A Hale and Hearty Fellow

I recently acquired an elegant old Parker Hale chambered in .308. Its the Safari model, with an old Redfield 4×12, and I already love her.

20160625_161728And here she is. What a gorgeous piece of English rifle making.

Originally Parker Hale was founded when two gentlemen, A.G. Parker and Alfred Hale, formed a partnership in 1910 to manufacture firearms and accessories. The company was quite busy during both wars, as one may imagine. Unfortunately the company folded in 1992. As far as I can tell, the folding of the company was due to an inability to compete with bigger manufactures, not due to any qualitative reason in the product itself.

The particular gun I have was manufactured sometime in the ’70s. Precisely dating a Parker isn’t my forte, so to speak.

My Father-in-law and I went out shooting over the weekend and I brought this gun along. Several things stood out in my mind about her.

I have never before owned a rifle with such a fine, light, sweet trigger as this has. Some gun bloggers throw clichés like ‘breaks like glass’ at their poor readers until some poor soul begs for a reprieve. I am not one such boor, but it does break like glass. Er… whatever, man.

This trigger has just enough creep to remind you that triggers have that, but not enough to remind you of your prom. When the trigger passes the threshold from firing to fired, you barely feel anything. Except recoil. Being a .308, the recoil isn’t much. If you are accustomed to booming magnums, then the felt recoil from this rifle is more like feathers than bricks.

Mounted atop this fine example of ballistic art sits an old Redfield scope. In its day it was a very good scope. In todays day… I need a new scope for it. The scope works, mind you. Having used newer Vortex and Nikon scopes quite a bit I found that the Redfield doesn’t let in as much light, tends to lose focus, and is generally less comfortable on the eye. It isn’t horrible, but I do want to update it.

As for the shoot, I twice placed 3 rounds in a 1/2″ area at 100 yds, once kneeling, once prone. This gun is awesome. I shot both those groups with steel cased Barnaul junk. Ejecting the steel cases required rather more force than the brass cases, so be careful in buying that stuff. I plan on sticking to brass from here on out with this gun.

To sum, this is a fine rifle. I am happy to have it, and I plan on hunting with it in the near future.


A mauser in the hand is worth more than two in the bush

This rifle is pretty sweet. Czech it out...
This rifle is pretty sweet. Czech it out…

I finally did it. I bought a Mauser! The VZ 24 is one sweet piece of Mauser history. Many consider this rifle to be one of the finest Mausers ever made, and I can certainly see why. A friend hooked me up with the seller, and once I picked it up I could not set it down. He had a couple of other Mausers for sale, including a Portuguese contract Mauser with matching bayonet, but this little gem had to be mine. What follows is a brief write-up, touching on the history and suchlike.

In 1924 the Czech Army adopted the VZ 24 as their battle rifle. It is essentially a Mauser K-98. Pretty near everything in this rifle is k-98.

Not the original bolt
Not the original bolt

The bolt I have isn’t matching, by the bye. Originally the bolt would have been a straight bolt, not bent. In fact, this whole rifle looks kinda funny, if you know what you are looking at. The VZ series of rifle did not use a k-98 sling. This stock is clearly a k-98 stock. It is a puzzle. A crest usually adorns the receiver above the chamber, but this has been ground off. What is this gun?

mauserbookBetween a bit of help from Google and my cousin loaning me the book on Mauser rifles, I think I have it figured out.

As we well remember, the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia in 1938. After that was done, the Germans pressed the Czech arms industry into service. The Brno factory had originally bought all its tooling and equipment from Mauser in 1919. All the rifles made by Brno were basically well-made Mausers. It made sense for the Germans to do this, and they did.

My rifle is an odd duck. It was made in 1924, if I read the date stamp correctly. It is a very early VZ 24. At some point the stock and bolt were switched out for newer parts, either due to wear and tear, or just because somebody had the parts around and thought this would be a great idea.

When I took the bolt apart and the stock off I found Waffenampts on the bolt behind the handle and on the underside of the barrel. It seems that the bolt at least came straight out of a k-98, and that the barrel was proofed for service in the German Army. It is a bit exciting finding definite proof (no pun to see here folks) of war provenance. So far as I can tell, the bolt was proofed in Leipzig. WaA 22 is the stamp on the bolt. I don’t know how a part made in 1938-9 made it on a gun made in 1924, and in two different countries, but hey. This is cool.

The whole things is very interesting. Then we get to shooting it. VZ Mausers rightly have a good reputation. I have bad eyes and I still print nicely at 100 yds with this rifle. The recoil of an 8×57 round is similar to the Lee Enfield, except that it kicks straight back into the shoulder, unlike the Enfield, which has a distinct rise to its kick. All told, it is a comfortable and pleasant rifle to shoot. If you want ammo for an 8mm Mauser you will need to reload. This stuff is hard to come by. Twenty rounds can put a guy back as much as sixty bucks! In a later post we will discuss reloading for this rifle.

The end of the road

At the end of every road comes… the end of the road. For 100 years, to the year, Lee Enfield #2438 Mk 1 III was in better than serviceable condition. Yet, I am a reloader who likes to economize on things like brass. Blown out shoulders can be fixed, old guns can be rebuilt.

The Old Lady needed better care than I could give her. I broke down and sold my very first rifle to a collector who rebuilds Enfields to their former glory. A part of me is sad to see her go, but having gone I am glad for her. Then I saw the pictures…old lady

This fellow has done well by my old Enfield. Thank you sir.

The Future Force

The Department of Defence has recently opened a public consultation for Canadians who wish to have a say in the development of future defence policy. What follows is my meager offering. The link to their site is found here. I encourage anyone who is interested to comment. This is a rare chance to speak truth to power.


THE FUTURE FORCE: A Response from a Concerned Citizen


To the Hon. Mr. Sanjjan,

I wish to begin by thanking you for this opportunity to participate in a public consultation. Public consultation is the hall mark of a modern democracy, after all. Yet I am writing not only to answer the questions posed by the Defence Policy Review paper, but to raise other questions as well.

Asking Canadians for input into Defence Policy is sound in principle, but why was this not a plank of the election platform? A robust, public and frank debate is good. Elections are for that kind of thing. It seems somewhat duplicitous to have a public consultation so soon after an election where the whole issue was ignored by the Liberal party, which now holds the government. In public life, optics matter.

The second point in this preamble that I wish to raise is one of fundamental leadership. In the Bible we are warned “Where there is no guidance, a people falls” (Proverbs 11:14) If a consultation is required so soon after a general election, does this not show that there is no fundamental strategic vision? You sir are the man who holds the office. You are the Minister of Defence. Do you not know what is the need of the hour? I hope that you do posses the vision that these days require of you. Neville Chamberlain was a fine man too, but he was the wrong man for his day.  

I ask that second question in the hope that this consultation is not the result of not knowing what to do, but is an attempt to get the pulse of the nation. As such, consultations are fine things, so long as the right course is set and maintained, and so long as too many cooks don’t spoil the soup.

Before turning to the nuts and bolts of each of the questions I must tell you that I am no military man. I have only a civilians’ interest in war. That is, to avoid being in one, and barring that, to have got the best military possible to ensure a win.


1. Are there any threats to Canada’s security that are not being addressed adequately?

A. Yes. There are two main threats to Canada’s security. Islamic Terrorism and Russia. Neither is being taken seriously by our leadership, in marked contrast to the previous administration. When our Prime Minister and cabinet members go on the record stating that ‘climate change causes terrorism’ all good Canadians lose their minds. Hot weather does not produce terrorism. I point to the IRA as an example of terrorism in a colder latitude, and to the domestic peace found in hot places like Australia. When our leaders say such horrendous things we all lose faith in their ability to lead.

The Russians love chess. Putin fancies himself a master of political chess. He has absorbed the Clausewitzian principle that war is a real political instrument. The Americans have completely misread him, and at every turn he has met with political success. In the Crimea his objective was to secure the naval base at Sevastopol, which in turn is needed to maintain his Black Sea fleet. That fleet is required to keep Turkey humble, the Dardanelles open, Syria resupplied, and a Russian surface fleet presence in the Mediterranean. These are all Russian strategic aims that date back to Peter the Great.

Russian oil and gas deals with China are used to unwind energy commitments in Europe, which are threatened by Canadian free-trade agreements. These energy deals with China will presage greater Pacific Ocean activity by both Russia and China.

The threat to our Artic sovereignty is real and imminent. Artic sovereignty concerns more than a mere sea route that opens up in the summer. The real issues are energy and pride. If we cannot control our own north, we lose face. To lose face in this kind of way is deadly, as public humiliation at the hands of another Power only invite beatings at every turn. Deterrence requires overwhelming force.    

Russia knows as well as we that our northern littoral frontiers contain a nearly inexhaustible supply of oil and natural gas. They also know that they cannot hope to obtain it for themselves. In the event of conflict, they know that they do not have the ability to take this valuable resource from us. To meet their strategic aims they only need deny its use to us. In war they will attack and isolate our north. In peace time they will pay for environmental protest groups and lobby organisations to shut down our natural energy production. This is in fact what they are doing. Russian interference in our energy sector should be considered a primary security threat. Counter-espionage and target hardening should be key aims for our spy organisations. Russian aims must be thwarted.

Russian domestic trouble will not be the undoing of Putin’s policy. He knows his people survived Stalingrad. He also knows Stalin survived Stalingrad. No domestic calamity will save us from the Russian Imperial Renaissance. Only by securing ourselves in the strength of our arms can we hope to deter Russian aggression. If that deterrence is insufficient to secure us peace, it will not be enough to win us a war either.     

 2. What roles should the Canadian Armed Forces play domestically, including in support of civilian authorities?

A. The Canadian Armed Forces should recruit more. Other than that, any domestic action is reprehensible to the minds of a free people. The Army is for our defence, not against us.

 3. How should Canada-United States cooperation on defence of North America evolve in the coming years?

A. Co-operation with America is required by our geographic proximity and cultural similarity. That said, we should shoulder our own load. The Americans must be brought to respect the professionalism and war-spirit of our troops. Aggressive, warlike attitudes should be cultivated by all ranks. We may be a junior partner in any coalition, but we must be respected and must always maintain the command and control of all our own troops and formations. This is especially so regarding the defence of our own frontiers. The reputation that our fighting men have in America is of vital importance to the maintenance of our freedom. If we cannot defend our own frontiers, what is to prevent the Americans from doing it for us in some future year? If they assume our defence, they will surely want control over our foreign policy and a share in our tax revenue. Annexation and the loss of sovereignty immediately follow this progression.   

4. What form should the CAF contribution to peace support operations take? Is there a role for the CAF in helping to prevent conflict before it occurs?

A. We support peace by winning wars. Standing between hostile domestic mobs wearing blue hats does not lend itself to the character of a proud and powerful nation like ourselves. Our forces should not be deployed in peace-keeping operations. Maintaining stand-offs is no way to train an Army for war.

As for conflict prevention, this is the job of diplomats, not the Army. Clearly, the military is the wrong instrument for preventing a war. It is the instrument of winning a war.

5. Should the size, structure, and composition for the Canadian Armed Forces change from what they are today?

A. The size of the CAF should change. So far as an outsider can tell, the composition and structure seem to be of adequate nature.

Every service needs to be enlarged, in men and material. The reserves are particularly key to the future effectiveness of the Armed Forces. The CAF is designed to bulk up in time of need by drawing the trained reserves into the regular force. The regulars form the nucleus, and the reserves are called up as needed.

This is fine in theory, but there are no reserve units based in smaller population centers. The reserves draw unevenly from the general population as most units as based in places like Edmonton, Montreal, etc. This means that men living in remoter locations like northern Alberta, BC or Saskatchewan have no opportunity to serve. Where there is no public presence of a Reserve unit, recruiting will be down. Also, the prestige of the CAF will not be enhanced in places that many good men may be drawn from. If Reserve Units could be based in communities of populations ranging from 100,000-50,000 I believe the return for investment would be surprisingly good. Many of our most fervent patriots live in smaller towns.

In case of a major war, we do not currently have sufficient reserves to draw on to maintain an expeditionary force that is required to fight major actions, while sustaining casualties.   

6. How can DND and the CAF improve the way they support the health and wellness of military members? In what areas should more be done?

A. After we got into the Afghan war we suddenly realized we did not have the institutions that are needed to care for wounded vets. That infrastructure needs to be built. A good look at the American VA system may be of some help. American vets get some of the best treatment that has ever been afforded to wounded warriors in history.

Much media attention has been given to PTSD, and that is good. Aside from clinical treatments, much of the emotional and mental strain of PTSD can be relieved by our honouring our veterans, giving out awards that are deserved, and treating these men as men, not as mental cases. The Victoria Cross should be awarded. There are deserving men who fought in Afghanistan. Publicise their stories, and award them.

 7. Should Canada strive to maintain military capability across the full spectrum of operations? Are there specific niche areas of capability in which Canada should specialize?

A. Canada cannot afford to have a military that has capability gaps that an enemy can exploit at the Strategic, Operational or Tactical levels of combat. We should consider Victory to be our specialised niche.

 8. What type of investments should Canada make in space, cyber, and unmanned systems? To what extent should Canada strive to keep pace and be interoperable with key allies in these domains?

A. The first act of any major power in the next war will be a two-pronged attack on space and cyber-space assets. The control of information, and its’ secure communication to our Forces and Allies is going to be the key to our success or defeat. We cannot afford to lose the integrity of our information gathering systems or communication apparatus’. As for the DND, a commitment must be made to win in this new type of theater at the Strategic, Operational and Tactical levels.  

 9. What additional measures could DND undertake, along with partner departments, to improve defence procurement?

A. Stop buying American garbage. We have specific force requirements that are tailored to our specific needs. The Americans over price everything, and always give second rate equipment.

We need to encourage a complete and native defence manufacturing industry in Canada. Canadian private enterprise can, if unshackled from nonsensical legal restraints, provide all the equipment that our fighting men require. This is what we need to win the next war, secure our interests, and protect our peace.


Files are not for windage adjustment

I mentioned in a previous post here how a previous owner of my Carcano had made a windage adjustment to the front sight blade by means of a file. That blade is driftable. No need for files. At any rate, the POA at 50 yds is off the POI by about 12″.

This blade is next to useless. Grrr
This blade is next to useless. Grrr

If you own a rare military rifle from WW II, please don’t do this to it.

I could try to drift the sight over to compensate, but it is clear that the blade has been filed down beyond where it ought to be. Too much material has been removed and I think its time to get a new one made.

Now I don’t have machine tools sufficient to fabricate my own blade, but my cousin does. So the old sight and a new drawing are in the mail off to him. Hopefully he can do something with it all and I can have a good foresight again.

The internet is a useful tool when it comes to research. However, I have been unable to locate specs on the foresight itself, or a replacement part, for this rifle. This poses a challenge for us in that the Carcano does not use a standard sight picture. The blade and the rear v-notch are not supposed to be in the normal alignment. Normal sight alignment means that the front post covers the target and is centered in the rear sight. The top of the front post and the top of the rear v-notch are aligned as well. In most configurations this gives the shooter a 100yd POA.

Not so with the Carcano. As can be seen in the picture below, the Italian designers had a different idea, and when you get the logic of it, it is rather sensible.

Italians are weird. But we love them just the same...
Italians are weird. But we love them just the same…

In combat, a rifleman doesn’t always have the time to adjust his sights when aiming at targets between 100 and 300 meters. A method of fast target acquisition is needed, and it should be simple.

The solution found by the designers was to make the sights in such a way as to be able to use them unadjusted for shooting out to 300 meters. The rear sight ramp doesn’t even start until 600m. All the shooter needs to do is set the front blade in the bottom of the v-notch for 100 meters, and in the classic alignment for 300 meters. If the shooter (myself, in this case) understands this doctrine, accurate shooting should be relatively easy.

Because I cannot find the part for sale online, I am trying to get one made. Last night I sat down with calipers, paper and pencils. This is what resulted. Hopefully It works.

It may be rough, but all the required measurements are there... I hope.
It may be rough, but all the required measurements are there… I hope.

A rough drawing can be worse than no drawing at all… One of the key things will be to bring the height of the blade back to 0.441″ from 0.358″. If I need to file it down I can do that easily enough, but as far as I can tell, this is the height that it is supposed to be. With a square top I shall be able to get a decent sight picture and drift the dovetail as needed.

By the way, I used the ‘Sight Height Calculator’ on Brownells website to figure the height out. They feature a very handy calculator and I recommend it to anyone who may be interested. The calculator can be found here. For the rear sight height I put in the measurement to the bottom of the v-notch, as that is where the 100 meter zero is supposed to be on this gun. Hopefully all goes well and I will have a functioning gun soon.

I'm not a pro draughtsman, but I like to pretend
I’m not a pro draughtsman, but I like to pretend


Range day

Today I took three milsurps to the range for some fun. The weather was fine, the sun out, and everyone on the range were in high spirits. One fella brought out his young son to shoot his .243. Passing on the shooting culture and the practice of riflery is a fine thing for a man to do. Good on him!

In this post I will cover the Carcano shooting. The Mosin shoot will be discussed as the last installment of the Mosin build series, the latest post in that line can be found here. The Lee Enfield will also be in an upcoming post.

20160312_113145Here they are.

The Carcano is a Mannlicher designed rifle that was adopted by the Italian army in 1891. It fires a 6.5×52 cartridge. Originally the bullet was a 162g round-nose projectile moving along at a modest (but effective) 2500fps. I am particularly fond of this weird little carbine. En bloc clips are very cool. There are reasons why they have fallen out of favor with sportsmen and militaries alike, but they have a real “cool factor”.

To test the chrony and get a baseline I ran six rounds of factory Norma ammo. I was shocked by the results. The six-shot velocity average was 1840 fps! Norma prints on the box that these cartriges are loaded for 2500 fps, give or take.  Between you, me and the fence post, I think something is wrong with Norma’s loads. The chrony gave good readings all day, as such I do not think that the chrony was at fault.

20160312_105447When I ran my handloads through I got very normal velocities. I loaded 140g Berger VLDs with 38.5g of 8208 XBR. The six-shot spread averaged 2416 fps. Felt recoil was up from the Norma loads, but was still very pleasant.

Upon inspection I discovered clear but mild signs of overpressure. The bolt was a tad sticky to open and the primers all had some slight bulging. If I step that load back half a grain, to 38g, I believe the load will run fine.

As for accuracy… what to say. A previous owner of this rifle attempted to windage adjust the fore-sight, with a file! WTF!!!!

The blade has been filed to a point!!! What idiot does that to a rifle???

The effect of such “windage adjustment” is that the point of impact at 50yds is about 12″ right of the point of aim.

Terrible. Just terrible. If I cannot find a replacement, I will try to make this work. That front sight post is driftable. The whole thing is secured by means of a dovetail. No file needed! Sigh…

My next order of business is to fix that front post.



Blown out shoulders and the .303

What a beauty!

Back in the days of yore, good old boys carried the Lee Enfield into our wars. I love my Enfield. It is an accurate rifle, light handling, powerful and pretty. That’s all a man needs in a gun, really.

Being a reloader, I thought I should reload for my Enfield. There are a variety of die kits for the .303, and I bought the Lee Loader kit.

The dipper is quite useless.

Here it is. I like Lee Dies.

If I were to compare it to RCBS dies, I would say that the lock ring with the gasket is as secure as the RCBS dies, just without a small set screw that rounds out as soon as I use it…

The main feature of this set is that it is a neck-sizing die, not a case sizing die. With the .303 this really matters. When Enfield designed this cartridge/rifle combo back at the turn of the last century, (think 1890s-1900) they designed the cartridge to seat on the rim. It is a rimmed cartridge, after all. An example of the modern method of seating the cartridge on the shoulder was adopted by the Americans in  the 1903 Springfield in .30-06.

Because the .303 cartridge is seated on the rim, head spacing isn’t as critical to the performance of the rifle as in shoulder seated types. The Enfield designers thus left headspace tolerances wide open. If a rifle suffered from too much headspace, the armorer could swap different thicker bolt heads in or out as the case needed. In a service rifle, this isn’t a catastrophic design flaw. Its just a workaround that works.

observe the blown out shoulder on the once-fired brass, and the overall case streching

This is what my rifle does to casings. I actually swapped out the original bolt for another one on account of brass that was tearing just above the rim.

The shoulder on the factory load (Winchester Super X) on the right measures 1.784″ from the rim to where the shoulder begins. On the once-fired brass on the left (PPU) the same measurement is 1.843″. Notice the shape of the brass shoulder also changes. In the fired cartridge it takes on a rounder profile.

The Lee loader is a neck-sizing die. This means that the whole case isn’t resized, just the neck down to the top of the shoulder. Because the case stretches significantly, 0.059″ in my rifle, a full-length die would have too much material to push. This would lead to case deformation. The neck is really the only part of the case that requires resizing anyway. Remember, this cartridge seats on the rim, not the shoulder.

There are a few things to consider when reloading the .303. First, no used brass can be guaranteed to work in any rifle other than the one it was first fired in. Enfields have some pretty random interior dimensions. Second, beware of case-head separation. That brass stretches quite a bit. If there is excessive head space it will rip the casing, and could damage your rifle or lead to extraction problems. In this case, get a new bolt or bolt head. Third, be careful how much powder you load in the used casing. Once fired casings have more capacity than the factory brass. Overfilling can happen, and if it does you then have a safety issue. Blowing up old guns is not my idea of a good time.

On the importance of crimping a straight case.

Reloading is one of the things that makes the shooting sports more like an art, and accents the aspect of craftsmanship in our fun. Safe reloading can provide premium ammo for the enthusiast at a discount. It also gives a fellow something to do on a cold winter day. If you have the money to get into it, I heartily recommend reloading.

When I got into it there was lots I did not know. There was even more that I did not know I did not know, which is worse. Now I think of myself as being a fellow who knows some, knows that he doesn’t know lots, and knows some of that which I am ignorant.

One of the things I have learned on the way is that a straight-wall case needs crimping. 20160223_165652[1]

When I bought my Norinco 1911 I also bought dies and components. After I shot all my factory ammo I started reloading.

The first batch was maddingly bad. I have a chronometer, with which you measure bullet velocity. The ten shot average was in the 830fps range, which is ok for .45 auto. One bullet came out at 510fps. I could actually see the 230g ball pass through the arms of the chrony. Because the velocity was so low, the bullet dropped considerably more than I had anticipated. My brand-new chrony narrowly escaped destruction.

I had a dud. How humiliating.

Buy one of these
Worse yet, I had a failure to feed on every single mag. After flawlessly chewing through the factory stuff I was really bummed out. Was my gun no good? Or was it my reloading?

A micrometer, as shown in the picture, is the tool for the job. Unless you use it, you won’t be.

When I went back to the bench I re-read the instructions that came with my .45 auto dies. The bullet seater die contains a crimping function milled right into the die body. (These are RCBS dies) After achieving proper bullet depth, back the bullet seater out, turn the die body down, and re-press the cartridge. Adjust the die up or down to attain the correct crimp for your cartridge/handgun combo. Then reset the seater, and go to town. You have consistent crimp all day.

Because the straight-wall .45 auto seats on the case mouth, crimp is essential for consistent feeding. Bottle-neck cartridges seat on the shoulder, for comparison.

I omitted to explain the importance of casing length. We will go over that another time.

I have found that my best crimp for my gun is .005″ narrower than the measurement at the base, just forward of the rim. Every load I have crimped to this spec has functioned without fail. No failure to feed for me.

To sum, reloading is a rewarding process, but make sure you follow the directions! Humiliation at the range is not the worst thing that can happen if something is not done properly! Guns do blow apart in some cases. Be careful.

Safe reloading my friends. And remember, “ball stops ’em all”.20160223_165233[1]

The die isn’t cast, its’ machined.

In a previous post here we discussed pulling bullets.

The other day I sat down to load some .30-06 and do a wee write-up. But then all hades sprang forth, and a monster ate the house-guests at Hrothgar. That’s a classic English Lit reference for ya’ll.

20160223_172302[1]Boom. WD-40 is amazing. But it is no replacement for case lube… Long story short, I couldn’t find my case lube. Dummy that I am, I thought I could just replace the lube with WD. Its a great lubricant, after all.

The case lodged in the decapping die and could not be removed. Do not use WD-40 to lube your cases prior to decapping!

At this point you have to resign yourself to destroying the casing. 20160223_180454[1]First I drilled a 1/4″ hole through the primer pocket and tapped it, but that didn’t work, so I stepped up to a 5/16″ hole and a 3/8″ coarse bolt thread tap. Be careful when cutting threads. Turn the tap 1/8-1/4 turns and then back the tap up by that amount to clear the shavings. Do not force the tap! Breaking a tap is no joke, and no fun.

Once the threads are cut, get a bolt, large nut, and a washer with a nut for the bolt. I didn’t have this second nut, so I used a fly nut.

20160229_175543[1]Insert the die upside down in the press. Screw it in but leave the case rim below the top of the press by a few threads. Put the nut over the top of the press. Make sure it is big enough for the casing to slide through it. Then the washer, fly nut and bolt go on as is the picture. Use pliars to hold the die. (Grip the knurled part, not the threads on the shank body.) Then use an adjustable wrench to turn the bolt down. The pulling power of a screw is substantial.

This time, it was not substantial enough. Even after an application of magnificent force, nothing would budge. So I did what any man in my situation would do. I broke down and wept.

Just kidding. That’s not very manly.

I left it for a couple of days and thought about it. The great thing about doing odd mechanical work for the last decade or so is that you get to see all the wrong ways to do things. You even get good at those techniques. I have often used heat to get rusty bolts undone. After some reflection, I thought that was a bad idea. When you apply heat to two dissimilar metals, they expand at different rates.

And then it hit me. What is sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose. Dissimilar metals also contract in cold at different rates… Duh. I want the brass (a softer, less dense material) to come out of the steel. It needs to shrink. So I threw the die in a ziplock bag and tossed it in the deepfreeze over night.

20160229_175505[1]Tah dah! It came out in about 3 turns when I put it back on the press. Brilliant. I am smrt. Very much, thank you, very much.

A little bit of plier work later, and the expander ball was out again. I re-assembled the die, straightened the decapping pin, (it bent slightly during the process) and ran some cases through.

I also found my lube. Sweet mother…



A Case for the Carcano

In a previous post I mentioned that I have a Carcano rifle. Military rifles are interesting, and oddball ones from secondary theaters of major wars even more so. 20160221_173718

For reference, this is my 5-year-old holding the rifle. This is a cavalry version built in Brescia in 1934. It features a Mannlicher type action complete with the enbloc clip loading system. I plan to review this rifle and its history in a later post. For now I want to talk about the cartridge.20160221_150905

The original round-nose ball cartridge is shown on the right. I got a couple of boxes from Norma. On the left is one of my handloads. The cartridge designation is 6.5×52 Carcano. The COAL (Cartridge Over All Length) usually comes in around 2.90″. Norma factory loads clock in at about 2430fps. As soon as I have a chance I will clock my loads for comparison.

The Italians first adopted this round in 1891, and then never updated it to a spitzer bullet. The 1890’s were a time when every major power, along with every second-rate wannabe, was racing to get the best battle rifles for their armies. The Germans had the K-98, the British the Enfield. America had the 1903, the Russians the Mosin. France got the Lebel, Austria a Mannlicher, Japan the Arisaka and Italy the Carcano. Every one of those Nations switched to spitzer bullets as soon as they realized the improvement that a conical bullet gave over round ball.

Everyone that is, except the Italians. They continued to use round-nose ball until 1945. Its a shame they didn’t go pointy. This fine little cartridge has got itself a bad rap that it surely doesn’t deserve. Let me lay out some of the advantages that this little guy possessed over its bigger rivals.

The small size of the case means that more ammo can be carried by a soldier at a time. Small size also means less recoil than a Lebel or Springfield, for example. Shorter cartridges also make for shorter actions in rifles. This can mean quicker cycling and less time between shots fired. The long bullet cross-section makes for very stable flight characteristics. This same long cross-section also means that when soft tissue is hit, the bullet is liable to yaw or tumble. Carcano wounds tend to be nasty. 20160221_150703

Other nations, particularly the Swedes, with their 6.5x55mm, used these smaller cartridges too. For a size comparison I have put the 5.56 NATO on the left and the .30-06 on the right.

It would be interesting to know why military small arms development went with the 5.56 instead of something 6.5 or .25 caliber.

The 5.56 cartridge has a muzzle velocity that ranges between 2900fps and 3100fps. In this respect it is quite a bit faster than the old 6.5mm. However, the energy in the bullet is more from a Carcano. At the muzzle, a 62g 5.56 going 3100fps has approximately 1300 ft/ibs of force. By comparison, the 156g Carcano at a velocity of 2430fps has approximately 2040 ft/ibs of force.

Heavier bullets hit harder. They also deflect less in bush, and penetrate obstructions easier. Smaller bullets are easier to shoot accurately in auto. A smaller guy can handle the recoil just fine. More ammo can be carried with greater ease. Manufacture is cheaper, as less material is required for each cartridge.

In all things, trade-offs must be considered. The .30-06 is a big round. It goes through lots of things, including soft tissue. The recoil in difficult to manage in an automatic weapon. Imagine taking your .30-06, full auto, and then try to imagine hitting anything. WW II BAR operators have my respect. A smaller bullet like the 5.56 may not take an enemy down. There are certainly many anecdotes from the Iraq and Afghan wars that seem to indicate there may be reason to reconsider the 5.56.

I think a case for the Carcano being a superior choice could have been made when NATO settled on the 5.56, and I certainly think that such a round should perhaps be considered by Canada in the future.