Five Great Products from Media Day at the Range

The 2014 SHOT Show started with a bang. Actually lot’s of bangs. I went to the Media Day at the Range to see what great new gear is coming out this year. I was definately impressed. So now, in no particular order, are five great products from this year’s Media Day.

 

Winchester Long Beard XROLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here’s something that will definately drop the hammer on some gobblers. The Winchester Shot Lok XR looks like a normal shot shell from the outside but inside is something revolutionary.

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In a traditional shot shell, there are lots of little spaces between the pellets. When force is applied to the shot column, the pellets at the bottom are moving faster than the pellets at the top. This causes them to move into the empty spaces and deform. Deformed pellets won’t fly straight and decrease how many land on target. With the Winchester Shot Lok, that’s no longer a problem. They fill the entire shot column with a resin so force is evenly distributed throughout. This prevents the pellets from defroming. With less deformed pellets you can put more metal down range and more meat on the table.

 

Beretta Pico

Beretta Pico

This is a little gun with a big punch. The Beretta Pico is chambered in .380 and fits in the palm of your hand. Everything is designed for ease of carry, right down to the magazine release hidden in the trigger guard. That way nothing catches when you’re drawing the pistol and you won’t accidently drop the mag when you hold it. The sight picture is clear and re-aligns quickly for follow up shots. I’ve been carrying the Ruger LC9 but I might have something new to consider.

 

Redring Shotgun Sight

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When I first saw this I was skeptical. Could a laser sight on your shotgun really make a difference? Ask the pile of busted clays in front of the Redring booth and you’ll get your answer. This sight affixes to any standard shotgun rib without special tools and will improve your accuracy dramatically. It’s parallax free so you can keep both eyes open as you bring the barrel on target. It’s so smooth even my middling shotgun skills were approaching a 99% hit rate.

 

Kriss Vector Series

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What can I say? These guns are AMAZING! The Kriss system directs the force of the recoil down instead of straight back at the shooter. Not only does this reduce felt recoil, it reduces muzzle rise dramatically. I dumped an entire mag on full auto and saw almost no muzzle rise. It’s chambered in .45 ACP but it feels like you’re shooting a BB gun. Not only that but these guns just look cool. I also had the opportunity to put some rounds down range with the Sphinx series of handguns. Part of the Kriss group, Sphinx are a series of handguns that deliver the same Swiss reliability and performance of the Kriss long guns. While lacking the magical recoil diverting technology of the Kriss, Sphinx pistols only rise vertically. No angled blowback to fight with while re-aquiring the sight picture. The gun goes bang, goes straight up, and then easily settles right back down. Truely an amazing family of firearms.

 

17 Winchester Super Magnum

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Another great line of ammo from Winchester. The .17 Super Mag scoots along between 2,600 and 3,000 fps depending on the grain. That’s enough speed to give Mr. Coyote a headache or completely evoporate a praire dog. I was shooting the 25 gr polymer tip rounds and putting tight groups down range. For those of you dreaming of a pickup truck, a spotlight, and dusk are all you need for a weekend of fun then this is the ammo for you.

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Stay tuned for more updates about all the great new stuff coming out at this year’s ShotShow.

-Richard Hammack

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Cartouche Part Deux

Paper CartridgeWith the ammo shortage I’ve been shooting a lot of black powder lately. Nothing like an $80 asking price for a brick of .22 to make you reach for the old smoke pole. I promised an evaluation of the paper cartridges and below are the results.

To begin with, it’s dirty. Like real dirty. I was using my 1851 Navy Colt and the cylinder required way more cleaning than under normal conditions. Every 12 rounds or so I would find several large pieces of unburned paper in the chambers. Below is a picture of 20gr cartridges with the wadding rolled in at five yards. You can see the partially combusted grime peppering the target. There’s even some wadding smooches for effect.

Black Powder Paper CartridgeBelow is the same distance but using 15gr cartridges. I got better groupings and had less garbage coming out of the barrel with the lighter load.

Black Powder Paper CartridgeThe best part was the speed. What once took me 5-10 minutes now only takes moments. Simply tearing the end of the cartridge and pouring the powder into the chambers made loading a snap. I loaded some without wadding and actually got decent results. I twisted the paper around the ball and then poured in the powder and the zig zag acted as a simple wad.

I did not have any failure to fire or smoldering burns. I even loaded some cartridges without tearing them first and still got them to fire each time. The paper is definitely thin enough for the caps to burn through.

I can’t wait to get these out into the field. When I do I promise I’ll return with results.

-Richard Hammack

Novelty

I settled my crosshairs on a squirrel. He sat up on a pine branch about 15 yards away. I squeezed the trigger on my .22 and watched as he exploded in my scope. Literally evaporated. I had never seen a .22 do that. I was agog. I was hunting squirrel for dinner and I didn’t want them in tartar form. Before venturing out on this hunt I picked up a box of .22 LR made by CCI. These are no regular .22, these are .22 shotshell. A box of 20 set me back $7.00 (pre ammo panic). It was a little pricey for my Scottish blood but I liked the idea of it. The shells have a little plastic nose filled with #12 shot in 31 grain. The box reads approximately 165 pellets per shell. It says the range of this shell is 250 yards. That’s a long way. A .30-06 drops an inch in that distance. Why then did the squirrel burst if I was only 15 yards away? I was pondering that question as I watched the pine needles drift gently to the forest floor. I suddenly heard the strangest thing. The beast I just dispatched was chittering away. Had the poor creature returned to haunt me so quickly? No. The squirrel did not explode, the needles of the tree did. It turned the needles around him into a fine greenish brown mist. The pellets decimated the needles and spent all their energy in the process. I followed him through a few more trees until he presented a better shot. I would give CCI another chance. It was the same distance as the first encounter but had a purely unobstructed lane. No needles, no snow, just me and Mr. Scurrius. Pop! The critter did a jig and ran like he was on fire. The shotshells had failed me. I bagged him with a proper hollow point and went to inspect the hide. I found one small hole near his rump that didn’t have a pellet in it. It was more of a laceration than a penetrating wound. I don’t think an animal would even hear this round at 250 yards.

I took these trick shells to the range for some serious scientific scrutiny. Using a revolver at five yards I got a decent pattern with good penetration. Not a single pellet from a six round volley would hit the target at 15 yards. I tried the same distances with my Stevens Model 954 and got dismal results. If there’s insufficient power to propel the pellets a mere 15 yards, there is certainly not enough oomph to cycle the action of a semi-auto. Each, and I repeat each, round jammed. I finally managed to get some pellets to hit the target at 15 yards. If every shell has 165 pellets, then six shells should have 998 pellets. Does the target below look like it has 998 holes in it?

CCI .22 Shotshell ReviewThe problem has four components: Housing, Bang-Bang, Numbers, and Rockwell.

1. Housing

I shot 100 rounds and almost half the casings deformed. A dozen split completely down one side. With poor casing, the energy of the powder is wasted before it has a chance to act on the shot. It also causes failure to feed and stove pipe problems as discussed above.

2. Bang-Bang

Even if the housing didn’t suck there’s simply not enough powder to push the shot. Below is a dissection showing the dismal amount of powder and the, ahem, wadding.

CCI .22 Shotshell Review

3. Numbers

The box reads “approx. 165 pellets”. There’s maybe a hundred per shell, tops.

4. Rockwell

The shot is way too soft. I could flatten each one with a pair of hemostats. I’m not expecting something that will take out a raccoon but these things are only hard enough to kill sparrows (at less than 15 yards).

At 5 yards they are devastating, beyond that they loose power and grouping quickly. If these shells were loaded with a little more powder and some denser, harder shot, I think they would be effective against close range small game. Until then save your money. CCI makes a wide selection of other ammo. Their .22 LR Velocitor makes short work of tree rats, bunnies, and other tasty critters. CCI has the power to make this .22 shotshell into something really unique. If they ever revamp this load I’ll give it another shot. For now I’ll stick with real bullets and leave the novelty alone.

-Richard Hammack

Les dernières cartouches

Alphonse-Marie-Adolphe_de_Neuville_-_Les_dernières_cartouches_(1873)Behold, Les dernières cartouches, a glimpse at the battle of Bazeilles. Alphonde de Neuville painted this majestic work in 1873. The battle had been fought only a few years before and had changed the world. It was this vision that blazed vividly in my mind while out on an excursion.

I was seeing this painting in the curling smoke of my Pietta made .44 Navy Colt from Cabela’s. I was squirrel hunting in the foothills of Colorado and slinging lead into trees like Doc Holiday on a bend. My hammer clicked and I began to reload. Doing that with a gun designed in 1851 isn’t easy. It’s what got me thinking about the painting and the battle that went with it.

The battle Alphonde painted was fought in Bazeilles France, a little town just a few kilometers from the modern border with Belgium. On September 1, 1870, a division of French Troupes de Marine ambushed an attacking Bavarian army. The battle was a defensive reargard to slow the Northern German juggernaut. Napolean III and his army were encircled in Sedan and Bazeilles was on its flank. Beginning before dawn, a battle took place that saw the town change hands four times. At the end of the day over 5,000 Bavarians and 3,000 Frenchman lay dead. The Marines fought to the last bullet, in the last house, on the way to Sedan. Ultimately the battle was a loss for the French and Sedan fell. Napolean III was captured and the French Second Republic ended. Paris fell the following January. While the embers of Paris still burned, the triumphant German Confederation met at Versailles. Several German duchies and municipalities merged with Prussia to create the modern German state. Alphonde’s painting shows the inside of the last house in Bazeilles. A weary soldier from the colonies stares into the afternoon longlight. His comrade fires his Chassepot at the Bavarians in the street. A bearded veteran is kneeling in the middle ground, reaching into the last box of bullets. If the French could massacre 5,000 of Bavaria’s finest with bullets made of paper, maybe I could shoot a squirrel or two.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPaper cartridges have been in use since the firearm became portable. They are simple to make and save time down the road. This method is designed for my revolver. It probably won’t work for long gun cartridges.

I use only the finest quality French cigarette papers. Zig-zag 1 1/4 inch are the easiest to work with. The ‘light’ zig-zags are too fragile and tear when rolling. To begin, set your powder measure to how many grains you want to throw. Consult your guns’ manual to see how much powder to use. Once you have your powder measure set it’s time to begin rolling. Simply set a wad and ball on top of the powder measure and wrap the paper around it.

Cartouche

Twist the paper around the top and hold the ball in place. Wrap the paper around the powder measure and moisten it. Don’t lick it. After a few rolls you’ll have lead and gunpowder all over your fingers. You don’t want to be licking that. Once the paper is wet, turn the whole setup upside down and let the powder fill the paper tube.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith a little practice, you can begin to crank them out. It becomes meditative. Once I’ve compiled enough for some serious range time I’ll post a follow up with results.

-Richard Hammack