Monday, June 30, 2003

More on the '06

James Rummel has an excellent discussion of the 30-06's versatility over on Hell in a Handbasket . He is absolutely correct that the '06 is the best choice for if you only have one hunting rifle. The load selection is unmatched so even a non-reloader can start with low recoil rounds for practice. And, as Col. Townsend Whelen said, the 30-06 is never a mistake for any North American game. Those were some of the reasons why i bought my 30-06 back in the days of disco and Jimmy Carter.

The "problem" is that, for many of us, the gun safe refuses to stay empty. Even at a modest rate of acquisition-- say a new rifle every 5-10 years- we end up with a selection of calibers. Often, one of new rifles is better suited to the task at hand than the 30-06. It's more pleasant to shoot varmints with a 243 than an '06. A Model Seven in 7mm-08 is a more compact, lighter rifle that is a better adapted to rough country hunts where more hiking and crawlingtakes place than long-range shooting.

I am not immune to the attractive spartan simplicity of using one gun for everything. I see Col Jeff Cooper's point that after buying a 1911 in 45 ACP and a bolt in 30-06 everything else is just shopping. Yet, even the Colonel didn't stop there since he also worked on the Scout Rifle concept in .308, the Steyr rifle in .376, and the Bren Ten autoloader.

A friend of a friend went the consolidation route with pistols. Except for a .22, he got rid of everything that wasn't a.45 ACP. He has several different models, but he only has to worry about one caliber of ammo and components. He likes the lack of clutter and simplified inventory management.

While i see his point, i don't want to follow it. As much as i like the .357/38 class revolvers for self-defense, i see no need to give up my Ruger Blackhawk in 45 Colt. Just because i like DA revolvers best, i still want a single action to plink with sometimes. And while the .357 magnum is the best all round choice, the 41 mag still has advantages for hunting.

Moreover, i don't think i am done buying guns. Another 1911 would be nice, but not in 45 ACP. I want one in 38 Super, with ivory grips. Makes no pragmatic sense, but it would be neat to own one and shoot it sometimes.

I feel the same way about the 10mm. But if i but one, it will be based on a CZ-75 action like it was originally intended.

Browning Hi-Power- check. Don't have one; often think i want one, though i don't need one.

The list of wanted items can get to be very long.

I guess there are three facets to gun ownership: the pragmatist, the collector, and the tinkerer. Anyone who was ruthlessly pragmatic would pick a weapon, choose a suitable load, and devote all available time to practice and efficiently reloading that one load (if they reloaded at all.)

But shooting, for most of us, is a hobby, so why should pragmatism be the sole standard? Collecting, tinkering, trying different guns and loads, they have at least some value.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Is the 30-06 Too Much of an All Round Cartridge?

The 30-06 is still America's favorite big game gun. It's versatility is unmatched since it can take anything from varmints to moose/elk/bear. And it does so with manageable recoil.

But the versatility of the 30-06 now works against it. The concept of an "all-round gun" no longer fits how most of us hunt today. We live in the age of specialization and this is true for hunters as well. No matter what we hunt, there are better choices than the '06.

For eastern white tail and black bear, the 30-06 is more gun than required. The 260 Remington or 7mm-08 will get the job done just as well and can do so in a lighter package with less recoil. For long range shooting, there are calibers that shoot flatter whether the game is deer-sized (25-06 or 270) or elk-sized (338 Mag).

A compromise rifle makes sense when rifles were expensive but hunting was cheap. Today, most of us no longer live where the game lives with jobs that let us hunt intensively at low cost. If we hunt a variety of big game we will travel to find most of it. At the same time our prosperity allows us to buy more guns than our grandfathers could afford.

In terms of the total cost of an elk hunt or even one for pronghorn, the rifle is a small fraction of the total. Yet, a compromise choice here can spell failure. Why drop $5,000 or more in permits, travel, vacation time and lodging and then have to pass up shots because the rifle is not suited to the hunt and the game?

A compromise rifle also makes sense when the same hunt encompasses multiple game animals. But outside of Africa that type of hunting is largely a thing of the past. We hunt one species at a time in its specific season and with carefully procured permits. Most of us will never knock-off a cow elk for the freezer while out looking for a mule deer.

I have owned a 30-06 for over twenty-five years. It was the first rifle i bought with my own money. And it is still my favorite rifle. But that is nostalgia and tradition speaking, not logic.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

In Praise of Packratness and Other Reloading Confessions

You can never have too many reloading manuals. While most of the basic information is the same from one to the next, there are enough differences that i learn something from each one. Plus, given the variety of components, no single manual is going to have all the information necessary for even the casual reloader.

Sometimes even manuals don't have the answer for a particular question. For instance, I've been looking for a compromise load for the 45 Colt. Something a little stiffer than the typical commercial loads or standard loadings in the manuals. At the same time, i was not interested in the magnumized velocities found in the special sections for strong Ruger revolvers. Basically, i want to see how a 255 grain slug at around 1,000 fps would shoot and what kind of recoil it would generate.

And i wanted to do it with H4227 or 2400 since i have those powders on hand.

The Hornady manual does not list Ruger velocities below 1150 fps. I could estimate down, but i don't like to do that: powder behaves predictably only over a narrow range. At a point going up pressure becomes dangerous. At a point going down, the bullet can't clear the barrel and pressure becomes really dangerous on the next shot.

Reloading sissy confession #1: I have no desire to go where no reloader has gone before. I like to work in areas where more experienced men have trod.

The other problem with the Hornady data is that it was for jacketed bullets and i am using cast lead. The two do not perform the same with a given powder charge.

The solution turned up in an old copy of Handloader from 1975. Ken Waters was looking at the 45 Colt and its possibilities with newer powders and stronger guns. Right in the middle of it were several loads using 4227 and 2400. A couple of them were just what the doctor ordered: 250-255 lead bullets driven at 950-1050 fps. His results with jacketed bullets showed that his velocities with 2400 were consistent with the Hornady manual.

The 4227, OTOH, was inconsistent with current manuals. He got much lower velocities for a given powder charge than modern H 4227. That is the risk of old manuals and articles-- over time powder makers can "change the recipe" and old data doesn't apply. In the same way IMR 4227 is not identical to H(ogdon) 4227 and cannot be substituted for it grain for grain.

But in the end a reasonable load was found. I made up a few rounds and will try them out on the next trip to the range.

[Hard earned reloading advice-- only work up a half-dozen rounds the first time. No point having a box full of cartridges you don't like that have to be disassembled.]

The moral of this story is that it really does make sense to keep old magazines around as well as books like Waters's Pet Loads or Wolfe Publishing's Big Bore Rifles. If you reload much at all, you eventually will want a load that isn't covered in most manuals. The more resources you have, the more likely you are to find what you want.

Friday, June 13, 2003


The Chicago Tribune has a list of the 50 Best Magazines here.

Field and Stream was number 44.

Which baffles me because it would pick it as the worst of the magazines that cover outdoor pursuits and especially hunting. It is the one i am least likely to buy when i check out the rack at Gander Mountain. It just never seems to have a compelling article.

Go figure. Maybe no one doing the choosing actually hunts.

[Found at A Nickel's Worth of Free Advice]

On my other blog, i have a long post about sports statistics. It has some applicability to shooting. Gunwriters often make the same mistakes that sports commentators do.

Both subjects share the same drive to reduce everything to a single number which picks the "best" cartridge or bullet for a given purpose. Sometimes it is expanded diameter, other times it is foot-pounds. For self-defense purposes Sanow and Marshall will give you "one shot stop" percentages that purport to make distinctions between 77% and 78% based on a relative small sample of events.

One key assumption in all this is that there in a clear-cut "best" and that it matters. It is as though the hierarchy of choices is shaped like Pike's Peak, with some loads or calibers towering over all others. But what if the better analogy is a plateau with multiple calibers having relative similar performance and none being the one best.?

Seyfreid referenced the records of a moose camp in Sweden which tracked the performance of rifles which ranged from 6.5 Swede to .375 H&H Magnum over many years of hunting. The surprise was that there was not any clear difference in performance across this wide spectrum of cartridges on what is a very large game animal. Most animals required on one shot, and most ran the same distance after being hit. Amazing, but that was what the records of hundreds of hunts showed.

Maybe, by 1910, gunmakers completed their mission-- they packed enough power into metallic cartridges to do the job and everything else has just been refinement.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003


That's the title to an interesting article by Gabriel Suarez.

But make no mistake friends, as a fighting (anti-personnel) weapon, the lever action is just as useful and deadly today, on a lonely stretch of highway in the bad part of town, as it was in the dusty cow towns of the Kansas Territory more than a century ago.

Our findings were that there is very little that a realistic rifleman (acting as an individual - not a member of a military rifle squad) can expect from his weapon that the lever action cannot deliver.

He also notes that leverguns are more jury-friendly. They just don't scream "Rambo wannabe" like an AR-15

Saturday, June 07, 2003

Breaking-In Rifle Barrels

Ross Seyfried in the most recent Rifle magazine.

"Let's Kill and bury the barrel-break-in business first. To me, barrel break-in is one of the worst snake oils perpetrated on shooters since the inception of gunpowder. One might make a mild argument for it in a competition rifle. Where sporting rifles are concerned, it is in my opinion, a purely fallacious way for barrel makers and custom gunsmiths to duck off when their rifles/barrels do not shoot for the customer."

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Time Well Spent

This weekend my oldest friend brought his son (my godson) over so he could learn about handloading. Between explaining each step and trying to show him everything from start to finish, we loaded a grand total of 17 rounds in just under 2 hours. After they left, i finished loading the box of 50 and made much better time.

Slow speed and all, it was a good time. You can always BS while your doing it since most of the process is repetitive and doesn't require thought or concentration.

I like reloading and not just for the money i save. It is almost required if you shoot the 41 magnum since there are no light loads available for it commercially. Plus, you don't find cheap practice ammo for the 41 at gun shows the way you do with 38 special or 9mm.

The big thing is, reloading is something i can do with my hands that doesn't take remarkable skill or dexterity. I can't tie flies (and i don't fish anyway). Woodworking is beyond my ability and requires a huge investment in equipment.

My total outlay when i started reloading again three years ago was just around $100 or so. (Lee Hand Press, scale, one die.) I've upgraded and expanded since then, but i still have a fairly small investment and my reloading area takes only a small space in my garage.

The best thing is, reloading is the perfect off-season hobby. In deep winter, after deer season, when there is nothing to hunt or scout for months, i reload the basics and tinker with some new ideas. It beats TV hands down.
Rifle Combat

Great discussion over at One Hand Clapping on combat distance. Turns out that there has been very little change since WWI-- with nearly all individual small arms combat taking place under 100 yards.

Which adds validity to the point made by Jeff Cooper that was discussed here.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

Check out this post on a new 2d Amendment blog

Is the Government Responsible for Your Protection