Sunday, October 13, 2019

Range Report and Some Revolversmithing

I've been on a bit of a revolver kick lately and last night accompanied my dad to his club with my Ruger Police Service Six .357 Magnum and GP100 .38 Special in tow. (Note that the vast majority of GP100s are .357s but Ruger will chamber them in .38 Special for agencies that don't want magnum revolvers. This is one of those.)

Both guns are law enforcement or security company trade-ins. The Service Six has been in my safe for a long time but I haven't shot it much, and not at all in several years. The GP100 was acquired a few weeks ago and has given me a bit of trouble. More on that below.

Anyway, I brought two flavors of .38 Special handloads with me last night.

First was a batch of ammo loaded with Berry's plated 158 grain truncated cone flat points on top of 3.8 grains of Alliant Bullseye, sparked by CCI small pistol primers. These were loaded in mostly Winchester brass. This is a full-power but not +P load.

Second was a box loaded with 178 grain Keith bullets from Matt's Bullets, on top of 5.2 grains of Alliant Unique, again with CCI small pistol primers. These were loaded in mixed headstamp nickeled cases. These rate as +P loads.

(NOTE: Consult with loading manuals before relying on any data you see online, including any on this blog.)

Accuracy with the plated bullets was OK but nothing to write home about. They were pleasant to shoot, however, especially in the GP100. In contrast the accuracy of the Keith bullets was outstanding, with my final group of the night all going into one hole. Recoil on these was brisk, especially in the Service Six. It wears Pachmayr Presentation grips which are a little large for my hands. The GP100 wears the Ruger compact grip / short butt, which fits my hands better than just about anything else I've tried. I've found that it absorbs recoil better than any other DA revolver grip that I've tried. I may get a set of Pachmayr Grippers with an exposed backstrap for the Service Six.

Unfortunately, while the Service Six functioned perfectly (as expected), the GP100 gave me problems. The first time I shot the gun the previous week, I got light primer strikes due to me putting in a reduced power hammer spring. I put the original hammer spring back in before shooting the gun last night, so that wasn't a problem. However, on random trigger pulls the gun felt like it was binding, driving the pull way up and sometimes to the point where I couldn't fire the gun. This was most evident in double action but also happened when shooting it single action. I gave up on the GP100 after about 30 or 40 rounds, and finished up the night with the Service Six.

This afternoon I brought the GP100 out to my workshop, intent on figuring out what the heck was wrong. I field stripped and thoroughly cleaned it. I also removed the cylinder from the crane. Everything got blasted out with brake cleaner.

With the gun apart and clean I went over it closely for any burrs and found some, including in the slot through which the hand moves, on the back face of the frame recess, and on the ratchet on the back of the cylinder.

I carefully removed all the burrs using some gunsmith slip stones from a set I got several years ago from Brownell's.

Next, I reassembled the gun and dried fired it around 20 or 30 times in both single and double action modes. This showed no signs of binding.

I then broke the gun down again and this time after making sure it was fully degreased, I loaded up the mechanism with Flitz metal polish, reassembled, and dry fired it around 100 times.

Once again, I stripped the gun and blasted everything out with brake cleaner, reoiled it, and put it back together. I then dry fired it another 20 or 30 times.

Knock on wood but I think I've taken care of the problem. Naturally, I won't know for sure until I shoot it again, hopefully next weekend.

On another note, I got the chance to put a full 17-round magazine through my dad's IWI Masada 9mm pistol. I'd handled it before and liked how the grip felt, and the light trigger pull.  However, the Masada was a perfect example of why a gun that feels good when you dry fire it may give you an opposite impression when you get to actually shoot it.

In short, I hated it. The Masada exhibits a lot of muzzle flip but worse, the Glock-like trigger actually felt like it was biting my trigger finger. I wasn't getting pinched, rather, the face of the trigger was biting into the pad of my finger tip.

For 9MMs, I'll still with my Browning Hi Power, Beretta M9, and CZ P09.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Shooting the Smith & Wesson No. 1 1/2 Revoler

Yesterday I put together some black powder .32 S&W handloads using the following components:

  • Remington brass,
  • CCI No.500 small pistol primers,
  • Lead bullets cast in an original 19th Century Ideal mold/loading tool (shown in the video),
  • The bullets were lubricated with a 50/50 mix of beeswax and mutton tallow.
  • 0.3cc (approximately 4.8 to 5 grains) of Olde Eynsford FFFg black powder.
Goex developed Olde Eynsford to compete with Swiss black powder. OE burns more cleanly than regular Goex and is more energetic. Swiss is still a higher grade powder, but OE is a definite improvement over regular Goex.

Anyway, I got to shoot the old Smith & Wesson today. It was flawless for 49 rounds (somehow I managed to lose one of my once-fired cases before reloading them). Afterwards, we put 50 rounds of Remington .32 S&W loads through my Ruger Single Six Vaquero and saved the brass so I can reload it for use in the Smith.

Recoil in the old gun was very mild even though it's so small it's a little difficult to get a good grip. The sights are an afterthought, so it required extra effort to shoot well. (That's why we shot at only five yards.)

Here's a short video:




While this is not going to be a high round count gun, I will shoot it again. It was a lot of fun and I wish a modern replica was available.

We also put a few magazines through my Beretta Model 81, for a .32-a-palooza day.

Monday, September 02, 2019

.32 Caliber Range Report

On Saturday I was able to get the Beretta 81 out to the range. I put 50 rounds of Aguila and 20 rounds of Fiocchi .32 ACP through the gun. It showed good accuracy at 7 yards and had no malfunctions. As expected, the Fiocchi ammo, which was made in Hungary, was loaded hotter than the Aguila ammo. Recoil with both loads was mild.

I also put 50 rounds of Remington .32 S&W through my "Cowboy Pimp Gun," a Ruger Single Six Vaquero chambered for .32 H&R Magnum.



Shooting .32 S&W in the Ruger felt like a pop gun. My reason for buying the .32 S&W ammo was to get brass so I can reload it with black powder for my vintage-1878 S&W Number 1 1/2. My plan is to load the black powder ammo with an Ideal No. 2 reloading tool which I won on eBay yesterday.



(Picture borrowed from the auction.)

Another pic from the auction shows some corrosion in the bullet mold cavity but I think it'll clean up OK with some Evaporust. Even if the bullets aren't perfect it's not like I'm going to get gilt edge accuracy from the Number 1 1/2, which has merely vestigial sights.

That said, shooting the .32 S&W in the Ruger was plain fun and I have three more boxes of it.

Out of curiosity I tried 5 rounds of Aguila .32 ACP in the Ruger. The .32 ACP cartridge is semi-rimmed and being a rod-ejector, I don't need to be concerned with the small rims slipping over an ejector star. Pressure of SAAMI-spec .32 ACP is under what the Ruger is rated for, being chambered in .32 H&R Magnum (20,000 PSI vs. 21,000 CUP.)

However, CIP-spec 7.65mm Browning / .32 ACP can be loaded to 23,000 PSI so it's probably not a good idea to run it in most .32 H&R wheelguns. It would be safe to shoot in revolvers chambered for the .327 Federal Mag, which is rated for 45,000 PSI. I suspect that it would be fine in the Ruger, which is rather overbuilt.

Aside from shooting the Beretta and Ruger, I put another 50 rounds through my Glock 19-sized Polymer 80 pistol. I need to do some more tinkering with it, because although it feeds and ejects fine, it's not locking back after the last shot in a magazine. This is with both MagPul and Glock factory mags, and with CCI Blazer Brass 115 grain and 124 grain Winchester 9mm NATO Ball.

One thing I'm noticing is that it's becoming increasingly difficult to see the front sight of small pistols when shooting them indoors under florescent lighting, especially if they aren't square. I may look into getting a Merit Optical Attachment for Pistol Shooting. (I don't have this problem when shooting outdoors and my iris is contracted, which gives better depth of field.)

Yay for middle age.

Friday, August 30, 2019

A Brace of .32s

Nowadays, .32 caliber handguns are not super popular with American gun owners. When choosing a small bore, most will just get a .22. And when looking for a centerfire, .380s, 9mm, and larger are much more popular. This has become even more true with the advent of ultra compact .380s like the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard and Ruger LCP, and very small 9mms like the S&W Shield.

However, in the late 19th Century small .32 caliber revolvers were very popular. When Smith & Wesson wanted to come up with a larger gun than the Number 1 in .22 Short, they introduced the Number 2 Old Army in .32 rimfire.

In 1878 Smith & Wesson introduced the Number 1 1/2 Third Issue in .32 S&W, their first centerfire cartridge. With an 85 grain lead bullet at about 700 FPS it's hardly a barn burned by today's standards, but in the pre-antibiotic days, getting shot with anything was extremely dangerous, which made it a good deterrent due to the likelihood of infection. In fact, when Leon Czolgosz shot President William McKinley, he used an Iver Johnson .32 S&W revolver. McKinley died eight days later.

A few weeks ago I sold one of my AR-15s so I had some fun money burning a hole in my pocket. In perusing Simpson Ltd.'s website, I came across a very nice looking early production S&W 1 1/2 in .32 S&W. I called them up on Saturday and yesterday the Fedex truck dropped this off with me:


Here it is next to an iPhone 6S Plus for scale.



Mechanically, it's perfect. There is no end shake, the timing is spot on, and it locks up tightly. There is a little pitting in the bore. I was able to remove the grips screw but the panels seem to be stuck on the gun. I need to figure out what I can use to soak in to loosen them but at the same time won't damage them. Also, the hammer screw wouldn't turn so I have some penetrating oil sitting on it. I'd like to get the grips and side plate off to inspect and photograph the inside.

I don't expect the pitting to hurt accuracy because my 51 year old eyes can't see the vestigial sights anyway. I plan to get ahold of some .32 S&W ammo loaded with black powder and try it out at halitosis range.

The other .32 I picked up yesterday is more modern. Recently, a bunch of surplus Beretta Model 81 Cheetahs came into the country. A story I read online is that they came from the Italian prison system, which is plausible since European law enforcement agencies liked .32 ACP (AKA 7.65mm Browning in Europe) for much of the 20th Century.

I had been holding off on ordering on the 81s but yesterday my local shop posted on Facebook that they'd received in a few in very clean condition. So, after dinner I ran over there, traded in a Stoeger Coach Gun that had been gathering dust, and tossed in another $40.

It was indeed very clean. It's been shot but well maintained. It has an "AF" date code stamped on the right side, which indicates that it was built in 1980.



That is a full sized Benchmade Griptilian knife in the picture with the pistol. It's large for a .32 auto so I expect it to be very pleasant to shoot.

I had thought it might be a good gun for my wife but as a straight blowback retracting the slide requires quite a bit of effort, and there's not a lot to hold onto.

Along with the Beretta I picked up two boxes of Aguila 71 grain FMJ .32 ACP ammo. I hope to shoot it this weekend, and I plan to get some European-spec ammo, which tends to be loaded hotter than American ammo in this caliber.

Range reports to follow.