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]