Monday, December 26, 2011

Three news stories

There are three news stories I am following with particular interest because they seem to me the most important of the present day:
  • The debt crisis in the Western democracies
  • Social change in China
  • The changing Mideast political situation, as regards mosque and state
These stories are interrelated, in some interesting ways. If the Western economies crumble it will affect the arising Chinese middle class. It will change the demand for oil, impacting the funding source for much of Islamism.

Other scenarios are possible. A Communist crackdown in China would disrupt China's economic development and China's role in world commerce, with results felt everywhere.  Contrariwise, the Chinese people might finally get fed up enough with their Communist officials to throw the rascals out. Individual Chinese citizens do not have much political power, but there are a great many of them.

An Islamist hegemony in the Mideast would change many things, possibly including who is a favored customer for petroleum and who isn't. (It is quite possible we Americans would not be favored.) Increased Mideastern hostility toward the West could accelerate our debt problems by creating a further drag on our economies, with impacts on Asia's investments in the West and Asia's trade with the Western countries. Once again the Chinese situation is affected, with consequences worldwide, and of course within China itself...

And so on--make up your own scenarios. While I do not say any of the above will come to pass, none of them is impossible, and there are still more scenarios that cannot be ruled out. The rise in the West of either ultra-conservative or ultra-socialist policies could, in falling domino fashion, affect both Asia and the Mideast. For example, a new American isolationism--close the doors on the rest of the world--would affect matters everywhere.

The cultures and economies of the world are more closely linked than at any time previously. There are at present three areas of great uncertainty about future developments, a Western one, a Chinese one and a Muslim one. Interesting times, indeed.

Friday, December 16, 2011

New .22 pocket revolver from Ruger

See it here:

Some  people on a discussion board I visit are asking what this little gun is good for, and in Internet echo chamber fashion, many people are opining it isn't good for much, because of its small caliber. I disagree. A DA snubnose in .22LR is an excellent thing to have, in some circumstances. I haven't shot the new Ruger yet, but have for many years owned another brand of .22 snub, so I feel I can comment.

  •  If you carry a .38 snub you can get in a lot of good practice with a .22 version. It is possible to learn to shoot a snubnose rather well, but it takes a lot of practice. The .22 makes practice cheaper because the ammo costs so much less, and less fatiguing because of the lesser blast and recoil. 
  • There are some people who cannot stand much recoil. This includes the elderly and arthritic, and also hale and hearty youngsters who have injured hands or wrists. Martial artists, for example, often injure their wrists. Touching off hot loads in a light .38 after someone has hurt you with an over enthusiastic wrist lock...well, it's not a good use of your time. A .22 is ordinarily not a problem unless the disability is severe indeed.
  • Many shooters keep a reserve of ammunition for a rainy day. The wisdom of this was shown in the ammo shortage of 2009. I would guess that typical shooters have more .22 squirreled away than anything else. I know it's true in my case. It therefore makes good sense to have a carry gun that can shoot this round, just in case you can't get anything hotter.
  • .22LR is the world's most popular cartridge, available wherever ammunition is sold. If you can buy commercial ammunition, even in an out of the way locale, you can find something to load into a .22. A revolver is better than an autoloader because it will  cycle with poor quality ammunition, while a .22 automatic is more finicky. 
Ruger's LCR-22 is, of course, based on their LCR .38 Special. The .22 holds eight shots. The .38 holds five. The LCR's are double action only. I do not see this as a drawback in a defense gun or a trainer for defensive shooting. The LCR design is noted for its smooth and even trigger pull; DA is the only mode you have but it is good DA. Since the .38 LCR seems to be holding up well, and the slightly beefed up .357 Magnum version does too, I conclude an LCR revolver using the .22's trifling power level will stand up to long use indeed.

Insofar as I can tell, there are no speedloaders available for the LCR-22. Perhaps they will be along shortly; the gun is new on the market. You can carry your spare ammo in Tuff QuickStrips if you like.

A good .22 snubnose is pleasant to shoot and easy to carry; in some circumstances, at least, it is even useful.  I think the new Ruger will prove a fine example of the type.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The "Buck and Roy" rifle: Roy Rogers, meet Buck Rogers

The lever action .30-30 is one of the handiest and most useful light rifles ever invented. I now count five manufacturers offering versions of this old weapon and I see it is as popular as ever among hunters of medium-big game.

The great virtue of the .30-30 is its fast handling. It is well balanced and points swiftly and naturally, the mechanism is  quick and simple to operate, and the cartridge does not have so much recoil that it rocks you back on your heels.

The little rifle's chief drawback is the antique, cowboy-style sighting arrangement. The factory sights are all right for backup but they don't give you all the accuracy the rifle has in it. The adjustments are vague and approximate and the sight picture is quaint.

The modern sight that best suits the .30-30, in typical uses, is the red dot. It improves on the rifle's best trait by making the weapon even faster to put on target. To use the dot sight, you look downrange with both eyes focused on the target, just as you would normally look at something. When you raise the rifle, the sight adds an aiming pip to your natural view of your surroundings. Sight picture acquisition is speeded up and your situational awareness is not compromised by peering at the front sight.

Doubtless some purists will take umbrage at the idea of mounting a 21st century sight on a 19th century rifle. They may take all they like, and send a truck for any they can't carry with them. The rifle and sight are very efficient when used together and that is what matters. Roy Rogers' rifle is much improved by a touch of Buck Rogers technology.

In my opinion the dot sight is best mounted aft, over the receiver, instead of forward over the barrel in scout rifle fashion. This mounting makes the dot slightly quicker to acquire, because the opening in the sight is relatively larger in appearance when it is closer to your eye. Once your eye has found the opening you can use the dot; you do not need to center the dot in the sight. I do, however, like to mount the sight far enough forward that it cannot possibly hit me in the eye. I have a tendency to "crawl the stock," so I like the optic far enough forward that it is well out of my way in any shooting position.

A word of caution is in order about red dot sights. There are some putridly bad ones on the market. In part this is because the better brands are being bought up, these days, by the military, reducing the supply and jacking up the price in the private sector. In part it is because some unscrupulous chaps are cashing in on the public's inexperience with this kind of sight, and palming off cheaply made garbage as if it were serviceable gear. I mention this because there are many shooters who are convinced that red dot sights are no good. And they are partially right: The ones they have tried are indeed no good. If the lamp won't stay lit, if the dot isn't bright enough to use on a sunny day, if the adjustments won't hold zero, the problem isn't the concept; the problem is you've been had.

Though unconventional, the match-up of red dot sight and lever carbine is a very good one.  The .30-30's long suit is speed, and so is the red dot's. The two complement each other extraordinarily well. The dot sight is not the best thing for long range work, but the long range specialist probably does not pack a .30-30.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Federal Cartridge's Handy Ballistics Calculator

***UPDATE (2014)*** The link below for 2013 still points to the interactive catalog/calculator, but here is something different. Federal now also offers a general purpose ballistic calculator. You can use it to check up on the behavior of factory cartridges or plug in the values for your own handloads.

***UPDATE (2013)*** The app has moved from its former location on the web. You may now download the current version here:

It is still free and still runs on just Windows. If it goes missing again, try a web search for Federal Interactive Ballistics Catalog. My review from 2011:

This application for the PC has been around for years. It is now more stable and reliable than it was, early on.  By using a point and click interface, you can get the detailed ballistic behavior of any factory cartridge offered by Federal. A clever feature of this app is you can use it to compare the performance of cartridges you select; you get graphs and tables that show your choices plotted against each other.

The interface is a trifle busy looking but after using it for a little while everything is easy to find. Installation was quick and trouble free.

You can input your own parameters for altitude, temperature and wind, and you have your choice of English or metric units of measure. I do not see a way to calculate time of flight, but that is of no interest for most uses. Of course the app lists only Federal products, but the performance of most brands is similar enough that you can get at least an approximation for other products by picking the Federal cartridge most like the one you're wondering about. In all, this is an app worth having if you are at all interested in the flight of your bullets.