July 9th, 2014

TSA Guidelines for Flying with Firearms and Ammunition

If you will be flying with firearms this summer, you should read this article. You need to familiarize yourself with current Federal Regulations on gun transport before you get anywhere near an airport. Thankfully, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a web page that states the important requirements for airline passengers traveling with firearms and/or ammunition.

Tom McHale flying with firearms guns TSA

You’ll want to visit the TSA Firearms and Ammunition webpage, and read it start to finish. In addition, before your trip, you should check the regulations of the airline(s) with which you will fly. Some airlines have special requirements, such as weight restrictions.

Here are the TSA’s key guidelines for travel with firearms:

1. All firearms* must be declared to the airline during the ticket counter check-in process.
The term firearm includes:

    - Any weapon (including a starter gun) which will, or is designed to, or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive.
    - The frame or receiver of any such weapon.
    - Any firearm muffler or firearm silencer.
    - Any destructive device.

2. The firearm must be unloaded. As defined by 49 CFR 1540.5 – “A loaded firearm means a firearm that has a live round of ammunition, or any component thereof, in the chamber or cylinder or in a magazine inserted in the firearm.”

3. The firearm must be in a hard-sided container that is locked. A locked container is defined as one that completely secures the firearm from being accessed. Locked cases that can be pulled open with little effort cannot be brought aboard the aircraft.

4. If firearms are not properly declared or packaged, TSA will provide the checked bag to law enforcement for resolution with the airline. If the issue is resolved, law enforcement will release the bag to TSA so screening may be completed.

5. TSA must resolve all alarms in checked baggage. If a locked container containing a firearm alarms, TSA will contact the airline, who will make a reasonable attempt to contact the owner and advise the passenger to go to the screening location. If contact is not made, the container will not be placed on the aircraft.

6. If a locked container alarms during screening and is not marked as containing a declared firearm, TSA will cut the lock in order to resolve the alarm.

7. Travelers should remain in the area designated by the aircraft operator or TSA representative to take the key back after the container is cleared for transportation.

8. Travelers must securely pack any ammunition in fiber (such as cardboard), wood or metal boxes or other packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition.

9. Firearm magazines and ammunition clips, whether loaded or empty, must be securely boxed or included within a hard-sided case containing an unloaded firearm.

10. Small arms ammunition, including ammunition not exceeding .75 caliber for a rifle or pistol and shotgun shells of any gauge, may be carried in the same hard-sided case as the firearm, as long as it follows the packing guidelines described above.

11. TSA prohibits black powder or percussion caps used with black-powder.

12. Rifle scopes are not prohibited in carry-on bags and do not need to be in the hard-sided, locked checked bag.

More Airline Travel Tips from Tom McHale
Tom McHale has written an excellent article for the Beretta Blog, Ten Things You Need to Know about Flying with Guns. We suggest you visit the Beretta Blog to read this informative story. Here are two of Tom McHale’s Travel Tips:

Weigh your gun case and ammunition
Most airlines will allow up to 11 pounds of ammunition. And, like any luggage, you will be charged more for any baggage weighing more than 50 pounds. This sounds like a lot, but when traveling to the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun competition last year, my case with shotgun, rifle, pistol and ammunition tipped the scale past the 50 pound mark.

Pack ammo in the same locking case
This is another area that’s misunderstood and full of internet myth. Your ammo just needs to be stored in some type of safe container and not loose. Technically, you can keep ammunition in magazines, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It meets the letter of the law storage requirement, but too many airline and TSA agents will give you grief. Use a plastic ammo box or original cardboard packaging and you’ll be fine carrying that in the same lockable case as your gun.

Tom McHale flying with firearms guns TSA

*Please see, United States Code, Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 44 for information about firearm definitions.

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July 1st, 2014

Read FREE July Edition of Shooting Sports USA

Mental Training shooting neuroscienceThe July 2014 digital edition of Shooting Sports USA magazine is now available. Along with the cover story on the Bianchi Cup, this month’s issue has many interesting articles. And the price is right — this month’s Shooting Sports USA eZine is FREE for the taking. Just Click This Link to load the July 2014 eZine edition right in your web browser.

For all competitive shooters, we highly recommend a 6-page article on Mental Training by Editor Chip Lohman. Drawing on scientific studies, Lohman reveals that practice and specialized training can actually improve mental function and create beneficial physical changes in the brain itself. Lohman quotes one study which revealed that “Brain scans of concert violinists and taxi drivers show enlargement of the areas important to the practice of their profession.” Morever, Lohman notes that “the trained brain has a better idea of tripping the correct nerves and muscles, leading to memory within the muscle itself.”

Mental Training shooting neuroscience

What this means is that competitive shooters can benefit from mental training in profound ways that were not previously understood. If you want to shoot higher scores at your next match, you should definitely read this article, part 2 of a series.

From the ’50s — How to Shoot the High Power Rifle
Another highlight of this month’s Shooting Sports USA eZine is a “golden oldie” article, “How to Shoot the High Power Rifle”. First published in American Rifleman way back in August, 1955, this article covers basic High Power technique. Lt. Col Jim Crossman talks about position shooting, sling use, practice methods, and procedures for relaxing between firing sequences. Much of the advice Lt. Col. Crossman offers can still benefit today’s High Power shooters.

Mental Training shooting neuroscience

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June 30th, 2014

Finally — A Really Good Use for Segways (As Robotic Targets)

The gyro-stabilized two-wheeled Segway was supposed to revolutionize personal transportation. That may never happen (mall cops excepted), but remote-controlled Segways just might revolutionize the way military and police personnel train for urban engagements.

Marathon Smart Targets

Robotic Segway “Smart Targets” for Live-Fire Training
An Australian company, Marathon Robotics, has created wheeled robot targets — remote-controlled Segways fitted with target silhouettes. The Segway Robots can move and respond like humans, ducking into doorways, or dispersing at the sound of gunfire. This provides challenging, ultra-realistic training for military and police sharp-shooters. This is not just science fiction. Australian Special Forces units already train in a mock urban center populated with Marathon’s rolling robots. And the U.S. Marine Corps has hired Marathon to create a similar robot-equipped, live-fire training venue.

Marathon Smart TargetsMarathon combined computer gaming technology with armored, remote-controlled Segways to create the ultimate 21st century moving target. The lower halves of the Segways are armor-plated, so the expensive electronic innards don’t get damaged by an errant shot. On top is mounted a replica human torso. The torso section can be clothed to distinguish “civilians” from military targets, or to distinguish terrorists from hostages.

Marathon’s sophisticated software can control multiple Segway Robots at the same time. A group of Segways can be programmed to mimic a squad on patrol, or a group of terrorists holding hostages. The control software allows autonomous or “intelligent” behavior by the Segway Robots. For example, the Segways can disperse automatically at the sound of a gunshot, and the Segways can be trained to seek cover in hallways or behind objects. Importantly, the Segway Robots are capable of human-like movement — they can stop quickly, turn 360° and retreat slowly, or accelerate to a human running pace. Marathon’s Segway Robots are equipped with laser range finders so they can avoid running into obstacles, including people on the move. The “Segbots” lean forward slightly as they walk forward, like people do.

To really understand how the Robotic Smart Targets work, watch this amazing video:

YouTube Preview Image

RESOURCES: Marathon Targets Webpage | Smart Targets Product Info (PDF) | Photo Gallery

Marathon Smart Targets

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June 29th, 2014

When Good Scopes Go Bad — Making the Difficult Diagnosis

Riflescopes are mechanical contraptions. One of the sad realities about precision shooting is that, sooner or later, you will experience a scope failure. If you’re lucky it won’t happen in the middle of a National-level competition. And hopefully the failure will be dramatic and unmistakable so you won’t spend months trying to isolate the issue. Unfortunately, scope problems can be erratic or hard to diagnose. You may find yourself with unexplained flyers or a slight degradation of accuracy and you won’t know how to diagnose the problem. And when a 1/8th-MOA-click scope starts failing, it may be hard to recognize the fault immediately, because the POI change may be slight.

When An Expensive Scope Goes Bad
Recently, this editor had a major-brand 8-25x50mm scope go bad. How did I know I had a problem? Well the first sign was a wild “drop-down” flyer at a 600-yard match. After shooting a two-target relay, I took a look at my targets. My first 5-shot group had five shots, fairly well centered, in about 2.2″. Pretty good. Everything was operating fine. Then I looked at the second target. My eye was drawn to four shots, all centered in the 10 Ring, measuring about 2.4″. But then I saw the fifth shot. It was a good 18″ low, straight down from the X. And I really mean straight down — if you drew a plumb line down from the center of the X, it would pass almost through the fifth shot.

That was disconcerting, but since I had never had any trouble with this scope before, I assumed it was a load problem (too little powder?), or simple driver error (maybe I flinched or yanked the trigger?). Accordingly, I didn’t do anything about the scope, figuring the problem was me or the load.

Riflescope Repairs

But, at the next range session, things went downhill fast. In three shots, I did manage to get on steel at 600, with my normal come-up for that distance. Everything seemed fine. So then I switched to paper. We had a buddy in the pits with a walkie-talkie and he radioed that he couldn’t see any bullet holes in the paper after five shots. My spotter said he thought the bullets were impacting in the dirt, just below the paper. OK, I thought, we’ll add 3 MOA up (12 clicks), and that should raise POI 18″ and I should be on paper, near center. That didn’t work — now the bullets were impacting in the berm ABOVE the target frame. The POI had changed over 48″ (8 MOA). (And no I didn’t click too far — I clicked slowly, counting each click out loud as I adjusted the elevation.) OK, to compensate now I took off 8 clicks which should be 2 MOA or 12″. No joy. The POI dropped about 24″ (4 MOA) and the POI also moved moved 18″ right, to the edge of the target.

Riflescope RepairsFor the next 20 shots, we kept “chasing center” trying to get the gun zeroed at 600 yards. We never did. After burning a lot of ammo, we gave up. Before stowing the gun for the trip home, I dialed back to my 100-yard zero, which is my normal practice (it’s 47 clicks down from 600-yard zero). I immediately noticed that the “feel” of the elevation knob didn’t seem right. Even though I was pretty much in the center of my elevation (I have a +20 MOA scope mount), the clicks felt really tight — as they do when you’re at the very limit of travel. There was a lot of resistance in the clicks and they didn’t seem to move the right amount. And it seemed that I’d have four or five clicks that were “bunched up” with a lot of resistance, and then the next click would have almost no resistance and seem to jump. It’s hard to describe, but it was like winding a spring that erratically moved from tight to very loose.

At this point I announced to my shooting buddies: “I think the scope has taken a dump.” I let one buddy work the elevation knob a bit. “That feels weird,” he said: “the clicks aren’t consistent… first it doesn’t want to move, then the clicks jump too easily.”

Convinced that I had a real problem, the scope was packed up and shipped to the manufacturer. So, was I hallucinating? Was my problem really just driver error? I’ve heard plenty of stories about guys who sent scopes in for repair, only to receive their optics back with a terse note saying: “Scope passed inspection and function test 100%. No repairs needed”. So, was my scope really FUBAR? You bet it was. When the scope came back from the factory, the Repair Record stated that nearly all the internal mechanicals had been replaced or fixed: “Replaced Adjustment Elevation; Replaced Adjustment Windage; Reworked Erector System; Reworked Selector; Reworked Parallax Control.”

How to Diagnose Scope Problems
When you see your groups open up, there’s a very good chance this is due to poor wind-reading, or other “driver error”. But my experience showed me that sometimes scopes do go bad. When your accuracy degrades without any other reasonable explanation, the cause of the problem may well be your optics. Here are some of the “symptoms” of scope troubles:

1. Large shot-to-shot variance in Point of Impact with known accurate loads.
2. Uneven tracking (either vertical or horizontal).
3. Change of Point of Impact does not correspond to click inputs.
4. Inability to zero in reasonable number of shots.
5. Unexpected changes in needed click values (compared to previous come-ups).
6. Visible shift in reticle from center of view.
7. Changed “feel” or resistance when clicking; or uneven click-to-click “feel”.
8. Inability to set parallax to achieve sharpness.
9. Turrets or other controls feel wobbly or loose.
10. Internal scope components rattle when gun is moved.

Source of Problem Unknown, but I Have a Theory
Although my scope came with a slightly canted reticle from the factory, it had otherwise functioned without a hitch for many years. I was able to go back and forth between 100-yard zero and 600-yard zero with perfect repeatability for over five years. I had confidence in that scope. Why did it fail when it did? My theory is side-loading on the turrets. I used to carry the gun in a thick soft case. I recently switched to an aluminum-sided hard case that has pretty dense egg-crate foam inside. I noticed it took some effort to close the case, though it was more than big enough, width-wise, to hold the gun. My thinking is that the foam wasn’t compressing enough, resulting in a side-load on the windage turret when the case was clamped shut. This is just my best guess; it may not be the real source of the problem. Remember, as I explained in the beginning of this story, sometimes scopes — just like any mechanical system — simply stop working for no apparent reason.

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June 27th, 2014

Kevin Thomas Rides with Custer’s Ghost

1873 Springfield trapdoor carbing musketKevin Thomas of Lapua USA recently acquired a bit of living history — a reproduction Model 1873 Trapdoor Springfield. Here is Kevin’s story of his new rifle and the legacy it carries.

This week marked the 138th Anniversary of Lt.Col. George Armstrong Custer’s historic ride into the valley of the Little Big Horn, along with 200+ men of the U.S. Seventh Cavalry. June 25, 1876 did not go well, as Custer and his men became a well-known, sad footnote in U.S. history. [Editor: Well it was sad for Custer fans. Native Americans have a different perspective.]

For years now, I’ve wanted one of the rifles Custer and his men carried that day, a Model 1873 Trapdoor Springfield, chambered for the 45/70 cartridge. I finally acquired one, when I walked into a gunstore a while back and saw a handsome repro Trapdoor sitting peacefully on the shelf. It called to me.

1873 Springfield trapdoor carbing musket

Somewhere in the distance, I could hear the bugle calls, the Sioux and Cheyenne war cries and the thundering of cavalry across the plain. It simply had to go home with me, and so it did. It seemed an especially insistent demand with this being the 138th anniversary and all, so I took it along to our regular Wednesday night practice session. All I can say is, I’m glad we don’t have to do rapid-fire with one of these in our matches today, because they do have a mule-like kick to them!

1873 Springfield trapdoor carbing musket

The Trapdoors were a cost saving measure that the Armory came up with at the end of the Civil War, to convert muzzle-loading Springfield muskets into breech-loading cartridge arms. A quick look will give several dead giveaways that many of the parts on the “new” rifle were actually interchangeable with the old 1861 and 1863 Springfield muskets. The parts that were altered or newly fabricated were relatively minor changes.

1873 Springfield trapdoor carbing musket

Above, you can see where these rifles got their name. Loading was done by flipping a lever which opened up a trap door that provided access to the chamber. Flipping that same lever and opening the trap door then ejected the case after firing.

1873 Springfield trapdoor carbing musket

Here is the opposite side, trapdoor open. The ring and slide on the side of the stock was to facilitate an attachment point for a lanyard that the troopers wore over their shoulders. Remember, they often used these while at a full gallop, not an easy feat!

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June 26th, 2014

‘Everything AR’ in Guns Magazine Special Edition

Do you like black rifles? Do you suffer from an irrepressible desire to modify, tweak, and upgrade every little component on your ARs? Then check out “Everything AR” in the GUNS Magazine Combat Special Edition. From upgrades and accessories to brand reviews and insight into AR operating systems, the Fall/Winter 2014 GUNS Magazine Combat Special Edition is a cover-to-cover AR love-fest.

This 194-page Special Edition includes a helpful review of direct gas versus piston operating systems by Richard Mann. Another article by this same writer, “Pistol Caliber Carbine Perfection”, explores the evolution of pistol-caliber AR carbines, discussing pros and cons of several pistol calibers. Publisher/editor Roy Huntington contributes a story on Black Rain Ordnance, a company known for its high-quality AR-platform rifles, and lifetime warranty.

Want gadgets for your AR? In “Ten Got-To-Have Accessories For Your MSR,” contributing editor Dave Douglas spotlights some of the best bolt-ons for “Modern Sporting Rifles”, from sling mounts and LED lasers to sights and rubber grips.

The Fall/Winter 2014 issue of GUNS Combat includes the all-new 2015 Buyer’s Guide. This 128-page, comprehensive catalog features hundreds of products ranging from all types of handguns and long guns, to knives, lights and lasers

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June 21st, 2014

Texas Technicians Use Accelerometers to Plot Bullet Hits

Waterloo Labs is a group of engineers from National Instruments and other self-declared “nerds” from Austin, Texas. These folks conducted an interesting demonstration using electronic accelerometers to plot bullet impacts from a suppressed Ruger MKIII .22LR pistol. The accelerometers respond to vibrations caused when the bullets hit a drywall target backer. By triangulating data from multiple accelerometers, each shot’s exact point of impact can be plotted with great precision. These point-of-impact coordinates are then fed into a computer and super-imposed into a Flash version of the Half-Life video game (which is projected on the drywall board). The end result is being able to “play” a video game with a real firearm.

YouTube Preview Image

triaxial accelerometerDo-It-Yourself Electronic Target System?
Now, we are NOT particularly interested in shooting Zombies in a video game. However, the technology has interesting potential applications for real shooters. Waterloo Labs has published the computer code, used to triangulate bullet impacts from multiple accelerometers. Potentially, a system like this could be built to provide display and scoring of long-range targets. Sophisticated electronic target systems already exist, but they use proprietary hardware and software, and they are very expensive. The Waterloo Labs experiment shows that shooters with some computer and electronic skills could build their own electronic scoring system, one that can be adapted to a variety of target sizes and materials.

In addition, we imagine this system could be utilized for military and law enforcement training. The walls of structures used for “live-fire” room-clearing exercises could be fitted with accelerometers so the bullet impacts could be plotted and studied. Then, later, the impact plots could be combined with a computer simulation so that trainees could “replay” their live-fire sessions, viewing the actual location of their hits (and misses).

Credit The Firearm Blog for finding this Waterloo Labs project.
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June 20th, 2014

U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Abramski Straw-Purchase Case

Supreme Court Straw purchaser gun Scotus AbramskiA narrowly-divided U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the federal ban on “straw” purchases of guns can be enforced even if the ultimate buyer is legally allowed to own firearm. In Abramski v. United States, the justices ruled 5-4 that the law applied to a man who purchased a firearm on behalf of his uncle, using funds provided by the uncle, with the intention of giving the gun to his uncle who was not prohibited from owning firearms. The case began after Bruce James Abramski bought a handgun in Virginia, in 2009 on behalf of his uncle using his uncle’s money and later transferred it to him in Pennsylvania through a firearms retailer after a background check of the uncle. Abramski, a former police officer, had assured the Virginia dealer he was the “actual buyer” of the weapon even though he was really acting on his uncle’s behalf but buying the gun using a police discount available to him.

Background of the Case
The case of Abramski v. United States, arises from the prosecution of Bruce James Abramski, Jr., a former Virginia police officer, for allegedly making a “straw purchase” of a Glock handgun. Abramski had lawfully purchased a Glock pistol in Virginia, then later resold the Glock to his uncle, a resident of Pennsylvania. Both purchases were conducted through FFLs, with full background checks, and both parties were legally entitled to own a handgun. Abramski arranged the sale in this fashion to take advantage of a discount available to him as a law enforcement officer.

Supreme Court Straw purchaser gun Scotus AbramskiAbramski was indicted and prosecuted for violating Federal laws against “straw purchases”, specifically making a false declaration on BATFE Form 4473, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6). Abramski challenged the indictment, but the District Court ruled against him and the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the District Court. However, the Fourth Circuit found a split of authority among the Circuits as to whether § 922(a)(6) applied where the ultimate recipient of the firearm was lawfully entitled to buy a gun himself. The Fourth Circuit’s ruling conflicts with previous decisions by the Fifth Circuit holding that “straw purchaser” laws are NOT violated if both the original purchaser and secondary buyer are legally entitled to own a firearm. See United States v. Polk, 118 F.3d 286 (5th Cir. 1997).

The key issue was whether Abramski committed a crime by buying a gun, and then promptly re-selling it to another person who was legally entitled to own the firearm. The government argued that Abramski broke the law when he checked a box on Form 4473 indicating he was the “actual transferee/buyer of the firearm”.

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June 19th, 2014

CMP Talladega Marksmanship Park Taking Shape in Alabama

Phase I Nearing Completion at CMP Talladega Marksmanship Park
By Ashley Brugnone, CMP Writer
Construction continues at the CMP Talladega Marksmanship Park as Phase I has reached 95% completion. The first phase is expected to be complete in September 2014. Clearing of brush, trees and other natural foliage is 100% complete, with 95% of the 600,000 cubic yards of dirt moved. The only earth that remains to be moved is in the action pistol bay areas. The second phase of the project is expected to be complete in March 2015, with the range’s official opening to the public in April 2015.

Berms have taken shape as 95% of the 600,000 cubic yards of crimson Alabama dirt has been moved.
CMP Talladega Marksmanship Park Georgia

This concrete slab will be home to the CMP Clubhouse. The building will overlook the 600-yard range.
CMP Talladega Marksmanship Park Georgia

Phase II of the project is around 10% finished, with pavement down on the main entrance road and the concrete foundation for the main building complete. It may be another month before workers begin to stand steel and pour concrete slabs for the other buildings on the property. Workers are also preparing to place footings on the 600-yard range.

The 600-yard and 300-yard ranges will be equipped with state-of-the-art, all-weather electronic targets.
CMP Talladega Marksmanship Park Georgia

CMP Talladega Marksmanship Park GeorgiaElectronic Targets at Talladega
Back at CMP’s south offices, the state-of-the-art electronic targets that will be featured at the new park have been under construction. The wooden frames for the 600-yard range are already complete, while construction on the 300-yard frames will soon be underway.

The electronically-powered target lifters are being crafted in Ohio. Once completed, the frames and the lifters will be attached to rubber-faced targets that will be able to withstand all weather conditions and multiple shots. The targets resemble the electronic targets used at CMP’s air gun ranges, only on a much, much larger scale.

An aerial view shows the trees that will serve as natural dividers between each range.
CMP Talladega Marksmanship Park Georgia

The main goal of the new park will be to provide a place where beginning and experienced marksmen can practice firearm safety through clinics and courses, as well as participate in CMP Games matches. The park will also be open for year-round open public shooting. Mark Johnson, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, reports: “It’s impressive. It’s going to be a lot more impressive looking with the grass, the woods and the rolling hills. People are going to really like it.”

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June 18th, 2014

Baer/Cloward Masterpiece Rifle — Saved for the Grand-Kids

Shiraz BaloliaLast week we ran a story on revered stock-maker Jim Cloward of Washington State. Well here’s a story about a very special rifle, featuring one of the finest hand-crafted, custom stocks Cloward ever made. This stunning, heirloom rifle was crafted two decades ago for Shiraz Balolia, President of Grizzly Industrial. Since he hasn’t been shooting it, he initially thought about putting it up for sale. But our Forum members argued: “Don’t sell it Shiraz — that gun should be in a museum or stay in the family!” Shiraz listened and decided to keep the rifle as a family treasure: “It’s off the market and will wait for the grandkids to grow up to decide which one gets it.”

The Balolia Baer/Cloward Heirloom Rifle
by Shiraz Balolia
I commissioned this rifle over 20 years ago and am ashamed to say that it has less than 50 rounds down the barrel! This is a super-custom, one-of-a-kind rifle that was built by Bruce Baer and the stock work was done by Jim Cloward. This was a “money no object” gun. The stock was a special highly-figured walnut piece that I had saved for years to build “that special gun”, thinking I would pass it on to one of the kids. It has an Ebony fore-end and an Ebony and Ivory grip cap. The barreled action rides in a barrel block in that beautiful Cloward-crafted stock.

Click Images to See Full-screen Version
Shiraz Balolia James Jim Cloward Stock Bruce Baer

  • Caliber — .308 Baer, made for 1000-yard shooting.
  • Action — Hall, single shot with Jewell trigger.
  • Barrel — Obermeyer, fluted, 29″, 1:10″ twist, throated to shoot up to 220gr Sierras.
  • Stock — Jim Cloward custom with 3-way adjustable buttplate and barrel block.
  • Scope — Rare silver Leupold 36X Benchrest model in mint condition.

Shiraz Balolia James Jim Cloward Stock Bruce Baer

The super-comfortable thumbhole stock is an absolute work of art by Jim Cloward, who did the lovely checkering as well. Jim has done some nice stocks for me, but this one is probably the best. He outdid himself on this stock — I do not think you will ever see another Baer/Cloward rifle like this!

Click Images to See Full-screen Version
Shiraz Balolia James Jim Cloward Stock Bruce Baer

Shiraz Balolia James Jim Cloward Stock Bruce Baer

Shiraz Balolia James Jim Cloward Stock Bruce Baer

Shiraz Balolia James Jim Cloward Stock Bruce Baer

Shiraz Balolia James Jim Cloward Stock Bruce Baer

One More Cloward-Stocked Rifle
Shiraz has a few other treasured Cloward-stocked rifles, including this stunning break-down hunting rifle in fitted travel case. Click image to see the rifle, full-screen, in all its highly-figured glory. We’ve asked Shiraz to to photograph some of his other “Clowardian” beauties so we might showcase them in the future — stay tuned.

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June 13th, 2014

"How Do Bullets Fly?" — Great Online Resource

Ruprecht Nennstiel, a forensic ballistics expert from Wiesbaden, Germany, has authored a great resource about bullet behavior in flight. Nennstiel’s comprehensive article, How Do Bullets Fly, explains all the forces which affect bullet flight including gravity, wind, gyroscopic effects, aerodynamic drag, and lift. Nennstiel even explains the rather arcane Magnus Force and Coriolis Effect which come into play at long ranges. Nennstiel’s remarkable resource contains many useful illustrations plus new experimental observations of bullets fired from small arms, both at short and at long ranges.

Shadowgraph of .308 Winchester Bullet

Bullet External Ballistics

A convenient index is provided so you can study each particular force in sequence. Writing with clear, precise prose, Nennstiel explains each key factor that affects external ballistics. For starters, we all know that bullets spin when launched from a rifled barrel. But Nennstiel explains in greater detail how this spinning creates gyroscopic stability:

“The overturning moment MW tends to rotate the bullet about an axis, which goes through the CG (center of gravity) and which is perpendicular to the plane of drag, the plane, formed by the velocity vector ‘v’ and the longitudinal axis of the bullet. In the absence of spin, the yaw angle ‘δ’ would grow and the bullet would tumble.

Bullet External Ballistics

If the bullet has sufficient spin, saying if it rotates fast enough about its axis of form, the gyroscopic effect takes place: the bullet’s longitudinal axis moves into the direction of the overturning moment, perpendicular to the plane of drag. This axis shift however alters the plane of drag, which then rotates about the velocity vector. This movement is called precession or slow mode oscillation.”

Raise Your Ballistic IQ
Though comprehensible to the average reader with some grounding in basic physics, Nennstiel’s work is really the equivalent of a Ph.D thesis in external ballistics. You could easily spend hours reading (and re-reading) all the primary material as well as the detailed FAQ section. But we think it’s worth plowing into How Do Bullets Fly from start to finish. We suggest you bookmark the page for future reference. You can also download the complete article for future reference and offline reading.

CLICK HERE to download “How Do Bullets Fly” complete text. (1.2 MB .zip file)

Photo and diagram © 2005-2009 Ruprecht Nennstiel, All Rights Reserved.

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June 12th, 2014

The Great Debate: .260 Rem vs. 6.5×55 — Which Is Better?

One of our Shooters’ Forum readers, Trent from Louisiana, asked for help deciding between a .260 Remington and a 6.5×55 for his latest gun project. In the Forum thread, respected UK gun writer Laurie Holland provided a good summary of the differences between the two chamberings. Laurie writes:

Remington 260 Cartridge“The 6.5×55 case has 6 or 7% more capacity than the .260s, even more in practice when both are loaded to standard COALs with heavy bullets, which sees them having to seated very deep in the .260 Rem using up quite a lot of powder capacity. So loaded up for reasonable pressures in modern actions, the 6.5×55 will give a bit more performance.

The issue for many is what action length is available or wanted, the 6.5 requiring a long action. So sniper rifle / tactical rifle competitors will go for the .260 Rem with the option of the many good short-bolt-throw designs around with detachable box magazines. If a bit more performance is needed, the .260AI gives another 100-150 fps depending on bullet weight.

Brass-wise, you’ve got really good Lapua 6.5×55 off the shelf that needs minimum preparation, and it’s strong and long-lived. There is an Ackley version too that was popular in F-Class in Europe for a while that isn’t too far short of 6.5-284 performance. If you go for .260 Rem, the American brass isn’t as good but you can neck-up Lapua or Norma .243 Win and trim them (or neck-down .308 Win or 7mm-08). This has the downside that doing so usually creates a noticeable ‘doughnut’ at the case-shoulder junction, that may cause problems depending on how deep bullets are seated. [Editor's Note: After Laurie wrote this, Lapua began producing high-quality .260 Remington brass.]

Laurie HollandFor purely target shooting, I think I’d go with 6.5×55 if I was making the choice again today for performance and brass-preparation reasons. In fact, I’ve considered going back to the gunsmith to have the barrel rechambered.

You want a multi-purpose rifle though and that makes things trickier depending on the bullet weight(s) you want to use. The [typical] 6.5×55 and 6.5-08 throats are really designed for 140s, so 90-120s make a long jump into the rifling. If you’re always going to use 130s and up, it’s less of an issue. If you want to use the lighter stuff, I’d say go for .260 Rem and discuss the reamer with the gunsmith to come up with as good a compromise as you can depending on the mix of shooting. 1:8.5″ twist is the norm and handles all the usual sporting and match bullets; you can go for a little slower twist if you won’t use the heavies.

Over here in the UK, in Scotland to be precise, we have a top sporting rifle builder (Callum Ferguson of Precision Rifle Services) who almost specializes in .260 Rem usually built on Borden actions. He throats the barrel ‘short’ so it’s suited to varmint bullets, but will still handle the 100gr Nosler Partition which he says is more than adequate for any British deer species including Scottish red stags.

Accuracy-wise, I don’t think there’s anything between them if everything else is equal. The 6.5 has a reputation for superlative accuracy, but that was high-quality Swedish military rifles and ammunition matched against often not-so-high-quality military stuff from elsewhere. Put the pair in custom rifles and use equally good brass and bullets and you’ll be hard pressed to tell them apart.” – Laurie Holland

Remington 260 CartridgeAfter Laurie’s helpful comments, some other Forum members added their insights on the .260 Rem vs. 6.5×55 question:

“To me, the .260 Remington has no advantage over the 6.5×55 if one is going to use a long action. Likewise, the only advantage the .260 has in a modern rifle is it can be used in a short-action. There is more powder capacity in the 6.5×55 so you have the potential to get more velocity plus there is a lot of reloading data available to you for loading at lower velocity/pressure if you choose. The Lapua brass is great and Winchester brass is pretty good at low pressures. Having loaded a good bit for both, the 6.5×55 would always get the nod from me. To me, if someone wants to use a short-action, the 6.5×47 Lapua is even a better option than the .260 for a target rifle.” — Olympian

“There is just one small item that has been missing from this conversation — the 6.5×55 has a non-standard rim diameter of .479″ vs. the standard .473″ of a .308 and all of its variants. Depending on your bolt this may be an issue, or it may not.” — Neil L.

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