Living In The Past

Lots and lots of people here in the United States are big into historical reenactment, just as there plenty of people the world over who like to celebrate their cultural past.  Even I had a very brief fling with it, as I was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism way back in my late teens.

(Not me, but some other guy.)

So far as the shooting sports are concerned, I briefly investigated Cowboy Action Shooting before deciding that it wasn’t something for which I could spare the time.

(Picture source, and it is still not me.)

Passionate as the enthusiast may be for these two aspects of historical reenactment, I would have to say that they pale in comparison to the most popular eras that are celebrated in the US.  These would be the late 18th Century during the American Revolutionary War, and the late 19th Century during the American Civil War.

For our purposes today, we will be focusing on the American Revolutionary War.

I mention all this not because I have a sudden burning desire to invest in period garb and live in a tent without running water or modern plumbing, but because I ran across this Youtube channel.  It features historical recipes, taken from cookbooks hundreds of years old, and prepared using traditional methods employing equipment that would not have been out of place in the kitchens of the time.

The first video I saw was a simple bacon-and-eggs recipe.

Simple though this may be, but I found it interesting that a wood fire was used, with old fashioned kitchen implements.

Upon exploring the channel a bit more, I found some really interesting recipes from meat pies, to ketchup made from mushrooms.

All of that period gear is not surprising, considering the Youtube channel was started as a way to advertise for the family business.  Whatever you might need for living like it’s 1799, Jas. Townsend and Sons either has it, or can tell you where you can get it.

I’m not interested in the living history aspect, but the recipes are a lot of fun.  Be warned that you will have to have a supply of nutmeg on hand, however.  Seems that just about every recipe from the late 18th Century demanded some freshly ground nutmeg for some reason.

Watching The Bullet Drop

It was the 1930’s, and the US military was taking a look at the data from WWI.  How effective were handguns in war?  Not very!

I can’t find the source, but I remember reading a report many decades ago that had been written in the 1920’s.  The author was a high ranking officer of the British army medical corps, and his assessment was stark and realistic.  Seems the most wounds were caused by artillery, second most common wounds caused by machine guns, third by rifles.  Handguns?  If memory serves, Official records told of a total of seven people ended up in field hospitals with a hole in their hide caused by a handgun during the course of the war.  Seems they all claimed to have been sleeping, and they rolled over on top of their pistol when it went off!

Did it happen that way, or were they trying to get out of going over the top?  No way to tell.

At any rate, the idea of equipping the support troops that needed to do their work close to the enemy lines with a handgun for self protection fell out of favor. Artillery crews, officers, cooks, mechanics, what have you.  They all might need to defend themselves if their positions are overrun, but their main job keeps them from hauling around a main battle rifle around with a combat load to go with it.  Past practice was to issue handguns to such troops and call it good, but that didn’t seem to be all that great an idea any more.

Handguns are great if the enemy is in leaping distance, mind, but using one in a battle when the enemy is more than about seven yards away takes more training and constant practice than most soldiers are probably going to get.  It is certainly within the capabilities of gun and man with that training and experience, just that the army expects the support troops to concentrate on their jobs instead of visiting the range every day to practice with their handguns.

Okay, so a pistol didn’t cut the mustard anymore.  So what to do?

The US military decided to design a brand new rifle, something small and light enough to be carried by support troops while they went about their duties, yet with enough range to be effective at short-to-medium battlefield distances.  This was the M1 Carbine.

The M1 Carbine was exactly what the Army ordered.  Small and light, semi-auto so the volume of fire was respectable, and able to reach out and touch someone with aimed shots up to 300 yards away.  The main reason the new weapon fit the bill so well is entirely due to the ammunition, as the cartridge to be used in the M1 Carbine was designed first and the rifle added later.

Most people assume that the .30 Carbine round was originally designed to be a handgun cartridge, but that is not true.  It was always intended to be fired from a small rifle.  Still, it is certainly understandable why one would get that impression as the .30 Carbine round sure looks like a pistol cartridge.

(Picture source.)

That is a standard .30-06 cartridge on top, which was the ammo used by the US for their main battle rifle when the M1 Carbine was introduced.  Notice how it has shoulders, which means that it narrows down towards the bullet end, while the .30 Carbine round on the bottom is a straight wall cartridge without any constriction.  Also note how the .30-06 bullet is pointy like most rifle bullets, while the .30 Carbine bullet is round like most handgun ammo.

So one could think of the M1 Carbine as a really big handgun, something suitable for self defense but not powerful enough to be a really effective main battle rifle.  Which was exactly the point.

Okay, so the carbine bullet is round, and it isn’t nearly as heavy as the main battle rifle cartridge, nor is the bullet moving nearly as fast.  It is also round, not pointed, which has to reduce the effective range due to inefficient aerodynamics.  Even so, the M1 Carbine is supposed to be reasonably accurate out to 300 yards.  Is that true?

I came across a Youtube video that I think is extremely interesting.

The author of the video hooked a camera up to a spotting scope, and you will see some sort of atmospheric distortion when he fires a round.  That distortion is the disturbance caused by the bullet punching through the air, ghost trails that mark out the path taken by the bullet.

Go ahead and take a look.  Please note that the bullet has a noticeable drop at 300 yards, with the bullets arching down more than a foot to their final resting place.  This isn’t something that is unusual, as all bullets will be dropping by the time they travel 300 yards downrange, but it sure is neat to see it!

Is It “Autoloaders Yes, Revolvers No”?

I have not been shy in stating that I prefer autoloaders over revolvers.

The main reason why comes down to the number of shots available.  Most autoloaders already carry more than 6 rounds in their magazines, and are quick and easy to reload if you have another loaded magazine with you.  Revolvers, on the other hand, traditionally have only 6 rounds, and it takes more practice to reload them quickly even if one carries speed loaders or other devices to aid in filling the cylinder.

A new reader asks if I actively discouraged the use of revolvers by my students.  After all, if I exclusively accepted people unskilled in firearms as students, and I think autoloaders streamlined the training requirements so far as reloading is concerned, then it would make sense if my purpose was to impart the skills to safely and effectively use a firearm for defense as quickly as possible.

Well, it is true that I wanted to get people up to speed so far as armed self defense is concerned.  And it is certainly true that I had more people asking for my help than I could ever possibly aid.  But it is not true that I discouraged my students from choosing revolvers as their main defensive tool.  I am sure of this because I am well aware of my own biases, and was extremely careful to show enthusiasm and support no matter which design they settled on.

However, there is one particular design that I did actively campaign against, and it is an autoloader.  This is the famous and well regarded 1911.

The 1911 design is extremely popular amongst most serious shooters, and the reasons are legion.  Popularity aside, three aspects of the gun kept me from being anything other than a big wet blanket when it came to this design.

The first is that they generally are more expensive that other designs right out of the box.  As I made sure to only accept students who were in extremely constrained financial circumstances, they would be better served by purchasing a more modern design.  The sticker price for a new 1911 would often be enough to cover a perfectly adequate Taurus or Ruger, with enough money left over to purchase plenty of practice and defensive ammo.  It just made sense to maximize the bang for their meager bucks.

The second reason is that it has been my experience for unmodified 1911’s to be rather finicky when it comes to ammunition choice.  They are usually fine when loaded with standard ball ammunition, but turn into jam-o’-matics when modern defensive ammunition is used.

Not true of every 1911, it can be said, but enough do have this problem that it would be best for new shooters to avoid this design until they gained enough experience to know what work they needed to have done to their gun in order to make it a reliable feeder.

The third reason dovetails into what was said above, mainly that it takes an experienced shooter to be able to get the most out of their 1911.

One of the main advantages to the 1911 design is that it is very ergonomic as well as being friendly to customization.  The reason why those who are extremely serious about the shooting sports in general and self defense in particular drift towards 1911 designs is that one can get a gun that feels like it was built from the ground up for that particular person.  That is great, but it takes a lot of experience to know what one needs as an individual, and it takes even more money to get the gun tricked out as necessary.  Until that level of experience is reached, time and money would be better spent on other designs.

The 1911 design aside, are there any other guns that I would be down on?  No, not really.  THe only reason I would try to change a student’s mind about their choice. as long as it was a firearm in good working order, would be dependent on what caliber the gun would be chambered for.  But that is a subject for another post.