Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dogs I Have Met

The 303 Savage ammo that I had to fix last week also had horrible runout.   .005" to .008."  When I reassembled it, I did so on a nearly new Rock Crusher instead of my very old and worn Lyman Spartan.  Now the runout is .002" to .0035."  If I can get a Wednesday off when there's no tropical storm I'll have some decent ammo to shoot.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

Savagery Continues

Both of these cases are from the same 100 count bag of unfired, new old stock brass.  Same brand, same headstamp; "300 SAV."

Stand them up and the one on the left looks like a 300 Savage case.  The one on the right?  I don't know what it looks like.  Long neck and a shoulder that almost looks like the Weatherby Double Radius.  I just know that there's fifteen of 'em in the bag.

Ya reckon I might run into headspace trouble if I use the one on the right?

I'll have to waste 15 primers and a half order of grits fire forming them into what they are supposed to be.

Continuing with the weekend's war on futility, all nine of the .303 Savage rounds that I loaded were a very tight crush fit in the new-to-me rifle.   I measured case lengths and neck diameters and they are fine.  Turns out the trouble is the die that I used to size the brass.  I normally use an RCBS die when I full length size 303 Savage cases.  That die was in a tool head for a progressive press.  I didn't feel like setting the press up for 303 Savage just to size 9 cases and I didn't feel like taking the die out of the tool head and losing its settings so I loaded my 9 rounds on a single stage press with a different set of (different brand) dies and they were too big for the rifle.   This evening, I dismantled my 9 rounds, resized them in the RCBS die, put them back together and they cycle perfectly.  Problem solved.  Makes me glad I didn't find the missing brass and load up 20 or 30 of 'em on Saturday.

RCBS ain't payin' me to say any of this either.  The way this weekend would have gone without them, they don't have to.

Range trip canceled due to weather & such.  I ain't scared of a little old Tropical Storm but its hard to chronograph with rain blowing horizontally at 45 mph.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Shock Troops of the Confederacy

Just finished reading this and its good!  Usually, when an author gets into detailing which unit did what my eyes tend to glaze over and I lose interest.  I can honestly say that nothing like that happened while reading this book.

I'm going to let two of the Amazon reviews 'splain why you need to read it:

From a fellow named R.A. Grimm:

"Shock Troops of the Confederacy" is a somewhat misleading title as what is on offer is actually two books in one!

The treatment of the Sharpshooter record and legacy (both sides) is certainly well covered, it is in fact a broad ranging and compelling testimony of the efficacy of shock and open order tactics in the midst of a war in which often the blind led the blind; especially when they had the means to do otherwise. The battle narratives are tightly-written and coincides nicely with the maps provided.

However, the unaware reader who merely thinks of this book as a focused "Confederate Army" unit or battle study is in for so much more; one is unexpectedly offered an historical and international study of the rifle...Open order..evolution and impact on modern warfare. Therefore, I would have titled it something like - "The Rise of Modern Infantry - the Evolution of Rifle, Sharpshooter, and Shock Troops from the Civil War to the First World War." 

From Miles Krisman:

I recently had the pleasure of reading Fred L. Ray's new book, "Shock Troops of the Confederacy - The Sharpshooter Battalions of the Army of Northern Virginia". It offered a great deal of new information whereby the author outlines the changes that took place within the Confederate army that led to a new style of warfare, a warfare in which the intelligence, skill, and courage of the individual soldier became paramount. In a book that takes the reader on a journey of discovery, out between the battle lines, Fred successfully illustrates the factors that brought about these developments.

Largely forgotten in the annals of time, the story of the Sharpshooters of the Confederacy begins with two Virginians, Robert Rodes and Eugene Blackford. Both men were from Lynchburg, Virginia, but through a quirk of fate, both entered Confederate service as members of the 5th Alabama Infantry Regiment. During the winter of 1862, Rodes and Blackford formulated a new military unit to serve the Confederacy that would change the course of the war and in doing so, change warfare itself. Invaluable lessons were learned by both men at the Battle of Boonsboro, also known as the Battle of South Mountain, where Rodes' Brigade successfully fought a delaying action against an entire Division of the Union army, thereby allowing General Lee to consolidate his army and fight the Battle Of Sharpsburg, or Antietam, three days later. These Confederate troops on South Mountain, primarily dispersed as a line of skirmishers, held off the advance of the Army of the Potomac by fighting from behind the rocky outcrops and the heavily wooded slopes as they slowly fell back. This single Brigade accomplished their objective and arguably saved the Army of Northern Virginia, however, they were mauled badly by the superior skirmish tactics of the Union forces. This became the impetus for change. Over the next few months, with the support of Robert E. Lee, General Rodes successfully organized and trained a Sharpshooter Battalion within his Brigade that would serve as a model for other units in the Confederacy.

Fred Ray documents the accomplishments of the sharpshooting units of the Confederacy from their baptism under fire at the Battle of Chancellorsville, to the final days in the trenches of Petersburg and eventual surrender. The successes of the Sharpshooter Battalion during the "Overland Campaign "in early 1864, convinced General Lee to mandate that all Infantry Brigades would be required to form Sharpshooter units of their own. These men received special training that included long ranged target practice and soon were recognized as the elite troops of each Brigade. As the war dragged on, it was the Sharpshooter Battalions that became the primary fighting force of the Confederacy, especially in the Shenandoah Valley and around Petersburg. In fact, they were the ones that led the last attack of the war for the Army of Northern Virginia at Fort Steadman, on March 25, 1865.

This is not just a cursory description of the various field actions, but rather an in depth study that takes the reader onto the battlefield where we hear the banter between the lines, rush forward in a hotly contested skirmish, and learn what it meant to serve on the front lines during the last years of the war. This understudied aspect of the war is deftly handled by the author and the reader comes away with a comprehension of how an undermanned, half starved, ragged band of men adapted to their new reality, modifying tactics, innovating and ultimately developing methods that would serve as a model for warfare into the following century.

Insightful, detailed, and exciting are words that best describe "Shock Troops of the Confederacy". For those that are looking for a better understanding of the transition from Napoleonic tactics to the smaller, task orientated, combat units of the 20th century, this is a "must read". Well researched and referenced, this scholarly work is quite readable and should be added to the library of all Civil War enthusiasts. 
You got all that?  Good.  Go buy a copy!

El Conquistador

I felt like Ponce De Leon looking for the Fountain of Youth this weekend. Except that I have air conditioning.  That and  I was just looking for a small bag of .303 Savage brass. Other than that it started out pretty much the same.

The brass had been on my reloading table for years and, now that I needed .303 Savage ammo, it was just gone.   So I looked and looked and looked some more most of Saturday.  The closest I got to it was finding 30-30 brass.

I found piles of 30-30 brass.  Piles and piles.  It was unreal how much 30-30 brass I turned up.  It was ironic because I don't have a 30-30.  I could not figure out what the heck I was doing with so much brass for a caliber that I've never owned. Its like those days when you need a 9/16" socket and all you can find are five 1/2" and four 5/8."  Maddening.

Along the way I found just enough .303 Savage sign to keep me on the trail.  I found a box of Winchester 190 grain factory ammo with three empty cases in my range bag.  Then there was the .303 British case I had tried to reform into .303 Savage until it wouldn't go into the die anymore.  It looked a enough like a .303 Savage to catch my eye and on the shelf next to the hybrid .303 British/Savage case was my first major discovery.

I sometimes neck cases up or down or reform one case into another and had, several years ago, dabbled in reaming case necks.  More than a few times I bid on tubing micrometers without success but it was never that big a deal because my ammo was always accurate enough for hunting.  Then, one day last month,  a book by a fellow named Zediker showed up in my mail box.  

Mr. Zediker insists that case necks just have to be reamed for best accuracy and he made me add "Buy a tubing micrometer" back to my doo-doo to do list.   More #!@%! money to spend.   That is, until my brass quest brought me to the hybrid case and the  RCBS Case Master on the shelf next to it.

I bought the Case Master and some other stuff from a retired gunsmith years ago mainly because it looked like a cool setup and it was priced right.  Being used, it didn't come with instructions and I put it on the shelf to collect dust.  Putting the hybrid case back on the shelf, my eyes fell on a short, horizontal projection on the Case Master.  It looked just like the anvil from a tubing micrometer and it dawned on me that it had to be the Case Master's "anvil" for measuring neck thickness.  I downloaded the owner's manual and, sure enough, that's what it is.  I don't need a tubing micrometer.  I already have a Case Master.

The serendipitous moment over,  despair of ever finding the unfired brass settled in and I started looking for my once-fired stuff.  I turned up a box of somebody else's reloads that had 10 loaded rounds and five empty cases.   I should have about 20 Norma empties and 30 that are loaded with a load that I don't like anymore but I found five and none of them were from the box of 50 that I was looking for.  Still, with eight empty cases in hand I decided to load them and sight the new-to-me rifle in with those, the rest of the factory stuff and the other guy's reloads.  In setting up the press, I stumbled on a single loaded round of my old, disavowed, .303 Savage recipe.  I took it apart and now had four cases with Jamison headstamps, three with Winchester and one each of Grafs and Norma to load. 

The air conditioner kept coming on and screwing with my powder scale so I loaded my nine rounds between cycles and that gave me time to ponder the danger of having a few hundred 30-30 cases without actually having a 30-30.  You don't get rid of that much brass.  You get a rifle for it!  Getting a rifle for it means more #!@%! money to spend.

 With my ammo loaded, I could already hear a 30-30 calling.  After a while, the voice started to sound familiar.  It finally dawned on me that I do so have a 30-30.  Its not just any old 30-30 either.  In the back of the safe, I have a Savage 99 30-30 takedown just like the Mad Trapper of Rat River.

Like ol' Ponce, I didn't find what I was looking for.  Unlike ol' Ponce, I actually found stuff.  I don't have to buy a tubing micrometer and I don't have to buy a 30-30 so I saved a pile of money.  I didn't get killed by Injuns either.  Maybe they'll name a County after me too.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Had no idea my sister had been to N'awlins.

Never Say "Never"

I actually found myself rooting for Jr. today.

He won it and he won it honest and he won it by a mile. 

A New Savage 99

Well, I finally let that old but new to me Savage 99 follow me home.  Que Brittany Spears singing "Oops I Did It Again."   Net cash out was $Zero. I traded a more valuable gun even for it. On the surface, that sounds stupid but I had little money in the more valuable one and it was chambered in .416 Remington Magnum. Since I was rear-ended by a space cadet who was driving her cell phone instead of her SUV, I haven't been able to shoot it. Besides that, we have few elephants or cape buffalo in these parts anymore.

What I got was a Savage Model 99H.  Murray's “The Ninety-Nine A History of the Savage Model 99 Rifle" says the H models  were built between 1923 and 1940. In 1923 they cost $37.50 and in 1940 they were up to $45.40. According to, mine was built in 1936. It happens to be chambered for the original cartridge upon which Savage founded his arms business, the .303 Savage. Nice cartridge and no, it ain't the same as the 303 British so don't even start.

Mine is well-used but not abused. The action is tight and the trigger is smooth. The original buckhorn rear sight is gone but a Redfield receiver sight sits behind the bolt right where it needs to be to make a perfect “ghost ring.” The bore is bright with sharp rifling. Case coloring is still there on the lever and blueing is worn on the bottom of the receiver from being carried.  Someone before me installed a ghastly set of detachable sling swivels and had it drilled and tapped for a scope so the collectability is gone. She's no safe queen but that just makes me like her in a different way.  We will hunt together.

I like these old guns. The wood and metal work are better than what you find on most new guns (unless you are talking about spending enough to buy a used pickup truck) but there's something more. One day, well before World War 2, somebody walked into a hardware store, looked over the various guns and decided that this one had found a home. Maybe there were Winchesters or Marlins on display with it and he bought this one in spite of its higher price. (Savages were expensive guns back then). Maybe it was a gift from a wife to a husband. Maybe from parents to a child.  I'll never know the particulars but the small mysteries like that are worth pondering in a tree stand. Did the owner go off to serve in WW2? Did he scope it or did he hand it down to a son, or maybe a grandson who did? Did he get bit by Magnumitis and prop the old girl in the back of a closet for 50 years or did he just use her until he, himself was too used up to hunt anymore? I'll never know. Nobody will but she carries the marks of a life or two. What I do know is that the gun was cared for. Despite being carried so much, the bore is bright, the action is tight and the trigger is smooth.   I hope I can care for her as well until I am used up too.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Dogs I Have Met

Not one of ours but someone's once:


Jay, over at has an interesting post about this 3 barreled shotgun.

He has a short history of the gun that says it "was made in April 1891 for John Adrian Louis Hope, 1st Marquess of Linlithgow and the seventh Earl of Hopetoun."  I won't go into all of it because you really should read that on his blog.  I did, however, do some research on my own and discovered that the interesting gun was actually commissioned as a present by Hope's wife:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Stopped by a gun shop this morning and there was a Savage 99 sleeping in the corner.  When it heard me ask about it, it wagged its tail and I took a closer look.  Turns out its a 99H built between 1935 and 1940.  The action is tight and the bore perfect but the stock has been sanded, the metal reblued and its been drilled and tapped for a scope.  Not a collectable.  The asking price was not realistic and I have no spare money to spend even if it had been back in the corner it went.  Trouble is, I can still hear it whimpering and I have stuff I wouldn't mind trading.  Heaven help me.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Monday, June 4, 2012

Just a quick note for those that might be interested:The highest velocity I have attained with the .45acp is: (185 grn. xtp bullet, speer acp cases, cci magnum primers, alliant powder)=1778 f.p.s./
1299 f.p.m.e. using a 5" 1911

4" xd only got 1709 f.p.s./1200 f.p.m.e.

Both guns had been modified. It is just like building a hot rod. Lots of components being changed to get more horsepower. Lots of reloading tricks for the ammo too. Good shooting to you all.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ok, I am back. Things have been pretty exciting in the power-loading world. I have continued to learn more ways to increase horse-power, majoring in the .45 acp at this time. Many have said that the .45 acp is an enemic load at best, with pressure limitations. So, what do they do? Buy a .460 Rowland conversion kit and increase the pressure threshold. I am here to tell you, that the conversion kit is not necessary. A 1911 .45 acp is the same gun that the 9mm and the .40 S&W are used in (sometimes the 10mm). These are high-pressure cartridges. A 1911 can be built up to handle loads that will make a 10mm or .460 Rowland look like a baby.  I am thinking about having some Power-Loading seminars to teach people how to do this with the .45 acp or any other caliber. Elmer Keith is not dead, he is hanging out with Elvis.