From the “Shooting stuff is fun” Department
Range Report: More than just pulling the trigger
Firearms & Calibers
Marlin 80 .22LR
Ruger MKII .22LR
Ruger GP100 .357mag, .38spcl
This was supposed to be a business trip where the work was fun–which turned out fine, but not exactly as planned. It was to be light: no target stand or huge optics. No chrony, no spare batteries, no camera. No prone pad, no shooting jacket, no extra comforts. Just guns and ammo and the range bag.
Thursday was the last day of summer school, and Friday began a scheduled three day maintenance of all the servers on campus. I could do nothing for work. He he. I got to play hookey from life for a little while on this range trip.
- I had to adjust the rear sight on the MKII.
- I had to trouble shoot the Marlin ejector.
- I had to investigate potential leading in some hand loads for the GP100.
- I had some mystery .38’s that were wanting recycling.
- The Frankenmosin needed shooting because REASONS. A better sling, OK?
On the way there, I saw on the second rice crop a few golden tassels forming, so the wind rolled across these tops. Egrets hunted crawdads. (The correct term is crayfish. But my mom was an Okie. We ate crawdads.) One tall white egret clearly was a mom with a gaggle of skinny brown, shorter ones flocking around.
On the way home, the wind was nearly quiet and the sun heated up the peaches, allowing that sweet fragrance to sort of pile up around the orchards. With the windows open, I drove through the smell of fresh peaches mixed with the burnt powder in my nose above my home-from-the-range grin.
Here’s how the shooting broke down.
I just had to shoot some with the new sling, a four-buck Yugo 50’s surplus one from Liberty Tree Collectors, soft but thick, a bit scuffed, fits perfectly in the sling swivels, and the color matches the stock nicely. Aesthetics in thirty cal.
I shot a few at 100 and a few at 300—the carbine sights are right on. Then I filled the magazine with five to shoot a string. The first shot blew the floor plate right out—or so I thought.
The bullets dropped to the ground, while the floor plate just hinged open the way it was designed to. I’m all WTF? Turns out the floor plate is held closed by a spring, whose tip end is rolled to form the button that the shooter pulls to release the floor plate, to release the bullets, which push against the magazine spring, yes? This rolled-over tip had cracked at the tightest bend point, so the floor plate burst open behind the jolt.
I shot single rounds to ensure the rifle was fine, which it was, by holding the floor plate closed with my hand to chamber a round.
When I got home I replaced the spring from my stash of parts—this is part of the fun, having a stash of parts, something that has to be worked on continually.
So I put the broken spring under my Dixon 10X Doublet Jeweler’s loupe. Under this magnification, I could see that the failed part of the spring had been corroded for years, and a full magazine would crack it a bit more from time to time—I could see color gradations, signposts to the past. I don’t often load up five at once, so I had not recently pressed the part to its failure point. There ya go. Excellent.
Somehow I find this fascinating: The part was designed in 1891, and it is virtually interchangeable—and has been, with others like it for 120 years. Who knows how many full magazines the spring went though before this very last one? How many other rifles did it serve, Mr. McFly?
This might be the only gun I love, and I love it because I made it for me. I put it together from parts—even the barrel and receiver were made in different countries. It’s the Frankenmosin. I made the stock to fit my body. Think Gene Wilder, “It lives!” Now the sling fits me perfectly and is long enough so I can carry it. That’s if I ever go pig hunting with my son. So: reasons. Job done.
I had loaded some 950 fps 147gr moly coated wadcutters for the .357 by using just Lee dippers.
Man, I could whip out the rounds, I tell ya whut: I made 100 quick-like. This was before I tested them. It appeared at first that they were a bit zippy: I thought I got a tad of leading the first time I took ’em for a ride. I had 75 or so left. So today I shot the other 25 out of the first box—had to check it out.
When I looked at the barrel, it appeared to be leaded.
But when I went to clean it, what appeared to be leading came right out with a dry phosphor bronze brush. Ten passes. I suspect it might have been moly coat residue and not lead. Either way, I get good accuracy. I’m going to experiment further.
I also had some unknown .38 special rounds, LRN, just in a bag. Had to shoot ’em. Turns out a few had high primers, so I’ll pull those. No leading. Generated brass with the others. Job done.
My MKII Gov’t model target pistol shot a tad left last time I took it out to play, so from the dozens of targets of opportunity at a public and unsupervised range, I picked a Styrofoam cooler with a clean side, into which I stuck a 7.62 Rooskie case end-on—at about fifteen yards. I had a little telescoping 30X Captain Bly spyglass so I could zoom right in and see how far a click went one way or the other. Easy as pie. Good pistol. The rear sight adjustments are precise, positive, and robust. It is now right on: job done.
A few trips ago it stopped ejecting. I could pick the shells out easily, but something was amiss. This trip was designed to determine what was up. So I’d shoot a round and pick, then take out the magazine and fiddle with the ejector and what not. Now I know the situation. Likely a broken, loose, or bent ejector. Five bucks at Numrich. Step done in on going project.
The funnest part was standing with the sling shooting the Mosin at a stone, at the 300 meter berm and seeing the dust puffs. Totally one minute of bad guy. The magazine spring incident was just another layer of richness, with me being present when this ancient part finally gave way. What a long strange trip, as it were.
Then there’s the cleaning. My garage is out back under the shade of various trees. Had the radio and the beer while the Giants poached the Marlins. I set up a little table outside the door in the dappled light and methodically went about cleaning. At the end there’s the wiping clean and the fondling and the putting-back all safe and sound in preparation for the next range trip. Great times.
Leaving with anticipation, and then shooting stuff, then returning and cleaning in bliss, is all kinds of fun when you’re open to all of it.
Here’s something apropos by Lew Welch (it’s the Liberal Gun Club, after all):
I saw myself
a ring of bone
in the clear stream
of all of it
always to be open to it
that all of it
might flow through
and then heard
“ring of bone” where
ring is what a