Sunday, April 21, 2019

Beretta Cx4 Storm and Holosun RDS Range Report

Last week I bought a Holosun HS515C red dot sight to replace the Bushnell TRS-25 that I used to have on my Beretta Cx4 Storm 9mm carbine. The Bushnell is a good budget optic  Today I zeroed it.

Out of the box the sight was very close to being on at 50 yards, with elevation right on and the mean POI about 3 - 4" to the right with 115 grain CCI Blazer Brass 9mm.

A neat touch with the sight is that the turret caps are actually adjustment tools. The little ridge on them is sized the same as the screwdriver slots on the actual adjustment knobs. This is a brilliant idea, IMO.

Top of the sight showing the screwdriver built into the caps, and the solar cell:

Accuracy at 50 yards was OK but nothing to crow about. Here's a 10 shot target fired from the bench. As you can see I yanked one low. The Storm's trigger is worse than I'd remembered. I am definitely going to try doing a trigger job on it.

I also shot a bit offhand but the target definitely isn't worth sharing. ;) The gun is so light with a neutral balance that offhand shooting is a challenge.

I put a total of 100 rounds through the gun today and as expected, it ran perfectly. However, when I went to clean the gun after I was finished I noticed that the rail was a bit loose. It'll be Loctited and then I'll recheck the zero.

Monday, April 15, 2019

I've Got Big Balls

Welp, now I know why my home cast round balls were hard to seat in my Rogers & Spencer on Saturday. I measured a few of them with my micrometer today and they mic at .456 - .457. There must be a little tin in the lead that I used. I'll therefore reserve the rest of the batch for my Ruger Old Army, which takes .457 balls.

The rest of the lead will be used in casting bullets for my .44-40 rifles or ~.690 balls for my Brown Bess.

I'll have to order some 99% pure lead from Rotometals.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Got the Rogers & Spencer Out to the Range

Tonight I got the Euroarms Rogers & Spencer percussion revolver out to the range.

The load I used consisted of .454 balls that I cast last weekend, the wads I made last week lubed with neatsfoot oil, 30 grains of Swiss FFFg black powder, and Remington No.10 caps. This has mild recoil and good accuracy in this gun.

Accuracy was good. Here are my first 18 shots fired one handed at 7 yards:

My point of aim was at 6 o'clock on the bull. The dark spots on the cardboard backer are from the felt wads.

And this was my final 6 shots:

The sights on the R&S suck by modern standards. The rear is a V-notch milled into the top strap, while the front is a small brass cone. Seeing the front sight under florescent lighting is a real challenge with middle aged eyes. I'm happy with these groups.

The wads lubed with neatsfoot oil appeared to work at least as well as wads lubed with 50/50 beeswax/mutton tallow. I examined a few wads after firing. The side toward the powder was black and they were dry to the touch, but they remained intact. I could probably rinse them out and relube them after they dried, and reuse them at least once.

One thing I was disappointed in was the balls -- they seemed harder to start than Hornady .454 swaged balls. I cast them from lead I bought off eBay. While the lead was soft enough to scratch with my thumbnail, they may have a bit of tin in them. This wouldn't make a difference with balls to be shot in a smoothbore but it makes loading a caplock revolver more difficult, and places more stress on the loading lever.

Cleanup of the gun was quick. The nickel plating of this revolver allows fouling to wipe right off, and the neatsfoot oil apparently kept the fouling soft in the bore. Shooting Swiss powder helps. In my experience it's not only more energetic than Goex, it's noticeably cleaner burning as well.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Running Ball

(In this post, I used the word "balls" a lot. Huh, huh.)

This past weekend I'd planned to shoot my Rogers & Spencer percussion revolver but couldn't. When getting my shooting gear together, I found that I had only two .454 balls left. I wound up shooting my Pedersoli Brown Bess and Polymer 80 Not-A-Glock, which I'll write up in a separate post.

Something I've preached about on my blogs has been bullet casting for self sufficiency, resistance to government guns bans, and panics induced by fear of them. I recently picked up Lee molds for .454 and .490 balls, and a Lyman cast iron lead pot. This weekend I ordered a Lee .690 ball mold for use in the Brown Bess and my Euroarms Magnum Cape Gun.

I took a long weekend to decompress from bullshit at work, so with today's weather being decent I setup one of my Coleman stoves out in my shop to run some .454 balls.

Here I have the mold warming while the lead pot comes up to temp. The foil trays are for me to dump the sprues and dross when I flux.

It took awhile for the pot to come up to temperature. I'm finding that keeping a good constant casting temp is an acquired skill that I've yet to master. My balls were coming out either wrinkled or frosted. Wrinkly balls mean that the cast was too cold while frosty balls are a sign that it's too hot. I put the wrinkliest balls back into the pot but I'm keeping some that aren't too bad. These will be fired at a maximum of 25 yards at targets the size of a paper plate or larger, so minor imperfections won't be an issue.

I haven't counted yet, but I should have at least 50 shooters here. I called it quits when I ran out of gas in the stove.

Aside from the Rogers & Spencer, these will also work in my 1858 Remingtons. One could load them into .45 Colt cartridges, as well.

It is possible to keep even percussion guns going without buying factory supplies. Aside from casting your own bullets, it's possible to make black powder and even percussion caps at home. The latter especially is potentially extremely dangerous, so proceed with caution. My plan to deal with future shortages is to stock up ahead of time.

Edit: I wound up with 97 shootable balls from my first batch. After the stove cooled and I was able to refuel it, I ran another batch and came out with another 126 usable balls. That's a decent run and will last me awhile.

Friday, April 05, 2019

Made Up Some .44 Revolver Wads

I was out of .44 wads for my percussion revolvers so I made up a tobacco tin full of them. This should do for a few plinking sessions.

The wads themselves are punched out of 1/8” thick hard 100% wool felt from Durofelt. I use a 7/16” hole punch held in the chuck of my mill/drill and use a piece of scrap wood underneath.

Instead of my previous homemade lube of a mix of beeswax and mutton tallow, I lubed this batch with neatsfoot oil. It worked great when I tried it as a patch lube so I don’t see why it wouldn’t work to keep the fouling soft in revolvers. If I intended to leave the gun loaded for awhile I’d want more of a grease than oil, to prevent ruining the powder charge, but this will be fine for the range.

To lube them, I put some neatsfoot oil in an empty Scho-Ka-Kola chocolate tin then soaked a batch at a time. I squeezed out the excess and then put them on a paper towel to soak up some more oil, so they aren’t sopping wet.

Assuming they work as well as the beeswax/mutton tallow lubed wads for target shooting, this is probably how I’ll make up them up in the future. It’s easier than making the lube mix and I don’t have to dig out the hot plate I use to melt the other lube.

Saturday, March 30, 2019


I spent some time relaxing out in my shop today.

I couldn't find the bag with my pipe paraphernalia, so a .308 empty served as a tamper.

Brown Bess Flash Guard Removal

Today I removed the flash guard that came on my Pedersoli Brown Bess Carbine's lock. Flash guards are used on flintlocks by reenactors to protect the man to their right when firing in formation. As I am not a reenactor, it's unneeded. Further, it makes the lock harder to clean and directs a lot of fouling down alongside the side of the gun.

Because the frizzen is spring loaded no matter which position it's in, I needed to compress the frizzen spring to facilitate removal. In the picture you can see how I used my RMC mainspring vise for this. I bought it from Track of the Wolf and it's come in handy working on several flintlocks that I own.

You may also notice that I now have the flint wrapped in a piece of 1/16" sheet lead, rather than leather. The flint kept loosening when I shot the gun last weekend. This allows me to really clamp down on it and I'm hoping this will fix that problem. Using lead instead of leather for this was common on military flintlocks of the 18th and 19th Centuries. I bought the lead sheet from Rotometals, via Amazon Prime. I figure the foot square sheet of lead will last me the rest of my life, and I can always melt it down for bullets.

Note: I really should have removed the flint from the hammer before doing any work on the lock. Had it tripped, it could have caused a really nasty wound. Do as I say, not as I do.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Pedersoli Brown Bess Carbine Range Report

So I shot the Bess carbine today.

My first shot was a patched 0.735 ball. That’s a VERY tight fit so if I shoot any more of them, I’ll try them bare. Some smoothbore shooters do well with an over-power card or wad, bare ball, and an over ball card to hold it in place. I also have some 0.710 balls which should be easier to load with a patch, but I didn’t bring them today.

I put around 15 rounds of the paper cartridges with .690 balls through the gun. The last loaded nearly as easy as the first. I noticed that after about 10 shots there was a crud ring forming in the breech so it required extra pressure to fully seat the ball. I really liked loading from paper cartridges. I’m going to make up some for my fusil de chasse.

Compared with my longrifle, it has a much slower lock time, so follow through is even more important for good shooting.

I had a number of misfires due to lack of spark. I think what was happening was that the top jaw screw would loosen, because when I tightened it back up the gun would alway off. Obviously I need to fix that.

Recoil was noticeable but not bad.


Saturday, March 23, 2019

Made Up Some Musket Cartridges Today

I'll be shooting my Pedersoli Brown Bess carbine for the first time tomorrow so I made up some ammunition today.

The paper cartridges are rolled around a form to create a tube holding the ball and powder charge. Most people use a dowel for this but I have a metal lathe, so I  made the form from a piece of 3/4" aluminum rod turned down to .69”.  (Besides, it's been too long since I made some chips.)

I put a cavity on the end to help keep the ball in place when I’m rolling the cartridges.


  • .690 ball by Rush Creek.
  • 100 grains 2Fg Goex black powder. The original British service load was up to 165 grains of 1Fg powder, some of which was used for priming. I’ll prime from a flask. By most accounts, you get better accuracy from a smoothbore with stout loads.
  • I used printer paper since it's what I had on hand.

Rather than tying the end I use a glue stick on the diagonal edge and ball end. As I understand it, French musket cartridges were made with glue while British rounds were tied.

I used this template, which I found after watching this excellent video by Tim Brieaddy:

Starting to roll the cartridge. At this point, I've gone over the diagonal edge with the glue stick.

Rolled almost all the way.

Forming the end.

Twenty five rolled cartridges, ready to fill.

Crimping the end and creating the tail that will be bit off prior to loading the musket.

And finally, a box of 25 ball cartridges.

I'll be going to a friend's place tomorrow to try them. I'm also bringing some loose .735" balls, powder, and patches to try patched round ball loads.

Range report to follow.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Pedersoli Brown Bess Carbine

I could probably use an intervention. :) I went up to Dixon’s today and he had a used Pedersoli Brown Bess carbine on the rack at a price too good to pass up — $750. By contrast, Dixie Gun Works catalogs this gun at $1495.

The barrel had some rust along the wood line and a little under the stock in the groove around the breech. It looked like water had run down at one time and not properly dried before rust set in. It cleaned off with a bit of WD40, steel wool, and elbow grease. The lock is in fine shape and sparks well.

The sling swivels were added by the previous owner. Unfortunately, the upper swivel is just attached to the wood and if it drops can foul the ramrod. I may relocate it further toward the muzzle so that it falls on the upper ramrod pipe, and add a lug to the barrel so that it isn’t just held to the stock.

This isn't a replica of any original gun. Although the British did issue carbines in the 18th Century, this is basically a factory-chopped Second Pattern Brown Bess. Original Artillery carbines, for example, had a 39" barrel and were of .65 caliber rather than .75 as this is.

It should be an excellent shooter.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Post-Cleaning Borescope of the Brown Bess

I ran out to Lowe's yesterday and bought a 5 foot section of 2" PVC pipe, and a couple caps. After degreasing the barrel, I soaked it overnight in Evaporust inside the pipe. After a little scrubbing this morning, this is what the inside looks like:

It's looking a lot better.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

More Work on the Brown Bess

I've been doing some restoration work on the Brown Bess over the past few days.

I determined the reason that it's not going into full cock is that the sear spring is not applying pressure to the sear after it rotates a certain amount. Either the V of the spring isn't wide enough, the lower leg of the spring isn't long enough, or the sear is bent. I need to figure out how I'm going to fix it.

Today I removed the barrel to check for pitting under the wood line. It's not too bad.

This is the breech end. Note the Nepalese marking.

This is the worst of the pitting:

It's not very deep.

The barrel is currently soaking in Evaporust. After I get it out and get it wiped down, I'll borescope it again to see what the inside looks like.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Worked Some More on the Brown Bess

After letting the bore soak overnight I did some scrubbing today with a 12 gauge bore brush (which is undersized for the bore) and even wrapped some steel wool into the bristles. It's coming along and looks promising.

All the nasty brown scale shown in my video from yesterday is gone. The bore is rough but there do not seem to be any really deep pits. I've got it soaking in Kroil again for now. I figure that I'll wipe that out and use Evaporust.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Bore Scoped the Brown Bess

I ran my cheap USB endoscope that I got from Amazon down the bore and captured the video using Photobooth on my MacBook Pro.

It's downright crusty. The fuzzy bits are from cleaning patches.

This was after a couple oily patches and spraying some WD-40 down the tube. I almost got the rod stuck on the way out but managed to extract it. I now have the bore soaking in Kroil, pending the use of a brush and/or Evaporust.

East India Pattern Brown Bess from the Nepalese Cache

Meet my latest acquisition, an East India Pattern Brown Bess musket from the Nepalese Cache. I ordered it last week from International Military Antiques, and it arrived today. Click the pictures for a larger version.

The stock is newly made.

This one has a Gurkha-marked lock.

Inside of the lock:

The ramrod pipes, nosecap, and bayonet lug/front sight:

The sideplate:

I also got a combination tool to go with the musket:

Overall it seems to be in pretty decent shape for a military gun that is nearly 200 years old. The lock does need a little work. It will hold on half cock but the sear doesn't want to move and engage the sear on full cock. It may just be a bit gummy or the sear spring may need work.

The part of the barrel visible above the line of the wood is not overly pitted. I plan to dismount it from the stock to check its condition there. The bore is rusty. I ran some patches soaked in WD-40 down the barrel but I'm planning to soak it in Evaporust.

Once I get the lock to hold full cock I'll be able to test for spark. The frizzen looks to be in good shape. After I confirm spark, I plan to remotely test fire it using some cannon fuse.

More posts to come.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

The Original Real Man's Coffee Cup

It is a USGI canteen cup made by Ingersoll Products sometime in the early 1970s. I got in around 1985 after I joined Civil Air Patrol. The outside is black from heating many meals in campfires.

American servicemen have been using canteen cups since the introduction of the M-1910 over a century ago. It's one of the best pieces of gear ever. The main thing it really needs is some kind of a lid. I have an older Heavy Cover brand stainless steel lid that I modified a bit to make it lighter, but for a couple decades I just relied on a piece of aluminum foil.

Newer USGI canteen cups have folding butterfly-style wire handles. I prefer the older L-style cups like this one. It's one feature of the Keith Titanium set that I would change. (OTH, the Keith sets come with a nice lid for the cup, so there's that.)

The horizontal slot in the handle is to allow you to put a fork from the M-1926 fork into it as an extension for when you're cooking on a fire. The vertical slot is to allow it to be slipped over the handle of the mess kit (AKA "meat can") so the whole ensemble can be dunked in boiling water for field sterilization.

Survival Resources has a nice article on useful mods to this style cup, including how to make a lid, adding D-rings to the handle so you can use a stick for an extension, and adding a bail. Check it out. (Incidentally, I recently ordered a few things from Survival Resources including a haversack. I plan to do a post and/or video on that as soon as I can get to it. No problems at all with my order and I got it quickly.)

Monday, January 28, 2019

Townsends: Fire Starting No Matches No Lighter

This is a very good video on fire starting with flint and steel, including the use of a flintlock, from Jas. Townsend's & Son's YouTube channel:

Aside from a flint and steel, they demonstrate how you can do it with a flintlock gun.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Hopkins and Allen Underhammer Caplock Rifle

One of my oldest memories is associated with this rifle.

The year was 1970 and I was two years old. We were visiting my paternal grandparents in Patchogue, New Yawk. My dad went to a local gun shop and came back with this Hopkins & Allen .45 caliber Heritage Model underhammer caplock percussion rifle.

The black powder revival of the 1960s and 70s was in full swing, and Numrich Arms of West Hurley, NY, owned the rights to use the old Hopkins & Allen name. They started making these simple designs with only two moving parts, the hammer and trigger. The trigger guard is a flat spring and acts as the hammer spring.

In 1981 my parents gave me the rifle as my bar mitzvah gift. (I am quite aware of how unusual that sentence reads.)

I loaded the rifle with 40 grains of 3Fg black powder and a .440" round ball patched with ticking. It is quite accurate out to 50 yards and I used it to win the first shooting match I ever entered.

Because the nipple screws directly into the barrel where the powder charge sits, ignition is very reliable and fast. There can be some spitting, though, so it's wise to hold your support arm off to the side and wear long sleeves.

In the cap box I have a spare nipple and the open notch rear sight that fits the dovetail on the barrel, which can be used in lieu of the tang peep sight. The latter allows you to shoot the rifle more accurately but it's harder to see through in low light, so I'd probably switch them out were I to take it hunting.

I haven't shot the rifle in years but it's time to take it out and let my 14 year old daughter give it a try.

My First Fire with Flint and Steel

I bought this steel years ago at Dixon's Muzzleloading Shop but today was the first time I made fire with it. It was made from an old file.

I cheated a bit and used char cloth bought from an eBay vendor, but now I'm ready to make my own. The char cloth is in the Altoids tin underneath the steel, while the flint shard is laying on some unraveled jute twine from Lowe's.

I held the char cloth on top of the flint and struck it a few times with the flint. The ember took hold quickly and I quickly moved it to the bird's nest. After a little gently blowing it exploded into flame, and I hurriedly dropped it into my fire pit.

You can see where I dispose of my cigar butts and the long matches I use to light my gas grill. ;)

Now I need to make up some of my own char cloth and find some punky wood to char.

Friday, January 25, 2019

My George L. Dech Flintlock Pennsylvania Rifle

I've had this rifle since 2008 but only just got around to taking some good detailed pictures.

It can be a challenge to get a good, full length shot when the gun is 57 to 58 inches long.

Closeup of the lock and patchbox:

Closeup of the cheek piece with a vent pick underneath, some incising on the butt, and the lock bolt and side plate:

The front sight, which is brazed or silver soldered to the barrel:

Rear sight and the barrel's transition from octagon to round:

The ramrod entry thimble:

The trigger guard and toe plate. The button to open the patch box is visible in the middle of the toe plate.

The rifle started out as a left handed .50 caliber Dixie Gunworks Tennessee Mountain Rifle. George L. Dech, who was a gunsmith near Allentown, PA restocked it into more of a Lancaster, PA styled rifle in curly maple with brass furniture. He retained the original lock, double set triggers, the .360" diameter ramrod, and barrel. I replaced the ramrod with one that's a bit longer and with a brass tip threaded 10-32 for cleaning jags or other accessories.

One of the more notable features is how the barrel was turned from a full, 15/16" octagon profile to a 1/3 octagon and 2/3 round profile. This makes the gun much less muzzle heavy, although it is far from a lightweight piece.

The lock sparks very well and ignition is quick. It's a good shooter that I've taken deer hunting several times (although I've yet to bag one).