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Astra .38 Special Police model

I had a couple of guns to test and several new guns to fire on the range today, so it was never not going to be interesting.

Linda and I recently procured a pair of Astra .38 Police model revolvers. These guns were made in 1985-86 and used by the Policia Municipal Vitorria in Spain. Some time back they switched to automatics and these guns are now being surplussed to the US. These guns are a heavy-framed .38 Special with a number of unique features- one of which is the crane and cylinder, which may be removed simply by pushing a button. The other is that the trigger-pull is user adjustable via a clever system that uses a wheel to provide four different settings for the mainspring.

These guns feature excellent double action trigger pulls, and they are easily solid enough to handle +P loads. Today was basically just test-firing them to make sure everything was in order. Both guns shot well and were quite comfortable, even with stout loads.

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‘Thumper,’ an ASM 1847 Colt Walker reproduction converted to fire cartridges

It was also time to finally give Thumper a good workout. This is a Walker repro converted to fire a proprietary cartridge, .44-50 Walker. Accuracy is good- I fired five shots at the target, and I guess they are all there; there certainly weren’t any other holes in the target. The gun recoils rather like a large-frame .357 Magnum- noticeable but not really unpleasant. It’s a pretty fun gun to shoot.

The brass used for this cartridge is made from shortened and expanded .303 British brass. The final shaping of the brass is done by fire-forming, and even though the previously used brass and the new brass bore identical loads the difference between them was obvious.  Previously-fired and reloaded brass was easy to eject after firing. Newly fire-formed cases had to be driven out with a cleaning rod. None of the brass showed signs of excessive pressure, and the theoretical maximum load is 13+gr. of Trail Boss- the current load is 10 grains. I may experiment with increasing the load, but I’d like to have more experience with this gun first

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The Dandy got a good workout as well- .44 Colt ammo is finally sorted and working properly.  I had thought the collet-crimp was the answer to my ammo issues with this caliber, but nope. It just doesn’t crimp hard enough for consistent results. The solution? Yep- glue the bullets in with blue Loctite and then crimp them. The combination works.

The load uses the same 200gr. LRNFP-HB bullet as the .44-50, this time over 6.5gr. of Trail Boss with a CCI300 primer. Just enough recoil to let you know you’ve shot something. I do need to adjust the front sight; the gun is shooting a bit low. That being said this gun is a pleasure to shoot.

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The Armi San Marcos .45 was a little disappointing, but only because it was shooting extremely low with the Winchester PDX1 225gr. JHP ammunition I was trying out. Like 6″ Low at 7 yards. The gun is consistent, easy to shoot and reliable but a conventional sight picture will have you plowing the dirt in front of the target at any real range. Fortunately it’s not a tough fix. I’ll shoot some of my regular ammo through it next time and see what kind of POI that produces.

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It was also the first time shooting the Taurus Model 608 .357 Magnum. This N-Frame 8-shooter has a 6″ compensated barrel. It’s a pussycat with Remington 158gr. SJHPs, and equally nice with my hand-loads using a 158gr TMJ-FP over 7.7gr. of Unique.  Recoil is less noticeable than the muzzle-blast, and a hundred rounds downrange didn’t leave my hand feeling even slightly abused.

I fired the three-shot group about standing unsupported/single action at 25 yards. I usually shoot a five-shot group, but after three I had no idea where I was hitting so I reeled the target in to look… except I didn’t. The trolley was stuck. They had to call a cease-fire to free it, and that was the end of shooting at 25 yards. Still, the 3 shots were sufficient to show there’s nothing wrong with the gun’s accuracy.  Yes, I know it’s not a S&W, but there’s not much to ask of this gun; it’s nicely finished, it has a nice action and trigger, it’s accurate and pleasant to shoot. I like it quite a bit.

Here’s an unpleasant surprise- the last cylinder of empties was sticky, and when I got them ejected I found this-

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Yeah, that was factory Remington ammunition. Not cool.

Lastly we come to the Fitz Special.  I fired this using two loads, a 158gr. TMJ-FP and a 173gr. LSWC over 4.0gr. of Unique. The Fitz is meant to be a close-range proposition but I started out at 7 yards and the results were alright-

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7 yards, modified Weaver stance, 10 rounds

Shooting a bit low, but not so bad that it isn’t easily compensated for.  I put rounds on a few targets and then decided to go old-school and shoot the gun as it was meant to be used. I ran a silhouette out to 3 yards and thrust the gun out one-handed and blazed away.  The result was quite satisfactory-

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5 rounds to 158gr. TMJFP

Feeling emboldened by my success I loaded up with the 173gr. LSWCs and had another go-

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5 rds. 173gr LSWC.  The bullet-hole below the grip is from the previous group.

I am really, really liking the Fitz! You need to mind that unprotected trigger, but I’d happily carry this gun.

Altogether it was a very satisfactory afternoon out.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 7 March 2018

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