Friday, October 22, 2010

Up swing in activity!

This blog is catching on. Feel free to leave comments or become a follower and get the latest information. Here are some places on the web I go to get information.
For Zoot Shooting and the 1920s-1930s lifestyle I go to:
For Cowboy action and Western History:
For military rifles and pistols:
For single actions and black powder:

Monday, October 18, 2010

I took the plunge and joined the Zoot Shooters.

A few weeks ago I wrote about a new shooting sport centered on fun and enjoyment called Zoot Shooting. I took the plunge and joined and I can’t wait to get started, first match for me will be in the spring. The emphasis is on 1920s-1930s costuming and the fun of shooting some classic firearms like the M1927 Thompson and the Model 1911. However, there are a large number of great classic firearms that fit the period and cost a lot less. Some great values are .38 special revolvers made by Colt and Smith & Wesson; these can be found with at used gun counters all over the country at attractive prices.
As long as it is mechanically sound, these guns with some finish wear will look and perform great in Zoot Shooting. The list is too long to name but the number of firearms available as pre 1939 style is immense. Of course the gun can be of later manufacture as long as it is in approximate 1939 configuration. There is a place for revolvers and semi autos, and I think there is no clear advantage to either. For CAS shooters, the usual cowboy guns (revolvers and rifles) will work just fine, in fact so will some of the leather.
For rifles, the Thompson is available and reasonably affordable; Winchester Model 92 clones are plentiful and comparatively inexpensive. A few of the more interesting choices would be the Winchester M1907 semi auto rifle and stocked Mauser or Luger pistols.
Zoot Shooting has not yet added stages or defined in the rules which shotguns might be eligible. Cowboy double barrel and lever shotguns and the Winchester 1893,1897, 1912, would seem logical, along with Remington, Stevens, and Ithaca offerings could be very interesting.
I think the best advice is to assemble the guns now, and avoid the rush later on.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Great War

The trenches, a cold, wet, muddy world of barren landscapes, where the air was filled with poison gas, and angry steel tornados. Death, heroism, and desperation were everywhere. The trenches were the inspiration for Tolkien’s middle earth. A barren pitiless world, it was a model for Armageddon. A whole generation was lost there. It was hell on earth, which we can only imagine or see in nightmares. The Great War, it touched lives around the globe, it changed the physical and political face of two continents. It was the graveyard of several empires.
I have several guns from the Great War. Their history is unknown, except for one. I know its history; it was there in the trenches. I know this because my Grandfather carried it “Over There” and back. It’s been in our family since it was issued to my Grandfather, an Army Officer, in early 1916. He was part of the Army of the West, whose last operation was the pursuit of Poncho Vila after the infamous raid on Columbus, New Mexico.
This pistol stayed with my Grandfather from the heat and dust of Mexico to the mud of France, and 30 years beyond. It’s really in remarkable shape considering its journey through an incursion into Mexico and two World Wars. The pistol is a testament to Colt’s manufacturing and of course, John M. Browning’s timeless design. This particular one was made in 1914, almost 97 years ago. The pistol’s wear and scars bear witness to the desperate circumstances of the war. It barked at the enemy, and was in my Grandfather’s hand when he was grazed by a machinegun bullet. Now, it sits in a quiet and admired retirement. But make no mistake, it can still kick out 7 rounds of 45 ACP was well as it did in 1918. The very few people who I let view ot hold it ask me how much it’s worth. Of course, it’s priceless.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

People are Reading and Watching!

This blog has had an increasing number of page views since its inception in late august. We’re up over 600! If you like what you see please comment. If you disagree please comment also. I love the classic firearms of years past and I like to recall their times and adventures. Please recommend us to others! I believe there is a whole world of great guns that have been pushed to the background by modern tactikool fads. Somehow a U.S. Krag Carbine excites me more that a TAPCO cluttered AK.
I also believe that while firearms serve a serious purpose, guns should also be fun, a connection to history and our nation’s exciting past, and a bridge to the next generation of shooters. Take a kid shooting! After safety and marksmanship fundamentals, encourage them to shoot the guns of history. Even in a video game infested world, the real thing still has magic. They will remember these times for life.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Colt Style Cap and Ball Revolvers

I really enjoy shooting Cap and Ball revolvers. They are in some ways the essence of “Classic Firearms”. There are several things to know if you want to have a trouble free shooting session with cap and ball revolvers. First, don’t use petroleum base lubricants, I have found that they encourage fouling and have poor performance. Thompson Center Bore Butter is an excellent lubricant. There are also good non petroleum based cleaners on the market, if you have a Cabelas or Bass Pro Shops near you these can be bought off the shelf. Second, know how to safely handle, load, and disassemble your revolver. Follow all the safety rules for shooting any other firearm. Third, here are items, supplies and techniques I have used:

o Hornady "One Shot" Muzzleloader Cleaner and Lube Protect ant
T/C Bore Butter
o Mobil 1 synthetic grease.
o Crisco (inexpensive), or Ox-Yoke revolver seals (sort of expensive), or Cabelas BP lubricant
o Lubricated Felt Wads
How to lubricate a Cap and ball revolver for shooting.
o I lubricate the revolver by putting lubricant on a patch and running it in the bore and each chamber (not too much).
o I also put lubricant on the revolver base pin, and a little on the front of the cylinder.
o I place a very little on the nipple threads prior to instillation.
o Lubricants I‘ve used are Mobil 1 synthetic grease (a non traditional lube) and Thompson Bore Butter. I can also make a good one with 1/3 olive oil and 2/3 bees wax.
o I make sure the nipples are clean and not blocked (either by firing caps with and EMPTY chamber or using the straightened paper clip).
o Hornady swaged lead balls (.375 for .36 Cal) (.451 or .454 for my .44 cal 1860 Army revolvers) (.454 or.457 for the Walker and Dragoon revolvers).

Propellants and Caps
o Remington #10 percussion caps (very good caps)
o Pyrodex "P" grade Black Powder Substitute
o .44 cal Pyrodex 30 grain pistol pellets for my 1860 .44s
o Goex FFFG Black Powder
o American Patriot Powder BP Substitute
o I use Goex FFFG black powder as it is the most accurate I've tried. I have found that Pyrodex P is nearly as good as Goex FFFG. I've used APP (formerly "Clean Shot") but it is not as accurate. Remington #10 caps work well in revolvers and they're hotter that other brands giving good ignition. I’m still experimenting with Pyrodex 30 grain pellets.

o Nipple Wrench for Walker /Dragoon and a smaller one for 1851/1860 models
o Spare pistol nipples (sometimes sold with the wrench in a packaged deal.) The best nipples are Treso bronze nipples, but I use Uberti and Pietta successfully also.
o Powder flask (type and style is up to you)
o Powder measure or an empty spent 38 Special casing (44 Special for 44 cal)
o Paper clip straightened out (to clean nipples in the revolver)
o Capper for percussion caps

• To charge the revolver, I use a powder measure to measure the FFFG BP or Pyrodex P for each chamber. I go from the flask to the measure. I use a felt wad seated by the loading lever, and then I seat the ball with the loading lever. I cap the chamber with Mobile 1 grease, Crisco, or an Ox-yoke .36 revolver seal. Make sure the revolver cylinder turns freely (i.e. the balls are seated deep enough) Repeat for each chamber. The revolver must be on half cock for this operation.

• To cap the revolver, I use a capper and cap each nipple, I use a small piece of soft wood or antler to give the cap a second push to make sure it's fully seated.

• After the revolver is fully capped and loaded it's ready to cock and fire. In between loadings it’s a good idea to clean the nipples with the paperclip. There are other ways to load these great old revolvers, some people do not use the felt wads, and it's possible to use to make combustible paper cartridges for them. I never lead from the flask to the chamber, that's why I use a cartridge case as a measure.

• Given the difference in revolvers and techniques, the revolver will have to be cleaned at intervals if it's being shot all day. In my experience it's every 18 to 30 rounds.

Some Tips
o Keep your supplies organized in a good shooting box; this is especially important if several calibers are being shot.
o Chain fire prevention. Chain fires occur (they are very rare) when two chamber ignite at the same time. To prevent this make sure your ball shaves a little lead circle when being seated in the chamber. This will seal the chamber. Next, make sure the percussion caps are a snug fit on the nipples. Caps and nipples vary so some experimentation may be required to find the correct combination for a particular revolver.
o Keep your eye on the wedge on Colt type revolvers. It can work loose during shooting and cause a misfire or fall out of the revolver.
o Keep a rag handy in your shooting box. It helps remove fouling during the shooting session.
o Most Colt style cap and ball revolvers shoot high at normal pistol ranges. If in doubt aim low until you can see the point of impact.
o Lead balls tend to bounce off hard (metal) targets
o Keep a screwdriver set handy as screws may loosen during the shooting session.
o HAVE FUN!!! These revolvers are a unique way to experience history.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It happened to me.

An encounter with the bad people (there is no dramatic shoot out or heroes in this story). Here is some background. This goes back to my pre driving mid teenage years, the Vietnam War was ending and Richard Nixon was just reelected President of the United States. In attitudes and actions it was a different world than what we have today. I lived on my parents’ cattle ranch in a large rural county (the kind where law enforcement took at least an hour to arrive if called). It was modest, working cattle ranch, with large open spaces, where I could roam, and hunt. I had a list of daily chores after school that included feeding animals, repairing fences, and other maintenance tasks.
My parents were in town with my younger brother and my older brother was due back from college late that evening. In this low crime environment, being on the ranch by myself for a few hours was not a big deal. I usually hunted birds, squirrels, or just plinked in the afternoons after the chores were done.
One fall day after school, I was repairing an irrigation ditch next to the county road, a simple but, wet and muddy task. Due to the nature of the work, I didn’t have my usual companion, a lever action .22 rifle with me. I frequently carried my .22 rifle in the afternoon for snakes, or squirrels. But when in the mud, the .22 was left in the house.
While finishing the work in the muddy ditch, I heard the unmistakable sound of crack!, crack!, crack!, from a .22 rifle. I looked in the direction of the sound and about 200 yards away was a car on the county road and one man was shooting at some of our cattle in the pasture. This is a very big deal in cattle country, cows and calves represent significant value and economic investment. In a flash the car was heading down the county road towards me at high speed. I was separated from the concealment of trees and safety of the house by two fences and the road. I crossed these but the car was so fast that I was only 20 feet from the road as the car arrived. I could not get away fast enough. I looked back as it slowed down, three men (late teens early 20s) were inside looking at me grinning and yelling something like “-------be back” and pointing their fingers at me like hand guns (index fingers as barrels and thumbs like hammers) the way a child would. They speeded away and I got a partial license number.
I ran back to the house, not really knowing what to do first, our telephone line was actually a “party Line” in which every house on our road shared the same line. It was busy so I had to break in and get everyone off before I could call the sheriff’s office. I called the sheriff office, described the incident, gave them a partial plate and described the perpetrators, and was met with complete indifference. It was not until over an hour later when my parents called the sheriff that the incident was taken seriously.
Here is what went through my mind at that point. The perpetrators were armed, I was the only witness to their crimes. They had threatened me (with fingers, not guns), and I heard them yell “be back”. I had access to three guns at the time, a single shot .410 (useless for defense) a Browning .22 Lever action, and a Winchester 94 30-30. I grabbed the 94 and loaded it and put the rest of the box in my pocket. Not wanting to be cornered in the house, I went outside and moved into the trees. I had a green plastic trash bag (a ranch hand had shown me how to make a rain poncho out of this) I made a poncho as a form of primitive camouflage. And I waited. The perps never came back (fortunately!), my parents dealt with the authorities. Life returned to normal. Shortly after this incident, the perpetrators were arrested on several charges including drugs and alcohol. They were, in fact, out of ammunition (a rifle and shell casings were in the car) when they passed me on the road but were too drunk and high to return. While they may have just been “joy riding and hell-raising”, I feel fortunate they were out of ammo when they passed me on the road.
Things I learned that day. Expect the unexpected, don’t trust the law enforcement can or will respond in rural areas, always have the means to escape or of defense from multiple assailants. Have a tool kit of weapons that facilitates security and defense. I was lucky to have a Winchester model 94. While Winchester model 94s are great rifles, a 7.62 NATO battle rifle (like my M1A) with a 20 round magazine or a 30-06 M1 Garand, would have shredded their car and the people in it. Even low crime “sleepy” rural places have crime, just not as often.
Things are more dangerous today than, nearly 40 years ago. Having a good, reliable, and powerful, rifle or handgun in the country is important. Just as important are situational awareness and contingency plans.