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

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.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Mechanical Center

Very few firearms are "mechanically centered" so they shoot to point of aim when the sights are in the center of their range of motion. It takes a bit of work to do it.  I set up two of my rifles on July 5, 2014 and this is the Ray-Vin gauge that makes it happen.

The genius behind this gizmo is Ray Brandes.  It is a Ray-Vin sight adjustment tool. It is used to precisely rotate the front sight tower of a rifle. For a standard AR-15 that's around 0.006" per MOA. This tool also works well for match rifles with barrel mounted sights particularly ones with tall front sights. There's another tool jig for the rear sights of an M-16A2 to check click repeatability. I have one of them too. I consider myself lucky to have gotten them from Ray-Vin when the company was in full swing.  These tools result in a rear sight shooting center at center. It's the bees knees. 

Most of the time centered rears on AR's are a service rifle thing. But it doesn't have to be. Above is a Barry Dueck RTS with its front sight mounted on a PRI rail gas block.  Mounting it this way allows for rotating the front sight alignment to get a perfect mechanical zero. This gun has a 20" 1-8 twist DPMS barrel making it quite the SDM rifle with 77/80 gr. ammo out to the practical limit of heavy bullet mouse ballistics, approximately 800 meters.  I wanted to get a the rear sight mechanically centered along with the front sight mounted on the barrel so this gun can shoot offhand with iron sights at NRA matches in the optical-class category.  An AR canted 45 degrees actually allows for a very small bore like standing position with the front arm in tight contact with the body. It's kind of neat.

Match rifles also have adjustable front sights and the principles of centering up are the same.

Rotating the front sight about the axis of the barrel works with match rifles too.   Here I've moved the front tower on a Eliseo R1 long range single-shot rifle in .284 Winchester over so I have a more centered mechanical zero for my iron sights.   This is important for long range matches where windy conditions can cause to to have to dial unseemly amounts of windage.

This particular rifle got nicknamed the "Snake Gun" because of the water transfer printing finish I had applied to it.   So here's the "snake" in its natural habitat,  This is a very nice view of the rifle on the firing line at the Burbank Rifle and Revolver Club's range in Castaic, California.  The 200 yard targets can be seen at the upper right of the photo and 300 yards to the left down range.  If you zoom in, my test target is the leftmost one at 200 yards. You can see the rifle with its iron sights mounted. Its scope - a Sightron 6-24X FFP with an MOA-2 reticle - is on the bench to its left and a box of ammo to the right. Here are the specs on the gun,

Rifle: Eliseo R1
Barrel: Bartlein
Sights: Phoenix Precision 
Ammo: .284 Winchester
Bullet: Nosler 168 CC
Powder: 53.5gr IMR 4831
Case: Lapua 6.5x284 necked up to 7mm
Seated to 15/1000th's jump.

Iron sight hijinks.  After moving the front sight tower of my rifle to the left so it would center my rear sight, I fired a test string of 10 shots.  Starting with the round on the right in the cardboard, I walked it into the X ring. When it got there I stopped and looked at the rear sight to confirm it was close enough to the middle of its movement range. It was. So I fired the rest of a 10 shot string to see how it grouped. The answer is quite nicely.

I have one more calibration session to do with this gun to get a final mechanical center once I switch from the fire forming loads I'm using now to the long range competition loads I will use.  These will be very high ballistic coefficient (b.c.) Bergers.   When that time comes, I'll use a caliber to measure how much the movement of the front sight tower needs to be.  I'll use the Ray-Vin tool to perform the rotation and then it'll be time to use a gaggle of bubble levels to make sure the crossbar in the front sight and the tower mounted bubble are true to the rifle.  There's a lot more to tinker with versus a Service Rifle.

Combat Grade Ballistic Reticles at Bargain Prices

Ever since I did my stint as weapons master for "Top Shot" people send me things to test out. Most of it I politely try and give back. But I love unknown distance rifle shooting and I confess products that make it easier impress me. The Pride-Fowler RR-Evolution 5.56/7.62 3-12X scope has.

If you've never shot an extended session with one of these types of calibrated ballistic ranging reticle scopes and realized after half an hour that you've been hitting everything and never took your eye out of the ocular, you need to find a friend that has one and try it. No milling. No range card. Ranging is done by using marks built into the reticle that are the width of a reference target such as a person's shoulders or head at a given distance.  Other combat grade day-optics that work this way are the ACOG/RCO's that also have ranging reference marks built into the reticle.  You don't actually try to determine the range with these scopes.  At full engagement speed it's about intuitively bracketing the target between markers and sending rounds downrange. Trust your zero, trust your dope.  These kinds of optics are the epitome of that concept within the well regulated confines of mil-spec approved lot numbered ammunition. This PFI scope is first focal plane so the reticle works at any magnification setting.  It's point, shoot and hit.  It's a smile maker.

The Evolution generation PFI reticle contains a number of enhancements including milling marks on the horizontal and upper vertical axis.  The ranging marks are calibrated for reading distance on the right with 20 inch barrels and have additional offset numbers on the left calibrated for 24 inch barrels. The typical muzzle velocity difference due to 4 inches of barrel length is around 80 to 100 feet per second which changes the drop at each distance more and more as the range extends.  That is a lot of math to figure out that's replaced by just looking through the scope.

You think that's impressive?  There's a PFI reticle designed for the FN-SCAR that has a bifurcated reticle with calibrations for the same bullet at two different density altitudes.  It's the only scope I've ever been able to interpolate hold over/under changes by eye for different heights above sea level.  That reticle sits inside the much more expensive U.S. Optics/PFI SR-8C.

This RR-Evolution is no slouch in the advanced mental gymnastics interpolation game either.  While calibrated for two different barrel lengths to make is as flexible as possible for the various tactical and varmint rifles it might be used with, you ballistics savvy types should have already started the gears in your noggins figuring out that with a 20" barrel rifle that left side is an interpolation tool for hot day shooting conditions.  There's 100 fps of temperature rise speed shift taken out of tables galore right there in front of your eyeball.  Entertain yourself twiddling with that ballistics calculator to convince yourself and then trust your dope.  Dude! No batteries.

Much Improved Quality of Construction

I'd previously tried the military grade Pride-Fowler RR scope and the lesser civilian model. I liked the original Japanese made RR 900-1.  It's made at the same factory that manufactures NightForce scopes. It's rugged, accurate, easy to use.  Soldiers love it.  It's the scope that caused me to perk up and pay attention to PFI.  The one I have refuses to come off the Mk14 EBR it is mounted on because it's about as perfect a long range designated marksman system as it gets.  But it's also expensive.  At the time PFI also offered a lower priced Chinese made "civilian hunter" model but I truthfully had little interest in it. It was one of those scopes you really needed to set up once and never touch the turrets again.  The concept was good but sadly the tube and glass quality was sub-par vs. the reticle's potential.  Unlike it's military grade cousin, it wasn't a keeper.

Then in early 2014 John Pride said a new civilian model had replaced it and asked if I'd have another gander at his "civilian" line.  This new RR-Evolution is a whole other animal. A new Chinese factory that's heard America's call for quality responded producing a tube at 1/3 the price point of comparable hardware.  That's a remarkable $350'ish price tag; a testament to improvements in Chinese OEM mass production.  It boggles the mind that you can buy three of these for the price of an ACOG.

It doesn't skimp on optics.  This scope's glass is clear and the colors true.  The turrets are repeatable albeit they are of the Chinese mushy rubber seal variety instead of the definite click metal contact type people like from Japanese factories. Movement is precise. You see a 1.5 moa change, dial it and it moves that distance on the target.

The rear end of the scope has Euro style adjustments to sharpen the reticle. Very user friendly.  The reticle illuminator - yes it has that too - glows in red, green and blue.

The adjustable objective parallax is effective and very clear. It's everything the last generation wasn't and badly needed.  You'll find other brand scopes from the same Chinese OEM factory in the same price range at the same quality. But you'll be buying PFI's for what the reticle does to aid your shooting.

Practical Impression

I put it on a particularly accurate Remington 788 in .308 Winchester and zeroed it a 200 yards then ran steel from 200 to 1,000 yards with ease using ammo built on 175 gr. Sierra Match Kings loaded to U.S. M118-LR specifications never touching the knobs. Then I tried it with 168 gr. Barnes TSX's for California lead-free hunting. It worked as it should with these loads as well out to about 400 yards, up to 600 under the right conditions.  Lead-free ammo has different ballistic coefficients and tends to fall out of the sky sooner than traditional ammo of the same weight.

Serious Use

I would not hesitate to put this scope on a police spotter rifle. Construction is sufficient for that application and the ease of use is a boon as most SWAT teams under train with their standby spotter guns. A hostage standoff is not the time for an officer to re-learn about mil-dots and clicks.  A qualified marksman/armorer can calibrate the gun twice a year and confirm it's on target with a collimator in between.  For military use, I'd stick with the higher grade RR line.

Picking Nits

There are a couple of nits. The supplied rings aren't worth using. Get a set of 30mm Leupold QRW's and mount it right. The turrets require the use of a teeny little allen key to re-zero. I'd have specified a more common wrench size because the geek side of me wants to see the dial at zero-zero once initial set up is done.

I did not magnum recoil test it. I leave that to others with stouter shoulders to explore.  Besides, the reticle ballistics are calibrated for service rifle ammunition.

Bottom line.  This one's a keeper and definitely on my short list to buy for another rifle that needs a field shooting friendly scope. The price is good when you consider USO has a similar PFI reticle in one of its much more expensive tubes and neither it or the ACOG have over 10X magnification and parrallax adjustments.