December 2012 Journal

November 22-30, 2012

The Redhead caught Arthur Pendragon and me napping

Thanksgiving at Dan Varner (Capt. Dan Blodgett) and his wife's place. Big crowd. Very nice.

Managed to practice once, but loaded a lot of .38 Special.

It took 2 days, but we managed to get Department of Defense ID cards so we can go to the PX and commissary. Haven't made it to either. Luke AFB is a long way away.

November 12-21, 2012

Sign on a truck at Kenworth, Tucson

Apparently no one makes holsters for Glocks

Did a lot of working in the garage. Reloading .38 Special, when I started, as usual everything in the XL650 was out of adjustment, dirty, or both. Solved problems one at a time. Spent a lot of time using both calibration tools only to still have an alignment problem. It was actually a sticking primer disk. Disassembled primer mechanism and cleaned everything. Used One Shot case lube (because it's a dry lube) on the disk. Eventually everything got adjusted, clean and working. I sill have to push the top of the case at station 1 to get it lined up with the die too often, but the last thousand rounds took about 1/10th the time the first thousand did. The case feeder motor can no longer handle a lot of cases at a time, a sign it's probably going out, not a warranty item.

Even the RF100 primer filler got out of adjustment, giving 12 upside down primers out of 100 rounds. Did a lot of bullet pulling. Readjusted RF100. No more problems.

The Redhead took George S. Patton to the vet, and he tried Prednisone, which had failed on last year's allergy. This year it worked, and George doesn't have to wear the cone anymore.

Went to the Cowtown match. 4 Frontiersmen in one posse. Determined to shoot clean, I was keeping the stages to low 30s until Stage 1, my 5th. The rifle targets are across the "navigable waterway" on the side of the hill. Two of them are in shadows. When the smoke is bad they give me fits. The smoke was pretty bad. Normally I don't have to slow for smoke for the pistols, but I did. The rifle, however, was worse. 53 seconds or so, but clean. 2 was a bit better, 41. Larsen E. Pettifogger, trying out his available-only-in-Europe hardened white metal Colt 1860s won handily, even though he had at least a couple of misses. But then he has always beaten me like a redheaded stepchild. He can probably see.

Bought a H & R Buffalo Classic .38-55 (with ejector) from Larsen E. Pettifogger (spending some of the money I got selling guns at Bordertown). Gave it directly to Johnny Meadows to make it into a Plainsman rifle. Got 150 rounds of new Winchester brass from Larsen. Starline is backordered until February. I have 2 kinds of Black Powder Lubed soft lead bullets from Chey-Cast. Need dies. Working on it.

Started stocking up on primers the day after the election for obvious reasons. They had a lot before the election. Not so many then. Bought several Federal Small Pistol and Large Pistol. No Winchester shotgun primers, so got Federal. Went back on the Wed before Thanksgiving again looking for something else they didn't have3 and bought all of the Federal Small Pistol Match Primers. 2.000. No regular Federal SP. For some reason Remington #10 percussion caps were scarce online. most out of stock, and expensive. Finally got 5,000 and split with Judah Macabee.

Ordered a big (for me) order of bullets from S and S Casting (low prices, credit card, quick delivery, volume discount, and they have 105 gr. .38s-other bullet makers are welcome to bid on my future business.) They were overwhelmed with orders the day after the election. "I pride myself on same day shipping, but I'm afraid we're not going to make it on some." I told him no hurry. Half the order arrived in 2 days, the other the next day. He also mentioned lead is going up, no surprise. Methinks people in the gun, ammo, and components business are going to have 4 more record years, and the prices we think are horrific now will be the "good old days."

American Pioneer Powder News:

Talked with Brett at American Pioneer Powder. They will be at Winter Range selling APP cheaper than you can get it elsewhere. I know of several shooters who get a year's supply, which isn't a bad idea. We also discussed something he'll be sending to me to test next year. More news on that when it happens.

November 11, 2012, Sunday, Veterans Day

Pulled out an old photo that I hadn't been able to scan before. It's smaller than a postage stamp. The latest HP scanner did a good job, though.

There's a story with it. During the Cambodian Incursion I was Senior Advisor of an ARVN Infantry Battalion. We had gone into Cambodia via air assault, with the mission of finding an NVA unit known to be in the area. We had encountered elements of the unit daily, and attempted to get ahead of them with two more combat assaults. We had moved through the jungle for several days at about as hard a pace as I encountered, enough that the advisors had wolfed down three C-Ration meals a day (6000 calories), and we were still hungry. One day the individual in the photo and another NVA soldier walked into the middle of my 300+ man unit without being noticed, and without them noticing us. We had stopped for lunch. The NVA were wearing khakis with no insignia and Ho Chi Minh sandals. They were carrying AKM's. Both NVA were apparently unaware of our presence because both were shot while their rifles were across their chests. Both rifles were hit in the receiver, putting them out of action. The other NVA was killed with a chest hit. This one had lost his right thumb to the round that took out his rifle, and he was hit in the right elbow, indicating the "sweep" was from right to left, and the rifle was hit before his elbow. When I went to examine him the troop that never gets the "Cease fire" message threw a fragmentation grenade close to us. I dived behind a tree. When things calmed down and I returned, the NVA's right foot had been blown off, and his foot and right sandal were missing. But he was alive.

Our medics started working working on him. The ARVN CO handed me his wallet. It included the photo shown and one of him in a dress uniform, meaning the same one but clean and pressed. It included medals. One was a "Medal for killing an American."

I asked the interpreter to ask him about that. The NVA replied that he had never been in combat and had the photo taken for his girlfriend. I asked the interpreter to ask him if he wanted to die in the jungle or be treated at an American hospital. He preferred the latter. The interpreter explained that he would have to tell us where his unit was and how big it was or otherwise the mean American, who was pissed at his medal, wouldn't call for a helicopter to take him to the hospital. I already had, but he didn't know it. He told us where his unit was and said it was very big and was guarding an arms and food cache.

I started calling for support because the unit wasn't far away. The medevac chopper arrived, but the escort Cobras were lost. The medevac pilot, understandably, didn't want to come down 20 miles into Cambodia for a wounded prisoner without escorts. While we were waiting for them, the prisoner died.

To make the rest of the story short, later that day after a fierce firefight we captured the arms cache and 22 tons of rice in 100 kilo bags. Our casualties were "light." The NVA casualties were heavy. The arms cache was huge including several hundred AK's and SKS's, RPD's, RPG's, ammunition, mortars, 40 or so 12 lb. anti-tank mines, etc. To extract it all we had to cut a LZ big enough for Chinooks, as Huey's could only carry about 1000 lb. in the 100°F/100% humidity conditions. The NVA tried to retake the cache several times during the ten days or so it took to clear out a football field sized area. Each of the 3 advisors present (2 were in Saigon for a sergeant's promotion board and managed to stay lost for several days) took an SKS rifle, one that we could take home as a war trophy. I gave mine to the Cody Firearms Museum.

I put 4 more Vietnam photos on Facebook:

From the Facebook caption: Veterans Day approaches. I note returning Veterans are treated much better than we were. Keep it up. This photo was taken in Lam Son (northwest of Saigon) in late 1969. I had been given a desk job, G 3 Air Advisor. It lasted a week or two because of things like this. An Air Force Lieutenant, a FAC (Forward Air Controller) walked in as I was going off duty after 12 hours on the night shift and asked if anyone knew how to use a Pentax Spotmatic camera. I admitted I did. I had just gotten my second one from the PX catalog. I spent the next several hours in the back seat of a Cessna O1E Bird Dog taking strike photos as F100s flew close air support. You might note I'm wearing a 1911A1 in a locally made left-handed holster. No good deed goes unpunished. I was sent back to an Infantry unit when Col. Hayes discovered I was flying on my off hours. No, I have no idea why I flew with FAC's and Fireflies while I had a nice, safe desk job. Whenever I post one of these war stories several people thank me for my service. That's not why I post. Please save it for vets down on their luck. They need it. In fact, you might take one out to lunch.

Late 1969 I was an advisor on Advisory Team 70. I had been assigned as Senior Advisor to an ARVN recon company. We were given "experimental missions." Those are 2 words you don't want to hear together in a combat zone. Some involved Navy boats to take us up river and put us ashore so we could look for trouble. This photo was taken on one of the Navy boats. I don't know one from another. John O'Neill, who commanded a Swift Boat, told me it was a Monitor based on the radar unit. Jack Houston, who commanded a PBR told me that PBR's didn't have radar or room for recon troops. It took three o them to take my company. They had twin .50 cal. Machine Guns and a Honeywell grenade launcher, so we sure liked having them there for support. My team consisted of a SP4 in an E6 job and me. He was a heavy weapons specialist. I was an Armor captain. Army vets will know how wrong this was for an Infantry Recon unit with no heavy weapons and no armor. After a few "experiments" the recon company was down to 39 effectives and was sent to Vung Tau for 6 months of retraining and reequipping. Vung Tau was an R and R site. Sadly I wasn't sent along but was reassigned to another dirty job.

This is SP4 Mike Hatter. Mike was the radio operator for the team I was in after the recon unit, an infantry battalion. Mike was always cheerful. I liked him. I was sent to another battalion with my own team, so I lost track of him. Most of our casualties were officers. I didn't hear of any in his unit, so I hope he survived his tour and went home to a happy life.

One last Veterans Day photo--After 8 months in the combat zone I was given 6 days and 5 nights R and R in Hawaii. My lovely young wife met me, and we tried to get the most out of every hour. It was a different world. The vets were the guys with short hair and tans. Leaving that lovely young lady and going back to the war was the hardest thing I've ever done. I had predicted things would get worse, but I had underestimated. This was March 1970. I would still have a battle at a little place called Fire Base Mary on the night of April 7-8, 1970. 28 of the 105 troops on the fire base were killed or wounded, but all but one of the attackers were killed. Then I was promoted to Senior Advisor of an ARVN Infantry Battalion that went to Cambodia during the incursion. More friends would die. All of my 4 man team survived. I didn't have a camera when I went back, so these were the last photos of my tour of duty. Welcome home, Vets. For those who fight for it, life has a flavor the protected will never know.

November 10, 2012, Saturday

Went to the ACSA match. Excellent match. Missed two pistols on one stage with fairly small round pistol targets. Oops. Shot with Judah Macabee, but this time he had pistol problems. That's because he sold his Ruger Old Armies! Without those for backup his Colt '60 Army clones acted up. He had looked up last weeks scores online. 206.14 to his 206.42. Lunch with him and Larsen E. Pettifogger and others at Chili's. I haven't been on the SASS Wire, so I didn't know T. A. Chance has been appointed match director and stage writer for the 2013 End Of Trail. This is great news, as I believe he's the best in the business. If you're undecided about going to EOT, this should tip the scales to GO.

November 9, 2012. Friday

Went to see Skyfall, the latest Bond flick. Unfortunately my hearing aids don't work in a big theater well enough for dialogue. I'll see it again when it comes on TV and I can use the bluetooth device to the hearing aids.

In one scene Q gives Bond a new Walther PPK/S in "9 mm short." I noted it has a long grip tang, which is a good improvement as PPK's were notorious for cutting the web of meaty hands. The Sig-Sauer equivalent sold because it had a "beavertail."

But some years ago Earl Long made my PPK/S into the PPK/S Bond should have had.

Smith and Wesson J-Frame adjustable rear sight, welded on beavertail, hand cut checkering on the front and rear of the grip frame, Black T finish

Note that's diamond checkering, done with a hand file!

November 6-8. 2012

Partly in order to get away from the election, I went to Cowtown with the Ransom Rest and chronograph and every black powder and substitute I had. Shot 30 gr. loads in a Ruger Old Army.

The results were more than a little surprising in the accuracy testing.

I set up the Ransom Rest on a stage set at Cowtown. The building is exceptionally well built, and the shelf is very solid. So the Ransom Rest doesn't move. I know this because one load gave a 3/4" group. Past the Ransom Rest are the screens for an Oehler 35P Printing Chronograph, long considered the most accurate in consumer use. The main screens are 4 ft. apart, further than other consumer units. And in the middle is a 3rd "Proof" channel screen. If the results of the test channel are significantly different from the Proof Channel, no reading is given. This eliminates a lot of errors.

The target is at only 10 yards. Cowtown currently allows targets to about 10 yards. Then a no target zone imposed by the environmental wackos who call this area a "navigable waterway", then, a very steep hill. Rifle targets are either within 10 yards or 25 yards. I wimped out and put the target at 10 yards in lieu of getting mountain climbing equipment in order to place it up the hill. The Ransom Rest allows the pistol to recoil, as shown, and must be pushed back to the stop. Then, if the gun and ammunition are perfect, one-hole groups will result. This test used the same gun and the same 143 gr. round balls.

One powder spout was used. It will throw 30 gr. of Goex 3F. I use a .45 ACP cap as a cover for filling the spout for consistency.

I was very careful to make sure every charge was level with the top of the spout for consistency. Every powder was, thus, tested with the same volume load.

I've included target photos because anyone can make a powder do anything they want using an "M1 Pencil" as 2LT Rich was once accused of using to score high score on the 1911 at Armor Officer Basic Course.

I was extremely surprised when Swiss 3F, long considered the "Gold Standard" of black powder shot a 5-1/4" group. High velocity was 923 ft./sec., low 885. Average velocity was 905. Extreme spread (ES) was a low 38 ft./sec. Standard Deviation (SD) was a low 14. In the last two, lower is better. Power factor was 129. I was extremely surprised to see a 5.25” center to center group. If I hadn’t just gotten a ¾” group from another powder, I would have looked for a problem in the Ransom Rest. The next powder tested scored a 1.75” group. If we were shooting at the plate rack from hell, this group would be too big, so this powder is not acceptable in this application.

Pyrodex Pellets—I get questions about these all the time. They’re very tempting because they’re easy to load. My experience with them was unsatisfactory due to delayed ignition (hangfire, pop…bang). This was no exception. 3 rounds experienced delayed ignition out of five. High velocity 928, low 710, average 782, ES 218, SD 88. Power factor 112. Group size 2.75”. I don’t recommend these unless you know the cure for Pop---bang.

Goex 3F—This is a good all around powder. It handles all of our main match guns including shotgun. Since Cowboy has been discontinued I’ve used it for everything except .45-70. High was 817, low 707, average 778, extreme spread 110, Standard Deviation 46, power factor 111, group size 2.75”.


Triple Seven FFg is a black powder substitute designed for hunters, to get as much velocity as possible for big hunting muzzleloaders. It also has more restrictions in the loading instructions than all of the other powders tested, with limitations on wads and fillers. 30 gr. of FFg gave a high of 902, low of 768, average 833, ES 144, SD 55, Power Factor 119, group 2.25”.


Triple Seven FFFg is even hotter, resulting in velocities that are illegal in SASS. The high was 1042, low 992, average 1015, ES a low 50, and SD a low 17. Power factor 145, group size 1.75. This is acceptable for speed shooting, but the powder is too hot for this load.


Sadly Goex Cowboy has been discontinued. This is a shame as this is a good powder for what we do. High 739, low 631, average 707, ES 108, SD 43, power factor 101, group size 1.75.


Pyrodex P—Pyrodex was the original black powder substitute. It has a reputation for being dirty, and cartridges need black powder lubed bullets. “P” is equivalent to 3F. It is a good, all around powder for our main match guns. It has the additional advantage of being widely available. Some of the others are hard to find. High 783, low 697, ES 86, SD 34, power factor 106, group size 1.75. 4 rounds fit in ¾” with one flyer.


Goex Express has been discontinued, but I still have some FFg, so I tested it. It is an excellent powder. High 768, low 702, average 723, ES 46, SD 17, power factor 89, group 1-5/8”.


Jim Shockey’s Gold FFFg—I get a lot of questions about Jim Shockey’s Gold. It is made by American Pioneer Powder and is optimized for hunters. Jim Shockey has a show on the Outdoor Channel. It’s a good powder. All of American Pioneer Powder products have been improved continuously. I find they dust less than they used to, and they’re not as hygroscopic. Jim Shockey’s Gold seems most improved since my last test of it. Like Pyrodex and Triple 7, they are safe to use in progressive reloading machines. FFFg—High 826, low 540, average 703, ES 185, SD 71, power factor 101, group size 1.375.


Jim Shockey’s Gold FFG—was marginally more accurate. Velocity high was 772, low 618, average 667, ES 154, SD 61, power factor 95, group size 1.25. The power factor is reasonable for CAS, and the group size is good.
And The Winner Is:


And the winner, to my complete surprise, was American Pioneer Powder FFFg. High 693, low 461, average 555, ES 232 (!), SD 85, power factor 79, group size 0.75. With that velocity spread, I would expect less accuracy.
This surprised me enough that I shot another group after shooting the others. High was 541, low 445, avg 507, ES 96, SD 36. Power factor 73, group 0.875.

Except for "warthogs" who get their kicks out of heavy loads, most Frontiersman shooters are looking for a powder that is accurate, moderate in recoil, and makes or exceeds the smoke standard. All of these powders except Cowboy make the smoke standard with 15 gr. (1 cc) of powder behind a 140 gr. Black Powder bullet lubed with SPG in a .38 special case with a Federal 100 primer. 30 gr. of all of these powders far exceeds the smoke standard. Frontier categories don't have a power factor, but it's a good indication of felt recoil. All of these powders except Swiss 3F, Pyrodex Pellets, and Triple 7 3F are acceptable loads at 30 gr. Some, clearly, would be acceptable at lower levels . However, Triple 7 and American Pioneer Powder become erratic at light loads. My minimum threshold for APP 3F is 25 gr. I gave up on Triple 7. I don't want to use fillers or wads, and any charge that was consistent had too much recoil.

November 5, 2012

Worked in the garage.

November 4, 2012

Went to Cowtown. Shot with Judah Macabee and Lefty Dude, both shooting Frontiersman. One more time, hit all the targets, had some stages in the 20s, but, due to smoke, shot a rifle out of order. Judah shot clean. We compared scorecards. Without getting out the calculator they looked the same. Neither of us stayed for awards. I was tired. I've gotta stop getting procedurals. I've gotten 4 in 4 matches. Jeez.

November 3, 2012

Went to Rio Salado's annual match, 62 miles one way. Dropped The Redhead off at the casino. Once more I hit all the targets but got a procedural, in this case shooting a rifle out of order while trying to go fast. The awards dinner (catered by Famous Dave's Barbeque) didn't finish till after 5. Picked up The Redhead, who hadn't eaten. So we stopped at In-N-Out Burger. They aren't in Albuquerque, so we'd missed them.

November 2, 2012

Got the trailer set up and guns ready for matches this weekend.

November 1. 2012

Picked the bus up at 0800, charges just below the deductible, so Good Sam lucked out. Of course they paid for the tow.

Then drove to Tombstone Territories, hooked the trailer on, put the Jeep in the trailer, and drove to Phoenix. Long drive in the bus. Parked at our spot at Pioneer RV. Dinner at the nearby Chili's.

October 2012 Journal