Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tradition

What seems like a lifetime ago, I was a young kid hoping for an adult to take interest in me. At 14, I was firmly in the grasp of adolescence. A confusing time of hormonal awkwardness. I had begun a growth spurt and was quickly getting taller, but my weight was not keeping up with the height and at 6'2" I was a mere 97 lbs. This just added to the feeling that I was too awkward for anyone to actually care.

My Mom had just married a guy who was a good bit younger than she was. He was in between the two of us in age, and I was a bit enamored with the guy. To me, he represented everything that was "cool." He hunted, he built demolition derby cars, he had a sick and twisted sense of humor always making the most inappropriate jokes at the most inappropriate time. He was about the coolest guy I had ever met.

Our first thanksgiving, after moving in with him, he woke me up at 4:30 in the morning. He had crept in quietly, carefully trying not to disturb my younger brother who was asleep in the adjacent room. He shook my foot and asked in a whisper, "how do you want your coffee?"

"Huh," I responded sleepily, wiping the crusts of sleep from my eyes.

"Dress warm," he said in a hushed tone, "and hurry up."

I crawled out of bed and put on a pair of long underwear, threw on my favorite pair of well-broken in jeans and grabbed my favorite flannel from the closet. I crept upstairs curious as to what we were possibly doing at such an ungodly hour on Thanksgiving morning. When I got to the top of the stair case, he was putting the lid on a 32 oz. coffee cup. He gestured to the gun cases behind him, resting against the wall, and said, "grab those, let's go."

We drove to a field he hunted to the north of town. It was a crisp November morning in Colorado. As the sun broke the horizon, we zipped our hunting jackets and pulled the gun cases from behind the seat in his tiny white Ford Ranger. The morning dew was turning to a steamy vapor that rose slowly off the field. He opened a box of duck loads and handed me half of them. "You probably won't need em' all," he said, "but let's go see if we can get a bird for dinner."

He pulled his old Remington 870 out of one of the cases and rested it against the truck as he pulled an 1100 from another case. "Which one," he asked, pointing at the shotguns resting against the truck.

"Your 870," I said with a smile, like I was about to get by with something.

"I was hoping you'd say that," he said with a grin.

We spent the entirety of that morning walking the field. We traipsed through tall grasses trying to scare up pheasant. We walked the slough in search of ducks. It felt like we covered miles that morning and it didn't matter a bit to me how far we walked. Here I was, finally having an authentic "father/son" experience like the ones I had heard about my whole life from the stories of my peers and my extended family members. It was finally happening. Had something jumped, I probably wouldn't have even tried to shoot at it. I was just content to be there. I felt like I was taking part in a right of passage.

We walked another field after that one failed to turn up any fowl. When things seemed hopeless, he scared up a pheasant and downed it on the first shot. We gave each other an approving high five and carried our quarry to the truck, smiling from ear to ear. When we got home, we picked the burs from our clothes and he showed me how to clean a pheasant. He had me stick my thumb through the skin and pull it back to expose the meat. It was almost more than I could bare and I could feel something rising in my throat. He must have seen me turn a bit green and took the bird from me, finishing it like a professional in a matter of seconds.

He showed me how to identify where the shot had entered the meat and we picked out as many of the bb's as we could find. He prepped the bird, stuck it in the oven and it joined the turkey that mom had spend the last several days preparing for thanksgiving dinner. So began what would be our thanksgiving tradition. From that point on, any time we could sneak away, Bob would load me up, grab the guns and we'd spend hours walking a field, chasing up whatever we could. Sometimes we went for dove, sometimes we'd score a rabbit. Sometimes we'd come home empty handed and yet somehow content.

I learned pretty quickly that "the hunt" wasn't about what you come home with. It was about the chance to get away from the chaos of the world. It was an attempt to find a bit of solace. To walk quietly with nature as the apex predator in the environment. We didn't have to shoot. Walking through the field was usually the point of it all.

He always seemed to have a new hunting story to share on our trips. Sometimes it was serious, a lesson or moral to be noted from his past experience. Sometimes it was just something funny, a "no-matter-what-don't-do-this," kind of tale from a mistake he had once made, like being so excited that the bird was scared out of the brush that you forget to think past the target and end up shooting your own truck. He was great about taking advantage of "teaching moments" and I learned a lot about hunting, shooting, and stalking prey from those cold winter mornings in the field.

Most of all, thanksgiving took on a whole new meaning. Thanksgiving was my morning. The one morning a year that Bob would creep into my bedroom before the sun and wake me gently to say, "hey, what do you want in your coffee." I don't think anything since has made me feel more special. In the end, their relationship didn't last, and several years ago, after a career in welding had destroyed Bob's veins and lungs, he chose to end his own life. The tragedy of it all aside, I'll never forget Bob or our thanksgiving "tradition." Maybe one day, I'll start a similar tradition with a young awkward kid and it will become something he looks forward to each year. That one ritual that makes the awkwardness of adolescence half-ass bearable.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Maximum Range vs. Maximum Effective Range

It's been awhile since I've written anything for you. To be honest, I had no idea you faithful readers liked this site so much. While I haven't been out shooting in awhile, a recent question from my brother inspired me to do some digging and it seems relevant to what we talk about around here, so I figured I better write a new post.

In a conversation with my brother, I was asked, "what do you think the maximum effective range of a .22 long rifle is? I mean, I know from hunter's safety class that a .22 can travel over a mile, but really... what do you think the maximum effective range is?"

My response, as if often is when I get asked about things I don't know is, "I dunno, google it!" The plot gets a little deeper. Later that evening I was reading through threads on a facebook group dedicated to AR style rifles. These are the civilian clones of M16, AR15, AR10 styled weapons. There are differences between the civilian and military versions and the two should not be considered the same thing. However, that's another post entirely. There in the thread was a similar discussion about the maximum range of a particular caliber, this time a .308 fired from a short-barrel AR-10 variant. When I attempted to engage the responders, I was met with a great deal of backlash.

It seems that for many, reports of tactical operators over seas being able to "regularly drop targets at 1700 yards plus," translates to many that "maximum range" surely can't be rated as low as 800m which is what is reported for most sites and resources as the maximum effective range of the .308.

Now, without getting into physics, complex ballistics, and a bunch of other really intense calculations based on projectile shape, air density, barrel length, elevation, wind effect, rotation effect, twist rate, and every other factor effecting a projectiles flight path, it seemed to me that there is some confusion about basic terminology. Just what do people mean when they say maximum effective range?

I sought out definitions. Maximum Effective Range as defined by "gunwiki.net" states, "Absolute maximum effective range: This the 'this round is not considered lethal after crossing this threshold' distance. Neither of the other two common 'maximum range' values will be greater than this. Purportedly, NATO defines this as the point at which the projectile's kinetic energy dips below 85 joules (62.7 foot-pounds."

Military Factory defines this as, "The maximum distance at which a weapon may be expected to be accurate and achieve the desired effect."

That's a pretty good definition. Paired with the previous definition, we can state maximum effective range as an "ideal." That is, if all conditions are ideal, with an accurate weapon, properly sighted in, all environmental conditions having a nominal effect on the shot, we can expect a particular bullet, by a well trained shooter to perform at this particular level.

So, what does this mean for my people with particular questions?
I did some more digging. A .22 long rifle can be expected to have a maximum effective range that falls somewhere between 100-150 yards depending on the conditions mentioned above. That's a huge difference from the "maximum range" of a .22 long rifle which is capable of exceeding 1 mile. At one mile, there would not be enough force left to do anything. In other words, maximum range is the total distance a projectile may travel before it loses every bit of energy and stops. On its own. Out of juice entirely. What this means for a shooter is that they can reasonably expect to kill small game at distances out to 150 yards on the high-end. You may be able to print on paper at distances slightly further than that. When it comes to a .308, the maximum effective range is reported by some branches of the military to be 800m, by the US Marine Corps it extends to 1,000m. Have shots been made further than that with that weapon? Yes. However, shots beyond 1,000m are an anomaly. The vast majority of shooters are not capable of being held to that level of accuracy for achieving that desired effect. Conversely, the maximum range of a .308 - the total distance it is capable of traveling before stopping is just over 2.5 miles.

So there you have it. Happy shooting.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Keltec SU-16 UPDATE

A while back, I had the opportunity to shoot a Keltec SU-16. The weapon was a friend's rifle. He had been having trouble getting the piece sighted in and had asked for some assistance. To say that we had a frustrating day on the range is an understatement. You can read the prior post here, Keltec SU-16 Review.

As it turns out, the weapon that we were shooting was experiencing a factory fault. It seems that a few Keltec Sub-16's made it out of the factory with an issue that resulted in a broken carrier assembly. Try as we might, there was no way to sight in the rifle because the weapon was damaged. My esteemed shooting partner, who has since served some time as a firearms instructor at Front Sight, contacted Keltec about the issue with the firearm. They explained to him that some weapons had escaped the factory with a known fault and that they would repair the weapon if he would return it.

After a bit of effort on his part, he was able to send the firearm back to the factory. They repaired the Keltec SU-16 and returned it to him. Aside from shipping costs and the time and effort put in to return the rifle to the factory, they fixed it free of charge. Since then, he has experienced no continued issues and was able to sight the rifle in without issue. Additionally, his exposure to other instructors familiar with the SU-16 as well as Front Sight's own 4-Day Practical Rifle Training Course, has resulted in a new respect for the Keltec Rifle. Many of the instructors prefer the SU-16 for its affordability and functionality. Many have chosen the Keltec over far more expensive AR-15's, variants, and clones.

While this experience does solidify my distrust of polymer designs over traditional steel assemblies, the willingness of Keltec as a company to resolve the issues with this firearm shows their commitment to quality. They acknowledged that it was an issue, they resolved the issue with no cost to the owner, and they returned the rifle in a timely manner. If you have a Keltec SU-16 that is giving you fits, contact the manufacturer and give them the opportunity to repair the firearm. They are a company willing to stand behind their product. A product endorsed by instructors and shooters at Front Sight, a premier firearms training academy that services civilians as well as military and law enforcement.

We were not wrong to be displeased with the specimen we were shooting, however, at the end of the day, it was a faulty firearm. The issue was rectified by the company to the satisfaction of the owner. To date, no further issues have been encountered. If you are looking for a .223 rifle, capable of utilizing magazines from other platforms, it seems the SU-16, is worth your consideration. Bravo, Keltec. Bravo.