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May 16, 2021

Gun Thread: Re-Run Edition! [Weasel]

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Howdy, y'all! What time is it? It's Gun Thread time, that's what time! So climb up on your ol' pal Weasel's knee, and let's see what there is to talk about in the wunnerful world of guns n' shooting!

Wait! Where's Weasel?

Weasel ain't here, bro.

That's right, Weasel is away on a sooper-sekrit mission, and rather than work on new content in advance, all he left you was a bunch of leftover crap from previous threads. Having nothing better to do, let's get to that below, shall we?

Late Breaking Update: Weasel are here after all! Sooper-sekrit mission status; cancelled.


*******

These nuggets of wisdom originally ran on September 15, 2019.

Shooting, Sucking and You
Today I'm touching on a topic I've felt strongly about for some time. If you aren't getting the results you want in your shooting, or anything else in life for that matter, perhaps the first thing to do is just admit that you suck at whatever it is. I mean this sincerely. On a good day I am a half-way competent shooter, but I sure as hell didn't start out that way. When I first started, I sucked, bigly, boldly and badly. After making a lot of random holes in targets at embarrassingly close distances, I sat down and had a talk with myself and we both agreed that I just sucked at shooting. It turns out that shooting, at least shooting consistently well, is one of those things that is harder than it looks. But what to do about it? Should I simply lower my expectations or should I decide to improve? How about being happy with the status quo?

Just because you suck today doesn't mean you have to suck forever, and improving mostly involves starting with good fundamentals rather than spending a fortune on gear, and practicing. Alot.

It's important to set your expectations and work towards the standard you set for yourself as a goal. I went along for a while and then decided to try and stop sucking by developing some skills which meant a) training and 2) practice, practice, practice. I joined a range and spent an hour or two there every week over a number of years practicing the fundamentals of handgun shooting. Rifle shooting represented a different sickness altogether; I found one of best rifle instructors in the country and spent a countless number of days on a 600 acre hay farm learning to shoot at long-range. Later, I entered as many long range matches as possible over a period of years to practice what I'd learned. Beginning to get the point? It's much more about learning the fundamentals and practicing them, than it is about having the newest, shiniest and expensivest gear on the range. I have had my ass absolutely kicked around a rifle range by old experienced guys and gals with goofy looking vintage gear, because they knew how to shoot. Having ultra high-end equipment only begins to make a difference at the very top end of the performance curve.

When I began coaching long-range rifle teams I frequently worked with new shooters and noticed a tendency for many to believe a new scope or another piece of gear was the quick answer to whatever their problemo du jour seemed to be. They were convinced that moving from a basic stock rifle to a very expensive custom made rifle would place them squarely in the winner's circle on match day. BAM! Imagine their confusion and bitter, bitter sadness when the big day arrives and their brand new rifle doesn't seem to shoot any better than the previous one they were convinced had been holding them back all along. Hey! This new rifle is defective too!

So here are some WeaselRules on shooting, training and practice. These are good not only for new shooters, but also maybe for those who have reached a plateau and are looking to up their game. These are the same points I would gently, and sometimes not so gently, make to the dejected shooter toeing the dirt after a train wreck in a match, but they apply to all shooters sooner or later, I think.

Don't Read the Internet
The internet is great for cat videos, exiled Nigerian banking official outreach, and our favorite blog, but can be a dangerous place for anyone with just a little bit of knowledge. It's natural for a new shooter to want to immerse themselves in their latest passion, but it's possible to pick up someone else's bad habits, too. Be very careful what and who you believe online, especially anything from a guy you don't know calling himself Weasel. The best way to begin gaining knowledge you can trust is to find someone who does the kind of shooting you like, and who does it very well, and become their best friend.

Talk Less and Listen More
If you are being coached or are paying for lessons, listen to the instructor and refrain from explaining to them how much of an expert you already are. Shooters are a friendly bunch so if you're learning on your own, find the good shooters, ask questions and listen to the answers. Again, listening does not mean blabbering about how much you know from reading an internet discussion forum the night before.

Set Goals, Measure Progress and Manage Expectations
Always have a plan. Even if you're headed to the range for some plain ol' recreational shooting, have some sort of training objective in mind. You don't need to make a big production out of things, but take the time to focus on fundamentals or one particular aspect of shooting for at least a few minutes. Be willing to invest your time but spend it wisely and adopt some method of measuring your progress. Finally, do not become discouraged when you don't become a champion overnight. It takes time, and there's nothing you can do about that other than, well, investing an amount of time directly proportional to the skill level you want to achieve. There is nothing in the world wrong with being new at something and sucking at it, just be determined to improve if that's what you want to do. If your goal is to shoot six inch groups at 7 yards, then be happy shooting six inch groups at 7 yards.

Everyone Has a Bad Day
No shit. And I mean everyone. Don't compound a problem you might have had earlier by acting like a baby and beating yourself up for the rest of the day. I like to tell the story of a very good friend who is one of the top long range shooters in the country who, in the first three relays of a national match, dropped a total of three points and was in 54th place at the end of day one. Did he get mad and quit? No. That day simply wasn't his day. If you make an errant shot, stop and think about what happened. Try to determine what went wrong and don't do that thing anymore. Have a mental checklist beginning with your setup, stance and grip mechanics, and progressing through target acquisition, trigger squeeze and follow-up, and assess your performance at each step. There is a time to shoot quickly and a time to shoot s-l-o-w-l-y. Learn from your mistakes and when it's your turn to be the loser, don't be a bad one.

Consider Competitive Shooting for Practice
I am a lazy mo-fo, no two ways about it. After I had been shooting and training for a while, I got to a point where I was excusing my often less than stellar performance as good enough. I'd just barely miss a target at say, 800 yards, and would make up all sorts of reasons to myself why it was justified and understandable. After all, it's a teensy little target a long way away! I was definitely at the point where I'd accomplished my goal of learning how to shoot and was then just being lazy in the execution. So I decided to start entering matches knowing that I could measure good days vs bad ones by my scores, and it worked. You cannot hide from a poorly executed shot when the target comes up and your scorer records the results. You do not have to go all bananas and turn it into a semi-career like I did, but consider match shooting as a training tool. It is a whole lot of fun and you will meet some incredibly nice and like-minded people along the way. You won't know what you're doing the first time, but just suck it up. Every single person on the range had a first day, too. Tell the Match Director it's your first match and ask to be squadded with an experienced shooter who can show you the ropes, then come back and tell me at the end of the day it wasn't fun and worthwhile.

Sorry, It Probably Isn't the Gun
Self-explanatory. 'Nuff said.

So what do you think? Do you need more practice or do you "need" a new gun or some other gear to improve? Believe me, buying guns is mucho fun-o especially if your objective is owning lots of guns, but if you want to progress with your shooting it takes time, a willingness to learn, and practice. Admitting there is always something to work on is the first step towards being a more consistent shooter. Learn how to shoot before you start throwing new and fancier gear at the problem, and for Pete's sake, always remember it's supposed to be fun!

*******

This material originally posted on November 18, 2018. If you are considering shooting someone else's reloads, please read this twice!

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No worries - That'll buff out!

When it comes to ruining your day, this is a pretty effective way to do it.

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Today let's talk about getting a bigger bang than expected. Or a smaller bang than expected. Or pretty much any sort of result other than you expected.

Squib Loads and Barrel Blockages
Over the years, I have reloaded a lot of handgun and rifle ammunition, and have had a squib load block the barrel exactly once. When it happened, I could tell the recoil and sound were completely wrong and fortunately didn't pull the trigger again. After making the gun safe I took a peek and could see the bullet resting peacefully about 1/4 inch from the end of the barrel just waiting to cause a disaster. Ruh Roh!

What had happened is this; I was load testing and measuring muzzle velocity in a series of cartridges with decreasing powder charges, and although still above the published minimum, this particular round didn't make it out of the barrel. Muzzle velocity = 0 feet per second. Test concluded.

There are a couple of lessons here. First, pay attention to what the hell is going on while you're shooting. It is possible to become so focused on the target, and looking good for the range babes, that you lose sight of everything else. If something jams, or breaks, or sounds and feels different, stop pulling the trigger and investigate. If you're a new shooter and not quite sure what to do, put the gun down pointed in a safe direction and call over the RSO. Explain what you think is going on and let them help you. Second, be very careful when reloading. Things can go wrong even when you haven't done anything overtly retarded. I was trying to find a lower velocity accuracy node and while I was technically above the minimum published load, apparently the bullet didn't get the memo. If I hadn't realized what had happened, I could have turned an annoyance (tapping the bullet out later) into a big mess - ruining the barrel of a nice revolver, or worse.

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How is This Even Possible?

Here's an extremely lucky cat who just used up eleven lives and is fortunate to have only ruined a barrel. Hands and fingers and eyeballs are much more difficult to replace. Did someone really pull the trigger that many times, even stopping to reload the gun, without realizing something was wrong?

And speaking of reloading...

Big Reloading No-No: Double Charge or Wrong Powder
Reloading can be fun and a rewarding part of shooting. For competitive shooters it can be a necessity, and for normal people it can be an economical way to shoot more and not be totally dependent on retail ammunition supply. It can also turn a fun day at the range into a complete nightmare if you are not absolutely focused on the job at hand while at the reloading bench. I'm pretty cautious by nature, and even more so while I'm reloading. Just as there are safety rules to follow while handling firearms, some must also be followed while reloading.

First, I allow zero distractions. Realizing my limited mental faculties do not permit me to do two things at once, I don't watch TV or listen to the radio while I'm reloading. I don't even want anyone talking to me while I'm at the reloading bench, and will stop what I'm doing if a distraction presents itself. I pause at each step and check my work.

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Can you Tell a Difference?

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Confusing on Purpose?

The biggest potential for excitement relates to powder. When I started reloading I was surprised to learn there are literally hundreds of types of gunpowder all burning at different rates. The unit of measure for gunpowder is the grain (gr) which is equal to 1/7000th of a pound. In some cases, a safe load can become unsafe when it varies by as little as a few tenths of one grain, so imagine the mayhem if you inadvertently doubled the amount of powder in a cartridge. One good way to avoid this is by selecting a powder in which the desired load cannot be doubled without overflowing the case (volumetrically greater than 50% of the case capacity). Hopefully the observant reloader will notice gunpowder spilling all over the place and make some adjustments. Another problem is forgetting the powder altogether - see squib, above.

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This Isn't Good

A mistake with potentially disastrous consequences is simply using the wrong powder, and it's easy to do if you're not paying attention. Pressures developed in modern cartridges can easily exceed 50,000 psi and selecting the incorrect powder, for example using a fast burning powder in place of a slow one, can easily exceed the design pressures of the gun and result in a catastrophic failure. The only way I know to help prevent this is to never keep more than one powder on the reloading bench at a time and always check and recheck the powder you have selected before beginning a reloading session.

Have any of the reloaders among us had an accident (or a scare) related to reloading? What happened and how would you recommend preventing it from happening again?

******

And this was featured the following week on November 25, 2018.

Last week we talked about blowed-up guns, so let's talk about them again this week!

One of the all-time greatest topics for internet forum debate involves the question of the '03 Springfield and 'low number' receivers.

Introduced in 1903, the United States Rifle, Caliber .30-06, Model 1903 was the standard U.S. infantry rifle until the M1 Garand came along in 1936. The development and use of the '03 Springfield is extremely interesting, and will someday be the topic of a Gun Thread because I really love the rifle. For today, however, we're going to talk a little bit about metallurgy and wartime production. 'Kay?

The U.S. entered WWI with insufficient rifles to arm the troops so production had to be increased and that meant adding shifts at the arsenals. At the time, the heat treatment of the receiver steel was controlled thru visual inspection by armory workers. When the steel glowed a certain color it was deemed to have reached the proper temperature, an obviously subjective procedure. It was later determined the actual temperature of steel produced in this manner might vary by several hundred degrees, depending on whether it was a day or night shift, or a clear vs. cloudy day, and resulted in potentially over-cooked and brittle steel. A relatively small number of the receivers failed during use and injured soldiers which prompted an investigation.

Compounding the problem was, by design, the head of the .30-06 cartridge is unsupported by the chamber for about 1/8th inch. Some receiver failure incidents were suspected to have been caused by defective cartridge head brass and even others attributed to the use of incorrect ammunition altogether. The Army Officer leading the investigation, Julian Hatcher, incorporated the findings into the book bearing his name, Hatcher's Notebook, which is highly recommended (see links below). As described by Hatcher, the investigation and testing continued into the 1920's when a sample of 26 low number receivers were subjected to twice the rated pressure without failure. So much for my brilliant commentary last week regarding double charges. [Note: Not really, DO NOT double your powder charges!].

Whatever the cause, about a dozen soldiers received serious injuries resulting from receiver failures. The manufacturing process was improved in February 1918 at Springfield Armory around S/N: 800000, and at Rock Island Arsenal at S/N: 285507 with the installation of pyrometers in the forges. But what to do with approximately 1 million 'suspect' receivers then in use? The Army decided to leave them in regular service and only retire them as they came through the arsenal for repair, and the Marines decided to simply keep using them until someone handed them something else to shoot.

And the great Springfield low receiver serial number issue was born.

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Low Numbered Receiver

Allow me to introduce you to numero 379145 made at the Springfield Armory in 1909. Let's see - 379145<800000, carry the 3, divide be 2... Holy Crap! It's a low number! Don't look at it!
Oh, the humanity!!!

Calm down. What you don't see in the picture above is the barrel date.

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I found the barrel date! Wait, it says 1944!

Yep, that's right - November 1944. This dangerously frail receiver made in 1909 is matched to a barrel made 35 years later. What gives? Here's a rifle that was fired to the point of wearing out at least one barrel, and probably several barrels, before concluding its military service with a barrel dated 1944.

Do I shoot it? Of course I do. It was made in 1909, well before WWI and the increase in wartime production which many think contributed to the problem and the observant among you will note the rifle is in pretty much not blowed-up condition. The CMP and most of the rest of the world declare this rifle 'unsafe to shoot' based on the low number, but obviously they don't mean me. I suspect it may have been a USMC rifle given it was never removed from service, and if it's good enough for the Marines then it's good enough for yer ol' pal Weasel. I handload for it using carefully inspected surplus match brass, 150gr bullets, and IMR4895 staying on the lower end of the velocity curve - around 2650fps. The load for .30 cal military ammunition has fluctuated over the years, but in 1944 the new M2 Ball used a 152gr flat base bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2805fps.

New for 2021 - A WeaselAcres video with the same '03 Springfield!

Remember, these rifles weren't treated like some sort of biohazard 100 years ago, but rather continued to be used until they were worn out and then removed from service, or replaced by something else. That little nugget is usually omitted from discussion when intrepid Internet Gun Forum Safety Officers take to their keyboards.

Am I recommending you shoot a low number receiver? No. I'm just telling you that I shoot mine, and the reasons I think it's OK for me to do so with my particular rifle.

So what do you think of the 'conventional' wisdom? All things considered do you agree with my reasoning or am I a dangerous lunatic and stupid, stupid person for shooting this rifle? Do any of you have low numbered receivers and shoot them too? Do you think I'm being unfair to internet gun forum community?

******

Link-O-Rama

I'm really very seriously not kidding around anymore. Buy Ammo
AmmoSeek - online ammo search tool
GunBot - online ammo search tool
SG Ammo
Palmetto State Armory
Georgia Arms
AmmoMan
Target Sports USA
Bud's Gun Shop

***Mail Bag***

This week we have a lesson on gun control from our pal FungusBoy:

******

Please note the new and improved protonmail account gunthread at protonmail dot com. An informal Gun Thread archive can be found HERE. Future expansion plans are in the works for the site Weasel Gun Thread. If you have a question you would like to ask Gun Thread Staff offline, just send us a note and we'll do our best to answer. If you care to share the story of your favorite firearm, send a picture with your nic and tell us what you sadly lost in the tragic canoe accident. If you would like to remain completely anonymous, just say so. Lurkers are always welcome!

That's it for this week - have you been to the range?

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