Firsts and Fifths

There has been a lot going on, enough so that I haven’t had time to catch up with the updates…

I placed in a major match for the first time ever. Fifth place, but placed!

In following tradition, here’s a semi-artsy photo of my award and still-dirty gun. 🙂

Regardless of the semi-miserable cold and muddy conditions, the pistol has a tiny bit of mud on the grip and the Polycase Inceptor ammo burns pretty cleanly.

The ammo ran absolutely trouble free, too. As expected, there was a bit of conversation at the chrono table and mock resistance as they had a nice chart of common bullet weights and the minimum velocities required to meet power factor. There was not a chart entry for 97 grains, so a bit of math ensued. 1288 fps required; 1388 and 1401 achieved for 135 PF.

It never really *rained*, but we had mostly constant drizzle from about 9AM until about 1PM. For me, the peak of misery was around Stage 12. By then, no targets were dry, no tape would stick and every step added a pound of sticky mud to the bottoms of my shoes.

The start position for stages is often marked with foot-shaped cutouts for the shooter to stand on. Believe it or not, there is a set of them in this picture.

Match results were not too shabby, especially considering my recollection of my previous run at Silver Dollar in 2014. However, upon closer analysis, the 2014 scores were maybe not as bad as I remember. Raw and final times were actually similar, though the rules in effect in 2014 meant that it took 137 points down to be similar to only 80 points down in 2017.

In any case, first wood is still first wood and I am very happy about it and the weather only made it more valuable.

The rain was gone, but it was pretty windy on Sunday, too.

In preparation for Silver Dollar (and just because), I ordered a Zev trigger for my Glock 20. I ordered the Fulcum Professional Ultimate package, which is the non-adjustable version with all the related parts. It was hoped that it would arrive in time for me to install it and shoot in a local match or two before Silver Dollar. When it still had not shipped by the Thursday before the match, I contacted Zev about it. Turns out that they were backordered from their supplier on parts for the non-adjustable trigger. They upgraded my order to the adjustable version and credited the shipping charges. While it was the Monday after the match before I received the trigger, I ended up with the arguably better version for less money.

It took longer to clean the gun before installing the trigger than it did to install the trigger. Well, unless you count the time spent looking for the tiny striker spring cup half that I dropped. It seems like it might be a good idea to have spares of those.

The stock trigger on that particular pistol is/was well polished and broken in and had already been tweaked as much as possible, so the Zev trigger did not make much difference in the pull weight, 3 to 3.5 pounds. The new trigger does have a crisper release, a shorter reset and the trigger shoe itself is nice and wide and flat, so that 3 pounds feels like less. A lunchtime trip to the range on Tuesday revealed that it works very well.

I have a new toy, er, tool. I have wanted a force gauge for a while. I have a couple of practical uses for one, but mostly I am just curious about everything and want to know.

This one is a Reed SD-6020, a 20 Kg capacity force gauge. Anyone of a less scientific bent would probably call it an overpriced digital scales. 🙂 Due to what I can only call a fluke in the pricing structure at Amazon, this unit was listed at about $144 instead of the usual $535. The listing did not indicate that it was used, though admittedly, there was none of the usual new device additional packaging, like poly bagging around the device, and it had a battery installed. Doesn’t matter to me!

The first practical use I have for it is to verify the weight of the recoil springs in my various pistols. For proof of concept, I took a quick measurement of the stock spring in my Glock 19. I used the hole in the front of the slide as a guide and pressed the gauge against the other end of the captive spring assembly. I found that just short of full compression, it read just under 16 pounds, which is about what was expected. I have not found a lot of really authoritative info about the stock spring specifications other than in the description of aftermarket parts. There does seem to be a consensus that 16 pounds is likely.

I could not remember whether the reduced spring I have been using in my G20C for low recoil 40S&W was the 11 pound or the 13 pound. Holding the slide in a rubber jaw vice freed up both hands to compress the spring, and after several attempts, I was able to compress the spring then carefully use my left hand to snap a pic without moving the gauge two millimeters and having the spring launch across the room.

I took several measurements that ranged from 13.49 to 14.1 pounds. I presume those could be within expected tolerances of 13 pounds or maybe it’s really a 14 pound spring that was in the 13 pound package. It is definitely not 11 pounds. With the 11 pound spring, I may be able to experiment with ammo running less than 125PF, particularly if I want to tweak ammo for use in a BUG gun, assuming I can adjust my Kahr CW40 to comply with the new rules. In any case, I will locate and measure all the recoil springs I have. Expect a future post on the subject.

Last Wednesday was the first Low Light match at Defender Outdoors and so far as I can tell, the first one at all since August 2016. Except for one stage which allowed a rail mounted light on a gun, I held my light in my left hand and shot strong hand only. There were a couple of misses, but generally, it was not a bad plan.




Fine Tuning

I am pretty comfortable with my current 40S&W load 180 grain bullets on 4.35 grains Winchester 231. It’s a pretty solid 800 fps for 144 power factor and 256 ft/lbs muzzle energy. It runs the pistol well, too.

I set up the chronograph and got ready to play with the powder measure. I threw 10 loads of powder, weighed it and divided by 10. When I set the measure up, this method showed the charge to be 4.35 grains. It came out this time as 4.25 grains, so I ran it again and got 4.25 grains again. Now, the whole assembly had been moved to the loaner press and back, so a small change might not be surprising. Then again, I should have spot checked it at least after each move. Next time.

So, I reduced the charge, weighed it and failed do document the weight for it and the next three charges. At least I did document the average velocities for 5 shots.

773 fps = 139PF = 239 ft/lbs

762 fps = 137PF = 232 ft/lbs

750 fps = 135PF = 225 ft/lbs

735 fps = 132PF = 216 ft/lbs

I landed on 3.85 grains for 724 fps, 130PF & 209 ft/lbs. I ran about 20 rounds through the chrono to verify that it was stable at this velocity.

I like to experiment with loads and bullet weights, so I left the charge at 3.85 grains, but loaded ten 155 grain plated bullets. The average came out to 643 fps, 99PF & 142 ft/lbs. As it turns out, 142 ft/lbs is not enough to run the pistol. In fact, it exactly zero rounds ejected, though a couple did open the slide a bit. The brass showed soot smudging on the outside. I think the surprisingly large drop in velocity and the sooty cases indicates that the pressure dropped significantly, maybe because the 155 grain bullet is quite a bit shorter than the 180, but I have them seated to the same OAL, leaving a larger space in the cartridge.

The 165 grain poly-coated bullets did a little better, 748 fps, 123 PF & 205 ft/lbs. The pistol ran just fine, but that power factor is a little too low. I should be able to tweak the charge for all those 155 and 165 grain bullets I have left from when I started loading 180’s. 🙂


Dillon Delivers

Man, you can’t believe anything those guys say. First, they say it will be 2-3 weeks turnaround. They received my press on April 4 and I got FedEx notification that it was shipped back on April 7. THEN, FedEx says it will arrive on the 12th, but I had it on the 11th. How am I supposed to complain now?!?

If you look really close, you can see the color difference on the replacement crank and links. The frame has some slight yellowing on it, making it ever so slightly greenish.

There was a list of the parts replaced, including the clearly labeled primer shield and many small bits.

Before I reinstalled my press, I cleaned up the borrowed press within an inch of it’s life.



Swapping the presses out was largely trivial; afterall, I’ve done it a few times now.

I added one accessory that I had ordered before the old press broke, a JW Systems Primer Track. This is basically just a replacement primer track bearing (which is a steel plate that sits under the primer slide) but it has a ball bearing roller added to help stabilize the primer slide.

As expected, I did not have to adjust anything on the top end to begin loading again. It just works, ya know.

I had the afternoon off last Friday and one of the things I tackled with that free time was to disassemble a pretty good sized bin of loading errors. They were mostly 40S&W and a lot of them predate the Dillon press, and thus most of them were primer issues from the Lee Press. I used a Hornady collett puller for most of them. That is by far the quickest way to pull a lot of bullets. Once adjusted for what you are pulling and getting into the groove, it’s about 5 seconds per cartridge.

Some of the primers were crushed into the pockets crossways and thus would not slide into the shell holder for the collett puller, so I had to use the intertia puller. Happily only a dozen or so needed this special care.

I pulled a few 155’s, a few 165’s and a bunch of 180’s.

The scrap brass bucket grew, too.

Here’s a couple hundred grains of TitePowerWinGroupPistol231.

Between the damaged brass and the damaged bullets, I had roughly what was needed for about 150 fresh cartridges. 🙂

While I had the interia puller in hand, I tried once again to pull one of the polymer bullets from the Inceptor lead free ammo and much to my surprise, it worked this time! I didn’t count, but it was about 50 strikes of the puller against the end of a 2×4 in the framework of my workbench. The previous unsuccessful attempt was struck against the concrete floor. Maybe the deadblow effect worked better than the rigid bounceback.

As I plan to shoot this ammo in the upcoming Silver Dollar Championship, I think I will keep this bullet or see if I can pull a couple others to include with my chrono samples. I have already spoken with the Match Director about the possible difficulties in pulling a bullet for the test and he said to bring it on!

Break Me Off A Piece Of That….

Last week, I’m crankin’ out some 40S&W, minding my own business when suddenly…..

It was sudden, but not violent. No snap, no pop. The handle just twisted a little weird. My first though was that the nut had worked loose, but I put a little pressure on it to test that and there is was, swinging in the wind by the handle.

I contacted Dillon about the replacement part, which even if I had to purchase it would only be $40. Of course, they intended to replace it under warranty. The only question was which version I had. One connects with E-clips, which you can see in that picture above. The other has locknuts.

While I had him on the line, I asked about their (legendary) refurbishment service. It’s only $68 to send them the whole press and they will repair and update everything on it, with about a 3 week turnaround. I’m in!

During the week, I removed it from the strong mount, removed the bits that they didn’t need for the work and boxed it up. It actually shipped on Thursday.

Meanwhile, a friend has a spare RL550 that needs a little work of its own. I arranged to borrow it in exchange for the work it needs. He learned the hard way that you can’t keep your reloader in the same enclosed space with pool chemicals.

The rust on the main shaft was enough to prevent it from operating. I used carburetor cleaner and steel wool to remove most of the surface rust.

I put it in the ultrasonic.

I love the way the muck flows off the parts.

Unfortunately, I was in a bit of a rush from this point forward and did not take any more pictures of the progress until it was finished. Really, it was just more cleaning except that there was still some dimensional enlargement from the rust on the end of the shaft. I used a fine file to gently draw file the part, being very careful to avoid causing any flat spots.

I put it all back together, with my handle, dies and shell plate.

I loaded 4 rounds just to test it out and it’s ready to go!

When I get my own press back from Dillon, I’ll just swap it around and return this one better than when I got it!

A Practical Application of the Conservation of Momentum

There are two main reasons to hand load your own ammunition. Most people approach reloading for reasons of economy. All situations being otherwise equal, reloaded ammo designed around cost tends to run about half of what commercial ammo might cost. There are firms selling commercially remanufactured ammunition for close to what you can load your own for, particularly if you watch for sales and/or free shipping is offered, so if you are reloading for economy only, reloading may not actually be your best option. After all, for $600+ investment in a press, accessories and reloading components makes that first box of ammo run at least $12 a round. It gets much better from there, though.

The other, perhaps even more compelling, reason is to customize ammunition performance. Action shooters benefit from controlled recoil for faster followup shots and consistency. While economy *is* a factor, it is custom performance that drives my reloading/handloading efforts.

There are revolvers and other semiautomatic cartridges in use, but the majority of action shooting competition is done with semiautomatic pistols in 9mm, 40S&W or 45 Auto. The focus of this blog article is about the effects of customizing recoil in semiautomatics for the competitive shooter.

There are energies released and absorbed throughout the operation of a semiautomatic pistol (or just ‘pistol’ from here on). One could go completely crazy plotting them all. The displacement of a 1911 in reaction to the swinging hammer would be mathematically predictable and physically measurable. It would likely be buried in the noise, but it could be accounted for. Indeed, sniper rifle design accounts for dampening or reacting such forces because in that application, it can matter.

The forces that matter most to action shooting reloaders are the actions and equal but opposite reactions that are initiated by firing the cartridge. These are also the big forces, big enough that we can largely ignore everything else.

Power Factor is a simple measurement that action shooting sanctioning bodies use to ensure their competitors meet a minimum expected level of power. Power Factor (PF) is calculated simply by multiplying the bullet weight in grains by it’s velocity in feet per second, dividing by 1000 then discarding the digits to the right of the decimal. For example, a 165g bullet going 900 fps would be 165 x 900 = 148,500. Dividing by 1000 and discarding the digits to the right of the decimal is practically the same as just dropping the comma and those digits, PF = 148.

Common minimum power factors are 125 and 165. For example, in IDPA, all semiautomatic divisions except CDP is 125 and CDP is 165. In USPSA, PF is a scoring modifier in some divisions, like a golf handicap. Shooting major PF (165 or more) reduces the penalty of non-A zone hits.

Power factor, or momentum, is a simple and linear method that is adequate for comparing different ammo between different shooters. Recoil is a more personal effect, felt by only the shooter. Less recoil generally means an easier to control firearm. Ideally, you have the least possible recoil while meeting the minimum required power factor.

Recoil is really the reactive force to the bullet’s acceleration. The easiest way to measure that is by the velocity of the bullet, presuming it has lost a negligible amount of energy between the muzzle and the measuring field. Scientifically, they are different things. Practically, they are close enough.

Momentum is derived from a fixed mass moving at a fixed velocity. Muzzle energy is derived from the acceleration of the mass. Remember that acceleration is any change in velocity, not just speeding up but also slowing down.

Unlike momentum, the relationship between muzzle energy and velocity is thus not linear.

Bullet weight (in grains) X (velocity ^ 2) / 2 X 32.174 X 7000

The 7000 is to convert grains to pounds and 32.174 is the acceleration of gravity in fps. Note importantly that the velocity is squared.

The same 165g bullet above at 900fps has 296.7 foot pounds of energy.

Here is where the handloading magic starts to happen. Raise the bullet weight to 180g and obviously the PF and the muzzle energy will also rise, 162 and 323.7 ft/lbs respectively. However, now you can keep the heavier bullet, but slow it down. At 825fps, the 180g bullet still makes 148 power factor, but now the muzzle energy is only 242 ft/lbs. Keep reducing the velocity to 695 fps and you get exactly 125 PF but only 193 ft/lbs energy. That translates to 35% reduction in recoil while still meeting minimum power factor.

Now, shooting for exactly 125 PF doesn’t allow for the inevitable differences in powder drops or ambient temperature, either of which can make any given bullet run faster or slower. It will likely be the ones that the match officials chronograph that will be slower, so it’s best to build in a little margin to allow for that.

You can also reverse that logic and load up a 9mm bullet hot enough to be major PF. A 147g bullet at 1125 fps meets 165 power factor, but at the cost of 413 ft/lbs of recoil (and probably dangerously high pressures in the cartridge). You can go nuts and push a 115g bullet at 1440 fps for 165PF, but a whopping 529 ft/lbs energy, which is at the lower end of the 357 Magnum neighborhood. Plus, I’m pretty sure neither your warranty nor health insurance will cover that.

The other thing to consider is that unless you are shooting a Desert Eagle, your semiautomatic pistol is probably *powered* by recoil. Turn it down too much and there may not be enough energy left to operate it, especially if some of that energy is also lost in a loose grip.

There is a reasonable solution for that: lighter recoil springs. I had to tune the recoil spring weight in my Glock 20. Using a LoneWolf 40S&W conversion barrel, heavier bullets and lighter loads, I was able to greatly reduce recoil while meeting power factor, but before I could get all the way down, I started having stovepipe jams or sometimes, it would just fail to extract at all. The stock spring on the G20, and I think all base models, is 17 pounds. The G20 and G21 have heavier slides, as well. So the stock spring and big slide took more energy than was left after throwing a bullet downrange. I ordered a 13 pound and an 11 pound spring, each with a stainless guide rod. Turns out the 11 pound spring runs best with my softest 180g handloads, which is 4.2g Winchester 231 (or Hodgdon HP38; they are essentially the same powder from the same manufacturer, with different labeling). I can sometimes run the pistol on as low as 3.9g W231, but with the occasional jam and it’s only about 119PF.

One should be be able to determine mathematically what weight spring would be needed to run a given slide with a given ammo power. I may tackle that just for the fun of it.



The stock trigger on my Glock 19 can be fairly described as harsh. The measured pull is only about 6 pounds, but the feel is not nice, particularly compared to the G20 and G21. To me, it feels like you are bending a piece of plastic inside and it finally breaks. All three are Gen 3 pistols, with only the slightest trigger work done, replacement of the connector. The G20 and G21 have had many thousands of rounds through them, so there is probably some degree of surface polishing having thus been done.

I decided to try an aftermarket trigger. I ordered a Pyramid trigger from

I chose the Complete package for $180 because it included alternate striker springs and the firing pin block plunger, but no lightened striker. Personally, I am not sure the addition of a lightened striker is worth $70 more. Perhaps one day I will add that, but that package is roughly half the cost of the pistol.

The installation is pretty straight forward. The trigger assembly itself requires driving out the three pins for the locking block, the trigger and the trigger housing and basically dropping the replacement parts in and putting the pins back.

This kit also comes with a replacement firing pin block plunger and spring and a selection of striker springs. I opted for the lightest, a 2 pound spring. Again, installation is pretty straight forward, especially if you have ever taken the slide apart for deep cleaning, which is a good idea while it’s apart anyway. There are many resources online describing the details. It is not difficult, but there is a tricky first step to it.

Once the striker is out, there is a delicate operation to removing the spring. It would be wise to consider doing this with the striker within a plastic bag to retain the spring retainer cups. Assembly is basically in reverse order.

The black trigger with a red safety pawl just looks right to me. The trigger is available in a large variety of color combinations.

The pull weight of the trigger is not much less, 5 pounds compared to the stock 6 pounds, but the feel is a thousand times better. Much shorter pull, much sharper release and a short reset. The trigger shoe is wider and flatter than stock, so it feels like less than 5 pounds. I am looking forward to shooting it.

While I was working on the pistol anyway, I decided to address a minor irritation that is not necessarily caused by this pistol, but it did bring it to my attention. Until I got this pistol and shot it in a match, I had not noticed that frequent shooting has caused an accumulation of terminally undifferentiated keratinocytes in the outermost layer of the skin on the middle finger of my right hand.

Since it does what a callus is supposed to, protect that spot from repeated friction, I had not noticed it. However, the Glock 19 grip is smaller than the G20/21, so that spot lands a little differently. The same spot on the bottom of the G19 trigger guard hits the edge of the callus and it’s kinda uncomfortable by the end of a match. Rather than wait however long it will take for the callus to expand, I decided to smooth off the trigger guard.

Although the mold seam is clearly visible here, that’s not what causes the discomfort but rather the nearer edge of the trigger guard.

I used primarily 1 inch wide 150 grit sanding strips to reform that edge, then smoothed and polished it with finer strips and sanding pads.

I haven’t fired it yet, but it certainly feels better in the hand.

Lead Is Bad, M’k….


At some point, whether we think we want it or not, lead ammo will likely be banned, probably indirectly. The Yankee Marshal had a couple of videos that make a pretty good point about the firearms industry, which includes consumers of the firearms industry, self-regulating away from lead to let us drive that agenda rather than being driven by that agenda.

There are quite a few lead-free options in defense ammo, mostly made of copper. Copper prices have come down a bit, but there still isn’t any range ammo for high volume competitors.

There is no arguing that it is really hard to beat the cost of poly coated or copper plated lead ammo. It’s cheap. 1000 rounds of plated or poly coated ammo can be less than $100, sometimes much less than $100 bucks.

In following some information alluded to in TYM’s videos, I found Polycase Ammo’s RNP ammo. The RNP projectile is made of a polymer mixed with copper powder to add weight. It doesn’t add a LOT of weight because the similar 9mm and 40 S&W Ruger ARX bullets, manufactured for Ruger by Polycase, that I found at Cabelas are only 65 grains and 97 grains, respectively. Even the 97 grain 40S&W is light enough that I could not pull the bullet with an inertia bullet puller. I whacked it pretty hard and the bullet didn’t budge. Perhaps I will have better luck with a collet puller.

I did remove them from their cases with considerable alacrity using Glock pistols. Th 40S&W ARX out of the G20/Lonewolf is fast, averaging 1479 fps through my chronograph the 9mm (G19) trucks along at 1583 fps. The light weight bullets have to haul butt to generate enough foot-pounds to work a pistol slide. The 9mm ARX comes in plenty hot to cycle the pistol, but at 102PF, it is too light for non-BUG IDPA sanctioned competition. The 40S&W ARX does. It makes 143 power factor right out of the box. The RNP is expected to run about 133.

Both ARX rounds tore pretty impressive ruts in the ground and compared to the low velocity RNFP I usually put through the chronograph, I got splattered with ejecta.

In the interest of at least checking it out, I ordered 500 rounds of Polycase RNP in 40 S&W from LAX Ammo, in addition to the Ruger ARX at Cabelas. The RNP from LAX arrived today.

Concurrent with my order, I contacted Polycase Ammo to ask about handloadable projectiles for sale and, while the reply was basically, “Please wait”, the guy was very nice and revealed that I am not the only person pressing them for projectiles:

I have a bunch of friends that are competition shooters and they are all wanting to know when the reload portion of our ammunition will be available and I have to tell them all to be patient.

That’s fine for them, but I want it NOOOOOOWWWWWW!

In any case, I expect to shoot the RNP in this Wednesday’s match at Defender Outdoors…

Too Busy Shootin’ To Blog

Ok, well, maybe that isn’t completely the case. The ‘too busy’ part is, though.

Since my last bit about cutting some weight off the RIA 2011, the new 2017 IPDA Rulebook has been published. For the most part, the new rules are an improvement. At the very least, there are substantially *fewer* of them; the 2017 rulebook is 18 pages shorter. More on that later, but the maximum weight limitation of 43 ounces still applies, but the prohibition of an extended dust cover disappeared without a trace.

This is, of course, good news and bad news. For this pistol to comply with CDP rules, I still need to remove a total of 4.3 ounces, plus a bit of margin. It’s just that now I don’t have to hack the front of an otherwise useful mounting rail off as well. On the other hand, that *was* going to be some of the weight to trim.

One of the most important changes are in the dimensions of allowed firearms, particularly CCP and BUG. The CCP division box is now an inch shorter in length, but 5/8″ taller and barrels are allowed to be 4-3/8″ or less, which is 0.275 inches longer than before. Similarly, the BUG division box is 3/4″ shorter but 7/8″ taller and barrels are now only allowed to be 3-1/2″ or less.

Guess who’s Kahr CW40, a veteran of several BUG matches and which complies in every other way, has a barrel that is suddenly 0.1″ too long?

I had some 1/4″ aluminum plate cut to some specific dimensions to form IPDA boxes that can be disassembled and stowed in a range bag.

The box on the left is for SSP, ESP and CDP divisions. The width of the pieces establishes the 1-5/8″ depth of the box. With the pistol inside the frame, slide a straight edge across the top of the frame and if it clears the pistol, then the pistol complies.

The CCP and BUG boxes share the same 1-3/8″ depth, with different length and width dimensions. The slots in those pieces allows one set to be assembled into either size. As I ordered two sets of either size parts to be cut, there are enough pieces to make all three boxes at the same time.

My hope is to offer these for sale, but there is a caveat to their design that I need to address before they could be considered as a valid measurement device. When assembled, the fit of the slots allows a little movement of the pieces. The net effect is that rather than a rectangle, with 90 degree corners, it can become a parallelogram, basically a skewed rectangle. Since a pistol needs to fit inside of a rectangular box that is of a specific length, the bit of slop in the fit can let a pistol that is as much as 1/4″ too long to fit by allowing the muzzle to push the top left corner to the left and the grip to push the bottom right corner to the right.

The obvious fix is to clamp the parts square and weld the corners into that position. Of course, there goes being able to disassemble it and stow it in a range bag. I have some other thoughts about stabilizing the assembly, something like this clamp, but sized and applied to take advantage of extra material on the outside corners.

Unlike rendering a my BUG gun ineligible to compete, one very welcome aspect of the new rules is the addition of fault lines at cover points. From a tactical standpoint, a moving cover line as the shooter advances to address each target in tactical priority keeps the shooter more safely behind cover. On the other hand, while it seems like it would be objective, calling cover violations required a lot more active attention to the shooter’s body position and it often became a very subjective discussion about whether or not cover had been violated. As a shooter, now you can check the fault line once as you set and pay all your attention to shooting unless you need to move. As a Safety Officer, you can check the shooter’s position once and pay all your attention to other scoring and safety issues unless the shooter needs to move again. Better for everyone.

Somewhat controversial is the increase of the points down value from a half second to a full second. Ones are still less costly to your score than threes, which are less costly than misses, but all are twice as costly as they used to be. The emphasis is on accuracy over speed.

Related to the scoring cost is the new two-zone head section of the standard target. No longer is the entire head area zero down.




Antenna Tweakage

I had some time one afternoon to use the RigExpert analyzer to tune the ol’ 6BTV.

For tuning a trap vertical, I can’t imagine it being much easier. Between the analyzer and the DX Engineering tilt base, it only took about an hour.

The procedure is simple. Hook the RigExpert to the antenna, scan the band you want to tune, tilt the antenna down, adjust the length of the space between traps, repeat.

You do the highest frequencies first as that is the bottom of the antenna and will affect the lower frequencies higher up the antenna.

This antenna is pretty broad banded in all the small bands, which isn’t really that hard to do. It does make tuning a matter of moving the small peak to a more desirable spot, in my case, the lower ends of the band where JT65 lives. The charts are kinda dull for 10, 15, 20, 30 and 40 meters.

The nature of lower frequencies combined with an extra wide 80 meter band mean that its pretty hard to make an antenna that covers the entire band. This one is no different.

Since the bandpass is so peaky, I chose to try for the middle of the band.

Scanned the whole range the antenna can do:

Now, after all this, I need to get on the air some more…

Weight Reduction Plan

I had a little time on Sunday some more serious measuring of the RIA 45. In short, this pistol weighs 47.3 ounces and I need it to be under 43 ounces to be IDPA legal.

One bit of good news right off. The included full length stainless steel guide rod weighs 1.6 ounces. The standard guide rod from my Colt 1991A1 weighs 0.4 ounces. There’s 1.2 ounces essentially for free. The RIA with the standard guide rod and otherwise in IDPA equipment check condition came in at 46.1 ounces. 47.3 – 1.2 = 46.1! I love it when math works.

Not all the news is rosy. I thought the mainspring housing on the RIA pistol was steel and I had hoped to save a fairly significant bit of weight with a plastic part I had removed from the Colt. Unfortunately, it already has a plastic mainspring housing, so I will have to look elsewhere for 3.1+ ounces to trim.

The next big place to lose some material is under the grip panels. The frame is cast chromoly steel, 4140 to be exact, with 100 percent coverage under the grip panels.


This is a strong steel and I believe I can safely skeletonize this area of the frame without compromising the strength of the pistol.


This is very preliminary scribbling. The cross bar is an optional piece that I may elect to leave. I won’t know exactly how much weight this will remove until it is cut, but back of a napkin calculations look promising.

4140 weighs 0.284 lbs per cubic inch. The slabs to cut out are about 1 x 3 inches and the material is (from memory) about 1/10 inch thick. So…

2 cuts x 1 x 3 x 0.1 cubic inches x 0.284 lbs per cubic inch) x 16 oz / lb

2 x 0.3 x 0.284 x 16 = 2.7 oz

Because of it’s complex shape, calculating the weight of the cut off end of the dust cover is not quite as easy, but if it is 1 oz or more, I’m done.

If my math is questionable and if after all of the above the pistol is still overweight, I can carve on the magazine well funnel. This part is 2.7 ounces by itself, though discarding it would not look right and might draw undesired attention at the equipment check stage of a major match. However, the funnel is far beefier than it needs to be and I think I could carve enough out of it to help and it would probably look better. It has some rough and bulky edges. Some blending would look better.

When all this is done, I should refinish the pistol or at least the frame and magwell funnel.