Today was our first day at the range. Much fun and games for all concerned.
I brought along several firearms I needed to function-test. Saturday was revolver day; three .357 Magnum and .38 Special revolvers. I tested them with Sellier & Bellot 158gr. LRN (lead round nose) ammunition as a first step, and found to my surprise that two out of the three revolvers (both snubnosed, short-barrel firearms) “hung up” after four rounds. They were recoiling hard enough to “pull” the bullets a little out of the cartridge cases, meaning that they protruded out of the front of the cylinder, preventing it from turning. This surprised me, as I hadn’t had that problem before. I suspect my latest batch of S&B ammunition might have been less tightly crimped than what I’m used to. However, both firearms functioned just fine with other rounds – some Winchester ball and a box of Sig Sauer 125gr. JHP +P. I therefore don’t hold the malfunctions against the guns. Tomorrow (Sunday) will be shotgun testing day. I have three tactical/defensive short-barrel shotguns to function-test, and I brought with me 250 rounds of 00 buckshot for the purpose. Since I don’t want to bruise my shoulder by firing all of them, I’ll be offering the shotguns to all and sundry to put rounds downrange.
(The ammo issue with my revolvers highlights a very important point. Far too many people buy a handgun in a moment of fear or tension, plus a box of generic ammunition, but never test-fire it, or at best only fire a few rounds. Thereafter, they put it away and don’t shoot it again for years, if ever. That can be dangerous if the ammunition they’ve bought isn’t a good match for the gun. If I’d relied on that S&B ammunition, in those revolvers, I might have been “caught short” by a malfunction when I needed to defend myself. Far better to put at least a box or two of your chosen defensive ammunition through your defensive firearm, to make sure it functions properly. No firearm is malfunction-proof, so it’s best to test your chosen gun-ammo combination before entrusting your life to it. If problems arise, change the ammo, or the gun, or both, before it’s too late.)
Miss D. brought one of her Ruger Mark IV 22/45 Lite handguns and about 900 rounds of ammunition – far more than she needed for herself, but we brought extra for others who might want to play. It turned out that our Australian visitors, whom I mentioned yesterday, wanted to play very much! Julie’s daughter is now of an age to be allowed to use rimfire ammunition, according to Australia’s rather odd-seeming firearms laws, so she had a heap of fun burning through almost all our .22LR ammunition. She’s already nagging her mom to buy a similar gun in Australia, promising to buy it off her when she turns 21.
While her daughter was playing with Miss D.’s pistol, Julie and the rest of her party were having a great time shooting everything available. (That’s one of the fun things about our Blogorado gathering; everyone lets everyone else shoot their guns and use their ammunition, so one can get a great deal of hands-on experience in a very short, compressed timescale.) They fired everything from .50 BMG to .22LR, including cartridges that are hard to find in Australia such as .45 GAP and 357 SIG. They seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.
(I was surprised to learn that they would have to search their clothing and luggage very carefully before returning to Australia, to make sure no spent cartridge cases had fallen into pockets or folds in the material. Even one fired cartridge case, in a caliber for which they don’t have a firearms license, is apparently enough to make them criminals under Australian law. That sounds insane to me! Julie is taking some linked .50 BMG cases back with her, but to do so legally, she first has to have them bored through with a drill from side to side, and have the primer pocket drilled out, to render them incapable of being reloaded. Talk about legal convolutions . . . )
One of Old NFO’s friends brought along something new to all of us – a half-scale replica of a M1841 Mountain Howitzer. The M1841 was a muzzle-loading black-powder cannon that could be disassembled into its component parts and transported on the backs of three or four mules. Its short range meant that it wasn’t much used for set-piece battles, but it could be carried where conventional artillery could not travel, making it useful during the Indian Wars. (At Custer’s disastrous last stand in 1876, he left two carriage-mounted Gatling guns and two later-model mountain howitzers behind, apparently because he felt they would slow his progress. I suspect he might have had time to regret that, before he died.)
The replica cannon at the range yesterday was half-scale, with a 3″ bore instead of the 4.62″ of the full-size gun. Technically, that would make the replica a 3-pounder cannon, instead of the full-size 12-pounder. It fired hard-frozen bottles of water as improvised ammunition (although one can cast lead balls to fit the bore, if one is so inclined). Old NFO had parked his car just in front of the muzzle when we arrived, so there were all sorts of “helpful” suggestions about washing the dust off it by firing the cannon loaded with non-frozen water bottles. He declined our proffered help and moved his car, rapidly, in case we suited the action to the word! The morning was punctuated by deep booms from the cannon and clouds of drifting blackpowder smoke. Lots of fun.
There are thousands of Monarch butterflies moving through the area at present, on their annual southward migration. It’s a bit disconcerting to have them perch on one’s barrel, or hand, or arm, as one tries to aim a firearm! The area is also rife with prairie rattlesnakes. FarmDad ran over one on the road to the range yesterday, and brought it to show us what one looks like (after having cut off the head – he says fervently that he never wants a dead rattlesnake with a head in his truck, in case it isn’t as dead as he’d prefer). We noted how well its skin blends in with the vegetation on the ground, making it very hard to see. I think all of us were more careful than usual after that, looking at the ground as we walked to make sure there wasn’t anything that would be dangerous to step upon.
Supper was mammoth steaks carved from the late Sir Loin, the steer we clubbed together to buy for our annual gathering. They were immense – a good inch or more thick, and so large that many of us cut them in half, and shared one steak between two people. The bones were discarded in the general direction of the 20-30 semi-feral cats that hang around the barn. Hilarity ensued as the cats tried to stand on the bones while yanking at the meat on them with tooth and claw, and growling at the others to make them go and find their own supper. One kitten had me doubled over with laughter as it growled and postured at a bone from a couple of feet away, then dashed in to rip off a piece of meat, then backed off to eat it before attacking the bone again. It was having a great time.
On Sunday we’ll gather for our usual breakfast, then adjourn to the range for another day’s shooting. I’ll put up another report Sunday night or Monday morning. Meanwhile, if you’re starved for reading matter, please enjoy the blogs listed in my sidebar.
I haven’t had time to prepare my usual Sunday Morning Music post, so to honor our gunblogger gathering, here’s Johnny Cash with The Last Gunfighter Ballad, the title track from the album of the same name.