Friday, May 27, 2016

.44-40 Chronograph Results

Today I went to the range with my brother, who has a Shooting Crony Beta Master chronograph. I was able to measure the velocity of three .44-40 loads. Measurements for each load was for a 10 shot string.

All shots were from my Cimarron Firearms Uberti 1873 Sporting Rifle in .44-40 WCF with a 24.25" barrel. Brass was Starline and primers in the handloads were Federal No.150 large pistol primers.

First up were 10 rounds with a ~215 grain cast bullet from my Accurate Molds 43-215C mold on top of 2.2cc (~35 grains) of Swiss 3Fg black powder.

Average velocity: 1329.4 FPS
Standard deviation: 11.6 FPS
Extreme Spread: 42 FPS
Muzzle energy: 843 foot-pounds

These grouped into about 2" at 50 yards.

Second were 10 shots loaded with a Lyman 200 grain cast bullet on top of 8.6 grains of Alliant Unique smokeless powder. The Lyman bullets were from a box I bought years ago. They are pretty good bullets but no longer available.

Average velocity: 1307.2 FPS
Standard deviation: 21.462 FPS
Extreme spread: 82.98 FPS
Muzzle energy: 758 foot-pounds

These printed a somewhat larger group, about 2.5" to 3". They gave noticeably better accuracy than rounds loaded with only 8 grains of Unique. I was not surprised at the much larger SD since I've read that .44-40s loaded with Unique can have wide variations, unless you tilt the muzzle of the rifle for each shot to get the powder back near the primer. In contrast to the largely empty case when loaded with Unique, the black powder loads have 100% loading density, and are in fact compressed loads.

That said, the rounds with Unique performed better than I expected.

Finally, I chronographed 10 Black Hills .44 WCF 200 grain cowboy action shooting loads. As expected, these were a lot slower than the first two loads.

Average velocity: 1123.1 FPS
Standard deviation: 15.358 FPS
Extreme spread: 41.78 FPS
Muzzle energy: 560 foot-pounds

Even though these were more consistent than the handloads with Unique, if you go by SD, they don't shoot nearly as accurately. Just like when I've shot them before groups were about twice as large as the full power rounds. It's also possible that the rifle doesn't like the Black Hills bullet.

I have three more loads that I want to chronograph, all using bullets cast in the 43-215 mold:

(1) 23.5 grains of Alliant Reloder 7.
(2) 2.2cc of Goex 3Fg black powder.
(3) 2.2cc of Goex Olde Eynsford black powder.

I'm expecting the Reloder 7 loads to at least equal but probably exceed the velocity of the Swiss BP loads, the Olde Eynsford to perform similarly to Swiss, and the Goex to tail behind but hopefully shoot accurately.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Rapid Fire with the Cimarron 1873 Sporting Rifle and Black Powder Handloads


A quick video taken by my friend NF last weekend while on our camping trip. The junk in the foreground was related to our ham radios.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Camping Trip AAR

This weekend a couple friends and I went on a camping trip to Tioga County, PA. The main activity this time was ham radio. We went up on Friday and came home today.

I had to work on Friday but was able to cut out a little early. By the time I got on the road it was rush hour, so it took me a full four hours to get to my friend's land. By the time I arrived it was 9:30 PM. Before I got there, he'd put up an 80M dipole antenna made from aluminum welding wire, electric fence insulators, and some electric fence posts from Tractor Supply. The feed line was the welding wire, formed into an open ladder line held apart with pink duct tape.


This dipole worked well and pulling in signals on 20M, 40M, and 80M. A number of the calls we logged were from within Pennsylvania, demonstrating the viability of NVIS communications.

We're fans of the digital modes. He has an Icom 718 with which he uses a Donner Digital Interface at home. Since he's not going to schlepp a desktop PC with him, he used PSKdroid running on an LG Android tablet, using audio coupling. I also setup my Apple iPad Mini 2 running PSKer to try and pull some signals from the aether.


We were able to copy quite a few transmissions even without a digital interface between the tablets and the rig. We probably would've copied some more, but for the bourbon. ;)

On Saturday I setup my portable vertical antenna, Yaesu FT-817ND, and iPad.


As you can see, we setup inside his 16' x 24' pavilion, which was a godsend this weekend due to the weather. It rained on and off all weekend. There was little to no wind, so the open ends weren't a problem. We even setup my tent underneath the roof so it stayed mostly dry.


As you can see, I have my antenna feedline connected via the FT-817ND's front, BNC connector. As I understand it, using this instead of the SO-239 on the back reduces power consumption.  Also note that the feedline is connected straight to the rig, with no tuner. The vertical is resonant on 20M. Using a resonant antenna instead of one connected through a tuner increases your effective radiated power, and when operating QRP, every little bit helps.

The iPad is connected to the rig with one of KF5INZ's Easy Digi interfaces.

Pic of my vertical antenna:


The objects to the right of the antenna are steel gong targets set out at about 25 yards.

I mostly operated PSK31 and using the antenna above was able to reach the west coast.


I grabbed the above from pskreporter.info using my iPhone. Later, my signal was also reported in Washington state, but I forgot to get a screen shot.

After doing PSK31 for awhile I changed over to WSPR, using iWSPR. This was my first time trying this digital mode and it's amazing. The signal reports below are after transmitting for awhile on 5 watts.


Numerous hits in Great Britain, Western Europe, and Germany. WSPR basically acts like a beacon, transmitting your callsign so that other hams with Internet-connected rigs can upload signal reports. With some creativity I think it could have other applications.

We took time off from the radio to have a nice lunch of venison sausage and onions, sauteed in a red wine reduction. Yeah, we eat good when we go camping.


Saturday night's dinner was venison chili washed down with Yuengling Lager or Guiness Stout.

I also took a break from radio in the afternoon to do a little shooting. I first shot my Cowboy Pimp Gun, AKA a Ruger Single Six in .32 H&R Magnum which has a color case hardened frame and faux ivory grips. It's a fun little blaster but needs a trigger job. I put a bunch of Prvi Partizan .32 S&W Longs through it, which made a nice little tink when they hit our steel gongs.

I also put 70 rounds of .44-40 through my Cimarron 1873 Sporting Rifle.


Fifty of those were black powder loads with 35 grains of Goex 3Fg under a bullet cast in my Accurate Molds 43-215C bullet mold, and they really smacked the gongs around. If you click on the picture to view the full sized version, you can see some smoke coming out of the rifle's ejection port. I was doing an 1870s-style mag dump. Off to the left, you can also see the gong that I just shot swinging from the impact.

After I finished shooting my other friend put up about 500 feet of aluminum welding wire in a loop, all around our campsite. We got back to radio after nightfall and the loop turned out to work well for receiving 80M and 160M, and they both wound up getting 160M phone QSOs. Because the antenna height ranged from only a couple feet to a max of 5 feet, they were NVIS to other hams in northern PA and southern NY.

Finally, I took this picture of my iPad which looked like it was detecting Space Invaders on the waterfall.


Even though the weather this weekend was crappy we had a great trip. We got some good field radio practice in, plus a bit of fun shooting.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Rereading Sixguns by Keith

Over on Survivalpreps, I put up a post, "Old School Shooting and Reloading," in which I discuss the value of having guns chambered for cartridges that are suited for loading with black powder and cast bullets. This was prompted in part by my recent experiences handloading .44-40 WCF for my Cimarron 1873 Sporting Rifle. The other impetus for the piece was of course this year's election, which is turning out to be the shit show of all shit shows.

In tune with this, I'm rereading Elmer Keith's seminal work, Sixguns. My father has owned a hard cover copy of the 1961 edition for several decades but I decided to get my own, this time in Kindle format for convenience. Note that in this version the images were all moved to the end of the book in order, rather than remaining inline with the text.

Sixguns is over 50 years old at this point but still contains a lot of worthwhile information on shooting revolvers. Some, of course is dated, but if you want to get into handloading with cast bullets and shooting wheelguns at long range, it's worth reading. The Kindle version is only $9.99, so it's a good value IMO.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Loaded Black Powder .44-40s With Accurate Molds 43-215C Bullets

Yesterday I cast some more bullets in the Accurate Molds 43-215C mold, and then lubed and sized them. I'm pan lubing them with a homebrew mix of beeswax, mutton tallow, and a little paraffin wax. Here's my setup:


On the left is a hot plate with a tin in which I mix the lube. On the sheet of foil is my lube pan: a tin from a some kippered herring. To the right of that is the lid for the mixing tin on which is a .44-40 case that I drilled out the flash hole, which I use to cut the lubed bullets from the hardened lube. I push the bullets out of the case with a 9/64" Allen wrench.

After I cut a batch of bullets from the lube I put another batch in the holes left behind, then reheat the lube pan on the hot plate, then take it off to cool and harden. Like so:


I can fit twenty-two .44 caliber bullets in this pan, so the next time I eat a can of kippered herring I'll save its tin, so I can speed things up. Here's a closeup of an unlubed and a lubed bullet:


I wound up with around 120 bullets lubed and sized when I wrapped up last night.

Tonight, I loaded up two boxes of ammo: 50 rounds each using Swiss 3Fg and Goex 3Fg; 2.2cc of powder for both, which is about 35 grains.

I should get the chance to try them out next weekend on a camping trip.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Got My New Bullet Mold

Accurate Molds advertised a 3 week turnaround time but the 43-215C mold I ordered for loading black powder .44-40 ammunition got here in less than 2 weeks. The mold is nicely machined and overall feels like a quality piece.

I cast my first bullets with it tonight. I'll probably cull a few of these but most of them look good. I'm going to have to pin the Lee handles because the wood part started slipping off one handle. (At least they were cheap.)



They are supposed to drop at .430 when cast in 20:1 alloy. I'll measure them tomorrow.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Range Day

The past few weeks have been more stressful than normal so last Thursday I put in to get today off and hit the range. I lucked out with the weather and was able to get in some quality, relaxing time on my club's 50 yard range with my Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle and Claudia, my Cimarron Firearms 1873 Sporting Rifle.

Note: This post contains reloading data that is safe in my rifles. It may not be safe in yours. Check multiple sources for data when reloading ammo. I'm not responsible if you blow up your gun and hurt yourself.

First up was the Ruger. I wanted to fine tune the 50 yard zero with "The Load," C.E. Harris's recipe for a mild shooting target load in .30 caliber cartridges. (Go read the whole article for safety guidelines when using The Load.) My .308 ammo today was a 152 grain .30 M2 projectile on top of 13 grains of Alliant Red Dot, ignited by a Federal large rifle primer. Brass was from a bunch of once-fired Hornady given to me by a friend.

The rifle shoots pretty good with this combo. Using the Ruger's factory peep sight I am able to keep them inside about 2" at 50 yards from the bench. Recoil is very mild, probably about like 7.62x39 from an SKS. I could shoot it all day without getting beat up, unlike full power .308s with a 150 grain bullet at about 2700 FPS.

For some reason the Ruger doesn't like the Hornady brass. When I got the rifle and shot it with IMI and Prvi Partisan factory ammunition it functioned just fine. However, the extractor frequently slips over the rim on the Hornady brass after it extracts from the chamber, requiring me to pick the spent case out of the action. The next time I load up a batch of ammo I'll use some once fired USGI brass.

Next up was Claudia, with a variety of handloads, some using Alliant Unique and others using Alliant Reloder 7. The first load I tried was some old Lyman 200 grain, .429 diameter hard cast bullets on top of 8.5 grains of Unique. This is a reduced power load in .44-40, though not a cowboy action shooting mousefart level load.

Accuracy was poor, about 6" at 50 yards. I had another batch of ammo with the same powder charge but a soft cast 200 grain, .428 bullet from Desperado Cowboy Bullets. Accuracy and POI with this was about the same.

Below is a group shot with the Lyman bullets. POA was 6 o'clock on the bullseye.



Next, we have two groups. The one on the orange target in the center was with the 200 grain .428 DCB on top of 8.5 grains of Unique. POA was 6 0'clock on the bull. The group in the head was shot with the load described below the picture. POA was at the base of the neck.



The final load I put through the '73 was the same 200 grain DCB bullet, but I'd bought these at .430 then sized them down to .429. These were loaded on top of 23.5 grains of Reloder 7. The muzzle velocity of this load should be around 1200 - 1300 FPS, i.e., very similar to the original black powder .44 factory ammunition. POA was 6 o'clock on the bull.




Accuracy with this load was good, decent, about 2.5" to 3" 2" at 50 yards except for the flier, and functioning was perfect. The sights on the rifle make it difficult to shoot better, for me anyway.

Back when I first got the rifle I shot two kinds of ammo through it the first time I took it out. The first was a box of Black Hills CAS ammo, while the other was 5 rounds of Winchester 200 grain jacketed soft points, which were a lot more accurate. The rifle seems to prefer full power ammo.

I'd hoped to be able to use my brother's chronograph today but he couldn't make it, so that'll have to wait.

I now need to load up some more rounds with Reloder 7 and this bullet, and then fine tune Claudia's zero at 100 yards.