Thursday, August 27, 2015

Free Book Download from Sparks 31

I've been following Sparks 31's blog for awhile now, and bought his book Communications for 3%ers and Survivalists. He's decided to make the full text of that book and his other tome, The Modern Survivalist available as one PDF, for free.

It's worth a gander.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Shot My Cabela's Traditional Hawken Today

The last couple of times I've gone shooting it's involved charcoal burning and I've really been enjoying it. So, today I hit the range with my Cabela's Traditional Hawken, which I haven't shot in awhile. The rifle was made by Investarms in Italy, and is basically the same thing as a Lyman Trade Rifle with the addition of a cap box on the stock, double set triggers, and availability in lefty persuasion, which mine is. Checking the Cabela's website, it looks like they now carry a similar rifle made by Pedersoli, but not the same one I bought several years ago.

My load today was a .490 round ball, pillow ticking for a patch lubed with T/C Bore Butter, and 80 grains by volume of 2Fg Goex black powder. My rifle is a caplock, and I used CCI Number 11 caps.

I put around 20 shots through the gun. In the past I've alway wiped between shots: 2 sides of a wet patch followed by both sides of a dry patch. Today I decided to try just one side of a wet patch followed by one side of a dry patch. The wet patches were cut from T-shirt material that I'd moistened with water ahead of time and kept in a Ziploc bag. The dry patches were flannel patches sold as gun cleaning patches. This combo worked well to keep the fouling in check and I was able to load the gun easily, and allowed me to get more rounds downrange in less time.

I did experience one failure to fire. After about 10 shots the cap failed to set off the main charge. I tried a second cap but no dice. Thinking I'd dry balled, I removed the nipple and used my flintlock priming flask to dribble some 3Fg down into the bolster, put the nipple back in, and capped the gun. When I shot it, it recoiled the just like there was a full powder charge. The patent breech must have gotten really fouled, which was a first for me with this gun. (This is an example of why having a flintlock priming flask can be handy, even if you're shooting a percussion rifle.)

I shot OK today, nothing to write home about. All shots were offhand and I kept them in about a 6" group at 50 yards. I made my last shot count -- at an 8" gong which I hit squarely.

After I got home I finished cleaning the rifle by dismounting the barrel and putting the end in a bucket of hot water with a drop or two of dishwashing soap, then pumped the water through for a few minutes. This was followed up with some dry patches, then I sprayed WD-40 down the bore to make sure it was dry, wiped that out, then left it with a coat of FP-10. Petroleum-based lubes don't belong in a black powder gun's bore when you're shooting, but they are good to protect it in storage. I don't buy into "seasoning" muzzleloader bores. They are steel, not cast iron. As long as you get the petroleum products out before you load, you're good to go.

One thing I'm not happy with on this rifle are the sights. The front is a plain bead, which I could live with. However, the rear sight is awful. It's adjustable for windage and elevation but there is some slop in both the windage and elevation. Worse, the rear blade is shaped like a shallow "V" express sight. I am going to replace them with a Lyman set from Track of the Wolf that includes a fiber optic front sight and adjustable rear, also with fiber optics. Far from traditional, but now that I'm in my late 40s seeing plain metal sights isn't getting any easier.

After dinner tonight I removed the rear sight. This involved removing the elevation screw, driving out the roll pin on which the sight leaf pivots, then removing the two screws that attach the base to the barrel. One of the screws stripped so I had to drill it out and use a screw extractor. I used my mill for this. Here is how I used the drill chuck to apply downward pressure on the screw extractor held in a tap wrench.

I ordered the replacement sight set along with several other items from Track, and expect to get them towards the end of next week.

Sunday, August 09, 2015


Back in April I e-filed a Form 1 to turn my TNW Firearms M-31SA Suomi into a short barreled rifle. BATFE approved the Form 1 on July 19th, but never emailed it to me. I logged into last week, and lo and behold, it was sitting there in approved status.

Friday night I engraved the receiver and then cut the barrel to 12.4”. I used a hacksaw to cut it off a little on the long side, then put the barrel in my lathe where I faced and crowned it. The Suomi barrel is about 19.5mm in diameter, so it just fit through my lathe’s 20mm spindle bore.






I touched up the muzzle with some Birchwood-Casey cold blue, and it’s a pretty close match to the TNW phosphate finish.

Aside from looking correct, it now balances much better. It’s not nearly as muzzle heavy and actually handles pretty well, even though it’s heavy.

I was going to shoot it today but about 2/3s of the way to the range I realized that I had forgotten my range badge and key. Hopefully I’ll be able to put some rounds downrange through it next weekend.

Ted Cash Capper

One of the challenges of using a caplock muzzleloader in the field is finding a convenient way to carry your percussion caps. If you keep them in the original tin you need to handle individual caps every time you load. This risks dropping the small caps and spilling the tin.

Shortly after percussion caps came into use in the 19th Century, people developed cappers, which hold a number of caps. They can be as simple as a piece of stiff leather with holes punched in them to hold the caps, or can be elaborate spring-powered affairs.

This brass capper by Ted Cash Mfg. is simple and holds up to 75 caps.


In the picture above you can see a cap ready to be placed on a gun’s nipple. To get it into that position you press the L-shaped button sticking out the bottom.

To open it, slide the catch on the lid down so it disengages from the pin. This allows you to put in up to 75 caps and shows the simple mechanism.


I’m planning to keep this one in the Finnish gas mask bag that I’m setting up as a hunting pouch to go with my Euroarms Magnum Cape Gun. It’ll also be useful with my Cabela’s Traditional Hawken and Thompson-Center Renegade.

Note that this style capper cannot be used with percussion revolvers because it can’t fit into the nipple recesses in the back of the cylinder. An inline capper or other capper made for revolvers would be required. E.g., this one.

The workmanship is very nice on this capper, with a nice polish. I’m planning to let it develop a natural, non-glare patina. You can find them at various black powder suppliers or on eBay, which is where I bought mine.

Desktop PC Upgrade With SSD

This weekend I upgraded my desktop PC with a 500 GB Samsung 850 EVO Solid State Drive. (I bought the SSD locally at Microcenter but Amazon has it cheaper.)

The PC is a Microcenter PowerSpec B707 that I bought 4 or 5 years ago. It has a Core i5 CPU and I’ve upgraded a few components over the years, including the RAM to 16 GB, the video card, and the power supply (to handle the video card). The last remaining component to upgrade to improve performance was the hard disk.

Aside from the excellent reputation of Samsung SSDs a major reason that I chose one of their disks instead of a Crucial SSD is that Samsung includes a nice disk cloning software. I wanted to migrate my existing system over rather than rebuilding it from scratch, which would take days. After installing the cloning software, I used a USB-to-SATA adapter* to connect the SSD to the PC, then let it run for about six hours, finishing up after I went to bed last night. This morning when I checked on it the clone was complete.

Note that if you want to upgrade a Mac to an SSD, you can use SuperDuper! or Carbon Copy Cloner, both of which are free. There are free Windows disk cloning tools, but other than CloneZilla, I don’t have any experience with them. Samsung’s clone app was easier to use and better for less technical people. It’s very pointy-clicky.

To install the SSD in a desktop you’ll also need a 2.5” to 3.5” drive bay adapter, in order to mount it in the case.

With the drive cloned and the SSD installed, I booted the machine, which went a lot faster than before. It did require a reboot to install the Windows drivers for the SSD. Then I installed the Samsung Magician software, which helps you monitor the health of the drive and optimize its performance. One thing it suggested to do was put the drive controller into AHCI mode by going into the BIOS. Unfortunately, that’s something you need to do before you install Windows. Windows blue-screened before booting fully when I tried this, so back to IDE mode it is.

The machine boots much faster, and I get a usable desktop much more quickly after I login. Even large applications like Word and Excel open very quickly from the SSD. I expected all this, based on my previous experience upgrading my mid-2009 MacBook Pro with an SSD.

Another nice thing is that the PC is a little quieter without the spinning disk.

If you have a PC that’s a little older and in need of a performance boost, replacing the spinning hard disk with a solid state drive is probably the best bang for your buck.



*Mine is a Newer Tech USB-to-IDE or SATA adapter that I got from several years ago. One of the cheaper USB-to-SATA units should work fine, if you never  have need to read IDE disks.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Ball Bag

{Insert Beavis and Butthead huh huh here.}

In setting up a Finn gas mask bag as a possibles bag to go along with my Euroarms Magnum Cape Gun, I needed a small bag to hold the .690 round balls I'll use for deer hunting. You can buy ball bags fairly cheaply, but I decided to make one using some pigskin I had laying around from my last visit to the Allentown, PA Tandy Leather shop.

The base is about 3" across, and it's a little less than 4" tall. I had the lacing from a past trip to Dixon's Muzzleloading Shop. I sewed the base and sides together using artificial sinew. It'll comfortably hold 25 .690 balls, far more than I need for a day in the woods.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Euroarms Magnum Cape Gun Range Report

Today I got the chance to shoot the Euroarms Magnum Cape Gun percussion shotgun that I picked up last week at Dixon's. Like last week, I shot it over at a friend's place, this time after we installed a trailer hitch on my Nissan Xterra, so I can mount a bike rack or cargo carrier. That took about 45 minutes and afterwards we drove to the back of his yard where he has a short range for pistols and black powder guns.

Earlier this week I'd ordered some .690 cast lead round balls, 0.020" thick patches, and a few other items, from Track of the Wolf. I'd also ordered a 10 lb. bag each of Lawrence copper plated No. 5 and No. 7.5 birdshot from Rotometals, via their Amazon shop. Both orders came yesterday.

I patterned both sizes of shot at ~15 yards. The birdshot loads were 80 grains of 2Fg Goex and an equivalent volume of shot (i.e., a "square load"). On top of the powder I put a corrugated cardboard wad and a 1/8" thick lubricated felt wad. The shot was secured in place with a second corrugated cardboard wad. The wads were punched out using a 3/4" arch punch that I got from Amazon, which I chucked in my mill, with a piece of wood held in the mill vise under the wad material. I put the mill on a low speed, and the wads were cut out easily. Beats using a hammer!

We used IDPA paper targets for patterning. I put some blue painter's tape in the middle for a well-defined aiming point.

First, the No. 7.5s, used for informal trap shooting:

I pulled that shot a little to the left.

Next, the No. 5s, which I'll use for upland birds and small game:

(The bullet hole in the top right was from my friend's .45 caliber Euroarms Kentuckian flintlock carbine. The hole in the left of the -1 ring is from a wad.)

We then took some shots with patched round balls on the above target from ~25 yards, but I forgot to take pictures. My load was 80 grains of 2Fg Goex, a 0.020" patch lubed with Bore Butter, and a .690" lead round ball. At that range, the gun shoots a couple inches high but is easily minute-of-whitetail.

I took three more shots, recycling the target I used when I patterned the No. 7.5 shot.

You can really see the difference in the .45 and .69 caliber holes. I yanked the first shot, which is the one to the left of the tape. Point of aim was 6 o'clock on the blue tape, so it shoots a little high with this load at 50 yards.

I recovered a couple of my patches, which show a perfect fouling pattern with no cutting, as expected.

This load looks like a winner for close range deer hunting. It's accurate enough to 50 yards and even after 11 shots with no wiping, seated easily. In fact, the balls can be started in the muzzle with only thumb pressure.

I noticed that fouling was starting to build up in the breech after about 9 shots. I could've continued shooting after 11 shots if I wiped the bore, but by then it was lunchtime and we called it quits.

One thing that helped make loading easier was that last night I'd measured out all my powder and shot loads, and put them in speed loader tubes from TOTW. Likewise, I'd prelubed my shooting patches, which saved a lot of mess, since Bore Butter gets runny when it's 90 degrees out.

Aside from preparing my powder and shot charges and lubing my patches, I'd prepared a Ziploc bag of cleaning patches by soaking them in water with a little Windex squirted in. I used a few of these after shooting, then completed cleaning once I got home. At home I took advantage of the gun's patent breech and dunked the breech end in a bucket of hot soapy water, so I could pump it through the bore. I then followed up with some dry patches, and then a few with WD40 to make sure that there wasn't any water left inside. Finally, I left the bore with a good coat of Ballistol to prevent rust.

I am really looking forward to carrying the Euroarms Magnum Cape Gun afield this fall.