Communion Of Dreams

Part one done.
March 16, 2008, 4:19 pm
Filed under: 2nd Amendment, Ballistics, Guns, RKBA, Science, Weather

Well, in spite of my optimism in my last post, it took us three full days to get through the first set of ammo/caliber tests, about one-third of the total we’re doing for this extensive research project.

Why? Well, we kept running into a number of minor problems which would slow us down as we thought through how to resolve them. Most of these pertained to difficulties with the base platform on which the whole tests are being conducted: a Thompson/Center Encore pistol. Don’t get me wrong – the gun is great, and the custom gunsmithing we had done on it to make it more suitable for our testing was fine. For the most part. But with any new gun, it takes a little while to get used to it, to learn what quirks and special needs it has. And in this case, the interchangeable custom 18″ barrels also complicated things, once they started getting chopped short. (For a basic description of the project, check here.) There were two main problems which cropped up: difficulty in managing a gun in which the (very) short barrel is essentially hidden by a shroud; and aiming such a beast.

The original design had no sights whatsoever on it – well, when you are aiming an 18″ barrel down the range and only need to be able to hit a dinner-plate sized target 15′ away, it should be simple, right? It was. But as the sight radius dropped lower, it became increasingly difficult to aim the thing. Particularly since the way the individual barrels mounted into the gun uses a large knurled nut – which would randomly obscure your vision. Add in the fact that while our cut-off saw was quick and effective for chopping the barrels one inch at a time, it was not a gunsmith-quality tool. We would ‘dress’ the chopped barrels, to remove slight burrs and whatnot, but even a slight angle on the chop can throw off a bullet. Basically, after each cut, we would have to learn all over how to point the thing, and hope for the best.

Which led to some hilarious results. All three of us – with over a century of combined experience in shooting all manner of weapons under a wide variety of conditions – actually managed to clip the vanes of the two chronographs (the bits that stick up like old television antennas). I got two vanes within about four shots – one on each side!

Our first effort to get around this aiming problem was to install a Weaver rail on the top of the pistol barrel housing (into which the individual barrels mount). This 4″ long U-shaped mount protruded past the front of the barrel, and in theory would give us something to sight down. In theory. But just when we would learn how using it related to where the bullets went, the thing would loosen up and shift a bit – and we didn’t have the appropriate loc-tite stuff needed to secure it.

We did finish up testing three full calibers, though: .380 ACP, 9mm Luger, and .40 S&W. Altogether, we recorded data for almost 2,000 rounds, including a number of ‘benchmark’ rounds to test the chronographs, as well as a data for several ‘real world’ pistols we own. And each round had data from two chronographs, specs from the ammo (bullet weight, lot #, manufacturer, brand), ambient temperature, and any additional notes we felt were needed. A lot of work, not always under the best weather conditions (yesterday it rained all day, and temps were in the mid 30s with a stiff wind).

But we got through it, and already this data would be a priceless contribution to the gun-using world. And it was a load of fun to do, working with two other people who are more knowledgeable than I am about guns (and I’m no neophyte) and share my joy at coming up with solutions to practical problems. As my buddy Steve said, there were enough difficulties come up to keep it from ever getting in the least way boring.

Combine the hard work and concentration of conducting the tests for 8-9 hours a day with evenings of good companionship, and I am one tired puppy. I’m glad that we won’t be conducting the next round of tests until the beginning of April.

But wow – when this is all done, documented, graphed, and put on a website for free access to anyone interested in the result – people are going to go nuts.

Or so I hope.

Jim Downey


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