Sunday, March 29, 2020

More Progress on the Home Office

Today I made more progress on the home office remodel.

The first thing I tackled today was sanding the spackling. I used a 3M N95 mask that was stored with my painting stuff and my nose is still a little sore from wearing it for maybe 20 minutes. It would suck to have to wear one on the regular.

After that I got the first coat of paint on. It looks like two will be fine. I'll do the second coat tomorrow after work, and the trim on Tuesday.

I should be able to move in by the end of the week, even though it won't be complete. I.e., it will still need shelves.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Progress on the Home Office

I made it out to Lowe's today to pick up paint, etc. so I can redo my old/new home office. They had a box of shop towels and also cleaning wipes by the carts, which I availed myself of. They had sneeze guards up between cashiers and customers. Everyone seemed to maintain social distancing.

After I got home we got most of my daughter's crap cleaned out and I was able to spackle where needed and got some primer on the trim. Hopefully, the paint I got won't take more than two coats to cover the previous paint -- light blue with one wall painted orange. (I call this decor scheme "eyesore.") I'm going with a light tan.

Did I mention that I hate painting?

After I'm done painting I'll be tearing up the pink rug. There's a hardwood floor underneath but I forget what it looks like. The previous owner of my house had painted the hardwood floor in our living and dining rooms with 4 coats of white paint. Stripping that was a bitch. IIRC, in my office there's some stain on it. I'm planning on an area rug.

I've decided to keep her old desk temporarily but I'll remove the hutch on top of it for more space. I figure once we're done with the Kung Flu I can pick a more permanent solution. My main goal now is to get the room usable and get her settled into the den.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Home Office Renovation

My 15 y/o daughter asked last month if she could move from her room upstairs to our den. We live in a 3 BR, 2.5 bath split-level. The den doesn't get used too much by anyone else and being the youngest, she has the smallest bedroom. My wife and I agreed but we were planning on waiting a bit before starting the project.

Yesterday, waiting went out the window. Today is the last day of my second full week of working from home and I could really use more space.

We pulled the old sectional sofa out of the den and put it out back under a couple tarps until we can dispose of it. We also gave away her old bed (maintaining proper social distancing) My wife ordered her a loft bed for downstairs.

I'm looking forward to getting her moved downstairs because it means that I can reclaim her bedroom, which used to be my home office. For the past several years I've been using a corner desk in our laundry room. It lacks surface area, so I can use only one monitor. I'm looking at buying or building an L-shaped desk with enough space for me to use my 27" monitor, have my laptop open next to it, and still have room for a ham radio or two.

Speaking of which, I'll have to reroute the feed lines to two antennas that are up on the roof, but it will be worth it because they will be significantly shorter. Ergo, less loss.

Aside from more desk space it will get me out of the coldest corner in the house, which will be a relief when next Fall rolls around.

Overall, this is a good project to undertake while we wait for COVID-19 to peter out.

Friday, March 13, 2020

7.62x39 AR-15 Range Report

Last month I posted about the AR-15 I put together in 7.62x39. Since then I've had the chance to shoot it a little, 40 rounds a couple weeks ago, and 20 rounds today.

Recoil of the rifle is noticeably more than a similar-weight AR-15 in 5.56mm. That's not to say it's punishing, however. Note that I replaced the standard-weight buffer that came with the AR-Stoner kit with an H3 buffer, and I'm glad I did.

The ammo I've shot in it so far has been Golden Tiger. It's weird smelling Russian 7.62x39 ammo fumes from an AR-15.

Today I mounted a Holosun HS-515C dot sight on it. I'd bought this RDS last year to mount on my CZ Scorpion Micro but decided it was too big for that gun, so it was sitting unusage. It goes well on a flat top AR-15 carbine.

(I took the picture at home after cleaning the rifle.)

Given the ballistics and most likely use of this rifle, a non-magnified optic makes a lot of sense.

I zeroed the sight at 50 yards. Initially it shot about 8" high although windage was dead on. I shortly had it zeroed and the rifle grouping into about 2".

The rifle only has 60 rounds through it but no hiccups so far.

Yellowboy Range Report

I took some time off today and got the chance to shoot my new Yellowboy rifle this afternoon.

Function was 100% with cowboy action shooting loads from Black Hills and Ultramax. Accuracy with them was poor. I expected this based on my prior experience with factory CAS .44 WCF ammo in my Henry and 1873.

The Ultramax actually shot a little better than the Black Hills loads.

I'm not sure if the commercial manufacturers use bullets that are too hard for optimum accuracy, or if they dont' shoot all that well since they are downloaded. In the case of .44-40, Black Hills uses bullets that are too small to shoot well in modern Uberti barrels (.427 vs. .429). Anyway, I get groups with BH .44 WCF like the one shown above, but the same rifle with group into 2" with my handloads.

On the other hand, function was very rough using some black powder handloads I had put together using an original 19th Century Ideal tong tool, with bullets cast in that tool's integrated mold. I loaded these a couple years ago intending to shoot them in my Winchester 1892, but never got the chance to before that rifle was stolen.

Anyway, the cartridge OAL wasn't correct on all of them so several times the action bound up, requiring excessive force to function. If I don't pull the remainder of them I'll load them singly. However, accuracy flat out sucked with those rounds so they'll probably just get pulled, rather than wasting components.

I'm planning to break in the Accurate 40-180E mold this weekend. I expect the rifle to shoot well with bullets cast in it.

The other thing hurting accuracy today was the rifle's trigger pull. While crisp, it's far too heavy, probably around 10 lbs. I'm going to look into some careful work with some slip stones to see if I can't get that down to an acceptable level (4 to 5 lbs. would be ideal).

Finally, I wanted to post this picture of a fired case next to a complete .38-40 cartridge. As you can see, the fired case is very much blown out. This is typical with guns chambered in .38-40. For some reason the specs for unfired cases are much smaller than the chambers. This results in a situation much like that seen with Lee-Enfields in .303 British.

In the case of the Lee-Enfield it was designed to allow military rifles to function with dirty or corroded ammo on a battlefield, but nobody seems to know why it's the case with .38-40.

New Uberti 1866 Yellowboy Sporting Rifle

After work on Wednesday I stopped at my local FFL and picked up an Uberti Model 1866 "Winchester" Sporting Rifle that I'd ordered from Dixie Gun Works.

The original 1866 was the first rifle to bear the Winchester name. Prior to its introduction, the company had been known as the New Haven Arms Company, known for manufacturing the 1860 Henry Rifle. Like the Henry, the 1866 was chambered for the .44 Henry rimfire cartridge.

The '66 was catalogued by Winchester all the way up to 1898 or '99, long after the introduction of its successor, the 1873. It was a bit cheaper and as long as it kept selling, Winchester kept it in the catalog. For a lot of folks in the late 19th Century, the 1866 was good enough even though its .44 rimfire round was less powerful than .44-40.

During the 1860s the Model 1866 was evaluated by the Swiss military, but ultimately not adopted due primarily to "not invented here" syndrome. Six thousand were sold to France for use in the Franco-Prussian War, and they were famously used by the Ottoman Turks against the Russians at the Siege of Plevna in 1877.

The .44 Henry cartridge pushed a 200 grain bullet to around 1100 feet per second, which is nothing to sneeze at for a defensive cartridge. It also worked ok for deer hunting at close range with careful shot placement.

Incidentally, modern Winchester Super-X .44-40 ammo is loaded to .44 Henry ballistics. Several years ago I chronographed Black Hills .44-40 cowboy action shooting ammo from my 1873 Sporting Rifle's 24.25" barrel at about the same velocity. (My full power .44-40 black powder handloads average over 1300 FPS.)

.44 Henry rimfire hasn't been manufactured since the 1930s, so modern reproductions of the Henry and 1866 are chambered for other rounds. Most commonly, these a .44-40, .45 Colt, .38 Special, and .22 LR. Some are made in .44 Special or .32-20, while the one I got is chambered for .38-40 Winchester.

At first, 1866 was known as the "Improved Henry", and like the earlier rifle had a receiver made from bronze. The replicas use brass. Bronze is stronger but brass will work fine with black powder pressure loads.

Like the Henry and later Winchester 1873 and 1876, the 1866 uses a toggle locking system. Compared with the Winchester 1886 or 1892 it isn't as strong, but it is strong enough for the cartridges for which it's chambered.

I generally prefer the toggle locked rifles over the stronger, 1886 and '92 for a few reasons:

  • They are smoother and can be run faster. The top shooters in cowboy action shooting all use tuned up 1866s or 1873.
  • They are simpler and easier to work on.
  • They have a controlled round feed, due to the cartridge being enclosed within the carrier block before it's fed into the chamber.

The downsides are that as mentioned above, they aren't as strong, and also that they are bulkier and heavier.

So why did I get this 1866 in .38-40 instead of .44-40 like I already shoot in my Henry or 1873? Mainly for something different. I was already setup for .38-40 from the Winchester 1892 that I had that was stolen. I had a bunch of brass, some ammo and components, and reloading dies laying around with no use for them until I got this rifle.

The Uberti 1866 is beautifully finished and due to the smaller bore, a bit heavier than my 1873.

After I ordered the rifle, I ordered a 40-180E bullet mold from Accurate Molds. It arrived yesterday and I hope to break it in this weekend. AM builds these to order and it took only 11 days from the time I placed the order until it arrived. Not bad at all!

I am hoping that will a full load of Swiss 3Fg it will drive the ~180 grain slug to about 1200 FPS from the Yellowboy's 24.25" barrel.

Range report to follow.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Winchester 1873 and M1911 at 2020 Desert Brutality 2-Gun Match

InRangeTV has a couple videos up showing Karl Kasarda's use of an Uberti 1873 Winchester Sporting Rifle and a 1911 in the 2020 Desert Brutality 2-gun match. They are fun, interesting videos which demonstrate what these old guns (especially the '73) can do.

Day 1:

Day 2:


The videos do a good job of how to run a levergun in a fight. If you're not shooting, make sure your gun is topped off.

Karl's rifle is chambered for .45 Colt, which is not authentic for original Winchesters but he does address that. He makes sure to note that his cartridges are loaded to duplicate original .44 WCF ballistics at the muzzle.

In the first video he mentioned that he secured the sling to the butt with hobnails. I have the same sling and used in when deer hunting 2018 with my Cimarron 1873. It wasn't all that secure, but it's a Leatherman sling intended for use on muzzleloaders. Last year I found a better option in a universal sling from October Country, which is securely laced to the stock and more easily adjustable.

Karl also mentions more than once the problems he had with powder fouling in the bore hurting accuracy. His handloads used a lead bullet on top of Black Horn 209 BP substitute. How much fouling BH209 generates in comparison to real black powder I can't say.

Based on my experience shooting my .44 WCF black powder handloads, he would have been better off with a different bullet that carries more lube. I've fired up to 100 rounds through my Cimarron/Uberti 1873 Sporting Rifle in one session with no loss of accuracy, because I was shooting bullets cast in an Accurate Molds 43-15C mold. That bullet carries a lot of lube; John Kort designed it to prevent 24" barreled rifles from fouling out when using Goex black powder. After that long shooting session it only needed about 9 or 10 wet patches to get the bore clean.

As an aside, Goex black powder is pretty darn filthy. Swiss BP is a lot more expensive but is much cleaner burning and more energetic. Goex Olde Eynsford is cheaper than Swiss but almost as good.

My rifle launches the 219 grain 43-215C bullet at over 1300 FPS when loaded on 2.2cc (~35 grains) of Swiss 3Fg, measured with a chronograph.

For my environment -- SE PA -- my Cimarron 1873 in .44-40 WCF is powerful enough to handle anything that needs shooting. It's not legal to hunt big game with a semiauto rifle in PA. The rifle fits me perfectly, almost as if it was designed for me. It's the absolute last rifle I'd ever sell.

COVID-19 Coronavirus Heat Map Dashboard

Johns Hopkins put out this heat map dashboard tracking the global outbreak. It's worth a look.