A range day with BB
by Tom Gaylord, The Godfather of Airguns™
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
• Some new big bore bullets
• How I test big bore bullets
• The 405-grain standard test
• Testing the 192-grain semi-wadcutter
• Testing the 350-grain conical
• Testing the 8mm Egyptian Hakim
• Testing the new Luger
Sometimes, I have little things to tell you that don’t add up to a whole report. These things get worked into other reports where possible, but sometimes they just miss the boat. Today, I decided to tell you about several unrelated things that happened to me on the range last week. I’ll start with the big bore bullet test.
Some new big bore bullets
A local bullet maker who runs Tin Star Bullets in Weatherford, Texas, was put in touch with me by the gun club where the Ft. Worth airgun show was held. Of all the airguns displayed at that show, the big bores took the club members most by surprise. So, I was introduced to Johnny Hill of Tin Star Bullets — a maker of bullets for cowboy action shooting.
Johnny talked to Dennis Quackenbush and me about what we’d like to see in some bullets, and then set out to design and make some molds for testing in my Quackenbush .458. We told him that the closer he could get to pure lead, the better it would be. Well, he experimented and was able to cast perfect bullets in pure lead — something that’s supposed to be impossible. Pure lead measures 5 on the Brinell scale, and so do Johnny’s bullets. My bullets, which are cast 40:1 lead to tin, measure 6, so they’re a little harder.
Johnny gave me 8 bullet types to test, and I took 2 separate days testing them all. In the end, 2 bullets stood out as accurate enough to pursue further. One is a 192-grain (nominally a 200-grain) semi-wadcutter, and the other is a 350-grain conical.
How I test big bore bullets
The Quackenbush .458 shoots the first bullet to one place and the second to another. The rifle uses about 750 psi per shot, so 2 good shots are all you get from a fill. For each bullet, there’s an ideal fill pressure and a place on the mil-dot reticle where I sight for shots 1 and 2. When I figure that out — and it’s unique to every bullet, I can usually put 5 shots into one inch at 50 yards. But that takes so much time that I don’t test that way. I test by filling the gun and shooting 2 shots, refilling and shooting 2 more, refilling and shooting a fifth shot. The aim point remains the same. When I get bullets that seem to want to land in the same place, I spend the additional time and develop the exact loading procedures to get the best groups.
What you are about to see is the result of the first, or raw, test that sorts the wheat from the chaff. I use my own 405-grain bullet that I cast as the test standard, because I’ve shot many one-inch groups with it. But for the raw test, I shoot all 5 shots using the same aim point.
The 405-grain standard test
The first group was shot using my 405-grain bullets that I know shoot well in this rifle. The aim point was the same for every shot, regardless of how much pressure was in the gun. Five shots landed in 2.645 inches. They hit below the bull but don’t worry about that. Once I have the bullet I want, I sight-in the rifle for that one bullet and then determine the hold-over or hold-under needed to group the shots together.
This is my 405-grain lead bullet that I use in the Quackenbush .458 air rifle. This 2.645-inch group at 50 yards was shot using the same aim point. When I compensate for the shot, I get one-inch groups more often than not.
Testing the 192-grain semi-wadcutter
Next, I shot the 192-grain semi-wadcutter using the same aim point. I only had about 10 of these bullets to test, but I did chronograph one at 942 f.p.s., so they produce 378.41 foot-pounds at the muzzle. The 405-grain bullet puts out about 540 foot-pounds; but as I discussed last week, it over-penetrates light game like whitetail deer. So, the lighter bullet might be better if it extends the useful range by 25 yards because of a flatter trajectory. I might feel comfortable out to 75 yards with this bullet on deer-sized game — at least until I get some field experience with it.
This bullet put 4 shots into 2.585 inches at 50 yards. There was a fifth shot, but it landed off the target paper. It did not open the group size, so really there were 5 in this group, though the picture shows only 4.
Four holes hit the target. The fifth was off to the right, but didn’t enlarge the group. Five 192-grain semi-wadcutters went into 2.585 inches at 50 yards with no aiming correction. This bullet is worth more work. It would be a great bullet for thin-skinned game under 200 lbs.
Testing the 350-grain conical
The last potential new bullet was the 350-grain conical. Four landed in 2.018 inches, but the fifth shot dropped low and opened the group to 2.949 inches. Those 4 that are so close together without me doing anything special gives me hope for this bullet. It might surpass my 405-grain bullet once I figure out the starting fill pressure and the scope positioning.
Four 350-grain pure lead bullets from Tin Star went just over 2 inches, but one opens the group to nearly 3 inches. This bullet is worth consideration.
We now have two new big bore bullets to try, and these are both made of pure lead. They’ll be smoother and faster in the bore and will lead the bores of the rifle less than the alloyed bullets we’ve been shooting. Of course, there’s a lot more testing and fine-tuning to do with these two bullets, but at least the process has begun.
It’s been a while since I tested the Quackenbush .458, but it still shoots well.
Testing the 8mm Egyptian Hakim
After shooting a Swedish Ljungman semiauto several weeks ago and discovering that it was a violent rifle that throws its brass 30-40 feet to the side, I was excited to test the 8mm Egyptian Hakim I recently acquired. The Hakim has a gas port adjustment that allows the shooter to control how much gas impinges on the bolt and, therefore control, how fast the bolt opens. The Hakim has been called the Egyptian Garand, and I wanted to discover why.
The Hakim (top) is larger than the Garand, but not as effective in many ways, as my range testing discovered.
The Hakim’s sliding dust cover has a heavy wire brass deflector on the right side that flips the cases forward.
Well, I did discover things! Mainly that all the hype about the Hakim is mostly that — hype! The first cartridge my rifle ejected went out so fast that my shooting buddy Otho, who was positioned 20 feet to my right, never saw it! The next case we both saw. It landed about 40 feet to my right front! When we collected it, we found the first case, as well.
I expected the rifle to give my shoulder the gentle shove of a Garand. Instead I got kicked in the teeth by a massive recoil and my eyes were filled with excess smoke from the burning powder leaking back through the action — something a Garand would never do.
Worst of all, the cartridge case was mangled by the shell deflector to the point that I doubt the case can be reloaded! I thought the Ljungman was rough on brass, but this Hakim has it beat! Well, the gas port adjustment is there to correct that, and the literature tells me I can adjust the rifle to drop the cases 6 feet away, so I started adjusting. But even at the lowest setting, where the bolt would not come back far enough to hold open after the last shot, the cases still went 25 feet from me and got mangled. So, that’s the end of shooting the Hakim. I’ll keep it as a lookalike, but it’s certainly no Garand — not even close!
The one thing I will say is that the rifle’s accurate — even Garand accurate. It put 3 shots together on the target at 50 yards, and another 2 together after I adjusted the gas port. But even this level of accuracy isn’t enough to keep me interested in a rifle that mangles its brass.
The Hakim was accurate, despite the violence of its action. Top group of 3 measures just an inch at 50 yards and the bottom 2 were shot after the gas port was adjusted. Cartridge case at right shows the dent caused by the brass deflector. Even when the gas port was adjusted very low, it continued to do this.
The bottom line is that the Hakim was designed for battle, and nobody cared whether or not the cases it ejected were reloadable. As a battle rifle, it failed because its intricate machining didn’t tolerate the dust and sand of the battlefield. About 70,000 were built in Egypt over a 10-12 year period. The Egyptians chambered it for 8mm Mauser ammo because of the huge ammo surplus they inherited at the end of WWII. Later, they downsized the Ljungman action for their Rasheed carbine, which accepted the smaller 7.62X39mm cartridge the Soviets were using. While that cartridge was a huge success, the Ljungman action was not. After about 8,000 Rasheed carbines were built, they give up altogether and adopted the AKM, a much more robust and reliable design.
Testing the new Luger
As you know, I don’t like silver guns, but I decided to test-fire the Luger pistol I acquired at the Ft. Worth airgun show the week before. Just in case — you know? I showed you the pistol in a show report, but here’s another look at it.
This new-in-box American Luger climbed right into my hands at the show.
Before shooting, I researched it on the internet, finding one “expert” who claimed the metallurgy of this American-made pistol was inferior to the German guns (probably true, but not necessarily pertinent), and the headspace would often be excessive. I’ve learned through many experiences that these couch coaches often dream up the stuff they write without ever seeing the guns they talk about — kind of like the airgunners who shoot one-inch groups at 100 yards with their .177 breakbarrel springers.
So, I took the pistol over to the 15-yard handgun range, where another shooter had been standing 15 feet from a paper plate target and 2-handing his Glock into the plate. My arrival meant there were 2 of us on the range, so I shot from the 15 yard line where he was standing, reloading his many magazines. My target was a rapid-fire pistol target with a 3-inch bull. And, being a showoff, I shot the gun one-handed.
The Luger did the rest. The first several shots went to the same place on the paper, then I pulled one to the right. A couple shots later I pulled another one to the left. But 8 of my 11 shots landed in the main group that measured 1.591 inches between centers. That’s not good — it’s great. For me, it’s as good as it gets! There’s one low shot that I did not call, but 8 out of 11 shots tell me this Luger is a real shooter.
I still don’t like silver guns in principal, but I’ll make an exception for this one. It shoots as well as my 1911 Wilson Combat CQB and puts my Erfurt Luger to shame! And all of this shooting was with my reloads that cost me less than 5 cents a round! They have lead bullets that don’t wear the bore at all and are apparently quite accurate. I can’t wait to shoot this pistol from a rested 2-hand hold, to see what it’ll really do!
That’s my report from the range. I plan on testing the big bore bullets a lot more after I install an upgraded striker spring that Dennis Quackenbush gave me at the airgun show. It’ll be nice to have more than one accurate bullet for this rifle, in case I want to hunt smaller game than buffalo or elk.
The 8mm Hakim now becomes a wall-hanger. I’ll hold on to it to compliment the air rifle trainer that I’m currently tearing down for you. But when shooting a military semiauto, I’ll stick to the Garand.
My new American Eagle Luger will probably take the place of my 1917 Erfurt P-08. It’s more accurate, plus I’m not risking a valuable historical arm when I shoot it. Thank you Johnny Kitchens for selling me a surprisingly nice 9mm pistol!