Tuesday, April 29, 2003

When Deer Rifles Were Elephant Guns

Just received the latest Successful Hunter and was happy to see that Ross Seyfried has an article with the above title. It deals with the use of small caliber (.264 to .318) rifles on very large (even dangerous game) by the likes of WDM Bell, etc. It makes the point about the effectiveness of the high SD, small caliber round even more emphatically.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Knockdown Power

The Taylor Knockout factor (TKO) is a metric that big bore proponents prefer to the more common kinetic energy number found in ballistic tables.

Where KE uses the square of velocity, TKO is the simple product of bullet mass, velocity and bullet diameter. However, there is an anomaly which makes TKO suspect as a measure of big game cartridges.

The 6.5x55 Swede with a 160 grain bullet at 2400 fps has the same TKO as a 158 grain 35 caliber bullet moving at 1800 fps. But the Swede is a legendary big game round. It is commonly used in Scandinavia to hunt moose and had a good record in colonial Africa on large plains antelope. No one would recommend a 357 Magnum carbine for moose or zebra. Yet the TKO equates the two rounds.

The Swede's performance is due to its use of heavy for caliber bullets (i.e. high sectional density) which deliver superior penetration. (Similar performance shows up in the 7mm Mauser with 175 grain bullets and the 30-06 with 220 grainers.)

TKO treats high SD, small caliber rounds as an equal to low SD, large caliber rounds. Yet, we know that SD matters.
Sports Afield is back

It had been on a hiatus and redesign. It is now put out by the people who own Safari Press which is very positive-- i own a couple of shelves of their books and they are terrific.

The new look is upscale and the story focus of the April issue was hunting and adventure-- Grizzlies, sheep, African game. All in all, a great read.

One interesting thing, the new Editor in Chief is a woman--- is this the first time a female ran a major hunting/outdoor magazine?

Thursday, April 24, 2003


In the March/April Successful Hunter, John Barsness wrote:

"I have tried many products designed to reduce hunter odor, including sprays, "cover scents," and scent-blocking clothing. Most do reduce the ability of wild mammals to smell us- if we forego chewing tobacco or drenching our rifle with Miracle Oil."

That's what i like about Barsness-- he is no diplomat and he doesn't get caught up in advertising hype.

But the thing i really like about him is that he is a hunter. Some gunwriters are not-- they are just tourists with rifles. They tell you what they shot and what rifle and ammo they used. Barsness tells you how he hunted, how he read the territory, how he expected the animal to behave and what surprised him. He is not afraid to tell you about unsuccessful stalks because he knows that there are no unsuccessful hunts for a true hunter-- the experience is the big part of the reward.

He is a big reason why I subscribe to all three Wolfe Publishing magazines: Handloader, Successful Hunting, and Rifle. His books are on sale here and are highly recommended.

Friday, April 18, 2003

An Ingenious solution to a nonexistent problem for a hostile market at the wrong time

Kim du Toit recently posted the Winchester Model 88 as a Gratuitous Gun Pic.

In many respects it may have been the finest lever action ever designed and yet it was discontinued in 1973 after less than twenty years of production. It is one of those puzzles: a good gun which never found traction in the market. Among the reasons shooters never took to it:

Caliber choice-- There were no old favorites (like the 30-30) to appeal to traditionalists. The 284 was a new, breakthrough design that did not look like a big game cartridge. (In truth, the 284 never won wide appeal on its own and its fame really rests on the many wildcats it spawned). Plus, it was 7mm and that was not a popular size here in America before the Remington 7mm Mag came out in 1962. The 308 in the 60s and early 70s was seen as the 30-06's weaker little brother. Traditional lever guys preferred bigger, slower bullets (like the 35 Remington's 200 grain) and so were leery of the 243's fast 85 grain as a deer round. And except for the 243, there was no beginner whitetail cartridge-- the 284, 308, and 358 were thumpers when shot by a 90 pound twelve year old.

Tradition-- A lot of the appeal of the Winchester and Marlin models rests on their heritage (real and cinematic). They are cowboy guns. The sleek modern Win 88 did not tap into that.

Wrong differentiator-- The 88 was a lever that was supposed to possess bolt-action accuracy. No one denies that it was more accurate that a Marlin 336 or Winchester 1894. The action and one-piece stock helped as did the box magazine (permitting the use of spitzers) and the caliber choice. HOWEVER, levergun guys are not accuracy freaks. They are more concerned with handling characteristics for quick shots. For that type of shooting the 88 was a little lighter at the muzzle than traditional tubular magazine models. For me, that translates into a less handy rifle.

On the other hand, the 88 usually disappointed accuracy freaks, because they tended to compare it to their hot bolt-actions. No matter what the inherent accuracy of the Winchester, the rounded stock makes it harder to shoot consistently off sandbags. So you almost always got tighter groups with the bolt actions of that era which tended to have wide flat-bottomed stocks. Further, while the 308 was flatter-shooting than a 30-30, it still came up short compared to the 270 or 30-06 out of a 24" barrel of a Remington 700 or Winchester 70.

Timing-- Fashion plays a role in the gun biz. And the 60s and early 70s were the high tide of Roy Weatherby. The ultimate in rifle fashion used exotic wood inlays, ebony and rosewood caps on the fore-end, rakish Monte Carlo stocks and white spacers. The Model 88 looked boring in comparison.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

An Instalanche could not make me feel more honored

Coyote at the Dog Show just said some very complimentary things about this blog. To be recognized by those you respect is one of the greatest things that can happen to you.

And let me say, that i agree whole-heartedly with his ideas about the .22. Every trip to the range includes my Ruger Mark II 22/45. After every 12 or 18 rounds of center fire, i shoot 6 or 12 rounds from the .22. (The range limits handguns to no more than six rounds in clip or cylinder). That way my form stays true and no flinch develops. And it is cheap. I can't reload 38s as cheap as i can buy bricks of rimfire.
In Defense of the 38 Special

The 38 S&W Special is just so out of date: it's all crewcuts and tailfins without any of the nostalgic glamour. It doesn't even get old school points like the 45 Colt or 44-40.

Read much of the literature on "stopping power" and you soon wonder if any one was ever hurt in a gunfight when the police carried the 38. After all, it is underpowered and slow and not a big bore. No one in their right mind would carry a 38 for self-defense.

Most of the Special's image problem comes from three sources: 1) Our fetish with the newer and faster, 2) misapplication of the police experience to civilian defense purposes, and, 3) a narrow focus cartridge performance when analyzing defense needs.

To take the first point, new cartridges are usually better than old ones for some purposes, and, in some cases, they may be much better overall. But we tend to stop thinking in terms of good and better and switch to new/good, old/inadequate. Since the 357 Magnum is faster, the 38 gets relegated to the obsolete bin.

Yet the performance of the 38 towers over that of the .375 caliber Colt 1851 Navy percussion revolver. The Special can easily push a 158 grain slug at 850 fps without exceeding standard pressures. The Navy send a 76 grain ball out at around the same velocity. The Colt was a favorite Civil War pistol and saw action on the frontier in all sorts of roles. More telling is that the Navy was the favorite revolver of Bill Hickock who carried it as a scout and lawman. Hickock kept his Navies even after Colt brought out the 1873 Peacemaker with metallic cartridges in 44-40. Since Hickock saw enough CQC for three exciting lifetimes, his decision to stay with the Navy counts for a lot. If its performance was adequate for Abilene in the riotous years, the 38 Special should do for our use today.

Smith and Wesson developed the 357 Magnum because the 38 Special had several weaknesses for law enforcement use. But those weaknesses are rarely relevant to home defense and civilian concealed carry. For example, when criminals began to use cars instead of horses, the police sometimes needed to shoot through steel car bodies and tough window glass. The 38 Special lacks the velocity to do this. BUT, as a civilian, I do not need to shoot through car doors. In fact, in almost any conceivable situation where I do so, I am guilty of a crime: a fleeing felon is no longer a threat to me.

Looking only at ballistic tables, the 357 can out-do the 38 Special in every way. But not everything that is important in a self-defense confrontation is captured in a ballistic table. In a snubby a 357 has vicious recoil and tremendous muzzle blast. A fast follow-up shot is easier with the Special.

Snubbies are one place where the 38 shines. Small and light, they are easy to carry, which means that they get carried when a larger handgun gets left behind. This is not just a question for CCW. With the rise in home invasion attacks, having a gun on you when you answer the door makes a lot of sense. At the same time, in many localities, greeting the kid selling Girl Scout cookies with a full-sized Glock on you hip is no way to win friends. A snubby in your back pocket becomes the perfect compromise. In addition, concealed and internal hammer models like the S&W model 649 provide the unique option of firing from inside a robe or coat pocket. No auto can duplicate this and in extremis this option can save your life. Finally, the compactness of a J-frame and similar models are better suited to the tight confines of a car interior than are full-sized handguns.

The other place the 38 Special shines is price. Quality revolvers like Smiths, Rugers, and Colts wear out slowly. There are plenty of police guns on the used market that have decades of useful life remaining and sell for less than $300. This makes it possible to meet the first rule of a gunfight ("have a gun"). Their low cost also makes possible the "stash" method of preparedness preferred by some people for homes and high risk businesses. Instead of carrying a single handgun on their person, loaded revolvers are placed throughout the building so that one is always at hand. That way, no one who lives or works there can ever be caught unarmed.

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Must Reads

Kim du Toit's Rough Men.

And if you haven't read A Nation of Cowards it's here and continues on the theme Kim explores.

A thorough fisking of Bowling for Columbine.

In addition, i just read Wiley Clapp's Concealed Carry and think it is the best primer i've ever seen on choosing a CC handgun.

Finally, back in the days when the web was young and search engines fairly inefficient, i came across this site. There still are a lot of useful links to while the time......The Gun Guy.

Friday, April 04, 2003

First Handgun

Like most people who shoot a lot, I get asked for gun recommendations by new shooters and potential shooters. Usually they are interested in something for self defense. Also while hanging around gun shows and guns shops i get to hear the advice others give out.

Most of it is bad advice. Mine used to be bad, too, and for the same reason: i recommended my personal preferences and did not think about it from a newcomers perspective.

The 1911 and 45 ACP is a combination which is hard to beat for those who practice and become proficient with it. But i don't think it is a good choice for most people to start out with as a self-defense piece.

Col. Jeff Cooper agrees. As related here he remains committed to the 1911 as the best weapon when in the hands of the accomplished shooter. However, he suggests that the DA revolver is the better choice for those who are not expert and lack the commitment to become so.

"We conclude after years of careful study, that the best service sidearm for a policeman is a double action revolver."

Note, that Col. Cooper is talking about the police. So if the high priest of the "cult of the 45 auto" recommends DA revolvers for law enforcement, i do not feel right recommending a 1911 to a civilian who is just starting to shoot.

The most common objection i hear from knowledgeable friends is that revolvers hold fewer rounds and are slower to reload. True enough, but Col. Cooper says that is of no import. When he was interviewed by TV's American Shooter, they noted that he doesn't think tactical reloads should be a major element in training. In his view, if you cannot solve the problem with five or six rounds, you have probably already lost. For civilians, certainly, this is true. Two or three rounds will be enough, if we do our part. And if we cannot hit with six, will we have time to shoot 20? Plus, the typical newcomers doesn't carry extra clips anyway.

Psychologically, most people find it easier to carry a loaded revolver than a cocked and locked 1911. I know that John Browning designed it to be safe that way and it is. BUT, for a beginner, it is disconcerting to see that hammer pulled back. Often they opt to carry it loaded but not cocked, or unloaded with the magazine in. In either case, their weapon will be slower into action when they need it.

The other big advantage for the DA revolver is cost. At my local gun shop they have a Kimber Pro Carry for $799 and a Browning Hi-Power for $610. In contrast, a Ruger GP 100 goes for $420 and a Taurus 85UL is only $325.

Those are prices for new guns. You can get used revolvers in great condition for well under $300. Moreover, i am more confident buying a used revolver than a used auto. There are too many ways an auto can be temperamental (feeding various brands of ammo, for example). A good deal can turn into a bust.

In future posts i'll get specific about what i recommend, plus i'll discuss why i have come to take my own advice.
Buy a Gun Day

I just hit the tip jar over at Aaron's blog as my contribution toward "Buy a Gun Day." For me, it was a better use of money than heading to the gun shop myself.

First, my available range time is barely sufficient for my current inventory-- have to get ready for summer ground hogs, tune the deer rifle for November, stay sharp with my handguns, and test two or three reloading ideas. So what would be the point of adding something new to the safe that will mostly sit there?

More important, Aaron is getting his first gun. He has a family. He lives in LA. He needs one more than i need another one.

And finally, in the long term, we gun owners are all better off when more households join our ranks.

So please, if you decide not to buy a gun on 15 April, consider contributing to Aarons gun fund.

You will note that the blogroll here is short. This site is devoted only to shooting and hunting. The blogs on the left are the cream of the crop for that subject area -- i learn from all of them.
My Other Blog

It is here.... that is where i post on politics, business, etc.