Saturday, August 22, 2009

They Said There Would Be Tests.


Mrs. Utah and I are spending the weekend in the idyllic metropolis of Pocatello, Idaho. Why, you ask?

I'm glad you did. We are here because I didn't work today, Wendover, Nevada holds no attraction as an escape, and Vegas is too far away.

This morning we made our way out to the boonies and paid our fees to shoot at the Oregon Trail Shooting Club. Mrs. Utah is bad, bad news with our compact Glock 26. Once again she has proven a better shot with a pistol originally intended for me.

I elected to take one of my Mosin carbines, a beautiful model 91/59 I picked up a few years ago. This weekend marks the third time I've had this one out. I shot about thirty rounds offhand, mostly mixed lot old milsurp light ball, and then moved to a bench after my groups started to show I was getting tired.

The groups tightened nicely from the bench. I was shooting across the top of my range bag at my fifty yard target the same time as Mrs. Tmj was shooting to my left. Her target was out at fifteen yards to start and later moved out to twenty five. She shot scary good; sight radius on a 26 is about as long as that of a derringer and she was still putting all the rounds inside a twelve inch bullseye at the close target and almost all of them at the twenty five yard range.

This is the unscripted weekend. As we shot, we chatted back and forth. We have a lot to catch up on with my work taking up so much of our time. I had just finished complimenting her on her marksmanship when I turned and buckled down to dump another bullet into the black...sights lined up, target on the post, finger sliding down to caress the trigger, stop breathing, begin to squee...


I own and shoot a lot of military surplus weapons in many different calibers. I've had production lots of surplus ammo where every second round was a dud and every third was a true one-second hangfire. (Pakistani production .303 Mk VII headstamped early sixties. Useless stuff.) This morning I'd already noticed some cracked necks and one spectacular split on one of my spent brass cases.

So a misfire, possibly a hangfire, I thought. Wait for a solid thirty seconds, keeping the muzzle aimed at the target. I turned my head to explain to Mrs. Utah what I was up to at the same time I gently worked the bolt to extract the bad round. I was too vigorous and the "dead" round flipped over the edge of the table before I could catch it. No biggie - I'd police it up with the spent stuff later.

I broke the rules right there. Did you see it?

I went to return the bolt to battery on top of the next round. The bolt refused to seat. I immediately executed Mosin Sticky Bolt Immediate Action and slapped the crap out of the bolt trying to get it down. I could slap it forward where it just started to rotate down, but there it hung. So I pulled the bolt back, this time catching the good round before it could get away. I inspected the open bolt and the face of the chamber that I could see. There appeared to be some soot or lube build up on the mating surfaces so I pulled a q-tip out and made a few passes around the radius of the chamber face. Then I initiated another round of Immediate Action, actually getting the bolt to drop a few degrees. I stood up to get better leverage and then had a thought. I pulled the bolt out of the rifle, then dropped the floorplate and emptied the last two rounds from the magazine.

I stepped over to the side of the table where I'd lost the "dud" round and inspected the ground. Twenty or so spent cases... but no matter how hard I looked, I couldn't see a bullet anywhere on any of those cases.

I picked up the rifle and looked through the breech up the bore... into blackness. The primer detonation (clonk) had pushed the 147gr steel core bullet out of the empty copper washed steel case ALMOST far enough for me to chamber another round behind it.

We searched through the empty cases on the ground and found, indeed, one case that didn't have soot in the neck, but just a patina of corrosion with red specks from the primer material.

If you have a misfire on the range - anywhere out of combat, actually - you must wait safely for a hangfire (fifteen seconds in some books, I believe in thirty myself) and then open the action and inspect the bullet AND the bore.

If I'd been a little more committed to trying to close that bolt you wouldn't be reading this. Or if the squib bullet had been a sixteenth of an inch deeper into the bore, as well. Mosins are widely acclaimed for being a weapon that often requires a highly physical manner of operation. They aren't acclaimed at all for surviving a shot taken with the bore plugged by a squib bullet.

It's all a test. Study, learn, and live.

(UPDATE 2100 08/23) Here is a picture showing (left to right) a normal fired case, the case that had no powder, and the bullet I punched out of the bore:

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