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Ann's Corner

VOLUMES 131 & 132-----------MAY/JUNE 2013



June 17, 2013

Hello again from the ranch!  I haven't been at the keyboard for a while, so let's try and catch up on a few things.

The big news is that Rick turned a milestone birthday on May 31st!  Yep, the big 5-0!  We started celebrating on the day by making him work a Hunter Education class that evening.  (As an aside, I don't know how Rick got to be 50, as Little Heifer and I surely ain't old enough to have a kid that age!)

Since our Hunter Ed volunteers always provide some sort of snack for students and parents at break time in each of our class sessions, an extra treat was in order.  Christi supplemented our regular snack time by bringing in an ample supply of key lime pie and cheesecake with strawberry topping.  Fortunately the students had all completed and passed the written test before break time, so their sugar high didn't interfere with that.

The birthday celebration continued on Sunday, June 2nd, with a trip to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho for an early dinner at Texas Roadhouse.  That was followed by ice cream and bar cookies at our house that evening.  Chocolate Chip bar cookies were an excellent break from the traditional birthday cake, and were enjoyed by all.


Chocolate Chip bar cookies!  Yum!


Doing candles this way may have prevented a case of hyperventilation by trying to blow out 50 real ones


Rick opened a gift bag that included a jar of dill pickles and one of peanuts

This may seem a little sparse for 50th birthday gifts, but we had previously purchased his hunting license and tags as his main gift as we have done for many years now.

Last year our Game Commission and Legislature graciously saw fit to substantially increase the price of all licenses and tags here in Washington.  While we understand the need for increased funding for game management as costs go up, the magnitude of the increases may have tipped the scale of affordability for many.  Did the increases drive away potential purchasers to the degree that total funding may decrease?  I guess time will tell.

All I know is when the register rang up small game licenses and combination deer, elk, bear, and cougar tags for Ann, Jennifer, Rick, and I, adding some fees to enter a few limited draw hunts, and one turkey tag, Little Heifer wrote a check for $675.50!  This is for resident licenses, including 2 seniors.  Non residents pay 10 times the resident's cost in each category.

I'm concerned that expected revenue calculations may be as erroneous as the forecasts for the purchase of 'Discover Passes' that became mandatory a few years ago in order to access Washington State Parks and other state owned lands.  The assumption apparently was that usage would continue at historical levels while collecting a $30.00 annual fee for each vehicle.  As usual, the forecast revenue was already budgeted to be spent, so when many simply stopped using state lands in lieu of buying a Discover Pass, adjustments had to be quickly made.

I must explain the following in order to justify my most recent purchase:

Part of the curriculum for Washington Hunter Education classes, is learning the most common action types for both long guns and hand guns.  For long guns, we have the bolt, break, semi-auto, pump, and lever.  For handguns, the single action revolver, double action revolver, single action semi-auto, double action semi-auto, break action, and as the student manual mentions, bolt action handguns.

While I have seen and handled bolt action handguns such as the discontinued Remington XP100 and Savage Striker, alas, I don't have a bolt action handgun for demo purposes in our classes.

Nowhere in the curriculum is there mention of a lever action handgun.

"No such animal," you say?

Well, I thought so too until I began seeing advertisements in my gun magazines for a Rossi 'Ranch Hand.'  When I ask students and parents if anyone has seen a lever action handgun, I tend to get blank stares.

Yep, you guessed it!  When Cabela's had a bit of a sale on the Ranch Hand a few weeks ago, I had to have one.  Since our local Cabela's is across the state line in Idaho, I had to purchase the gun there, they transferred it to a dealer in Washington, who did the NICS routine and I picked it up in Spokane.  Bottom line, the sale was for $20 off at Cabela's and it cost me $20 to have the Spokane dealer do the federal paperwork.  Saved a bundle, didn't I?  (You may remember that under current Federal Law, one can buy long guns directly from licensed dealers most anywhere, but handguns must be transferred by an in-state dealer.)

Anyway, we now have a lever action handgun to demo in Hunter Education classes.

The Ranch Hand, from Rossi, the Italian gunmaker, is nothing more or less than a cut down version of their clone of the Winchester Model 1892 with a 'large loop' lever, a la Rooster Cogburn, and is available in either .357 Magnum or .44 Magnum.  Since there was no .44 Mag residing in my gun safe, I opted for that one rather than the .357.  Gives me an opportunity to purchase additional loading dies, you see.

Rossi Ranch Hand

Next I want to turn to the subject of reloading ammunition, that I have been neglecting, both in writing about and doing.

Lets examine a dilemma that sometimes occurs.  In a time when shortages of reloading components may be limiting our bullet choices, or we are just set on using a particular bullet in our .340 MaxiBlaster, we peruse our reloading manuals and find that we have no data for that exact bullet with our chosen powder.

We do have load data that establishes a maximum charge of our chosen powder for the .340 MaxiBlaster, with the same weight but different brand of bullet.  So we load a dozen or so cases with that powder charge.

Test firing those loads results in split cases at the juncture of neck and shoulder and extremely flattened primers.  Had not the rifle been equipped with a muzzle brake, excessive recoil and muzzle blast would probably have been noted as well.  The loads were not chronographed, so we really don't know, but can speculate that the velocity might have been higher than normal, indicating excessive pressure.

I subscribe to the theory that velocity, as measured by any one of today's accurate and affordable chronographs, is the best indicator for the average handloader, of where pressure levels are.  Most of us don't have access to the kinds of test equipment utilized by the developers of commercial load data, but when velocities go beyond those listed for maximum loads in your reloading manual, you can pretty much be assured that the load is too hot!

A couple of valuable lessons here:  One, don't jump to the maximum published load immediately, and two, don't assume that all bullets of the same weight for the caliber can safely utilize the same powder charges.

There is a reason that most reloading manuals and other reputable sources of load data contain both starting loads and maximum loads.  Either that or they contain advice something like, "Back off 10% from the listed powder charges and work up from there, continuously checking for excess pressure signs."  Firearms are individuals.  Even two guns of like brand, model, and caliber may react a bit differently with the exact same load, whether factory or handload.

Then there's the matter of those bullets that weigh the same, have the same basic profile, but are of a different brand or composition.  In the mid 1960's when I began reloading, all jacketed component bullets were pretty much the same.  'Lead core with copper alloy jackets' would describe nearly all of them.

My first awakening to the fact that bullets were changing, came with the Barnes all copper projectiles.  Handloaders quickly found that pushing a 180 grain .30 caliber Barnes, for example, with the same load data as the more common cup and core bullets often resulted in primers falling out and other signs of seriously excessive pressure!

Today, I don't even try and keep track of all the myriad bullet companies, the various combinations of materials involved, the bonded cores, the grooves in the bullets, the polymer tipped bullets, etc. etc. etc.  The point is, each of these many variations can and probably will, make appreciable differences in chamber pressure even when the bullets are the same weight.

My advice:  Find data specific to the brand and weight of bullet you want to use, and follow the recipe exactly!  With most powder and bullet manufacturers either publishing manuals, providing web based data, or both, there is no excuse for not being able to find data for the specific bullet and powder you desire to use.  If such data can't be found in our information intensive environment, you may be trying to use incompatible components anyway.

Now back to that issue of loading the maximum listed powder charge without working up from below.  Well, hell, that is the only load that gets my velocity over the magic 3000 feet per second mark!

I think we all succumb to the thinking that 'bigger and faster is better' at some period or periods in our shooting lives.  I know I have.  Else why would I have added a .338 Remington Ultra Mag to my modest collection of rifles when there was already a Browning Stainless Stalker in  .338 Winchester Magnum residing in the gun safe?  Because it will shoot those heavyweight .338 bullets just a little faster!  Never mind that it kicks the heck out of you and makes a lot more noise than the old Browning.  I still shoot the Remington occasionally but cuddling up to that sucker for a bench rest session is not listed as one of my favorite pastimes!  I will keep it tuned up in case I draw that coveted moose tag one of these years.

I just ran some theoretical numbers through my RCBS computer ballistics program.  Let's say that I'm shooting a nice mild reload from the Browning using a 225 grain spitzer bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2700 fps, and comparing that to the same bullet exiting the Ultra Mag at 3000 fps.  With a 200 yard zero, the difference in drop at 300 yards is calculated at a magnificent 1.8 inches!  At 400 yards the difference is still less than 5 and one half inches!

Now I'm sure that there are hunters out there who can hold within those margins of drop at 300 or 400 yards, but I know I can't do so from field shooting positions!  Makes me wonder if I really needed that Ultra Mag????  (Of course I did.  One cannot have too many guns!)

Our shooting range has been getting some use lately, even though I haven't been doing the shooting.  We did have one of those, "Where's my camera when I need it?" moments at the range the other day.

Rick and I were watching our friend Gary who was preparing to test some new loads in his Tikka .338 Winchester Magnum.  We had the chronograph set up, bench rest in place, and targets set.  When Gary settled into position to begin firing, a whitetail doe sauntered in from the left and stood directly in front of the target stand.

Time out!  After waiting a few minutes the doe walked off to the right into the trees.  As soon as the laughter and jokes died down Gary again settled in to fire.  Here came the doe.  This time from right to left, again pausing directly in front of the target!  Finally the deer went into the brush for good.  That's not the first time we've had to wait for deer to clear the range before shooting.

I mentioned in the last newsletter that my Terry Hoffer Instructor Of The Year award, comes with a donation from the Washington Hunter Education Instructor's Association toward a gun for the recipient.  I have asked our Eastern Washington Program Coordinator, who is also an FFL holder, to order me a Browning X-Bolt.  Chuck made contact with the Browning folks, and found that the left hand version in the caliber I want, won't come out of the factory until the 4th quarter of this year.  I think it will be worth the wait for a left hand X-Bolt Medallion in .280 Remington!

I'm gonna start winding this down with some other plans for new guns that may be on the horizon.  Savage is marketing a rifle configured specifically for a woman's stature and physique called the 'Lady Hunter'.  We have enough Cabela's Club points built up to buy one of those, so that will likely become Ann's next acquisition.  .308 Winchester caliber would be nice since we don't have one of those in the safe either.

I'm still dreaming of a custom or semi-custom rifle, and have 'almost' decided on a Cooper from the folks in Stevensville, Montana.  Another left hand bolt in .280 Remington to test side by side against that Browning would be nice, don't you think?

Stay tuned for these developments later this year!

This month's hillbilly wisdom is a quote from Winston Churchill:

"There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man."

Well, It's time to shut down here, So . . . .

'Til next time, Keep 'em shootin' straight, shoot 'em often, and above all, BE SAFE!!!!!

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