Sunday, August 31, 2008

Barnes Reloading Manual Number 4

Barnes # 4 Loading Manual

Barnes Book
In 1932 the company started by making pure copper jacketed bullets with a lead core for hunting large game. The bullets worked very well as the design principal is sound. Pure lead and copper are more malleable then harder and more brittle alloys. They gave great penetration and killing powder as they also expanded reliably. Some of the harder alloys might shatter on large bones rather then penetrate and break the bones. I have some that are no longer made and I will hoard them my favorite is the 30 caliber 250 grain. I have some 600 grain in 45 caliber that I will never fire as I don’t want the abuse. Anyway I have shot various weights and calibers of these bullets with complete satisfaction.

8mm 200 grain Barnes

About two decades ago Barnes started designing and producing pure copper bullets. They felt and correctly so that pure copper bullets will give superior penetration and killing power even with lighter weight bullets. They have established a world wide reputation for a great hunting bullet and also an accurate slug. I have shot quite a few from the 6mm to the 454 Casull. Without exception they have performed quite well. My favorite is the 8mm 200 grain which is very accurate in my 8mm Remington Magnum. I plan on an elk hunt with this bullet. Another thing to think about is lead bullets are banned in some California areas so a hunter is obligated to use a copper or some other non lead alloy in that area. Never mind the stupidly of such a law it’s a reality and may spread to other areas. The pure copper Barnes bullets will pass the legal requirements in those areas. Barnes makes some copper bullets with hard alloy cores also.

300 grain 405 Winchester Barnes

Honesty would compel me to state that there are a lot of good bullets on the market today, some very sophisticated. No one makes a “bad” bullet but using an incorrect bullet for the game hunted can make any bullet look bad. The Barnes lines of bullets are among the best and they deserve consideration on any serious hunting trip. Like any premium bullet they are not inexpensive but you get what you pay for. If you are going on a high dollar hunting trip it would be the height of folly not to have premium bullets.

50-110 300 and 400 grain Barnes bullets

I received the Barnes Number Four reloading manual for evaluation. Before you get to the loading tables there is a wealth of information covering everything from reloading procedures to the history of the company. There are many safety tips and a wealth of ballistic info covered also. I strongly recommend that anyone who has this book read it thoroughly whether you are a novice or pro. There is just too much good info not to read it. There is something for everyone from the novice to the expert. They even tell you how to sight in your rifle. The loading data has the usual recommendations for powder charges but instead of a history of the cartridge it has a write up by an experienced hunter who has used it and the results he or she had. They do state in front of the manual that this info may not be suitable for gas operated semi auto rifles. My experience with them is they are definitely more finicky to load for and I try to avoid them when ever possible. There is also a small illustration of which game animals are best suited to that bullet. Since different people write these mini articles up you get many different styles which makes it more interesting to read. They also show the ballistic coefficient and sectional density of each bullet which is valuable info to have. Since Barnes has a large line of bullets there is something for everyone. Like the rifle section handguns are well covered also. They also have data for their muzzle loading projectiles which are pure copper like most of their bullet line. There is information in the muzzle loading section that should enable you to choose the right bullet for your hunting conditions. There are a few lead and copper jacketed bullets still being made mostly for the obsolete calibers such as the 38-55 and 348. They also produce it in the 45-70 which can be used in the 458 with somewhat reduced loads for deer and bear. One thing that I really like about the book is it includes such cartridges as the 500 Nitro Express among other rounds such as the 470 Nitro and the 505 Gibbs. I occasionally load for them and data is scarce so that addition is appreciated by me. It even lists the 577 Nitro!

30 caliber 180 grain Barnes

There are a complete set of tables showing the trajectory of each bullet. It also has useful windage info and time of flight tables. The tables are done somewhat differently then other manuals. If you are planning a hunting trip using Barnes bullets you would do well to study the tables relating to your load. There are energy tables following that then a glossary. If you have any questions regarding which bullet to use this book should answer them. If you have any other questions try and someone there should be able to help you. All in all there are 673 pages jammed packed full of info. The book retails for $24.95 depending on location and is worth every penny of it and more.
Bob Shell

30 caliber 250 grain Barnes

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Shooting Old Guns

Shooting a 9.4 dutch with black powder

What it Takes to Shoot the Old Ones
Ok you bought this old gun at the local gun show. The seller thinks that it was an old French military gun but he isn’t sure. Anyway you thought that it would be a good looking wall hanger and the price was right. It’s been on your wall for awhile and you never had an urge to shoot it. One day your buddy comes over and inquires about shooting it and you give him a blank stare as to what it shoots. After he leaves you get thinking that maybe you would like to try it out. After all you do some reloading and you are confident that ammo isn’t available at the local gun shop. You get your reloading manual out and there is nary a mention of your mystery gun. So you start doing some research and find out that it’s an 11 mm Grass which France brought out in 1874 and was used until 1886 when the French brought out the revolutionary 8mm Lebel the first smokeless cartridge brought out by anyone. You buy Cartridges of the World (a smart move) and it gives you a little history of the rifle and cartridge. You found out about the rifle on the web. Anyway you now know what you have and what it shoots. Now comes the fun where and how do you get ammo for it. None of the reloading manuals have info on it and you don’t see any source for dies.

The very first thing that you do is to make sure it’s safe to shoot and you are shooting the correct cartridge. Someone may have rechambered or rebarreled to another more common caliber. That happens and I have seen it. The last one was a 43 Spanish rolling block. Someone reamed out the chamber to take a 348 case necked up to the 439 diameter bullet that the 43 commonly uses. I suppose that they did that because the 348 case was easier then the 43 Spanish cases to get though that is no longer true. Another odd ball conversion that I encountered was an 11 French Gras that had the barrel set back and rechambered to the more common 11 mm Mauser round. More info on taking a chamber cast in a previous article published in SGN titled “What’s in a Name” A chamber cast can reveal those important details prior to shooting it. In this instance shooting a 43 Spanish round may have been dangerous because the case might of split. If you are not sure of the guns condition or caliber spend a few dollars to have a qualified gunsmith check it out for you. A few dollars spent that way is a lot cheaper and less painful then a hospital bill.

Once you ascertain what it is and its safe to shoot then you have just started your project. You need dies, cases and bullets in order to make functioning ammo. You will quickly find out that some of the components are very scarce or non existent. There are several makers that sell custom dies and shell holders. Huntington Die as well as Lee and all make custom dies. You can contact them for pricing and availability. Keep in mind they will be a lot more expensive then common dies. Brass for many of the old ones has to be made out of something else. If you don’t have the knowledge or tooling then the best thing is to buy it from someone who specializes in that. The two best sources that I can think of are Buffalo Arms and Bob Haley Brass (940) 888-3352, no website, for both the bullets and brass. Both make many calibers and advertise in the SGN. If you have an 11 mm Mauser or a 43 Spanish then you can buy HDS brass and bullets from Huntington Die. Sometimes you really have to use your imagination to get or make a die set. That saying about thinking out of the box can really apply here. Custom dies are very expensive sometimes costing over $200.00 and if you are only going to shoot it a few times then it may not be worth it to purchase special tooling. Making some of those cases requires sophisticated tools and techniques which may make it impractical to make them. I order a lot of my cases from Bob Haley or Buffalo Arms and then reload them from there.

50-70 Government top & 12.17 X 44

In this part I want to concentrate on the first generation of cartridge firearms meaning the black powder offerings that came out in the 1860’s and 1870’s for the most part. Breech loaders were in their infancy and many interesting if impractical ideas were generated during this time. The next installment will be the second generation such as the 6.5 Dutch etc. If you decide to make your own cases then a book such as The Handloader’s Manual of Cartridge Conversions by John Donnelly & Bryce Towsley is a good place to start. It will give you the dimensions and which case to start with as well as couple of hints on how to form the cases.

One of the early offerings was the 11 X 58 French Gras. It came out in 1874 and was the French military rifle until 1886. The cartridge is a large and powerful for it’s time while the rifle is a well made and sturdy affair common with those of the period. The only way to get brass is to make it out of 348 cases which are still available. There is quite a bit of work involved in the process such as cutting down the rim and swaging the case body. There are times when annealing may be required. If you don’t have the required equipment I advise buying the finished product from Bob Haley or Buffalo Arms. They have the necessary equipment and knowledge to form the cases. Dies can be very expensive and I made mine from the 11 X 59 Mauser set. I cut the body off a set of extra Lee dies so that I just sized the neck and did the bullet seater in a similar fashion. That saved me a couple of hundred bucks. The bullet is a standard .446 diameter which can be bought from a couple of sources. Since this is a black powder gun I advise starting with either black powder or a suitable substitute such as Pyrodex or Clean Shot. The Clean Shot has the advantage of being non corrosive for cleaning purposes. It’s very important to be sure there is no airspace when using those propellants or you could run the risk of blowing up the gun. Smokeless powders can be used but caution must be observed as these guns are well over a century old and the designs and metal technology aren’t up to today’s standards. Remember we are shooting these guns for fun not to make a magnum out of them. This missive applies to all the guns discussed in this article. I found that the Gras shot very well with the proper loads and is well worth the effort required to get it in shooting order. As a note the 11 X 59 Mauser cartridge will fit and fire in the Gras but I do not recommend that practice. The case body of the Mauser is a bit smaller and may rupture causing some problems.

Another oldie that can be made to shoot by forming 348 cases is the 12.17 x 44. It is the centerfire version of the 12 X 44 Rimfire military cartridge. Brought out in 1867 it was never a military offering though sporting rolling block rifles were made for it. Basically it is a 348 case shortened and straightened out using a bullet of .502 in diameter. I found such bullets at Midway or you can use cast bullets for the 500 S & W that are lubed but unsized. You can get by using 500 S & W dies for your loading. The only place I have seen these rifles is at Sarco a good source for obsolete weapons.

Another old caliber in rolling blocks is the 11 mm Spanish Reformado. It preceded the more common 11 X 53 Spanish. It came out in 1867 and was replaced in 1871. As a note the bullets were brass covered and frequently turned green giving the Reformado the nickname of 43 Spanish Poison. While similar it isn’t interchangeable with the more common round. Brass can be made from 348 cases and 11 mm bullets can be used. The dies can be a shorty set such as I have or you might find that another 11 mm set might work. I found with the low pressures associated with these calibers neck sizing usually works ok.

Sometimes you find a 43 Dutch Beaumont rifle floating around at a gun show and may want to purchase it for shooting. While it has a couple of strange features it is worth shooting. There are 2 versions of this cartridge the shorter one came out in 1871 while in 1878 it was slightly lengthened and a 457 bullet adopted. It is said to be similar but not identical to the 43 Egyptian. If you are unsure of which version you have then I advise you to do a chamber cast and a bore measurement. The later version can be used with 458 bullets ok and the reworked 50-90 Sharps cases that are available from Starline. The body is a bit small in diameter but will be ok due to the low pressures associated with this cartridge. Dies can be bought or try a 45-75 die for neck sizing and bullet seating. To do a chamber cast the best material to use is Cerrosafe which can be bought at Midway or Brownells. It has a very low melting temperature and if properly used gives an accurate chamber cast. Prior to doing a chamber cast be sure to have a plug of some kind in the barrel just in front of the chamber. A bullet works fine and you can get a little of the rifling for a bore measurement as well. Thoroughly cleaning the chamber is also important for good results.

The Italian Vetterli rifle was adopted in 1870 being similar to the Swiss version that was originally a rimfire. Like most guns of that period it was well made and sturdy. The cartridge was one of the smaller military offerings of the period but can be made to shoot accurately. Cases can be made from 348 brass and bullet diameter called for is .422. However mine is 412 so 41 mag or 405 bullets work best. The best way to make 422 diameter bullets is to swage down 44 magnum bullets. Ch Tool & Die can make a bullet reducing die for such work. You will need that also for the Italian revolver of the same period. I don’t know of any commercial source for 422 bullets and a mold would be very expensive. The 44 magnum unsized bullets will not fit in either gun. For further info on these guns and components try .

The 577 Snider was the British first foray into the breech loading gun market. It used a system devised by Joseph Snider an American which converted the Enfield muzzle loader into a cartridge weapon. From the start they knew that is was a stopgap measure and was used from 1867 to 1871 when it was replaced by the 577/450. The mini ball that was used in the 58 caliber can be used and are available from various sources. They generally weigh from 450 to 500 grains making them an impressive slug. Molds are also available from several makers and they should be cast soft for best accuracy. The shock of the powder going off blows out the skirt which grips the rifling for accuracy. The brass can be made from a brass 24 gauge shell by shortening it. Bob Haley has ready made cases that can be reloaded by using a Berdan primer which he also sells. The special decapping tool is available from Huntington Die. Jamison made regular boxer primed cases but unfortunately they took a government contract and they won’t be available for at least a year. My dies came from Lee and they work fine. For a light bullet I use Hornady’s 58 caliber round balls and they work fairly well.

The 577/450 Martini Henry replaced the Snider and was used until the 303 British came out in 1888. It is an elongated and necked down version of the Snider round. If you have 24 gauge brass casings then you can make them or buy the Berdan primer version from Bob Haley. Like the 577 Jamison made some boxer primed cases and if you have them then you have a prize as they won’t be available anytime soon. I have used both cases with satisfaction with Lee dies. Smokeless loads can be used if you are careful. Bullet diameter calls for 455 but I use 458’s with complete satisfaction. The original bullet weighed 480 grains but bullets from 300 to 500 grains can be used. The heavier bullets tend to have frisky recoil. Like many of the guns discussed in this article slugging the bore will determine which the best diameter to use in it. Tolerances weren’t as tight as they are today and bores are frequently oversize. The 45-70 Trapdoor Springfield was a big offender in that regard.

The 45-75 and 50-95’s were made for the Winchester model 76 with the idea that they would provide more power without the ammo being too long for a lever action. They were marginally more powerful then a 45-60 which is nothing but a 45-70 shortened. The 45-75 can be made from 348 cases that are reworked and the 50-95 is best served by using a 50-90 Sharps case. A 300 grain bullet of the appropriate caliber works fine in either rifle. I would hesitate to shoot the originals because of the value and if I did I would use black powder. However Uberti makes a real nice knockoff which can be shot with sensible smokeless powder loads.

The 50 Navy rolling block pistol came out in 1867and was different then the 50 Army. The army version had a larger rim and a bottleneck while the Navy version was a straight walled offering. The Army can be made by shortening the 50-70 to .6 and using a 300 grain .512 diameter bullet. The Navy version that I made were from a 500 Linebaugh case shortened to the same .6 and using the same bullet which are available from Buffalo Arms if you don’t mold them yourself. I found that it was a fun gun to shoot and fairly accurate although it shot high.

The 10.4 Italian service revolver came out in 1874 and was used in the model 74 revolvers as well as the Glisenti revolver. Both black powder and smokeless loads were available. Cases can be made from 44 special shortened to .9 and possible rim reducing. You can check your individual gun for that determination. The dies I use are a 41 magnum bullet seating die to size the cases and a short version of the 44 special dies to seat the bullets. Bullets are 422 in diameter and have to be swaged from 44 caliber slugs. CH tool & die can provide the necessary tooling. I have used both jacketed and cast with good results. To be honest you can’t drive jacketed bullets fast enough to expand at safe pressures so you are just as well off with the cast verity. I found that this gun is very accurate at 15 yards though it hits high. Like many of the revolvers of the period the sights are crude and the double action trigger is so heavy that single action is the only way to go.

The 11 mm French revolver came out in 1873 and was replaced in 1892 by the 8mm Level revolver cartridge. Brass can be made from 44 special shortened and the rim thinned quite a bit. Bullets are generally in the 430 diameter range though that may vary. I would slug the bore to get the proper diameter for your gun. When loading I would stick with black powder or one of the substitutes available as it isn’t designed for high pressure loads.

In 1892 the 8mm Lebel round replaced it. Like its predecessor it was underpowered as a military handgun. Cases can be made by shortening and forming 32-20 cases. Bullet diameter is .330 and they weigh around 115 grains. They would have to be cast via a special mold if you can find one. Possibly one of the listed sources can help out though I make my own. Some people use the 8mm Nambu bullet which while slightly smaller in diameter can be used though may not be as accurate. I use my Nambu dies to neck size the case and seat the bullets.

The 11.75 Montenegrin Austro-Hungarian revolver is a massive hinged frame affair based on the Gasser system. It weighs around 4 & ½ lbs and a set of wheels should come with it. Anyway I got brass and bullets from Bob Haley and used my custom shorty dies to load the ammo. The brass is from an extensively reworked 45-70 case and I used 446 diameter bullets that weigh in at 300 grains.

The 9mm Jap was the Japanese revolver cartridge from the 1890’s. To make ammo for it you can shorten 38 special cases and cut down the rim as needed. I have used standard 9mm bullets weighing 115 or 125 grains with good accuracy for that gun. There is no need for jacketed bullets as velocities aren’t that high and will keep the cost down a bit. Keep the loads light and you should be in good shape.

Is it worth the time effort and expense to make ammo for these obsolete guns? Keep in mind you will have to expand a lot more effort and time to do a fractional amount of shooting and it will cost more. Frequently when I do a test batch of ammo for one of these weapons I seldom shoot more then 50 rounds at a time frequently less. I may spend a good part of the day testing the loads by chronographing and target shooting but may only shoot two or three guns. Another thing to keep in mind is that many of the cartridges headspace on the rim but many old guns have excess headspace so when being sized you should size them just enough to easily chamber. That will extend the life of the cases by several firings and make your shooting more enjoyable. Taking notes and pictures is time consuming where if I had a more modern gun I could shoot more and observe less. Is it worth it? You bet!!!! I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Bob Shell

Sunday, August 17, 2008

the 9MM Largo

9mm Largo
Brought out about 1910 it is essentially an elongated version of the 9mm Luger. It closely resembles a 38 auto but not as much rim. It was used in the Astra 400 but many copies of the Browning pistol design utilized it also. The Spanish used it for quite a number of years. It is also known as the 9mm Bergman-Bayard long. The Danish used it as a military sidearm for quite a few years. By the way the Astra 400 is supposed to chamber and shoot a 38 auto but my Largo absolutely will not. The auto rim is too prominent. There is some military ammo available but it is corrosive and I for one will avoid it. The cases would be Berdan primed making it useless for reloading. With inexpensive brass available why bother with the military. No American company makes ammo for it as far as I know.

My sample is a Star Modelo Super closely resembling a model 1911 Colt. Actually that was a main reason I purchased it as I am a big fan of the 1911 design. However it has a couple of features lacking in most 1911’s. First of all there is a loaded chamber indicator that shows red when it protrudes. It also has a 3 position safety with the middle position locking the trigger but allows you to rack out the ammo. That’s a good feature but of course the gun should always be pointed in a safe direction as like any other gadget it can fail. It does stay open upon firing the last round which is an excellent feature. Another feature which I consider a poor idea is the gun won’t fire without the magazine in it. There may be some disagreement in that but I would prefer a pistol that fires without the magazine in it. For informal target shooting it doesn’t make a difference though in a bad situation it might. The magazine is dropped out like a 1911 and they are easy to drop and replace. The sights are decent for a military or police arm but the trigger is too heavy. Maybe a trip to a gunsmith could cure that ailment though I am not familiar with the trigger mechanism. It lacks a grip safety which I don’t consider a problem. The grips on my gun are sharply checkered wood which would aid in gripping especially with a sweaty hand. It is a well made gun that is comfortable in my hand with no problems with recoil. For the price I consider it a good buy. I bought it at Sarco for about $140 and with 3 magazines plus shipping it totaled less then $200. It gives the appearance of a rugged well made firearm.

Shooting it wasn’t a problem. Starline makes the brass and standard 9mm bullets work fine. The first batch were 115 grain full metal jackets and seemed a bit fussy about feeding until I sized then again. I then tried some 115 grain hollow points and they fed flawlessly (go figure). I even loaded some 125 grain cast truncated bullets and they were about 98 % reliable. The load for all three was 5.5 X 231. Since it burns clean and gives good velocity I left it there. Increase these loads at your own risk. Since there are a verity of guns out there and reloading techniques out there I am not responsible for use of this data.

I am not a big fan of the 9mm for self defense but realistically if you use a well designed hollow point it should do the job. A 115 grain Hp at 1300 feet per second should do a pretty decent job getting you out of a scrape. I wouldn’t use FMJ’s as they don’t expend and might over penetrate. If you choose to use it for self defense try out a verity of bullets to see which one feeds best and after that then you can check for expansion. There are several good bullets out there that might work for you. Sometime when I get some time I might try my X/PLODER bullets in it. I should get close to 2000 feet per second with them. If it was going to be a house or carry gun for me then I would look into getting some trigger work done. Keep in mind that any gun used for defense has to be 100% reliable or it’s worthless. It is a full size gun which would make it a good house gun with the proper loads. It would be similar to carrying a 45 auto by weight and size. In which case I would opt for the 45.

While not suitable for large game under most situations it would suffice for small game and varmints. Accuracy should be good out to 25 yards or so which would be ok for those pesky critters.
5.5 X 231 115 grain full metal jacket 1296 very consistent
5.5 X 231 115 grain hollow point 1274 consistent
5.5 X 231 125 grain truncated (cast) 1318 good load

After shooting it some more it became more familiar but the heavy trigger made it difficult to shoot as accurately as I think that it can. All in all it is a serviceable piece and is well worth obtaining. It can be called a poor man’s 38 super as the ballistics are very similar as well as the case size. The only difference is the rim size with the super having a bit more rim. I could possibly squeeze a bit more speed out of it but what’s the point. I am happy with these loads and there is no upside to a few more feet per second. These loads function and feed perfectly and thats all I can ask of this pistol.
Bob Shell

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The 6.5 Dutch Rifle

6.5 X 53 Dutch Rimmed

This is a rimmed cartridge brought out in 1895 for the Dutch and Romanian rifles of 1892 and 1895. It seems to be a forerunner of the 6.5 X 54 Mannlicher-Schoenauer that was popular in the U.S. but it’s a rimmed cartridge 1 millimeter shorter. There were three models two being carbine and the longer rifle all having the knife bayonet. Ballistics of the two rounds are very similar. Around that period of time some of the other countries such as Japan & Italy among others were adopting 6.5’s with the same bullet and power factor. Military ammo was loaded with a 156 to 162 grain full metal jacket bullet at around 2400 feet per second. Military ammo was produced until around the end of WW ll but not in great quantity. By WWll the Netherlands was using more modern guns. However in 1917 a few were made for the 8mm rimmed cartridge. In the 1890’s the government of Uruguay ordered about 9000 Mauser model 71/84 s chambered for the Dutch round. They have long barrels and seemed heavy for that caliber. I have handled but never shot one. I imagine they were accurate and the recoil must have been nearly non existent. There are a few sporting rifles around in this caliber mostly in Europe. The 6.5 bullets are long for their weight that helps with penetration. Like most 6.5’s the paper ballistics aren’t real impressive but don’t let that fool you. They are capable of deep penetration with the 160 grain slug. That goes for all the 6.5’s. Every species of game has been taken with these types of cartridges. Karamogo Bell is said to have taken over 1000 elephants with the 6.5 rimless Mannlicher round. Those 160 grain full metal jacketed bullets gave the necessary penetration to penetrate to the elephant’s brain, quickly dispatching it. Without a doubt Bell was a good shot and more then a little lucky His fast running probably got his bacon out of the fire a few times. WW 1 saw various rifles chambered for the 6.5’s in action. At one time the British listed it as the 256 Mannlicher and produced sporting rifles for it. It probably found some favor in Africa with the smaller big game due to its light recoil and weight. I imagine that if you could get Harrington & Richardson or Thompson Center to chamber a single shot rifle for the 6.5 Dutch that would be a real sweetheart of a rifle. Of course you could order a custom barrel for it if you are willing to pay the price for it.

Dutch 6.5 military ammo

The other soft points especially the heavier ones will give good penetration due to the mild velocities available. Ultra high velocities makes many bullets open up prematurely, thus cutting down on penetration. The nice thing about the smaller 6.5’s are the can use standard bullets to good effect. A 264 Winchester magnum demands a premium bullet to obtain its best performance. Bullet selection for the 6.5 caliber is relatively good. Bullets from 85 to 160 grains are made by one or more of our manufactures. Spitzers. round nose and hollow points are available. Hornady produces a 160 grain round nose that will also give some good penetration according to some tests I have conducted. They go through dry phone books like a hot knife going through butter. The Hornady bullet is the closest to the military in weight and profile. Cast bullets are also a viable option especially for small game and plinking loads.

The rifle I used for this test is a carbine with an 18” barrel with good rifling. The action has the appearance of being strong and well made. Balance is good for carrying and hunting. It has 2 locking lugs and a safety similar to the Mauser. I have no doubt that the metals and heat treatment used was the best of the day. When the safety is engaged it locks the bolt shut as well as stopping the gun from firing. I have no doubt that it is a good design. The bolt release is on the left side of the receiver. It works ok but needs a little muscle to work it. It is one of the only actions that is as smooth as the Krag. The bolt slides like greased glass. The magazine is a weird affair requiring a stripper clip if you can find one. That is perhaps it’s one weakness as far as I am concerned. Old Western Scrounger may have a clip for it from time to time. I shoot mine single shot, which is no problem for what I use it for. Carcanos among others have those detachable clips. Like most of the older military rifles when you pick it up you automatically have confidence in it. At least I do. The trigger is typical military with travel and let off. Since I shoot so many military rifles I find no problem with the trigger pull. I don’t what kind of wood it is but it is hard and of good quality. Stamped on the side is Hembrug 1916. The rear sight has mule ears somewhat like the Enfield rifle. According to Small Arms of The World many were converted to 303 British round in Indonesia during the 1950’s. That would say something about their strength and quality. When shooting it felt pretty comfortable, not too short or too long. I would rate the quality and finish on this rifle very high. Gunsmithing it would be possible though difficult. A scope with a side mount would be possible if you were willing to pay the tab. Peep sights may be installed if you wanted to take it hunting and your eyes were good. Also I suppose it could be rebarreled but the cost would be prohibitive for such a gun. Besides why not leave it in it’s original caliber and make ammo for it?

The real problem begins when you decide to shoot it. There are a few pieces of military ammo around but it is unreliable due to age. The cases and bullets I have seen are black and probably corrosive. I haven’t attempted to shoot it due to the age. Hang fires are one of the problems with this and other older military calibers I have seen. By the way if you insist on shooting it and have a misfire keep the rifle pointed down range for at least 60 seconds before unloading the rifle. Failure to heed this advice can cause you some real pain. Imagine having just started opening the bolt when it goes off! If you have military brass don’t use it unless you want to go to the trouble of decapping and priming the case. That is if the correct Bearden primer is available. There is no American ammo company that has ever made ammo for it as far as I know. Bertram Brass from Australia has made hulls for it but they are expensive and not always obtainable. Also with quality problems I have had with Bertram brass in the past I hesitate to recommend it. Maybe some in Europe makes it but I never saw any here. If you are a reloader you are in luck.

The 303 British case is perfect for use. Just trim it to 2.10” and full length size and you are in business. In a few instances you may have to trim or thin the rim but I had no such a problem. Once fired in your chamber set your sizing die so they fit with a tiny bit of feel. With sensible loads the cases will last many firings. I tried a few brands of cases including some military. For some reason the Remington cases didn’t work as well as the others. I have had that problem with Remington cases in other projects I have undertaken. Over 65% had their shoulder collapse during the sizing operation. It must be the way the brass was annealed. Winchester and Federal cases didn’t suffer the same fate. Even military cases did ok though I had some with a peculiar priming system. I discovered that even though it’s a boxer primer it had two tiny offset flash holes plus a smaller then normal center flash hole. I have a bunch that I pulled out the bullets for another project and so I trimmed them and used the original primer. After firing them I discovered the peculiar primer pockets when I tried to decap them. Even a small diameter decapping pin was too big. Anyway commercial brass is cheap enough so that’s what I will stick to for the most part. Upon firing these cases I observed no problems with feeding or chambering. There is a little loading data around but unless you have Cartridges of the World you may be out of luck. Anyway I concocted some loads that work fine in my gun. As always start a grain or two below the ones listed as max and work carefully up. The 6.5 is not a fussy round to load. Medium powders such as 4895 and VV 150 work very well with most weights of bullets. Anything slower then 4350 will cut velocities down especially with lighter bullets. Faster powders such as 3031 are ok with the lighter bullets but may jump pressure quite a bit with the 160’s even with a small increase. Winchester large rifle primers were used during the testing. Due to varying conditions and reloading practices neither the author nor the publisher can be responsible for use of this data.

8 X Herco 85 grain Sierra h.p. 1255 pest load
43 X VV 150 85 grain Winchester 3068 good load
37 X IMR 4895 85 grain Sierra h.p. 2673 decent load
41 X IMR 3031 85 grain Sierra h.p. 2979 max
35 X IMR 4895 100 grain Hornady 2578 ok
38 X RL # 19 100 grain Hornady 2365 mild
40 X AA 4350 120 grain Remington 2436* deer load
37 X IMR 3031 120 grain Remington 2660 deer
39 X VV 150 120 grain Remington 2550 good deer load
32 X IMR 4895 129 grain Hornady 2445 deer load mild
39.5 X RL# 19 129 grain Hornady 2133 mild
36 X IMR 3031 129 grain Hornady 2495 deer load **
38 X RL# 19 140 grain Remington 2032 quite mild
8 X Herco 140 grain cast 1221 consistent
39 X AA 4350 140 grain Remington 2325 * mild
37 X VV 150 140 grain Remington 2308 mild **
35 X VV 150 160 grain f.m.j. 2240 ok
37 X AA 4350 160 grain Hornady 2533 * ok
38 X AA 4350 160 grain Hornady 2253 mild **
36 X H 4895 160 grain Hornady 2328 max

No loads showed any signs of pressure in any way. Case life was good, some having been fired several times with no problems. Feeding and extraction were perfect. When I say max I mean that with such a short barrel that’s about all the velocity you can reasonably expect in an 18” barrel. After several firings primer pockets remain tight another indication of safe loads. I have no doubt that a 22 or 24” barrel would add at least 100 feet per second to velocities. All shots were fired from 10 feet from start screen and 7 shots were used as an average. * Bertram Brass ** Most accurate loads in my gun As always approach max loads with caution. Since the author and publisher have no control how this data is used we are not liable for load data use.

Cartridge overall loaded length
• 85 grain Winchester hollow point 2.762
• 120 grain Remington soft point 2.63
• 140 grain Remington soft point 2.907
• 140 grain cast 2.762
• 160 grain military bullet 3.075
• Of course they can be adjusted to what ever works in your rifle. The Dutch military has a long round nose seated way out. Generally the closer the bullet is to the lands the more accurate the load. This is true in most rifles regardless of caliber.

In shooting the gun I found recoil to be no problem what so ever. The trigger like most military had some travel prior to let off. Pull wasn’t bad and was consistent making it that much easier to shoot. While the sights are adequate for target shooting they leave a bit to be desired at least with my aging eyes. Accuracy is on par with other 6.5’s that I have shot. On a good day I can put 3 shots into 2 to 2 &1/2 “ at 100 yards with the most accurate bullets. The 140’s and 160 seem to be the most accurate at least in my rifle. The lighter slugs are ok especially if you seat them out a bit. You should keep at least 1 caliber of bullet in the neck to insure proper powder ignition. Even with a scope I doubt that it would do much better then 1” at 100 yards 3 shots. Of course that is very respectable accuracy and few people can shoot better then that from hunting positions.

With the loads and bullets available the Dutch is very adequate for some types of big game hunting. Any deer that ever walked would fall to the 120 to 140 grain slugs. Depending how good your eyes are you can use the iron sights for shots out to a couple of hundred yards. The rest of us would be better served by a scope at longer ranges. A 120 grain at 26-2700 feet per second should do nicely. If you were doing to hunt elk with it I would go with a 140 grainer probably a Nosler. Some would say it’s too light for elk but with a patient stalker and good shot it would do. After all some proclaim the 257 Roberts an adequate rifle for elk. The 160 grain with its high sectional density would handle a black bear and do a good job of it. In spite of all the new offerings coming out bullet placement is still the most important single factor in a successful hunt. The 160 grain round nose launched at 2400 feet per second has 2046 foot pounds of energy. At 200 yards energy still clocks in at 1205. Since many people consider 1000 pounds minimum looks like a 200 yard load for suited game animals. A 140 grain at 2500 produces 1943 pounds of energy at the muzzle while 200 yards shows 1426 easily making it a 200 yard deer load. The 120 at 2600 shows 1846 at the muzzle while at 200 yards energy drops to 1150, still enough for White Tail Deer. The 160 when sighted in at 100 yards drops about 6.5” at 200 yards.

The 140 under the same situation will drop about 5.5” while the 120 will drop about 4” when sighted in at 100 yards. Such a trajectory makes it a very useful 200 yard gun. With a scope and good shot placement the careful hunter could stretch it to about 250 yards. In good conscience I can’t recommend much over that for sure clean kills. Of course most big game animals are shot within 200 yards of the hunter.
The 85 and 100 grain bullets should be regulated to small deer and pests. They lack the sectional for good penetration and longer shots. The 85 grain zipping out at 3100 feet per second produces about 1600 foot pounds of energy. At 300 it drops to about 950 making in a decent varmint load but not for big game. If sighted in at 100 yards will drop about a foot at 300. With a scope and proper bullet placement there is no reason that a 300 yard shot can’t be done. A lead bullet load would be an excellent small game load where legal to use. The report is very low and the bullet will not destroy much meat. Such a long bullet would be good out to about 100 yards. The trajectory would be a lot different then a full power load. The lead bullet in my gun turned out to be very accurate as long as velocities were kept low. Drop at 100 yards with the lead load would be 12 to 18” lower then the full power jacketed offerings. With the high sectional density of the 140 grain penetration would be surprising ever at low velocities.

Bolt from 6.5 Dutch note sturdy locking lugs

In power it is only slightly less powerful then the 260 Remington. Loaded to the same pressures and same barrel length there would be little difference between the two. I didn’t try and squeeze the last foot second out of the Old Dutch rifle as there was no reason to do so. As it is I would take it hunting any time as it is short, light and handy. As you get older lighter and handier rifles make a lot of sense especially when shots are taken at normal range.
Bob Shell

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Other Carcano

The Other Carcano
In 1891 Italy produced their first modern military rifle replacing the Vetterli with a 6.5 caliber Carcano. The rifle was developed by Lt. Col. Salvatore Carcano and Col. Parravicino both who worked at the Torino arms factory in Turin. The original caliber propelled a 6.5 mm 162 grain bullet at approximately 2300 feet per second. For that time it was a decent load which compared favorably with other 6.5’s of the same period. Pressures were kept pretty mild around 38,000 PSI. or so. Anyway they kept that chambering until shortly before WW ll when they went to the 7.35 chambering. That chambering fired a 128 grain slug at 2480 feet per second which to me was inferior. To me the 128 grain slug has less sectional density so wouldn’t penetrate as much as the 6.5 would. Be as it may be the 7.35 came out but WW ll cut it off and they went back to the 6.5 due to supply considerations. In fact some of the 7.35’s was rebarreled to the 6.5 caliber. The 7.35 is merely the 6.5 necked up with no other changes to the case. The 6.5 is by far the most common and famous. The rifle that shot J.F.K was a 6.5 Carcano and at that time they could be bought through the mail for about $20. Ah the good ol days!

A fact not well known to everyone is that some Carcanos were made in the 8 X 57 Mauser chambering for the African campaign. The logic I suppose was to simplify ammo supplies with the Germans. I am not sure exactly how many were made but they are not real common today as is the other 2 chamberings. I heard that about 50,000 of those rifles were manufactured. The 8 mm is seldom mentioned in references regarding the Carcano or in other references on WW ll weapons. When it is it’s usually just a footnote. As far as I know it saw very little or no actual combat use in Africa or anywhere else. I do believe Hunter’s Lodge sells them, for those who are interested, and occasionally they appear at gun shows which is where I obtained mine. They advertise in the Shotgun News which is a good source to get military rifles and supplies. One of the problems which plague this as well as some other military rifles is the difficulty in getting a clip. It takes a special clip as the cartridge body is larger then either of the other Carcano rounds. Finding a clip would be like hitting the lottery. Like the other Carcano chamberings it can be fired single shot though it’s a slow process. To fire the 8mm single shot the bolt has to be removed and a cartridge inserted into the bolt head and replaced in the gun. Since I don’t plan on picking a fight with a gang with this rifle single shot isn’t a major hassle. While possible it’s not real easy to scope a Carcano. It would have to be a side mounted affair because of the clip going through the top. It might be worth while to scope a 6.5 but I would never do it to the 8 as they aren’t nearly as common.

Everyone knows that Carcanos are not as desirable a collector item as some other military pieces. Some folks consider them junk and shouldn’t be shot or kept for that matter. Of course that’s nonsense. Anyone that has come to that conclusion hasn’t taken the time to shoot or examine the Carcano in any depth. While not as strong as a Mauser or Arisaka they are adequate if fed properly. No military authority is going to issue a piece of junk to their troops if they expect to win a war. The metal finish is decent though somewhat crude and the wood looks rough but serviceable. The rear sight is non adjustable except by a file but the samples I shot are fairly straight on at 50 yards. Like all Carcanos I have seen the caliber marking is just in front of the front sight in this case it says 7.92. I wouldn’t challenge anyone to a shooting match unless we were both using Carcanos as the sight is crude. They are handy to carry and fairly light, though the magazine sticks out the bottom and if on can be used for hunting. I have shot a lot of ammo in all 3 chamberings and never had a malfunction. Of course I didn’t try and make a magnum out of any of them either. The bolt comes out by pulling the trigger and pulling the bolt out as in the other Carcanos. The extractor is adequate and the ejector located directly below the bolt seems pretty sturdy. The safety locks the bolt and holds the firing pin and it doesn’t seem particularly hard to use. To engage the safety push it forward and up. The locking lugs seem to be a pretty decent size and the bolt handle also acts as a safety lug, to a certain extent, in case the other two fail. There is a small hole in the bolt that may vent some gas in case of a case failure. I don’t know how good it would work but a ruptured case is unlikely especially using proper ammo and a gun in good shape. The trigger is simple and reliable being typical military. After shooting and examining these actions I don’t see where they are so bad if proper ammo is used. I did a project recently where I shot a lot of ammo in the 7.35 and never had problems of any kind. The worst feature in the Carcanos is trying to shoot it without a clip. The clip does however work fine as I have a couple for the 7.35.

Having said all that I would not fire any 8mm military ammo in it as it’s almost certainly too hot for that action. I have some military ammo that I chronographed in my 23” barrel 98 at just about 2900 feet per second with a 150 grain bullet. I imagine the pressures have to be around 50,000 PSI. or so which is way too much for the Carcano.

Loads for this gun should be kept mild. One source is using the minimum loads in loading manuals for the 8 X 57 Mauser. Here are some loads I have used and can recommend. If I was going to take this rifle deer hunting I would probably use the Hornady 170 grain flat nose and tweak the load to shoot to the point of impact with the original sight and use it as a single shot unless I found a clip. Since I hve no control over loading procedures I have no responsibility for its use. Use at your own risk & do not exceed.
10 X Unique 125 grain Hornady 1459 fair
50 X IMR 4350 150 grain Hornady 2379 mild
9 X Red Dot 165 grain cast 1241 accurate
10 X Unique 165 grain cast 1357 also accurate
47 X 748 170 grain Hornady 2374 favorite

The 8 mm Carcano is an interesting part of history even if it didn’t play a significant roll in the African campaign. While I do shoot mine on occasion I consider it more of a historic relic to look at and show other interested folks.
Bob Shell

Friday, August 8, 2008

Gun Vandals

Actions such as this will get shooting areas closed in a hurry

Gun Vandalism
On both sides of the border we have politicians and various groups trying to take away our gun rights anyway they can. They are determined and well financed and don’t intend to quit until they succeed. Most of the media both print and TV are against gun ownership by law abiding citizens. Don’t bother them with facts as they have their agenda and are going to run with it. Hunting is also under a mindless assault by the same people.

The problem lies with a small segment of the shooting community is bound and determined to help these people to take our rights away. They will talk about their rights while their actions are destroying them. The folks that I am referring to are the gun vandals. They only make up a very small percentage of the gun owners but their voice is heard all out of proportion to their numbers. These are the jerks that go up and down the road shooting road signs and other property. They have no regard for life or property as they are just living for the moment. I feel that I am on safe ground when I state that many are drinking during this activity. That in itself is a cardinal sin. Guns and alcohol should never mix. First of all gunpowder and alcohol don’t mix very well and it taste lousy. When you shoot a sign you have no idea where the bullet will end up. There may be a car coming toward you or a house down the road. A high powered bullet can easily travel two miles and a sign won’t slow it down much. Another problem is poachers. When the public hears about poaching especially rare species then all the hunters get blamed. My advice is if you see poaching going on report it to the authorities. If we don’t clean our house some else will do so and we might not like the way they do it. Imagine a hiker finding deer carcasses in the middle of the summer and how they will feel about hunting.

After this sign was shot where do the bullets go?

Let’s take a hypothetical situation and see what happens. It is a fact that about 60% of the population doesn’t have a strong opinion on gun ownership either way. However events can make them go to one side or another. Suppose John Doe and his family decides to take a drive on a country road. As they go along they see all the road signs with bullet holes in them. What do you suppose they are going to feel about gun ownership? They know that they the taxpayers have to foot the bill to replace those signs. That is a reflection on all gun owners including the responsible ones. Now suppose that some gun slob is shooting at a sign and a stray bullet goes through his windshield and narrowly misses one of his kids in the back seat. I guarantee that you just created another rabid anti gun family. If some one is struck they might become activists in the anti gun movement and no amount of dissuasion will change their minds.

This activity turns off the public and might make then anti-gun

Like any other sport how we conduct ourselves will influence the public in various ways. Another no no is to put tin cans or bottles on a body of water and shoot at them. There are at least two reasons for that. First it litters the body of water both above and below. The other thing is bullets will ricochet off the water endangering everything around. There may be buildings, livestock or people in the area. Let’s suppose that the Doe family along with some friends is on one side of a pond having a picnic. You come along with a few bottles and throw them into the water and start shooting at them. Pretty soon bullets start flying all over the place narrowly missing the picnickers. You will ruin their day hopefully without hitting anyone and guess which side of the issue they will be on.

When people drive down a road and see this vandalism they don’t appreciate it. There are instances where mail boxes and buildings have been vandalized this way and there is no excuse for this behavior. Shooting at birds on telephone wires is another situation that shows that some people don’t deserve to own a gun. Another turn off is some people target shoot out in the boonies. There is no problem as long as you are not trespassing and leaving litter. We all shoot cans and bottles and various other targets but we should clean up afterwards because if the owner has to he will close it for shooting. You should never shoot glass containers of any kind as they leave a dangerous mess.

Another shot sign

What are we as responsible gun owners to do? First of all we need to conduct ourselves in a manner above reproach. I would sincerely hope that anyone reading this magazine doesn’t participate in this activity and if they do stop it immediately. Think of what you are doing to this great sport before you pull the trigger. We can educate new and non shooters as to what we are about and spread the word. If we observe someone committing vandalism or poaching then we should notify the authorities. The punishments for these offenses can be fairly severe and it may stop some people from repeating these violations.
We have to remember that this is our sport that we love and we need to step up and do the right thing when necessary.
Bob Shell