Wednesday, December 28, 2011

4.2" SP101 in .357

The problem with Ruger is they keep making guns I want.  When they recently offered the SP101 in a 4.2" version I got a call from my gun monger that he had one with my name on it...

The 2.25" SP101 is a frequent CCW for me, especially when something small will do.  It is a fantastic gun and even with the fixed sights hitting a sheet of paper at 50 yards is easy and most of them will be inside the 4" bullseye.  So, when I got the call that he had one available, I had no willpower at all to resist.

The 4.2" SP101 did appeal to me as a top candidate for the "Perfect Packing Pistol" (3P) and felt it was my duty to test that.  As we all know it isn't about finding the 3P, it's all about the quest.

One of the things that strikes me right off about the new Ruger is what a great package it is.  The 357 and the SP101 are a fine match.  There are a number of 357 revolvers out there that are big guns.  I owned a 357 Blackhawk for a while and it always seemed incongruent to me.  I want a big cartridge in a big gun - the 45 Colt in a Blackhawk is delightful to handle, shoot and carry.  The 32 H&R magnum in a Ruger Single Six is another perfect match of cartridge and revolver and the new SP101 has that same magic.

Another early impression I had was how much better this revolver looks in person than it does in the pictures.  It's a hansom piece.  The wood grip panels are very attractive.

The new SP101 feels light in my hand and is just big enough that touching off a 357 round still sounds like fun.  The adjustable sights are very good and I even like the green dot shrouded on the front sight post, the squared edges still very visible and easy to align for those of us accustomed to that sight picture on our Blackhawks and Single Sixes.  One click to the right and mine was shooting POA = POI with 38 spl loads and just a bit high for 357.

A cylinder's worth, offhand, single action.
At the range I was even more impressed with the 4.2" SP101.  The sights are a big improvement over the fixed sighted versions.  The extra barrel length added about 70 fps to the 38 special loads (158 grain cast WFN over enough Bullseye to get 765 fps) but only about 30 fps with the 357 loads (158 gr, pushed to 1125 fps with Bullseye).  Both loads shot very well.

With the longer barrel I will try some powders with slower burn rates and see how they perform.  Lil'gun will generally produced some impressive velocity and good accuracy when I've tried it.

I see this revolver as a near ideal for an evening stroll along the lake shore or for a scouting trip, checking the game cameras, walking the fence lines and any other outdoor venture where an easy carrying and capable revolver could come in handy.  Toss a box of 38 special rounds in your pack and take advantage of unplanned plinking opportunities or making some camp meat if legal to do so in your area.  An extra speed strip or two of 357 will handle the vast majority of heavy lifting that one might need to address.

The beauty of this revolver is that it's small and lightweight enough to come along, yet big enough to get the job done.

M&P 45 & 45C comparison

I happened onto another S&W M&P45 recently and since I had the money, I bought it...

The 45C has been such a good performer that I've managed to overcome my bias against soulless polymer pistols - or at least the Smith & Wesson M&P series.  I love the look and feel of a 1911 and still own a few of em (and I have the Ruger SR1911 on order since last Spring...) but one cannot deny the practicality, capacity, lightweight, reliability and accuracy of the many polymer offerings available to us today.

My first impressions of the full size M&P 45 were how light it feels in the hand for its size - which ir roughly equal to a typical 5" 1911.  I was also favorably impressed by the comfort of the grip - the extra .415" over the 45C makes a difference.  It also has that narrow feel of the 1911 even though it is a double stack magazine.  It does point nicely though I like the grip angle better on the 1911.

The weight difference between the 45 and the 45C is slight, less than two ounces.  It is more noticeable when compared to a 1911, even with a fully loaded (10) magazine it still feels lighter than a loaded (7) 1911.

Unloaded weight
Unloaded Weight of 45C

Field stripping is very easy with these pistols and does NOT require tools to do so.

Over the chronograph the full sized M&P 45 does produce a little more velocity for the loads I've tested - generally between 25 and 50 fps greater.

Both pistols shoot point of aim = point of impact straight out of the box with 230 grain ammo at 7-10 yards.  Some old (1964) match 230 grain FMJ ammo I have averaged 885 fps and was the most accurate of the ammo I've tested so far.  Like the 45C the 45 seems to digest and fire everything I feed it, from cast SWC and WFN to JHP and FMJ.
The 10 round Magazine in the 45C.  I believe XGrips will be offering an extension for this pistol/mag combination.
The 45 will fit and can be drawn from the holster I carry the 45C in.  The muzzle protrudes slightly but it does not snag.

I don't plan to carry this pistol concealed very often so I'll be on the hunt for a field holster.  Paired up with my Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle the M&P 45 would be nice to have along during the Zombie Apocalypse for close range work when speed and capacity are needed.  In reality though it's nice to have a number of choices in a spice of life sort of way.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

30 Caliber Versatility and the Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle

Among the virtues of manually run rifles - Pumps, Bolts and Levers - is their ability to function normally with a wide variety of ammunition.  Light and heavy, super and subsonic, jacketed and cast, economical and premium, reloads and store bought... and in the case of non-tubular magazine fed guns, pointy, flat point and round nose bullets too.

The 308 Winchester in an easily customizable platform such as the Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle is a fine match of rifle and cartridge and I believe lives up to Ruger's claim of "The one rifle to have if you could have only one."

 Equipped with the Ruger Gunsite Scout a hunter could take to the field with loads suitible for both big and small game.

 A subsonic lightweight cast bullet or .314" buckshot will cleanly harvest game such as Grouse without destroying the delicious meat.  The load I like best for this purpose is the Lyman 311008 over a small amount of Winchester 231.  It is accurate, inexpensive and quiet to shoot.

Another subsonic load that has proven to be very accurate in my Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle is the Lyman 311284 (~210 grains).  Pushed to almost 1,000 fps it is very accurate and hard hitting making it useful for steel targets and control of larger vermin species.  The bullet also performs very well at supersonic velocities and my favorite load for this is using Unique to propel it to 1350 fps.

Lyman 311284
The Lyman 311334 (~190 grains) has proven itself in several of my 30 caliber bolt action rifles.  It also shines in the Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle when pushed to 1900 fps with SR4759.  This makes an ideal load for inexpensive practice where high repetitions are required.  Rather than spending $0.50/shot for cheap jacketed ammunition you can shoot these for less than half that and reduce barrel wear.  Though the velocity is 300-600 fps lower than your typical 308 jacketed bullet ammunition it will perform at long range, perhaps even better.

Cast Bullets I've successful run through the Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle

 For a fun and very inexpensive gallery load a #0 (~.314") buckshot over Bullseye is surprisingly accurate (less than 2" at 50 yards) out to 50 yards and will shoot Point of Aim out to 25 yards.  A fine remedy for garden vermin too.

For hunting loads I've had excellent results with 165 grain JSP bullets over the max (Hodgdon) published data for IMR 3031.  In the Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle it is both accurate (1 MOA  or better) and achieves the highest velocity, 2573 fps in my Rifle.  Varget and IMR 4064 have both produced excellent groups in my GSR too but fell short of the velocity produced with the IMR 3031.  With all the rifle powders I've tested  I've found that the best performance in the GSR is at or near the max published data (ALWAYS double check data and work up incrementally!!), it seems happiest when velocities reach 2500 fps or better with 165 grain jacketed bullets and around 2700 fps with 150 grain jacketed bullets.

I will be testing IMR 4895 and Winchester 748 under a variety of Jacketed bullets as I've seen a number or impressive results from other GSR owners.  The Hornady 150gr SST has produced some notable results at 500 yards and has me especially intrigued.

After 11 months of ownership of a Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle I like it even better than I expected.  It has impressed me in the field and at the range.  With the introduction of the Polymer magazines it has improved field-ability of the rifle even more making it easier to carry and operate as well as superior weather resistance.

What the rifle lacks in aesthetics it more than makes up for in functionality.  I believe Ruger really thought this one through and made the comprises that made the most sense.  The only improvement I'm really considering is a rear sight that can be adjusted without tools and possibly a finer more visible front sight.  

If I really only could have one rifle, the Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle would serve me well.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Magpul Art of the Precision Rifle

Looks like Magpul has released another good one!

Late Edit:  Just got this yesterday.  Watched the first two disks, EXCELLENT.  LOTS of information and some impressive shooting.  As always, very well done.  The filming is stellar.  I'll give a more complete review once I've managed to watch all ten hours of it...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ruger New Vaquero vs. Steel Plate

Delivering a 270 grain cast bullet chugging along down range at 900 fps then meeting a hanging steel plate is a pleasure my Ruger New Vaquero provides with regularity.  140 year old technology and genius refined by modern materials and genius will probably propel the popularity this handgun enjoys well into the future.

Long Range Handgun Shooting

My last trip out to the U-Pick Sagebrush Ranch the 32 H&R Magnum Single Six went along.  Naturally the array of target opportunities attracts a lot of lead.  The 32 Single Six made easy work of the steel plates out to 150 yards but the target that got most of my attention was the 400 yard Dinger...

Once again the Ruger 32 H&R Mag in the Single Six surprised me.  With a reasonable amount of hold over - aiming at a bush ~ 10' or so above the target I could ring the dinger at least once per cylinder's worth.  Too much fun to worry or care about wasting ammo... 

Comparatively, my 45 Colt requires a near mortar shot holdover to get that far and the success rate is much lower.

RGSR Magazine video

Here's a video I made about the Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle Magazines.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle Polymer Mags

I scored some Ruger Polymer Mags for my Gunsite Scout Rifle recently.  I like them a LOT better than my steel mags.
The five round polymer magazine is the same size as the steel counterpart.  The 10 round polymer magazine is about an inch shorter than the 10 (eleven actually) round magazine that ships with the rifle.

 The new polymer magazines can be topped off while inserted in the rifle.

Shown with Dust Cover installed.

Much lighter, very tough.

Friday, November 18, 2011

32 Caliber ponderings

As if I needed more proof that I should "never say never" in the last year no less than three 32 caliber firearms followed me home.  It's just one of those things I didn't think I needed, now I wonder how I lived without them.

The first was the Marlin Cowboy Carbine.  It was originally in a friend's collection and I wanted it from the first time I saw it.  The cosmic mysteries being what they are made it available through unforeseen circumstances and now it resides in my safe.


The next came about as a result of handling an older Marlin 1894 in 32-20 and again was struck by instantaneous smittendom.  I had to have one of those and I knew that one wasn't going anywhere anytime soon.  I came across just what I was looking for on GunBroker and after some research and a number of phone calls to the seller, placed my bid and won it.

1905 vintage Marlin model 1894

Upon its arrival I was disappointed with the condition of the bore.  To say the seller's description was optimistic would be an understatement.  Knowing that ugly bores sometimes still shoot well I gave it a go.  I tried a variety of weights and sizes of bullets on up to .316" and many would keyhole.  A .314" 115 grain Lyman 311008 shot the best but even that was marginal ~4" at 50 yards.  It did reach and ring the 400 yard dinger on the first try though...


I REALLY like the aesthetics and feel of this rifle so I have sent it off to be re-lined.  I hate waiting for it, but hopefully next spring (or sooner) it'll come back and shoot well.

Not long after acquiring the 1905 vintage Marlin another of more recent manufacture, the uncommon 1894 CB in 32 H&R Magnum, came onto my radar.  The price seemed very reasonable to me but I didn't have the cash handy.  I tried a trade but before we could agree on a deal another feller closed the deal ahead of me.

While I researched the 32 H&R Magnum I came across numerous glowing reports of the Ruger Single Six chambered in that caliber.  The Single Six 22lr is one of my longest owned and most used firearms, so I was intrigued by the prospect of another in 32 H&R Mag and set out to find one.  It didn't take too long, I knew I wanted a 5.5" barrel length with the help from a friend located one and purchased it.
I'll detail in another post my experiences with the new Single Six which once again makes me wonder how I ever lived without it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle

On December 30th of last year I drafted a post - but didn't publish until today - about the Ruger Gunsite Scout rifle.  Shortly there after I put one on order at my local gun monger's and it didn't take long before I had it in my hands.

This was my first Ruger bolt gun.  I've owned a few of their autoloading rimfire rifles and pistols, and I their revolvers are among my favorite guns (more on that later).  Anyway my first impressions were mostly favorable.  I like the "scout rifle" concept.  I've always liked peep sights on a bolt gun, probably because I grew up shooting a Remington 511P  - a magazine fed, peep sighted, 22lr with perhaps the worst trigger of any firearm I've ever owned.  My next rifle was a 1903 A3 and was my only centerfire rifle that received any attention for about 20 or so years of my life.  I still use it regularly in CMP type matches and it always delivers. 

Back to the Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle (GSR).  It is diminutive.  It feels lighter than the scale reads.  The 10 round magazine that comes with the rifle is too big.  The sights are better than I expected.  The front sight is a bit thick but it works well.  The bolt is not as smooth as my Remingtons, CZ or 1903 A3 but has smoothed out with many manipulations. 

At the range the as shipped sight setting shot point of aim with most ammo I tested at 50 yards.  My early trips to the range I fed it a variety of ammuniton.  Everything from cast bullets (115-170grs and more recently 210 grain bullets) as well as Jacketed SP & RN (150 - 175 grain FMJ & JSP, FB and BT).  The preferences appear to lean toward the 165 grain jacketed bullet over IMR 4064 or Varget pushed over 2500 fps.


Cast bullets are proving to be accurate as well at both sub and supersonic speeds.  A load that seems to be very accurate with 115 - 210 grain cast bullets is a splash of W231 under any cast bullet.  The velocities range from a mere 550 fps up to 800 but inside of 25 yards it shoots POA and the POI is right where the front post was when the trigger broke.  The report is greatly reduced and the recoil is none existent. 


For higher cast bullet velocities Unique seems to produce the best results.  It gets real good over 1350 fps.  2400 seems to work well at velocities in the 1800+ range.

I did not hunt with this rifle this year but I did carry it in the field.  It carries well and was deadly on cones, knots, paper targets and soda cans.  A real pleasure to shoot.

I removed the provided spacers (three) and the rifle now in its shortest configuration.  The recoil pad is sticky which is good for running the bolt from the shoulder but a bit catchy on clothing when bring it to the shoulder.

Through their website Ruger offered 5 round magazines and I acquired two shortly after the rifle arrived.  More recently Ruger has poly mags in 10 (shorter than the original offering), 5 and 3 (flush mount) varieties.  I will be buying  at least two more 5 round poly mags as well as a 3 and probably two more 10's for the bug out bag.

I've tested dozens of loads and have still just scratched the surface.  The bullets that show the most promise are the Hornady 165gr JSP interlock at full power loads and cast bullets at subsonic levels.  My current favorite cast bullet is the Lyman 311041 (170gr) which is most commonly used in the 30-30.  It feeds well when the OAL is 2.520" and shoots accurately at velocities as low as 559 fps on up to 1800 fps.

Long Absence

It has been too long since my last post.  Lots to update.  I'll post as quickly as I can.  I've been having some computer problems and a lost a bunch of pictures.  I'm not technically savvy enough remedy every issue I need to but at least I can re-access and update this blog.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Thursday, May 26, 2011

38-55 vs Milk Jugs

On my last visit to the Captain's U-Pick Sagebrush Ranch the opportunity to shoot some zombie milk jugs with my Marlin 336 Cowboy in 38-55 presented itself.  I could not resist.

Video of the event can be seen here;

The results surprised me.  I was expecting around 8 jugs worth of penetration.  Instead the 250 grain Lee 379-250 RF passed through nearly NINE feet of water before coming to rest in the bottom of the Eighteenth jug!

The bullet was fairly soft cast, roughly a 20/1 alloy, the load chronographs a very consistent at 1506 fps (average), propelled with the excellent SR 4759 powder at well below (3+ grains below) the RCBS cast bullet manuals starting load. The meplat on the bullet expanded to .285" from .250"

Pretty impressive for a cartridge that was introduced in 1876.

Desantis Holster for Smith & Wesson M&P45C

I bought a DeSantis holster a few weeks ago for the M&P 45C and have been testing it as my EDC holster. 

I've worn it both strong-side and cross-draw and found it to be very comfortable.  The fit and retention is excellent.  I find drawing from the strong-side very easy and from the cross-draw position only slightly more difficult, this issue could probably be resolved with more practice.  Concealment is very good for an outside-the-waistband holster too with an untucked shirt.  Another feature I like is that it is made in the USA and at $50 is quite a bargain in my opinion.  The quality is very good and break-in didn't take long.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Review: S&W - M&P45C

It is difficult to beat a polymer framed pistol for Every Day Carry (EDC), they are light, durable, have greater capacity and are reliable.  I've owned two Glocks (17 & 22) and could never warm up to them.  I didn't shoot them well either so I parted with them without regret, it did however leave a limit in my EDC choices.

After years of pondering and handling the many offerings available I came across an intriguing pistol from Smith and Wesson.  The first one I saw was a 9mm but I soon discovered it was also available in 40 and 45 calibers.  After a number of discussions with M&P owners I finally decided try another polymer gun.

My first impressions were that it is better looking than the Glock.  It fits my hand better and the sights align more naturally.  The ergonomics were good as far as magazine release, safety and trigger placement right out of the box.  I did try the provided larger and smaller back straps but found the mediums to be most comfortable.

One of the virtues that drew me to the M&P line of pistols is their reputation for reliability.  I tested that right away feeding it a variety of ammo including those with bullet shapes not typically friendly to auto-loading pistols.  The M&P45C digested them happily, including lead semi-wad cutters, wide flat nose and round balls which is not an option in Glock pistols.  It also shoot those loads accurately.

7 yards, 5 shots
225 grain WFN cast bullets pushed to 900 fps
Even 140 grain cast lead balls fed and shot accurately in the M&P45C
The M&P45C shoots the traditional 230gr FMJ very well too.  Even old GI ball ammo more than 40 years old ran though it without a hitch.

There are a number of very good powders for 45ACP.  Of the few I've tried so far in this gun I'm liking Alliant Bullseye the best.  It gets me the velocity I want with good accuracy and less muzzle flash.

I've also tested this pistol at ranges out to 50 yards.  I was very pleased to put a magazine worth onto a sheet of paper with most inside the 6" bull.  The sights are a bit course for fine work but are highly visible and easy to pick up quickly which is important on a pistol of this type.
The DA trigger took some getting used to and it does seem to improve with use.  There isn't an obvious 'reset' but I didn't find that to be an issue when shooting quickly.

This pistol is also a comfortable carry and shooting weight.  Not so heavy it pulls your trousers down and not so light that shooting it is punishing.  In fact I would say the recoil is comparable to guns weighing nearly a pound more.  I'm not recoil sensitive so your experience may vary but recoil did not affect the speed at which I could take aimed shots.  I found myself burning though a lot more ammunition than I typically do with my revolvers and the down side of that was policing up all the brass it spewed around me.

Loading 8 in the magazines is a bit difficult but not as difficult as topping off a Glock mag as I remember it.  The M&P comes with two magazines, one flush with the bottom of the pistol and another (pictured above) with a pinky extension.  I prefer the longer magazine and seem to shoot it a little better than the flush mag.  The magazines are a bit chubby for pocket carry so a magazine carrier on the belt is something I would recommend.  

The M&P45C is a good size for a carry 45 caliber carry pistol that one intends to practice frequently with.  Too big for concealed pants pocket carry though it is quite comfortable in a large coat pocket.  I haven't found many holsters designed specifically for it but there are a number of holsters that will work.  A good holster is very important when carrying concealed and in the coming months I will be testing a few to see which I like best.

Overall I am very pleased with this pistol.  It lacks the soul (and weight) of a 1911 or a Colt Single Action Army but it is highly practical.  It is less finicky than most 1911's I've owned and shot too.  When it comes down to it reliability is extremely important in a self defense pistol.  It will take me many more repetitions before I am confident in my proficiency with this pistol.  Once I accomplish that I'm certain it will provide me with a very formidable EDC option.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Marlin 1897 Cowboy

Since acquiring the Marlin 1897 Cowboy I have put more than 2,000 rounds through it, competed in a half dozen matches, enjoyed many trips to the range and spent several days afield with it.  My appreciation for it has only grown more favorable.

The Cowboy weighs in a six pounds three ounces which is 13 ounces more than the 39 Century Ltd, yet due to its splendid balance the extra weight and length goes unnoticed.  I recently carried it afield for four days without a sling and never once felt encumbered, even when going cross country through thick woods.  Scouting was the primary purpose of my venture, taking the rifle along was simply a bonus that allowed me to hone marksmanship skills by testing the rifle on targets over unspecified ranges and from unrested field positions.  Not only did these exercise opportunities build my confidence with this rifle I have a LOT of fun.

With the snow in retreat Spring is making its way up the mountain.  I came across a number of Ruffed Grouse drumming logs.  I hope that bodes well for next September when the season opens up.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Long Range Rimfire match with the 1897 Cowboy

Last week I shot the Long Range match with my iron sighted 1897 Cowboy.  It was a LOT of fun.
Most of the shooters arrived with scoped bolt rifles - Anschutz, CZ, Remington and Ruger -  plus one 22lr AR and one with and Old Stevens single shot.  I was the only iron sighted "competitor."

I really like the match format.  It uses the same 1/2 size silhouettes at twice the distance of the Cowboy smallbore levergun match.  Shooters get 10 minutes to sight-in on the swinger target and shoot their 10 shots for score.  Plenty of time though I found that shooting a lot of sighters is fatiguing on the eyes and concentration wains toward the end of the scoring string.  PACE is key.  Except for the 50 meter chickens, which must be shot Offhand, shooters may shoot from any position and use a front rest or bipod.  I choose to use the excellent Okanogan Shooting Sticks from the sitting position.

I started on the 100 meter boars.  I had enough elevation in my rear elevator (with three notches to spare) for a right on the belly hold.  I managed four of the first five and then faltered hitting only one out of the next five.  I had plenty of time left and should have paused to rest my eyes. 

The 150 meter Turkeys required a bead covering the target even with the top of the head from the top notch on the elevator which made judging windage challenging.  I paced better but only managed a single bird.  bummer.  lots of near misses though...

The 200 meter Rams required some (~4') hold over.  There was just enough breeze to require an off center hold and from the top notch.  I was able to topple 3 of them.

Shooting the Chickens Offhand evened the playing field between the iron sights and the Scope classes.  I tied for top score on the Chickens but felt disappointed as they were still a few standing when I was done.  Turned one sideways...