You can’t have everything; where would you put it all?

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If you think your logistics problems are daunting, go and read the list of ammunition that Tam keeps in her bedroom. (Disclaimer: I don’t know for a fact that it’s all in her bedroom, having never been to her house. She might keep some there, some in the basement, some on the bottom shelf of the Lazy Susan in the kitchen, and who knows where else. My point is that…well, I forgot what my point is. Humor ...

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Containing my desire: revolvers in .32-20 are calling me. Again.

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I’ve worked on many Colt Police Positives in .32-20, and it’s a cartridge which has always intrigued me. I’m not one to believe that it would make a good defensive tool, but there is more to shooting than just that!

I’ve often thought that I’d like to have one of the long-discontinued Marlin 1894 CB in .32-20; it would make a great farm & varmint cartridge in the hotter loadings, and loaded to moderate velocities would make a dandy squirrel gun.

Tempering ...

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One of my cardinal rules: if I didn’t reload it, I don’t shoot it.

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Years back I remember being taught never to shoot someone else’s reloads. I violated that rule only once, when I bought some “factory reloads” from a vendor at a gun show. Luckily I didn’t damage anything with the shoddy 9mm fodder, but I still have the remainder — in a sealed ammo can labeled “Dangerous Ammo – Do Not Shoot!” — somewhere in the garage.

That cemented my rule: no reloads that I didn’t make, not even one round. Why?

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Short memories: new ammunition that isn’t really all that new. And wasn’t very good back then, either.

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One of the joys of having recently turned 50 (a figure I still write with a combination of bemusement and astonishment, having not actually grown up yet) is that I can poke fun at the younger guys. ‘Younger’, of course, means anyone under about 48.

I say this because last week I read an article about a ‘new’ multi-projectile load that was ‘developed’ by a company called Constitution Arms. My first thought was that the author must be a youngster reporting this as ‘new’, ...

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Not showing good JUDGEment: ‘less lethal’ .410 ammunition is a silly idea.

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The Firearm Blog alerts us to a company called Lightfield Less Lethal that is now selling rubber buckshot rounds for the Taurus Judge. (I’m sure someone will point out that a Judge loaded with .410 birdshot is already “less lethal” and thus has no need for this product. Can’t say that I disagree all that much, either.)

I’m concerned that the Judge is already selling to people who profess to “not wanting to kill someone”, but have a ...

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What are the top-selling pistol cartridges? Winchester tell us.

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The Firearm Blog reports that Winchester recently released their top five (even though there are six listed!) pistol cartridges. The 9mm is not surprisingly in first place, and that favorite of law enforcement, the .40 S&W, is justifiably in the number two slot. Coming into third place is a bit of a dark horse – the venerable .38 Special.

What’s most curious is the .380 ACP in fifth place. According to a Federal rep I talked with a ...

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Attack of the clones: proprietary cartridges and their open-source cousins.

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It comes as no surprise to long-time readers that I’m a fan of the 6.5mm rifle caliber. Though I’ve only owned a single such rifle – a 6.5-284 screamer – the ballistic advantages of this particular diameter intrigue me to no end. It seems to be a “sweet spot” in rifle calibers, where drag coefficients and sectional densities combine to make extremely efficient cartridges. Their stability in flight, ability to resist wind, and deep penetration are the stuff of legend.

I’ve ...

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Incorrect conclusions: muzzle flash and blindness don’t really correlate.

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This morning I got a very nice email from a concerned gentleman in a southern state. His NRA instructor gave him numerous pieces of incorrect information about his new GP100, one of which I’ve heard many times before: “Don’t carry Magnums, because the muzzle flash will blind you in a self-defense shooting!”

With all due respect, bull twaddle.

The .357 Magnum is notorious for muzzle flash, based largely on some well-known pictures from the 1980s. These days, even the Magnum uses flash-suppressed ...

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Lightweight revolvers and people who sell the things to the wrong customers. Can you say ‘ouch!’?

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Every so often a client will send me one of the S&W Scandium guns for work, and I’m always reminded of how much I dislike shooting the little beasts. Even with standard pressure Specials, the recoil gets to me very quickly. I can’t imagine actually shooting one with Magnum loads, and I intend to never find out!

For me it’s merely discomfort, but for others the experience could prove more serious.

I constantly encounter women who’ve been sold those guns, because the ...

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So, just what is the .357 Magnum like in a confined space?

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A number of years back my wife and I served as coordinators for the defensive pistol matches at our gun club. Our matches were somewhat similar to IDPA, but without the endless rules to make everything “fair.” We enjoyed a large following of regular participants who were very involved and loved to build sets for stages.

(Some of them got a little carried away; one particular gentleman once designed a stage that featured cardboard cows. Yes, cows, complete with udders. He’s a very ...

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Still more about testing .22 long rifle ammunition: how to quickly eliminate variables.

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A recent email asked about an old article, wherein I talked about the problems with residual lube in a .22 rimfire barrel. Is it really a problem, the email asked, and if so how do I go about eliminating that variable in testing?

Yes, the effects are real. I never believed in the residual lube theory until I saw the results for myself, and to this day I can repeat ...

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A short note about a shortened cartridge: the unrealized .41 Special.

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Busier than a one-armed paperhanger today, so I’m just going to give you a link and some commentary.

On Monday I mentioned my attraction to wildcat cartridges. There is one that still intrigues me, because a) it’s an easy wildcat to make, and b) it’s a cartridge that SHOULD have been factory made from the start: the .41 Special.

I’ve always wanted to play with it, but have never owned the necessary .41 Magnum gun in which to shoot ...

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Uncommon cartridges: what is the attraction to non-mainstream calibers?

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One of my interests, though I suppress it as much as possible, is the field of wildcat and proprietary cartridges. The lure of a cartridge that will give me something that I can’t get anywhere else, that will dramatically improve some aspect of my shooting, is nearly irresistible. Of course owning and using something that other folks may not have heard about, let alone used, is a strong motivating factor!

Why do I suppress this interest? First, because I don’t need ...

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On loading density: what happens when there’s more air space in the case?

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I hope everyone had a good Memorial Day weekend! The weather here in Oregon was wonderful (for a change) and I made the most of the sunshine and warm temperatures. In fact, I found it hard to come back to work!

I’ve received several emails in the last few months with a common complaint: unburned powder granules lodging underneath the extractor, causing cylinder lockups. I believe the ongoing ammunition shortage may be playing a big part in the sudden increase of ...

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Use-of-Force Myths: how many of these do you believe?

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The archives over at Force Science News continue to fascinate. Issue #68 deals with several myths about the use of deadly force, myths that a large percentage of the population (regardless of their level of firearms knowledge) believe. The whole article is interesting, but it’s the first myth – that of the Demonstrative Bullet – that is most immediately useful.

The article discusses the myth from the standpoint of those who judge an incident after ...

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Feedback from the Stopping Power series.

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I continue to get email from last year’s “Self defense, stopping power, and caliber” series. It remains the second-most visited page on the site, behind only my article on lubrication, and appears to be well received by the majority of readers. Thank you!

As you might imagine, such popularity generates feedback, and some questions pop up more than once. While not exactly a FAQ, here are some of the common ...

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Progressive presses and their powder measures.

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A common complaint with progressive presses is the throwing of inconsistent powder charges. Most people immediately blame the equipment, but some times it’s actually operator error.

We first need to admit that there are certain incompatibilities with regard to some measures and some powders (Dillon’s difficulty with metering flake or extruded powder, for instance, is often discussed on the various reloading forums.) However, even with a powder the measure “likes” unexpected variances often occur during a production run.

The variance usually comes ...

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Accuracy testing .22 Long Rifle ammunition: finding a load your rifle likes isn’t easy!

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As I’ve mentioned from time to time, shooting .22LR “seriously” can be a frustrating experience. It is almost expected that two identical rifles will have very different ammo preferences – and, unlike centerfire cartridges, the differences are often astounding.

For instance, I have one rifle that shoots its favorite load into an average 5-shot group of .275″ at 25 yards (from prone.) However, that same rifle shooting its least favorite load struggles to maintain 3″ at that same distance! What’s more, ...

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Some more primer talk: what about magnum primers?

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A question appeared in the comments to my last primer article. The commenter asked about magnum primers and their effect on the load.

First things first: I’ll limit my comments to Winchester Small Pistol Magnum primers, as those are what I have experience with. (Winchester uses the same Large Pistol primer for both regular and magnum loads.)

A couple of years back I was working up a 9mm +P load, to duplicate a factory offering for practice ...

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Is there really a difference in primers? You might be surprised.

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I’m not sure what’s up with Winchester these days. No one seems to have Winchester primers in stock, either walk-in or online, and backorders aren’t being taken. On the other hand, CCI primers are (at least in my area) available in quantity. Odd.

(Something else odd: I rarely see Remington primers around here, and it’s been that way as far back as I can remember.)

Anyhow, every reloading resource I’ve ever seen is quite adamant about the need to retest a load ...

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Preventing barrel leading in revolvers using cast bullets.

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A reader asked me to comment on successfully shooting lead bullets in revolvers. It seems that he’s been getting indifferent accuracy coupled with severe leading, and would like to know the “secret” to using lead in his gun.

I thought I’d covered this topic once before, but a thorough search of the archives failed to turn up the expected article. Guess I’ll have to do this from scratch!

Please note that I’m not a “hardcore” cast bullet shooter. I don’t cast my ...

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How important is quality rimfire ammunition? Depends on how often you want to hit your target.

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Serendipity, that’s what it is. Last week a consistent topic kept coming up in a variety of places: the necessity (or lack thereof) for “accurate” .22 long rifle ammunition.

“I don’t shoot groups, I hunt {insert favorite furry tidbit here}.”
“You can’t shoot really accurately in the field anyway, so better ammo isn’t worth the price.”
“The ammo already shoots better than I can, so I just buy whatever is cheapest.”

I believe such comments to be shortsighted. First, though, a bit ...

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Illustrating the concept of energy dump in defensive ammunition. Or not.

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A reader sent me this link to an old Richard Davis “Second Chance” video. The video has Davis shooting a fellow – who is wearing one of Davis’ vests, of course – with a .308 rifle and himself with a .44 magnum revolver. The reader’s comment was “if this doesn’t show an energy dump, I don’t know what it shows.”

I agree. With the second part of the statement, at least. Going back to our Continue Reading →

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My reloading setup: the dies I actually use daily.

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Someone emailed and asked me to detail my reloading die setups. With pleasure!

For handgun rounds, my setup for .38 Special is typical (and, not surprisingly, my most-used.) The sizing die is a Lee carbide, which I’ve had for decades. I would prefer an RCBS die in this spot, primarily for the better decapping pin system and easier handling of it’s knurled body, but the Lee is perfectly serviceable (and I’m too cheap to spring for the new die.) For certain ...

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By popular request: more on the reloading gear I prefer.

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From the comments and emails I’ve been getting, there is a resurgence of interest in reloading. At the price of factory ammunition, I can see why!

I’d like to touch on some things that reader Jerry brought up in an email. Yes, I have rather extensive experience with Lee, Dillon, and Hornady progressives. Frankly, each will produce identical ammunition; properly set up, there is no qualitative difference between the cartridges that come off any of those brands. If someone is having ...

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A bit of reloading gear discussion: the progressive press for serious handloaders.

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I recently received an email wherein the author took me to task for recommending the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP as the tool for the ‘serious’ reloader. His claim was that ‘serious’ reloaders always use Dillon, and nothing but.

Sorry to have to disagree with him.

My definition of ‘serious’ is the ballistic experimenter, not the appliance operator. Someone who reloads for a number of both pistol and rifle calibers and does a lot of load experimentation (different bullets, powders, cases, ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 9

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Stick with what works.

You’ve all heard of the “Gun of the Week” club, right? That’s the term used to describe an “enthusiast”, the guy (gals are too smart to engage in such nonsense) who carries or competes with a different gun every time he goes out. (Closely related is the “Holster of the Week” club. I’ll post an amusing story about that, soon.)

There is also the “Bullet of the Week” club. Some folks read the gun magazines assiduously, loading up ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 8

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“So, smarty pants – what the best self-defense caliber?”

I receive many emails asking, in essence, what the “best” self-defense caliber might be. (Those emails, in fact, have served as the motivation behind this series.) The correspondents are probably expecting sage advice, the wisdom of years, a sort of Ballistic Oracle. What they get is a non-committal “it depends!”

If you take nothing else from this series, take this: there is no such thing as “best” – there is only “suitability for ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 7

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There Is No Such Thing as a Magic Bullet

What does that mean, you ask?

One of the last bastions of the snake oil salesman is in the field of ammunition promotion. Claims that would make Professor Harold Hill blush are the norm, and are repeated in gunstores, shooting ranges, and deer camps across the country. They sometimes even make their way into magazines and the internet – though the latter’s instant exchange of information has helped to quell the worst of ...

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