Sunday, March 29, 2009

Trying Out New Ammo in .40 S&W and .22LR, Part 2

As I said my previous post, I was running dangerously low on .22LR ammunition. I had expended the better part of a value pack of Federal .22LR from Wal-Mart, and while the 36-grain hollow point (more like a dent stamped into the nose) was nicely accurate, I decided to try out Remington's Golden Bullet brand of .22LR ammunition, also in a 36-grain hollow point. Wal-Mart was out of the Federal when I went to buy it. First off, when Remington says "hollow point" they mean it. This stuff didn't just have a dent on the nose, it had a noticeable hollow cavity in the bullet. This might actually expand in squirrel and rabbit-type prey animals, much less any other living creature that gets in its way. Mind you, this is not an excuse to go try it out. I don't hunt (yet) so for now I'll just go after those vicious and bloodthirsty paper targets.

The control ammunition used is Federal's Value-Pack .22LR with a 36-grain hollow point bullet. At 10 yards it hits where I want it to go. The firearm used for testing was a Ruger 22/45. This is Ruger's Mark III pistol on a plastic frame that imitates the grip angle of the Colt 1911 and its clones (like my STI). Unlike my STI, though, it does not have a fiber-optic front sight, instead having a solid black front sight. This is important later in the report. The targets were the same as the .40 S&W targets, a 3" Shoot-n-C in the center of a 8 1/2x11" sheet of copier paper at 10 yards.

So, I fired my control ammunition first at one of the targets and was all over. So I took a quick break and came back to try again. My groups on the 10-shot strings (one full magazine) got a little better, but they still weren't great. That's when I noticed I was trying to find a black front sight and line it up with a black rear sight and aiming at a black target. I need a little more contrast than that. Well, since I didn't have any fluorescent paint on me, I decided to switch out target types. I stayed with the sheet of paper, but I substituted the Shoot-n-C with an X made of two 4-inch strips of blue painter's tape. Now that I could see the front sight again, I was ready to roll. The Federal sighted in perfectly as I used the last of it. The Remington Ammo still had more flash, but everything else was the same. I saw the center of the target and put all my rounds there. After two magazines of that, I noticed that it was getting close to 9pm. While the indoor range is open until midnight, I wanted to be respectful to the neighbors nearby as an indoor range is still loud, so I packed up to leave. I took bore snake to pistol and cleaned out any grunge in it with a more thorough cleaning to occur later.

The Remington ammunition shoots exactly like its Federal counterpart. It's really a case of buying whichever is on hand. If you can't find one brand, you won't need to worry about buying the other. It's still good enough for plinking.
Trying Out New Ammo in .40 S&W and .22LR

A few weeks ago I noticed that I was running low on hollow point ammunition for my .40 caliber pistols and I was running dangerously low on .22 for my .22 pistol and rifle. Dangerously low in my case means "The value pack box is running empty and plinking will be generally curtailed." The .40 caliber pistols are a little different as they serve in both competition and home defense, so I run the occasional hollow point rounds through them. I went and made a series of purchases at my local gun shop and at Wal-Mart to replenish my stocks.

From the gun shop I purchased two boxes of Remington Express .40 S&W and one box of Winchester WinClean, also .40 S&W. The Remington ammo was 155-grain jacketed hollow point is jacketed in the the usual copper/zinc "gilding metal" you usually see. Winchester uses what they call a "Brass Enclosed Base" bullet in the typical weight of 180 grains. The bullets that Winchester uses in this ammunition are interesting to say the least. They're not a traditional full metal jacket round like you would normally see for your target ammunition. The bullet is jacketed in brass instead of gilding metal. This isn't a bad thing; Remington does the same with its Golden Saber bullets, and more than a few reloaders make their own .223 bullets out of discarded .22LR brass and lead wire. The front end of the Winchester bullet looks like it's exposed lead which kind of surprised me.

So, with the desire to see how these fared in my 1911, I went to the nearest indoor range, the Abe Lincoln Gun Club. It's members-only, and fortunately for me, I have a membership there. Also, it's about a mile away as the crow flies (and about three miles of driving on twisting country roads) so it's good for a Friday night of plinking.

The testing was easy enough. I was comparing accuracy, muzzle flash and perceived recoil. I was using a range of 10 yards for the accuracy portion of the test. The targets were simple: a sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 copier paper with a 3-inch Shoot-n-C target in the center. The test handgun was my STI Trojan, a 1911 clone with a 5-inch barrel and 8-round magazine capacity. Unlike most 1911s, this one was in .40 S&W. It's stock except for the sights, a Dawson Precision fiber optic front sight. The sight was installed by Don Steele at Precision Gunsmithing here in Springfield. I also had three ammunition types as my control groups: Blazer Brass 180-grain and Winchester "White Box" 180-grain full metal jacket rounds for use in comparing the WinClean ammunition, and the Remington Express would be compared to Winchester's Ranger (now known as SXT) 155-grain hollow point rounds. The 180-grain control ammunition is mild in its recoil and hits dead center of the target for me. The 155-grain control ammunition is a bit louder and jumps a little more, but isn't enough to cause real issues. It hits a little high and to the left but still groups nicely. Instead of using a rest, I went with the usual two-handed "Chapman" grip and stance like I would use in competition. I'm trying these ammo types out for practical shooting purposes, after all. Also, please note that I'm a D-class shooter in USPSA, which means that my accuracy is not exactly laser-perfect. It's good enough for the practical targets, but I'm not doing Olympic free pistol any time soon.

The first ammunition I tried out was the Remington Express 155-grain hollow point. This is a, shall we say, "robust" round. I was able to stay on the paper at 10 yards, but the noise, kick and flash were very noticeable. The grouping was "acceptable at best" in that I could cover my eight-shot test strings (one full magazine) with my fist (roughly a 4"x4" square), and the rounds were evenly spaced from each other. After two magazines full, I decided to go to the FMJ instead. The recoil was a bit uncomfortable. The Winchester Ranger ammunition was a mild round comparatively speaking. Less flash, less perceived recoil and I could fit the control string into a 2"x2" square at ten yards, with most shots touching each other. The Remington Express ammunition is better suited for outdoor use than home defense, as even with my hearing protection doubled up I thought it was excessively loud. With the amount of flash even out of a 5" barrel, you could probably use the Remington ammo as an ersatz flamethrower indoors. I wouldn't suggest it, though. The Express ammunition is also very dirty, leaving a lot of residue in the barrel. Fortunately, a bore snake stays in my bag at all times, so that got removed quickly. In all, the Remington Ammo is probably better for coyote or feral dog removal when hiking than it is for removing a two-legged predator from the confines of your own house.

The WinClean ammunition performed exactly like the control ammunition did. The eight-shot strings tore a ragged hole in the center of the target at 10 yards. I wasn't really impressed until I saw the spent brass on the ground. There was no residue on the outside of the case at all, and most of the casings were clean inside as well. If I hadn't seen the dent in the primer I would have mistaken it for a new case. I'll say this much: if Winchester starts selling those bullets and primers as reloading components, I'll buy them. I haven't ever seen such a complete burn of powder and little or no residue. Even the barrel was clean after two magazines' worth. I never get that with Winchester's regular ammunition. It was even cleaner than with the Blazer Brass, and that's a pretty clean cartridge. If I can scrounge up a case or two of this, I'm going to start using it for my indoor matches exclusively, at least until my reloading press and equipment is set up. Then I'll be able to recycle my brass.

So, the results are in: Buy the Remington Express 155-grain JHP in .40 S&W if you have to, buy the WinClean 180-grain Brass-Enclosed Base because you want cleaner brass and less exposure to lead vapor. The .22LR will be covered in the next post.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

No Bowling Night Report for tonight. I wasn't really in the right mindset to go shooting tonight. I'll probably go tomorrow night.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bowling Night Report 3/19/09

This was one of the trickier setups I've seen in a while. One of the steel targets had two disappearing targets hooked to it, so that they triggered simultaneously. I didn't do so well on those. In fact, it was one of my worst weeks overall. I got the results from the shoot at PASA Park this week, too. Well, at least they take my best four scores... too bad I have so few good ones.

More practice is all it takes. Fortunately, all the ranges here are pretty good for practice. I just need to schedule more time. With spring finally arriving today, I'll have more time to shoot. That's a very good thing as far as I'm concerned.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bowling Night Report 3/12/09 and BONUS! PASA Park USPSA Event 3/15/09

Well, the usual match night sucked. I had a lot of procedural errors that wrecked a decent shoot. There's really not much to talk about there.

Saturday I began my search for ammunition. The Wal-Mart I Never Go To For Ammunition, so named for the fact it never has anyone at the counter, was my first stop, as the other two Wal-Marts in town were bare of .40 S&W ammunition. I saw one box in there of 50 rounds, and thought that might be all there is in town. Thankfully, after about 30 seconds of waiting, a clerk came over and helped me with the purchase. Even better he offered to check in the back for me for any other ammunition that came off the truck. And so, he came back with a case of Winchester's "White Box" ammunition. I took the case, since I'm running low. Anyway, I was pretty shocked that any .40 was able to be found in town. I even managed to pick up some more .22LR, as that was also out of stock in a few places. I'm trying out Remington's hollow point "Golden Bullets." The hollow points are much deeper than the Federal or CCI hollow points. That will be interesting to see if there's much of a difference than what I'm used to using.

Sunday, I get up at 5am. So you all know, I never get up at 5 in the morning unless I'm sick and can't sleep. I stopped doing that when I left the Air Force. I got everything ready by 6:30, taking my 1911 from STI to use for the matches. I'm happy that my parish has Saturday evening Mass. It would make attending events like this much more difficult. I was mostly excited about the match having four classifier stages on the schedule. That's four more steps towards getting ranked.

So, I get on I-72 westbound from Springfield and take it all the way to the Barry exit to get to PASA Park. It took about 90 minutes to get there, which isn't too bad. PASA is kind of hidden, but that's okay. It's a great place to shoot from what I've seen of it. They've also got a 600-yard range for rifles in addition to their multiple bays for practical shooting and cowboy action shooting and the 200-yard handgun range for the Masters shooting competition. Yes, the competitors shoot pistols (really bolt actions built on pistol frames and single-shot pistols) at ranges up to 200 yards. They use modified rifle calibers for the most part.

I arrived at around 8:15am and helped with the finishing touches on one of the stages shortly after I arrived. I figured that since I was a guest there, I should lend a hand where possible. I noticed that there were a lot of steel targets in the classifiers. Most steel targets are removed in our usual classifiers. I stumbled on those stages, but still did decently enough, I suppose. The weather was perfect, too. It was cold until the sun got a little higher up in the sky and then it was perfect shooting weather. The roads were a little muddy but I figured they would be. That's what why you keep old shoes around, kids. You never know when you'll be trudging from one shooting stage to the next in vaguely muddy terrain. I met up prior to the match with a good-sized crowd from Springfield Tactical Shooters, my local USPSA club. I wasn't sure who was going to be there.

My point of aim wasn't completely off unless I rushed. I also made a good choice to strip the bumper pads off of some 10-rounders that haven't worked too well for me and placed the bumpers on my 8-round magazines. Considering that we were dropping them into gravel, those made a big difference to me. No failures to feed and no failures to fire and no failures to eject means I had a really good day of shooting.

Still, though, if you get a chance to shoot at PASA, by all means take it! Also, if you get a chance to go to the Single Stack Classic at the end of April, take that opportunity as well to see some of the best shooters in the sport. I won't be there, as I'm not quite at that level of competition. Someday, though, I'll compete. Probably just not this year.

As for those 10-round magazines, I have an idea as to how to use them for their intended purpose. It just might take some time to get that done properly.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Bowling Night Report, 3/5/09

The worst part of IPSC shooting is when you've settled into a nice rhythm and something stops. I brought my pistol in line with one of the steel targets and fired... and nothing. The spent case failed to eject, so I had to cycle the slide by hand and try again. Breaking rhythm messed up my sight picture enough to where I missed and had to reload on the stage.

My re-shoot was better. 5 targets in a little over 6 seconds is okay, but not great. I spent too much time trying to get a perfect sight picture on the center target, but those steel popper targets fell quickly. On the steel targets, the difference between my XD40 and my 1911 is like night and day. I just miss the extra four shots of the XD40's magazine compared to the 8-round magazine of the 1911. The 1911 fits in my hand better and is more accurate because of it. So it's a trade-off, I suppose.

Ah well. The range nice and warm for once. I'm sick of winter and its effect on the indoor range, which makes the range cold and miserable. Of course, I'll probably feel the same way when summer humidity hits, as my safety glasses tend to fog up on the worst days. Still, though, it will be warm. I can deal with warm.