Sunday, September 29, 2013

To Reload or not to Reload.....

Whenever the topic of reloading comes up, the question is always asked:"do you really save money"?

The answer is: It depends on the caliber you are reloading.

Reloading is not necessarily about saving money, it is a hobby unto itself. You become your own custom ammo supplier. You control the quantity and quality. You get to design your own loads that match your gun or style of shooting/hunting.

So to answer the question I decided to do the math for everyone. I chose two calibers to compare costs: I chose the 9mm Parabellum as it is on  one end of the pricing spectrum. 9mm is perhaps the cheapest centerfire (non-surplus) ammo on the market. At the other end I chose the 44 Magnum, it is larger and more expensive, plus your choices are often limited depending on where you shop.

For this discussion we will be talking about brass cased, boxer primed (re-loadable) jacketed ammunition.

9mm Parabellum 115gr FMJ can be purchased for $10 - $15 for a box of 50, at the retail level.

$10 is pretty cheap for a box of 50 rounds, can you really load for less than that?

On the other end of the scale is the 44 Magnum, FMJ plinking rounds are expensive, even for the non-re-loadable CCI Blazer expect to pay more than $25 for a box of 50 and the brass cased FMJ or JHP expect to pay $30-$35. 

Bullets are usually the most expensive part of the cartridge. For plinking it does not make sense to buy Full Metal Jacketed (FMJ) bullets because most likely you wont be loading these "hot" anyway. However some guns (Glocks) cannot fire lead bullets and most indoor ranges do not allow lead bullets anymore (EPA concerns).
There is an alternative: plated or coated bullets. I prefer Xtreme plated bullets, they are VERY uniform, inexpensive and available. Look for a link to their website at the end of this post.

For 1000 qty, 115 grain fully plated 9mm bullets you can expect to pay around $85, this equates to $42.50 for 500 or $4.25 for 50 of them.
44 Magnum 240 grain bullets will run about $130 for 1000, $65 for 500, $6.50 for 50.

Most people re-use their brass over and over, but for this discussion we will assume you have none and need to buy brass. Used 9mm "range pick-up" brass usually sells for around $35 for 1000 pieces, which equates to $17.50 for 500 or $1.75 for 50 of them.
Used 44 Mag brass is hard to come by and sometimes not useable, but if you did find good used brass, expect to pay more than double the 9mms cost, about $75 - $100 for 1000 pieces (which is close to what you can buy them for new)

There is the option of buying new brass. Starline is by far the best buy on new brass as you get to buy  factory direct. 1000 pieces of 9mm factory new Starline brass will run you $124.50 with shipping included, this means you would pay $6.23 for a box of 50 of them.
44 Magnum brass from Starline will set you back $167.50 for 1000 pieces,  $83.75 for 500 or $8.38 for 50 pieces.

Primers need to be added to the equation, usually small or large pistol, standard or magnum cost about the same, prices have been all over the map lately. Pre-panic prices for 1000 primers were in the $30-$35 range. We'll use the $35 mark to be conservative. So a box of 50 bullets will have the cost of 50 primers which is $1.75 ($35/2= $17.50 for 500 or $1.75 for 50)

Powder is the last ingredient. Re-loaders often have a favorite powder, for many different reasons. Some like a powder because it is cheap, or it goes a long ways, some like a powder that is cleaner burning or is more accurate in certain guns. I buy powder that has good burn characteristics, burns somewhat clean and goes a long ways. For the smaller automatics I prefer Bullseye from Alliant. Bullseye has been around a long time (the oldest smokeless powder made in America) and has been used by re-loaders since the invention of the hobby.
Bullseye will run you about $20 per pound when purchased in the 1 lb containers, obviously you save money buy buying in bulk, but not everyone has room to store 8 lb jugs of gun powder.
For the 44 Mag I prefer Allaint's 2400 powder. It is economical and consistent.
For the 9mm 115 grain FMJ, Alliant recommends a load of 4.3 to 4.7 grains of Bullseye. We usually load plated bullets on the lower end, as velocities exceeding 1000 fps can strip the platting and leave you with copper fouling in the bore.

Now, there are 7000 grains of powder in a pound, at $20 per lb, each grain weight of powder will cost you $0.0028 cents per grain, so 4.3 grains will set you back $0.012, a box of 50 costs you about $0.62.

For the 44 Magnum the formula is the same, $20 divided by 7000 equals $0.0028. The Alliant load of 19 grains of 2400 for the 240 grain JHP (the low end of the scale, high end is 21 grains). This means the 19 grains per load will cost $0.053 each and about $2.66 for the box of 50.

So lets put this on a chart to make it easy to see:

Brass new     Brass used     Bullets     Primers     Powder     Total
$6.23                                     $4.25       $1.75         $0.62         $12.85
                        $1.75             $4.25       $1.75         $0.62         $8.37
     recycled brass                  $4.25       $1.75         $0.62         $6.62

44 Magnum
Brass new     Brass used     Bullets     Primers     Powder     Total
$8.38                                    $6.50       $1.75         $2.66         $19.29
                        $7.50            $6.50       $1.75         $2.66         $18.41
     recycled brass                 $6.50       $1.75         $2.66         $10.91

Even though this is just an example, you can see that even when buying new brass you can match or beat retail prices on both calibers. Once you have good brass to reload, your savings increase dramatically.
Of course I did not include the cost of the reloading tools, the boxes to hold your reloaded ammo and other ancillary costs, but this is a hobby and all hobbies have associated equipment costs.

Here are the links to the products mentioned in this post. They are all great companies to do business with.

Alliant Powders:
Xtreme Plated Bullets:
Starline Brass:
CCI Primers:

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Another batch of guns to blue

I put the word out that I will be bluing some guns again and already have people lining up.

1st up is this Westernfield model 740 A-EMN lever action rifle, this is obviously a Marlin Model 336. Marlin made these under the Westernfield name for the Montgomery Ward department store chain. Just like the Sears or Western Auto guns.

The rust is minor, very little pitting and the gun appears to have never been apart, the screws are perfect (yeah!)

The owner had already removed some parts including the stock and magazine spring

The Ruger pistol from my post "Redemption for an unloved gun" is ready for bluing as well. I sand blasted the top sight plane as well as the front sight ring (to hide some of the pits)

  In addition we have this Federal Ordnance 1911 to reblue, the gun has a slight plum color to it, which may indicate the amount of nickel in the steel. I am hoping we can get a deep black color. Here is what it looks like now

 and dis-assembled:

We will also rebluing another S&W Model 19 K-frame. This one was parkerized, so I will need to strip the old parkerizing and sand it smooth
I noticed that the Smith & Wesson was not blued, but parkerized. I also noticed that the previous restoration effort had removed the S&W logo on the side plate.You can see it very faintly in the close up below

The pins that hold the barrel and the cylinder lock in place had also been damaged (flat instead of rounded) by the person using the wrong punch to remove/install them

Here is what they should look like:

I also noticed that the ejector rod's knurling had been stripped by the last person to disassemble the revolver. We're going to try and restore the knurling by cutting new checkering with a triangle file. Finally upon close inspection we discovered the cylinder release was painted, rather than blued or parkerized....
When inspecting the Federal Ordnance 1911, I noticed that someone has worked on this before. The holes for the pis and screws are dished out. Someone used a buffing wheel to try and smooth the metal, this is the result.

We also discovered that parkerizing can be removed using naval jelly (phosphoric acid) same as bluing, here we have stripped the guns of their old finish and will begin the sanding/polishing
Here I have some of the parts ready to blue, not sure what to do with the S&W as it has lost all collector value and a high polish job would only highlight the things missing (like the S&W logo).
we sand blasted parts of the Westernfield (just as Marlin had done at the factory). we also blasted the sight plane on both handguns.

We have the receiver on the Westernfield almost ready, We were able to get the big scratches out

 We were able to clean up the ejector rod for the S&W Model 19, we were not, however, able to re-cut the checkering (knurling) on the end of the rod. My files do not cut a fine enough line. I am looking into options on this
An SGN member showed up with his Ruger Mark II. He had a machinist cut & thread the barrel (the guy did an outstanding job!). Anyway, he prepped the gun, so we all have to do is degrease and re-blue it!

 right out of the bluing tank, covered in oil
Some of the parts had a red/orange/black soot/film on them, but this is normal, some oil and steel wool will reveal the nice blued finish underneath

 Here is the Ruger Mark II completed
The owner had welded up the old scope mounts, the welding rod was not the same alloy of steel and thus the bluing did not match. This is why you cannot simply weld up pitting and grind it smooth
Here is the 1911, the finish came out good, as I suspected the slide has a plum tinge to it, most likely because of nickel in the steel
 Here is a close up of the satin finish

Here is the S&W Model 19, this finish was achieved with a wire wheel, it has a matte, yet smooth look to it

The hammer and trigger were polished when the owner brought them over, Originally they were color case hardened. We used a technique that involves Birchwood-Casey cold bluing along with the cleaner degreaser (which I believe is just rubbing alcohol).

The Ruger Standard is finished as well, see the rest of the pictures here:

Monday, September 2, 2013

Attack of the Clones!

Before I get started, I wanted to remind everyone to keep checking my older posts as I frequently update them. I updated my progress on the Ruger Standard Pistol (Redemption for an unloved gun).

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or so the saying goes. Imitation happens quite often in the firearms world. 
I have a very inquisitive mind. When I see a gun that appears to be a copy of another gun, I investigate it and find out how/why the design was copied. In my opinion there are sometimes legitimate reasons for doing so, other times it is just cheap, non-imaginative people cashing in on someone's hard work.

The Mauser 98 rifle was designed by Paul Mauser in 1895 and adopted as the Gewehr (rifle) 98 in 1898 by the German Military. They eventually shortened the barrel and called it the K98 (for Karabiner the German word for Carbine).
The action of the Mauser proved very tough and it was licensed to other countries like Argentina, Turkey, Spain, Siam and others.
One of the 1st guns to copy this design was the U.S. Springfield M1903 Rifle. After the Spanish-American War, the US War Department saw the need to design a better rifle. Taking cues from the Mauser and the then current Krag-Jorgensen, they created a new rifle. It was close enough of a copy that Mauser sued the US Government and won $3M in royalty payments (which of course ended once WWI broke out)
Since that time there have been many other copies of the Mauser 98. The original Winchester Model 70, the current Ruger M77 and others. In fact most modern bolt actions have some design element that originated with the Mauser.

The Russian Tokarev TT33 pistol bears a striking resemblance to the Browning/Colt 1903.
The Tokarev was designed in the early 30's by Fedor Tokarev and was adopted by the Soviet Army in 1933. It was also used by many of the Soviet Satellite states using various names as well as in Egypt where it was known as the "Tokagypt".
There is little doubt that Mr. Tokarev used John Browning's pistol as the inspiration for his gun.
To be fair there are some internal differences, but I'll let you decide, here are the pictures, first the Browning 1903:

and the TT-33 Tokarev

The Soviets next gun following the Tokarev was another copy of a previous design, this time a German gun. The Makarov is a copy of the Walther PP (PPK). The PP (Police Pistol) was introduced in 1929, with the PPK (Police Pistol Kurtz/Kriminalmodel) following in 1931. The Makarov was developed in the late 40's and adopted by the Soviet Army in 1951.

The Walther PPK:

The Makarov:
The Soviets were not the only ones enamored with the Walther design, Sig-Sauer also copied it with the Sig P230 pistol:

The Argentinian company, Bersa also copied the design for their Model 83 & Thunderer pistols:

The Indian Arms 380

There were other copies as well; the Astra Constable, the CZ 50/70, and other cheap compact pistols...

Another Walther design that was copied (at least in part) was that of the Walther P-38 (P1). Adopted by the German Third Reich in 1938, it featured a slide mounted De-cocker/safety, double/single action trigger and an open top slide.
The Walther P-38:
 The Beretta (and subsequently the Taurus, see below) pistols copied many design elements of the Walther, the first was the modelo 1951, It was built by the Egyptians under license and called the "Helwan", the Iraqis called it the "Tariq".
The Beretta M1951:

I'm sure many of you reading this have noticed a striking similarity between the Taurus revolvers and those produced by Smith & Wesson. There is a good reason for that. Both companies were once owned by the multinational conglomerate: Bangor Punta.The engineers from S&W were told to assist the Taurus gun smiths in making a copy....I doubt they envisioned Taurus revolvers competing in the same US Marketplace, but who knows?
The Taurus Model 65 with a 6" barrel:

and the equivalent gun from Smith & Wesson, the model 19:

The Smith & Wesson revolvers were not the only design that Taurus copied. In 1980 Beretta completed a contract to produce pistols for the Brazilian Military. They sold the Sao Paolo plant to Taurus and a license to produce the Model 92. The Taurus version does have some differences. The Taurus PT92 does not feature the slide mounted decocker/safety of Beretta M92, instead using a manual safety mounted to the frame (although Taurus has since added the de-cocker mechanism).

The Beretta M92/M9:
 and the Taurus PT-92:

Taurus subsequently copied Beretta's small frame Bobcat pistol:
with their own version called the PT-22:
Colt's small pocket pistol: the Mustang was a miniaturized version of their 1911 pistol:

 Sig copied the design/idea with their P238 pistol:

When production of the US M1A / M14 was discontinued by the US Military in 1964, many companies (Springfield Armory Inc, Armscorp, Federal Ordnance and others) sought to make reproductions of the rifle. Ruger saw an opening and in 1967 they introduced the Mini-14. They copied the design into a smaller version, firing the .223/5.56 mm round instead of the larger 308/7.62 mm cartridge.
The original M14:
 and Ruger's Mini-14:
The Mini-14 (and subsequent Mini-30) were not the only Rugers that used previous designs. Ruger's very first commercial gun; The Ruger Standard; was a .22 pistol that used elements from the German P-08 Luger, the Japanese Nambu and the High Standard Supermatic. 

Ruger combined the grip frame & barrel of the Luger, the receiver & action of the Nambu, elements from the Colt Woodsman and the magazine from the High Standard. 

Bill Ruger felt the grip angle of the Luger to be perfectly suited to a target pistol. The resemblance was obvious and the similarity of names (Ruger/Luger) led many to believe this to be a Luger copy, instead of just inspired by the design.

Here is the Nambu pistol:

and the P-08 Luger:
 The Ruger Standard:
Ruger was the victim of cloning as well, The Bridgeport Firearms P66 was designed to compete with the Ruger and the Colt Woodsman, The inspiration for the pistol obviously came from the Ruger Standard.

AMT (Arcadia Machine & Tool) in California saw fit to make a near exact copy of the Ruger Mark series pistol called the AMT Lightning, of course a lawsuit brought by Ruger put an end to the shenanigans:

 Interestingly enough Ruger's 2nd and 3rd guns also used a previous design. The Single Six and Blackhawk were clones of the Colt Single Action Army.
In 1941 Colt ceased production of the Single Action Army revolver. Fast forward to the Post WWII era......the Western Movie genre was gaining momentum and the gun buying public sought to own the guns used in the movies. Ruger set to work building copies of the Peacemaker. Ruger's 1st revolver, the .22 rimfire Single Six, debuted in 1953, followed by the .357 Blackhawk in 1955. Ruger added adjustable sights to his center fire guns (eventually adding them to the rimfire Single Six as well), but otherwise they were a close copy of the Colt. Once shooters began experimenting with the Rugers they learned that the Ruger could handle hot loads well beyond what the original Colts could take.
Another interesting note, after Ruger saw success with his clone, Colt re-introduced the SAA in 1956.....

The Colt 1873 Single Action Army:

and the Ruger Blackhawk:

As Cowboy Action Shooting started getting popular, Ruger introduced a new version of the Blackhawk with fixed sights, called the "Vaquero". Designed to be a closer copy of the original Colt (yet still using the stronger & larger NM Blackhawk frame). Ruger has since introduced a new version closer in size to the Colt called the "New Vaquero"

The Ruger Vaquero:

Since the introduction of the Blackhawk there have been dozens of Colt Single Action Army copies, here are two, from Uberti and U.S.F.A.

another Ruger gun that was inspired by past designs is their Number 1 single shot rifle, it is based on the Farquharson rifle which was designed and patented in 1872. Of course the patent (and many memories) of the Farquharson had long expired and faded by the time Ruger brought it back to life in 1967

An original Farquharson Rifle

And the Ruger No. 1
Dakota Arms also makes a high quality Farquharson copy

One of the most copied guns is the Browning High-Power. There were several countries that manufactured versions under license from FN, but there were others that copied the design (wholly or in part). In fact most modern double stack semi-auto pistols have some design elements of Browning's last design.
Debuting in 1935, it was used on both sides during WWII and used for law enforcement world wide since. 

The original Browning P35 High Power:
The Hungarian FEG clone (I believe this was an unauthorized copy):
The High-Power was also the inspiration for the CZ-75 Pistol:
The CZ 75 was adopted by the Czech Army in 1975 and has been the subject of cloning ever since, this partly due to CZ's inability to obtain patent rights in other countries.

The IMI/Magnum Research Jericho 941 pistol was a copy with some unique features:
The Italian Tanfoglio was another CZ-75 clone

Canik firearms out of Turkey has started making clones of many guns, here is there Canik 55 Shark FC
As is the Caracal Pistol, made in the United Arab Emirates
The Smith & Wesson Model 61 (aka the Escort) was a copy of the earlier 1908 Pieper Bayard. Here they are together.

 Armscor  makes a revolver that was obviously inspired by the Colt 357 Magnum Revolver (which became the Python & Trooper models)

Here is the Colt 357
....and the Armscor M200
The Filipinos were not the 1st to copy the Colt Revolver, The Japanese company Miroku, once exported this revolver to America, two versions were made, the Liberty Chief and the Police Special.

The new SCCY CPX pistol appears to be a direct copy of the Kel-Tec P-11. There are unconfirmed rumors that the owner of SCCY is a former employee (even a relative) of Kel-Tec's George Kelgren. Here is the Kel-Tec P11
 And the SCCY CPX:

 One of the most prolific guns in America is the Marlin model 60, .22 auto-loading rifle. Introduced in 1960 it was an instant hit.
Many people mistakenly think that Ruger's 10-22 is a copy of the Marlin model 60. Not true, around the same time Marlin was redesigning the M60, Ruger was working on their 1st rifle, a gas operated, semi-automatic .44 caliber carbine. It was the .44 Carbine that lead to the development of a .22 semi-auto. 
Although we can assume the sales of the Marlin pushed Ruger to introduce their own .22 auto-loader. For what it is worth the Marlin model 60 has outsold the Ruger at an almost 2 to 1 ratio.
The Ruger 10-22 has definitely had its share of copy cats. The simple design, ease of modification and removable 10 round magazine made it very popular.

AMT again copied Ruger's design with a 22/25 Lightning Rifle:
Olympic Arms in Olympia, WA also made a stainless copy of the Ruger 10-22 is pistol & rifle configurations. Ruger's lawyers were able to stop production of both guns
Magnum Research now has a 10-22 clone called the MLR22:

 JARD inc sells a complete 10-22 copy, the J1022:

Zimmerman Arms also makes a 10-22, but there gun is more tactical in look and feel

Rumor has it that Armscor (Philippines) is about to market an exact copy of the 10-22, pictures are tough to find, but I did find this one:
The legality of clones is probably a moot point as the patents have no doubt expired and thanks to the aftermarket it has been possible to build a complete 10-22 without any Ruger parts for awhile now.

The Walther P99 was introduced by the German Arms maker in 1996 (and was even used in 3 movies as 007's side arm) has recently been cloned by the Canik Arms company in Turkey:
the original Walther P99:
 and the Canik 55:
No one can argue that the gun world was turned on its collective head when the Glock pistol was introduced. It was different, and that lead to other companies copying the design. S&W was 1st, the Sigma pistol "triggered" a lawsuit by Glock. Glock won and the pistol had to be redesigned....
The Glock 17 Gen2

 The S&W Sigma:

The Turkish made Akdal Ghost is another copy of the Glock 

 The hottest market in firearms for awhile was the 380 pocket guns. A company called Diamondback Arms released what appears to be a compact Glock pistol. The shape, look and take down features all mimic the larger Glock pistols. Many nicknamed the DB380 the "baby Glock". That may have been cute and funny, but Glock wasn't laughing. At the 2014 SHOT show Glock introduced their own 380 pocket pistol, the REAL baby Glock, the G42. Here is the Diamondback DB380:
and the Glock 42

In 2010 Taurus introduced a revolver that chambered both the 45 Colt and the 410 shotgun shell. People thought Taurus created something new, not really, the MIL Thunder 5 was introduced in 1992, but went out of production before the Judge was introduced.

The MIL Thunder 5:

The Taurus Judge:

Smith & Wesson jumped on the bandwagon, even giving their revolver a similar name: The Governor.

 There is a good reason the Kel-Tec PMR 30 and the Grendel P30 look alike and share so many features, they were both designed by George Kelgren, the founder of both companies.

The Grendel:

The Kel-Tec PMR 30:

Once upon a time John Browning designed a shotgun for Remington called the model 17. Remington built the pump shotgun for about ten years, they refined it into the model 31, finally abandoning it in favor of the 870. Ithaca picked up the design, changed some things and called it the Model 37

The Remington model 17:

  The Ithaca model 37
Taurus has made copies of some American Favorites, here is their version of the Winchester model 62, which was derived from the model 1890 & 1906.
Here is the Taurus:
  and the Winchester:

Taurus Also made a copy of the Colt Lightning, called the Thunderbolt:
 Here is the original Colt version
 Uberti also made a high quality version:

  Outside of the 10-22 the most copied rifle has to be the AR-15. Designed by Eugene Stoner in the 1950s for Armalite, the semi-auto, civilian variant had become ubiquitous.  They are like belly buttons.....everyone has one.

The original SP1 AR-15:

and finally the most widely recognized and most copied firearm of all time: the Colt 1911. Designed by John M. Browning for the US Military trials, it served as the official US Military sidearm from 1911 through 1986 and is still issued to some units. It has been off and on used in Law Enforcement (Tacoma, WA Police Dept recently adopted the Kimber Pro Carry as their new sidearm). 

There are no less than 50 manufacturers of the 1911 today including Colt, Kimber, Ruger, S&W, Sig, Remington, Taurus, Springfield, all of which make multiple models. It was made by the NAZIs during WWII as well as the Communist Chinese (Norinco). They are made in the U.S.A., Canada, Brazil, The Philippines, Italy, and now in Turkey.

Here is the original 1911; restored by Master Gunsmith Doug Turnbull: