actually do need high magnification, then there are the wannabes who have it because it’s cool. And then there are the first-time buyers who may get it because they have no idea what they’re getting into, and high magnification sounds good.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
I was at the rifle range yesterday and there were some things that I had to tell you. There’s no order to this — it’s just what I want to say.
First thing, I get to the range and there’s a young man with 3 very fine rifles. One has been custom made for him, and the other 2 are factory models that each have some add-ons such as aftermarket triggers. He mentioned that he had just gotten rid of a .257 Weatherby Magnum from which he was unable to get good groups.
Each of his rifles had a Leupold Vari X III scope, which is not a cheap sight. There are couple thousand dollars worth of fine firearms and sights laying on his bench. But every 10 minutes or so, he asks if the range can go cold so he can walk down to the 100-yard target holder and look at his targets. That’s right, sports fans, he hasn’t got a spotting scope!
I set up my spotting scope; and when he saw it, he immediately launched into a spiel, “I really need to get one of those!” He told me he was using targets with red bulls because he couldn’t see his .25-caliber holes on black bulls through his rifle scopes at 100 yards. I invited him to look through my spotting scope, and he was amazed that he could clearly see all his holes on the target. How much easier his shooting life would be if he only had a spotting scope!
My spotting scope allows me to see every shot I make at 100 and 200 yards without leaving the bench. It’s not a thing to appreciate in its own right, but it enriches the time spent on the range.
He asked me to recommend a good spotting scope, but I couldn’t. All I could say is that nearly all telescopes are made in the Orient these days, and you really need to look through them to find a good one. The fancy names mean very little, as I found out with a Celestron spotting scope that had horrible optics. I actually traded a rifle for my current scope because it’s so clear. More rifles I can get. Good spotting scopes are hard to come by.
What bothered me the most about this encounter was that I could see myself 30 years ago in this young man. I did the same thing then that he’s doing now. I spent all my money on guns and had nothing left over for the mundane equipment that matters so much when you want to shoot comfortably.
Same day, same range. Another young man arrives and just wants to blow the dead bees out of his barrel before he drives to work. He has a fine rifle, too. Know what he uses for hearing protection? The filter tips from 2 cigarettes!
Then, I’m down at the 100-yard berm, looking at my targets. The holes made by the bullets are sharp and distinct. They can tell me a lot — especially when untoward things happen — like bullets tumbling. I glance over at my neighbor’s target. It’s a piece of paper torn from a notepad, with a bull inked-in by a black Sharpie. The holes are more like tears than bullet holes.
So, Mr. thousand-dollar rifle with his five-hundred dollar scope is shooting dollar-apiece rounds at a piece of wastepaper he has colored to look like a real target. There’s real economy for you!
Remember what I said a couple days ago about a right-handed shooter who pulls the trigger on a handgun instead of squeezing it? He’ll always shoot low and to the left. I was on the pistol range and a fellow was trying out a new (to him) .40 Smith & Wesson that he just traded for. It had a fat double-stack magazine that he loaded to the max, then he walked halfway to the target on the 15-yard range. So, he is now just 7.5 yards from the target. Hey, 90 percent of all defense situations happen at less than 9 feet — right?
Bang! Bang! Bang! Guess what? Nice tight group on the target, but below the bull and to the left. He says he guesses he’ll just have to adjust his sights on this pistol, too. Funny — all his pistols shoot to the same place.
And I have a bloody tongue from biting it so hard.
Another guy on the line is shooting a Blaser single-shot rifle. They cost anywhere from $2,000 to $4,500, by themselves. And, guess what he’s resting it on? A 6-inch by 6-inch wood block with a pillow cushion on top. What — he can’t find an ironing board like everybody else?
I shot for many years using a plastic MTM Case-Gard Predator rifle rest. I found it stable and accurate. Maybe not as fancy as other rests, but for the cost of 2 boxes of rifle ammo, it was pretty good.
Today, I use the Caldwell Lead Sled rifle rest.
I upgraded top a Caldwell Lead Sled a while back. It’s even more stable and rigid, plus is allows adding weight to absorb recoil.
What’s my beef?
I don’t really have a complaint, as much as a plea to those guys who are being penny-wise and pound-foolish. Shooting equipment is not sexy, but it can make a huge difference in your level of enjoyment while you’re behind the trigger. This is the stuff you buy begrudgingly today, then celebrate your good decision for the rest of your life. And its more than just the few things mentioned here. It’s also good gun cases, nice holsters, indestructible bullet traps, handy range bags and boxes — in fact anything that helps you enjoy your time afield in any way.
This isn’t the stuff that dreams are made of, but having it does allow you to dream. And here’s how you will recognize it. When you look at your equipment, pick out the things that have been with you the longest. The things that are worn shiny by handling. The things you would miss sorely if they weren’t there. You probably grumbled when you bought them, but today you couldn’t imagine going shooting without them. They aren’t the experience by themselves, but they make the experience possible.