Wednesday, September 28, 2005

More from range day

I've mentioned before the M1 Garand. It's one of my favorite rifles, both to contemplate and to shoot. When I got this one it was standard GI, with a barrel installed in the 1950's that had seen better days. I found a good barrel and had it installed(I don't have headspace guages, the the gunsmith gave me a very good price on the work). It shot better, but the trigger was a little heavy and gritty, and the front sight was just a tad loose.

The trigger I cleaned up with the directions I found through Fulton Armory. Look down the left side to 'M1 Garand pages', which will, among others, get you to the 'Garand Info Place', and there is the 'How-To Guides', including how to improve the trigger. Which, by the way, is a wonderful piece of design and engineering. Strong, reliable, and still in use. One of the nice things about it is that when you engage the safety, it actually locks the hammer in place; if you do something so bad it'll break the hammer loose, you've probably trashed the rifle itself. And it's fairly simple to smooth up. I will take a moment to remind you of what I wrote in a post on trigger work: If you don't have the knowledge to mess with the trigger mechanism on a firearm, DON'T! If you have any doubt of your ability to look it over and follow the directions exactly, leave the damn thing alone.

Ahem. That done, their method did a wonderful job of smoothing out my trigger, which made it nicer to shoot. I've mentioned before shimming the trigger assembly to tighten the lockup of trigger, receiver and stock, which helped. The last thing I did I'd read of before, and that was tightening up the sight/gas cylinder assembly. In the M1 the front sight is mounted on the top of the gas cylinder, and it slides onto the barrel as a unit. There are splines in the assembly and on the barrel that lock it into alignment and keep it from wobbling. However, it's not unusual for them to be a little loose. Tolerances in mass-manufacturing, you know. So after reading some advise on the subject from Publicola, I took a flat-nose punch and my 2oz. hammer and very lightly peened the corners of the splines on the barrel. I emphasize VERY LIGHTLY. From what I've read/been told, match rifles are set up tight enough you have to use a mallet and wood block to drive the assembly into place on the barrel. You don't have to get it that tight, but you need it to be tight enough that the assembly has zero wobble on the barrel; it only takes a couple of thousandths to move the point of impact at a distance. When I was done, mine takes tapping with a block to set it into place. Cleaning, you ask? From what I know of both M1 and M1A rifles, you take the assembly off only when necessary, and unless you're using corrosive primed ammo, you can clean the bore and action without removing it.

How did it work? Originally, I could get 4-6" groups. After the trigger and shimming the action, cut that by about half. After the sight work, I got this at 100 yards:

That's 1 3/4" for the three-shot group. I had one problem today; I'd noticed that I seemed to be stringing shots vertically a bit. I thought it was my fault(it was, but not in the way I thought), until I did some other things, came back to the Garand and found that the group fired was about 5" low. Upon which I found that the locking screw for the elevation adjustment was loose, which had let recoil bump the rear sight elevation. That got tightened down, the sight was readjusted, and with my last clip I shot this. I stopped at three because that only left 5 rounds, and I don't like to be out of ammo for whatever I have along. By the way, does anybody else do that? Or and I the only one that weird?
Never mind.

In any case, a few simple things really improved the accuracy of this rifle. The ammo, by the way, was some of the Korean M2 ball that's on the market Standard GI ball. I'm tempted to get some match ammo and try it out. Although with this performance, I'll damn sure try to get some more of this stuff.

I shot my postal match entries, and the other thing I wanted to check out was this:

It's an Enfield revolver chambered in .38 S&W. NOT .38 Special, the cartridge that preceeded it. Double-action only, break-top. See the lever in front of the hammer? Push it down and the barrel/cylinder assembly swings down, and the ejector kicks out the empties. Drop in fresh cartridges, close the action and you're ready. These things were originally designed for a load firing a 200 grain lead bullet at about 650-700 feet per second. Later, to comply with the Geneva Convention(I believe) they switched to a 170 grain jacketed bullet. The original load had a good reputation as a fight-stopper, the later load not nearly as good. The big reason we wanted to get to the original load was accuracy. You may know that a pistol sighted in for a heavy bullet load, when fired with a light bullet, tends to hit low. With 125 grain bullets in this one, about 6" low at ten yards. With 165 grain semi-wadcutters, accuracy was quite good but still low. Then I found a Lyman mold that throws a 195 grain round-nose bullet that looks almost identical to the original. I cast some bullets, and since the .38 S&W has a larger bullet diameter than .38 Special I didn't size them; just lubed with Lee Liquid Alox and loaded them up.

Shooting it was a pleasure. Still mild recoil, but you could feel a definate difference between this and the light-bullet loads. And, more to the point, point of impact seems to be up with point of aim, as it should be. Makes it a lot nicer to shoot. I'm thinking of getting hold of one for myself, and maybe making some grips that fit my hand better- the factory ones are kind of squared-off. And with this load, I think it'd make a pretty good defense weapon if you had to grab it.

Ah, range day. It almost always improves things.

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