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Monthly Archives: June 2014

Why I Choose to Carry

Here is a great presentation of not only why this man has chosen to carry a gun, but also the stigma that can accompany that choice.
Thanks to Semi on Target for a well done post!

 

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Ammunition Basics: Part 3 – What Is Caliber?

 

The White haired ShooterTHE WHITE HAIRED SHOOTER

Ammunition “Basics”   Part 3

This is the 3rd in a series of articles on the complex topic of modern cartridge ammunition and looks into “caliber” from a novice’s perspective. Wading into the somewhat murky and “math-y” topic of caliber can be daunting.

My aim is to assist new shooters feel more comfortable approaching and discussing ammunition by pulling back the “math” curtain a little and revealing the wizard who lurks behind.

I am admittedly more than a little bit nerdy and a geek at heart, and find pleasure when I unravel concepts – including “math-y” things. I like getting to the point I can understand, and have been known to put in a bit of time chasing an idea.

For those of you with a similarly “slight” nerdish streak, I hope you find some of this article kind of “fun,” and to those who only want to learn what they have to about caliber, I encourage you to bear with me a bit and see if this approach helps to take some of the mystery out of the subject.

Please note concerning the pictures below:  they are for illustration of concept only! My measurements are not EXACT. The calipers I use are inexpensive and “well used” in our shop, they are off a bit.

 

Caliber –  What it is

At its simplest, caliber of a handgun – and the ammunition that it can fire –  is a measurement.

The inside part of the round tube that is the gun’s barrel is measured across the widest part (diameter) of the circle. The outside diameter of the bullet (projectile part of the cartridge) is measured.

Caliber is commonly expressed in two ways:

Inches (imperial measurement), expressed as a decimal carried out to 2 or 3 places, and often followed with the letters “cal.”

Millimeters (metric measurement), expressed as a whole number without any decimal, followed by the abbreviation “mm.”

Measuring caliber

When starting out on the journey of learning about ammunition, I decided to take some measurements myself.  To do this I employed a pair of digital calipers.

Calipers can measure outside diameters using the space between the large jaws, and inside diameters by using the small pincher looking end.

If you don’t own calipers, they are affordable and widely available.

I like digital better than the old “dial” style we used way back when, because they give clear and instant results, and you can switch between measuring inches and millimeters with a touch of a button.

The inside diameter of the gun barrel is measured for the caliber.

9mmGunCalipers

9mm barrel

45Gun

.45 cal barrel

The outside diameter of the bullet, the actual projectile at the tip of the cartridge, is measured.

9mmBulletCalipers

9mm bullet

45CalBulletCalipers

.45 cal bullet

 

 

Why Decimals of an inch instead of Fractions of an inch?

When we “talk” inches – in the U.S. – we most commonly express less than a whole inch in fractions. Dealing with 1/2″ or 3/4″ is well understood as we work with them daily, right down to 16ths and even 32nds or smaller.

But when discussing caliber, very small fractions are involved. Working with fractions at that level and finding common denominators in order to compare the fractional numbers, is a good reminder of why so many kids tuned out during math class.

It’s not just that it is hard mental work, or the need to find common denominators, or use conversion apps or tables, it is also difficult to conceptualize.

For example, asking which would be larger:

9/20ths of an inch?

           or

19/50ths of an inch?

is as likely to elicit an “I don’t know” as a  “Who cares” response.

These same fractions, expressed as decimals are:

.450 ?

  or

.380 ?

and comparison is a snap.

Those are also two common sizes of handgun ammunition. Now you now know that a .45 caliber is physically larger than a .380 caliber.  Yippee!

Measuring the cartridge casing (also called “brass”)

Even if you don’t reload ammunition, you most likely will collect or “police” the spent casings after shooting your semi-automatic, or empty them out of your revolver when at the range to clean up after your shoot.

You can identify the caliber of the cartridge that was fired by measuring the inside diameter of a spent casing.

9mm

9mm casing

 

45cal

.45 cal casing

 

The beauty of the design of the modern handgun cartridge is revealed when you see for yourself how thin the metal of the casing is and realize while shooting your gun, that casing must remain in the chamber. It is primarily held in place by the thin walls of the casing not fitting into the barrel while the projectile, the bullet, travels down and out the barrel. That demands very tight tolerances.

This may help a little in understanding some of the attention and precautions made in proper matching and identification of your cartridges. And – as a friend who is well versed in this subject pointed out in a comment to the last article – the importance of visually inspecting your cartridges to make sure they are not dented or damaged in any way before you use them.

If you survived so far!

Congratulations!

People who have devoted time learning about guns and ammunition are often as difficult for the “lay person” to understand when discussing their “beloved” subject, as computer techs and programmers are famed to be! Hopefully you now understand how simple and straightforward the notation of caliber truly is.  It is not that hard of a concept, afterall.

Next up:  We’ll look at the most common calibers for handguns, discuss a few other notations you will probably run into, and go into a few “exceptions” to the rule of matching ammunition touched on earlier.

Happy and Safe shooting  –  Peggy

 
 

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Happy Father’s Day

Special Thanks to Chris over at UK City Crafter for giving me the link to the following: It says it all so well! Happy Father’s Day to all you wonderful men who are raising children or have children who have grown!

 

 

Best Provider Daddy

imgion.com | Father’s Day | Forward this Picture

 
1 Comment

Posted by on June 14, 2014 in General Discussion

 

Ammunition Basics: Part 2 – What Is The Correct Ammunition For Your Gun?

 

The White haired ShooterTHE WHITE HAIRED SHOOTER

Ammunition “Basics”   Part 2

This article is the 2nd in a series of articles on the complex topic of modern cartridge ammunition.

Every firearm has a specific type, caliber and range of pressure/tolerance of ammunition the gun can safely fire.

batteriesThis is somewhat similar to putting batteries into an appliance or instrument. You have to match the correct shape, configuration and power capacity, and we’re used to doing this regularly.

However, as emphasized in Part 1 of this series, the similarity to an everyday occurence, like a battery ends quickly. A mismatched battery will fail to function.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMismatched ammunition may have serious and possible lethal consequences, with the potential to damage or destroy your gun.

If that sounds serious, it is.

The good news is once you learn how to find out what works for your gun, it becomes as easy as shopping for any other item. And as a bonus, when you learn the process of how to match ammunition to a gun, you can find the right ammunition for any handgun.

While there seems to be an almost infinite variety to types, calibers, and ranges of pressure/tolerances in ammunition, the process to match it to specific guns is straightforward.

The Process

The order of the following can be varied, but each step must be followed for safe shooting, and not just for the novice shooter.  This is a practice you should observe whenever you load a gun. For the novice, Step One should be done each time you prepare to shoot a gun new to you.

rugerlcrmanualStep One:  before you shoot the gun for the first time

The owners manual provides an excellent starting place.  However, the manual will only apply if your gun is “Factory New” or if it is in Used condition, it has all original parts.

For the purposes of this article “Factory New” means you are the first person to fire the gun since it’s building and testing at the factory.

The manual provides detailed user instructions including ammunition specifications for your pistol.  If you have misplaced or for some reason don’t have the original manual for your factory new gun, there are many resources on the internet. It’s easy to search using Bing, Google, Yahoo or other search engines, by typing:

Gun maker + Model + manual

Some manuals are free to download, some will require you to register on their site, and some will need to be purchased.

Special note:  If you have a used gun that has been modified or customized, the manual instructions for ammunition may not be applicable. If possible, talk with the person who did the customization, or better yet, take it to a gunsmith.  When you find out what was changed, and particularly if it relates to a change in ammunition to be used, mark the changes in the users manual for future reference.

RugerLCR PistolStep Two:

Your gun is marked with the ammunition it is meant to fire.  The caliber of the ammunition your gun can shoot will be stamped on the barrel or slide. In the rare case your gun is not marked, I would strongly suggest taking it to a gunsmith and make sure what ammunition it is designed to shoot.

 Step Three:

38PBoxCCIThe box is marked. For factory manufactured loads (new in box), the label/box is clearly marked with the type and caliber, and should indicate if it is a higher pressure load (commonly marked as +P or +P+  ). Match this to the stamping on your gun’s barrel or slide.

Special caution needs to be used if using reloaded cartridges. Just because the box and the head stamp match is no assurance the rounds in that box are up to acceptable or safe standards.

Even if you know the person reloading meticulously follows requirements for each step of the process, and for each cartridge, and has labeled the boxes appropriately to the specifications they have tailored those rounds, I would still wait until you have gained experience before using reloaded ammunition.

This is primarily a safety precaution, but also it is good to learn how your gun shoots with uniform NEW rounds manufactured to tight tolerances before you widen the variables in your shooting.  I have shot reloaded “hot” rounds that change the way I need to grip, sight, and follow through after recoil in order to successfully be on target.

38specPHeadstampStep Four:

Finally, the rounds themselves have a stamp on the head case.  Use a magnifier if you need to, but be sure this stamp matches your gun.  Don’t ever rely on the box having the correct rounds in it. While shooting or loading magazines, it’s common for some people to replace unused cartridges into the box. Don’t take unnecessary chances. Know what you are going to shoot.

Some exceptions:

There are always some exceptions to the rules, and matching ammunition safe to shoot in your gun is no different.

In the next article, Part 3 of the series, we’ll go into more detail as we discuss “Caliber” and Types.

 

 

 

Happy and Safe shooting  –  Peggy

 

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Ammunition Basics: Part I – A Word of Encouragement

 

The White haired ShooterTHE WHITE HAIRED SHOOTER

Ammunition “Basics”   Part I

 

CAVEAT  (Warning) ABOUT THIS POST

This post has been one of the more difficult to write.  Typically in talking about ammunition, there is TMI (too much information) presented way too soon, and loaded with technical information, for the novice to find a foothold.  However, there are good reasons to delve deeply into the subject. Buying, handling, storing and shooting ammunition used in shooting is a VERY serious topic.

An unloaded gun has negligible potential to harm or injure  (unless it is used like a club or hammer). Once a cartridge is placed in front of a firing pin the gun is “HOT” or “LIVE.”

Please be aware that in this introductory post I will draw some comparisons between everyday experiences and learning about ammunition for your gun.  The intent is to point out you CAN learn the basics of ammunition. That is where the similarity ends.  Period.

You can’t substitute, skip steps, guess, experiment or “learn by doing” without the potential for serious and possibly deadly consequences. To approach shooting in any other way is dangerous. Realize you need to become educated and pursue that. In the case of ammunition, it is vital to know exactly what you are loading into a gun.

Girls of the Baby Boomer Era

This introduction is directed mostly to those ladies of the “baby boomer” generation, those born during a long period spanning from World War II 40’s to the late 60’s and into the early 70’s.  About halfway through most of our childhoods, the world changed drastically and we bridged a gap in feminine upbringing. During our early childhood there was a clear divide between what was expected or acceptable for a GIRL or a BOY in behavior and participation: in the home, school, sports, and limits to occupation. That day where girls were to play with dolls, couldn’t wear pants to school, played separate “gentle” sports sans serious competition, and took home economics instead of wood shop is thankfully gone.

But like any major societal shifts, the barriers did not just melt away overnight. It took a generation (ours)  to really build up steam. For some boomers it skipped right past, for others it happened gradually, and for a few the barrier between what was accessible for MALE and FEMALE crashed down abruptly.

I am of that generation, born at the tail end of the 40’s in post WWII times, and I well remember the “switch.” I made it easily and gladly, and was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. I embraced science and math during the “space race” of the Kennedy era and had the good fortune to be raised along with two brothers by a career military father who had in some respects helped those barriers come down. Sports was still sharply divided for male and female, and I am athletic by nature and pushed myself hard in the “GAA” (Girls Athletic Association) but sometimes am saddened I missed that opportunity. In an earlier generation I would have been labeled “tomboy”  but because of the timing, instead was fortunate enough to be able to step out confidently -with limits- but without a challenge to my “femininity.”

During my four decade long work career I have been training mostly women to work in the electronics, computer programming, and more recently financial industries. There remains- in mostly boomers and in quite a few of their daughters – a residual and self imposed barrier to working with math and technology. That self made image usually includes “being bad at math,” not wanting to even try understanding mechanics, and a generalized reluctance or fear of engaging in and exploring “MALE” dominated pursuits.

I typically work with these women to gain self confidence first.  I share my view of their capabilities, and extend encouragement (and sometimes “permission”) to step into their perceived “male” or “difficult” territory. Then, and for the vast majority ONLY then, is it possible for training to begin for the task at hand.  It is to these women still struggling with the fading societal myth of what a “girl” can and should engage in that I am writing PART I: a word of encouragement.  Part II will begin an actual introduction into the basics of ammunition.

Introduction to the Mountain of Ammunition Information

It is important to find information geared toward the beginner when just starting out. Something that provides the basics. Too much tech-talk, or looking into too many variations, can leave the “newbie” hopelessly lost and discouraged.

Approaching the Mountain

My goal is to provide encouragement to the new shooter. As a starting point, I am going to compare what you need to learn about ammunition to something the average mature person has dabbled in or mastered to some degree: Arts and Crafts, including what used to be called Home Economics back in the “old days.”

Remember, to learn any craft,  you have to start SOMEWHERE and build on what you learn and practice for the next step to make sense and build on your success. You’ve done that throughout your life, and have achieved great results. You can do this!

The good news is you don’t have to learn everything there is to know about all types ammunition. In the beginning, all you need to learn, and pay extremely close and diligent attention to, is the basics and what you need for your specific handgun(s).

The need to learn ammunition basics can’t be overstated. You need to learn the “what and why” of dealing with volatile materials and interactions so you can handle them safely, attain reliability and gain the peace of mind that comes from knowing your gun will function properly and effectively when you need it to.

Avoid Information Overload

reloadingIt is very common, if not close to universal, for the serious shooter to load their own rounds to meet individual shooting needs. They “tailor” their rounds to get the results they need from each shot.

And these are the people who populate the internet with highly technical and valuable discussions, charts and tables.

This information is very useful to those who have been engaged in the art long enough to become more advanced, and in many cases expert in the field.

The vast majority of this very mathematical based data about cartridges is akin to a master chef or baker sharing “from scratch” tips, tricks and recipes. It will make more sense as you learn the basics and gain experience in shooting.

 

For the new shooter, trying to read through some of this indepth information and glean an understanding on ammunition for your new gun is like a first time baker trying to make a souffle and bake an angel food cake from scratch for a dinner party.

souffleangelfood cakeIt is very reasonable to go to a really nice restaurant when you want souffle, or buy angel food cake from the bakery… or buy a box of cake mix in the baking aisle!  At least until you have the time to dig deeper, gain experience and grow into a more advanced shooter.

What you need to keep in mind is there is an art and craft to shooting that grows step by step, not much different than baking, or sewing, or any of the crafts.

A different language has evolved, filled with abbreviations and acronyms and that particular type of shorthand and tech-speak has to be learned.

At the end of Part II I’ll give a couple of links to websites that help provide a solid  entry level approach.

Ammunition Aisle

Ammunition Aisle

A Craft Aisle

A Craft Aisle

Your First Visit to the Ammunition Aisles

I recommend learning as much as you can about ammunition basics by reading, taking classes and talking with instructors and knowledgeable shooters before taking your first shopping solo trip to the ammo counter or visiting gun show ammunition tables.

The sheer quantity, quality, and variations in cartridges can be overwhelming. The shorthand on the box labels is very difficult to decipher for the unprepared.

Again, you already have shopping experience. The aisle in a craft store is full of a wide variety and quality of products. You just have to learn what you are looking at for the apparent jumble to make more sense.

Likewise, the salesperson may (or may not) have an incentive to sell the highest price products rather than help you meet your needs. Depending on your intended use – for instance ammunition purchased for self defense in the home vs. practice rounds. Buying the more expensive may (or may not) be reasonable.  Price is not the only difference, there is more “bang” to self defense rounds, and if used for practice may be more painful (and expensive) than necessary.  Come prepared to tell the salesperson not only the maker and model of your gun, but also your intended use.

Making things worse these days, we are in the early stages of recovery from an ammunition shortage. Looking on the shelves and tables for something still not being stocked is frustrating. While many of the larger stores are keeping their prices reasonable, horders and would-be-resellers have in a lot of cases snapped up the more popular self defense and practice rounds and frequently prices they resell at are higher than reasonable, and stocks quickly become depleted at major suppliers due to this practice.

AMMUNITION BASICS

Finally, you need to realize the topic of ammunition is complex and some parts discussed may be DIFFICULT for you to understand or grasp at first. It does require some study, and of course experience, and as you learn it will get easier.

As in any craft, prepare yourself to learn, spend the time necessary to understand, and you will be rewarded with an enjoyable and potentially life saving skill !

Here is a short quote from a blog by  ” slhuang ” (there will be a link to in Part II) discussing the difficulty faced in just understanding the different types of cartridges available today. It underscores you are not alone in being challenged at the enormous amount of information and types of cartridges:

“And this is just the tip of the iceberg.  If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of all different ammunition types ever, it’s a mess.  Cartridges have evolved from each other over history and spread into a massive variety; different countries have come up with their own types of ammo; some cartridges have used casings inherited from others; old weapons end up re-chambered for modern ammo . . . it reminds me of language, the way cartridges have grown and crossed borders and evolved in a historical tree that’s almost impossible to follow.  I don’t know even a thimble-full of all the cartridge types in the world, and I do this for a living.”

 

Part II of this topic will be a basic introduction to the modern cartridge. How it works, some basic sizes, and basic types you may encounter.

 

        Happy and Safe shooting  –  Peggy

 

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