Sunday, November 19, 2017

Black Powder Shotgun Shells in Brass Cases

Note/Disclaimer: This post contains loading data believed to be safe in my guns. It may not be safe in yours. Do your own research before you try this. I'm not responsible if you get hurt or your gun gets damaged.

A couple of weeks ago on Survival Russia, Lars posted a video about loading brass 16 gauge cases using minimal tools. He followed up with a second video in which he shot his reload and got what I considered pretty good results.

In the past I have experimented with hot glue slugs* using minimal tools, and as I've posted about before, I have muzzleloading smoothbores. I also have a few break open shotguns that I've been wanting to try black powder loads in, since I have a good stock of black powder and you can reload brass cases with minimal tools that you can make at home.

So, I put in an order with Ballistic Products, Inc. for a few items, including:
  • Two boxes of Magtech empty 2.5" 12 gauge brass shotshell cases, and
  • A 500 count bag of 10 gauge over shot cards.
Magtech brass cases have a larger internal diameter than the equivalent gauge plastic hulls, so they recommend using 11 gauge nitro cards and fiber cushion wads, and 10 gauge over shot cards.

I use home made cards and felt wads in my 12 gauge Euroarms Magnum Cape Gun, cut with a 3/4" punch, which is about 11 gauge. So, I decided to save a few bucks and use these in the brass cases. As it turned out, I would have gotten a better fit with 10 gauge components all around.

Most references I've seen indicate that one should use FFg when loading 12 gauge black powder shotgun shells. However, Goex's load data specifies FFFg (PDF), so that's what I used. (Goex recommends FFg in muzzleloading shotguns.)

Yesterday, I took one box of the Magtech hulls and loaded a few different recipes, as follows:

  • 1 oz. #7.5 shot using sawdust in lieu of a fiber cushion wad (a la the Survival Russia video).
    1-1/8 oz. #7.5 shot using a sawdust "wad."
  • 1-1/8 oz. #7.5 shot using the same 1/8" thick lubricated felt wad that I use in my 12 gauge muzzleloader.1-1/4 oz. #5 shot with sawdust.
  • 1-1/4 oz. #5 shot with felt wad.
  • Patched .690 round ball.

All shot loads were primed with Federal No.150 large pistol primers and charged with 80 grains of FFFg Goex black powder, and a home made cardboard over powder wad.

The round balls have two over powder cards, a lubricated felt wad, and a lubricated 0.020" patch, and 90 grains of FFFg.

All shot loads are sealed in place using one of the BPI 10 gauge over shot cards held in place with silicone RTV sealant. I used Gorilla Glue gel super glue for the ball loads because I ran out of RTV.

Some pictures:

The 3/4" oak dowel I used for seating components. I drilled a hole in one end to fit over the primer pocket that protrudes into the case. Yes, the Magtech hulls are balloon head cases. I used my lathe to slightly turn down the dowel so it would go all the way into the case, and to drill the hole.


 Some cases waiting to be primed, a case with the dowel inserted, and a primer sitting on a 1/8" piece of aluminum. To prime the cases, I placed the primer down on the aluminum, centered the case with the dowel in it over the primer, and gave it a few good whacks to press the case down over the primer.

If this makes you cringe, consider that it is exactly how you prime cases in a Lee Loader.


A primed and unprimed case:

 

Make sure the primers are seated flush with the case head. You don't want to accidentally set off a high primer by closing your shotgun.

Next up I poured a powder charge into the case and topped it with a card. For the sawdust shells, I then filled each case to the top with sawdust. I have a No.10 can filled with it that I've been saving to make fire starters.


Then I used the flat end of the dowel to compress the sawdust.






This was topped with another card and then the load of shot poured in.





And here's one of the patched round balls in place:


By using the drilled end of the dowel I was able to keep the sprue centered, facing up.

Finally, it's topped off with an over shot card and glued in place. (This one hasn't been glued yet.)



Advantages of this method include that you don't need any tools you can't find or make at home, and the shells should be reloadable pretty much indefinitely, especially since the case mouths aren't being crimped. Because I'm using black powder, small variations in powder charge aren't dangerous the way they would be with smokeless powder, especially when shooting them through nitro-proofed shotguns.

The main downside compared with loading shotshells with modern components is inferior performance. Modern shotcup wads that protect the shot from deformation in the bore result in better, more even patterns.


Special safety note about the round balls: Before Foster slugs became widely available in the 1930s, "pumpkin balls" were the most common type of single projectile load in shotgun ammo in the US. After the introduction of choke barrels, they were generally loaded with balls significantly under bore size so that if they were fired through a choked barrel, the barrel would not be damaged. They don't compress as easily as Foster slugs. For this reason, I would not fire a patched .690 ball through anything tighter than improved cylinder.

For example, I have an H&R Model 1905 made sometime between 1906 and 1915 with the barrel marked "12 GUAGE CHOKED." I measured the muzzle last night with calipers and it came out at about .695, which is extra-full, or even a turkey choke. I'll shoot the balls through my chopped, cylinder bore H&R Topper.

Hopefully, I'll get to try out these loads in the next few weeks, and will post a follow up.


*Hot glue slug: A field-expedient slug which you cut the crimp off a bird shot load, pour out the shot, then add the shot back after mixing it with hot glue. When the glue hardens you have a slug that's useful at short range. Very similar to wax slugs. Do a lot of research before you make and shoot any, so you don't do anything dangerous.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Reaction to the NRA and NRA-ILA Joint Statement of October 5, 2017

Yesterday, Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox issued a joint statement, which contained, inter alia:

In Las Vegas, reports indicate that certain devices were used to modify the firearms involved. Despite the fact that the Obama administration approved the sale of bump fire stocks on at least two occasions, the National Rifle Association is calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) to immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law.  The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.

Link: https://home.nra.org/joint-statement/

We should know by now that when gun banners say, "We want a conversation about gun control," they mean we should shut up while they lecture us. We should also know that when they say we should compromise, they mean for us to give them something while we get nothing in return.

It is not acceptable conduct to this NRA Endowment Life Member for the organization to preemptively surrender any part of our rights by endorsing any new gun regulation. The NRA needs to protect all of our right to bear arms. 

Suggesting that the corrupt and incompetent BATFE get another chance to evaluate the legality of bumpfire stocks is particularly galling. Including a sentence in the press release calling for Congress to pass National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity doesn't balance giving in on one iota of other elements of the RKBA.

NRA, withdraw this statement. Do your damn job.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

First Use of the Emtech ZM-2 Antenna Tuner

HF propagation conditions currently suck, but I wanted to try out the Emtech ZM-2 anyway. My first use would be with a random length antenna.

Earlier today I stopped at Harbor Freight and picked up a one pound spool of aluminum welding wire for ten bucks before the 20% off coupon. We've used such welding wire on our camping trips upstate with good results. In fact, my friend who owns the property we camp on built an 80M dipole with it and strung it about 5 feet off the ground, supporting it with fence insulators. Reception on that antenna is excellent and he's made some contacts as well. It's been there over a year and is still usable.



To support my random wire antenna today I used my 31 foot Jackite kite pole with about 50 feet of the welding wire. I also ran a ground line about 25 to 30 feet and held it down with a big screwdriver as a stake.




The wire was so light that the tip of the mast didn't noticeably droop. The antenna was running approximately East-West, and the ground ran out towards the NE.


Aluminum welding wire is light and easy to work with. As seen with my friend's 80M dipole, it'll last long if its not under much strain. It's cheap enough that if you needed to abandon a random wire antenna made from it, that wouldn't cause concern.

My back patio station today was my 2013 MacBook Pro running FLDIGI and WSJT-X, the ZM-2, Yaesu FT-817ND, and Signalink USB digital interface. I also had a CAT cable for rig control.

I followed the instructions in this video to work the tuner. I found it difficult to see the red LED even though it was overcast, so I need to verify that it's in fact working. Maybe it was luck, but by tuning for maximum noise I really didn't have to tweak anything. When I hit transmit, the rig didn't complain about high SWR.

I briefly tried 40M but had issues getting the antenna to tune on that band. It might be the length of the wire, but again I had issues seeing the LED SWR indicator light up.

As I mentioned, HF propagation is really in the crapper. Before setting up out back, I'd done some work inside using my Icom 7200 and the Ultimax 100 end fed on my roof. The random wire seemed more sensitive, based on the number of PSK31 stations that I saw. However, 20M was mostly dead.

After spotting a number of other stations on 20M PSK31 I closed out FLDIGI and fired up WSJT-X to do some WSPR. On 5 watts, I was in fact getting out.




The screenshot is from WSPR Watch running on my iPhone

This table shows the WSPR stations I received in about 10 minutes of listening.


Timestamp Call MHz SNR Drift Grid Pwr Reporter RGrid km az
 2017-09-17 19:28   8P9HA   14.097165   -17   0   GK03fb   0.1   KB3MNK   FN20ic   3378   336 
 2017-09-17 19:28   K7POF   14.097124   -8   0   DM34sr   10   KB3MNK   FN20ic   3312   68 
 2017-09-17 19:28   W6WGF   14.097119   -7   1   EM12rw   5   KB3MNK   FN20ic   2053   61 
 2017-09-17 19:28   VE4WSC   14.097103   -12   3   EN19ku   5   KB3MNK   FN20ic   2019   114 
 2017-09-17 19:26   WA5IWB   14.097094   -14   0   EM10qh   1   KB3MNK   FN20ic   2215   55 
 2017-09-17 19:26   K7RE   14.097146   -10   0   DN84am   1   KB3MNK   FN20ic   2395   92 
 2017-09-17 19:26   K5FRT   14.097012   -21   0   EM10td   0.2   KB3MNK   FN20ic   2206   54 
 2017-09-17 19:24   8P9HA   14.097137   -19   0   GK03fb   0.1   KB3MNK   FN20ic   3378   336 
 2017-09-17 19:24   K6KWI   14.097060   -21   0   DM13cu   20   KB3MNK   FN20ic   3802   67 
 2017-09-17 19:24   N0IJK   14.097052   -19   0   EL19ao   5   KB3MNK   FN20ic   2365   54

I am cautiously optimistic about the Emtech ZM-2 tuner but I need to figure out why I'm not seeing the LED SWR indicator light. My next experiment with it will be with a dipole to be constructed using some 450 Ohm window line that I bought yesterday at Ham Radio Outlet.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Emtech ZM-2 Antenna Tuner

Last Saturday I ordered a pre-built Emtech ZM-2 antenna tuner with UHF connectors and it arrived today.  I wanted something a bit smaller and lighter than my LDG YT-100 for use with my Yaesu FT-817ND. Additionally, I wanted a tuner that would work with either coax cable fed antennas, balanced line antennas, or even just a random length wire with a ground.

Unlike the LDG, the Emtech unit is a manual tuner using a Z-match circuit. However, based on several videos I've watched and reviews I've read, it's quick to tune and gives you a wide choice with antennas and feedlines. (See here for a good discussion of Z-match circuits.)

Weather permitting, I am hoping to try it out this coming weekend. In the interim, here's a good video from W2AEW on how to operate the ZM-2.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

NOAA Radio Propagation Dashboard

Currently, HF propagation is terrible, largely due to solar activity. This NOAA Radio Propagation Dashboard helps explain why.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Kel-Tec RDB Field Stripped

This afternoon I took a few minutes, field stripped the Kel-Tec RDB, and took some pictures. The rifle's design is different enough so that I think you'll find them of interest. Clickenzee to embiggenate.



Slightly closer view of the barrel and bolt groups:



Bolt, bolt face, and extractor. Note the dual ejector plungers on the bolt face.





Piston head. It's a little hard to see but there is a weld blob on the top of the piston. Some earlier rifles left the factory without the weld, which leads to malfunctions.



The gas system.



Bottom of the handguard, showing the molded-in M-1913 rail. I have a Rogers Rail Light mounted.


Disassembly to this stage requires you to push out three takedown pins, plus one pin in the bolt carrier group. If you take down the BCG be careful. The firing pin is spring loaded and if you fail to contain it, it will launch itself several feet. (Yeah, it happened to me the first time I stripped the BCG.)

Scoped the RDB

Yesterday I decided to move a scope I already owned over to the Kel-Tec RDB I bought Friday night. My Colt AR15 6721 has been relegated to backup status and was wearing an IOR Valdada 3x25mm CQB scope.

The IOR scope is built with Schott glass from Germany, has very clear optics, and a nice reticle. The 3x magnification works well from close-up to my club's longest range, 200 yards. It's also built like a brick shithouse, so I am not going to worry about BUIS.



Range report to follow as soon as possible.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Picked Up a Kel-Tec RDB Rifle

I did some trading last night at Surplus City and came home with a Kel-Tec RDB 5.56mm bullpup rifle. (I actually went there with the intention of ordering an FN PS90. Maybe next time.)  SC was asking $950. I traded in my CZ-52, Bulgarian Makarov, Ruger SP101, Pietta SAA, and Springfield XD-9, none of which I'd fired in years. He gave me $1000 trade in value, so I also got 500 rounds of CCI .22 Short HV to run through my Remington 550-1.





Kel-Tec gives the OAL as 27.3" with its 17.3" barrel. The weight unloaded is 6.7 lbs. The barrel is 1:7" twist. There's a long, T-marked M-1913 Picatinny rail on top but it comes without any sights. I am debating what kind of optic to mount, but it will probably be something along the lines of a 1-4x variable, not just a red dot.


The RDB is a new design, although the bolt itself is very Stoner-ish and it takes AR15 magazines. It came with one 20-round MagPul P-Mag, an owner's manual, and a sling.

There are numerous sling mounting points for the hook-style attachments. In the pic above I had it mounted as a 2-point sling but I later switched it to a single-point using the swivel located in front of the middle takedown pin.

It's a long-stroke, gas piston design. The gas is adjustable to account for variations in ammo or the amount of crud in the gun. However, reviews I've seen state that very little fouling gets into the action. Empties eject out the bottom, through a port behind the magazine well.

The action is very simple and breaks down with only something to drive out the takedown pins. (They may loosen up over time.)

As a southpaw, the best part to me is that it's totally ambidextrous except for the HK MP5-ish charging handle. It can be reversed without tools. All I had to do was field strip the rifle and then put it in the other way when I reassembled. My initial impression of the rifle is that the ergonomics are outstanding.

Because of the long linkage between the trigger and the rest of the firing mechanism, most bullpups have lackluster trigger pulls. Not so in the case of the RDP. It's actually pretty good with some takeup but it's only around 5 pounds.

Between the adjustable gas system, the lack of fouling in the action, and having the ejection port on the bottom of the rifle so gas gets vented downward, it's supposed to be an awesome suppressor host.

In typical Kel-Tec fashion, they are scarce as hen's teeth, though. Kel-Tec announced it a few years ago but they just started shipping in 2016. They are still really hard to find in shops although there are a bunch on Gunbroker.

MAC posted a nice, in-depth review of a pre-production sample on YouTube in 2015:




I should be able to take it out in the next week or two and will post a follow up after I am able to shoot it.