January 2015 Journal

The Cat With No Name

December 28-31, 2014

Went back to the VA Monday and got in to see an audiologist in just a few minutes (!!!!), Dr. Wells, who is young and energetic. The right hearing aid was pronounced DOA and has to be sent to the factory. She said she couldn't get it back by Friday because of the holiday, which I understand. Since she can't get the settings off my computer records, she made an appointment to see me and adjust it in 2 weeks (More !!) Excellent!

December 27, 2014, Saturday

Spent most of the day in front of the computer updating "Black Powder For Dummies" and "Authentic Men's Costuming" presentations for the SASS Convention.

December 26, 2014, Friday

Went to the VA with the broken hearing aid. The walk-in clinic was closed today. If the VA were like a real business or a real clinic, I could call and ask Audiology if the walk-in clinic was open. But I'd still be on hold. Sigh.

Lyman Turbo Sonic 6000 Ultrasonic Cleaner

The Redhead got me this for Christmas--From Amazon. Amazon sells Lyman. Who knew?

I wanted the big ultrasonic cleaner in order to clean the Ruger Old Armies. Percussion pistols involve more cleaning than cartridge pistols. Cleaning the nipples is a bitch, and several places require scrubbing, the recoil shield, the hammer and hammer slot. And the hand slot and mainspring slot get filled with gunk requiring complete disassembly occasionally.

Cylinder, before cleaning

The hard part of the cylinder, the nipples and the cut-outs.

Bore before. Cleaning the bore is generally no problem, one pass with a Bore Snake

Hammer before

A gallon of distilled water goes between the "MIN" and "MAX" lines with the gun in there.

Then I needed 1 oz./20 oz. water of Lyman Turbo Sonic Steel and Stainles cleaner concentrate. About 6 oz.

The test run was 5.00 minutes with a target temp. of 104°F, and it needed more time. The second gun was 15 minutes, 113°F, and that worked well. The temp had been rising through the runs. It takes a while to get the water up to 104-113. Pre-heating would be nice, but apparently the heater is only on when it's running, even though it flashes.

At the end of 5 minutes the cleaning solution looked like this. But the gun wasn't clean in the difficult areas. I tried more time until it was clean.

Cylinder after cleaning. It looks a lot better than normal after a lot of scrubbing. No scrubbing before this picture, just drying with compressed air.

But when I rotated the nipples 180°, I found the back still caked with black. This usually requires a lot of scrubbing. But now it is easy to remove with a steel brush. The rest of the nippple area was much cleaner, too.

The interior after a blast of compressed air to clear the nipples.

Gun out of the bath, compressed air to dry. No scrubbing of anything at this point. Note the hammer is still a little dirty.

Recoil shield is clean, no scrubbing

Hammer slot was clean with no scrubbing

Normally running a Q-tip through the hammer slot resulted in a black Q-tip for 2 or 3 passes. Both ends of this Q-tip had been run through slots.

Frame clean, no scrubbing. I sprayed a light coat of oil over everything but the cylinder. The bore, too, was oiled.

The bore was shiny with no scrubbing, no bore snake, just from the bath.

Then I cleaned the Thunder Ranch Special Les Baer 1911. I had shot it in the "Bodie Blast," the match ending with a 140 round stage. All in all it had close to 1,000 rounds. I tried 10 minutes, and I set the temp to 140°. It only got into the 80s. Next time 15 minutes. The gun was clean except for high carbon areas, the barrel ramp, the back of the chamber, etc. Those needed a little brushing. Then I sprayed oil on everything for rust protection and G96 Synthetic on the rails and the top of the disconnector.

Since I won't be using it again until after the convention, I drained the tank, partly to see how easy it was. It was easy. I put the gallon jug on the tubing and wedged it into a lower step on the step-ladder. It didn't reach the floor. That seems to be a trend. Is my workbench unusually high?

Then open the drain valve

It filled the jug

The basket looked like this.

After I pulled the basket out and moved the unit around to get the last liquid to drain. It left crud looking like this.

Wiped it clean.

Closed the valve, put the tube and the cord into the basket, and put the 6000 away. If I had a real shop with counter space, I'd keep it on the counter in the gun cleaning area, but, as it is, it's another big thing to deal with in a small shop.

First impressions are that it works pretty well. I deliberately did no pre-cleaning on the guns, and I was trying to see how long it needed to get them clean. Experiments in that regard will continue. I might even test out its brass cleaning abilities sometime, but I have a better system in the rotary tumbler and stainless media, which polishes as well as cleaning. This is for cleaning guns, and it seems useful in that regard

December 26, 2014, Christmas Day

Angie--we give her a nice present, and she plays with the ribbon from a gift.

George S. Patton likes his present

December 22-24, 2014

Merry Catmas


"Okay, it's a red dot that moves. What do you expect me to do? Chase it? What kind of a cat do you think I am?"


Gave the Jeep a Christmas present, 4 Michelins

Christmas Eve, another Jeep present, a VIP Wash. Also bought a highly discounted package for future use, another wash,interior detail and paint sealant, to be done when we return from San Antonio.

Went to Abbott Hearing and picked up the repaired hearing aids, which work very well. Then, at home I dropped one of the VA hearing aids, and it broke. So, for 2 consecutive SASS Conventions I'll be there with reduced capacity to hear things. I'm hoping the civilian ones continue working for a few weeks. To say the VA is unlikely to have the hearing aid repaired in time is an understatement. I'll take it to the VA Dec. 26.

December 21, 2014, Sunday

New Mernickle shotgun belt details



It holds 20 shotgun rounds in case you encounter the shotgun stage from Hell. Single loops are used, and they work very well with a double. You can and should push the rounds all the way down. They won't stick.

Mernickle is using roller buckles. If you haven't used one, you're thinking, "So what?" Well, I wear my pistol belt very tight and fairly low. With a roller buckle I gan get it tighter than without one.

The new cartridge slide. The shotgun belt will only use cartridge slides so you can use one shotgun belt and change rifle calibers with just a new slide. This one is designed for stability so it doesn't roll up.

It slips tightly over the belt, andit's one piece of leather folded from the bottom and stitched to a reinforcement piece on top.


A comparison between the new slide and the "old" slide. The new one has been out for a year or so. The belt is very new.

Comparison of the new and old slides on the back.From the back. Yes, if you're left-handed and want it on your weak hand side, or you're right-handed and load over the top with your right hand, you have to take the buckle off to get it on, then reassemble the buckle.

Klickitat Bob's buckle slide Prototype

We've all had buckles that we'd like to show off, but wearing them as the buckle for one of your belts didn't work. Some just aren't designed well, and the belt pops open--only when you're winning and need one more stage. Oops, your loaded pistols are on the ground. As I showed above, using a roller buckle is probably best for your belts. I've been trying to get leathersmiths to make a slide for buckles. The problem is they're all different sizes. Klickitat Bob was the first to give it a try. This is a prototype. He made it for a Winter Range buckle, but he didn't have one. He put in a slot for the hook. A slot doesn't work with a buckle with a hook. A 2007 first place EOT buckle would "fit," but the hook would pop out. Buckles that use a post with an oversized end might work, but the slide wasn't long enough to test a 2012+ EOT Top Ten buckle. The slot was too far away from the buckle mount to use a Winter Range buckle. So I used a leather punch to add a hole in the right place. Now the buckle stays on.

I'm sure Bob will tweak the design before making a bunch for Winter Range. This one's a working prototype. I have some of the new style EOT Top Ten buckles and a couple of first place (the silver ones, back when they gave buckles for costume awards), so I'll let him use them to make a batch for EOT. I think using a series of punched undersized holes will make it capable of fitting several different size buckles, but it will look neatest if it's designed for a particular size buckle. Custom orders might be necessary for some.


December 18-20, 2014

Saturday CCSA match at Cowtown. Cowtown is a good training ground for shooting black powder. The light is bad, and wind is generally non-existent. Here Judah Maccabee, who barely makes the smoke standard (well, if the smoke standard is max loads), demonstrates.

The new Mernickle shotgun belt, now with the new cartridge slide. When I mentioned that the only problem I had with the belt was the old cartridge slide rolled up and enhanced my fumbling he sent the new design slide (detailed photos later). I have to force myself to really push the shells into the loops. I'm used to leaving them kind of loose so they don't stick when pulling them out. These don't stick even when all the way in, and I did have a few fall out when bending over, etc. Bob is convinced this makes other shotgun belts obsolete.

BTW, before you send emails saying the holster is past 30° from vertical, no, it's the camera angle.. I use an iPhone app to check it periodically(!), and it's 22-25°. If you didn't know it's supposed to be within 30° of vertical, perhaps you should take the RO1 class at Ben Avery (DPS Building), January 18, 2015, registration at 0700, class starting at 0730. There will be a lunch break. We're using the PowerPoint Presentation, which makes it a bit longer than someone reading the course to you, but it's considerably more interesting and entertaining.

Lace-up boots in the Old West:

Lace-up boots did exist, and cowboys did wear them in the Old West.

A lot of SASS Cowboys wear lace-up boots because some models are very comfortable for their tired, aching feet. I've been on posses where the entire posse was wearing them. There are still SASS members who make fun of or deride such boots. These are generally younger people who didn't spend their youth running in combat boots and breaking various bones in their feet.

Ariat Heritage Lacers

Ariat makes a lot of boots. Most of their lace-up boots look like modern work boots (surprise). But they make a model that looks "right" in a SASS Costume. You do need to remove the Kiltie. Can't find them in old west boots. I have no idea what the Kiltie is for. Wikipedia says it's a Japanese rock band, no help. The boots are available in "distressed" brown or black.

I couldn't find Ariat Heritage Lacers at an Ariat store, but I used the store to verify my size and ordered them from Amazon.com and had them in 3 days, no shipping charge, no tax.

The distressing I'm taking care of myself. These boots are very comfortable.

December 17, 2014, Thursday

Went to Abbott Hearing with problems with my "Civilian" hearing aids. The cable to the out-of-warranty Surf-link charger was exchanged at no charge, and the hearing aids were sent back to the factory. One needs a new receiver. When I asked when it would be back, they said, because of Christmas, it might take until after Christmas. If it'd been the VA, it would be closer to Valentine's Day.

Angie under the influence of Catnip on her new scratching pad. It's supposed to stand up and open out, but she uses it like this.

December 14-16, 2014

The Redhead and I went to the Scottsdale Fashion Square mall to get into the Christmas mood. While it's no Galleria (Houston), it's a seriously upscale mall. There's a Tesla dealer, Cartier's, lots of high end stuff. No J C Penny, etc. Very nice lunch at Tejas Grille.

December 12-13, 2014

ACSA Match at Ben Avery

Better photos of the gun cart with the new cleaning rod/squib rod holder

Clearly it was a Christmas match

Larsen E. Pettifogger wasn't happy with the loading stand he had built into the front of the cart. It made it too nose heavy and difficult to steer. So he built one that went on the push handle. Note that it is on the front, centered over the verticals. Otherwise you'd be pushing down on the handles and eventually break them. It looks simple, but it clamps over the arms of the handle, and the clamp, a long piece of wood cut to fit, is tightened with screw knobs. It took 3 tries, and involved putting the mount into his milling machine to make the cuts. Still experimental.

December 8-11, 2014

Cart Project

After only using this cart for 5 years I finally added a holder for a cleaning rod. Required a section of 3/4" PVC pipe and an end cap. I could make several more since I had to buy 10' of pipe.

It's held on by a very sophisticated method—cable ties. This generation of Rugged Gear carts have different pieces than current production. This probably wouldn't work on one of them.

Total cost $6.69

A Little Tweaking to the Spent Primer system

Replaced the bottle for catching spent primers with a skinnier one that fit better.

Tweaked the tubing. Gravity still rules, and any dips or kinks will cause it to fill at that point. This is Handle UP.

Handle DOWN is when the spent primer drops. The tube is downhill all the way and doesn't fill up.

December 5-7, 2014

Larsen E. Pettifogger's Loading Stand mounted on a Rugged Gear 4 Gun Cart

Larsen E. Pettifogger is a skilled machinist and woodworker with a shop to be envied. He's also very creative and inventive. The cylinder loader shown he designed and built, ditto the Dillon Powder Measure modified extensively to load each chamber with a pre-adjusted charge. He built a wood frame to bolt to the cart. All of these things are one-of-a-kind items. He is unlikely to build you one. If you want to duplicate the frame I can't supply plans. It's all shown here for information purposes only.

The powder measure has a removable plug that allows him to fill it with powder, in this case an old bottle of American Pioneer Powder.

Then he puts an aluminum marker in the empty chamber and puts powder in the other 5.

Then he inserts a .45 caliber 3/8" dry Circle Fly wad. He does this to eliminate the occasional fluffy ignition that plagues light loads with APP (and 777). Theoretically a side benefit of the wads is increased accuracy because the ball is closer to the forcing cone.

Then he inserts .457 round lead balls

Then he seats the balls with the ramming stand

You might have noticed that the holders for the pistols mysteriously disappeared. Larsen noted that the cart was hard to steer because of all of the weight on the nose and moved them to the back of the cart. The set up is a work in progress, and he has an alternate if this is too heavy for the cart.

Two day match, Cowtown Shootout in the Saguaros, at the reborn Cowtown range.




This probably looks like my usual red 6-button bib shirt, at least to men, who don't notice it's not red. It's pink. Women can see that. Chickaroo made me a couple of 6-button bib shirts. They fit--exactly. We had been asked to wear pink so many times at matches that I asked for pink. There's a story there. More later.

Sunday the weather was clear and bright. There was actually wind... until it was my turn to shoot at least. Cowtown is quite a challenge for black powder shooters. The sun is on the left quarter. If it's calm, the cross-light illuminates the smoke, making it an impenetrable curtain. It's good practice for BP, but very frustrating at times.

The match was quite enjoyable. The new/revised venue has a lot of improvements. Several loading and unloading tables are covered. No more trip hazards. No climbing stairs with guns. Excellent buildings. As usual a great bunch attending and putting the match on.

Modifications to someone's Rugged Gear 4-gun cart.

Deadeye Al made this belt buckle slide.

First time I ever actually won a category at a Cowtown annual match.

December 4, 2014, Thursday

Another Day in the Shop

Dillon XL650 Premium Performance Improvements Kit

While looking at Dillon stuff on eBay I came across this. "Why cry over spilt powder?" it said under the title.

The four issues addressed by this upgrade are:

1. Addition of a bearing to the case feed ram cam follower to reduce friction and eliminate the need for lubrication at that point.

2. Replacement of the factory issue shell plate index detent ball with a low mass industrial bearing to reduce impact energy.

3. Replacement of the factory issued shell plate index detent ball spring which has the ideal level of pressure to engage the detent ball into the shell plate.

4. Addition of a bearing atop the shell plate

Standard case feed ram cam follower

New case feed ram cam follower on left with a bearing

New case feed ram cam follower installed

The new case feed ram cam follower has a slot in the top, necessary because you need to align the bearing with the case feed ram cam

Factory shell plate index detent ball spring on left. Actually this one has half a coil removed, an often recommended tuning trick. It smooths the travel of the shell plate, minimizing the shaking of powder out. The new one on the right is of thinner wire. Generally finding the right diameter spring rather than cutting one that's too heavy makes things a bit smoother.

The new spring in place

From the seller's eBay page: "I have replaced the factory detent ball which weighs in at somewhere over 52 grains with an Industrial Grade Phenolic Low Mass bearing ball which weighs just under 10 grains.
"That of course is about an 80% reduction in weight, and when one considers the energy equation Mass x Velocity... it makes sense.
"Even though we are at levels which seem insignificant, this makes a huge reduction in the impact energy of the detent ball as it comes to index, which in the case of the factory issue is excessive to the point of causing a shock wave that upsets a charged case to the point that powder is actually ejected from it. Especially in any case filled near capacity."

Short explanation: it smooths operation so you spill less powder.

The bearing in place over the shell plate. This took a rather long explanation on his page. I'll try to summarize. The needle bearing kits require that you re-bend that wire. This Oil-Lite Oil impregnated Phosphor-Bronze bushing bearing material is the same diameter as the bolt, so no adjustments are needed. It smooths operation.


I was very skeptical about this kit. I'd tried a needle bearing kit and didn't like the results, and the machine was working as perfectly as it ever had after I worked on it during the summer to get everything perfectly adjusted and clean. I didn't think I could get much smoother operation, but it did have the eBay refund guarantee, and Seller "snowshooze" (2024 ) has 100% Positive feedback. I took a $68.50 gamble. Installation was pretty easy. Installing the Case Feed Cam Follower was a bit harder than described, but was done in 10 minutes or so and adjusted.

The result is extremely smooth operation of the machine. The only resistance is at the top and bottom of the stroke, so you can feel the seating of the primer with more sensitivity than without it. Everything works very well. I did several hundred rounds with no problems and fast enough to make me almost consider a bullet feeder. Almost.

December 3, 2014, Wednesday

In the shop

SL900--occasionally after you have pulled the lid off the new box of primers in the primer feed mechanism some decide to go prone. If they're under the plastic cover, this is a problem. If you use the Dillon magnet to pull that one out, you'll take half the box with you and spend a lot of time getting things back where you want them.

But I discovered by chance that my gunsmith screwdrivers are ever so slightly magnetic. I was able to slide the blade in...

... and pull out just the prone primer.

After that I could give it a stern lecture about lying down on duty and put it back in. Minor victory I admit, but a victory against the forces of evil and slow reloading nonetheless.

Getting rid of wiring clutter on the workbench

Each loading machine has 2 or 3 cords now, the case feeder and 2 sets of lights on the 650. I decided to get them off the workbench top.

Using some of the leftover conduit clamps I routed it to the bottom of the upper cabinet.

with another clamp at the back

Still a lot of cords, but they're out of the way.


December 2, 2014, Tuesday

Cowtown Rebirth

Straight Shot Jane asked me to get a picture of the Saguaro that is now downrange of the new firing line so she could give it to the Saguaro Mover. Only in Arizona would you find a listing for Saguaro Movers.

Practiced! for the first time since, I don't know, September?


December 1, 2014, Monday

Future Article Material from Bob Mernickle

New shotgun belt design uses high quality elastic canvas (which required 5000 ft. purchase). Single loops are used, but they work very well for doubles. They also allow you to pick up 4-6 without their binding for 97 use. Rifle cartridges are slides. Since I already had slides new ones didn't come with it. Using slides sounds like one of those "Why didn't anybody else think of this?" situations. Now if you need to change rifle calibers, you don't need a new belt. More later, but the belt works very well.

New buttstock cover design. Bob and I were talking about butt covers at Bordertown, and I mentioned something about a Texas design. He grabbed his notebook, and this is the result. It should be available at the SASS Convention in San Antonio.