Blistering Handloads

Literally…

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Coming up this weekend is the Bladetech Lone Star IDPA Championship. As is usually the case, I have not been able to get in as many matches lately as I wish. I missed matches Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday last week. With the match coming up, I needed to be sure I had an adequate supply of suitable ammo loaded.

The last time I did much loading was in June. We had the wreck, which pretty much killed off July and much of August for recovery, but when I did get to shoot, I had ammo loaded already.

My favorite 40S&W load for IPDA is 180g plated lead bullets from Xtreme Bullets propelled by 3.9g of Winchester 231. It’s a nice soft recoil, very controllable. I was, however, concerned that it might not make required power factor.

I set up my chronograph right outside the workshop door and fired 5 round test groups.

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The 3.9g load was pretty much exactly at 125 PF with average velocity of 697 fps. It takes 694 to make minimum, so that margin is just a little too close for comfort, unless I could guarantee identical performance on the chrono stage at Lone Star ūüôā

So, I turned the powder measure up a little. 4.2g was a reasonable step up, raising the average velocity about 100 fps to 792. This makes 142 PF, which is noticeably hotter than the 3.9g load, but still very comfortable and controllable and plenty of margin for chrono slop.

Having ooched the load up by¬†a comfortable margin, I started loading in earnest. Four and a half hours later, enough later for it to be¬†dark outside, I reached a stopping point at 800 rounds total.¬†My hands were tired, but I didn’t expect a blister. It developed overnight. Imagine if I didn’t have a roller handle.

This gives me enough ammo to have 300 for the match and 100 rounds per day for practice, assuming I can shoot somewhere each day. Of course, that first practice day will be with the 3.9g load, just to use it up.

Speaking of practice…

Last week, on one of the days I missed a match, I went to Shoot Smart and shot about 250 rounds. I used up all the 40S&W I had with me first, then just to play around some, I changed the slide and barrel out to 10mm. I wanted to shoot a magazine of normal semi-hot loads then a box of a much lighter 5.0g PowerPistol loads to compare the contrast. I shot a full magazine with 165 grain bullets propelled by (I think) 10g of BlueDot. That isn’t the hottest BlueDot load, but it’s no slouch, good for about 1100fps. I had changed magazines to the lighter load then before I shot again, I noticed something didn’t look right about the pistol.

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Some months ago, I was swapping slides and barrels around. The combination that ended up in my gear bag was my spare Glock 20 slide, with the stock Glock 20C barrel.

 

The Glock C models have ported barrels in order to use some of the gas produced by the cartridge to help compensate for recoil. Thanks to Oil The Gun for this awesome still from their video of a Glock 23C shot in the dark.

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All that gas vents upward in a V above the pistol, through matching ports in the slide.

Oops.

Note that I have the unported Glock 20 slide installed. That gas coming out of the ports on the barrel had to go somewhere and the dustcover offered the least resistance.

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The worst of the damage is most visible above. On the left side, the plastic is seen having stretched enough to distort the area and on the right, enough to crack the plastic. Perhaps on a steel pistol, the damage would not have occurred at all, but at least the damage appears to be only cosmetic.

I put the pistol in a sort of cold traction, clamped in a soft jaw vice with a cord pulling the rest of the frame over. Left overnight, this corrected the bend about 50%.

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I have verified with the match director for Lone Star that this should not be a problem with him or the safety officers. He recommended using a heat gun to do more correction, though.

My wife has an embossing heat tool, which is basically a heat gun with a pretty small nozzle, less than an inch. It makes a tightly controlled torrent of heat, which lends itself well to this task. Luckily, I am secure in my manhood because her’s is pink.

The frame is now even better, with the dust cover almost back in a line with the rails. It contracted a little more as it cooled and I was being very conservative with my adjustments. I also used the flat end of a drift punch to flatten the serial number plate from the inside, which will hopefully take away a little more of the tendency to spring back into the bent position. I will apply a little more heat for the final tweak.

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Normally, I use the 20C slide, mostly because the stainless 40S&W conversion barrel looks pretty cool through the ports, even when the pistol is dirty.

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That reminds me, must add Gun Scrubber to my shopping list…

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The good: The 1911 worked pretty well in its first match since the sights and Cerakote.

The bad: There is one exception in how well the 1911 worked.

The ugly:

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We were in a pretty serious wreck last month. Took out a utility pole and landed upside down. We crawled out and walked away, though not without non-life-threatening injuries. It put a hitch in our routine, to be sure. That Kia five-star crash rating was put to the test and we’re happy to say it was not found wanting.

So now that my back is not so ouchy, it was time to take the Colt¬†out to an IDPA match.¬†First time shooting this 1911 since it came back with new sights and Cerakote, with new magazines, factory ammo, shooting first time after back hurt, and we were shooting in the dark with flashlights….

What could possibly go wrong?

It worked very well, sights are dead on, had no feeding or ejecting issues. The one thing it did was that about half the time, the slide failed to lock back on an empty magazine. It cost me a second or two each time as there was a click and no boom.

I intuitively knew that the addition of the Cerakote might have some effects on dimensions. In thinking about it on the drive home, I recalled that on Wednesday evening when I was lubricating the pistol and otherwise making ready for the match, the slide stop lever was very difficult to remove. Obviously, it is equally likely to resist rotating as the pin is now a couple thousandths larger and the hole in the frame is a couple thousandths smaller.

I have verified that the slide lock release indeed does not move freely and the spring in the (new Wilson Combat) magazine is not strong enough to overcome the resistance. It should be easy enough to re-fit this piece.

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I kinda like the pistol being a little dirty from the match.

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The TruGlo TFX Pro sights for a Novak dovetail are physically smaller than the TFO sights on my Glock, which means less exposed fiber optic rod and in ambient light, they are not quite as bright. The tritium works well in the dark, however.

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I have new Hogue grips enroute as well.

He’s Young, He’ll Adjust

I had a pretty decent pass rate on ammo QA with the Lee Pro1000. I didn’t really keep any stats on it; I didn’t think I’d ever need to prove it out.

The new (to me) Dillon press had an even better rate, at least to begin with. When I did have a QA failure rate that crept up kind of unnoticed, I first blamed the brass, but in the last post I revealed that I had found the real reason, which on the surface was a loose nut. That loose nut may have been me, but the point is now I have the press all readjusted and probably even better than before.

I loaded a box worth of 40S&W night before last. If my goal is “a box of ammo”, I don’t particularly count them as I’m loading them, but I know what about a box of ammo looks like in the output tray. I happened to have loaded 59 rounds when I stopped. I put them, one at a time, into my gauge block and of the 50 rounds it holds, I had one that didn’t quite drop into the gauge block freely and it was towards the end of the block.

The thing is that I don’t think I have ever had 40-something rounds in a row drop freely into the gauge block, even when I thought the ammo QA process was going along swimmingly. This tells me that I have the press adjusted better than I ever have.

To verify the dimensions, I put the calipers on 10 fairly random rounds out of the finished box. Overall length was 1.125″ +/- 0.002″ and case mouth diameter was 0.419″ +/- 0.001″

The failed round was good on OAL, but read 0.422″ at the case mouth. This round did drop unimpeded into the actual chamber of the Lone Wolf barrel in the pistol, so I am confident that this particular degree of “failure” is not worth rejecting the round.

As for what I was loading, I finally ran out of Power Pistol, so I have put in my next experimental powder, Winchester 231. I bought a pound of it quite some time ago based on a recommendation for it as a soft shooting powder for 40S&W. They were right. With 3.7 grains pushing a 180 grain bullet, it was a joy to shoot in a match last night. I could probably reduce the charge even more, but I need to see what it’s doing on the chronograph first.

So joyous, in fact, that I made 6th overall in the standings again. That’s two weeks in a row. To fully disclose, a fair number of the club’s better shooters were down in Bellville for some match I couldn’t attend this time, and one particular Master class shooter had to leave early, so I might not have placed so well had they all been there. Doesn’t matter, 6th overall! ūüôā

Crushing It!

Over the years, I have had a few loaded cases that seemed “wrinkled” when they were done.

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This particular one is fairly extreme as most don’t have such a clearly defined fold in the brass.

Since they were infrequent, I have always presumed that there was only some case issue, such as a case that had been reloaded a coupla times too many and lengthened from repeated resizing. Of course, 40S&W is a bit more likely to have been bulged, which makes them lengthen even more when resized.

As I said, they were fairly rare. Lately, however, I have had a lot of them. I first blamed the brass, assuming it was just range brass that had been fired and reloaded a few times, but it got more and more frequent. I just set the press up to try a load with 3.7 grains of Winchester 231 and loading a whole box of 50 took 68 loaded rounds to complete because of 18 rounds with various degrees of this kind of damage, including this one:

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Well, duh, I finally started checking elsewhere and found it almost immediately. The lock ring on the bullet seating die was probably two turns free of the tool block and the die had simply worked down to being way too short. The fact that some rounds weren’t crushed is curious.

I am using Lee Precision dies, which I kept from my Lee Pro1000 press partly because I already had them in hand and also because the Lee factory crimp dies come highly recommended, no matter what press it’s on. I kept the 3 die set and added factory crimp dies for each caliber I load.

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The Lee lock ring (left) is an aluminum ring with an O-ring in a groove. Lee boasts thusly:

Lock Rings – ÔŅľFinger tighten – set and forget, they never move. Just be sure to always loosen your dies by turning the ring, not the die. These have become so popular that we sell thousands of lock rings to people who want to update other brands.

Admittedly, they have served me well on Lee presses, but there is a shoulder on the Dillon tool head that might keep the O-ring from working as Lee intends. I think this is probably what caused the ring to work loose.

Of course, I should have seen it long before it got that far out of adjustment, but in my defense, they have historically worked perfectly, so I had no reason to suspect them.

I already had a bunch of Dillon’s rings, which are also of a low profile, making them easier to work with a wrench in the close confines of the tool head. I reinstalled them, readjusted the press and, what do you know, 25 rounds error free. That’s significantly better than 1 in 4 rounds crushed beyond recovery.

 

Primer Pocket Swaging

A couple of years ago, I purchased a box of about 1000 rounds of 10mm brass, mixed large and small primer, at a discount. I ran them all through the tumbler together then manually sorted them out by primer size. A little more than half of them are small primers.

By original specifications, 10mm and 45 Auto brass is made to use large primers. There is a lot of ammo¬†being made today using small primers. Small primers on 10mm or 45 Auto are¬†not a¬†problem to load. It can actually be an advantage. It is easy for me to switch between loading 10mm with small primers and 40S&W designed with small primers because I don’t need to reconfigure the press for large primers.

Manufacturers are using more and more small primer in traditionally large primer applications in the quest¬†to make range ammo less harmful to the shooter, particularly those who practice indoors often, such as law enforcement and competitors. Lead styphnate is a common primer chemical component and avoiding the concentration of lead in your body is a pretty good idea, “Green” agenda notwithstanding. Non-lead primer compounds tend to be significantly more energetic; it takes less of it, so small primers make sense. Even with smaller charges in a small primer, these energetic compounds tend to drive themselves out of the primer pocket, which can lead to feeding and ejection issues and even present a danger to the shooter from gases escaping into a part of the pistol that normally doesn’t have any high pressure gases. These issues are addressed by crimping the primer into the case.

The manufacturer’s most common crimping process is basically to use a circular punch that is very slightly larger than the primer to deform the case brass around the primer to crimp the primer into the pocket.¬†When reloading ammo. step one on the press is a die that simultaneously resizes the case and presses the spent primer out. The crimp does not adversely¬†affect removal of the old primer. Unfortunately, the crimp does leave a burr around the primer pocket that makes seating a new primer iffy. Most often, the new primer is crushed as it snags on this burr rather than seating into the primer pocket.

That is why I still have this brass.

There are two basic ways to recondition primer pockets to remove this burr and render the case reloadable. One is to use a primer pocket reamer, a specially shaped cutting tool that physically removes the burr. I have a set of these reamers and they work quite well, though they are a little tedious to use in competitive pistol shooting quantities. It also permanently removes material from the case head, though not a large amount.

The other is to use a tool to swage the primer pocket back into the desired shape. Swaging in this case is a form of cold forging, shaping the metal under force without a significant loss of material. The process lends itself to a higher rate of production than the reamer and makes the discount price on such brass even more attractive.

In my case, I currently have several hundred rounds of small primer 10mm brass, but I am finding that small primer 45 Auto is a little less expensive than large primer. I suspect that will not always be the case as more lead-free priming becomes normal.

The RCBS tool is intended to be bench mounted, but for a quick test, I operated it as handheld. It is really easy to set up and adjust. The directions suggest sorting the brass by brand because the web of the case may be slightly different between manufacturers. Here is a crimped small primer 10mm case after depriming.

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Note the ridge, most¬†visible near the “FC NT” stamping.

After running the case through the primer pocket swager, the same case looks like this:

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While adjusting the tool, I managed to get a case slightly off center, which put a slight eccentricity on one side of the pocket, barely visible adjacent to “FC” in the picture below.

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I don’t think this is going to adversely affect primer seating at all because it’s only the very edge of the pocket affected, but I will pay close attention when loading this case.

Defensive Carbine & A L’il Surprise

We went back to Defender Outdoors this week for CTASA’s first Defensive Carbine match, or at least the first Defensive Carbine Match at Defender Outdoors. Like the PCC match, scoring was¬†basically 2017 IDPA scoring and penalty counts, 1 full second per point down and with modified shooting rules to accommodate rifles and carbines, like no concealment garment required, low ready start, rather relaxed cover margins, etc.

For this match, they allowed 5.56/223 and a .30 Carbine (a real 70 year old M1 Carbine) as well as pistol calibers and rimfires. I used my freshly returned to stock Ruger 10/22 with a BSA red dot optic.

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I had one ammo jam that I just cleared without analysis but otherwise, the rifle ran fine.

John ran the M1 Carbine, though it had an aftermarket folding stock and a red dot optic of some sort. He had some magazine troubles, so his¬†first stage (Stage 2) ran 86 seconds raw. He got it worked out, though, and I don’t think he had any more troubles with them. He did lose the dot in the sight. I happened to have the right batteries for it, so we got him back in business. Wish I’d had a spare for my own! (see below)

Between the age of this classic rifle and it’s great look, I just want one now!

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My own worst stage was my last, Stage 4. The light on my optic went out halfway through. I did ok on the array I was on at the time and the next one, which was close enough to point and shoot, but on the last array, at the farthest distance out, I did not hit them at all, 10 down, FTN, times 2. That was 30 whole seconds, plus a couple more down added to an otherwise decent raw time of 26.53.

In it’s normal around-the-house form, with a 3-9x scope mounted, it has Weaver¬†49711 see-through rings. For a rail mounted optic with a battery that may go out, this seems like a good idea. It’s on the way.

The bolt lock-back on the 10/22 is a little clumsy to release, requiring manipulation of the same cam/trigger needed to lock it back. Locking it back is quick and easy. Releasing it, not so much. There is a lot of info online about modifying the stock part, but chose to order a drop in aftermarket part that allows the more customary release by pulling the bolt the rest of the way back. I did not want to do the fairly detailed disassembly required to install it on the night before the match, so I will be putting it in soon.

Speaking of gun parts, I have my extended magazine release for the Glock 20C. It should¬†take only a few minutes to install. At that time, I will also reinstall the other parts I removed to restore it to¬†SSP division legal. ūüôā

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Finally, I have a little surprise about a pistol I haven’t talked about much in a long time.

Next time you see this one, it will look quite different…

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Especially around this vicinity…

1991-2

 

Little Things

Since the inaugural match at Defender Outdoors, I shot a classifier match and, in my mind anyway, I finally earned my Marksman classification. In my first classifier, I was shooting my 1911 for CDP/ESP. On one of the stages, the raw time on a string was not recorded and the match director and safety officers discussed it and¬†entered a reasonable time based on my performance in other strings, thus bringing my final score up from Novice to Marksman. In my second classifier, I had no suitable soft shooting ammo loaded and using factory 10mm Auto, I scored 5.11 seconds short of Marksman. Luckily, they don’t roll you back based on one poor classifier. Last Friday, however, I shot a natural and properly recorded 168.25, which is pretty much dead in the middle of the ESP Marksman range of 138.01 to 190.00, with my score dual applied to SSP & ESP.

For the classifier match, I used my Glock 20C configured to SSP legality, stock magazine release, stock slide release, a standard G20 slide and barrel, which of course means 10mm Auto. I used a fairly soft load, 180 grain RNFP plated lead bullets propelled by 5.5 grains of Power Pistol. Though I have not chronographed that particular combination, it is expected to be about 900 fps. It was boomy flashy load, but recoil was a nice push and very controllable. It was a fun round to shoot and my score mostly reflected that. My worst stage was the last stage, the longest distance. This stage has two strings that require a tactical reload, and at this point in my skilz, those cost me a lot of time. Also, my long distance accuracy was not great, 52 points down. I know what I need to work on. ūüôā

I finished out loading the last of a bag of 10mm Auto large primer brass with that load, then set the press back up for 40S&W. The 5.5 grain load on the 10mm was just from not changing the powder measure from the 40S&W, so I loaded up a couple boxes of those for the regular Thursday night match.

Turns out… ¬†When I chronographed that 5.5 grain load in 40S&W a few weeks back, I got about 870 fps on a chilly 50F morning. Shooting the match last night in the high 70’s, those rounds were substantially hotter than I remembered. Like, factory hot. Even so, I shot Stages 1, 2 and 4 with only 11 down total, but stage 3 got away from me a little, 15 down, mostly from some targets taken on the move.

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Having solved the magazine drop from the frame problem, I removed the aluminum base pads on all my magazines. I now have (2) Gen3 stock magazines and (5) Gen4 stock magazines, all of which drop free of the pistol when released. I had misplaced the original plates and ordered replacements from GlockStore. I also ordered another set of numbers from Dawson Precision, so they are all numbered now.

Somewhere, likely with the missing floor plates, I have an extended magazine release that I would like to install. When I ordered the replacement plates, I also ordered a magazine release, but I inadvertently ordered the standard replacement. They are only $4, hardly worth the effort to return, so I will call it a spare. ūüôā An actual extended release is enroute, though it is not a $4 one.

 

Defender Outdoors Inaugural IDPA Match

Last night was the first Cross Timbers Action Shooting Association IDPA match held at Defender Outdoors in Fort Worth.

Defender Outdoors is a new and impressive facility a short drive north of downtown Fort Worth. They also have a nice web store. Unfortunately, I was running a little late from work, so I did not get to wander the retail store, but I will make a trip over there soon for that specifically.

There are several indoor ranges in the facility, but the match was held in the large, clean and well lighted 12 lane 25 yard pistol range.

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Acoustics were interesting. The bullet traps are horizontal funnels with a very low angle of incidence, with no rubber chunks covering them. The ceiling is angled plates with a covering of acoustic tiles. Even with the acoustic tile, it is a fairly hard room, sound-wise. Modest 9mm loads boomed and my soft shooting but flashy 10mm sounded like the shotgun in Doom.

My shooting wasn’t terrible. All the tips I picked up from the class are not completely habit yet, but as long as I remembered them, I did pretty well. My only procedural error was a Fail To Neutralize¬†for getting two 3’s on a target. Overall, I was number 18 out of 27.

One thing I certainly need to practice is reloading. It was tactically advantageous to perform a tactical reload with retention on Stage 4 and it felt like it took me 3-1/2 minutes. Then on Stage 3 (shot in that order due to squading), I managed to pinch my left pinky when I did a mag change. Not a major injury by any means, but bleeding is an option best avoided.

The pistol and ammo performed flawlessly, which made me really happy since I had not gotten to test fire this particular load beforehand. I loaded about 250 rounds of Xtreme 180 grain RNFP copper plated bullets propelled by 5.5 grains of Power Pistol and Winchester WLP primers. It was flashy and boomy, but it was not particularly loud, or at least not like a full power load might have been. I will chronograph these soon, but imagine it will clock in the high 800 to low 900 fps range. In the fairly unlikely event that the Power Pistol load failed to operate the pistol, I had 100 rounds of 155 grain BlueDot loads, which have been tested and are also actually pretty light.

Speaking of Winchester WLP primers, I had what I presume was a factory packaging defect. One tray of primers from the middle of a brick of 1000 was only half full, exactly 50 primers. That is the first time I’ve that happen with any primers, including the several thousand Winchesters that I have loaded.

WLP-lot

I chose this time to load a soft shooting 10mm because there is a classifier match this Friday and I would like to post a score for SSP and ESP, which requires a more stock pistol than my G20 running a 40S&W conversion barrel. I typically use the G20C slide and a stainless steel Lone Wolf conversion barrel. It has a nice sporty look.

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It is especially dressy now that I have filled the lettering on the slide.

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In any case, pesky rule 8.1.7.1 says no compensators of any type including hybrid or ported barrels and while 8.2.2.1.5 says that firearms originally sold as compensated/ported models may be used in ESP with noncompensated/nonported barrels installed, 8.2.1.4.8 says ported firearms with non-ported barrels installed cannot be used in SSP.

As luck would have it, I have a stock G20 slide and barrel and the G20C uses the same frame, so other than the serial numbers not matching, the combination builds a stock Glock 20.

There is, however, one departure from stock that I will need to address. I put the “extended” magazine release on the pistol.¬†ext-mag-release

An argument could be made as to whether or not it makes much difference, but per rule 8.2.1.4.2, it does count as an excluded modification for SSP pistols. I will see if I can find the original and reinstall it before the classifier, which really means reinstall it tonight. If not, I will just have to shoot ESP and get my SSP next time.

Maybe it will be with the missing stock magazine floor plates. I have some aftermarket units, which are allowed in¬†SSP but their added weight is pretty close to marginal. Since I found the reason my magazines weren’t dropping free, I don’t need the weights on there anyway.

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Rifle Shopping

My lovely wife has gotten interested in getting her own rifle, probably a 22. This is very exciting news for me, so this weekend, we shopped at four common places for one.

On Saturday, we were going to Cabelas for minnows anyway, so that was a natural starting point.

I like Cabelas for most things, but I have had mixed results when I have had to consult with any of their personnel. Friendly and knowledgeable generally, but at the firearms counter on a busy Saturday, with NASCAR in the neighborhood, it could have been a better experience. Nothing really wrong with how we were treated or anything, but felt a little like we were interrupting his lunch or something.

The primary criteria is that she can comfortably lift and hold the firearm. Action, capacity, etc, is definitely secondary to fit.

We found that the Mossberg Plinkster 702 (which they had only in a pink camo) looks pretty promising. Also found in the used side was a beautiful bolt action 17HMR with a very nice scope. It’s nearly $500, so I’m sure it wont be on the final list, so I didn’t record the model. I am almost sure, however, that it was a Savage 93R17 BVSS¬†with a scope. It sure was purdy.

Next on our regular rounds was WalMart, where we found a very helpful gentleman in the sporting goods department. In addition to a $99 non-pink-camo Plinkster, they had a Remington 597 with factory included scope. This was the most comfortable to hold, though it was a little bit on the heavy side. Because they were handy and we had his undivided attention, we also looked at some centerfire rifles, just to compare really. Bolt action 5.56mm and 243 Winchesters were the best candidates, even though we did keep coming back to 22s.

On Sunday, we went to Academy and found pretty much the same things, though prices were all a little higher than WalMart. I also got to see and hold a KelTec SUB-2000.

There is a new Gander Mountain store, open only about six months now, that we had not yet been into. The firearm guy there was equally friendly and helpful as the guy at WalMart, but with much more inventory. Turns out they price match *and* they offer something I have not seen anywhere, an extendable warranty on firearms that covers damages beyond normal wear and tear. Generally, firearms are ‘all sales final’, but by purchasing Summit Protection Plan with your firearm, repairs and even replacement is under warranty. Add in price matching and it seems likely that we may purchase from them.

A recurring theme emerged amongst all the salesmen. They all very highly recomended the Ruger 10/22, in all its variations.