Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Up Gunning the SKS: The Shernic Bullpup Stock andPride-FowlerRR-Evolution BLK Optic

One of my pet thoughts is that many older firearms designs are often underestimated by the fads of the moment.  One should bear in mind that the designers of weapons did the best they could to come with a tool that would get a job done; for the designers of military weapons, that job could very well have meant the very survival of their country's way of life.  In my early career as a military analyst I always respected the way the mission dictated the machines.   I think it's fun to learn to understand what the strengths and limitations of the solutions they came up with were; because they are so instructive about what solutions would be needed tomorrow.

A Proud History

The SKS-45.  This one's a Chinese Type 56. One of the many that entered the U.S. in the 1980's

The Samozaryadnyj Karabinsistemy Simonova or SKS was originally designed as a closing engagement weapon for the infantry element of mobile tank armies.  In this role, foot troops were in the role of security for tanks and not fully committed until the end game of an attack.  It was a solution designed to compete with the threat of the other massive mobile tank army that fought the Soviets, the armies of Nazi Germany.  It competed in this mission role with the very similar German Stg 44 and, in the USSR, gave way after the war to the AK-47.  It is a 500 meter and under battle envelope system who's concept carries on today in, among other things, the U.S. M-4 version of the M-16 series weapons system.

The SKS did not serve in the Soviet armies for very long.  It proved more susceptible to dirt than the AK-47 but, like so many rifles of it's time, soldiered on being supplied to and manufactured by allies and client states in massive numbers.

The SKS is today considered to be somewhat of a "poor man's" rifle.  They were rare in the 1960's with just a few samples making their way to the United States as Southeast Asian war trophies. Following the end of the Vietnam War, as America knew it, in 1975, a rather odd period of animus broke out between the Vietnamese and Chinese.  The Chinese realized that their southern neighbor and Russian ally now had the most technologically advanced tank army on the Asian mainland since the Imperial Japanese Army of World War II.  For a time, age old regional tensions dating from the age of iron escalated enough that the Chinese began to stockpile weapons on their southern frontier.

Eventually these tensions subsided and the era of economic trade with the West began.  In the late 1980's, one of the things the new breed of Chinese entrepreneurs began to ship to America were SKS semi-automatic rifles.  They sent them in such quantity at prices so low that US manufacturers began to clamor for import controls.  Later on, after the end of the Cold War, SKS's from Warsaw Pact and former Soviet war reserve arsenals began to arrive as well.  They remain low priced semi-automatic alternatives to the .30-30 Winchester for short range hunting and a good value solutions versus the late-comer .300 AAC Blackout rifles that fire a cartridge ballistically identical to the 7.92x39mm Soviet.  If you really want to, you can even make a subsonic 7.62x39mm round using pistol powders in charge weights in the .45 ACP range and heavy .303 British weight 0.311" bullets; that's pretty much all a subsonic .300 AAC Blackout is.  In guns, there's no such thing as magic but you sometimes have to pick up an old musty reloading manual to find the potion recipes.

Up Gunning the SKS

A Yugo SKS with an as-issued fixed magazine repackaged into a bullpup stock configuration.

The main weakness of the SKS and it's AK-47 cousin versus the M-16 systems platform is perceived accuracy potential.  The accuracy potential is actually there but you have to make some changes to the packaging of the gun.  Several years ago, I experimented with this with an iron sight solution for the SKS and found out that the spring held rear sight is to blame for the SKS's meandering behavior reputation.  The rear sight can move as much as 6 to 8 MOA side-to-side randomly as the gun is fired. That is greater movement than the width of a standard bullseye.  It's literally pointing at a different place shot to shot.  Changing the sight system to a less jittery one reveals the rifle can hold between 1 to 2 MOA or about the same as a rack-grade M-1 Garand.  That should not be surprising given that both rifles are military designs from the same battlefield era.  The axiom that mission drives engineering remains intact.

Better sights do wonders for the SKS but until recently, getting an optical sight mounted on an SKS has been rather problematic.  Solid durable bases suitable for current generation rifle scopes that do not lose zero and still allow proper dis-assembly for maintenance had been missing from the market. This is now beginning to be addressed.  Firms like RPC in Texas have begun to market replacement receiver covers with Picatinny rails that tie solidly into the action. These solutions work well but they do raise sight height above bore line.  You should plan to put the SKS into an aftermarket stock designed to provide good cheek weld with an optic if you go this path.

Another firm that has tackled the systems solutions problem is Shernic Gun Works in Alhambra, CA with their Bullpup Stock solution.  The assembled SKS reminds one of a .30 caliber Tavor. The trigger linkage mechanism delivers similar feel to the original donor rifle. It allows for stripper clip loading which is great if you elect to keep the original 10-round military magazine. And it has a top rail for mounting pretty much any sight system you'd also care to mount.

Note the gun is now an inline barrel configuration similar to the M-16, Steyr AUG, FN 2000, FAMAS, Tavor, et al.  The trigger operates via a linkage connected to the orginal trigger.  Sighs are mounted around 2.75" above bore axis, same as the M-16 series system.  Rails allow use of a bipod creating a compact and stable firing solution.

The SKS sits snugly in the bullpup stock.  The scope rail top cover joins to the stock via eight mating screws.

The trigger linkage is ingenious and when properly adjusted feels pretty close to the original trigger which, while it doesn't come even close to what can be done with an AR-15, is still manageable enough to deliver good shots.
This particular Bullpup rifle has an SKS with a fixed 10 round magazine in it that can be fed by SKS stripper clips.  The stock cover removes with one pin then allowing removal of the SKS receiver cover and easy access to clean the barrel inserting brushes and patches from the breech.   Most of the other scope mounting designs are not as convenient for accomplishing field maintenance.

This gun installed in this stock is a Yugoslavian model.  They are more prone to gas leak short stroking than the simpler and more robust Chinese variant.  Replacing the gas cutoff plug helps as this part takes the brunt of the erosion coming out of the barrel hole.  Surplus guns have seen a lot of hot gas.  Greasing the piston grooves helps too.  The concept is much the same as lubricating the gas rings on an AR to help keep the seal to function the action. 

The Shernic product does have some quirks at this stage in its development.   The Picatinny rail on the top piece is comes out of a mold that, due to heat shinkage, is about 0.030" narrow of a military specification rail.   It's a bit loose which is not good for accuracy.  Fortunately 3/100th's of an inch is easily shimmed.   Shernic does have plans to build a new mold in the future that will produce mil-spec rails but currently recommends using a shim made from cut up plastic gift cards to establish firm contact for mounted optics.  I found three or four layers of masking tape work too at which point you've got a solid mount.   Because the stock's rail is made from plastic, I recommend using a 1/2" aluminum riser to build a more durable rail to attach the scope rings to.  You have to do it anyway because a riser is required with most in-line - meaning the barrel is in line with the shoulder - stock designs.

The Shernic design is a work in progress.  This image shows the use of layers of masking tape to build up material to make up for an 0.030" too thin top rail due to plastic shrinkage tolerances in the mold.  The company has made incremental improvements to the design in the past and says it plans to offer a replacement mil-spec rail top cover in the future. 

Optics: Let's go All the Way to a Ballistic Compensating Reticle

As I said earlier, the 7.62x39mm cartridge is the ballistic twin of rounds like the .30-30 Winchester and .300 AAC Blackout.   The numbers tell the story.  From zero to 600 yards, a modern ballistic compensating scope with an etched reticle for the .300 Blackout supersonic rounds will be within 1 MOA of point of aim; that's within 6 inches point of impact holding on the same aim point for either round out to 600 yards.

.300 AAC Blackout7.62x39 mm
RangeVelocity, fpsDrop, MOAVelocity, fpsDrop, MOA

It turns out there is such a scope available.  The people at Pride-Fowler Industries released a .300 Blackout 1.25-4X first-focal plane etched reticle optic just over a year ago that sells for about $350.00.  I'd taken a look at a 7.62/.5.56 NATO version of scopes from the same OEM factory source when they came out and mentioned I had this SKS Bullpup Tavor'ish thing I had put an old Weaver El Paso K3 with a post reticle on and was having fun with to John Pride.  He said "well that's really interesting" and then a package showed up with one of these PFI Blackout scopes in it with a hand written note saying "Give this a try and tell me if it works."

The Pride-Fowler RR-Evolution BLK mounted on the SKS.
And so off came the Weaver K3.  I digress to report it did not wind up in some junk box but instead went on a Lee-Enfield No.4 Mk1(T) sniper rifle clone to shoot a CMP Vintage Sniper match.   Back to the SKS,  When I first tested it I was disappointed in the performance.  I had attached the Weaver K3 using mounts that were narrower on their footing so they were solid with the Shernic stock's top rail but I used mil-spec Picatinny monts with the PFI scope.  That's how I discovered the undersized rail width and the need to shim later confirmed to me by Shernic Gun Works.

Left side view of the scope mounting showing the use of the 1/2" aluminum riser.  This raises the scope to the proper height for the eye with a straight line stock and provides a more durable metal versus plastic contact point to attach the rings.  In this photo, a PFI Combat Red Dot sight is also attached.  It's actually the most expensive thing in the photograph. :)
The scope works like other ammunition matched ballistic compensating such as the military's ACOG and RCO combat optics for the M-16 and PFI's RR-900 model for M-14 based Designated Marksman 7.62x51mm NATO and the PFI/US Optics collaboration 1-6X scope designed for the FN-SCAR also in 7.62x51mm NATO.  All of these scopes incorporate both target range estimation and ballistic holdover compensation into their etched glass reticles.  Most are based on the flight curve of NATO specification ammunition which is remarkably the same for both the 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm ammunition.  STANAG standards equals mission definition equals engineering performance remember?

The PFI BLK scope differs from the NATO spec scopes in that its etched ranging reticle traces the Soviet intermediate ammunition flight curve.  As far as I know, it's the only one available to the U.S. market that currently does.  That's significant because the 7.62x39mm and it's ballistic cousins represent a sizable under addressed market segment.  Just saying.

The PFI RR-Evolution BLK optic.  Notice it has both subsonic and supersonic range markers to the left and right of the vertical axis.   You use the supersonic marks with the 7.62x39mm Soviet round. 
Does it work?

You bet it does.  With the scope base now shimmed tight to the top piece,  I re-zeroed the scope for the 200 yard hack in the reticle on a 6"x 6" steel plate.  Then I leap frogged to a 12" x 12" target at 300 yards and refined the zero there while firing a checkpoint round now and then to affirm the 200 yard reticle mark still connected with its target.   Then out to another 16" x 20" plate at 600 yards holding on the 600 yard maker and making final elevation adjustments.   After that, firing sets of 200 --> 300 --> 600 shot sequences at will was easy as can be.

Give it a try.  The old SKS will surprise you with what it can do.

Note:  If you want to look them up,  Shernic Gun Works is at http://sgworks.com/  and  Pride-Fowler is at http://rapidreticle.com/

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My Savage Beast

The Gun

When I was a young college student in the 1970's, I bought an old rifle out of a barrel.  It was a Lee-Enfield No. 4 Mk1* made by Savage in 1942.  It was a sorry beater that had seen better days but I loved the feel of it.  I fed it cheap surplus .303 ammunition that smelled of rotten eggs and demanded cleaning immediately.  I never expected much out of it than to plink.  Eventually my exploring of the art of the rifle would lead me to other pastures and the old gun reigned as queen of the closet.

Lend-Lease "U.S. Property" stamp.

Then in 2005, the Civilian Marksmanship Program came to Camp Pendleton, California and hosted the Western Games.  Back in those days, all I had for the game was the M-1 Garand but it whet my appetite for more.  Over the next few years I bought an M1903A3 Springfield and started to ponder what to shoot for the Vintage Military Rifle class. The smart money told me to go for a Swedish Mauser in 6.5x55.  I actually started down that path but something deep inside hit me.  I owed this gun in the back of the safe a chance to shine in the sun.  Out came the Savage.  I started by shooting it at club matches. It had issues. The stock was loose. The rear sight was a folding leaf set for 300 yards.  The ammo I had was both corrosive and erratic.

Proof mark and not so proof mark.  DP means drill pattern; the kiss of death for a service rifle.  But this gun had a great barrel and it turned out that what was wrong with it was that somewhere it its life a too short mismatching numbered bolt body wound up in the gun.  Replacing the bolt body with a longer one got it to headspace with SAAMI gauges with a size "0" bolt head.  It may not last forever but I have it feeling it'll be tight a good long time.

The conventional wisdom about Lee-Enfields in competition said let it go and learn Swedish.  The gun has a DP stamp on the action which means Drill Pattern.  It had been rejected from service at one point and obviously resurrected of sorts by the gunsmith at the shop that had put it in that cheap deals barrel in the 1970's. Fine. Whatever. I was determined to get the gun to win a medal.  But there was one thing it had going for it that meant everything.  The barrel of the gun was in superior shape and had the most magical "goodness" to be wanted in a Lee-Enfield, a throat that provided good two point contact for a boat tail hollow point bullet between the case mouth and the rifling verified using a Stoney Point gauge.  I know accuracy potential when I smell it.  I spent the money and fitted a replacement stock set from Numrich.  I learned about, ordered and fitted a longer size "L" buttstock. I changed the rear sight.  I got commercial Remington brass and stocked up on 174 gr. Sierra Match Kings.

In 2009, I took it to Phoenix, Arizona's Ben Avery Shooting Complex where the CMP Western Games had moved to.  Things didn't quite go as planned.  I learned that guns with no windage adjustment are rather hard to shoot precisely in the wind.  But all that really did was make it so now I really wanted that medal.  A hiatus from shooting because I owned a bank risk ratings company and some fool blew up the banking system in 2008 meant I wouldn't bring the Enfield to Western Games again until 2013.  I shot the gun occasionally.  I loaded up full-sized once fired Remington cases with 38.0 grains of H4895 under 174 SMK's and headed to Phoenix.  What ensued was an exercise in determination to finish the match.  The case heads began to separate; five of them completely and many more incipiently by the time I was done. I wrote a blog entry about it last year called ".303 Learning Curve".  You can read about it in the other blog post but the short story is an adventure in learning about Lee-Enfield headspace and lots of sight parts swapping later, the end result was a gun that printed tightly.  It's a tale as much about how miraculously helpful the worldwide community can be as it is about a year used to rethink and rebuild my approach to my gun.  I an forever grateful for all the help and advice I received from around the world.  I've undoubtedly spent more on this gun than I originally paid for it by a lot.  Fine. Whatever. Such it is when men obsess.

Testing the Savage at the Burbank Rifle and Revolver Club in Castaic, California swapping front sight blades until it shoots into the 10-ring with a comfortable sight picture with the rear sight dial set at 200 yards.  Notice the 2013 trigger weighing inspection tape around the trigger guard.

The Fodder

On to ammunition.  As documented in that previous blog about this gun, I've changed so much.  I abandoned almost all of my old dies except for the seater and wound up with a Redding body die and neck sizer for case preparation.  I use the body die sparingly.  Just enough to get clean feeding.  I went from a full size die - that causes case head separations - to a Lee Collet die - not enough neck tension - and finally to a Redding neck sizer die.  That's a mouthful and about the original purchase price of the rifle in itself.  So be it. We're talking determination here.

One sentimental nuance.  After last year's debacle, a fellow shooter handed me two boxes of empty PPU brass.  I carefully sized and then fire formed this brass to the Savage's chamber.  I took these cases back to Ben Avery in 2014.  A fellow shooter's generosity also deserves its day in the sun.

The Savage No.4 Mk1* with the two boxes of PPU cases I was handed in 2013 in Phoenix.  A CMP GSM Course A match expends 35 rounds.  5 sighters, 10 slow prone, 10 rapid prone and 10 offhand all at 200-yards shooting at an NRA SR target.

A Redding body die, Redding neck sizer and Lee seater die are the new kit for making my .303 British competition ammunition.  Military cases have a thicker web and are much preferred versus the thinner U.S. commercial brass.
Cases sized and cleaned.  Notice that the shoulders are blown out from fire forming them to the rifle chamber.

Primed using Lee's excellent press top priming tool.  Yes that is a Lee Classic press with a three hole turret top.  I modified it this way because I have so many of the three hole turrets and I like that they aren't as crowded as the four hole ones.  It has a lot of power for sizing and it's very precise for seating.
Yes I throw my charges.  So do the big ammunition makers.  These second generation Lee Auto-Disk Powder measures with the elastomer wipers are amazingly consisted.  This one has a stacked double disk cavity and it is delivering 38.0 grains of H4985 in one drop.  Confirmations with an electronic scale say all is well.
The 174 grain Sierra Match King.

Another loaded round ready for the 2014 CMP Western Games in Phoenix, Arizona.
A tray of .303 British match ammunition in the making.

And then it's off to the races.  All triggers need to be weighed to make sure they make minimum weight. If you pass you get your yellow tape.  If you ever spot someone's rifle with this inspection tape in the trigger guard, it means the rifles been to one of the major competition tournaments.

2014 inspection completed.

The Day of Reckoning

So what happened?  Phoenix was as Phoenix is.  It was a sweltering, sunny day.  A mad dogs and Englishmen out in the noon day sun kind of day.  A day where one fills one's quart container with ice water, drinks it all and sweats it all out kind of day.  Well the gun and ammunition came through wonderfully. Rifle operation was smooth as silk. Sights dead on using a comfortable sight picture.  The ammunition fed like a charm, stayed together and shot tightly.

On the line at Ben Avery Range at the 2014 CMP Western Games cradling the rifle between shots.

The pure joy of working the bolt of a Lee-Enfield No.4 Mk1* that you've spent a lifetime with at a major U.S. rifle tournament is worth the journey to get there.

I love this picture taken by the CMP photographer.  It captures the complete focus and concentration at a rifle match; the very essence of first person competition.  It absorbs you into a bubble where it's just you, the gun and the target.  I've been doing it since I was nine years old and I would not trade the experience for the world.

And at long last, I met my goal that this old friend brought home its first CMP achievement medal.

The payoff.  How fleeting this moment that has so much meaning.  That is world champion Gary Anderson presenting my my Bronze CMP Western Games Vintage Military Rifle Achievement medal.  Great man from whom I have learned a lot.  It is a privilege to call him friend. 
This was a hard won trinket.  It means a lot to that young college student that lives inside me that bought that cheap rifle so long ago.  Best piece of bronze I've even acquired.  I was walking on air.

The Savage No.4 Mk1* with its medal.

What's next?  The progression of CMP achievement goes bronze, silver, gold and wood.  Wood meaning winning the overall match and getting a plaque.  We'll see how far this goes.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

First Impression: The CMP’s new Creedmoor Sports .30-06 Ammunition

The CMP Western Games held each October at Ben Avery Range in Phoenix, Arizona is one of the must go gatherings of the shooting family that is well worth making the time to attend.   World champions shoot side by side with first timers renewing old friendships and making new ones.  People fly in from other continents to enjoy some of the best as-issued rifle shooting to be had anywhere.

And so it was that Dennis DeMille shot the best score with an M1903A3 Springfield.  At the 2014 Western Games, this honor came with a prize.  One 50-round box of brand new .30-06 match ammunition donated by Creedmoor Sports.  Awkward hilarity ensued given the Mr. DeMille also happens to be the general manager of the donor.  But heckling among one’s friends is what shooting is all about and Dennis took the moment well.  What he did next is why this article is being written.  Dennis sat down looked around, saw me and handed me the box and said, “Shoot it and write about it”.

Creedmoor Sports general manager Dennis DeMille shoots the daily high score with an M1903A3 Springfield and receives a free box of new CMP .30-06 ammo donated by Creedmoor Sports from Gary Anderson.

Even before firing it, to say the ammunition is impressive is an understatement.  It is part of a contract given to Creedmoor Sports to manufacture 3 million rounds of ammunition to be sold by the U.S. Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), the advertisements will begin appearing in the shooting magazines shortly.   The components are impressive.  It starts with brand new Lapua .30-06 brass tipped with 167 grain Lapua Scenars at 2,720 feet per seconds clearly optimized for the 200-yard CMP Games tournaments.   A discussion with Dennis DeMille revealed some of the attention to detail in assembly.  The industrial loader is run at half-speed to improve consistency.   Charges are thrown precisely I believe in two half charges.  You can see the impression ring of a competition seater die on the bullets so know the concentricity is good.  When you hold the ammunition up to the light they are perfect clones of each other; something that cannot be said for some other factory ammo even match ammo.  This is about a close as one is likely to get to a precision hand load.   Dennis says Creedmoor will also be producing similar ammunition in other chamberings.

The actual box of ammo Dennis DeMille handed to me in Phoenix.

The economics of the ammunition are equally intriguing.  CMP sold it for $1.15 per round at the Western Games and I’m told that it will sell for $1.30 per round.  Think about that one.  Consider that .30-06 Lapua brass sells for around $100.00 per hundred and a Lapua Scener bullet cost $0.38 to $0.40 per bullet.  You get to fire a precision match round and have once fired premier brass to carry on.  That says CMP isn’t about making money on this.  It’s about living up to their mission to promote rifle practice.

Onto performance.  When someone hands you a box of ammo with a challenge how can you not throw all your match plans out the door and play?  I was planning to fire the CMP GSM match with my M-1 Garand the next day using 150 gr. SMK handloads but I said, “What the heck.  Let’s go for it.”   You get five sighters in a GSM match which is plenty to zero anything and, after all, Western Games is like rendezvous.  It’s a come as you are muster and fight party.

My trusty 1950's Anniston Armory refurbished five digit receiver DCM M-1 Garand delivered to me by the mailman in the 1980's.  It took a lot more work to fill out your little NRA temporary score book to qualify for a rifle back then.
I shoot the M-1 Garand match with a rebuilt five digit receiver gun with a 1950’s barrel refurbished at Anniston Armory that I got from the DCM back in the day when the postman delivered them.  It shoots true and has garnered its share of Western Games trinkets over the years including a number of golds and one of those coveted M-1 EIC 4 points medals.  It’s a good platform for the test.  Sighters revealed the Creedmoor ammo shoots about two minutes higher impact versus my pet load.  The tale of the tape said 96-2X slow prone, 93-1X rapid prone and 81-1X offhand totaling 270-4X.  The DCM machine took home a bronze in 2014.

What was the most important thing I learned?   This Creedmoor ammo is indeed amazingly consistent.  The slow prone stage was a pure joy to shoot.  I promised DeMille that I would say what, if anything, I did not like about this ammo so here goes.  This ammunition is “brutally honest”.  It will reveal every little error you make be it de-focusing on your front sight drenching in sweat under the Phoenix sun, not being fast enough to reset your NPA mid-string in your rapid as the big gun moves you around or just being jittery on your feet during the back half of your offhand.  But here’s the thing, with this ammo I felt confident to trust that the error was mine after each shot.  There was no wondering if I should fire a second one to confirm my analysis.   I knew its feedback was accurate and that I should make the change my brain was telling me to right now before sending the next one.  That is a huge thing to be that confident in one’s gun and ammunition.  I never felt that confident with HXP or even some of my handloads. If anything, I now know that even my ammo for the M-1 and M1903A3 will benefit from the same careful case preparation and assembly as my tactical rifle or long range ammo.

The CMP went on to hand out many more boxes of this ammo to the high scorers and a “must be present to win” raffle during the Western Games so more people would do the same first impression test I did.  They are making a commitment to taking these games matches to ever higher levels and are investing in making it possible for non-reloading competitors to have the same quality of custom ammunition as their more demented knuckle dragging high-power competitor cousins.  It is a major improvement to where I think future cut scores for CMP Games achievement awards are headed shooting these vintage as-issued firearms.  A real equalizer if you think about it.  The CMP and Creedmoor Sports are to be commended for collaborating on this game changing move.

Update:  I got a note from Dennis - the other one - that Creedmoor has begun delivering precision loaded .308 Winchester ammunition using Lake-City cases and 168 gr. Sierra Match Kings to the CMP.  My guess is the brass came from Dick Whiting's reprocessing operation in West Virginia. DeMille also said delivery of precision .223 will begin in early 2015.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Guns in America: Why I Think it's Time for California to Stop Fighting Peruta vs. San Diego

Also published on the Huffington Post,

On Thursday, July 24, 2014, Judge Frederick J. Scullin, Jr. issued a Summary Judgment Order affirming that the 2nd Amendment confers a right to "bear arms" outside the home.   The order was nothing short of devastating to the District of Columbia which has been resisting and delaying compliance with legal decisions on this issue for many years.   The order was plain.  The government and police of the District of Columbia were told to cease and desist from enforcing all laws regarding carrying weapons until such time that an acceptable and constitutionally compliant set of laws providing for the carrying of weapons outside the home for D.C. residents and non-residents are put into place.   That's a hammer blow in magnitude rarely seen and it's a wake-up call to other jurisdictions resisting similar decisions on other parts of the country.

There is little doubt that D.C. was hit particularly hard in this instance because they've been so hard headed.  What is interesting if one reads the decision is how much Judge Scullin references another case on the other side of the country as part of the legal argument underpinning the judgment.  This case is Peruta vs. San Diego where the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also handed down a decision saying that arbitrary government laws that deny citizens access to constitutional rights does not fly.  That decision also stands today but remains stayed because of legal maneuvering by the office of the Attorney General of California  - who was not a party to the original case - requesting a legal second opinion from the federal courts and advising all counties and cities not to comply with the 9th Circuit's legal order.  It's an ode to the desires of urban California gun control advocates crying for the power of local control to abrogate Constitutional rights.   That's a hope given this D.C. decision that grows ever dimmer by the moment.  American citizens have inalienable rights and the courts clearly are establishing a pattern of constraining "local" governments from trampling on them.

So here's the strategic dilemma I believe Kamala Harris faces this week.  Does the Attorney General wish to continue down the path of resisting what looks more and more inevitable?   Is it in the best interest of California to possibly be the source of a future "hammer blow" decision that will affect not just this state but all of the other states in the 9th District?  That probably won't fly too well with the other Governors or the citizens of those states.

I respectfully suggest that Attorney General Harris begin the process of counseling the "D.C. like" jurisdictions of California to start to adapt to the court order issued by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the Peruta case.   Adaptations will need to be made.  Licensing systems need to be updated.   Training and skills requirements need to be standardized.  Peace Officer Standards Training (POST) for dealing with a more broadly armed populace need to be updated particularly in those "local" jurisdictions that are the most resistive.   Public awareness and nervousness about firearms need to be dealt with some sort of operationally constructive - as opposed to fearful - educational campaign.  And all of this needs to be done in a fashion much more organized than waking up on a Saturday morning to the news that you've just gotten a whammy of a court order to cease enforcing laws on your books until you get back in line.  Because, you know what, it just happened.

This isn't a bad thing.  I've written blog posts in the past pondering the puts and takes of "Stand Your Ground" and exploring alternative means of managing down gun violence based on improving the partnership environment between government and gun owners.  The bottom line is that there are many ways to managing crime, accidents and other aspect of this issue that do not revolve around blanket bans on firearms and the diminishment of firearms skills in the general population into historical footnotes.  It certainly never worked in the District of Columbia and it's been working even less well in places like Chicago; another place that is resisting a federal court order and likely working its way one of its own hammer blow moments.

So I've been pondering how to explain this in everyday language all weekend.  What's the message here?  What are these court decisions actually saying to America?  And I came up with this,

"Mom you can't nanny your children forever.  You can't demand that they stay babies.  Somewhere along the way it's time to let Americans grow up and deal with the risks of the real world with all of the tools they need and the demands to be responsible that go along with them.  Do not fret.  They will make you proud of them, these Americans, if you just let them."

This article was on Yahoo's main page link list later in the day on July 29, 014.
A rare appearance.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Zeroing the "Snake Gun"

Eliseo R1 single-shot rifle.  Rem 700 long action core.  Bartlein Palma contour barrel in .284 Winchester match.  Jewell trigger set to 1 pound.

After scrounging parts for a year, my Gary Eliseo Competition Shooting Stuff R1 .284 Winchester long range rifle finally came together. It picked up the nickname "The Snake Gun" because of the water transfer finish that was applied to the rifle to make it look a little different from all the other tube guns that show up on competitive firing lines. Apparently, the look was interesting enough that friend Paul McMenamin thought it worthy of mention in a Daily Bulletin in his highly acclaimed website accurateshooter.com.

Doing that German Salazar measuring thing.

So next comes the measuring to get the rifle set up to my body dimensions.  Luckily, I've been shooting another Eliseo chassis gun for sometime.  That one is an RTS repeater model in .308 set up for precision tactical rifle competition.  So set up was mostly replicating positioning for the various adjustment points of the stock.

Eliseo RTS in .308 Winchester set up as a tactical precision competition rifle.  This gun loves 175 gr. Sierra Match Kings loaded to replicate U.S. M118-LR.  The scope is a U.S. Optics 3-17X.

It's good when your match guns resemble each other.

The R1 sports a Sightron SIII 6-24X FFP with an MOA-2 reticle.

Next comes ammunition and once again it's measuring by inserting gauges to figure out chamber and throat depths.

An old Stoney Point gauge is used to measure distance to the lands.

Eventually after learning the ins and outs of using a mandrel die to expand case necks from 6.5mm to 7mm and using a sizer die bullet stem button to remove donut rings in case necks, one winds up with match chamber dimensioned .284 Winchester rounds ready for fire forming.

.284 Winchester that started out as 6.5-284 Lapua cases necked up to 7mm with a Sinclair mandrel die.  These bullets are Nosler 168 gr. Custom Competitions loaded on top of 53.5 gr. of IMR 4831 and seated to 15/1000th's jump.  

Live fire time has finally arrived!  So it's off to the range.

Barrel break in day at the range.  The ammo box says this photo is before round 1 was fired.

Barrel break in happens first.  Five shots meticulously cleaned between shots to remove any lingering machining residue from the barrel. Then a sight in string at the 200 yard bullseye using the Sightron SIII optic. Ok that's done.  Now to check the rifle's inherent accuracy with a fresh NRA SR center at 200 yards.

First group. The word "delighted" understates the elation of the moment.

These were literally the 11th to 20th rounds fired out of the gun's barrel. Wowza!  Zero out those turrets and have a look-see through a collimator to record settings.

I selected this scope over U.S. Optics. Nightforce and several others.  The turrets have a reputation for repeatability and the MOA-2 reticle is clutter free in the center where you need to be able to see and pick your hold off for the wind.
Next comes a period of examining and measuring spent cases to make sure the custom cut chamber is good to go.

This is what goes in the "Handy Dandy" notebook.

All is well.  Indeed, very well.  The main body of the case hardly changed dimensions during fire forming and the case neck expanded minimally. That is remarkably cool.

More ammo loaded and back to the range to send bullets over a chronograph.  The Nosler 168 CC's are coming out at 2,840 fps.  Plug the numbers into a ballistic calculator.  That's enough for these HPBT's to stay supersonic out to 1,500 yards.  Shoot and check come ups by dialing the scope turrets and firing at steel plates up to 1,000 meters away.. All is well. That took 20 shots. Twenty? Ok, I  indulged in some gratuitous plinking at the steel using hold overs by eye as part of it.  Just had to.  These are amazingly good numbers.

Now to the iron sights.  First place the rear one.

Phoenix Precision top-mount rear sight.  It's a work of art.

Then the front.  Both are Phoenix Precision units with Gehman irises. The rear also has an AOS MicroSight in it.

Phoenix Precision tall front sight.

This is where one is once again reminded one is shooting a match rifle and not a service rifle. The adjustments are intricate. Moving the sight forward so it doesn't hit your face or scratch your glasses for one thing.  It gets sorted out bit by bit.

Moved forward to keep the aperture from gouging my shooting glasses.

Amazingly even with all that movement the gun still mostly hovers in the 10 ring. 

Tinkering with iron sights searching for that elusive "match rifle" sweet spot.

But the mechanical zero is off. The rear sight aperture is not in the center of travel range at no wind zero.

The rifle is dialed into the center of the target but the sight assembly windage sits too far to the right.  Elevation is fine.

Next step is to use the use of a handy dandy Ray-Vin tool like the one in the photo.  It solves the front tower rotation problem nicely.

Ray-Vin sight adjustment gauge.  A work of art in itself.

One more dial in and group string ensues; this time with iron sights.

The "Snake Gun" in its natural habitat.  You can see the targets at 200 and 300 yards at the top of the photo.

And we walk back into the X ring once again.

Walking into the center.  Then, shoot for group.  Iron sights can perform!

And we're back to zero at zero mechanical.

Centered up and happy.

Last step, zero out the knobs.

Zeros at zero.  A beautiful sight to those of us that compete.

I like this gun.  It has potential.

This concludes the preliminaries.  Now we are ready to sling up and tackle a match.