Monday, December 26, 2016

Mauser C96 Broomhandle Range Report

Saturday night after dinner I went along with my dad to his club's indoor range and had the place to ourselves. We put 100 rounds of PPU 7.63x25 through the Broomhandle and it ran perfectly.

My first 15 shots, fired at 7 yards:

My point of aim was 6 o'clock on the black. The flyer was my first shot, fired one handed. I switched to a two-hand hold for the remainder.

Shooting impressions:

  • Loading a pistol with a stripper clip definitely isn't as handy as a detachable box magazine. In the case of the this pistol and these clips, you need to wiggle the clips down into the charging slot. They are a tight fit.
  • At ~40 oz. empty, the recoil is pretty mild but after awhile the edges of the frame start to dig into the web of your hand. When shot as a carbine it recoils like a .22.
  • The trigger is similar to that of a Mauser rifle. I.e., it is a two-stage trigger. It's a bit heavy but not at all unmanageable. There's little to no creep and not much overtravel.
  • The barleycorn front sight is hard to see with 48 year old eyes. It's worse when you shoot it as a carbine, because it's closer.
  • Muzzle blast and flash is definitely more noticeable when shot as a carbine, since the muzzle is closer to your face, but isn't too bad. I noticed the amount of flash varied. Some rounds had little visible flash but others had a nice fireball. However, the rounds without much flash had just as much recoil and blast as the flashier rounds.
  • Cases ejected straight up towards the front and then bounced all over the place with most landing in front of the firing line.
  • When I did my part it shot into about a 2" group at 7 yards when shot with two hands. Mean POI was about 1.5" to 2" high.
Dad took a short video of me shooting the Broom with the stock on*:

Having fired a stocked pistol now, I'm even more annoyed with the NFA. A modern stocked pistol with a micro dot sight would be the tits as a traveling gun, a real pocket carbine. Especially in a hot, flat shooting round like 7.63 Mauser or 7.62 Tokarev.

I have wanted a shootable Broomhandle for 40 years and now I finally have one.

* A reminder for those late to the show: According to the BATFE an original Mauser C96 with an original German stock is not considered a Short Barreled Rifle under the NFA.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Field Stripped the C-96 Broomhandle

So, as a follow up, I field stripped the Broomhandle tonight after dinner. Getting it apart was difficult, because the old grease or oil had congealed and glued the floorplate on, and the lock work into the receiver. I dribbled some FP-10 on and let it soak it for a few minutes and was able to get it apart. I spent some time tonight scrubbing congealed goo off the metal parts with a copper Chore-Boy. I'd love to know how many decades it's been since the last time this pistol was taken apart.

The floorplate and grip serial numbers don't match the frame, but at least the floorplate is an old replacement. The grips probably are, too. They are correct for the pistol.

Now that I am able to look through the bore from breech to muzzle, I am amazed. It looks new.

I currently have the lock work soaking in Hoppe's No.9 and FP-10. I'll disassemble it all the way to get out the remaining grease tomorrow. It's hard to tell from the pic but the bolt stop and safety still have a lot of the fire blue left. You can see some of the fire blue on the rear sight's elevation slide. It's almost the same color as blue Dykem layout fluid.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Wartime Commercial Mauser C-96 Broomhandle

Two years ago I came into a Mauser C-96 Broomhandle pistol, which has long been one of my Grail guns. The pistol is in fair condition externally but the bore is shot out. I also posted pictures of the gun taken down to its constituent parts.

In early 2015 I sent the barrel and bolt to Redman's to have the barrel relined for 7.63 Mauser but he returned it to me because it wasn't a good candidate for such work. Specifically, he uses a piloted reamer to enlarge the bore enough for the liner, and my gun's bore was already too large for the pilot. He was concerned that the reamer would wander and I'd end up with an off-center bore. Worse, it appears that the barrel had already been relined once, which made it unsafe to do again.

At this point the only way to restore that pistol to shooting condition would be to cut the barrel off, bore out the barrel extension, and weld on a new barrel. This was sometimes done back when these guns were in service. See here and scroll down to where the discussion of "hashed barrels." I'm not aware of anyone currently offering this service, and it would be awfully expensive.

Naturally, this didn't sate my desire for a functional Broomhandle, that I've had since I was a kid in the '70s, even before seeing Han Solo wax Greedo in Star Wars.

Well, this weekend I went to a gun show in Oaks, PA and came home with this:

It's another Wartime Commercial with a serial number about 20K lower than my other C-96, which is in far worse shape.

The caliber is 7.63x25 Mauser. It was supposedly a WW2 bring back and came from a high-end York, PA collection. Given the condition, I wouldn't be surprised if it was a World War One bring back. Either way, it appears to have spent the past century being well-cared for.

The original blueing is in excellent shape and the serial numbers on the barrel extension, frame, and bolt match. The bore is excellent. There is still some of the original fire blueing on the rear sight leaf and it's basically intact on the extractor.

There is still some old grease visible in the bolt and the hammer recess. I haven't taken it down yet.

The stock which is in excellent shape is original, but not matching. Since it's an original German stock, BATFE doesn't consider the gun to be an SBR when it's attached. (I have an email to this effect from Tech Branch, addressed to me. See my post from December 16, 2014.) The stock has some pretty nice grain on the left side and it's even visible inside the stock where it's cutout to hold the pistol.

The attachment of the stock to the grip frame is solid, with no wobble. Out of curiosity I attached it to my other C-96, and the fit on that gun is sloppy.

I have some original stripper clips and a few hundred rounds of Prvi Partisan 7.63 Mauser ammo that I bought after I got the first Broom. Damn skippy I'm going to shoot it after I verify that the locking block is in good shape. On my other C96 I replaced all the springs and this one is still more difficult to cock. Because it appears that the gun has seen very little use I'm going to hold off on replacing any springs.

Without getting into specifics, the cost was reasonable for the condition of the gun and stock.

After I shoot it, I will post a range report.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

New Pedals and Lights

I'm liking the Nishiki Maricopa road bike that I got a couple weeks ago but the pedals that came with it pretty muck suck. They are on the small size and not very grippy. So, after doing a lot of reading on, I decided to stick with platform pedals but ones that would be larger and grippier. I got a set of Wellgo MG-1 magnesium platform pedals this week and installed them today.

The reviews on Amazon were generally very favorable for the Wellgos, but mentioned that the painted versions tended to flake. So, I ordered the natural colored pedals. I tried them with sneakers and my Shimano cycling shoes, and they are definite improvement. The pins that protrude provide a nice grip on my shoes. I'll have to see how I like them compared to pedals with toe clips.

To make swapping the pedals easier I bought this Sunlite pedal wrench. A Crescent wrench would probably have worked, but the dedicated tool made it easier. E.g., it's about a foot long and gave me lots of leverage. The ends are slightly offset, which helps you from banging your knuckles.

Aside from the better pedals, the bike needed front and rear blinkies in case I get caught out near dusk. I put a Planet Bike Spok white light on the handlebar and a Stupidbright on the seatpost, pointing to the rear. (I picked up the Spok at REI while I already had the red light from a previous Amazon order.) Both mount with a stretchy rubber band and feel secure. I already did one ride with the taillight in place.

The reflectors will remain as passive backups.

Finally, I picked up a Blackburn Air Tower 4 floor pump on sale at my local bike shop last week. I needed a pump that would work with Presta valves. I have a Topeak Joe Blow floor pump from the 90s but it's setup for Schrader valves and the Presta adapter is long gone. This way I can have a pump setup for both, with no fidddling.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Nishiki Maricopa Bike

That deal for the '86 Nishiki Olympic road bike fell through. The seller kept discovering things wrong with the bike and offered me a discount or a refund. I chose a refund. Oh well.

So, today I bought this Nishiki Maricopa at Dick's:

It weighs about 24# in the small frame size that I bought. Frame and fork are 6061 aluminum. Three chainrings up front with 8 in back. The modern "brifter" shift levers are neat. I.e., the gear shifters are part of the brake levers.

I took it for a 6-1/4 mile shakedown on the Schuykill River Trail this afternoon. It rides well, much livelier than my Trek 820 mountain bike, even with narrow slicks.

The one upgrade I plan is to replace the pedals. They are pretty crappy and don't have toe clips (I'm not going to get clip-ins, but want toe clips). I'll add lights and probably a kickstand.

BTW, Nishiki is now a Dick's in-house brand. They bought the rights to the name for US distribution in 2010.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

New Bike on the Way, and a Ride

Since getting back into cycling a few months ago, I've been kicking myself for putting my old Nishiki road bike out by the curb last year. Although my Trek 820 mountain bike with 1.5" wide slicks is good for the local multi-use paths, even Forbidden Drive, a road bike would allow me to ride further and faster. So, I started looking around on Craigslist and eBay for older road bikes with steel frames.

Lo and behold, after a couple weeks of looking, this popped up on eBay:

(Picture from the eBay auction.)

It's a mid-80s (probably an '86) Nishiki Olympic with the same frame size and color scheme of my HS graduation present. The Mavic wheelset isn't original, however. After a few minutes hemming and hawing, I bought it.

The 1986 Nishiki Olympic was a 4130 chrome-moly steel framed bike with Araya aluminum wheels, Diacompe brakes, Shimano derailleurs, downtube shifters, and a Sugino VP crankset. Assuming the Mavics on this bike weigh about the same as the originals, it'll come in at about 23 pounds. It should be a fast bike. While riding my old one with a friend who's Trek 520 tourer was fitted with a cycle computer, he clocked us going about 50 MPH on one extended downhill run.

Unfortunately, I'm still waiting for it. I got a message from the seller who found that one of the crank arms was stripped, where the pedal is attached. He discovered this when he began to prep it for shipping. He offered to either knock $25 off the price, or replace it with an original part. I opted for the latter, so I'm hoping it'll ship early next week.

After I get it I plan to rewrap the handlebars, replace the toe clips (one is broken), and of course verify that the derailleurs and brakes work properly.

In the meantime, I picked up a couple items to help me maintain my family's bikes. First, a copy of Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance. In conjunction with YouTube videos, this should help me learn how to work on them. The second item was a Bikehand Pro Mechanic Bicycle Repair Rack Stand.

I tried out the repair stand for the first time this morning, before I went on a ride. I used it to hold the Trek while I cleaned the chain. It worked well. The stand feels fairly robust and folds up, so that it doesn't take up too much space in my shed.

After cleaning and lubing the chain, I went on my longest ride this year, 12.23 miles, at an average speed of 10.9 MPH and a max speed of 16.1 MPH. Considering I'm riding a mountain bike with aerodynamics slightly better than a brick, I'm happy.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Digital QRP with a Mac and SignaLink USB

Operating QRP PSK31 using a Mac, Fldigi, and a SignaLink USB interface. In the video I provide details on my antenna, physical connections between the radio and rig, and about configuring Fldigi.

More info on the antenna can be found in this older post.

Tap-O-Cap Reborn

It looks like the same folks who came out a couple years ago with a .22LR reloading tool set have introduced a tool to make #11 caps.

Thought I'd pass this along since every so often somebody brings up the old Tap-O-Cap. I have no connection with the company.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

WSPR on a Mac

I did some WSPR work out back today using my MacBook Pro, WSJT-X, Yaesu FT-817ND, SignalinkUSB, and my 20M vertical antenna.

Hopefully you find this useful.

Out of Sync Audio with .MOV Files on a Windows PC

I was editing a video using Windows Live Movie Maker on my Windows 7 PC today. I'd recorded an introductory clip using the built-in camera on my MacBook Pro, saved as a QuickTime .mov file. For some reason when viewing the file on the PC, the audio was out of sync with the video when viewed in WLMM.

A workaround was to convert the .mov file to .mp4 format using Handbrake. WLMM was then able to import the file with the audio in sync and I was able to finish editing the video.

(Yes, I'm primarly a Mac user but I like the user interface in WLMM better than iMovie. So, when I edit videos for my YouTube channel, I gravitate towards the PC. I need to find a better video editor for the Mac.)

Friday, August 19, 2016

Reenabling Back with the Backspace Key in Chrome

Chrome on my MacBook Pro was automatically updated this morning, after which I noticed that the backspace key no longer worked to go back a page. Apparently this was implemented a little while ago but didn't manifest itself on my machine until today. This matches the default behavior on Linux, which I detest, since I use backspace to return to a previous page constantly.

After some searching, I discovered that Google made the change to prevent people from accidentally deleting data in a form. Initially, there was no way to reenable the backspace key.

However, enough people bitched about the change to get Google to create an extension to restore the previous behaving. You can get it here.

A plea to developers: Please do not change the behavior of your program's user interface without giving the end user a choice.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

How to Remove the Cylinder and Side Plate of a Smith & Wesson Double Action Revolver

In this video I demonstrate how to properly remove the cylinder and side plate from a S&W revolver, including a discussion of the tools required. Using the proper technique when removing the side plate will prevent damage to the gun and preserve its value.

The demonstration piece is a S&W Model 10-5 chambered for the .38 Special cartridge.

The Weaver Deluxe Gunsmith Tool Kit I used in the video can be seen and purchased here.

Day Camp and Gear Discussion Video

On Friday I took a day trip up to the Conrad Weiser State Forest near Port Clinton, PA. In the video I demonstrate making a poncho lean-to shelter, discuss knife selection, provide a brief overview of the Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag and Tarahumara pack, and make some coffee in an Esbit cookset.

I am trying to make and post more videos to my YouTube channel as I have time. Please hit the Like button and subscribe.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Geezer Concert

Last night the wife unit and I went over to the BB&T Pavilion in Camden, NJ to see Cheap Trick, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, and Heart. Our seats were in the 19th row, to the left when facing the stage.

Cheap Trick went on first. They were good but so loud their sound was very distorted. If they'd turned it down a bit they would have been great.

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts went on next. I saw them open for The Who last year so I was expecting a great performance. I was not disappointed.

Heart was the headliner. Nancy Wilson is an excellent guitarist. Her intros to Straight On For You, Crazy on You, and Barracuda stood out. Anne Wilson can still blow most people young enough to be her grand daughter off the stage with her vocals. Amazing pipes.

Cheap Trick:

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts:


Heart's encore was a Led Zeppelin tribute consisting of Immigrant Song and Stairway to Heaven. Few bands should cover Zep. Heart is one of them.

Link to more pictures.

Friday, July 08, 2016

An Astute Observation On Obama's Reaction to Dallas

As usual, in the aftermath of a mass shooting, Obama shot his mouth off.

Posted by "sloth" on

... Obama, is first and foremost, a community organizer. What do community organizers do...they cultivate a grievance in a community into anger and direct that associated rage to motivate people to accomplish a political goal. That is what he is doing. He's a social justice warrior at heart, that is what motivates him to get up in the morning. He believes that inflaming a certain community into action is going to allow him to accomplish his goals as a SJW. He has no use for peace and people coming together, you don't accomplish radical change unless people are properly motivated to push for that change.

Look at how he responds to diverse incidents. If it is advantageous to his goals and fits the template, he's out within hours making statements to reinforce his social justice narrative. If the incident is counter productive to his goals as a SJW, (Orlando, this Dallas shooting) he urges great restraint and caution until an investigation can determine a motive. It's not random, you fan the flames to help your cause and you depress sentiment that is counter to you cause.


Thursday, July 07, 2016

Bontrager H2 Inaugural Ride

I took the Bontrager H2 semi-slicks for an inaugural ride late this morning in Valley Green.  My ride today was only 6.13 miles, because it was hot and humid as balls. However, it was long enough to get a feeling for how the new tires perform on the kinds of surfaces that I ride on.

As expected the rolling resistance is a lot less. I was able to push one or two gears higher than previously and didn't run into any traction problems on the hard-pack gravel Forbidden Drive. They performed fine even in looser gravel, though they didn't float over it as well as my original 1.95" wide tires.

My average speed increased by about 1 or 2 MPH, compared with previous rides. To see how they'd do, I did take the bike off the gravel onto a dirt trail for about 100 yards. As expected, it was a bit skittish on wet dirt, and the ride isn't as soft as the MTB tires, but it's a good tradeoff for my riding.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

New Bike Tires

This morning I put another 8.52 miles on my old Trek 820, along Forbidden Drive in Fairmount Park. Since I'm doing my riding on paved trails or packed gravel, I've been thinking about either replacing the knobby tires on the bike with something with less rolling resistance, or even getting a second set of wheels with faster rolling tires.

This afternoon I took a drive up to Indian Valley Bikeworks in Harleysville. At their recommendation I bought a pair of 26" x 1.5" Bontrager H2 semi-slick tires and suitable tubes.

I was able to remove the old rubber with one tire lever, and the new tires and tubes went on easily. They are rated for 60 to 90 PSI. I have them pumped up to about 65 PSI, to provide some cushioning.

In my old cycling days I sometimes took my 1986 Nishiki road bike with slick 700c x 25 tires at 100 PSI down to Forbidden Drive and as long as I was careful, didn't run into problems. I should be OK with the new Bontragers, which are a lot beefier. Of course, I'll need to be more careful than with the knobby MTB tires, but converting the Trek into a pseudo-hybrid with these tires should suit my current riding well.

I'm still tempted to get a spare wheel set and mount the knobbies on it, though.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others

I am disgusted that FBI Director Comey did not recommend charges be filed against Hillary Clinton. When leaders flout the law, respect for the rule of law by the people soon vanishes. When George Orwell wrote that some animals are more equal than others he may as well have been writing about the USA in 2016, rather than Stalinist Russia.

That aside, consider what the FBI did go on record as saying:

  1. She had unauthorized classified intelligence on her unsecured server. (General Petraeus lost his career over far less.)
  2. She deleted evidence during the investigation. (That's spoliation of evidence or obstruction of justice. )
  3. Anyone else who did this would be reprimanded and stripped of security clearance by their department, if not criminally charged. 
  4. She mishandled classified intelligence and jeopardized national security. 
  5. She lied about the nature of the investigation (claiming it was a security review, not a criminal investigation).

Consider the nature of her actions. She willfully, recklessly engaged in conduct which is statutorily proscribed for good reasons. As someone who's worked with telecom, computer networks, and mail servers since the late 90s, and practiced law before that, I'd be willing to bet my house that at a minimum the Russian and Chinese intelligence agencies hacked her server.

That means not only did she compromise national secrets, she is almost certainly vulnerable to blackmail by foreign powers due to the contents of her server. In other words, if she gets elected in November, Putin and others will have the President of the United States by the balls.

And yet half the voters in this country are willing to ignore this and cast their ballot for her, just because she is female.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

About 10 Miles Yesterday

Yesterday morning I drove over to Spring Mill and hopped on the Schuykill River Trail again towards Philly. This time I rode in all the way to the edge of Manayunk, a hair less than 5 miles.

The first three miles or so are flat, then at Shawmont the trail descends, crosses the SEPTA Norristown/Manayunk tracks, and then runs along the river through a wooded area. The trail through the woods is mostly hard packed gravel with a few paved sections, and several wood plank bridges. This part of the trail has some small hills and nice rock formations to look at.

Since it was a nice day there were a lot of people on the trail so I got good practice at weaving among the pedestrians and a few slower riders. Likewise, I had several riders pass me.

The return trip was easy except for Shawmont, where I had to drop onto my smallest front chainring to get up the hill.

My old Trek 820 is performing well, but I need to adjust my front brakes a little and I think the front wheel needs to be trued. I'm getting a little rubbing.

I'm seriously considering replacing the knobby MTB tires with some kind of  hybrid tire, for a smoother ride with less rolling resistance.

After several rides on Forbidden Drive and the gravel part of the SRT, the Trek was filthy. So, after getting home I wheeled it into the back yard and used a citrus spray degreaser to blow the crud off the chain and derailleurs, then relubed with White Lightning Epic Ride chain lube. It's a "semi dry" lube, so I'm hoping that it'll retain less grit, but be better than a dry lube if I get caught in the rain.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Short Ride Tonight

Amanda and I took a short bike ride tonight, my first since I put the bike down last Tuesday. Last Wednesday and Thursday the weather was crummy, and then we went camping from Friday through Sunday. I didn't have time for any after work rides this Monday or Tuesday.

I really wanted to get a ride in because I've already noticed improved stamina and didn't want to have to start all over. So, after dinner we parked at the SEPTA Spring Mill train station in the same spot where I normally park during the week, and did about four miles on the Schuykill River Trail, down to the Miquon station and back.

The SRT in this section is paved in asphalt and flat, so it was an easy ride. You could really fly on a road bike. The weather was beautiful so there were a lot of joggers and cyclists out. I think sometime in the near future we'll bike down to Manayunk for lunch.

I'm looking forward to exploring more of the SRT.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Well, tonight I had my first fall since taking up cycling again.

Amanda and I were returning from REI and I took a sharp turn that I should have dismounted for. I clipped my left handlebar on a railing and down I went. Let me tell you, hitting the ground like a sack of potatoes when you're 48 and out of shape sucks.

I wasn't going fast and stopped my fall with my hands. Thankfully I was wearing my cycling gloves, which helped absorb the impact and prevented my palms from getting shredded. I then rolled over and flopped on my right side. I'm expecting that I'll be sore for a day or two from my right hip up to my shoulder. Ibuprofen is going to be my good friend.

I was wearing my helmet but thankfully it wasn't needed because I managed to avoid hitting my head.

The bike is OK. The handlebar end that got clipped suffered some minor damage but it's purely cosmetic.

On reflection, it's funny. In all the miles I ever rode on a bike I never had a high speed crash. Like tonight's fall, they've all been the result of a misjudgment at low speed.

Wear your gloves and helmet.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Updated Bike

A few items I ordered from Amazon arrived today and I installed them on my Trek 820:

The Outerdo bike rack bag is held to the rack with four Velcro straps. It seems secure but if that changes after being loaded I'l wrap a bungie cord around it.

The bag should be able to hold a spare tube, snacks, at least one extra water bottle, and a windshirt or light jacket. I moved my tire levers, bike tool, and patch kit to it so that I can reserve the front bag for my keys, wallet, and iPhone. The bag seems pretty well made for a sub $20 item. It's a little floppy but so what. The main compartment has some minimal padding but I wouldn't trust it to protect or insulate much. The outer compartments (one large on the left side and two on the right) lack any padding.

There's a shallow water bottle pocket on the back of the bag with a drawstring. I'm probably going to put some kind of a better retention strap/bungie on there to prevent a bottle from coming out. On the back of the bottle pocket there is a small strap for clipping an LED light to. To be on the safe side I put some superglue on the stitching to prevent it from unraveling.

The bag has a handle on top and came with a carry strap, so it can be used as a shoulder bag.

The BV lights are pretty cheaply made but bright enough so that you're visible to motorists. The front light takes four AAAs while the back light takes two. I mounted a set on my daughter's bike and let her take a ride around dusk, and I was able to see the blinking red LED of her back light from about 300 yards away. Both have non-blinking and a couple blinking modes, which should extend battery life. I think that if you need a headlight to actually see where you're going, you'll want to look elsewhere.

I resisted putting a kickstand on my bike for a long time because I didn't want the weight. I never had one on the Nishiki road bike that I got in 1986 and put a lot of miles on. However, I've now decided that the minor weight penalty was less important than the convenience. The BV kickstand went on easily, isn't too heavy, and it's nice not having to prop the bike up against something. It clamps to the left chainstay with three 5mm Allen screws:

The RAM GPS mount is held to the handlebar with two cable ties. It should hold up to riding on roads and developed bike trails. I'm not so sure that it would stand up to rough singletrack rides, especially in a spill. We'll see.

The BV saddle bag that I got for my daughter's bike is perfect for her. It feels sturdy and is just big enough for her to have a place to stash her key, some money, and her iPhone 6.

Finally, I also got padded cycling underwear shorts. Note that in the Amazon image they are shown inside-out. When worn correctly you don't get mandrill-butt. These will let me cycle in regular shorts while providing some additional padding for my nethers. At $15 on Amazon Prime, I'll be satisfied if I get a season from them.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Getting Back Into Cycling

At the urging of my daughters I am getting back into cycling. I cycled a lot in high school and college but have done little in the years since. My ride is a Trek 820 mountain bike that I bought back in 1996 or '97 1999. Compared with modern bikes it's rather unsophisticated. E.g., it doesn't have a front suspension, but it'll be good enough for me to get back into riding.

A few years ago I replaced the cracked saddle with a more comfortable gel seat, and replaced the tires. I may have had the local REI do a tune-up but I don't recall for sure. Even though the bike is about 20 years old it's in good shape (sadly due to lack of use).

Yesterday I bought Amanda a new bike since she'd outgrown her old one, and we also got a 4-bike rack to fit the Class III hitch on my Xterra, making it easier to take the bikes to a trail. We went back to REI today where I bought her gloves, and I got a new water bottle, a pair of Pearl Izumi cycling shoes, and a Planet Bike Eco Rack. I have cycling gloves somewhere around here but if I can't find them I'll need to get a new pair (after which no doubt I'll find my old gloves).

The rack mounted easily and should be a secure platform for a trunk in which to carry snacks and extra water. The solid rack should also act as a fender to help keep spray off my back if I ride through a puddle.

I have a set of front and rear lights on order. The reflector in the above picture has a mount that won't allow me to attach it to the rack (I tried) but I may get another reflector for the rack itself.

This afternoon we took a ride down in the Valley Green section of Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. I used to ride along Forbidden Drive quite a bit and it was nice going back there. According to my phone's GPS we did about 4.62 miles. It felt good.

Circuit Trails is an effort to link many trails in the Philadelphia area together, which will create a 750 mile network of trails going from Philly out to Reading. That should provide some good riding.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

New Grips for the 50th Anniversary Blackhawk

The rosewood grips that I ordered from arrived today. I like them a lot. Aside from being smooth they are more hand filling than the original black plastic checkered grip panels.

I'm looking forward to shooting it.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Ruger 50th Anniversary Blackhawk .357

I picked up this Ruger 50th Anniversary Blackhawk in .357 Magnum w/4.62" barrel back in 2006 from Surplus City. It was "used," still in the original red plastic box, but missing the papers. It's claimed that Ruger paid more attention to fit and finish on the 50th Anniversary Blackhawks and I believe it. The action on this one is very smooth.

I haven't shot it much, largely because the OEM grips act like cheesegraters on my hands if firing .38 +Ps or .357 Magnums. (It's not evident in these pics but the OEM plastic grips are checkered.) Last week I ordered a set of smooth rosewood replacements from Ruger that I'm hoping should make it more comfortable to shoot. Anyhoo, I just got around to taking some pics and will get some more after the new grips arrive.

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 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.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Slow Motion Video of Rogers & Spencer Being Fired

Dad took some slow motion video of me shooting the Rogers & Spencer percussion revolver last night. I edited it down to one shot.

The load was a .454" round ball, lubed felt wad, 30 grains of 3Fg Olde Eynsford black powder, and a Remington No.10 cap.

First Shots with Goex Olde Eynsford Black Powder

Yesterday I went up to Cabela's to put my Cabela's Bucks towards some primers before election year buying goes full derp. I bought 1K each of CCI Large Rifle and Large Pistol primers, and 1K of Sellier & Bellot Small Pistol primers. (They were out of CCI SPPs.)

Ammo and powder stocks were in pretty good shape, they even had several kinds of pistol powder, which has been absent there for the past several years.

On the way home I stopped at Dixon's Muzzleloading Shop where I got a set of Lee commercial mold handles for the Accurate Molds 43-215C I have on order, and a pound each of Swiss and Olde Eynsford 3Fg black powder.

If you have to buy black powder in a shop rather than doing a bulk mail order, the price per pound is high. The Swiss was $32, Olde Eynsford was $29, and plain old Goex was $27. If you're willing to order a 25 pound case, Graf's has OE at $18.99/pound, only $1/pound more than Goex. Swiss is $24.99/pound in a case from Graf's.

Note: Graf's also carries their house brand BP made by Wano Schwartzpulver in Germany for $14.99/pound in a case lot. I've never tried it myself.

Swiss powder is a known-good quantity. I.e., it burns cleanly for BP and is more energetic than Goex. I wanted to get some OE to compare.

Olde Eynsford was introduced by the Goex company back in 2012 or 2013, IIRC. It's designed to compete against the high quality Swiss powder. The reports I've read on various sites like THR,, and indicate that they succeeded.

After a two hour long drive home due to an accident on I-476S, last night I went with my dad to his indoor range. I brought my Euroarms Rogers & Spencer percussion revolver.

My load consisted of a Remington No.10 cap, 30 grains of Olde Eynsford 3Fg, a home made lubricated felt wad, and a Hornady .454" lead ball. I put 7 cylinders -- 42 shots -- through the R&S.

We shot at only 7 yards but accuracy was good. The only shots which left a ~2.5" - 3" group were fliers caused by me. That's as good as I can shoot one handed.

Recoil felt like I was shooting Swiss powder, while the fouling was also similar to that left behind by Swiss. I.e., surprisingly little if you're used to shooting regular Goex, and easy to clean up. I'd forgot my .44 caliber cleaning jag so I had to use a brush, then a patch over the brush to clean the bore and chambers. The fouling inside the frame wiped off easily using a patch wet with MPro-7.

My next test of Olde Eynsford will be in loading .44-40 WCF cartridges. When shooting BP .44-40s using a bullet cast in the original Winchester mold I can shoot at least 50 rounds without fouling out. I expect that cartridges loaded with OE will behave similarly.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Ordered an Accurate Molds 43-215C

Today I ordered a custom bullet mold from Accurate Molds, the 43-215C. It will be a dual cavity aluminum mold that I specced to drop bullets at .430" +/- 0.002", when using 1:20 tin:lead alloy.

(Pictures borrowed from

This bullet was designed specifically to carry enough lubricant so that when fired in a 24" barrel and propelled by Goex black powder, the rifle doesn't "foul out." I.e., it won't develop an accuracy destroying ring of fouling for a few inches back from the muzzle.

Bullets of the original design, such as those cast in my original Winchester mold, or the similar Lyman 427098 carry enough lube for use with Swiss black powder, but not the dirtier burning Goex. Since I have plenty of Goex, I wanted a mold to cast bullets useful with it.

Accurate Molds bores their bullet molds on a CNC lathe and from what I've read over on Castboolits, they are very nice. Mold handles aren't included so I'll need to order a set. I'm expecting about a three week turnaround for the mold.