Cap And Ball Conversions

July 12th, 2014

Revolvers using percussion caps were all the rage during the American Civil War.

cap and ball

It had only been a few decades since they had appeared, and most handguns up to that time were single shot affairs.  But now you had six shots before reloading!  Amazing!

It must have seemed to the people at the time as if they had Thor’s hammer in their holster.

The biggest problem with cap and ball revolvers, however, is that it took a great deal of time to reload.  Loose powder had to be measured and poured into each chamber, with a round lead bullet forcibly pushed down on top.  After all of the chambers were stoked up, then percussion caps would have to be fitted to the rear of each.

Sometimes the caps would not want to stay put, and so they would have to be carefully crimped.  Even so, it was common for percussion caps to come loose.  This would not only mean that one of the loads would not go bang, but the cap could also work its way into the mechanism of the revolver and jam the cylinder to a stop.

That is why the introduction of cartridge technology was greeted with joyous glee by anyone who used a handgun.

standard 9mm lead ammo

The powder, bullet, and primer all in one convenient package?   Just slip a new one into the chamber to reload, instead of measuring powder and forcing bullets into cylinders?  And, what is even more amazing, no percussion caps going walkabout in the guts of your gun so it doesn’t work?  Give me some of that!

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Shooting Far

July 5th, 2014

I recently posted an essay where I mentioned my desire for a handgun suitable to be legally carried by someone with a concealed carry license, but which could also be used to reliably and accurately hit a target at 100 yards.

Is there anything that would fit the bill?  Maybe so, but I have yet to find it.

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  Even handgun bullets, less powerful and accurate than those fired from rifles, will travel more than a mile before air resistance will scrub their velocity down to nothing.  So it is certainly within the realm of the possible to strike a target at 100 yards with the compact autoloader I normally carry for my defense.

In fact, the best shot I ever made was when I killed an adult coyote at 280 yards with a single round fired from this gun, which is chambered for the powerful .357 Magnum cartridge.

model 686 357 magnum revolver

357 magnum with some spent brass and a speed loader

Conditions were absolutely perfect, however.  The coyote was moving directly away from me at a trot instead of a run, there was no cover or obstructing brush, the air was still with no breeze to push the bullet off target, and I was able to rest the barrel on a fence post to steady the gun.  None of those are likely to be present if one has to defend themselves against a crazed criminal wielding a rifle.

So anyone with good marksmanship skills can hit a target at 100 yards with a standard handgun, as long as they are calm and take a fair amount of time to set up the shot.  But to draw your weapon under stress while someone is trying to take your life, and deliver fast and accurate fire at that distance?  I’m sure there are some superlative shots who can do that, but the rest of us need some special equipment.

What kind of special equipment?  Read on and we will see what others have tried.  Please click the name of the gun to see more information, and click on the pictures for a larger version.

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I Want My U.N.C.L.E. Gun!

July 1st, 2014

When the first James Bond movie came out, the public went wild.  To cash in on this popularity, a TV show titled The Man From U.N.C.L.E. started to air in 1964.

ManFromUNCLELogo

The formula for the success of the show was based on gorgeous women and absurd fight sequences.  The stars of the show almost always prevailed against the bad guys when the bullets started to fly, the reason being that they had the coolest guns.

man from uncle stars with gun

The special effects department tasked with creating the futuristic guns bought low cost Walther P-38‘s, cheap and plentiful at the time, and heavily modified them.  The poster below from a Japanese toy company shows all the stuff they dreamed up.

man from uncle gun

Extended magazine, suppressor, barrel extension, shoulder stock, telescopic sight, and flash hider.  The flash hider was for standard carry, the rest of the parts would be screwed on when trouble arose.  So all the agents would have to do would be to remove the flash hider, and then put all of the rest of the parts together to create a nifty carbine that doesn’t make enough noise to wake the neighbors.

assembled man from uncle carbine

That is pretty nifty!  But the one aspect of the gun that I found fascinating was how a handgun small enough for daily carry could be transformed into something with increased range and accuracy.

I’ve been looking for something in the real world which could do the same thing ever since.  A handgun suitable for concealed carry, but which can also reach out to at least 100 yards and reliably produce acceptable accuracy.  So far my quest has not produced any results.

Frustrated search aside, are there handguns that could produce fast, aimed shots out to 100 yards?  There have been a few, but most have proven to be less than successful as concealed carry guns.  This essay has already run on too long, so I’ll save the discussion of actual far shooting handguns for the next post.

See you there!

British Spy Stories Go Off The Rails

June 30th, 2014

The modern spy genre has been a staple of mainstream fiction since at least 1900, which was the year that Rudyard Kipling serialized his espionage novel Kim.

cover of the novel kim by rudyard kipling

There are many things to recommend the novel, as Kipling drew up0n experiences gained while he worked as a journalist in India.  It does great service to impart the impressions of a British citizen thrust into the bustling, overcrowded, wildly diverse and exotic East.

The novel also was a seminal work in the spy genre as it depicts a secret government effort to recruit, train, and deploy otherwise average people in what is known in the British Empire as The Great Game, a deadly serious rivalry between Russia and the United Kingdom to advance their agendas and gain an advantage over the other.  The novel Kim might have some overly dramatic moments, but in general it was a thoughtful and realistic portrayal of what a seasoned journalist turned fiction writer might imagine efforts to gather intelligence would entail.

The title character of Kim was a teenaged boy who grew up on the streets.  His main talent besides confidence and self reliance was to be able to blend in with the teeming millions that thronged India, passing unnoticed and invisibly in the crowd.

The spy novel advanced closer towards what modern audiences appreciate with the publication of The 39 Steps in 1915.  The plot concerns an everyman who is accused of a murder committed by spies to cover up their nefarious work, with the protagonist then forced to go on the run in a desperate effort to both clear his name and foil the enemy operatives.

cover of the spy novel the 39 steps

The description of the plot will have many of my readers rolling their eyes.  Aren’t stories concerning some average and innocent Joe who has to evade the authorities and bring the true evil plot to light a cliche in action literature?  That is very true, but this is where it all started.  Worth a read for that alone, I would say.

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Coming Apart

June 25th, 2014

I recently wrote an essay where I discussed the popular impression that hollowpoint ammunition can not overpenetrate, or punch completely through a target with enough velocity to still be dangerous.

expanded hollowpoint bullets

The answer, of course, is that anything which is intended to borrow deeply enough into a human body to reach the vital organs can also come out the other side at speed.  Hollowpoint rounds might reduce this possibility, even reduce it a great deal, but it doesn’t eliminate it completely.

a variety of hollowpoint calibers fired into ballistic gel

So we have to wonder: Are there types of lethal ammunition which reduce the chance of overpenetration even further?

There are, and they are known under the blanket term of “frangible ammunition“.

Sounds pretty exotic, doesn’t it?  But it just means that the bullets are designed to break up into itty bitty pieces, instead of staying in one lump like all the other bullets out there.

Why would anyone want that?  The idea was to reduce unintended casualties and ricochets if the police or military had to shoot at someone in an urban environment.  It is all well and good if a SWAT marksman takes down a desperate criminal who is holding hostages, but it wouldn’t be acceptable if innocent people got hurt when the bullet bounces off of concrete walls and zips around a bit.

Spicy_Detective_Stories_April_1935

(I chose the image above solely due to the “Bullet From Nowhere” story, which I thought was topical.)

(No, really!  I did!)

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An Expensive Way To Be An Annoying Twat

June 16th, 2014

We might have had primitive technology not much better than fire-hardened spears to hunt wooly mammoth back in my youth, but there were model airplanes available for the enthusiast even back then.

control line model airplane

Some of them were even controlled by radio.  Hence the name “RC model airplane“.

vintage radio control flying boat model

All that is old is constantly new again.  Repackaged for the Internet age, we are now supposed to refer to RC model aircraft as “drones“.  The most popular appear to be multi-rotor helicopter designs.

radio controlled drone with camera

The development of digital cameras that are cheap, durable, and lightweight have meant that these drones are now usually equipped with what would have been seen as sophisticated surveillance technology even a decade ago.

rc drone equipped with a camera

Sophisticated spy equipment or not, most people who buy this sort of thing are mostly interested in buzzing the neighboring backyards in order to get shots of their teenage daughters as they sunbathe.

sunbathers on a rocky and uncomfortable beach

cat sleeping on a hot tin roof

But not all uses of these toys are purposed to stoke some prurient interests.  Another trend is to take video of your hometown, edit the footage for dramatic effect while setting it to inspiring music, and uploading the end result to YouTube.

Long time reader Greg was kind enough to send me a link to this website.  It features a map of the world, with links to the aforementioned YouTube videos.   Judging by the number of videos posted, it would appear that Europe has a great many more drone enthusiasts than The United States.  Or perhaps we just don’t like to share.

I checked out the video for Detroit and found it to be interesting.  Lots of crumbling buildings and empty streets.  Reminded me of those cheap movies that came out in the 1980′s which depicted a world smashed by nuclear war, with cannibalistic mutants lurking in the rubble.

Anyway, check out the website.  Maybe someone has made a video of your own hometown.

Here Kitty Kitty

June 5th, 2014

tiger underwater

(Click on the picture for larger version.)

Does anyone else find themselves reaching for their favorite big bore rifle?

Do Hollowpoints Overpenetrate?

June 4th, 2014

Interesting question.  But first we have to define some terms.  What are these hollowpoints of which I speak?

Most people are familiar with standard ball ammo.  That means the bullet, the part of the ammunition that comes flying out of the gun at a really high rate of speed, is shaped like a fire plug.  (Please click on all pictures for a larger version.)

standard 9mm lead ammo

The picture above shows entire cartridges with lead bullets at the tip.  When I was reloading my own ammo, I would buy large boxes of copper jacketed bullets.

standard 9mm ball bullets waiting to be reloaded

They don’t look like little round balls, which can throw you a curve when people start talking about “ball ammo“.  What they mean by that is just standard ammo, nothing special, totally boring stuff.

Hollowpoint ammo use bullets that have the tip scooped out.  There is one on the right in the picture below, standing next to a ball cartridge.

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I Get This Reaction Whenever I Go Where People Are Dressed Up Nice

June 2nd, 2014

monkey is not glad to see you

angry bird

When The Dog Bites

May 21st, 2014

I currently own two dogs, both rescues I found injured and lost on the streets.  One is a tiny and elderly Shih Tzu named Fuzzball, the other a skinny runt of a Pit Bull named Chris.

panting in the woods

chris takes his ease

(Click on all pictures for a larger version.)

We were taking our afternoon walk, the leashed dogs sniffing the breeze and the grass, when an unconstrained Pit Bull raced upon us with a yelling man right behind.  The dog was upon us in an instant, and it snatched up Fuzzball.  Chris and I moved to protect before the killing shake.

You might think this would be a minor problem, as Chris is yet another Pit Bull.  But the attacking animal was significantly heavier and more muscular, as well as being free of a hampering leash.  My dog was being torn apart.

Less than two seconds into the fracas, and I was bitten by the aggressor.

james with a chewed up arm

That handsome devil is yours truly, just moments after the fight.  Note the slippery nylon windbreaker I am wearing, as it saved me from serious injury.  As the jaws closed on my forearm, the material of the jacket kept the teeth of the animal from penetrating too deeply.  My arm squirted out from between the closing maw like a wet bar of soap.

Pure luck, but I’ll take what I can get.  Purchasing that jacket was the best twelve bucks I ever spent at WalMart.

I wasn’t seriously injured, but the bite changed the situation.  Lethal force was now the next logical step.  My gun came free of the holster.

taurus pt111 with magazine

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