Saturday, May 30, 2009

Observation Point

Folks who handload their own ammunition tend to obsess about some things. We handload for a number of reasons, but my particular reason is that I can tailor my ammo to my individual rifles. I like experimentation, within safe limits, and taking the time to tailor a load to a particular rifle can be very frustrating. It can also be very satisfying when the work pays off and the load falls into your lap.

When you handload, you learn that changing one thing changes the whole load. Tiny changes make a difference.

Regular readers might recall my post from Thursday, where I talked about trying to find a load for my re-built Savage 11. I decided to start at 49.6 grains of IMR 4895 and go up in 2/10ths increments to 50.4 grains, hoping to find a load that would shoot into MOA.

So, with five rounds of each load, I posted targets at 100 yards and snuggled into the bench. Three shots later I looked in the spotting scope, and saw this.

I was considerable pleased. I let the rifle cool and waited for everyone else on the line to finish firing. As soon as I was able I changed targets and loaded the next set of cartridges. Three shots later I looked in the spotting scope again.

Those are two-ich target dots. Both targets are nice, well within my criteria for a hunting rifle. I'd be pleased with either one. But, this shows the difference that two-tenths of a grain of powder makes. Those six cartidges were exactly alike, except for the powder weight. It makes a big difference.

Friday, May 29, 2009


Hoplophobia is the condition wherein a normally rational person has an unreasonable fear of firearms. It's a term in common use among the gun community, and I understand, the American Psychiatric Society.

Dave Kopel, in The New Ledger, describes the phobia and talks about the practical application of it in light of a recent law that will allow people to carry weapons in state national parks.

One tongue-in-cheek highlight:
If you want to fly to D.C., take a plane to the Baltimore airport, and then rent a car or take a bus. Do not fly to either of the D.C. airports. They are both located in Virginia, and the danger that you could be shot by a gun-crazy Virginian while traveling through Virginia into D.C. is nearly as high as the odds that you will get shot by a gun nut while in a National Park. Stay away from Arlington National Cemetery; it is in Virginia, and the people buried there were gun users.
Go read the article.

As an aside, I may have carried a concealed weapon in a state park this past weekend. On our stroll through the French Quarter, I may have ventured on to the grounds of the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. I'm not sure. I was certainly in the 400 block of Decatur street, and I noticed a guy wearing a Park Service uniform.

I was certainly armed. I'm always armed.

At any rate, I didn't hurt anyone. I didn't threaten anyone, and I continued on my way unmolested. Which was the whole point.

That said, it's Friday afternoon and I'm on my way to the range.

**Update** Edited for clarity. Thanks, Michael.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thursday Shooting

This morning after beginning the foundation to the deck, I took an hour off and went to the range to try the mil-spec bullets. I was using IMR 4895 powder and Winchester primers. I started the loads at 48 grains and went up one grain to the max load at 51 grains.

It has been my experience that the maximum load is seldom the most accurate. This morning was no different. I set up a target on the 100 yard line and settled in at the bench.

The first target, using 48 grains of powder was disheartening. Five shots fell into about five inches. Likewise the 49 grain load, although it was a bit smaller, at four inches.

The 50 grain load shows promise. It fell into a little over 2.5 inches with three shots nearly touching.

The last load, at 51 grains, went back to the 4" group.

This shows the benefits of working up your loads. There's something right with that 50 grain load, but I'm not sure if I'm there yet. I'll have to do some more work, by backing down to 49.6 grains, and going up in 2/10ths increments, to 49.8, 50.0, 50.2, 50.4, and see how each of those shoot. I'm hoping that one of those loads will show me something wonderful.

Hope springs eternal in the shooter's heart.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I spent the morning on the bush-hog at Momma's house, mowing the rear of the property. It hasn't been mowed in a year or so and was getting tall. Daddy had planted a bunch of pine trees back there and it's hard to get a line started. Trying to mow back there is one big obstacle, but if you keep the tractor moving, eventually it all goes under the bush-hog. I didn't quite finish, but the tractor got hot about the same time I did. There's a couple of hours mowing left, and I'll finish it up one day next week.

While I mowed, my son Barrett used my pressure washer on the trailer. Momma lives in an apartment in the barn, about eight hundred square feet, a bedroom, kitchen, living room and bath. They moved a double-wide trailer on the land to use as a guest house. The trailer siding was starting to mildew, so Barrett squirted it with mildew remover and washed the trailer.

As I mowed, I noticed that Momma and the boys were in the blueberries. When we came in for lunch, Momma presented me with the morning's crop of blueberries. Seven pounds.

Those berries are washed and on my counter. The ones that aren't quite ripe will become ripe in the next day or so, and I'll freeze them in quart bags.

While we were eating lunch, I looked at the thermometer in Momma's kitchen window. It indicated 100 degrees. We decided to call a halt to the outside work. Barrett will go back this afternoon and finish washing the trailer. As for myself, I'm going to Lowes to buy the piers for the deck.

Seven pounds of blueberries. Dude!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I haven't been paying attention to the automotive news lately, it all being bad. Tonight, through Instapundit, I learn of something called the Presidential Task Force on Automobiles, or PTFOA. Evidently, they've been garnering some attention in Congress and industries that watch the auto business. They're a bunch of bean counters and the advise they're giving is bad. All bad.

For example, Chrysler and GM are closing some dealerships. Like 30% of their dealers. That's a bone-headed move. You see, guys like me don't buy cars from Chrysler or GM. We buy our cars from dealerships. If the dealerships close, we can't buy any cars from them. They can't buy cars from GM, and sales lag.

Hell, if I was the president of GM, I'd want a dealership on every corner. Surely you can see that I jest, but the idea is to have enough dealers to cover the market. If you've ever been in the vehicle business, you know about floor-planning, which is a finance plan for dealerships. Basically, if a dealer doesn't sell a vehicle in some reasonable time, they have to make payments on it. Say, if a vehicle doesn't sell in 30 days, then the payments come due. That provides an incentive for the dealer to move the cars that have been sitting on the lot the longest. And, a good dealer with a strong floor plan is making regular payments to the parent company. That's a good thing with good cash flows. If you close the dealer, that cash flow dries up.

This article explains it.
In 1998 when Daimler merged with Chrysler, not a word was said about the excess dealership millstone around Chrysler’s neck. In the eleven years since then the problems with Chrysler have boiled down to a series of botched new products. Dealers didn’t create that problem and nuking dealers will do nothing to solve it.
The problem isn't with the dealers. The problem is that the industry doesn't listen to the customer. The problem is that the industry is now beholden to government. The problem is that government is lousy at business and just bought GM and Chrysler.
Books and articles will be written about how even with greatly reduced dealer numbers, GM and Chrysler will continue to loose sales at an accelerating rate as the remaining dealers do not in fact pick up the slack from their slain comrades. The real reason the dealer slaughter is going on is to offer blood sacrifice to the gods of Washington and Wall Street. God help us.
No, God help GM and Chrysler. I've owned GM and I seriously thought about a Dodge truck, but no more. When it's time to get another vehicle, I'll either buy a Ford or one of the Japanese vehicles.

I won't buy a vehicle from the government.

Weighing bullets

While it was raining this afternoon I weighed bullets. For those of you who might wonder why, Junior put together a good tutorial over at Castbullet.

I buy bulk bullets when I can. These bullets may come from one of a variety of sources, but this last time I bought a bunch of bullets that were listed as Mil-Spec Match bullets, from Widener's. These are sold as 168 grain, .308 match bullets. There is no manufacturer listed, so they might have been manufactured by one of several bullet makers, either domestically or from overseas.

More particularly, they may not weigh exactly 168 grains. While this doesn't make much difference to the military (hence the mil-spec designation) it matters to me. I want to know the weight of my bullets, within a set of standard parameters. So, I sort them into like-weight groups and store them in those groups.

Reloading, or handloading for the purists, is about reducing variables. Sometimes we get very particular about variables. While I'm not loading my ammo for the benchrest game, it helps my confidence in each individual round of ammunition if I know it's as closely alike to the round next to it as I can make it.

So, I weighed a batch of 30 to get some numbers. My batch of 30, randomly selected bullets varied in weight from 168.5 grains to 170.0 grains. That's an extreme spread of 1.5 grains. I ran the bullet weights through Microsoft Excel and found that they average 169.4 grains, with a standard deviation of 0.3 grains.

Knowing those numbers, it's time to start weighing bullets. I have an inexpensive digital scale, so I'll use that. On my bench I have an egg carton. In the little egg holders I've marked weights with a sharpie marker. I start at -0-, then mark up in tenth-grain increments. The photo below shows me sorting some .243 bulk bullets I bought a year or so ago.

So, having sorted the bullets, I put them in zipper storage bags and now I can load like weights when I'm loading ammo. It's just one trick I've learned over the years and lets me get premium performance out of bullets that might not be as uniform as I'd like. An average handful of bullets pulled from the box might vary by more than a grain, but the bullets in each zipper bag are alike within a tenth of a grain.


We spent a rainy day in New Orleans, touring around with brother Bill. One of the highlights of any trip to the Big Easy is a stop at the Cafe Du Monde, where they serve coffee and beignets. Beignets (ben-yay!) are a square pastry fried in cottonseed oil and sprinkled liberally with powdered sugar. If, when you come out of the cafe, you don't have powdered sugar on your shirt, you ain't doing it right.

This restaurant has a very simple menu. Coffee. Beignets. Milk. That's about it. Yet, they're always packed. There's no concierge, no head-waiter. You walk inside, find a table and soon a waiter will find you. Chaos in the New Orleans tradition.

This shot was taken on Monday Morning. It was raining outside and the staff had lowered the rain fly. The lady in the center of the shot is holding a beignet. You can click on the photo for a larger image.

Then we wandered down the river, umbrellas in hand. The Mississippi River is a backbone of industry. For moving bulky items, river transportation is the key to getting goods out of the center of the nation, to the oceans and to the world. New Orleans is a major port, and commerce continues on the river, even on a major holiday, in the rain.

Here, a tug pushes a string of barges up the river, against a backdrop of barges tied up at the far shore. When I took this shot, I was less than a hundred steps from the Cafe du Monde. And about ten feet higher than the Cafe. Yeah, along this stretch of river, the river is actually higher than the city. The levees keep the water out.

We left New Orleans as the sun was going down. Got home last night about 9:30. The dog was glad to see us.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Big Easy

We got into town about noon. Ate lunch at the casino, then checked into the hotel.

This picture is looking north on Canal Street from the casino. Every body wants to hit the casino right now. Maybe later we'll wander around the French Quarter. I'd really like to go to Pat's and have a drink.


In about an hour, Milady and I are leaving on a short jaunt to New Orleans.

Milady's brother lives on the east coast of Florida, and every year on Memorial Day, he takes his vacation. Brother claims that he can't get good oysters in southern Florida, so he stops in New Orleans for a couple of days and eats oysters.

It's as good an excuse as any. Felix's and Acme are the targeted locations.

Actually, I haven't been to New Orleans since Katrina, four years ago. It's time to go back and wander the French Quarter. We'll be back late Monday. Milady has to be at work on Tuesday morning.

Friday, May 22, 2009

School's out

Yesterday was the last day of regular school for students and today is the last day of school for regular teachers. PawPaw was released about a half-hour ago.

PawPaw works in the schools, so I'm out too. Our Sheriff allows a Resource Officer to choose how he or she wants to do the summer break. If the officer opts to accumulate compensatory time for all the ball games, school plays, debate tournaments, for all the extra hours spent at the school, those hours are taken off during the summer months. If the officer wants to work during the summer, then that's okay too, but the number of compensatory hours is limited. It's an individual choice and a fair number of deputies choose to work during the summer. PawPaw ain't one of them.

I've got a week of training from June 15th - June 19th, but other than that I'm off work until the first week of August, when I report back to the schoolhouse. I've got about 400 hours of K-time in the bank and that comes to 10 weeks of vacation.

With the pool in the backyard and lots of grandkids about, PawPaw won't have much time for napping. This is what I found on the back deck yesterday.

A chill wind had blown through and he had gotten cold.

It's summertime.

**UPDATE** I just looked out by the front door and found an order I was expecting. Five hundred .308, 168 grain match bullets. This really is a good day.


We were in the back yard yesterday afternoon and came upon a wonderfully vivid rainbow.

Of course, the grandkids were in the pool and as we watched the rainbow, that prompted a discussion of the phenomena that have to come together to view a rainbow, and also the biblical promise that the rainbow is supposed to signify. If you look just to the left of the main bow, you can see a second one. Who knew there was such science in a rainbow.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Buy American

The Mayor of Warren, MI, wants the city to buy American. He's beholden to the large US Automakers, with plants from GM and Chrysler in his town.
Calling it "economic and consumer patriotism," the mayor of Warren, Michigan wants to make it compulsory for city officials to buy American cars. Jim Fouts says that 15% of his fiscal budget depends on the auto industry, and the city's two most lucrative tax payers are General Motors and Chrysler. Therefore, in order to support the folks who support the town -- and in turn, take care of the taxpayer -- he's trying to expand the order he gave last year that required his appointees to Buy American.
So, we wonder what he means by Buy American?

My Honda Goldwing was built in Marysville, OH. Ohio is certainly American.

My buddy's Mercedes-Benz was built in Alabama. Last time I looked, Alabama was in the USA.

Glock Pistols are made in Smyrna, GA. Georgia is still American.

Toyota makes vehicles in Mississippi, Texas, Indiana, Alabama, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Sounds like those are American states too.

Subaru has a plant in Indiana. They make Toyota Camrys there. Last time I looked, Indiana was American.

What the mayor means is that he wants his folks to buy Chrysler or GM vehicles. As for the rest of them, those are Americans building those things in America for Americans. Buy American meant something 40 years ago. Nowadays, it's code speak for Support the Unions.

The Mayor is full of crap. That's American, too.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Levelling Dirt

I've got some dirt work to do so that I can install a deck near the pool. It's going to be about 16' X 22', about a foot higher than the level of the concrete deck that surrounds the pool.

I've got the deck designed in my head, and I'm finishing the paper plans. I like to have a plan down on paper before I start work on anything. It's easier to explain it to folks if I can show them a drawing.

The main problem is that the ground at that end of the pool isn't level. Louisiana is basically flat, and I don't have nearly the problems that my brother in Vermont has with finding level, but my eyeball isn't calibrated.

Then, I remembered that Daddy had one of these little darlings. That's a Craftsman Laser Trac 360 degree level. It's a sweet thing when you're trying to find a reference point. We live in the future, I swear we do. Yeah, I could level it the old-fashioned way with a string and bubble-level, but technology will let me put a virtual string just about anywhere.

So, I hied myself over to Momma's house and borrowed it. We found it in his tool chest, with spare batteries. It's a laser level and it rotates 360 degrees. With that little tool and a photography tripod, it was easy work to learn that one end of my dirt is 14" higher than the other end.

I'll get started on the deck on the Tuesday after Memorial Day. That little level should take most of the aggravation out of leveling the framework.

Tea Party

The voters of California handed state government a stunning defeat. Sounds like the whole state is ready for a tea party.
Of the day's six fiscal propositions -- the rainy day fund, education funding, lottery modernization, children's services funding and temporary reallocation of mental health funding -- all went down -- and hard. The results were roughly 60-40 against.

The only proposition to sail through was one preventing pay increases to top elected state officials during years of budget deficits. That one was being approved about 76-23. Take that! (That doesn't affect Arnold, of course, because he's never taken a state salary.)
The Governator says that he's going to begin slashing state government. The budget is facing a 21 b-b-billion dollar deficit.
However, if as often seems to happen in American political trends, California is again coming first in this resistance to more taxes, threats and budget deficit games, then next year's midterm national elections, historically bad news for the party controlling the White House anyway, might mean some hard slogging for congressional Democrats who're so quickly and overwhelmingly approving the current deficit spending.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How did that happen?

It seems that there's been a shooting on the grounds of Harvard Yard. A college student from another institution was shot. Regrettably, he died today.

But, we all know that's impossible. Massachusetts has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, and Harvard University strictly forbids guns on its campus.

What do you want to bet that the guy who did the shooting 1) didn't care about the laws already in effect, 2) didn't get the gun at a gun show, 3)didn't legally purchase the firearm from a dealer?

Criminals don't obey gun laws.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ammo Shortage

If you're a shooter or a guy who buys ammo for a police agency, you know that there's been a shortage of loaded ammunition and reloading components. That's no secret. However, the ammo market is a market like any other and it responds to market incentives. It helps if we do the research and try to make some rational assumptions.

Lots of folks are trying to assign conspiracy theories to the shortage, but it seems to be simply supply and demand. Over at Mr. Completely, we see one of the theories.
In short, the manufacturers are building lots of ammo, but the retailers aren't getting it. It appears to be disappearing BEFORE it gets to the stores. It's getting pushed into the pipeline at one end, but it's not coming out the other. ... It looks like somebody, somewhere, is sitting in the middle and soaking up most of the production. The military? Why would they be stocking up on calibers that they don't use? Law enforcement? Not likely.
Somebody in the middle is buying it before it gets to the retailers. Not likely.

If we go over to Michael Bane, who asked the same question at the NRA Convention, we learn that:
RE: Ammo companies, I asked the same question you guys did...can you increase capacity? Basically, they looked at me as if I'd beamed in from Uranus. "You know manufacturing, Michael!" one friend said. For those of you who don't, here's the Cliff Notes version — a minimum of five years to get an ammo factory up and running, assuming the permitting issues can be worked out. ... we're all working under the assumption that this is a bubble, and that regardless of the pricing of future ammo, the demand will eventually fall to a level consistent with what we've seen in the past plus the increase due to in new shooters. The wars will end; the bubble will burst and current capacity (with modest increases) will accommodate the demand.
That sounds more likely.

I remember reading just before our President was elected that the government had made a huge order for ammunition in military calibers. A huge order of things like .223, 9mm, .308, .50 cal, etc. I also heard that the major manufacturers were ramping up to fill that order. At the same time, we elected Obama and a lot of folks became concerned that he would ban guns or ammunition, so we started buying everything on the shelves. In short, demand increased over the short term, to the point where the supply chain was overwhelmed. Lots of folks started buying guns and ammunition. Demand increased. Not just quantity demanded, but demand itself. The whole curve shifted, to the point where increased prices couldn't fill the demand.

Then, we go to Tam's place and learn:
Production Capacity: The manufacturers are running full tilt. The only way they could make more ammunition is to build more plant, and they are not going to do that for several reasons. The first is that this bubble will contract sooner or later. Joe and Jane Sofaspud are going to realize that they really don't need 10,000 rounds of Winchester .45 in the basement, and that minivan payment isn't getting any smaller. They'll sell it to Annie Appleseed and Ivan Ipsc and demand will cool down.
Again, it's a bubble, folks. We've just got to ride it out. Go over to her place and read the whole thing, then come back here.

Look at it from the perspective of a manufacturer. He's selling all he can make and running his factory to capacity. That's a good thing. He's making money and keeping his people employed, but he doesn't want to open a new factory because of the financing and the permitting and lots of other good business reasons. Demand has increased and he'll probably be adding another line, but right now, he's trying to fill the supply chain and fill orders that are outstanding. As soon as this rush is over he can take time to rationally assess the market and do whatever is prudent.

The lesson here is that demand has increased and part of it is a bubble, and part of it is increased demand. All those new shooters who bought guns just after the election want to shoot them. The market is out of equilibrium and market forces will bring it into equilibrium. Supply will meet demand and the market will stabilize. It may not stabilize at prices we remember, but it will stabilize. The shelves will fill and you'll be able to go to the store and buy a brick of .22 or a box of .38s. It's just going to take a little time.

It's a market, folks, and it responds to market incentives. Things will calm down in several more months and we can start buying ammo and primers off the shelf without going into panic mode.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Trigger Squeeze

Morning dawned rainy and dark in Pineville, the temps hovering around 60F. For Louisiana in May, that's like a new ice age. After church and a nap, I decided to take the Ruger Mark II to the range and do a little rimfire pistol work.

A proper rimfire pistol is an indispensable part of any battery. Any good .22LR pistol will suffice, because what the marksman is looking for is a pistol that's cheap to shoot and reasonably accurate. Any of the Smith and Wesson, Colt, High Standard, Browning, Baretta, or Ruger pistols will suffice. Sight alignment and trigger squeeze were the drills for this afternoon. Standing upright, off the bench.

So, I took my pistol, a bulk pack of .22 ammo, and my earmuffs and headed to the range. My pistol is a Ruger Mark II, a standard pistol. Ruger's been making these things since I was a pup and they've made a bunch of them in a variety of barrel weights, grip configurations, and lengths. It's a great little training pistol and I was training today.

Proper stance, grip, breathing, sight alignment, trigger squeeze. Feel the recoil, set up again with the proper stance, grip, breathing, sight alignment, trigger squeese. Then do it all over again, again, again.

The little pistol seems to shoot a little low. It's always shot a little low. I talked to the range officer, who when he's not at the range is a localgunsmith of some repute and wide experience. He tells me that most of the standard pistols Ruger made tend to shoot a little bit low. He believes that they're built with a tall front sight so the individual can file them to suit.

I may file that sight, I may not. I may wait until I've waited too late and let one of the heirs file it.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Tractor Runs

I've got a tractor, a little Yanmar YM1600. It's an 18 horse tractor, sometimes considered a grey-market tractor. I've got a four foot shredder mounted and I bought it originally to mow the 10 acres I lived on.

What's a grey-market tractor? Well, that's one that originally sold overseas and was imported to the United States as a used tractor. It doesn't have some of the safety features, like ROPS, that are required for sale in the US. I like buying US products when I can and I started the search for a tractor at the John Deere dealership. I was talking to the salesman and we released the bonnet over the engine. I looked at the data tag and on that green John Deere, the tag said "built by Yanmar". I thanked the guy, lowered the bonnet and went down to a used tractor dealer who sold me the 1600.

It's got a two cylinder diesel engine and it's fairly bullet-proof. The problem started this past winter when I realized that the little tractor hadn't been started in almost two years. I got the key and it wouldn't fire off. Since then, I've been piddling with it, replaced all the filters, fixed some wiring problems and cleaned it up. This morning I took off the fuel tank, emptied the old diesel, purged the fuel system and installed a new battery. It fired right off.

I don't know that I really need a tractor in suburbia, but I'm loathe to get rid of it. There's so much you can do if you have your own tractor, and mine is paid for. If I buy a small box blade I'd be able to move dirt around. What I really ought to do is find someone willing to put a small front-end loader on it.

Everybody needs to have their own tractor.

San Fran Nan

From the CNN Political Wire, I see that Speaker Pelosi is blaming the Bush Administration for her current problems.
"We all share great respect for the dedicated men and women of the intelligence community who are deeply committed to the safety and security of the American people," she said in a statement issued by her office. "My criticism of the manner in which the Bush Administration did not appropriately inform Congress is separate from my respect for those in the intelligence community who work to keep our country safe.
Damn, Nancy, that's about the lamest statement I've ever read. And you're supposed to be the Speaker of the House? More like laughing-stock of the Congress.

Here's Nancy in a stand-up routine with an un-named straight man. Courtesy of

Pelosi is so lame, if she were a horse, they'd shoot her.

Friday, May 15, 2009


So, I see that Chrysler is closing some dealerships. According to our local rag, four dealerships here in central Louisiana are slated to close, including both in Alexandria, the closest town to Pineville, where I live. We've got a combined population of about 130,000 and we won't have a Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep dealership. The closest will be in Natchitoches, about 50 miles up the road.

So, the question becomes how does Chrysler intend to sell cars around here? And service the cars that have already been sold?

I understand that GM is going to cull some dealers. If they cull the dealers in Central Louisiana, the only game left will be Ford.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Did Pelosi Know?

The big question in the political arena is who knew that we were using waterboarding against the al-Queda terrorists, and when did they know it?

Let's talk about that for a moment. The CIA says that Pelosi knew in 2002 when they briefed select members of Congress. Ms. Pelosi was in the briefing room when they described the enhanced interrogation techniques (EIT) they used on Abu Zubaydah, including waterboarding.
In a report to Congress on May 5, Mr. Panetta described the CIA's 2002 meeting with Mrs. Pelosi as "Briefing on EITs including use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah, background on [legal] authorities, and a description of the particular EITs that had been employed." Note the past tense -- "had been employed."
Pelosi, of course, denies everything.

PawPaw doesn't care who knew what or when they knew it.

I'm against torture, and I don't think that the United States should use torture.

That having been said, I think that the word should be strictly defined. Techniques used on our troops by our military to make them resistant to torture should fall under the allowed interrogation techniques. If it's good enough for our soldiers, it's good enough for our enemies.

I've used the ticking-bomb analogy and it's a good one to use when we're discussing which interrogation techniques should be allowed. It's one thing to capture an enemy combatant and know that battlefield plans change rapidly. The intelligence value that one enemy soldier might have is very, very short. After that time elapses you simply keep him locked up, off the battlefield until he is repatriated.

However, a terrorist who is actively planning an attack might have information about cells in the country that are actively engaged in hurting Americans. That's another story entirely. You extract the information then you stand what's left against a wall and shoot him. You don't talk about it.

There is a reason why soldiers on a battlefield are treated one way and saboteurs and spies are treated another. The difference is easy to see and anyone who pretends differently is either naive or demented.


The Obama administration is claiming that Cheerios are a drug. Seriously.
The FDA warned General Mills that it was, in effect, marketing its Cheerios breakfast cereal as a drug, because the cereal’s familiar yellow boxes carry unapproved claims about lowering cholesterol and reducing the risks of heart disease.
Yeah, right. These folks lampoon themselves. There's no need for me to do it.

The sooner we do away with agencies like the FDA, the better off we'll be.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Something loose

J opines in comments:
A 3" group from that rifle tells me something is moving during recoil.
I agree, old friend. That's the first thing I thought about. Both action screws were tight and the scope bases and rings are tight. I'll admit I'm buffaloed.

I went over to the Savage Shooter's forum and the guys there recommended floating the tang. It seems that the Savage action bolts to the stock via two bolts. One behind the recoil lug and one in front of the trigger guard. Unlike Remington and other actions that have the rear action screw going into the tang.

The guys over at the forum tell me that if the tang isn't floated, that when you tighten that rear screw, the action flexes ever so slightly, the rear portion of the action never seats fully into the stock, and accuracy suffers. When the tang is floated, then you know that the rear portion of the action is sitting on the bedding surface of the stock. That sounds reasonable to me.

About fifteen minutes with a piece of 150 grit sandpaper and the tang is floated. I put a dab of linseed oil on it to seal it, then re-assembled the rifle. The action screws are tight and everything is put away.

I've got bullets ordered. When they come in I'll do some reloading and see how floating the tang affects the accuracy of the rifle.

Monday, May 11, 2009

New Rifle

I took the Savage 110 out today to sight it in and play with it a little. Fifty rounds of ammo later, I've learned a couple of things.

First of all, when you break a stock, disconnect everything, remount a new stock, then re-mount everything, you've got to start over with load development. The loads that worked in that rifle before, with the plastic stock, no longer work with that rifle and a wooden stock. Something's changed. Everything has changed. I had two loads that worked reasonably well in that particular rifle and now those two loads turn in accuracy that is only so-so. I've got to do load development all over again. That's not a problem, because that means I've got to do some more shooting.

I took the chronograph to run the loads across it. One of those loads features a 168 grain soft point bullet and Reloder 22 Powder. I'm pushing that bullet at 2778 fps, with an ES of 37 and a Sd of 10.7. The numbers show that I'm not over-driving the bullet. The load duplicates factory ammo, and I've got plenty of data (over 20 shots) for good Sd numbers. It's a good load, and before the accident, would turn in accuracy at almost MOA in this rifle. Not anymore. I'm getting groups on the average of about 3". Oh, I could kill a deer with it. It's just not as accurate as I'd like it. I'll have to find another load, which means going through the drill. It might be as easy as tweaking the powder up or down a grain or so.

Such is the reloader's task.

I took the .45-70 Handi-Rifle to the range also, and ran some numbers with the chronograph. I'm pushing a soft-lead 405 grain bullet at an average 1275 fps. The recoil is exciting with that load and I didn't know if I was going to be able to finish the string of fire. I'm through with that rifle till next deer season. It'll do what I want it to do.

It's time to start the work week. Graduation tonight for a lot of area high schools. Mine included. PawPaw will be working till it's over.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Mounting the scope

I finished the project on the Savage 110 today, by the simple expedient of mounting the scope. This rifle has always been a hunting rifle with no pretensions to anything but classic understated utility. It's nothing fancy.

The scope follows in the same fashion. I use a Weaver fixed 6X on this rifle. It's simple, it's classic, it's rugged. I've got fancier scopes, but this one seems to fit on this rifle.

There's lots written about mounting scopes. You can Google it and learn lots. However, there are two things that I've always wanted to do when mounting a scope. First, I want to make sure that the rings are aligned with each other. If the rings aren't aligned, then the scope won't sit in them properly. Secondly, I both rings to align with the barrel. If the scope is pointed left and the barrel is pointed right, you've got a problem.

There are tools to help with both of these problems, and I might order some of them one of these days and try them out. In the meantime, being the frugal sort that I am, I press into service whatever is at hand. One of the handiest tools I've found for mounting scopes is a piece of 1 inch dowel, conveniently found at any hardware store.

I simply install it in the rings, then install the rings.

Then, you can eye-ball it down the barrel, making sure everything aligns properly. It's a simple trick that's served me well.

Another tip on mounting a scope is to not get in a hurry. This morning, mounting the scope on the Savage, I bet I piddled with it for an hour, checking eye relief, making sure the crosshairs were level, slowly tensioning the ring screws. It's easy to bend the scope by being ham-handed with the ring screws. Tight is tight enough. I'm told that Wheeler Engineering recommends 15 inch-pounds of torque, but I don't have an inch-pound torque screwdriver. Don't over-tighten. Generally, the torque I can put on a screw while holding the screwdriver with a thumb and two fingers is sufficient. I don't put the whole fist on the screwdriver. You're not cranking on a tractor, you're setting a ring screw. Go slow, take your time, make sure everything fits, and don't damage your scope.

The Savage rebuild is complete. Now, we'll have to see how it shoots.

Rivrdog asks

Rivrdog asks about a rifle he's considering.
Need advice, and I'm betting you can give it to me, PawPaw. I want to work up a rifle for long-range plains hunting. The caliber I want to use is 300 Win Magnum, but I would settle for 7mm Magnum. I have a WIN (Post-64) M70 in .243, and love it (but .243 is too light for elk), and there are quite a few of those around in those magnum calibers, and the prices are not too bad.

Is the Savage 110 any better? Better trigger? I will probably restock the rifle into a heavier composite stock. A longer barrel is a plus.

If you were looking for such a rifle (shots to be taken at out to 500 yards), what would YOU be looking for?
Thanks for asking. Let's see what we can learn.

I'm no fan of the .300 Winchester Magnum, but that is purely personal prejudice. I'm told that the .300 Win Mag is one of the top ten of cartridge sales every year and I know that it's been used by the military, the police, and lots of sportsmen. Lots of folks love the cartridge and lots of folks consider it the very best cartridge for elk hunting. If you're looking for a plains elk cartridge, the .300 Win Mag is a good place to start.

However, I am a fan of the Savage 110. I am convinced that Savage is the best bang for the buck in centerfire rifles. The Accutrigger is the best factory trigger in the market today. When Savage came out with the Accutrigger it took the firearms industry by storm. Other companies started work on better triggers and a couple (Marlin, Remington) came out last year. Triggers are getting better across the industry because of Savage. Savage was the first to offer factory stocks that were pillar-bedded. Savage rifles made a reputation for themselves based on accuracy, durability and cost.

There is no doubt that I'm a cheer-leader for Savage rifles. Unabashed, I put my money where my mouth is. I've bought four since 2003, in 7mm Mag, .30-06, .243 Win, and .308 Win. I kept the -06 and the .243 for myself and gifted the 7 Mag and the .308. I've got a couple of Savage rimfires in the cabinet also. I'm always on the look out for other rifles, but I'm not so blind to Savage that I overlook the other brands. I'm also a fan of Ruger rifles, Winchester, and Howa rifles. I think Howa is another brand that is often overlooked by those who buy rifles on a budget.

However, back to Savage rifles. This year, Savage came out with a new innovation. The Accu-Stock. It's the first factory stock offered with a full aluminum bedding channel. Folks have been offering full metal bedding for several years now, but this is the first time a factory has offered it, out the door.

I'd look at the Model 111FCNS In .300 magnum, it carries the Accu-trigger and the Accu-stock. MSRP at $656.00. Or, there's the 116FHSS, which is the stainless version. It also has the accu-stock and a list price of $755.00. Either of those would be fine rifles. Before I put a laminate stock on a rifle, I'd check the weight. Laminate stocks are heavy, and while that weight is a good thing sometimes, it's also a bad thing sometimes.

However, you asked what I would look for in an elk rifle, and I have no experience hunting elk, neither on the plains nor in the mountains. I'd be a poor counselor if I tried to give advice on that matter. We'd have to go to the literature, or seek the advice of people who have experience.

I'd probably just take my Savage 110, in .30-06.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Thursday afternoon

I've got pork chops in the oven, a grandson playing outside, and I've just finished spraying Round-Up on the vegetation between the paving stones. It's a typical Thursday afternoon around PawPaw's house.

Politics leaves me cold. I'm sure that the administration did something to piss me off, but I'm not going to look into it.

School was relatively peaceful today. It was the last full day for the seniors, so they were traipsing all over the place taking care of last minute items on the checklist they've got to turn in before graduation practice tomorrow morning. They graduate Monday evening. Thank God! I'll be glad to see them launched. Not that this has been a particularly trying year, to the contrary, it's been one of the quietest school years in recent memory.

Thursday is weigh-in for Weight-Watchers. I weighed in today at 245.0, down 16 lbs from when I started in late February. I'm averaging just under two pounds per week.

I carried a checkbook today because I was convinced that the gunsmith was going to call and tell me that the Savage 110 was finished. He didn't. I'm really looking forward to having that rifle back in the rack and seeing how it shoots.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


If just half of this story is true, then the good folks in Tenaha, TX need a whole new police department.

Granted, this story is about a lawsuit and a lawsuit is only half of the story. The cops involved deserve to have their story heard, but if much of this story is true, the cops in that little town are shaking-down tourists.

As a cop for over 28 years I've assisted in the prosecution of five bad police officers. I happily put them all in prison. I detest a dirty cop with an unbridled passion.

Hat tip to Jeff, at Alphecca.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


I see from several sources that the Boston Globe is in danger of collapsing. Unions are negotiating, but it looks like the end is near.
The Guild’s startling decision came after the company’s unions’ resolve to protect lifetime job guarantees began to crumble early this morning as the mailers union agreed to modify the perk under threat of a shutdown of the paper
Whoever heard of a lifetime job guarantee? The mob, maybe. Federal civil service. That's about it. Certainly not in commerce.

Anyone in management who ever agreed to Lifetime Job Guarantees deserves to go out of business. It's ironic that unions exist to protect the employee, but then the union demands often drive the business into bankruptcy.

Lifetime job guarantees. How's that working out for you now?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Monday ramblings

I took the Savage 110 to the gunsmith today to install a recoil pad. He runs a little shop on Main Street in Pineville, called Sportsman's Paradise. It's a little shop attached to a wrought-iron blacksmithy and he's got all the tools that you'd normally find in a gun shop. Lathes, mills, drills, bench grinders, just walking into that place makes me want to stop for a few minutes and chew the fat.

I've let him do a half-dozen recoil pads and he's always done a magnificent job. I don't buy a gun nowadays that I don't make sure it's got a good recoil pad. It's cheap insurance against a lot of things.

On the other hand, when I try to install a recoil pad, it looks like I used an axe and chainsaw to do the job. I don't have the tools and jigs and sanders and it's easier to pay him to do the work than it is to learn to do it myself. Besides, if I use him enough and more folks use him enough, he'll stay in business.

Everybody needs a good gunsmith. If you need a gunsmith in Central Louisiana, use Sportsman's Paradise.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Powder weights

Commenter JPG asks:
I realize how convenient it is to use a dipper for loading, but not having a full set of Lee dippers, I can't relate to "2.5 cc of IMR 4895." Can you say what grain weight that volume equals?
Sure, JPG, lets talk about that. Hopefully, the information might be useful to other folks too.

Dippers measure powder by volume and scales measure powder by weight. A single granule of powder may weigh more or less in humid Louisiana than in parched Arizona simply because of humidity issues. Powder is hygroscopic. However, a cc is the same everywhere, even in Texas.

I use both means of measuring powder. I've got the dippers and I've got a couple of scales. I use dippers where it's convenient and scales where it's convenient. I've even been known to weigh the charges I'm dipping, just as a double-check.

The short answer to your question is that the 2.5cc dipper throws a charge of 34.3 grains of IMR 4895. The longer answer is that using a dipper is contingent on consistency in how you use the dipper and consistency in how you strike off the excess powder. I've done some experimenting and depending on how I scoop the powder and how I strike off the excess, dipper weights can vary as much as 2 grains.

Lee's site gives us the proper method of using a powder measure:
With the dipper in hand, push it backwards into a powder reservoir such as a cup and let the powder fall into it from the top. Removing the dipper from the cup should yield a heaping dipper full of powder. With a business card, scrape off the excess so the measure is level.
Mr. Lee is kind enough to publish online a lot of information about his products, including a handy .pdf file of the most current dipper capacities. Powders change over time and having the latest chart is a big help sometimes. The link is here.

I've even been known to make my own dippers for specific tasks. I've got one that throws exactly 27.5 grains of IMR 4895, which is a favored cast-bullet load for the .30-30. It's a simple matter to cut down a piece of cartridge brass and solder a handle on it. It may look rough, but when I want to reload some of that ammo, it takes a lot of the work out of handling the powder.

Thanks for reading. I hope I was able to answer your question.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Saturday mowing

70 degrees, 70% humidity. It's nice outside, but you can almost swim through the air. It's a standard springtime morning in central Louisiana and PawPaw is mowing the grass. Taking a break between lawn mowers. I use a push mower for ditches and edges, it takes me about two hours to use the push mower. When I finish this glass of tea I'll go outside and start the riding mower.

It takes longer to do the trim work than it takes to mow the rest of my acre. I'll be done in another hour and I can piddle away the rest of the day. I'll get the grandsons later this afternoon. Let them swim for a while, then feed them supper.

Tomorrow we've got a big shindig at the church. It's an old-time homecoming, where we'll eat a picnic lunch on the grounds.

If you're not busy, join us.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Flintlock Tom

Flintlock Tom asks in comments:
I'm just getting into the .45-70. I just picked up a Springfield Trapdoor made in 1891. I would like to develop a black powder load, and, eventually, a light smokeless powder load. However, the bullet size has me puzzled. I slugged the barrel and it came out around .456-.458, but the Lee mold I have ordered says it throws a 405 grain .459 bullet, with a hollow base. Would an "over-sized" lead bullet like that cause pressure problems? Also, I see that some people use some kind of "wadding" over the powder, what's the purpose of that.

Thanks for your help.

Flintlock Tom
I'm glad you asked, Tom. Lets see if we can answer some of your questions.

Cast bullets for black powder loads in the .45-70 need to be one-thousandth oversize. I routinely cast bullets at 0.459 for my .45-70. That's standard. Heck, I size cast bullets at 0.309 for my .30-30 and at 0.358 for my .38 Special. It's not going to hurt a thing, and it will actually help. If the bullet is undersize by even a fraction of a thousandth, hot gasses will escape past the bullet, cutting the bullet like a torch and depositing lead ahead of the bullet. The bullet, in passing, will iron it into the bore. Having a bullet one-thousandth oversize is good practice.

I use pillow dacron stuffing over small charges of rifle powder in the .45-70. For example, my load for the .45-70 calls for 2.5 cc of IMR 4895, which doesn't come near filling the case. I take a tiny pinch of dacron stuffing and put it over the powder with a pencil eraser. It promptly expands to fill the case, then I seat the bullet over the top of the stuffing. The dacron holds the powder against the base of the case, near the primer. This is standard practice for large straight-wall cases and reloaders have used any number of fillers, to include Cream of Wheat. Having the powder near the primer helps the powder "light up" consistently.

Don't use fillers with bottlenecked cases because the filler will compress when going through the case neck and might cause an obsrtuction, leading to a high-pressure excursion.

For loading black powder, Junior has put together a great tutorial. Click on the link for the article. One thing to remember, and also good practice, is to include a grease cookie between the ball and the powder when using black. That's an old-time trick that helps accuracy and helps keep the fouling soft.

One other thing to note is that the trapdoor action is not as robust as modern rifles in .45-70. The loads you use will need to be low-pressure. Most good reloading manuals break the data down into three sets; one for trapdoor, one for lever actions, and one for Ruger #1 and other modern falling blocks. Use data appropriate for your action type.

Enjoy your trapdoor.