Sunday, October 11, 2015

METRO-WHAT?

            I have heard on the news and even read some about the so called wussification of the American male. Some people have even given a name to this “new” guy. He’s not a new type of person in the physical sense, rather a person who, well…behaves different from you and me.  Some advertising executive in New York have labeled them as “Metrosexuals” or “Metros” for short.  I’m not talking about guys involved in some sort of kinky behavior; rather, these are guys, who according to the one article I read, are young urban fellas who like driving a fancy high priced sports car rather than a good truck.  Who, instead of spending Saturday morning afield or on the water, would rather be at some spa getting a massage, manicure or, even worse, getting various parts of their body waxed, don’t even ask, I didn’t.  Worse they actually like to go shopping for fancy clothing and shoes.  Now, for the most part, I only shop at a two local stores, Bass Pro Shops and Home Depot.  I figure if those stores don’t carry it, it isn’t worth buying.  That’s not to say I don’t go shopping elsewhere ‘cause every once in a while my wife does drag me off to the local mall where I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if one day they had an employee standing at the entrance shouting “dead man walking” because of the way I shuffle in.
            Even though I don’t tell her enough, I am proud of my wife.  She is a CPA, but she wasn’t when we got married.  She loves numbers, yet is married to a guy who has to use his fingers and toes when adding any number larger than two.  A few years after we were married, she went back to school and got her college degrees and then her CPA.  Which was quite a feat considering that all the while she had to put up with my shenanigans.  Now, I do have to admit being married to a CPA has its advantages.  She can clean up the mess I make out of the checkbook each month in no time flat and, since she started doing the taxes, our relationship with the IRS has improved greatly, but that’s another story.
            A while back I had the “pleasure” of attending a party at the home of one of my wife’s fellow accountants.  It’s one of those big fancy homes.  The kind we don’t have.  See, there two reason’s we don’t have a bigger home, and according to my wife are both my fault.  One is because of all the money I spend on hunting, fishing and camping gear and trips.  The other is my so-called lack of income from all the time I take off to go hunting, fishing and camping.  Recently, back in the swamps I hunt, I had found what appeared to be the home range of a huge boar hog that was in real need of spending some serious time on my grill. After spending the morning chasing that hog around the swamps, I got home and cleaned up just in time to go to the “party.”   It was there where I met some of those “metro” guys in person.
            Soon after arriving at the party, my wife told me to mingle while she caught up with her accountant friend, and I was left to my devices.  This meant I was off in search of a cold one, which I found in this huge kitchen, where several guys were standing around conversing and mixing some fancy drink that I couldn’t even pronounce.  As I walked in, one of the guys was talking about some new cologne he had recently purchased and how perfect it was for the early fall season.  After a brief introduction, the conversation returned to his cologne and the need to match it to the season.  As I stood listening, one of the guys asked my opinion on matching your cologne to the seasons.  I completely mis-understood their question and meaning of cologne. Thinking they were talking about some sort of deer scent. Since we live in Florida where the local rut doesn’t start until almost Christmas, and it was still early fall, I explained to the young man, this time of the year I prefer plain-old non-estrus doe urine.  Now, I could have sworn, when I finished, somewhere off in the distance someone shouted “strike one.”
            Another one of the guys quickly changed the subject and started talking about shoes.  He said he had just bought a pair of Gucci something-or-other, very expensive, leather shoes.  Then noticing my boots I was wearing, he asked about them.  I told him mine were indeed real leather as well - hiking/hunting boots with a Gore-Tex lining.  They seem impressed, until somewhere in the conversation, we discovered he was wearing shoes you never want to get wet, whereas I was wearing boots that you purposely wore while walking through mud and water in the swamps chasing or being chased by various critters, “strike two.”
            Again the conversation was changed, as still another one of the guys spoke of spending his morning at some new exclusive spa that we just had to visit.  He talked about the incredible massage he had gotten, in fact, he felt so good after the massage he got his eyebrows done.  What he had done to them, I don’t know and I didn’t ask.  In turn, the other guys talked about their morning, shopping trips for silk shirts in “passion” which was all the rage and haircuts by Monique at “that” salon.  I was actually beginning to fit in a little, and we were starting to get along, mainly because I had kept my mouth shut and just listened.  That didn’t last long because just as the first rounds of drinks were completed and we were all smiles, someone made the mistake of asking me what I did that morning.  I wish I could adequately describe the looks I got from those guys as I recalled spending the morning in the woods on the east side of Old Yankee Swamp, searching for this huge boar I had seen, “strike three.”
            I wondered off to this room with a really nice couch and one of those big screen TVs.  I remembered Alabama was playing Georgia and spend the rest of the evening, by myself, watching the game.  As we left, my wife commented about what a nice party it was, and how much fun she had.  When she asked I told her I had a good time too.  “Really?” she asked, “Yep, it was a hellva game.”



Sunday, July 26, 2015

Speed Kills

Speed Kills

            Or does it? For past several decades an argument has raged between firearm enthusiasts over which is best for hunting - a light fast bullet or a slow heavy bullet. The idea of using light, very fast bullets started in the 1940s with the now infamous Roy Weatherby and his Weatherby Magnum rifles. Mr. Weatherby was a big believer in light fast – really fast – bullets. He is credited with starting the magnum caliber craze that still exist to this day, and his Weatherby Magnums are legendary for their power and speed. What really helped the magnum crazy was a rapidly growing improvement in optics. By the mid-1940s, and especially just after WWII, the quality of optics available increased exponentially. This improvement in optics allowed shooters to reach out and “touch” critters at ranges never before heard of. Suddenly shooting 300 - 500 yards at various game animals became very popular, especially out west. Leading this crazy was the drive for lighter bullets at faster velocities. By the end of the 1940s, the Holy Grail was a bullet pushed out the barrel at or above 3000 Feet Per Second (FPS). Leading this revolution was Mr. Roy Weatherby and his Weatherby Magnum calibers, whose formula was simple – light bullets in front of a lot of powder.
            Many shooters are sold on the notion that a light really fast bullet will shoot really flat and upon impact knocks the snot out of anything it hits but, is that really the truth? For decades now hunters have believed that speed kills and to really reach down range and touch a critter with lethal results one needed a light really fast bullet. The theory espoused over and over, as noted, is light fast bullets shoot flatter and reaches the target quicker and with a lot of energy. Therefore one can extended their range and take really long shots at a critter. This goes back to my first article this year on Going the Distance, which you can read at my blog - http://fiddlin-around.blogspot.com/ - wherein I explored the controversy surrounding long range hunting. As I noted, lighter is not necessarily better when shooting at long distances in a hunting scenario.  Problem is a little factor called mathematics which gets in the way of the argument.
            The guys and ladies who argue for light fast bullets express their argument in terms that speed equates to energy and energy equates to Kinetic energy, which then equates to stopping power. But, in their argument they tend to ignore Sir Isaac Newton’s notion of theory of momentum which I explored last month, (I hope your reading along). In simple terms to state his theory again, “a projectile will stop in an object when it has transferred its momentum to an equal mass of the medium.”  What many long distance shooters don’t realize is the lighter a bullet is the less momentum it has to “transfer.” Here’s where mathematics really gets in the way, as those who understand ballistics know that foot pounds of energy of a given bullet is expressed in the velocity squared. Therefore, lighter bullets are faster, but don’t carry as much momentum as they are given credit for. For example, a .308 diameter 150 grain bullet traveling at 3,000 FPS carries 2.998 foot pounds of energy, while a .308 diameter 200 grain bullet traveling at 2800 FPS – 200 FPS slower - carries 3,483 foot pounds of energy - a 25 percent increase in energy from a less than 10 percent drop in velocity. If you really want to see the whole picture, take a look at what the values are at 500 yards. That 150 grain bullet is down to 2124 FPS and only 1503 foot pounds of energy velocity, while the 200 grain bullet is traveling along at 1961 FPS and still carrying 1707 foot pounds of energy. Upon impact which one do you think is going to carry more momentum?
            To reiterate my argument from last month’s article, in theory, the faster a projectile is traveling, the more energy it possesses upon impact, and that’s where many argue from, period. However, as I stated, bullet weight plays a major role in momentum. While lighter bullets within a given caliber can be driven faster at first because of their light weight they shed velocity - and therefore energy faster - which makes a big difference at longer ranges. On the other hand, heavier bullets - even though they typically start out slower - retain more of their velocity over a long distance; hence, they carry their energy farther. So it’s important to understand the distances you will be shooting so to optimize your bullet’s performance. Which brings up my next point that I always try to make – “...it’s all about the bullet.”  Both the construction and weight of the bullet are paramount in its performance.
            Within a given caliber, the only way to make a bullet heavier is to make it longer. Going back to my .308 example, the 200 grain bullet is noticeably longer than the 150 grain bullet. The long bullet will have a higher BC, which means - while the bullet may be slower - its flight path will be truer and it carries more momentum to the target. That momentum equates to greater stopping power as the bullet will not only penetrate deeper but will create a larger wound channel, and don’t forget the hydrostatic shock. That larger bullet will also carry a larger ballistic wave with it, thus do more damage from the hydrostatic shock, which combines to create a cleaner, quicker kill. I don’t know about anyone who reads this, but I don’t enjoy tracking wounded critters. Hence, my personal preference, whenever possible, is to use a good quality heavy for caliber bullet.


Monday, June 1, 2015

Why Custom Handloaded Ammunition?

            I manufacture Custom Handloaded Ammunition for a living, and one of the questions I’m constantly asked, is “What is that?” Simply stated, I don’t really manufacture anything, except in the eyes of the Government. I assemble ammunition, but for licensing purposes, it is considered manufacturing. Don’t you love the Government? So let’s take a look at what I really do, and why many think it is better.
            Working from the premise that there is no such thing as one size fits all, anyone who shoots a lot understands factory ammunition is at best a compromise. Please don’t get me wrong, factory ammunition has come a long - long way from when I first started shooting, but none-the-less, to this day, ammunition manufacturers struggle to make one size fit all. There are so many variables in rifle manufacturing today – chamber dimensions and rates-of-twist in barrels, to name just two factors. And, to make matters worse, some of these factors can vary between individual rifles of the same caliber, even in the same lot from the same manufacturer. Then consider the push for accuracy, especially at longer distances, than ever before seen and you can see how it is a struggle. Another reality factory ammunition manufacturer’s face is having to stay within SAAMI specifications for liability purposes, which can in some cases can and will affect accuracy. For those that don’t know who or what SAAMI is – they are Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute (SAAMI). They are an association of the nation's leading manufacturers of firearms, ammunition and components. Founded in 1926 at the request of the federal government, they are tasked with creating and publishing cartridge and firearm industry standards for safety, interchangeability, reliability and quality. So as you can begin to see, with factory ammunition, there are some real challenges to overcome, especially when some shooters are demanding so much from their ammunition.
            That’s where I come in. After spending a lifetime studying ballistics and learning everything I can about ammunition and what makes it better, as well as countless hours at the range experimenting and shooting I finally felt comfortable enough to get my manufacturer’s license (remember the government) and go into business April 2008. My whole business revolves around producing the finest custom handloaded ammunition I can. I specialize in hard-to-get and unique ammunition, meaning the ammunition you aren’t going to be able to find on the shelf of your local sporting goods store or even some of the larger chains for that matter. It maybe a rare safari caliber that someone really wants to take to Africa or someone who wants a very specialized cartridge for long distance target shooting.
            In the end it all comes down to the bullet, but getting that bullet accurately down range and making sure it performs as demanded brings to bare a whole host of factors that one must take into consideration. Bullet selection, brass, powder, and even primers used can all affect the performance of a given cartridge. So let’s take a look at some of the variables.
            Where I have an advantage is I’m not limited by selection. Meaning, within a given caliber the selection of bullets I can choose from is greater than what maybe typically found on the retail shelf. Many manufactures limit what they offer based on sheer sales volume, meaning they have to make a choice on what ammunition and what bullets to offer based on sales records and marketing projections. This means they may focus on the more popular calibers, and if possible maybe have a limited run, say once a year, of some other not-so-popular calibers. On the other hand, my business is order driven, meaning I don’t load ammunition I think will sell, rather I load what my customer’s request, so I have a great choice of options to choose from. For example, take a 308 Winchester – there are hundreds of choices available for that caliber, still I have customers I load 308s for with bullets that are not commercially available.
Don’t think ordering ammunition from me is as simple as calling and asking for a box or two of something. All my orders begin with a considerable amount of research. Chamber specs, if known, are discussed, as well as rates of twist of the rifling, and most importantly, what is the round being used for. From there loads are developed. Sometimes this process can take weeks, and in some rare cases even months: especially if it is an obsolete or very rare caliber. In some cases the components maybe very hard to come by and require special orders to get what is needed.
            From there the real work begins; assembling the finest components available to develop a cartridge that will do what is asked of it, every time. That’s really one of the biggest advantages of custom hand loaded ammunition, the confidence in knowing every shot will be close to the first one taken. Whether it’s in a hunting environment or someone shooting in a 1000 meter competition, consistency in the group is paramount.
Another factor to consider when hunting is whether or not the bullets will perform once they reached the target. Last month I explored the differences in some bullets and their intended uses. As I noted, Match Grade bullets are designed to provide as high a Ballistic Co-efficiency as possible. Those type bullets are designed strictly to fly as flat and true as possible and not for penetration on a target; therefore, they are pretty well useless in a hunting scenario. But, that’s not to say any or all hunting bullets aren’t accurate. Nothing could be further from the truth today as there are a whole host of extremely accurate hunting bullets available. I’ve been using a legendary Sierra .224 Hollow Point Boattail GameKing bullet for varmint hunting for decades now. I’ve taken shots out to 500 yards without hesitation with those bullets and been right on the mark. I was doing that at a time when a 500 yard shot meant something. So as you can see there are a lot of choices open to shooters who utilize custom hand loaded ammunition.
Not all the ammunition I load is for long distance shooting. Truthfully I load a lot of ammunition for safari hunters who consider a 75-100 yard shot really long. When it comes to dangerous game, it’s not necessarily about distance, as many of those hunts are up close and personal. Rather it’s about confidence in the ammunition and its knockdown power. This is where my experience and research really pays off, understanding kinetic energy and penetration. This is where knowing what’s going to give a hunter the best options to stop something really big that is dead set and determined to hurt him. 
            My investment in time and equipment was substantial, and I can say with a great deal of pride that ammunition I’ve loaded has been carried all over the world - from the savannahs of Africa, to the mountains of New Zealand, as well as all of North America. There are several long range target shooters who depend on me to provide the accuracy they demand for the competitions they shoot.



Sunday, May 17, 2015

Going the Distance


Going the distance

            Recently a debate has come to the surface regarding some new technologies that make extremely long shots, while hunting, possible. An argument has ensued regarding the distance some hunters are shooting, in that, they are pushing the boundaries of what is considered fair chase. Bullet design and construction have grown exponentially in recent years, along with technologies surrounding optics and rifle construction. It's reached a point where some are taking shots that a decade ago where unheard of.  In some corners, the sophistication has reached the point where some hunters are referring to their firearms as "delivery systems" while taking shots at animals at distances of over a half a mile away.
            The problem is some people are starting to question if this is really hunting or just killing. The notion of actually stalking an animal and getting in close to accurately judge the quality of the quarry, then taking an ethical heart/lung shot for a humane kill seems to have gone out the window for some. In its place, its become a contest, of sorts, as to just how far they can kill something. Pitting your woodsman (or woman) skills against a well tuned and weary critter is all but forgotten in some circles, as it’s become all about how far the shot was taken.
            My concern revolves around the skill needed to shoot great distances. Having studied ballistics for most of my life, I have an intimate understanding of what it takes to succeed with a long range shot. One thing that has fascinated me of late is the abilities of our modern snipers. Our military snipers, today, are taking shots that twenty years ago were unheard of. The question that is being asked by some is - "should those skills be applied to hunting?" I understand the physics and forces that go behind shooting a long distance, and my biggest concern is if the person pulling the trigger really understands the dynamic forces that come into play at some of the distances they are shooting. Will they end up with a clean kill, a clean miss, or a wounded animal, which at some great distance may be impossible to track.
            For example, I've often heard shooters speak of the bullets they use and how high the Ballistic Co-efficiency (BC) is, yet when they are pressed they have no clue as to what BC really means. Simply stated, the BC is a number that is reached mathematically and is a measurement of how well a bullet may be able to overcome air resistance and maintain its velocity while in flight. The higher the number, theoretically, the better the bullet will be able to keep its velocity. But, the BC is absolutely no indication of how a bullet will perform once it hits the intended target. The simple truth is that bullets are velocity driven; meaning the trajectory and energy are controlled by how fast they are going. Here's where things start to get complicated, as many match grade bullets currently produced are designed strictly for target shooting and are pretty much useless in a  hunting situation. Some of the manufacturers are even going so far as to label their match grade bullets for use in target shooting only and are not suitable for hunting applications. Going by the BC alone could lead to wounded, then lost animal, as the bullet may not be designed for hunting and on impact will not have the properties necessary to adequately penetrate the animal's hide and make a humane kill.
            Of greater importance to a hunter is the Sectional Density (SD) of a given bullet. Again the SD is a number reached through mathematical formula, which, in the case of the SD, also takes into account the bullet's relative mass. To avoid getting to complicated, the heavier a bullet is in a given caliber, the greater its SD, therefore, given the bullet's construction, the greater the penetration is, which equates to more knockdown power. For a hunting application, the bullet construction and SD are of paramount consideration. In some cases, as the SD rises the BC may actually begin to fall, yet the heavier bullets carry more kinetic energy and combined with proper construction for hunting equates greater stopping power.
            That is but one consideration when shooting long distances. As a bullet travels on other factors come into play. One is wind. Shooting 100 yards away as opposed to say 700 yards in a 10 mile-an-hour cross wind is completely different. At 100 yards the difference is measured in inches, whereas at 700 yards the "deflection" could be measured in feet. Wind Doping - estimating the wind speed and making the correct adjustments is something that does not come easily. To complicate matters, when shooting across great distances, the wind can and many times will shift and blow from different directions.
            Then there is the affect gravity can have on a bullet. Sir Isaac Newton, the infamous mathematician, physicist and astronomer, first laid down the fundamental rules regarding how gravity affects an object in the 17th Century, and those basic tenants still hold true today. Simply stated, gravity pulls at an object at a rate of around 32.17 feet per second. For a moment, let's consider a 150 grain 30-06 bullet that leaves the muzzle at 3000 feet per second, and whose intended target is 100 yards away. 100 yards is but 300 feet and with a bullet that is traveling 3000 feet per second, it will reach the target in 107 milliseconds or in .107 of a second. At that speed there is no way gravity can affect the trajectory of the bullet before it hits the target. But, now let’s say your range is 1200 yards or 3600 feet. The flight time is now 2.127 seconds. Can you calculate the affect gravity will now have on the bullet's trajectory? Remember, as you are calculating the affect, the pull of gravity is not the same everywhere.
            While you are at it, don't forget to calculate the gyroscopic drift when shooting across great distances, or the affect of the earth's rotation on the bullet. The point here is that when shooting really long distances there is much more to consider than just pointing the rifle at the target and pulling the trigger. There are a myriad of factors that can and will affect the trajectory of a bullet as the distance increases. At present I'm not taking a stand on one side or the other. My hope is those who attempt to shoot long distances have gone through some training to understand the factors that come into play as the distance increases, including whether or not the bullet will have enough energy to make a clean kill once it reaches the intended target. I understand under certain circumstances, to be successful, one may need to be ready to shoot up to 200 or a little further, but a half a mile away? I think this debate is just in its infancy as technology advances. It will be interesting to see how it goes....

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