Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Everything Rifle: Completed (and tested!)

Sorry about the bad picture. I may have James take good ones after I re-finish the stock.

I got my rifle on Saturday (30 May 09) and immediately sprung into action. James and I stripped it down to nuts and bolts and gave the whole works a good washing with mineral spirits and brushed the cosmoline off with a soft paintbrush. After about 25 minutes of washing and gently scrubbing with the brush, the cosmoline was off, and we began to dry parts and fit the scope mount. Oh, using mineral spirits to remove cosmoline dries the metal out quite a bit. I rubbed it down with a dab of Rotella-T 15w40 engine oil to prevent rust and keep the metal in good shape.

I found a couple of small spots of rust pitting on the receiver, and just a bit of surface rust on the barrel, but otherwise, the metal bits were in very good condition. The stock is dinged up and a bit rough looking, but I plan on re-finishing it in late June or early July. The best part, however, was that the bore looked bright and shiny. It looked like it had potential!

Then we set about replacing the rear sight leaf with a weaver-style scope mount. That required the use of my gunsmithing punches and some very small Allen wrenches. I also had to carve some very small notches out of the upper handguard so the new screws could fit. However, the amount of wood removed was very small, and will blend right in once I sand down the whole thing for re-finishing (with marine-grade spar polyurathane).

We got the whole works put together in about 25 minutes. It would have been maybe 10 minutes, but being a real man, I did not read the instructions on my scope mount and had to install it twice. I then did a rough bore-sighting by removing the bolt and looking at an object about 25 yards away. I then moved the scope's crosshairs until the object was centered in them, as well as in the bore.

This morning, James and I headed to the range to get a rough zero, and see if the old warhorse was going to work. It did. My bore-sight work had the first group hitting about 8" left and 2" below the bull's eye. After a few more rounds, I zeroed it to hit about 2" high at 50 yards, which will bring it pretty close to dead on at 200 yards, and about 2.5" high at 100 yards. The 1970s vintage Romanian surplus 8mm ammunition (150 grain FMJ steel core) was pretty accurate, very powerful, and just a bit smoky. It is not advertised as "corrosive", but it most likely is. Accuracy with five shot groups tended to hover around 5" at 50yd standing, 3" to 4" from kneeling, and 2-3 inches prone on some funky ground and shooting through some weeds. I think with a proper shooting position I could shoot 3" to 4" at 100yds with this ammunition. Some have reported that the Yugo Mausers prefer the heaver 196 grain loads.

The 24/47 handles pretty well. It isn't a short rifle, but it is just short enough to be quite handy to carry or toss in the back of a truck. The three-position safety is just a bit clunky to operate, but it locks in position very positively, and it is very functional. The trigger is a standard old-school military style two-stage. The first stage is very light with about 1/4" of take-up, and the second stage breaks at a very crisp and clean five or six pounds. The 24/47 weighs in at about 9lbs and some change, so it isn't a pain to pack around. The weight helps to tame the recoil from the 8mm cartridge which is only a half-step behind the iconic 30-06 in velocity. The difference between 8mm Mauser and 30-06 in actual muzzle energy (velocity squared x bullet weight /450436) is negligible. The recoil pulse is different than some in that it is more of a long push than a slap. The muzzle rises and it pushes your shoulder around, but it doesn't really hurt (like say, a Mosin Nagant 91/30). I like this rifle very much, and may edge out some of its younger competitors in my collection.

It's not very pretty (yet), but boy can it shoot. I customized this rifle to be my "everything-rifle"--powerful, handy, accurate, and reliable. I think it will fill this role nicely. Now to get crackin' on that stock!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How To Survive The Robot Apocalypse

I went out and saw Terminator: Salvation last weekend, and my over-active analytical brain parts would not stop trying to solve John Connor's little problem of how to efficiently kill terminators. In this movie, the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger's character in the first 3 Terminator installments) had not yet been created by Sky Net, and the antiquated T-600 was prowling the streets of Los Angeles.

This isn't meant as a movie review. After all it is not flatlandmovienut. But I must say that T4's depictions of gunfights are fairly close to the real thing. In T4, you need air support (provided by A-10 attack aircraft--which I am fond of since a team of them helped break up an ambush for me in Afghanistan), and withering gunfire creates casualties. Also, guns aren't death rays. John Connor's troops mainly used AR-15s or M4s (with the occasional FAL or UZI) and carried a side arm of some kind (lots of H&K Mk23s survived the apocalypse somehow...). The problem was that it took gobs of ammo to kill or wound a T-600, and handguns (as they would in real life) did not penetrate the T-600's steel skull which conveniently holds its CPU much like a human brain.

The intermediate rifles, and even some M60 medium machineguns had trouble hacking through the terminators' hard heads. That got me thinking "What do I own that would take down a terminator?". Those of you who read "Broke Disc Mountain" a while back will know where my mind immediately went--

Why not the Mosin Nagant--either the 91/30 or shortened M44, M38, or M28 carbines? With cheap and plentiful steel core surplus ammo (which would also surely have survived Judgement Day), the T-600s would be mowed down in droves. Following that logic, a good choice of sidearm (largely useless against machines, period) would be a TT-33 or TTC pistol. The weapons and ammo would be in hugely abundant supply worldwide, and young resistance fighters could be very easily trained in their use. Recoil might be an issue for some smaller or younger recruits, but they would ultimately be able to knock down a lumbering T-600.

As the T-800s rolled out, a PKM (below) shooting the same 7.62x54R steel core ammo would have shredded Sky Net's shiny metal soldiers. Of course the bigger (and AWESOME looking) troop transport vehicles would still require some kind of explosive or mega caliber machinegun fire to bring down, but the individual could defend himself very well with a rifle chambered in 7.62x54R.
I ended up on the wrong side of one of these once. Not a place you want to be.

So my realization that the hordes of mechanical ground troops could be easily felled sort of took something away from the rest of the movie. So, if you find yourself among the resistance, and facing a horde of T-600 terminators, just remember this article.

Oh, and as for the movie itself, I liked it (despite the fact that the war would be over as soon as the resistance found a crate of 110 year old (in 2018) MN rifles). There wasn't a lot of character development, and you don't gain any further understanding of the human vs. machine war. The "Marcus Wright" character really stole the movie from Christian Bale, who needs to lose the raspy Batman voice. However, the action and effects were fantastic. The depictions of combat are sort of realistic (stuff still explodes much more often than it should), and the depiction of a post-apocalyptic humanity is pretty much how I imagine it will be. (I say "will be" not because I'm a tinfoil hat wearer, but because everything has an end. Period.) Don't go in expecting a masterpiece of cinema, but it really is entertaining, tense, and action packed. Worth a look if you like shoot-em-ups.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Everything Rifle Parts List

I finished buying the parts to complete my "everything rifle", and we shall see just how much gunsmithing (should be NONE if the ads are to be believed) is needed to complete this project. Below is my parts list and prices rounded to the nearest (higher) dollar:

Rifle: M24/47 Yugoslav Mauser- $180 (after transfer fee and shipping costs) from J&G Sales
Scope: Simmons 4x 32mm ProHunter handgun scope-$99 at Midwayusa
Scope Rings: Leopold Rifleman 1" low mount-$16 at Midwayusa
M48 or M24/47 Mauser scout scope mount (made by S&K): $70 at Cheaper Than Dirt
340 rounds of Romanian surplus 8mm Mauser ammo (150 grain FMJ steel core)-$99 from AIM

Total (with 340rds of ammunition!):$464 or $365 for the rifle with no ammo. That's hard to beat!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Project: The Everything Rifle

I just got off the horn with my local FFL (that's Federal Firearms License--a license to deal firearms) holder and ordered a surplus Mauser from J&G Sales. It's a Yugoslav model 24/47 (pictured above), and has been re-arsenaled at some point. They are said to be in good or very good condition. Higher grades are available from other dealers, but you pay dearly for a collector or "very good +" grade German Mauser. The Yugos are cheaper, but still very high quality. I ordered this particular one because I am looking to build a nice scout type rifle. The 24/47 is a bit long to be considered a "scout" rifle, since Col. Cooper defined that class of rifle as one which measures 39" or less (the 24/47 measures 43.5" tip to tip), and has a short length of pull (the distance from the butt of the stock to the trigger). The scope is typically mounted in front of the action thusly (below).

The rifle will end up costing about $180 after shipping and transfer fees. A tin of 340 8mm rounds costs $99 from AIM surplus, and can be shipped to the 48 contiguous states for but a penny. The scope, mounts, and rings will end up costing about the same as the rifle, so for say, $360, you can get a nice shooting do-everything rifle. Commercial ammunition from a myriad of manufacturers can be had for roughly the same price as 30-06 ammo, and runs from 150 grains up to 200 grains. Most military surplus is either 150 grain FMJ, or 196gr FMJ. Soft-point or other hunting ammo in 8mm is pretty well suited to most game within the United States. Most 8mm loadings are pretty darn close to the 30-06, which is really the measuring stick for rifle cartridges.

Cooper tells us that our rifle should be powerful, handy, and accurate. This Mauser fits the bill pretty well. It is 6" shorter than my Mosin-Nagant 91/30, lighter, and has a slicker action (and the Mauser generally has a better trigger). By mounting the optics forward of the action, you can keep both eyes on the target as you raise the rifle into position. The low-power scope is also a fixture of a scout rifle. Generally 4x or 6x fixed-power scope tops a scout rifle. The low power means your field of view is wider, which helps with acquisition of a target, and engagement of a moving target. My Mauser will end up very close to Cooper's description of a good rifle. My intent is to build a short, handy, powerful rifle that can do anything I need to ask of it here in the Midwest. As a bonus, I can load my own target rounds if I choose, or I can shoot up some cheap military surplus 8mm when I don't feel like scavenging for spent cases to reload.

Now we wait and see what condition the bore is in, and shoot some groups. Stay tuned.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Broke-disc Mountain

James, Nathan, and I got together and did an experiment with penetration. Wait. Let me try that again. We all got our guns together and saw how much of a brake disc (from a late 90s Tercel I believe) they could get through. James took the pictures, so they're good this time. All rounds were fired from about 25 yards out. Family picture below:
Long guns (from left--BOLD= James', plain italics=mine): DPMS Sportical, FN TPS, Benelli Nova, AXR, Mosin-Nagant 91/30, LWRC M6A2 (center--belongs to Nathan)
Handguns: M&P 9, Steyr M9A1, Beretta U22, TTC (center)

First up was the TTC pistol, firing a 7.62x25mm full metal jacket, which weighs in at 86 grains and moves at between 1390 and 1500fps (Most manufacturers claim 1390fps, while some UNCONFIRMED posts on the interwebs have the velocity at an ear-splitting 1500fps). Results below:
You can see that it penetrated the first layer of steel, and shattered on the second layer. That's pretty impressive for a handgun. A 9x19mm will only shatter on the first surface (we tried). The 7.62x25mm round has a higher muzzle velocity and a smaller cross-section, so it follows that it would penetrate better than most other pistol cartridges.

Next up was Nathan's (VERY nice) LWRC M6A2 chambered in 6.8mm SPC (a.k.a. 6.8mm Remington). He fired a volley of three and hit the hub area, which is only one layer thick. Of course it went through like a hot knife through marshmallows. Then James shot with his AXR chambered for 5.56x45mm, and I followed up with my beloved Mosin-Nagant 91/30 chambered in the ancient 7.62x54R. The AXR had some trouble penetrating the tougher bits of the disc, but performed admirably. The 91/30 didn't realize there was a brake disc hanging on the fence post, and continued on. If you own a house on the opposite side of the planet, there may be a 7.62x54R bullet hole through it, as I believe that round may be able to penetrate the entire Earth. Labeled picture below:
A third whack with the MN 91/30 resulted in the brake disc splitting in two. Here I am holding it, and trying to look super badass.
No, my arms aren't 18" long and my head isn't quite that large. It was a funny angle. I'm sticking with that story.

I think one lesson we can learn is to NEVER count C&R guns out, as the two senior citizens of the group performed very well. Second, the 5.56mm round displayed some irregularities, as two rounds appeared to have been at least partially deflected (they impacted at a very shallow angle), while several others shredded the meatier section of the disc. I think angle of attack has a lot to do with the 5.56's ability to penetrate hard surfaces. The 6.8SPC probably relies on its greater mass and sectional density to hack through the metal. I wish Nathan would have put a round through the rim (which is twice as thick) and see how it fared. The 91/30 proved once again that bigger+faster=better. That said, if I had to carry a weapon all day long, I'd prefer the AXR or M6A2 for their lighter weight, and not being as long as a bus. Of course, the 91/30 remains a very useful and tremendously powerful rifle.

All in all, our experimentation with penetration was a great deal of fun, and I hope we do it again some time. After all, it is legal in Iowa.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mindset of the Shootist

After reading Col. Jeff Cooper's "The Art of the Rifle", I had a chance to apply his teachings to my own everyday life. I'm here at my dad's farm in northwestern Missouri and I happened to go with him to check his snares (small noose-like traps for smaller fur-bearers). He's had a severe problem with coyotes killing his sheep, and has taken about a dozen or so 'yotes up to this point. What follows is a detailed description of my shooting of a trapped coyote. This is not a brag letter, nor an attempt to gross anyone out. It is simply a real-life application of some of Cooper's teachings that I think some people might find useful-not the least of which is a graphic description which reminds us that guns are lethal instruments! I take no real pride or pleasure in shooting a snared critter. It was just a dirty job that had to be done. It saved us some sheep, and it put the coyote out of her misery in the least painful way I had at my disposal. Hopefully it serves to help some of my readers to wrap their mind around shooting.

My dad, his dog (Bree, an 18 month old Border Collie), and I went out checking the eight or nine snares set up around the perimeter of the sheep fields. Bree likes to go explore, and her nose is quite useful for telling us where the coyotes are crossing, and how active each fence breach is. I was toting my Tokarev TTC and three magazines of Romanian surplus ammunition. (Cooper teaches us to always bring enough ammo--just in case.)It was early afternoon and a stiff southerly wind was blowing rain clouds over the hills. We had checked the first four snares, which hadn't been touched. Each snare was about 300 yards from the next, and after close to half a mile of walking, I had started to daydream while occasionally scanning the treeline for movement. Dad was walking further away from the fence than I, obviously thinking about the imminent rain storm. Bree was bounding happily through the knee-high grass while obviously thinking about her favorite soccer ball. (Cooper teaches us to be in the right mental alertness condition when we are trying to engage potentially dangerous game...way to go, Flatland Gun Nut...)

As Bree topped a small mound near the edge of one of our ponds, the whole fence began to shake and I immediately drew my pistol and turned 45 degrees to my right to square off with the noise. I saw the head and shoulders of a coyote bobbing and weaving on the opposite side of the wire fence. Bree saw about the same time I did and evasively jumped sideways, away from the coyote. I watched Bree and the coyote make eye contact as I shifted my attention solely to the coyote while bringing the pistol up to a firing position. I was about 20 feet away at this point, and dad saw me raising the pistol, which cued him to plug his ears. (All of the above happened in maybe three seconds.)I took four or five steps forward to cut off Bree who was clearly contemplating taking a run at the similarly sized coyote (Bree is small for a Border Collie--only about 30 pounds and maybe 3ft from her nose to the end of her tail.). Bree stopped her advance and studied the strange creature intently.

Dad yelled to shoot it in the head, so I lined up my sights on her (it was female, upon inspection) forehead, but she kept bobbing and weaving. I couldn't stay lined up, and I sure didn't want to rush the shot. The snare had malfunctioned and only grabbed her around the hips (it should have closed around her neck and broken it), so she had a great deal of mobility. She made one last mighty attempt to pull the fence down and escape, but she lost her footing and fell to a sitting position. As she scrambled to get her back feet under her again, I lined up square on her chest (which was slightly quartering away and above my hands), swept the safety off, and squeezed. The pistol bucked in my hands and I saw her roll backwards as my sights settled on her head. She fell backwards and on her left side (away from the shot) and did not move. I took another step forward (now only maybe 12ft away), lined up on the center of her head (just below the right eye) and squeezed again. The shot carried her head backwards and revealed that the first round had shattered her spine just about even with the shoulder blades. She was dead before my sights recovered from the first shot.

Upon inspection, the first round had entered just right (her right, my left) of the center of her chest, destroyed the heart and lungs, then shattered the spine before exiting above her left shoulder blade. My second shot went through her right cheek and exited behind her left ear. The second shot was probably not necessary, but as Cooper writes, we owe animals the quickest, cleanest death we can afford them. Naturally, had the 'yote made an aggressive move toward Bree, I would have taken whatever shot I could get. However, she was snared and likely in a great deal of pain. As I mentioned earlier, I take no particular pride in shooting what amounts to a chained prisoner. However, she was a wild animal whose intent was to destroy our crop of sheep. The coyotes have never been this thick as long as dad or I can remember, and as a dog lover, I don't really enjoy dispatching coyotes.

So what can we learn? Well, first of all, be aware of your surroundings! Had the coyote not been snared, it would likely have beaten a hasty retreat. But had it chosen to engage Bree (the most likely, as coyotes generally realize that a man is too big for them to take on), I may not have been able to shoot it before it had done considerable damage to our young and cocky sheepdog.

Second, we owe our game a quick, clean death. To do this, the shootist needs to keep his or her mind clear at the moment of truth. As I recall, my heart rate never increased at any point during the shooting. I was able to notice several key details that influenced my decision of when and where to engage the target. Also, after the first shot, I kept my sights on the target until I was 100% sure she was dead. Though she fell to the first shot, my sights followed her to the ground--and delivered yet another lethal blow.

Third, bullets are forever. If you point a loaded weapon at a living being, the consequences can be catastrophic and permanent. Be sure of your target, and what's behind it. Never shoot at shadows, noises, or movement. Identify and engage with a great deal of thought and deliberation. You should always know WHERE you shot and WHY you decided to put your bullets there. Think about that every time you go to the range. Why were you aiming where you were aiming, and why did your bullet impact where it did? Answer that question after every pull of the trigger. My first round was fired into the coyote's chest because that was the best shot I had, and it would amount to a quick death if my trigger pull was clean. That bullet went just right of center because my trigger pull was not perfect, but luckily for both of us, the path it took was good for a quick, clean kill. My second round was aimed at her head because I wanted to be SURE that she was no longer a threat to us as we unhooked the snare from her body. I also wanted to be sure her death was as quick and painless as I could make it. My bullet hit exactly where I aimed it because my sight alignment and trigger squeeze were both adequate.

Fourth, a knowledge of anatomy is handy. Thanks to my interest in biology, and years of growing up on the farm, I had a good idea of where her heart, lungs, and brain were at any given time (the point of aim changes as the target's body position changes). A rudimentary knowledge of biology goes a long way.

Fifth, think about having to take a life. If you own a gun for hunting or self defense, think about what taking a life means to you. Granted, there is an order of magnitude of difference between killing a human and killing a snared coyote. But the point remains, can you bring yourself to pull the trigger when the trigger needs pulled? I'm not saying to fantasize about a killing spree or anything like that. Just think to yourself "can I do it"? If you're unsure, then the answer is "no". Remember not to think about it in terms of "will I enjoy it?" but "can I do it?". If it's your first time on the hunt, then leave your rifle at home and just carry the binoculars or the coffee and watch a seasoned veteran do it. Watch all stages of the hunt intently and then decide if you are into it. If you are just starting to get into self-defense, then take NRA classes or classes from a reputable instructor.

Remember that shooting is a lot like golf--99 percent is mental, and the rest is all in your head.

Tokarev Update: Hammer Time(ing problems)

I took my Tokarev out last Friday and Saturday only to find that the hammer followed the slide back to the safety notch just about every time I pulled the trigger. Exasperated, I spent a few hours inspecting the TTC in great detail. The problem was that the slide was moving too fast, and the hammer spring was resisting the disconnector so much that it couldn't reset reliably. Thus, upon pulling the trigger the hammer would fall and fire the chambered round. The slide would move, which ejected the spent case and loaded the next round. The slide was engaging the disconnector on its way backward, but the hammer was resisting too much, and combined with the slide moving too fast, the hammer was not resetting and falling back to the safety notch instead of staying fully locked back. But being a full-fledged Gun Nut, I decided to gut the trigger pack (which comes apart like Legos) and clip the hammer spring. I cut off two coils and voila! The hammer problem was greatly reduced. It did it three times through 100 rounds, and today, I put 64 rounds through it and it never did it. I have a new recoil spring on the way which should slow the slide better and cure the problem entirely.

In other news, I ordered two new mags from and one was fantastic. The other one had some feed lip issues. If you weren't looking straight at the top of the left feed lip, you wouldn't notice that it was smashed completely flat. Using only pliers and some brass punches, I fixed the problem and that mag works fine too.

The TTC continues to be accurate and very reliable, save for the hammer problem which I think I have cured. I have to change my rating from "must have" to "must have if you are comfortable with tinkering". Cheers.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Shooting The TTC: A Real Romanian Fireball!

Again, not my pistol. Authentic pics to come when I'm not so lazy.

I went back to my home town after a long weekend at my National Guard unit to return James' car (my wife parked hers in the back seat of some guy's Chevy Silverado--she's fine, car is not). I stopped by my mom's place to throw laundry in, and to my surprise, my shipment of 7.62x25mm ammo from Sportsman's Guide had arrived. Shortly after changing into civilian clothes, James and I were off to the range to see what was what.

Initial tests show promise.

We set up a paper target at about 15 yards, and put up some clays as a makeshift plate rack. We shot the clays from about ten paces. James shot better than I did, but we both could kill clays from ten paces or better. I put a few rounds into the paper and all I figured out was that my trigger pull needs work. I made a nice group left of the bull's eye and then another nice tight group just above the bull's eye. It is a very accurate pistol in the right hands. I still claim that I was just hurting from the physical fitness test (push-ups, sit-ups, and 2mi run) combined with the 6.5mi road march under a full load.

The trigger on the TTC is really nice. It is long, smooth, and light with a crisp break. The grip angle is a bit strange, but very workable. The safety was initially nearly impossible to move, but now clicks off and on crisply. It had no failures to feed or eject with about 110 round of Bulgarian surplus ammo which was manufactured in 1951. That ammo had maybe six or seven bad primers, but I simply thumbed the hammer back again and gave it a second tap and every one went "KAABOOOOOM!".

Building on that last statement, the 7.62x25mm has MASSIVE muzzle blast, complete with huge fireball and moderate recoil. I would say it is like shooting a 110gr .357 magnum load. There's a lot of fanfare every time you bust a cap. It was quite fun to shoot, but double taps were slowed down because the giant mushroom cloud of fire that exits the muzzle upon ignition would completely obscure the target. I love it.

In short, I'm rating this a "must have" range toy or woods companion. It's cheap, reliable, powerful, and all kinds of fun to shoot. Go visit J&G sales before they're all gone. Oh, and opt for the "hand select" option. Enjoy.