Saturday, May 14, 2011

Colt 1862 and Remington 1858 Range Report

Today I took a spin up to Cabela's in Hamburg, PA. I'd hoped to be able to buy a 1,000 round bulk pack of Remington No.10 percussion caps at Cabela's, but found that they don't carry them in that quantity in the store. They only sell the 100 cap tins in the store.  So, along with a few other items I picked up two tins.

On the way back I stopped at Dixon's and wound up buying an Uberti Colt 1862 Pocket Police percussion revolver.  My dad had a Second-generation Colt 1862 when I was a kid that I enjoyed shooting so I recently developed a hankering for one.

The Pocket Police is one of the less common 19th Century percussion Colt revolvers. Colt made made from 1861 through 1873 and I've read different production figures given, from 20,000 to about 47,700. It's a 5-shot .36 caliber revolver built on the small frame originally used for Colt's .31 caliber guns. The originals were made in several barrel lengths; my replica has a 6.5" barrel. It weighs about 26 oz. The overall size is similar to a Ruger Single Six.

The Uberti's external finish is very nice but the action is not as smooth as older Ubertis I've handled and shot. For example, my Uberti 1851 Navy came from the factory with a very slick action. I may do a complete tear down and carefully polish the internals.

I put 20 rounds through the 1862 tonight using 12 grains by volume of 3Fg Triple 7 powder, a Wonder Wad, a Hornady .375 ball, and Remington No.10 caps. It took me about 10 rounds to get on paper at 10 yards.  My target was a paper plate and it turns out that the gun shoots about a foot and a half high at that range, due to the tiny front sight.

Unfortunately, I ran into some trouble with the '62. After the 13th or 14th shot, the lug attached to the underside of the barrel, to which the loading lever is latched, fell off. It landed on the table I was shooting over and I was able to tap it back into place but after several more shots, it fell off again. I decided to call it quits with the Uberti then. I'll reattach it tomorrow after making a few divots inside the dovetail so that it stays in place.  Darn annoying.

The small frame Colts seem even more prone to cap jams than the larger framed models like the 1851 Navy or 1860 Army.  There's just less room for the cap fragments to fall out of the gun.  I had several spent caps fall off the nipple and lodge between the hammer and frame. It's a good idea to invert the gun every time you recock it, to let cap fragments fall free. The Remingtons and Rogers & Spencer handle cap fragments much better than the Colts.

However, the Colts are much less susceptible to binding from powder fouling than the Remingtons. I attribute this to the Remington cylinder base pin that has part of it cut away to clear the screw which retains it and the loading lever. The cutaway area lets powder fouling in. The Rogers & Spencer has a cylinder base pin similar in size to the Remington, but lacks the cutaway section, and handles powder fouling very well.  The Colt base pin is larger in diameter than either, doesn't have any cutaways to let fouling in, and has grooves in it to hold grease.

Because of problems with several new guns I've taken to always bringing more than one gun with me whenever I go shooting. So, after cleaning off the Uberti, I did some shooting with my .36 Pietta 1858 Remington "New Army Police" (Remington never marketed a gun with that name).

My load was the same with the Remington although I increased the powder charge to 20 grains. Unlike most percussion revolvers which shoot high from the factory, this one actually shoots a little low. One of these days I'll bring a file with me and take a little off the front sight to raise the point of impact.

To keep the powder fouling under control I pulled the cylinder base pin after every 6 - 12 shots, wiped it off, and relubed it with Ballistol. I think it might be less prone to fouling with better lubed wads. The Wonder Wads I used tonight are lubed with Bore Butter, which works fine but they could use more of it. For example, last week when I shot my Euroarms 1858 .44 I used my homemade wads with much more lube, and the gun didn't bind as much.

Overall, the Pietta Remington was a pleasure to shoot. Recoil is mild due to the light ball and the heavy gun (it's built on the same frame as their .44s.) Accuracy was good with my 10 yard, one-hand group being about the size of my palm. I was pleased to see that it shoots .375 balls well. I'd bought this box over ten years ago for use in my Uberti 1851 Navy. In the '51 .375s group like I'm shooting a smoothbore, but the gun is very accurate with .380s.

Overall a good day. I'll post a followup on the Uberti once I get the kinks worked out.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Unetbootin is a nifty open source utility for creating bootable USB flash drives of various Linux and BSD distributions. Such drives are useful for installing an OS on a machine which doesn't have an optical drive.  I've also found that doing an OS install from a flash drive is usually faster than doing it off a CD or DVD since disk read/write is faster.

Up until recently UNetbootin ran on either Windows or Linux. I noticed this morning that there's now an  OS X version.  I grabbed it and I'm now creating a bootable flash drive with Ubuntu 10.04 Server LTS on it for an upcoming project.

Incidentally, this is a good use for small flash drives you get as promos. The 1 GB unit I'm currently using was used to distribute the course materials for the PBI Intellectual Property Law Institute I attended last month.

It's possible to create a bootable flash drive for installing Windows, but doing so requires different tools. I'll tackle that in another post.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Range Day

Today started out being a potentially very crappy day but wound up being quite good.

The past couple of days I was having problems starting the '07 Nissan Xterra that I bought back on April 23.  I was also hearing some sort of noise at low speed. Yesterday I called Peruzzi Nissan, the dealer from whom I bought the truck, and made an appointment for this morning.

The starting problem turned out to be a bad battery. They told me that they checked it and it had a bad cell.  The noise I was hearing was a loose heat shield that they tightened. I was at Peruzzi for about an hour and a half and got home around 10:00 AM.  It seems to be starting and running fine now but I guess the real test will be if either problem recurs. I really hope this is the last time I need to take the Xterra in for unscheduled service.

Since I'd already scheduled a flex day and we had a beautiful Spring day with the temp in the low 50s, I decided to go to the range.

I brought my "Cowboy Pimp Gun," a Ruger Single Six in .32 H&R Magnum. I named it that due to the faux ivory grips and color casehardened frame. I also brought my Euroarm 1858 Remington percussion revolver.

Today I shot at 25 yards and started with the CPG.  With PPU 98 grain LRN .32 S&W Longs it shoots about a foot low at 25 yards. The trigger has almost no takeup or creep, but is heavy, probably at least 8 pounds.  My groups were nothing to brag about.  I may look into getting a trigger job.

The Euroarms got more of a workout.  Last week I'd made up 20 combustible cartridges, something I haven't tried before.  They consisted of a .457 Hornady round ball and 30 grains of Goex FFFg black powder inside a cartridge case made from nitrated cigarette rolling paper.  Such cartridges made from nitrated paper or intestine were very common in the 19th Century, especially during the Civil War and for several years afterward.  Properly constructed they greatly aide in quickly loading a caplock revolver.

My paper cartridges, on the other hand, need some work. I need to use a mandrel with more of a taper to ease loading into the chambers and to cause the paper to rupture more when the round is rammed home.  I did have several ignition problems, probably due to an excessive amount of paper at the base of the cartridge. For my last 5 shots with the paper cartridges, I put a few grains of powder from my flintlock priming flask in the chambers before loading the cartridges. These all went off on the first cap.

Note that if you are shooting a percussion revolver and on a round the cap pops but the charge does not fire, if you then fire the next round in the cylinder there is a high likelihood that you'll get a chainfire. What happens is that when the cap from the failed round fragments it unseals the back of that chamber. When you fire the next round there is flashover and it's enough to get both chambers to fire. This happened to me a couple times today until I realized what was happening.  (I have actually been meaning to test this because with a properly fitting lead ball in a good condition revolver, I do not see any way it is possible to have a chainfire from the front end of the cylinder. As far as I'm concerned, the most likely source of a chainfire is from a missing or poorly fitting cap.)

One thing I noticed when shooting the paper cartridge is that they smell different from loose powder and ball. It took me awhile to figure out the aroma, but it bears a resemblance to the smell of a spent model rocket engine.

After my cartridges were used up I pulled the cylinder and found bits of paper in the chambers, which I cleaned out before continuing with loose powder, ball, and wad.

For the remainder of my shooting I used Hornady .454 balls and 30 grains of powder measured with a flask. Compared with the .457s I've used before the smaller balls load a lot easier and still give acceptable accuracy. I will probably use them from now on in the Euroarms and my Pietta 1858 Remington .44. I also plant to try them in my Rogers & Spencer to see if they are as accurate as .457s. I'll continued to use .457s in my Ruger Old Army as that is the specified size for it.

The wads I used today were from the first batch of homemade wads I made a couple weeks ago. To make them I ordered some 1/8" thick hard white 100% wool felt from out of Little Rock, AR. I'd read about Durofelt on The High Road and their product came highly recommended. I also picked up a set of hollow punches from Harbor Freight. I used the 7/16" punch that I'd reamed out to about .45" using my Dremel.  After punching out the wads I lubed them by soaking them in a mix of mostly beeswax with some mutton tallow, melted in a double boiler. Once the lube solidified the wads looked like little lube cookies.

Note: Melting mutton tallow on the kitchen stovetop is almost guaranteed to piss off the wife.  It reeks.

I'm quite pleased with my homemade wads and don't see myself buying Wonder Wads anymore. While the Wonder Wads work fine, the homemade wads hold more lube, seem to keep the powder fouling softer, and the gun binds a bit less. I'll have to see how my lube mixture works in hot weather, as I might want to add a little paraffin canning wax to the mix to stiffen it a bit.  As-is the mix might work well for lubricating the cylinder base pin of caplock revolvers.

Overall, a pretty good day.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

iPhone Battery Note

Last night I fully charged my iPhone before turning it at about 10:20. I left it on overnight with WiFi enabled to see how much of a charge would remain this morning. When I checked it at about 7:00 today I was pleased to see that it was still at 97%. My Droid would've been well below 90% even when it was new.

Nevertheless, the lack of easy access to the iPhone's battery led to me to purchase Duracell Instant USB Charger, yesterday from Amazon.  I'll keep it in my bag as an emergency backup should I need it.

Monday, May 02, 2011

So does this mean that ...

... we'll no longer have to take off our shoes and get molested by TSA flunkies before boarding an airplane?  No?

Thought so.

US Navy SEALs...

They be climbin' in yo window and snatchin' yo people up!

And in some cases puttin' a bullet in yo head!

(With apologies to Antoine Dodson.)

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Recent Black Powder Shooting

Yesterday I did something I haven't done since the 1980s, shot in a black powder rifle match.  My club held our "Spring Fellowship" match.  We only got a half dozen shooters but it was a really fun day and I came in third.  Here's my last target of the day, with one shot fired at each bull.

By the time we got to this target we'd been at it for a few hours and I was pretty tired. I was having problems with my flint not sparking and managed to yank the shot on the bottom middle bull out of the black.  Can't complain about the bottom left bull, though.  ;-)

We shot at several targets offhand from about 30 yards.  Small targets.  IIRC, 4 of us shot flintlock rifles while there were a couple caplocks.  I shot my customized left hand Dixie Tennessee Mountain Rifle.  It's a .50 caliber flintlock which has been remade into a Pennsylvania-styled rifle.  My load was 65 grains of Goex FFg black powder, a Hornady .490" round ball, and pillow ticking patches.  This is a mild recoiling, accurate load.

Lately when shooting patched round balls, I like to cut my patches ahead of time.  I found a couple of years ago that a John F. Kennedy half dollar is the same size as a patch for a .50 caliber round ball, so I use one as a template and cut and lube a bunch beforehand.  Compared with cutting them on the muzzle it saves a lot of time at the range. The patches were lubed with Track of the Wolf's Mink Oil Tallow patch grease.  It has a very mild smell and works really well as a patch lube and to keep fouling soft.  Yesterday I mostly wiped the bore after every other shot, but a couple times went three shots between wiping.  I use Windex for cleaning the black powder fouling.  It's cheap and works as well as anything else I've tried.

Most of my range time in the past couple of months has been shooting black powder guns.  My father turned 70 back in March and along with my brother, we bought him a Euroarms Rogers & Spencer percussion revolver from Dixie Gun Works.  While I was ordering the revolver for him I added a second one to the cart for me.  This is mine:

This is the Euroarms "London Gray" finish, which as I understand it is some sort of nickel plating.  It's not stainless.

It's become one of my favorite pistols.  The R&S handles powder fouling and cap fragments as good or better than a Ruger Old Army, which is the penultimate development of the cap and ball revolver.  Unlike Remingtons, it doesn't bind from powder fouling, and unlike Colts, it's not susceptible to cap jams.  Plus, even with the poor 19th Century service sights, it's accurate.  I shot this target at 50 yards about a month ago, using a two-hand offhand hold:

Although I pulled a few shots to the right edge of the paper, most of the 25 shots were within the -1 zone of the IDPA target, with about half on the paper plate.  Load was a .457 Hornady ball, a Wonder Wad, 24 grains of Goex FFFg black powder, and a Remington No.10 percussion cap.

A Couple of Major Upgrades for Me

I haven't posted much on this blog recently but I've had a couple of significant (to me, anyway) upgrades.

First, I finally decided to replace my 1997 Ford Expedition, which I had since 2003. The brake problems back on April 4th were the final straw. This was the second big repair bill I had on the Ford since the Fall and with a 14 year old truck, I just saw more big bills coming. Even though it was in generally good shape car parts in general start failing due to age, and I figured it was only a matter of time before I got stuck somewhere.

So, I did some looking around online and on April 23, I bought a 2007 Nissan Xterra with about 29,000 miles on it from Peruzzi Nissan in Fairless Hills, PA.  I got what I think is a decent deal. I negotiated the price down to a bit over $18K, got $3K for the Ford in trade, put another $2K down, and I'm financing the rest. I can't tell you how thrilled I am to have a car payment again but I should now have a reliable vehicle that gets better gas mileage than the Expedition.  My new ride:

I've wanted an Xterra since they first came out about ten years ago.  So far, I'm loving it.

The other upgrade was to my cell phone. I'd been using one of the original Motorola Droids since Black Friday 2009. For most of the time I owned it I was happy with it but the past couple of months it felt like it was degrading.  I.e., slowing down and crashing a lot more than previously.  After rooting it, I tried a couple ROMs (Bugless Beast and Cyanogenmod).  Cyanogenmod was generally good at first but after a short while, the phone started misbehaving again.  I considered another Android phone like a Droid X or an HTC Thunderbolt as a replacement, but last Friday I went to the Apple store on Walnut St. in Philadelphia on my lunch break to look at the iPhones.  I checked out an iPhone 4 on Verizon, liked what I saw, and decided to give the Apple phone a try.  I got the 16 GB VZW model, a bumper to go around the phone, and a car charger.

I've only had it a couple of days but compared with the Droid it's much faster, the UI seems smoother, and overall feels more polished.  I still don't like that you need tools to get at the battery or that storage is non-expandable.  OTH, I never filled the 16 GB microSD card in my Droid.  As for the battery, I'll pick up an emergency cell phone charger.

A couple specific items on the iPhone which are better than the Droid are the maps application and the camera, both of which load much more quickly. The iPhone camera takes better pictures, too.

Call quality seems equivalent to the Droid.  I use only a fraction of my 450 minutes each month but use the heck out of the data features, especially email.  I'll be able to get ActiveSync enabled on my Exchange account at work and then iOS's native Exchange support will allow me to get my mail and calendar, without installing any extra software.  A few coworkers use iPhones for their work email and calendar and reported they works well.

OTH, the Android OS's support for widgets is a point in its favor, as is the better customizability when it comes to notifications. For example, the Android phones make no differentiation between ringtones and test message notification tones.  On the iPhones, ringtones are different from text message notification sounds.  So, while I was able to make some customer ringtones in iTunes and copy them to the phone, I couldn't use one for text messages; I'm stuck with the sounds Apple loaded. LAME.

If you use a Mac the integration between the computer and phone is impressive. For example, when I did my initial setup iTunes read the configuration of the email accounts I had setup in and transferred them to the phone. Likewise, you can sync Safari bookmarks on your computer and the iPhone.  (I've had an on-again/off-again relationship with Safari on the Mac. I will say that Safari on the iPhone is quite a bit better than the stock Android browser.)

I still have a great deal to learn about the iPhone and will try to post about new things I discover.