Short Items from Old Books and Magazines
First in an Ocassional Series
First in an Ocassional Series
We'll begin with a couple of articles from Popular Science, Vol. 92 (1918), written by Edward Crossman, a well known shooter and writer of the era and then move on to another piece by Crossman. While they can be a bit tough to read due to the low image quality, I believe they are worth preserving as they offer us a relatively fresh perspective, one that was contemporaneous to the subject, on what we now view as historical items. Crossman's books, The Book of the Springfield and Military and Sporting Rifle Shooting, are well known and preserved today, but his magazine articles are less well cataloged, so this is a rare glimpse into that side of his writing. Enjoy! -GAS-
Another article by Crossman, this one about John Browning, who needs no introduction to modern readers, but was not as well known in 1918 despite over forty years of genius level design work at that time.
Finally, here's another Crossman article, this one on sights from The Outing magazine, volume 49 (1911 - 1912).
Historic Shooting Books
by Germán A. Salazar
In the spirit of the season, here is my gift to you: free books. I can think of no better gift than knowledge, in this case knowledge of the early days of ballistic science, organized competitive shooting, the National Rifle Association of America and much more. Google, a company we all know for its internet search service, has undertaken a massive project known as Google Books under which they are scanning and making available millions of out-of-print books with uncertain copyright ownership. While the project has not been without controversy and is currently under attack by both the U.S. Department of Justice's antitrust division and the French government, we as shooters are the beneficiaries of this project so let's hope it lasts.
Below you will find a list of books, each with a brief description and a clickable link (the title will be the link). The link will take you to the Google Books page for each book. You can read the entire book on it's Google Books page, or you can download it as a .pdf file and save it to your computer or print it. You can also create your own Google Library and save the books there for access from any computer. Most of these books are hundreds of pages long, so consider your paper and toner supply before printing! I present the books in no special order other than my interest level, so pick and choose as you will and enjoy some history.
The Bullet's Flight From Powder to Target, Franklin W. Mann, 1909, 384 pages.
This is the original and still widely read and highly regarded book on internal and external ballistics. Dr. Mann was a tireless experimenter and had the resources to pursue his interest with the best equipment available. A close friend of Harry Pope as well as other notable experimenters in the early days of smokeless powder, Mann's work is thorough and well documented. If you have an interest in ballistics, this is the foundation that you must know in order to understand the ensuing century of work in that field.
Irish Riflemen in America, Arthur Blennerhassett Leech, 1875, 216 pages.
The American Rifle, Townsend Whelen, 1918, 637 Pages.
Townsend Whelen was - and remains for many of us - the dean of American firearms writers. Here is a man who truly did it all and wrote about it with the authority of experience and the modesty of a true gentleman. Despite his roots in Philadelphia society, Whelen sought outdoor adventure and hard living and he found it; we are all richer for his ability to document it so well. This book, written immediately after (and during) the Great War gives a great insight into the period from a rifleman's perspective: equipment, reloading, shooting - it's all here. A long book and worth every page.
Suggestions to Military Riflemen, Townsend Whelen, 1909, 243 pages.
Townsend Whelen's pre-war book on marksmanship which brought him to national prominence in the military establishment. Whelen, who coached the national championship winning Army rifle team at Sea Girt in 1906, covers all aspects of shooting the Model 1903 rifle, including long-range shooting. There is also an appendix covering the Krag-Jorgensen as it was still used by various state guard units at the time. Positions, sights, zeroing, windage, score books, slow-fire, rapid-fire, long-range, ammunition, vision; it's all here. Every topic you see covered in a modern book on marksmanship was covered by Whelen in this book. You can't know where you're going if you don't know where you've been - this is a "must read" for the serious marksman and student of history.
Modern Rifle Shooting From the American Standpoint, Walter Guy Hudson, 1903, 155 pages.
Dr. Hudson was one of the leading lights of the early smokeless era (as well as the Schuetzen era), a contemporary and friend of Mann and Pope, Hudson was a tireless investigator of all things related to accuracy. This very hard to find book is an introduction to target shooting with a detailed overview of equipment and practices and is well illustrated with many plates of top level equipment of the day; a real gem.
How I Became a Crack Shot; With Hints to Beginners, W. Milton Farrow, 1882, 204 pages.
Milton Farrow was one of the top shots of his time. Well bred and well educated, modesty was not among Farrow's virtues which makes for entertaining reading as he describes his travels and his many shooting accomplishments. The Hints for Beginners section has advice that remains sound even these many years later.
Annual Report 1902, 1903, 1904, National Rifle Association of America, hundreds of pages.
The Gun and its Development, William Wellington Greener, 1907 (8th Ed.) 786 pages.
Rifles and Rifle Shooting, Charles Askins, 1919 (reprint of 1912 edition), 256 pages.
This book is by the elder Askins, not his son, who is more known to the current generation of readers. His style is more readable than the son's, but equally lacking in technical rigor. A broad but superficial coverage of the topic including some Schuetzen discussion.
Manual for Rifle Practice: Including Suggestions for Practice at Long Range, George Wood Wingate, 1879, 303 pages.
Wingate was the central figure in the founding of the National Rifle Association of America and like Whelen's manual 30 years later, Wingate's book was adopted as the training manual by many military organizations. An authoritative view of state of the art marksmanship instruction in the day of the Trapdoor Springfield, Sharps, Remington Rolling Block and Peabody military rifles including diagrams and instructions for their care.
The Book of the Rifle, Thomas Francis Fremantle, 1901, 558 pages.
This English book is a very thorough history of rifles and of the British target rifle shooting. There is so much here that is is difficult to summarize; it would be best for the prospective reader to sift through the contents as he will surely find something of interest.
Description and Rules for the Management of the United States Rifle, Caliber .30, Model of 1903, United States. Army. Ordnance Dept., 1904 (5th revision 1914), 72 pages.
Here is the original US Army manual for the new Springfield Model 1903. A must-have for the Springfield 1903 buff or student of history.
Description and Instructions for the Management of the Gallery-Practice Rifle, Caliber .22, Model of 1903, United States. Army. Ordnance Dept., 1907 (2nd Revision 1913), 12 pages.
The original US Army manual for the .22 caliber training version of the Model 1903. This is not the Model of 1922 but rather the early subcaliber conversion which had a .22 barrel but used .30-06 size cartridge holders to hold the .22 rimfire cartridges. A hard to find reference for a very rare rifle.
Military Rifle Shooting, U.S. Cartridge Company, 1902, 122 pages.
Overview of military rifle shooting in each state, coverage of ranges, courses of fire, targets, trophies. Great coverage of early Palma shooting and a picture of the original trophy at pages 94 through 98.
U.S. Marine Corps Score Book: A Rifleman's Instructor, Captain William Curry Harllee USMC, 1912, 122 pages.A scorebook as used today in Highpower shooting, but with many instructional tips and wind tables. A nice look at an early work of this sort by Capt. Harllee who was instrumental in the development of Marine Corps marksmanship in the modern era.
Our Rifles: Firearms in American History, Volume 3, Charles Winthrop Sawyer, 1920, 413 pages.A very complete history of rifles in America including a well detailed description of rifle manufacturing in 1920 and a call for a renewed interest in marksmanship among civilians - a call we must still heed! Sawyer was a graduate of MIT and later a professor of architecture there; the book reflects his scholarly methodology while being easy to read.
The Scientific American War Book: The Mechanism and Technique of Warfare, Albert Allis Hopkins, Scientific American, Inc., 1916, 338 pages.
A broad coverage of warfare at the time of the Great War, and while most of the book is not directed towards rifle accuracy, the chapter on powder manufacture at page 171 and the chapter on bullet streamlining by Edward C. Crossman at page 143 are worthwhile to the student of rifle accuracy.
Machine Guns: Materiel, Captain Julian S. Hatcher, 1917, 233 pages.
An early work by Hatcher, a good read for the student of firearms mechanisms or the machine gun.
The Front Sight Also Rises
by Germán A. Salazar
Photo: Riles Palma and Tubegun sights.
Early ladder sights tended to be somewhat spindly in their construction, subject to damage from even a slight bump. Even today one sees some truly Rube Goldberg type contrivances on the firing line, often with a frustrated owner trying to keep all the bits together long enough to fire one more string. The Riles and Centra sights, by contrast, are of robust construction and can easily take the rough handling and recoil that are part and parcel of Highpower shooting as we pick it up, pack it up and move it back from line to line all day. The Riles is made from aircraft strength 7075-T6511 aluminum, the Centra sight base and elevation plate are also made from 7075 aluminum.
The 22 mm sight bodies have become the Highpower standard over the past decade or so. In that time all of the commonly used accessories have been developed for that size. The 22 mm sights evolved from the premise that bigger is better when it comes to seeing the number boards and target clearly. Why the large body itself leads to to clearer vision is a subject I’ll leave to the ophthalmologists (professional and amateur) among us. However, one undisputable benefit of the larger body is in the higher quality of lenses made for it. It is apparently easier to more consistently make a high quality lens in the 22 mm size than the 18 mm, resulting in less distortion and a clearer sight picture. We’ll discuss lenses further on, but, given their increased usage in long-range shooting, this is no doubt part of the drive towards bigger sight bodies.
Photo (below): Centra Goliath 30 mm.
My good friend Allen Elliott tells me that I sometimes get too involved in the historical aspects of a subject when straightforward technical information is what he, and presumably others, are looking for. Heeding his caution, I will simply say that while the 30 mm front sights are the newest arrival on the Highpower match sight scene, extra large front sights are hardly new. Womack and Freeland produced them for the Smallbore community decades ago; however, those old sights are best left to the collectors as they are not particularly suited to Highpower, being somewhat fragile, hard to mount and very limited in iris selection and other accessories. Today, Riles and Centra lead the way in the 30 mm size with their offerings in both standard heights and the tall models suitable for Tubeguns, Spaceguns and Tubb rifles all of which have high sight lines. Everything that can be said about the 22 mm sights is applicable to the 30 mm units: more light, greater field of view, sharper lenses.
Photo: Centra Goliath 30 mm sight.
I've been using the Riles 22 mm front sight for a few years and really like them both in terms of sight picture and quality of construction. I have them on conventionally stocked rifles as well as Tubeguns. Recently, I've added a Centra Goliath to my 6XC long-range rifle and have come to like what I see through it as well. Both the Riles and the Centra are extremely well manufactured, the quality of machining and finish leaves nothing to be desired unlike some other recent entries into this product category. Both Riles and Centra offer spirit levels in their sight bodies for those who prefer them; I am trying it out on the Centra and the Tubegun Riles, but am not yet convenced that they are especially helpful. I tend to shoot quickly to minimize wind changes between shots and time spent looking at a spririt level just slows me down; generally, the crossbar in the front iris is all the level I need. Still, I realize that many shooters like the comfort of seeing a centered bubble and there's nothing wrong with that.
I'm slowly working my way into the 21st Century with respect to front sights having now replaced almost all of my 18 mm sights with either the 22 mm Riles or the Centra 30 mm. The rifle on which I installed the Centra, a 6XC long range rifle, previously had an old RPA 18 mm fixed height front sight which I can't say was too detrimental to my performance as I won a lot of 1000 yard matches with that old sight. However, looking through the Centra was almost literally like switching from a 60 watt light bulb to a 100 watt bulb. I immediately noticed a brighter sight picture and a crisper view of the front sight iris and this can only help performance.
Many shooters, especially those who are over 40, prefer to use a lens in the front sight to aid target definition. These lenses are available in all three globe sizes, but it appears that the larger sizes are cut more accurately and with their optical center closer to the actual center of the lens. These factors will improve the quality of the sight picture and reduce zero shift if the lens is removed and re-installed which was a common problem with the 18 mm lenses. The Centra lenses come in 0.3 and 0.5 diopter versions, the 0.3 is typically used for 600 yards and below whereas the 0.5 is used for distances over 600 yards. I don't use a front lens in my rifles and therefore, don't have any comment on them for the moment. I may install one for evaluation purposes soon and if so I will edit this article to include my impressions.
The Riles 18 mm and 22 mm sights use any of the commercially available front irises, the 30 mm version and the Centra call for a special 30 mm unit sold by Centra. Centra front iris comes 4 choices of adjustable iris ranges: 2.3mm - 4.3mm; 2.8mm - 4.8mm; 3.8mm - 5.8mm; and 5.0mm - 7.0mm. Using a front lens will require use of the larger sizes to maintain a correctly proportioned sight picture.
If you're looking for a new front sight, whether for an existing rifle or a newly built one, the Riles and Centra sights will give you the quality, options and performance you need in Highpower shooting and the durability to take the pounding from the recoil of a centerfire rifle. We've come a long way from the Springfield's blade front sight - thank goodness!
This article is an introduction to neck turning for Highpower shooting. The reasons we might choose to turn necks are different from those of other disciplines and our focus is solely on Highpower shooting. I intend to cover two topics: why to turn necks and how to turn necks. There are, undoubtedly many other ways of doing this, I'm simply presenting my way, it works well for me and is simple enough to duplicate without too much expense. Remember that all of the pictures can be enlarged by clicking them, this will help with small details. If you can see the details without enlarging, you shouldn't be worried about neck turning, you could be shooting a service rifle!
Neck Turning Basics
by Germán A. Salazar
Why Should You Consider Neck Turning?Let's assume that your rifle doesn't have a tight neck chamber that requires neck turning; if you have a tight neck chamber, of course, the answer to the question is "because you have to". For the rest of us, and that includes the vast majority of Highpower shooters, neck turning isn't a requirement, but it can be a useful way to bring your ammunition a small but meaningful step closer to that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: perfection. I'm not talking about a theoretical improvement, but a real one, an improvement that lies in equalizing and optimizing the neck tension of your loaded rounds. Inconsistent neck tension is a real contributor to increased muzzle velocity variance which itself is a significant factor in increased elevation dispersion at long range. So there's our basic reason for neck turning: to equalize and optimize neck tension in order to reduce elevation dispersion.
Before we get into the how-to section, let's do a bit of thinking and some basic math (not too much, I promise). We'll use my .30-06 chamber and a piece of Lake City brass as examples. The neck in my chamber measures 0.340" in diameter; I happen to know this because I have a print of the reamer used to cut it. If you don't have a print of your chamber reamer, measure the neck diameter of a piece of fired, unresized, brass that's reasonably new and add 0.001" to the dimension, that will be very close to the chamber neck diameter and certainly close enough for our purposes here.
Now let's measure the neck diameter of a loaded round with the brass we propose to use and neck turn. In this case, the loaded LC brass measures 0.335" although there is some variation depending on exactly where I measure; a little rotation changes the reading a bit. The reason is simple enough, the neck is not of uniform thickness all around. Basically, though, we have a 0.340" chamber neck and 0.335" loaded ammunition neck, for a clearance of 0.005" (clearance will always be expressed as total diametrical clearance, not radial clearance). That's a reasonable amount of clearance (if only it were uniform) and ideally we would like to stay close to it, but whether or not we can depends to some extent on the brass quality and some convenience factors. We'll discuss these considerations further along; for now, at least we know where we are beginning the process, so let's get on with the how-to.
The Tools of the Trade
Here you see everything I use and a bit more. The press, a cordless screwdriver (always plugged in, turning is tough on the old battery), a couple of K&M neck turners (one set up for 6mm, the other for .30 caliber) an expander for each size, some Imperial lube, an old toothbrush or two to keep the cutter clean, a handle with a caseholder (for those emergencies when the screwdriver dies and there's just one more case to go!), steel wool and a tubing micrometer finish the list of tools. Hey, I left the dial calipers out of the picture! They're always handy, keep them around, but they are useless for measuring neck thickness, so don't try. I usually use an Optivisor magnifier while I turn necks, very handy for a clear view of what's happening on the neck.
Lube, Lube, LubePut some lube on the inside of the case neck and run it into the expander, really, this isn't hard. I prefer to expand each case immediately before turning it as opposed to expanding all the cases and then turning them. Brass is somewhat springy and will tend to go back toward its original size; therefore, by expanding and turning immediately, you are more likely to have all cases fit the mandrel with the same degree of tightness and to get a more consistent depth of cut.
Expand the case, dab a bit more lube inside the neck, then slide the case onto the caseholder and tighten with a wrench. Hand tightening will not do, the case will inevitably slip if you try.
Lube the cutter mandrel, you're getting the hang of this lube thing now, aren't you? K&M offers regular steel and carbide mandrels; I really prefer the carbide ones as they have much less tendency to grab the case and thus make the turning process much smoother. You can get by without lubing the carbide mandrels in many instances, but if it feels tight or begins to get hot, use some lube. There's some judgment involved here, so I can't give an absolute tule on this aspect of it.
The carbide mandrels have cutting teeth on the end to get rid of any incipient donuts at the base of the neck, they can also do some damage to the inside of the neck also if you aren't careful - so be careful and guide the case in carefully. Don't power the case on and off the mandrel, guide it to the blade without rotation and stop the power on the outbound side just as the case neck clears the cutter.
I've glossed over, okay totally skipped over, adjusting the tool for the proper cutting depth. While I use the K&M, I realize that there are many other makes of neck turning tools out there and there's no sense in describing the adjustment procedure for one tool and not all or many of them. Since I can't do that, it's more logical to do none. More importantly, all the tools I've seen have pretty good adjustment instructions. The only thing they don't tell you is that you should have five to ten spare cases to get it right initially. Anything of the right diameter will do while you learn, for instance, just use that cheap surplus .308 brass to do initial setup and save the precious .30-06 for when you know what you're doing. Be patient and make your adjustments slowly; you'll need to set the cutter for thickness as well as length of cut (just into the shoulder). The depth of cut (brass thickness) takes a bit of fiddling, the length of the cut is generally easy to set. It's best to keep the children away during this process, inevitably some things will be said that the little ones shouldn't hear. Later we will come to acknowledge that the tool designer came from a well documented family, but in the heat of the moment, one does at times raise the other possibility.
If you have decided on a cut that will reduce thickness by 0.0015" or more, you should make two passes on the brass. Limit the first pass to a 0.0015" reduction and finish the operation on the second pass. Obviously you won't be resetting the cutter twice for each case, so do them all at the first setting, readjust and then do the second pass on all of them. If you have to cut that much to get the brass to clean up, you might consider better brass. If you're cutting it to fit a particular chamber or to maintain a uniform thickness across several types of brass (as I do) then that's just the breaks of the game. A second cutter might be a useful idea; that's another nice thing about the K&M, it's price is low enough that having a few isn't a tremendous burden as it might be with some of the pricier models out there.
Here's the moment of truth: start the case onto the arbor, power up the screwdriver and feed the case into the cutter. Screwdriver rotation should be as if you were driving a screw IN (clockwise). Advance at a slow but steady pace, 20 seconds or so to make the cut to the shoulder and about the same amount of time to back it out is just about right. Don't stop the screwdriver and whatever you do, don't reverse the rotation to back it out, you'll really hurt the blade on the cutter. Just keep it turning and feed the case on and off the cutter at a nice, even rate.
You'll remember that I said earlier that the cases all had to be trimmed to a uniform length, here's why. The K&M and most tools, use the case mouth as the stop point for the cutter - if the cases aren't trimmed to the same length, the depth of the cut will vary accordingly. Since we want to have the cutter just bite into the shoulder, we need to have very uniform case lengths to keep from undercutting or overcutting at this critical point. Visually, you should see a small shiny ring form right at the neck/shoulder junction, just cutting into the shoulder. This is a judgment call because you really can't measure it, but keep it small. The purpose of cutting into the shoulder is to ensure that you got 100% of the neck which will prevent donuts from forming at the inside base of the neck. If there's a small, unturned ring at the base of the neck, when you fire the brass for the first time, the 55,000 psi of chamber pressure blows the neck out to the chamber wall and the neck will no longer have that bulge on the outside, it will now be on the inside and there's your donut which will make bullet seating difficult and will wreck our attempt to get uniform neck tension. On the other hand, if you cut too far into the shoulder, you'll weaken the neck/shoulder junction and blow the necks off the cases. I saw a nice example of this recently; I should have asked for one of the neckless cases.
Case CleanupBefore you remove the case from the caseholder, spin it while pressing firmly onto the neck with some 000 or 0000 steel wool. There shouldn't be any grooves from the turning operation, if there are you fed it in and out too fast. The steel wool is just a little fine polishing step but shouldn't be used to fix bad turning practice, it won't do that. Before you finish, turn the case mouth into the steel wool just in case there are any burrs left from the trimming and chamfering operation. Remove the lube from the inside of the neck with a cotton swab, it'll interfere with measuring and you need to get it out before loading anyway.
So here we are, a nice turned neck, cut just into the shoulder and looking nice. Not too hard to do. On a good session it takes me an average of two minutes per case to expand, turn, polish and measure. so I can do about thirty per hour. Normally that's my limit for an evening, so I spread the 70 cases I prepare for a match set of brass over two to three evenings. I prefer to do that than to find myself rushing through the operation because I want to get it over with. You'll be shooting the brass for a long time, there's no sense in compromising its preparation - take your time.
Should I Turn Necks?
Measuring the Case
This article is intended for those of you who do not currently do any reloading at the range. If you already do this, there is nothing new in here, it is a basic introduction to the subject. - GAS -
And now, for something completely different...Here's a picture of Darren Sucato's range reloading setup with conventional equipment on a regular plastic folding table. Darren uses an RCBS Partner press bolted to the table and a Redding powder measure clamped to the table. This is sturdy enough for throwing powder and seating bullets, though not really for full-length sizing. Darren also uses the table as a shooting bench for chronographing.; again, not really sturdy enough for accuracy work, but just fine for the chrono.