Handguns you say?…..Interesting….

I enjoy shooting, all sorts of shooting, and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that being now resident in the “land of the free” I might find myself drawn to some “freedoms” that were not previously available to me.

In this case I am talking about handguns. Handguns have been banned in the UK since the late 90s (with only a very few limited exceptions), and so my experiences of shooting handguns there were limited to a small amount of target shooting with a Ruger .22 pistol when I was about 15. I have fired a few handguns since I started visiting the USA but these have been only brief encounters.

So having begun to settle in to my life here I have inevitably started to think about expanding my repertoire of shooting to include handguns. This began as casual searches to see what a gun would cost and when I realised that they are not really very expensive I started to think more seriously about the possibility.

It was at this point that it occurred to me that although I have fired a handgun several times and am pretty familiar with their workings I have never been given anything other than the briefest instruction in their use. So I determined that before I considered going shopping for guns I should go shopping for lessons.

Bill’s Gun Shop & Range offers a variety of classes from beginner to advanced and have several locations around the twin cities. I found a class that in only 4 hours on a Tuesday night would teach me what I needed to know in order to not shoot myself in the foot.

The Basic Handgun Familiarisation class was taken by John Burniece (http://billsgs.com/johnb.html) who was very competent, clear, and pretty entertaining. He showed us the basic operation of several styles of pistol including a thorough explanation and demonstration of how to correctly render a handgun safe. He also covered the correct grip and trigger pull and so on. After about two hours in the classroom he took us to the range where from five yards we all fired five shots from three target grade pistols: a .22 Ruger, 9mm Springfield Armory XDM, and a double action Smith & Wesson revolver in .38 Special.

The Ruger was naturally very easy to shoot with clear target sights and the Springfield was fun and not very challenging, but the revolver was more difficult. The double action trigger with about a 10lb trigger pull demanded significantly more concentration to hold steady and fire without pulling shots. Until then I had all my shots in the ‘X’ ring but four of my shots from the revolver were grouped further to the right in the 10 with one way out in the ‘8’. We used the same target for all three guns but it is just possible to identify the gun from the hole it made in the paper. See my pictures below.

Basic Handgun Training Target 25th June 2013

Basic Handgun Training Target 25th June 2013

Basic Handgun Training Target (close up) 25th June 2013

Basic Handgun Training Target (close up) 25th June 2013

You can just see the holes made by the .22 Ruger right in the middle. The 9mm made the holes round the left side of the ‘X’ ring and the .38 revolver are at 2 o’clock with a flyer in the 8. I would say it was not bad shooting but I can’t let myself get too excited about a good group at fifteen feet.

With this class under my belt I am now confident enough to take the next step towards buying my own gun, so watch this space.

Advertisements

Reloading woes continue (then I stop worrying) & an improvement at 300m

(Apologies again for the long wait, grad school yadda yadda etc)

So after the problems with the neck scratching (see here) I bought myself a new RCBS die set. This came and in anticipation of a shoot on the 12th may I reloaded 100 rounds. Unfortunately, despite a brand new die of a different make and clean unfired brass, the same problem occurred. All the brass had vertical scratches on the necks.

I was very frustrated.

However, at the range I decided to ask people about it and the most reassuring response was the lack of any concern or significant interest. I was advised to clean the die out and lightly lube the necks before sizing.

Since then I have reloaded another 100 rounds (the first batch loaded that has now been once fired) using the new die. I cleaned it out beforehand and touched the necks to my lube pad before sizing and as far as I can tell there were no new scratches on top of the original collection.

I have decided not to think about neck scratches any more (or until the next lot of clean brass gets defaced then I will swear).

The first 200 rounds I loaded after coming to America were tipped with 155gr Sierra Match Kings (2155s). I have been unable to judge their relative merit as it has been such a long time since I last shot that I cannot guarantee any accuracy problems are not wholly my own fault, but they seem pretty good. I have since bought a box of 500 of the new SMKs (2156s) with an improved ballistic coefficient. I realised while reloading that they would probably have an entirely different jump to the lands compared to the 2155s due to their different shaped curve, but without having anyway to measure the jump I just pressed on (geddit?..pressed?) and loaded them to the same OAL as the 2155s.

At the shoot this weekend (9th June) I decided that I couldn’t be bothered with having part batches kicking around and so decided to use the end of the last batch (loaded with the SMK 2155s) and change to the new batch (loaded with SMK 2156s) when they ran out. This occurred during the second string. The first shot with the new batch was in the 9 (shot number 11 on the second scorecard shown below) but within the area of my various wild shots, and the second was back in the 10 without any sight adjustments and confirmed my suspicion that any difference wouldn’t be obvious at 300 meters.

This shoot was a step up in performance for me. It was raining and overcast but the wind was sluggish, and since judging wind is my weakest area this made it ideal for me. My final score was 580/600 and I managed to beat the only other guy shooting prone (see here for the results). Several people who looked at my screen said they thought I had shot well and there are some satisfying groupings on my scorecards.

Scorecard 9th June 2013 (1st & 2nd string)

Scorecard 9th June 2013 (1st & 2nd string)

Scorecard 9th june 2013 (3rd string)

Scorecard 9th june 2013 (3rd string)

To give you scale, the 10 ring is 10cm across.

I am still having problems with comfort. 60 rounds is a lot of .308 to shoot in 95 minutes and I was having to put the rifle down every five rounds or so to give my left hand a rest, which is where I am suffering the most. I don’t know why this has evolved, or even if it was always there but I never had to shoot this much in one sitting before so it never seemed significant. Either way it now needs attention, so on Monday I did a little work and managed to get a spare Anschutz handstop to fit on the rail of the Swing. It has a better shape and is adjustable so I can fiddle around a bit. The Anschutz handstop needed a bit of gentle filing to get it to fit the rail but now it is on and hopefully will make a bit of difference. Below are before and after photos.

Original handstop

Original handstop

Replacement Anschutz handstop

Replacement Anschutz handstop

The most popular calibre for 300 meters is apparently 6mmBR (see here for info) which just happens to use the same bolt face as .308win. With my left hand gently throbbing on Sunday afternoon I was idly considering the possibility that when the Swing needs a new barrel, I could get it re-barrelled in 6mmBR for use at 300 meters and buy another target rifle in .308  for use at long range. Just a thought.