Thursday, August 21, 2003

Handguns and Self-defense

Hell in a Handbasket has an interesting discussion going with Spoons in the comments to this post. He makes one point that deserves serious reflection.

In my handgun course I have the student take part in three lessons. 1,000 rounds are fired by the student over those three lessons, and it's only then that I figure that they have a reasonable chance to defend themselves when they're going through the worst few seconds of their lives. This is good enough if the student goes to the range at least once a month and fires 100 rounds to maintain the minimum level of skill.

Monday, August 18, 2003

A Good Place

I have this picture in my mind of the perfect gunshop. It is more than a place with a good selection of new and used guns. It should have a good selection of ammo, of course, and reloading supplies. But that isn't enough. I am fortunate to have several places nearby who offer all of this. They are good, but not perfect.

What makes a good shop great is a combination of knowledgeable staff and a neighborly atmosphere that draws in knowledgeable customers and encourages conversation (OK, I mean BS-ing). The kind of place where you might stop in to get primers and some targets and end up learning something about the relative performance of Nosler Ballistic Tips versus Hornady SSTs in a .270 Win.

I haven't found a place like that yet. But blogs really help to fill the gap. Witness the rolling discussion on carbines and the bullpup design which has been going on at Hell in a Handbasket, Backroads Blog, and Coyote at the Dogshow.
Size Doesn't Matter (Much) II

Shooting Times Handgun Guide 2004 has an interesting article on personal defense handgun ammunition. What most drew my interest was the results for three short barreled guns. They tested the 38 Special in a 2" Smith, the .357 in a 2.25" Ruger, and the .45 ACP in a 3.25" Kimber. The typical ballistics table reports the .38/.357 in a 6-8" barrel and the .45 in a 5". As noted below, a short barrel used to mean lower velocities which led to poor bullet expansion.

Some ammo makers seem to have addressed that problem with their personal protection products.

For example, in the 38 Special Shooting Times got a velocity of 874 fps for the Winchester 130 grain PP. That compares to 925 fps in the 2003 Shooter's Bible ballistics tables. Federal 110 grain Personal Defense load tested at 989 fps and lists at 1,000.

For the .357 the Federal 130 Personal Protection, Remington 125 Golden Saber, and PMC 150 Starfire all tested within 5% of their listed velocity. For the .45 ACP, the Remington 185 Golden Saber +P, Federal 165 Personal Protection, and Winchester 230 SXT all tested within 10%.

All of this suggests that the personal defense offerings of the major makers will perform as advertised in snubbies and chopped autos. Which is good news for CCW holders.
Carbines and Bullet Selction

Coyote at the Dog Show weighs in on the matter and makes a critical point:

Expanding bullets are designed to work within a narrow range of velocities. Push them too slow and they don't expand, push them too fast and they explode on impact like a varmint bullet. Thus, the 357 magnum 125gr. JHP that is so very effective from a handgun frequently vaporizes on impact when fired from a carbine, failing to penetrate or cause more than superficial wounds.

This used to be a problem for the .357 Magnum. JHPs were designed to expand at max velocities which could only obtained from barrels of 6" or more. When the bullets were fired in revolvers with 2-4" barrels, they behaved more like round-nosed lead or FMJ bullets.

Ammo makers addressed that by creating rounds designed with personal protection/concealed carry in mind. They were slower and often lighter than standard rounds. For example, Federal offered a 165 grain hollow point for the .45 ACP and Remington loaded its 125 grain Golden Saber to 1,220 fps in the .357 rather than the 1,450 fps that is the norm for that weight. Most importantly, the jackets were designed to allow the hollow points to open up at lower velocities.

But as the Coyote points out, a good bullet at 1,200 fps will probably fail at 1,700 fps. Which is something to keep in mind when choosing ammo. One size does not fit all, especially in the .357.

On the other hand, just because you can shoot the same load in both your revolver and carbine, nothing says you have to. Nothing says you can't use the 125 grain Golden Saber in you CCW piece, and a 158 grain lead semi-wadcutter for the carbine. In a pinch, they are still interchangeable.

Friday, August 08, 2003

Size Doesn't Matter (Much)

The latest issue of Petersen's Rifle Shooter has an interesting article on barrel length and velocity in rifles. They look at several common calibers (including magnums) and find that the velocity loss is 15-20 fps per inch when shortening the barrel. This is much less than the common rules of thumb which estimate velocity loss at 25-50 fps per inch.

These results are consistent with Rifle Magazine's test of the Ruger M77 Compact in the March issue. This model has a 16.5" barrel yet produced velocities only 90-110 fps slower than 24" barrels.

All of which is great news if you are looking for a woods and brush rifle. The Ruger Compact and Remington Model 7 still deliver modern velocities in these short packages.

I hunted last year with a Ruger Compact. To me, it is the perfect rifle for deer and black bear. Overall length is only 35.5" and weight (with scope) is just a few ounces over six pounds. It is actually shorter and lighter than most leveractions.

In a daypack a pound or two doesn't matter much for eastern hunting. But when it is carried in the hands like a rifle, a little less weight matters as the day goes on. The length, though, is the big benefit. Compared to my 30-06, there is 6" less barrel to get snagged or caught in brush and grape vines.

The rifle is more accurate than i am. With Remington factory ammo it held to 1" at 100 yards off sandbags. I'm sure it could do better, but i am not an accomplished bench rest shooter.

Finally, in, 260 Remington, or 7mm-08, either model are near perfect deer rifles for kids. Recoil is manageable and the shorter lighter package is easier to handle for short or small shooters.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Even More on Carbines

This is a nice write-up on the Marlin 1894. It includes performance and reloading data for .357 Mag, .44 Mag, and .45 Colt.

Friday, August 01, 2003


The discussion continues at Hell in a Handbasket and Backroad Blog.
Definitely worth reading.