Side by Side Basic Gun Inspection

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Waxing Guns

by Larry Potterfield

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Altruism and Ruddy Ducks

The View from a Hunt: on Altruism and Ruddy Ducks

Holly Heyser

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Selecting Barrels

Selecting Barrels

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The Technoid Gets Shot…

The most important single ingredient in a good shotgun pattern is high quality shot. No matter what modern refinements the shotgun and ammunition manufacturers come up with, high quality shot has more to do with reducing flyers and filling out a pattern than any other ingredient in the ballistic equation. Shot can differ tremendously in quality in both factory shells or bagged shot. You want the good stuff. What should you look for? Let the Technoid escort you down the garden path while he explains everything in the usual excruciating detail.

The quality of shot can be measured in four areas: 1) hardness 2) roundness 3) size uniformity and 4) surface texture. Each one of these qualities is important, although hardness is the one most commonly discussed.

1) Hardness: When reloaders buy shot, they are often confronted with a choice between two grades of shot, commonly called “Chilled” and “Magnum”. The names do not have much meaning in themselves, but they are supposed to indicate the relative hardness of the shot. “Magnum” shot is claimed to be harder than “Chilled” and thus produce better patterns. It normally does.

“Chilled” shot usually has the minimum amount of the hardening element antimony (about 2%) required to facilitate the manufacturing process. “Magnum” shot usually contains somewhere between 2% and 6% antimony, depending on shot size and the scruples of the manufacturer. There are no real industry standards and no list of ingredients, so you are taking the contents on faith unless you test for yourself (read on McDuff). In factory shells, you can be relatively confident that major brand target grade shotshells in trap sizes #7 1/2 and #8 contain the practical maximum of 5.5% to 6% antimony. You can also be pretty sure that the promotional “dove and quail” 1 ounce, 3 1/4 dram loads from the same makers contain the absolute minimum. At current world market prices antimony costs about $2.00/pound and lead costs 40õ/pound. Usually the larger a pellet is, the less antimony is needed to maintain its shape. #7 1/2s and #8s are best at around 6%, hard #9s are usually around 4% as are hard #6s, #5s and #4s. Larger shot, even the hard grade, often has less.

How do you test shot hardness? First obtain some known high quality shot to serve as your control sample. The control and test shot must be exactly the same measured size. The most expensive handicap trap loads from a major manufacturer are quite reliable and would make a good control sample. The Technoid uses shot taken from Federal Handicap Trap loads which were specially made for the Grand American trap shoot. Winchester silver bullets also have good shot as do most competition pigeon loads, especially the Italian ones using Aguila shot.

To test hardness, you will need to build a delightfully complicated little machine. Junior Technoids to the fore! From case hardened steel construct a pair of levers pivoting about a central trunion pin. The forepart of each lever should be formed into a gradual 11 pointed taper, flattened on the inside. The rear part should be spatulate in form and coated in a tactility enhancing polymer. If this sounds like a medium sized pair of needle nose pliers available from K-mart, so be it. The Technoid never does it the easy way, but you can.

Take a pellet from your high quality control sample and give it a little squeeze with the tip of the pliers. Repeat with a pellet from the test sample. Do this a dozen or so times and you will develop a surprisingly accurate feel for the comparative hardness.

Hardness can also be guesstimated by weighing equal volumes of each shot on your powder scale. Antimony is lighter than lead. If the samples weigh the same, they probably contain about the same amount of antimony. If one sample is lighter than the other, the lighter sample contains more antimony and is harder. This should confirm the results of your pliers test.

2) Roundness: Shot must start off round if it is to end up round. The shell that repairs shot in flight has not yet been invented. To test, simply put a pellet on a pane of glass or a large dinner plate and roll it around under strong light. If it is not round, it will wobble. Repeat several times. Visually check in a larger sample for any obviously distorted pellets. Good shot is round- all of it.

3) Size uniformity: You will need a micrometer. No, do not try to build one. Measure a couple of dozen pellets from your test batch to see if they are the size they claim to be. Shot sizes are based on the Rule of Seventeen. This states that subtracting the shot size from seventeen will give the measured diameter omitting the decimal. Example: 17-#8=.009″ measured size, i.e. 17-8=9. A #8 pellet is thus .009″ in diameter, #9 is .008″ and #7 1/2 is .0095″. A normal sample of shot will contain pellets of 1/2 a size variance either way. More than that is bad, less variance is good. High quality shot is quite carefully graded.

4) Surface Texture: High quality shot is usually mirror bright. It almost has the appearance of perfect shiny little ball bearings. Lower quality shot does not have this polished appearance and appears dull. The outer surface, being less smooth, has less lubricity as it moves down the barrel and through the air. The result is more deformation in the barrel and more drag in the air, hence a lower quality pattern. This is why the highest possible quality shot is nickel plated. A few makers graphite coat their shot, hoping to improve lubricity without going to the expense of a polished finish. This is not as good. At the lowest end of surface quality is grey shot. As lead shot ages, it oxidizes and becomes coated with a powdery, pale grey “rust”. This makes for a very rough surface and subsequently poorer patterns. High quality shot should not have any grey pellets mixed in.

That is all there is to it. If you know that you are using high quality shot, you have eliminated the greatest cause of poor patterns. Get the lead out and test for the best. It absolutely can be worth a bird or two.

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Hunting Gear For Florida

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Sub-Gauge Sporting Guns

The Technoid Examines Sub-Gauge Sporting Guns…..

The Technoid has not been so excited since he got sunburned watching his first solar calculator recharge. Sub-gauge sporting guns offer an entirely new field of experimentation! Nothing out there is perfectly suited. Any sub-gauge solution you come up with is subject to compromise and requires detailed tedious analysis. The Technoid is in his heaven.

There are two basic approaches to take with a small gauge sporting shotgun: enjoy an attractive little out-of-the-box field gun that is fun to shoot, or go whole hog and try to duplicate your usual competition gun in sub-gauge. Miss Manners would take the former approach, the Technoid will revel in the latter. If the high tech goal is to create a sub-gauge gun that is the mirror image of your standard gun, there are a number of approaches you might consider:

1) Put light sub-gauge tubes in your standard gun. Briley makes an excellent 3 gauge screw choke set weighing 10+ oz for about $1500. Advantage: good performance, medium price, gun remains familiar. Disadvantage: 10 additional ounces up front may drastically change the way the gun feels and swings. Adding weight to the back will not really return the proper dynamics.

2) Buy a four barrel skeet set and add screw chokes as necessary. Advantage: good balance, all gauges on a single familiar frame. Disadvantage: cost, barrel length (most skeet barrel sets are a maximum of 28″), barrel width (thus sight picture) differs slightly.

3) Buy a set of “carrier” barrels and tubes for your current gun. The overbored carrier barrels with gauge tubes installed should weigh the same as your standard barrels. Krieghoff offers this solution and it works very well indeed. Kolar will also make a carrier barrel/tube set for your gun. Advantage: the best way to go for familiarity, balance and performance. Disadvantage: high cost (tubes plus special barrel), availability (other manufacturers do not yet offer this solution).

4) Tube the Browning B325 30″ 20 ga (or the neat new Ruger 30″ 20 ga. if you can find one) with 28 and .410 tubes. You might want to add a touch of lead to the rear. The gun will come in around 7 1/2# to 7 3/4#. Advantage: nice balance, weight and length. Disadvantage: cost (new gun and tubes), different feel from standard 12 ga. The tubeless 20 ga would be lighter than the tubed 28 and .410.

5) The final option is the Technoid’s Grand Master of the Sub-Gauge World Solution. It has all the elements of a great project. It is immoderately expensive, technically challenging and has uncertain results. How can you resist? Here it is:

“Make” your own set of carrier barrels! Have an extra set of barrels fit to your gun and back bore them until you remove metal to equal the weight of a set of tubes. Barrel steel weighs approximately 4.5370369 ounces per cubic inch. A radical backboring from .725″ to .765″ on a 30″ O/U would lower barrel weight by 11.75 ounces, about the weight of Briley tubes. Note: A fly in the ointment is that Briley says that tubing a heavily overbored gun will require special aluminum weighing about 2 oz more. Advantage: applies to many brands of guns, weight and balance are unchanged. Disadvantage: voids warranty, may ruin gun if barrels not thick enough or perfectly concentric (few are), probably unsafe to shoot in 12 gauge, technically demanding and complicated.

Remember the Technoid’s dictum: “Complexity is the father of complication. It can also be a mother.”

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