Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Range disgust.

Range time should never be associated with self-loathing, but nonetheless I am disgusted with today's session.  Even worse, it was a firearm range day:  rifle zeroing for hunting season (we start early up here).  Perhaps my mistake was that, owing to a years-long experience of very simple, straightforward zeroing sessions, I was mentally unprepared for things to go wrong.  They did.

The rifle was the Mannlicher Scout.  I had whomped up some handloads with 165s, and a backup set of 150s just in case the 165s didn't satisfy me.  The loading seemed to go swimmingly, and while I've only started to grind the reloadery into action recently, everything seemed to go well enough.  I carefully set once-fired-case shoulders back, had everything trimmed up nicely, and both gauge- and chamber-checked everything prior to leaving the house.

So, I was a bit surprised when cases were difficult to extract and two cartridges failed to ignite.  (One of those fired on a second strike, but the other didn't.)  The loads were acting much hotter than I'd have expected.  And I seemed to be chasing my sight settings all over the damn map, enough so that I probably should have just fired a few more rounds to make sure things could reasonably settle down.  With the cost of everything these days, this is really maddening!

Eventually I got frustrated enough that I put up a clean target and shot a few rounds of the factory FMJ ball that I keep with the Scout...and wouldn't you know it, they grouped, and at a point just about opposite of the cumulative back-and-forth of chasing the other stuff around.  Okay, so something--or multiple somethings--isn't right with the handloads.  Lovely.  And with my last couple rounds of ball, I believe I got the sights...right back to where they probably started the day.

The cosmic message was very clear, if aggravating:  given the now short time frame, acquire some factory loads for use this year, and don't mess around with load development until after the hunt.  Okay, I'm stubborn, but I will listen when a message is that freakin' clear.  Dammit.

(Okay, I realize that despite all my frustration, I must acknowledge that I still didn't fire a shot today that wouldn't have anchored an animal at the 100 yard line, and most shots up here are closer than that.  But still, I have a history with this rifle and I know what I can do with it, and it's frustrating to realize that something seems to be way off in my loads, and I need to scuttle them in favor of Plan B.  That's expensive in both time and money, at a time when I'm short of both.  But I'll do it, of course, because if I do get a shot I dang well want to know that if I fail it's on me alone.

Grumble.  I suppose I'm long overdue for such a hitch, but still...dang.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Rest in peace, Edith Gaylord.

I'm hardly what you could call a praying man, but this is nonetheless a call for prayers, good will, and strength.  It is for airgun ace Tom Gaylord, who lost his wife Edith this morning, to what seemed (to me at least) to be a very sudden and unexpected illness.  I must have been expecting a very different result to her falling ill over the last few days, because this actually feels like the proverbial ton of bricks--I'm finding it hard to believe she's gone.

Edith Gaylord

Tom writes a (week)daily blog for Pyramyd Air's "Airgun Academy", and I have been following it for about three years now.  It is a remarkable achievement for a blog, both because of the richness of the content and its impressively vibrant "commentariat", and also because of the deep humanity that runs through both.  Once I started reading daily, it did not take long to figure out that this was a family operation;  behind all of Tom's testing, capture, analysis, writing, and discussion, Edith was all over the place, acting not just as content and site administrator, but also welcome wagon, dispute resolution, liaison to Pyramyd Air's live website and management, and highly qualified content contributor in her own right.  In terms of the figure she cut with just her online presence, Edith often reminded me of no less than Janelle Cooper, "The Countess" to the late Col. Jeff Cooper--the "Janelle" of my own daughter's middle name.

I'm still really not sure how just the two of them could have created the amazing resource that this blog has become, and is.  And I mean this as a technologist, and as a writer, and as an enthusiast at the same time.  It is in no way adequate to say that the blog will miss her dearly.

And of course I can only imagine how devastating it must be for Tom.  A bit more context may yet emerge--apparently Edith wanted him to tell "us" (the blog's commentariat) what happened, and he yet may--but whatever we may learn, it is still gonna go down as too fast...tragically too fast.

And so a good man now needs strength.  Please consider sharing what you can, of your prayers, your thoughts, and your good will.

Friday, July 24, 2015

A little more chrono love.

I think I figured out, today, how I can rig up a chronography session so as to shoot off my front porch, mostly rested (right elbow unsupported), and shoot through the chrono at a measured distance (15') enroute to a target at a measured 10m (the de facto airgun standard).  This can be the basis of combined chronography and accuracy work for the relative quick-testing of new pellet/powerwheel combinations.  Notably, after setting chrono up at the further distance, I no longer had any errors from it.  Sure, it was a sunny day today, but I think I learned something and will go with it.

I continue, as well, to learn about the Caldwell Ballistic Precision app that I'm using on my smartphone.  It's got its quirks, but it's proving to be pretty handy.  Apparently it's set up so that you can designate (upfront, not after-the-fact) a "saved group" and capture a bit of metadata along with your shot string (e.g., temperature, humidity, distance to chrono, pellet used, etc.), including a photo of the target grouping.  I suppose I should start carrying in my pocket a dime and a quarter, which are often used in airgunners' pictures to give context to the group size.  (Airgun hunters speak of the one-inch "kill zone" for most quarry, which is just about the size of a quarter, and of the 3/4" zone for some critters, which is just about the size of a dime.)

I'll have to develop the practice a bit, to arrive at a consistency in picture framing, naming, and repeatability of setup, but I think this is going to be workable.  The distances are known, and at the 10m target distance one can probably successfully weed out which pellets just aren't shooting as well as others.  Check out these two strings, in the context of my first experiment with the powerwheel set as low as it could go.  This string was shot with the wheel set at "2.1":

#     FPS  FT-LBS
12    794      43.43
11    806      44.75
10    820      46.32
9    817      45.98
8    831      47.57
7    830      47.46
6    844      49.07
5    853      50.13
4    839      48.49
3    845      49.19
2    811      45.31
1    775      41.38
Average: 822.1 FPS
SD: 23.0 FPS
Min: 775 FPS
Max: 853 FPS
Spread: 78 FPS

Note how much more consistent this string is, than the other one.  The deviation and spread are much tighter, and the velocities begin to drop off steadily at the end of the string (once they do this, you can stop shooting, as you've got the answer you came for).  Based on what I've learned from Tom Gaylord, I believe I can "read" this data as suggesting that this configuration is good for about 10 shots (#2-#11) where the spread is even tighter, and since there is only one shot before the valve "wakes up" into that ideal series, that means that the starting pressure of 3000psi is pretty close to ideal.  (Sometimes, if the string starts to tighten up after several shots, it may suggest that the ideal fill pressure is not the 3000psi max, but maybe something lower, like maybe 2700psi.)

This string was then shot with the wheel set at "4.10":

#      FPS  FT-LBS
11    803      44.42
10    812      45.42 
9    832      47.69
8    847      49.42
7    859      50.83
6    870      52.14
5    881      53.47
4    884      53.83
3    886      54.08
2    880      53.35
1    885      53.96
Average: 858.1 FPS
SD: 30.5 FPS
Min: 803 FPS
Max: 886 FPS
Spread: 83 FPS

Now in terms of statistics, this one is starting to look interesting.  In particular look at how tight those first five shots are, with a pretty steady decline thereafter.  This one seems to suggest that the fill pressure is right on.

And at this point I had just figured out how to set the target in the right spot to get a group while chronographing.  This is what the final ten shots of the string did at 10m:

That's just about a quarter inch, center-to-center.  (The black dot is my crude aim point.)  Hey, I'll take that.  The rest was improvised, my right elbow was unsupported, and I wasn't exactly bearing down for these shots.  Looks like it may be worth trying at 25, and possibly even 50.  Especially since the power level seems more than acceptable.

At this point I decided to adjust the power wheel to 6.10 and shoot a few more shots, to set the valve for a full test at 6.10.  These were just fun shots, not chronographed;  they each clanked with a satisfying smack on the rimfire spinner at 25 yards.

When refilling after this series of about 20 shots (which took it down to about 1200psi), the behavior of the Hill pump seemed a little quirky.  I will have to pay attention to how it behaves going forward!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

No, Rob, that is not how you use a Ching Sling.

Grr.  I have thus far found some things to like about Rob Pincus, especially his general educational style, and I find myself wanting to find more to like.  Today, purely by accident, I happened across this link to a Personal Defense Network video which is titled "Scout Rifle as a Self or Home Defense Weapon".

Well, wouldn't that be cool.  Let's watch!  And there he is, displaying what is clearly a custom rifle on what looks like a Rem 700 action, complete with Ching Sling, intermediate eye relief glass, reserve irons, and even a butt cuff.  And he launches into an explanation of the Scout concept in his own presentation style, even leading with Jeff Cooper's name as the principal force behind the concept.  Cool!

The geek in me - sure, call me a Scout fanboy if you will - cringes a little at a few of the details, but they're mostly minor.  He stumbles through the utility of a fixed magazine within a concept that values compactness over capacity, he holds the rifle like a carbine, he only runs the bolt from the shoulder when intending multiple shots, and he never even mentions the ability to reach way out there.  Okay, so he's primarily a "defense" guy, and tends to stick to his primary audience.  I understand that grousing on things like that would be more fanboy than fundamental.

But I must conclude that he has absolutely no idea what the point of the Ching Sling is.

At about 3:40 on the timeline he starts the demo of the sling, taking pains to point out the "extra connection", and then...he simply ignores it entirely, using exactly the textbook "hasty sling" technique that the Ching Sling was conceived to improve upon.

Jeff Cooper often wrote about how surprising it was to him, to discover how few people actually understood the shooting sling at all any more.  A true shooting sling, to him, was more important than  a glass optic on a rifle, because "the glass only helps my seeing, but the sling helps my holding".  I can remember first reading that as a young man, and going to the trouble to test myself with what he said--and it is true.  I can hold fully a third better when locked up with a sling, than from the same position without one.

The shooting sling works because it steadies the "gun mount" that is comprised of the ground, your body, the sling, and the rifle.  Anatomically, the most effective way to do this is to take responsibility off of muscles, and give it over to bones.  A "hasty sling", in which the arm is simply snaked around the rifle's carry strap, provides a small amount of tightening, but it is absolutely not the same thing as having your skeleton locked so tightly to your rifle that you can relax all muscles without your sights moving.

And only certain positions work with slings.  (Offhand is not one of them.)  In order to get a solid lockup, both elbows must be supported--remember, bone, not muscle.  Prone is obvious, and sitting;  the one that is not obvious but is surprisingly effective is the squat.  (Kneeling doesn't get full value out of the sling because the strong-side elbow is still flying around in the air under muscle power alone.)  The thinking here is that if you really need the precision of a sling, then you have time to get into a steadier position;  if your need for speed is truly such that you don't have time to loop up, you probably shouldn't be bothering with a sling at all.

Which brings us back to the Ching Sling.  It is the pinnacle of design for a shooting sling that can also be fast.  (Hell, the old-fashioned military loop sling provides excellent lockup, if you take the time to get into it.)  The key to effective lockup is that you must have the sling pulling exclusively forward on the support arm, as high up on the tricep as you can get it.  Then, with the support arm elbow both under the rifle and resting on the ground (prone) or knee (sitting, squat), and the strong-side elbow resting either on the ground (prone) or knee (sitting, squat), with a properly adjusted sling and a good position, you really can achieve a lockup that will allow you to relax the muscles in both arms without moving the sights.

There are still people around who understand the military loop sling and the lockup it provides.  It's no joke, right?  But it's not fast, even with competition cuffs, and an ideal sling would be both convenient as a carry strap, and fast as a shooting sling.  IIRC it was in the 1980s that Cooper first happened upon the idea of a "speed sling" from his friend Carlos Widmann in Guatemala.  (Here's an American Rifleman reprint of his essay on that discovery.)  Its only drawback was that it was clumsy to move back and forth between shooting mode and carry strap mode:  for a shooting sling that could lock up essentially as fast as you could acquire a position, it was a shame to have to pick between modes.

That is what Eric Ching solved with his invention of the sliding-strap Ching Sling.  You have the lightning-quick, solid lockup of the two-forward-stud Widmann system, and the carryability of a main strap spanning the two conventional studs.  Its performance really is rather remarkable, and Cooper was rather forceful in specifying it as part of the Scout concept.  A Scout is a rifle which can be used either across the room or hundreds of yards away, and way out there, any of us can benefit from a little help holding steady;  the Ching Sling makes it possible to get a loop-sling quality lockup while you are getting into position.

So it's a bit perturbing to see someone as trusted as Rob Pincus discussing the three-point sling on a scout rifle, with apparent reverence...and demonstrating instead a two-point conventional hasty technique.  In a position that doesn't really benefit from a sling in the first place.

He's right that the Scout concept never caught on in the mainstream.  Thing is, I suspect that at least some of the reason why that is the case, is that so few people seem to understand the concepts.  "It's too short;  it won't work at range" say the riflemen.  "It's not semiautomatic," say the tactards.  "Scope's not powerful enough."  "Looks funny."  "Won't shoot as far as my specialized sniper rifle."  "Won't shoot as fast as my specialized tacti-carbine."  And, "What's that short strap thingy for?"


We know what it's for.  Cooper wrote about it many times.  It's all right there in The Art of the Rifle.  It's no secret.  And yet it's no wonder that it hasn't caught on, if this is the way it's presented.

Anyway, harumpf.  I was hoping for better.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Well dang, if that ain't comfy.

And by "that", I mean this:

Never mind the nearly full-tactard amusement of the website's marketing (just because they seem to take themselves way too seriously doesn't mean they don't have some good stuff);  I have been meaning to try out this variation on the holster-shirt idea for a while, and boy, am I glad I did.  (I still have a couple of Greg Kramer's first-generation holster shirts, which are still technically holding together, but which are no longer...ideal.)

The one thing it ain't is fast, but it's not really meant to be, either.  This is not a rig for speed, but rather for the First Rule of Gunfighting*--and for that, it's pretty choice.  Thus far I am impressed.

The holster pockets themselves are cavernous--you could probably fit a 4" N-frame in there if you really wanted to--and the "built-in harness" does seem to distribute weight very effectively.  I suspect there is a practical upper limit on weight, but it's going to be much, much more forgiving than what I have used before.   (And I, for one, am not going to be toting heavy iron this way anyway.)

Interestingly, once the piece is in there, it sits more forward of the body's fore-aft midline than I was expecting--but it didn't seem to negatively affect either concealment or comfort.  (The Kramer design put the gun directly on the midline, below the armpit.)  And, somewhat to my surprise, the pocket completely closes over both a Centennial J and a Kahr CW40.  The hand can still snake in there, defeat the two little Velcro patches, and obtain a proper fistful of Oh No You Don't in pretty short order, but until then it is actually completely covered.  I rather like this idea, actually;  I see this both as a true deep-cover garment and something for athletic movement.  (It's intended to be reasonably tight-fitting, and should work well in that latter regard.)

I'm really pleased as well at how well the Kahr carried, compared to the J.  You don't really notice the slightly greater weight and butt length (unlike on the Kramer), and the pistol's flat profile is quite nice against the body.  With this rig, there will not be a need to carry the revolver because the pistol won't hide well enough, and I'll always choose the slick-handling Kahr over the snubby if given the choice. This is additionally encouraging for those moments when the full Bat-Belt either just doesn't make sense (e.g., kayaking, rock climbing, tumbling or sports, etc.), or for when it is simply inconvenient or non-ideal (e.g., shopping for pants, long drives, cycling, etc.).

Testing will continue, but at least for a decent dose of sweaty yard work, this thing is comfy, and promises to be pretty useful in general.  At some point, I also have it planned to try out the CCW Breakaways concept, which is another way of extending the shirt-tucked-in wardrobe, but I'm happy to say this one may be well worth the outlay.

Which is to say that once I'm no longer broke, I'll probably want another one.  :-)

* Which is, of course, "Have a gun".

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Man, I hope this is true.

Commercial reloader Andrew Scott sez that he may be seeing a tipping point in .22 rimfire ammo that just might be indicating a return to normalcy.
What all of this boils down to is this: I think we’ve hit a tipping point in the .22 market. Now that we are beginning to see high-end brands in stock, I think the rest of the obstacles standing between us and cheap 22 ammo (price-gougers, panic-driven demand, scarcity-driven demand, etc.) will begin to topple like dominoes.
I for one sure hope he's right.  The artificially-induced and -maintained shortage has gone on long enough and Teh Stoopid really can stop now.

What he says makes sense to me, based on what I've seen myself, and heard from others whose opinion I trust.  I stopped even asking about .22 a while ago, and although Alaska usually seems to lag a bit behind most trends, I'll have to start looking again to see if I can confirm it.  Would be nice to have an actual shooting stock again--not least because I've got a daughter who is ready to get started.  :-)

Chronography note.

Had a brief chance (everything's brief, with a seven-week-old in the house) to set up the new chrono and run a string over it with the TalonP set to absolute minimum power on the power wheel.

Some notes, mostly for myself, in no particular order:
  • Used the chrono without skyscreens at all, based on a Tom Gaylord comment I saw recently.  This seemed to work well in the direct sunshine.
  • I tried a very close distance-to-chrono this time;  about one foot.  Mostly this was in order to do it fast, rather than perfectly;  I will want to back off to about three feet as there is noticeable muzzle blast from the TalonP, and one foot seems kinda rude.
  • The .25 pellets may be less susceptible than the .177s to get "missed" by one or both screens unless they are "close enough" down to the top of the chrono unit, but it can still happen.
  • Power wheel was set to absolute minimum;  I wanted to see what the gun did here.  AirForce owners would refer to the setting as "1.1" on the wheel, and I understand that this is highly individualized to each gun;  that is, a setting of "8.11" on one gun is not going to translate to a second gun sitting right next to it.  It's a relative measure for that gun of how wide open the valve is.  The shooter uses it to make his own notes.
  • Top hat was also set to the most polite setting, and over 20 shots later it is still tight.  We'll see how long that continues!
  • Performance was interesting.  It was much more erratic than I was expecting, and it may be that this is my first taste of what Tom Gaylord calls "finding the right power curve" for a given gun and pellet.   Here's the string data--note some wide variations between successive shots:
#    FPS / FT-LBS

20    657 / 30
19    673 / 31
18    690 / 33
17    898 / 56
16    727 / 36
15    739 / 38
14    848 / 50
13    774 / 41
12    ERROR 3
11    ERROR 3
10    806 / 45
9    811 / 45
8    829 / 47
7    ERROR 3
6    847 / 49
5    850 / 50
4    791 / 43
3    846 / 49
2    791 / 43
1    793 / 43
Average: 786.5 FPS
SD: 68.6 FPS
Min: 657 FPS
Max: 898 FPS
Spread: 241 FPS

Starting fill was about 2900psi (two un-chronoed shots down from a 3000psi fill), and based on what the Hill pump told me when refilling afterwards, the end pressure was about 1200psi.  I was deliberately shooting until I could clearly see the gun dropping off, and after shot #17 threw me for a loop (how did that happen?), the next three pretty clearly showed the trend I was looking for.  These guns are known for maintaining a pretty tight spread over their ideal "shots per fill", and owners of TalonP and Escape models (which use the same 210cc air tank) seem to confirm a very reliable 10 full power shots per fill--sometimes more, but almost never less--once you've found the right setting(s).  (Interestingly, the ideal string of tight-spread, full-power shots doesn't necessarily begin with shot #1, but sometimes after a few "wake-up-the-valve" shots.  

It's quite possible that this "absolute minimum" setting is just not right for the gun, and next time I am going to try going up to "2.1".  (Of interest:  the test-fire data from Pyramyd Air, when I bought the gun, with a different pellet and power wheel setting at "4.6", showed a much tighter ES (118fps) and SD (42fps) for their 10 shots, with a clearly linear pattern of slightly-descending-velocity for each shot.)  

I'm interested to see what this gun's "miser mode" (whatever that turns out to be) can give me in terms of shots-per-fill;  also what "max power mode" (whatever that may be, and it may not be "full open", either) will yield, and finally I suspect I'm going to settle on whatever setting gives me the tightest spread for the 10-15 shots I think I can expect from the piece.  (For anyone reading this who is new to PCP guns:  there are many PCPs out there which can get many more shots-per-fill than this one;  AirForce's own "Talon" rifle, with a different valve and tank than the "TalonP", is one of them.)  The attraction of the TalonP, for me at least, was 1) short carbine length, 2) adjustable LOP, 3) more power for its size and ergonomics than anything I have yet found, and 4) "quickly" and easily topped off (refilled for a new string) with a hand pump.  The idea of having 10 shots at hand for hunting or pests, and then hand-pumping a refill in a matter of minutes, is just fine for what I wanted.  (Once I can afford a SCUBA tank and/or a 3000psi compressor, it could get just plain addicting.)

And jeez, look at the power at this minimum setting.  An It's actually so high that I again wonder if this is out of the valve's optimum range, and I might see some more sedate performance with the power wheel set a little higher.  At any rate, I was figuring that even at minimum wheel settings this gun (known for its gonzo valve) would have power to spare for whatever I'd want to do, and--yeah, you could say that.  That last shot, at 30 foot-pounds, is still pretty whopping for a smallbore airgun;  if my charts are correct, it will still retain about 12 foot-pounds at fifty yards.  

Thus all the testing.  Ultimately,  I don't know how serious I'm going to get or be about maintaining a statistically tight spread over those 10-15 shots, but I do want to see the data myself and maybe start to develop a spidey sense with it.  At heart I'm a functional guy:  I'll obsess over data just long enough to find the pattern I want.  And here, what I want is:  1) enough field accuracy to hit that 1" squirrel brain at 50 (yes, that's gonna be through glass), 2) enough power to anchor a snowshoe hare at the same distance, and 3) enough consistency from shot to shot that I can learn one trajectory and lean on it.  I suspect that the TalonP is going to provide multiple pellet options that can do a half-inch at 50 off the bench, leaving me a little wiggle room to guarantee the inch from a field position when it counts. 


I also ran a string through the Bronco with the half-pint-milk-box wadcutters from Crosman (mostly to test the chrono before firing the .25s over it) and learned only afterward that the otherwise nice iOS app for the "Ballistic Precision" chrono does not allow you to capture and save a string in arrears--you have to declare that you're going to save the string before you shoot it!  Okay, so this is a minor matter and I'm glad I figured it out now rather than later, but you should have seen this string!  Other than a few errors when I got the tiny pellet too far above the screens (this is becoming a consistent pattern), there were probably 20 shots in the string and the extreme spread was less than 5fps (first standard deviation was under 2!)  I was impressed, and will have to try that again to see if it was a fluke.

I'd like to construct/fashion, if I can, a "plug-and-play" bench for doing chrono testing with the airguns, since I plan to do a lot of that:  something that I can quickly lay the chrono and the gun on and have their alignment be very close to ready-to-go.  The initial thought was a simple board that would "mount" the chrono, on a small tripod, at a height in the middle of the tripod's adjustment range, and at the other end perhaps mount my "Site-N-Clean" cleaning vise/rest to match it.  In theory, small elevation adjustments for different guns could be handled by the tripod's vertical crank, and I would just point the aligned shebang at a suitable target, permitting me to do both accuracy testing and chronography at the same time.  (Not so much an issue for the Bronco, where pellets and powerplant are both cheap, but right now at least--still looking for work--.25 pellets do cost noticeably more, and as marvelous a device as that Hill pump is, I'm not going to be able to do hundreds of rounds at a time with a hand pump only.  :-)

Monday, July 6, 2015

Concept gun: the Scout-Rod.

I continue to be interested in airgunnery as a vehicle for personal training and for working with gun noobs, and my mind often chews on various such ideas in the background.  One hit me yesterday that I can't stop thinking about:  a concept gun idea that I might call the Scout-Rod.  Here's what I've got in mind.

Executive summary

This is conceptually a Jeff Cooper Scout Rifle airgun for convenient personal training.  The objective is to get as close to the Scout concept as possible with existing components, and test it to see if the idea is sound.  (If it is, the idea could be refined.)

The base gun would be a wood-stocked Benjamin Marauder rifle in .177, with a shortened length of pull, Ching Sling installed, and Leupold Scout Scope (or equivalent) mounted.

Who is this for?

Not to be flip, but this would be a valuable tool for anyone who wants to learn the mechanics of general-purpose riflery.  As described in Jeff Cooper's indispensable The Art of the Rifle, expertise gained on a Scout platform is of use to everyone:  the woods hunter, the action competitor, the precision varminter, the soldier, the plinker, or the uppity peasant.

Look at it this way.  This would be a valuable tool for the rifleman who wants to maintain his skills for, say, the hunting fields, but cannot afford lots of live practice at a distant range.  Many people have recourse to a safe range environment either at home or close to home, and could certainly benefit from more "live-fire" practice on both precision and speed targets.  A few well-placed steel spinners and/or "field-target" type challenges can make practice possible daily instead of weekly or monthly.

The details

The Benjamin Marauder (aka "M-Rod") is already known as a high-quality, (comparably) affordable precision airgun with a good trigger and built-in sound suppression.  Importantly it is a repeater, using a detachable 10-shot rotary pellet magazine along with a manual turnbolt that can be reversed for left-handers.

The stock is too long, the way most people seem to like them, but that problem can easily be fixed by shortening it to a LOP of around 12.5 inches, and rounding the rubber buttpad for mounting. The wood stock should also permit whatever slimming and weight-reducing might be desirable, and should support mounting the three anchors for a proper Ching Sling, whether in leather form or the nylon variant from The Wilderness.   With a stock shaped to support snapshots and sporting a Ching Sling to lock the rifleman to the rifle, we go a long way toward what Col. Cooper was on about.  In short, one could really learn on this platform.  Train on this platform.

Mounting a proper Scout scope may prove tricky, but someone should be able to figure it out, and the M-Rod is a good enough rifle to justify the cost of doing so.  Maybe it's as simple as a cantilevered rail going forward off the receiver's 11mm dovetail (11mm is the de facto airgun standard);  maybe it's more complicated than that.  It doesn't have to look fancy, it just has to work, putting the intermediate eye relief glass (the Leupold M8 2.5x has long been the standard) at the right distance and as low as possible over the bore.

For training, the trick to keeping it as practical as possible will be to develop targets of the proper size and perspective.  While there is ultimately no complete substitute for shooting at a 300 yard steel plate with a .308 Scout, one can certainly approximate the challenge with an airgun at 50 yards by applying just a bit of attention.  Using the rough approximation for "minute of angle" that most of us grew up on in reverse, if your goal is to hit a 12" plate at 300, then use a 2" plate at 50 for the airgun.  For the same 12" plate at 200, use 3" at 50, or maybe 1.5" at 25, for the airgun.  For the 12" plate at 100 offhand challenge, perhaps use 3" at 25.  Use your imagination:  if you are limited to a fixed range distance you can calibrate all your targets simply based on size;  if you have the luxury of using various distances, you could use the same size target everywhere.  If you've done your arithmetic correctly, the perspective should be the same through the glass, so you should be able to practice things such as range estimation off the reticle, holding over and under at various distances, etc., in a pretty conventional way.

One thing I would want to do if I started working at this would be to spend some time carefully learning trajectory behavior of diabolo pellets.  Ideally, I'd want to find the right balance between actual trajectory, scaled target size and placed distance.  The Marauder should be capable of half-inch groups or less at 50 yards, and better than that closer in.  But if the trajectory curve of the pellet over that distance describes an arc proportionally like a .45/70 rather than a .308, I might consider scaling everything to 25 yards instead of 50 to make the curve closer.  Obviously the closer in I get, the less I can train my eyes to see things at the "true distance", but in general I think there may be a lot of value in this "perspective foreshortening".

What is the value?

Some benefits of this idea are self-evident.  The use of .177 pellets instead of centerfire rifle ammunition is a fairly staggering cost savings.  It permits many more range options because of its significantly reduced power.  It's quiet:  even loud airguns are quiet compared to firearms (even .22s), and the .177 Marauder is renowned for its sound suppression.  You can refill the Marauder either with a hand pump (it's like a bicycle pump on steroids) or from a SCUBA tank.

Other values start to sink in more slowly.  The ability to construct a suitable, personal "walking range", with targets placed at various distances that come into and disappear from view while walking a path, is an extremely significant selling point for training.  Constructing such a range for .308 rifle requires resources most of us don't have, but doing so for a sub-1000fps, 8-grain .177 pellet is quite possible and very worthwhile.

And the convenience is hard to overstate, especially as it may translate into more actual practice.  To be able to run through a few magazines every day, in different light and weather, with little or no commute and no need for hearing protection, potentially means a far more experienced and confident rifleman.  The value of a durable, quality precision rifle, equipped with good trigger, ergonomic stock, effective shooting sling, and general-purpose sights, seems hard to overstate.


Of course there are downsides.  The most significant is probably the safety lever, which from an ergonomics standpoint is just terrible.  It operates like a Garand safety (which is hardly ideal itself), but when engaged offers no room at all;  your finger might well literally be on the trigger if you're riding the safety in Standard Ready.  It may be worth custom work to remedy this, just so that one can train properly.

The bolt-throw is obviously going to be different than for a centerfire rifle.  If nothing else it will be significantly shorter.  Now, whether or not this is a big deal is a bit open to question;  if one trains to work the bolt to its limit each time, then it won't matter whether the bolt needs to load a .177 pellet, a .22 rimfire, a .308, or a .375.  But, nonetheless a bolt throw that would approximate a .308 rifle would be better.  Also, although the M-Rod has a reputation for durability and quality, it remains at least a bit to be seen how robust the bolt action truly is;  to train properly for bolt work, one is not gentle.

A precharged pneumatic (PCP) airgun will not have any recoil.  Again, whether or not this is significant is arguable, but it is there to consider, and all other things being equal, having at least enough recoil to disturb the sight picture between shots would be preferable to calm.

The Marauder does not come with iron sights.  One could easily mount a rear ghost-ring aperture on the 11mm dovetail, but the front sight would require custom mounting of some sort.  This is another thing that is more "nice to have" than "essential" in a trainer, although Jeff Cooper did consider reserve irons to be critical to back up the glass--at least on "the real thing".

That's about it, though.  I don't know how the piece might or might not "make weight", but for a trainer, this would seem to be a reasonably minor consideration, in light of all the other advantages.

Are there other ways to do this?

Theoretically, there are other guns and optics that could serve this purpose.  The best option in firearms is to go to the rimfire.  Gunsmoke Guns in Denver has long produced what they call the "Cub Scout", which is a custom Ruger M77/22 with Leupold scout scope and Ching Sling.  It's a fantastic idea, and if .22 ammo were plentiful again, it is very faithful to the Scout concept, with a vastly superior safety, and gives up only noise and backstop concerns to the airgun.

There are other PCP repeaters, but most of those are much more expensive than the Marauder.  The AirForce airguns are marvelous machines and well-suited to a few useful things (e.g., mounting a scout scope, adjusting LOP), they are single-shots, and training for a repeating rifle really should involve a repeater.  Other airgun powerplants are problematic.  CO2 is fussy about temperature, and most guns running other powerplants (than PCP) are too far away from the action operation you'd want in a boltgun trainer.

Scout scopes have been around a while now, and there are alternatives to the Leupold, but all at some cost or other.  The Burris unit is the best alternative, but it gives up objective diameter and thus a little light.  I have been impressed with the quality of the Leapers 2-7x variable with 30mm tube and huge objective, but great balls of fire, that thing is huge and heavy.  The Leupold is much more compact, one third the weight, and it gets the job done.  Somewhat to my surprise, having now shot both the Leapers and the Leupold, I can conclude personally that the Leapers' extra field of view (which is significant) is not needed when using a scout scope binocularly.  It's noticeable when you're using the scope as a viewing device--and the glass is beautiful--but it's not noticeable in practice when using it as a sighting tool.  With both eyes open, you just don't notice it--and you don't need it.

There are alternatives to the Ching Sling, but they are all compromises.  The "Safari Ching Sling" does get more out of a two-point mount than a standard "hasty", but it is not the same as a true three-point Ching Sling;  anyone who tells you it is simply does not fully understand the latter.  There is also the Giles sling system, which seems to work well for truly "wearing" a carbine, but it too gives up the precision that a Ching Sling can bring out of a rifle.  (To be clear:  one can also get a solid sling lockup from a standard military loop sling, but not nearly as fast.)

Suggestions for custom work or manufacturer refinement

Stock.  The ideal stock would be as light weight as possible, slim and compact, and would feature either a short LOP (12.5" ideal) or an adjustment range suitable for kids through adults (say 9.5" to 13").  It would house three flush-fitting sling studs for a proper Ching Sling.  It would be nearly perfect if it also incorporated a flush-fitting bipod as on the Mannlicher (Steyr) Scout.

Power adjustment.  The Marauder already features a degree of power adjustment;  here we would simply wish to refine or extend that.  We don't need all the M-Rod's power for a trainer;  ideally what we want is 1) enough accuracy, 2) a trajectory as close as possible to the scaled curve of a .308 rifle bullet over at least 300 yards of travel, and then 3) as many shots per fill at that ideal velocity as we can get.  What might be really nice, even ideal, is if we could dial the valve so far both ways that we could accommodate a) absolute max shots per fill on minimum acceptable velocity, b) max shots per fill for a trajectory-optimized velocity, and c) max power, if we decided to take the rifle afield.  Here, I'm new enough to airgunnery that I can't even really conjecture on whether such a thing could be done, much less how to do it.  :-)

Safety.  In looking briefly at the part diagram for the trigger/safety group on the Marauder, it seems hard to believe that one couldn't find a way to redirect the safety lever (perhaps just doglegging around the trigger/safety group) back toward the tang, for either a true tang safety or even a M700-style rocker switch.  It would be worth a custom price to do this for the ergonomics!

Scope mounting.  This is just a matter of how to securely get a rail space out far enough forward of the receiver to mount a Scout scope both low and forward.  Other than the general principle that lighter is better, it wouldn't much matter how this was done;  clearly the Benjamin Armada has such a rail-space, but we don't need plumbing fixtures everywhere, just on top.  What would be really nice would be a rail that permits both conventional and Scout scope mounting, and which incorporates a reserve ghost-ring rear aperture sight, a la the XS shotgun sight/rail.

Bolt throw.  This would require some ingenuity, but I think it could be done.  The ideal end result is a bolt that behaves exactly like a .308 length boltgun, in terms of bolt lift and throw.  How to do this?  Well, it is already evident that Crosman/Benjamin understand enough about their rotary magazine to have developed both a turnbolt system (Marauder, Armada), and also an AR charging handle system (MAR177) that manipulate it.  I would imagine that one could create a replica rifle bolt that cams the rotary magazine slowly over its travel, easing wear on the magazine itself while still allowing the rifleman to run the bolt vigorously at full speed.

Well, there it is.

Got the idea out of the brain;  now I can attack it and possibly start asking around.  :-)

Sunday, July 5, 2015

See, this is where you lose me.

So lately I've started to see this image pop up in "friendly" circles:

This is actually a bit infuriating.

It's not that the message is wrong, per se;  I've got no argument that the giant "rainbow" mob (which has co-opted the demographic of people who are, you know, actually gay just like little-L libertarians get regularly co-opted by various ne'er-do-wells who have despoiled their own name and need new legitimacy) will now prove to be most enthusiastic about pressing their newfound political advantage against...well, their political opponents.  And we all know that in politics the penalty is always death.

What's annoying is that
  • "Bake My Damned Cake" might as well be "Snitch On Your Neighbor", or "If You See Something, Say Something", or "Support Your Local Police", or "Drugs are bad, mmmkay?" or "Report Every Dangerous Driver Immediately", or "Put Back The Raw Milk, Ya Weird-Hat Beardo", or "Stop Resisting", or "Just Admit You're A Racist Already, Honky", or "Do You Deny Climate Change?", or "Say It!  Taxes Are Voluntary", or "Support The Establishment's Next War", or "Vote, peasant", or ... okay, you get the idea.  (You do get the idea, right?)
  • The rainbow symbol might as well be the symbol for DHS, NSA, FBI, IRS, ATF, Congress, SYLP, SPLC, CDC, the UN, the Presidential Seal, Everytown, Sandy Hook Promise, EPA, ... again, you get the idea.
  • The symbol of the Christian cross might as well be a symbol for gun owners, or cash users, or privacy wonks, or Reds, or Jews, or Blacks, or Muslims, or Freedomistas, or homeschoolers, or  potheads, or hippies, or motorheads, or rednecks, or ... 
Pick one from each column and the functional dynamic is exactly the same, despite any quantity of sound and fury to the contrary.  

See, the concept behind the image itself is extremely powerful--if you stand back far enough to see it for what it is.  "Bake My Damned Cake", et al, is simply political force, however it may be determined by whatever mob has power at the moment.  The rainbow, et al, is simply the political mob, legitimized by whatever diabolical means the system can snow enough people over with.  And of course, the cross, et al, is simply you and me--the Mundanes, the peasantry, everyone.  As George Carlin so aptly put it, "it's like a great big club...and you ain't in it."  A less savory character called it "Who does what to whom."

Yes, the "rainbow mob" is currently whooping it up and generally carrying on like petulant children who have got their way and are milking it for all it's worth.  I'm not arguing that.  But it is a bit discouraging to see otherwise thoughtful people making it SO DAMN EASY to retort with the complaint that all they care about is keeping the gays away.  And thus enabling millions to simply ignore whatever else they may have to say.

It's not about that, right?  Right?   Okay, so Jeez, people, by all means act like it

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Insurrection Day.

First got that phrase from Grigg, and I can't help using it.  Far more accurate than any of this "celebrate our military might" craptastic, at any rate.

It's been six years now since I did my comment on Independence Day, ... and I still don't feel the need to change anything.

It does me well to remember, now that the Fourth of July is here and all the banners and colors are in evidence, just what the observance is supposed to be for.

The Fourth of July is not the day the Constitution was signed or ratified.

It's not even when the Bill of Rights (and with it the legitimacy of the Constitution) was ratified.

It has nothing--nothing--to do with self-congratulatory, chest-thumping military displays.

It has nothing to do with any sort of flag.

It has nothing to do with faithfulness or loyalty to your government.

In fact, if you read the document that the Fourth actually celebrates, you find some interesting things, including:

  • This is about declaring that a people are ultimately independent from, and therefore above, their government.
  • This is about declaring the right to revolt against a government that has stopped representing its people.
  • This is about people willing to stand up and become military targets of their own government.
These folks were revolutionaries.  They were secessionists.  They were seditionists.  No doubt King George considered them "terrorists" and "traitors", guilty of "treason" toward the duly constituted authoritah of the time.

And we celebrate the Fourth of July today, not only because they stood up and said, "we've had enough of your abuses and are no longer subject to your rule", but then had the moxie to fight back when George called them on it.

Think about that.  These people opened fire on their own government, when said government came to take away their stockpiles of unlicensed, unregistered, long-range, (better than) military-style arms.  They organized and fought a guerrilla insurrection rather than continue to endure a government that did not serve, reflect or benefit them.  And, perhaps to the surprise of everyone including themselves, they prevailed.

Isn't it funny how times have changed.  Criticizing the government is now only done by kooks and loonies, who of course should be rounded up and added to the ever-growing list of potential terrorists.  Quoting the Constitution or Bill of Rights is now considered impertinent enough to get you on the list.  And the Fourth of July is now all about wearing the team colors, whooping it up for the coach in Washington, and celebrating with displays of military might.  All while you shut up and pay your taxes, so nobody gets hurt.

Because, you know, times are so different now.
Please do celebrate the Fourth of July--for what it is.  IndependenceDay.  Go read the Declaration of Independence, and talk about it.  It may not be a casual conversation, but it's one worth having.

No real surprises. Much commotion.

So much agoggery lately.  And why, really?  Okay, there seems to have been a lot going on, but look, let's review some of the highlights:
  • SCOTUS The Nazgul now inform Us The Unwashed even more officially (no, really) that Obamacare is just peachy, good for you, and nonfattening.  
  • SCOTUS The Nazgul have now "legalized" and "protected" State marriage for what might be called (at the risk of hyperoffending the hyperoffensensitive) non-traditional sexual preferences.
  • Following another "gun-free zone" disaster in South Carolina, the Who Does What To Whom machine has rather effectively rallied its Committee For The Disarmament Of Everyone Who Didn't Do It, along with Occupy Race Bigotry Army soldiers of all ages, and now otherwise normal people are positively tripping over themselves to disassociate from symbols and mythologies that mostly have absolutely nothing to do with all the chest-thumping.

Sure, it's messed up.  Fancy robes don't excuse rubber-stamping thuggery.  I still cannot, for the life of me, figure out why any self-respecting gay couple would anywise be excited about now being subject to the same control and abuse as the rest of us.  Victim disarmament is still just about as misanthropic a principle as one could possibly visit upon another human being.  And wholly aside from race bigotry going "both ways", trying to rewrite history by somehow suppressing it, pretending it didn't happen--well shit, what could go wrong there?  Yezhovschina, indeed.

Messed up, yes, but it's hardly surprising.  Seriously, did anyone--anyone-- really think that The Robed Nine would somehow come back on Obamacare and say, "Tut tut now, none of this is authorized in your charter document--you'll have to give it up and go home."?  Jeez, pull the other one.  We're already well down the road toward bypassing inconvenient impediments to power (e.g., fast track) anyway;  it won't be long before people start suggesting regularly that we simply bypass SCOTUS rulings entirely.  You know, when we know up front how they'll always turn out in the way that benefits the State.

And I truly found myself wondering, when I first heard about the "gay marriage decision":  okay, what is this decision supposed to distract our attention from?  (In the vein of why are they telling me this, and why are they telling me this now?)  Yes, I understand that there are going to be exploitable provisions in that decision that are going to be used unfairly against people who commit no harm...but hell, we already have that, just for other "protected" demographics.  This decision was treated like a giant party--that seemed to be the point--and I suspect it took a whole lot of attention off the Obamacare rubber-stamp decision.

The church shooter?  Jeez.  With the nearly standard caveat of "presuming he wasn't in fact a groomed CI", this character seems to be much more fitting of the stereotype that the Victim Disarmament Now! crowd insists all gunnies are--and I suspect that this is the primary reason the Hive Mind decided to plant its flag in this event in the first place.  Their reaction to every shooting (-in a "gun-free zone") is the same--the only difference here is in the timing and circumstances, which were formulaically exploitable.

And then there were the church fires, about which there seems to have been a splash of interest and then near-silence.  Curious.  (One might logically think to go to the FBI about that, given the agency's expertise in both church and evidence fires.)  But the race warriors seem to have played their hand well regardless, and may well get their race war if someone does something stupid now.

Again:  is any of this surprising?
  • Master investigates Master and concludes that Master's word is law.  
  • Master simply adds another dependent group to its rolls, handing out the news like a Mardi Gras party, but changing the way it works hardly at all.  
  • Disarmers exploit the blood of others, ignoring the success of the Deacons in favor of the enforced helplessness of victims whose tragedy they can use.  
  • Race bigots stir up envy and hatred in every symbol available, again for the purpose of pitting the peaceable against each other, instead of leaving them alone to learn about each other.

Which brings me to the thought that first prompted this post.  The reason these things are unsurprising is that most people sold the farm years ago.  Judicial activism has been around for just a few years less than the country has--and thus whoever accepts judicial activism in principle doesn't really have much a leg to stand on about this ACA decision.  Likewise, it seems kinda hypocritical to "defend" a State sanction for (and thus its control over) one kind of marriage, and yet criticize the same sanction for another kind.  Most people seem to accept the State's monopoly on force and violence, whether in the form of "SYLP", or siccing the FedCops on "those people" for some vice or other (drugs, guns, raw milk, erotica, etc.), or the thunderous worship of "Support Our Troops", yet try to act appalled as some minor dipswitch of detail gets decided or discussed that supports the principle.  And my word, but people seem to believe anything they are told about racial bigotry in unknown others, yet get all uppity when others insist on seeing it in them as well.  

And all of this is rendered even the more disturbing because nearly everyone who is running around without his mind right now, doesn't really care about any of it.  He doesn't want these things--he wants to be seen wanting these things

I don't remember when I first heard the phrase, "It's all over but the shouting", but lately, it seems to be in my mind every day.

Because all this?  This is "the shouting".  And "we" have fully earned it.