Category Archives: Firearms and their use

Discussions of various specific firearms, evaluations of their functionality and appropriate use and employment in every day life. Also discussions of ammunition in the same light. Thirdly, brief discussions of the legal side of firearms ownership and use – Second Amendment considerations and those who seek to destroy personal liberty.

Another interesting factoid I found

Collecting World War One rifles.

Those early rifles are long!

I have a few rifles – the long rifles, not carbines – are too long for the common rifle case sold currently. The 1892 Krag-Jorgensen rifle is 49 inches long. The 1891 Argentine Mauser rifle is 51 inches long (actually it’s probably in millimeters; I haven’t measured or figured it in millimeters yet). The 1911 Swiss straight pull in 7.5×55 mm is close to 52 inches.

It wasn’t until the Second World War military rifles shortened a bit to what most of think of as normal. In fact, the K-98 Mauser has the “K” prefix which means ‘Kurz’, ‘short’ in English. The original 98 Mauser rifle was just over 49 inches with a barrel nearly 30 inches long. The 98K – a later variation and common in WW2 – was shortened to about 43 inches over all and a 23 inch barrel. However, with smokeless power the velocity and kinetic power levels were more than adequate.

All that aside, I have several rifles for which I just don’t have carrying cases! I can wrap them up in old blankets for taking to the range and such, but this development is ‘curious’. I’ll have to think of something. I hope I don’t have to make some from plywood or such!

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A Decent Human Being with a Gun

24 January 2017. Thomas Yoxall, age 43, tattooed and pierced, was driving West on Interstate 10 near Tonopah, Arizona. He saw a man (later identified as Leonard Penneles-Escobar) ‘savagely’ beating an Arizona State Trooper (Edward Andersson). Mr. Yoxall could not ignore the situation and stopped.

He called to the man beating the trooper, presumably to stop beating the trooper. The man kept beating the trooper and Mr. Yoxall fired his personally owned sidearm at the attacker, stopping the attack. While tending the trooper, Mr. Penneles resumed the attack on Trooper Andersson; Mr. Yoxall fired one more round, incapacitating Mr. Penneles permanently; Penneles died later from his wounds.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/thomas-yoxall-citizen-who-killed-man-assaulting-trooper-edward-andersson-i-was-put-there-by-god/

Ladies and Gentlemen, Girls and Boys; Mr. Thomas Yoxall is the sort of man to be admired and encouraged. Seeing a serious problem, he acted swiftly and surely. Victorious in the conflict, he declines the title ‘hero’ and says the aftermath of killing another human is difficult mentally and emotionally.

A telling comment, Mr. Yoxall says he was “…put there by God.” A good man clinging to his guns and his God.

Not much else to say.

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The Order of Saint Ballistica

I have started the Order of Saint Ballistica. It is a religious order. More or less.

Anyone is welcome to join, provided one can fulfill the requirements, as listed following:

One: Know and observe all the requirements of basic, mainstream, Christianity. (Orthodox or not, but observing a sense of mutual Christian respect and love and consideration for the details of others observance.)

Two: In addition, an adherent of the Order of Saint Ballistica must observe three additional sacrements:

* Firearms ownership. One must of one’s own volition own and approve of firearms and firearms ownership. If prevented by law or circumstance, one must be in favor of firearms ownership.

* Firearms possession. One must be in possession of a firearm, loaded and adequately maintained for use. Again, if prevented by law or circumstance, one must be in favor of such activity and state of being.

* Coffee.

Details.

Dues:

None

Gender:

Yes. One must have a gender.

Application process and membership bestowal:

In good faith, an applicant will acknowledge the above and post a placard showing affiliation in a reasonably visible place.

Excommunication process:

Should a member be found in blatant violation of the above requirements, a quorum of four other members will gather in view of the violator, point at the violator and say, “Neener, neener, neener!” followed by evidencing the raspberry.

Then go for coffee and exchange lies about one’s shooting ability.

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Filed under Firearms and their use, General Idiocy, religion

Forming Cases for the 6.5x53mmR Dutch (or Romanian) Mannlicher cartridge, used in the M1895 Dutch rifle

I read up on the process and started. I found most of the pitfalls. Please read the entire article prior to beginning the process. I wrote this more or less as a log of my attempts. It worked well on the first try, more or less. I did find some easier or less damaging techniques and added them later.

All my sources and information indicates the Dutch cartridge is the same shape, size and pressure specifications as the 6.5×54 (rimless) Mannlicher-Schoenauer cartridge, save the rim. Since no one commonly makes dies for the Dutch cartridge (actually, RCBS does, but they run over $100 a set; more for ‘forming’ dies), I bought a set of 6.5x54MS dies (made by Lee and cost less).

Start with .303 British cases, preferably new and unfired. This actually simplifies the process, since no one I could find makes a dedicated 6.5x53mmR shell head holder. To simplify this essay, I’m going to refer to the round as “Dutch”, as that is the type of rifle I have.

.303 British case, unaltered.  .303 British case, unaltered.

.303 Brit cases are normally 54 to 56 millimeters (mm) long (depending if at maximum length or recently trimmed). Dutch cases are 53.5 mm when longest – according to my readings of the few schematics I found. Trimmed, Dutch cases are 52 mm. Therefore, the .303 cases need to be trimmed. The Dutch cases headspace on the rim, so the actual length is not crucial. However, too long a case will cause the shoulder to crush and rumple. Not desired. Too short a neck will not hold the bullet properly and securely. But even a full millimeter probably won’t stop the show. Also, one must turn the neck to allow the seated bullet to enter the neck portion of the chamber AND allow for some expansion so the case can release the bullet when fired. These actions will be discussed later.

I note a scratch on the shoulder of some of my resized cases. Debris in one of the sizing dies I used. It doesn’t seem more than a surface effect, but it does annoy me. I have located the problem. It doesn’t really mean much and the ‘defect’ is removed later (shooting the cases), but do inspect brass regularly during the forming procedure.

Step one.  Size .303 British case in .308 Winchester sizing die, without decapper or expander. Step One: Size .303 British case in .308 Winchester sizing die, without decapper or expander

1. I found the best way to start was by removing the decapper/neck expander from, then sizing the original case in a .308 Winchester (Lee brand) sizing die. With the decapping and expander pin removed and the top mounted pin ‘holder’ removed, I didn’t have any difficulty with the 56 mm case in a 51 mm cartridge die, the reader may (depending on brand and style of dies used), and is encouraged to watch for it.

This step accomplishes two things; one, the neck size is reduced somewhat, making it easier to reduce the neck size smaller. (Obviously, it’s going to be 6.5 mm when finished; doing this in steps is easier and less brass is lost in the process.) Second, this sizing moves the shoulder back to where it almost should be. Almost.

Step Two:  Size case in 7x57 Mauser sizing die. Step Two: Size case in 7×57 Mauser sizing die.

2. Next, I sized the neck down again in a 7x57mm sizing die. Again with the decapper/neck expander removed. One notes the 57mm case die leaves the necked down portion of the case a bit longer than the finished product. However, with the already sized upper portion the case enters the next ‘size down’ procedure easier.

Step Three and Four:  Case sized in 6.5x55mm die and trimmed.

Step Three, Four and Five: Case sized in 6.5x55mm die and trimmed.

3. Neck down the neck in a 6.5×55 Swede sizing die. After this, most of the neck is roughly the correct diameter.

4. At this point, I shortened the cases to 52 mm, the correct length. (Check this length; mine came out a little shorter than some original collector rounds I have.) I did mine on a Forster case trimmer, as that’s what I have. There are other options and the reader is encouraged to investigate the matter. (Frankly, using a hand cranked trimmer to remove several millimeters of case neck is a pain in the neck.) But trim it anyway. AFTER I did the hand trimming, I ordered the Forster power adapter which allows an electric screw driver to do the cranking.

I later bought a rather inexpensive electric screw driver at the local “Harbor Freight” outlet. It seems to do the turning without the wear and tear on my fingers. In retrospect, I wish I had had it before.

5. Now, the only sizing left is the shoulder, which is still a bit long. I found using the 6.5x54MS dies made the cartridge ‘look’ right, but didn’t sufficiently set the shoulder back to chamber freely. After I purchased the MS dies, I heard the 6.5×53 Mannlicher-Carcano dies are a better fit. I later bought the Carcano dies (from Lee) and the cases ultimately chamber without difficulty.

So I resorted to brute force. (Don’t do this yet). I beat the bolt closed with rubber mallet (still with an unprimed, empty case). This does not seem to affect the bolt and does partially form the shoulder of the case to fit into the chamber. After one forcing, the case will chamber and the bolt lock with some minor pressure. This actually seems to be good, as when the case is fired, the base of the case is firmly seated on the bolt face and no stretching can occur.

Note: For some reason, the 6.5×54 MS dies did NOT set the shoulder back appropriately. Others have used them with reported success. Hopefully, your attempt will be easier. The rough-formed cases will not enter the rifle chamber easily. I obtained a set of 6.5×52 Carcano dies; the shoulder length from the base and length of case are both less. Doing the final sizing the the Carcano die allowed cases to chamber. I did not have to beat the bolt closed any longer.

As draconian as it may sound, I don’t think beating the bolt closed as I outlined did any harm to the rifle. All in all, I find using the Carcano dies a superior method. I strongly recommend NOT beating a loaded case into place.

Please note: The Carcano dies set the case mouth to .268” and the .264” bullets will not stay in the neck. So after setting the shoulder back with the Carcano dies, size the neck (at least) in the Mannlicher-Schonauer dies to properly hold the bullets. 6.5 x 55mm Swede dies have the correct sized expander (.264” bullets), but are too long to fully size the neck to the shoulder.

In retrospect, I probably should have annealed the cases at this point. I didn’t and everything seems to have worked out, but annealing sooner will not harm anything. Information below.

5. Prior to neck turning, I decided to fire-form the brass. Inspecting the thus formed cases, I decided to attempt a ‘live’ load to fire-form. I have a small pile of 140 grain 6.5 bullets from previous work with a 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser. They are the correct bore diameter.

Large Rifle primers, a starting load of IMR 3031 and one of the aforementioned 140 grain bullets seated long seems to be about right. I did measure the loaded round and the outside diameter of the neck with bullet and it miked out just under the schematic dimension. It is rather disappointing in velocity at 2056 fps, but this was a starting load and merely for the purpose of forming the cases.

Outside diameter of neck is just below the one online dimensional drawing I found of the cartridge; therefore, the neck(s) should open enough in firing to release the bullet and not cause a pressure excursion.

Note: The cases you use may react somewhat differently and the dies you use may work a bit different. Do check the outside neck diameter with bullet in place to check if bullets will release. I did not include any dimensions as YOU need to find the information yourself and measure the outside diameter of the loaded round to assure yourself of the safety of the configuration.

Be sure and measure the neck and be sure there is enough space for the neck to open and completely release the bullet. If the bullet and case neck wedge together, pressures get truly unmanageable.

6.5x53Rmm finished and loaded round beside original FN loaded round.

6.5x53Rmm finished and loaded round beside original FN loaded round.

The observer notes the ‘formed’ case (on the right) is a bit shorter than the original on the left. I possibly shortened them a bit too much. However, as the case is rimmed and headspaces on the rim, I don’t think it’s a tragic error. Were I fighting a war, or shooting constantly with the rifle (I am doing neither) I would be concerned about the burning powder gases cutting into the exposed end of the chamber under the missing case neck. I do not think for my purposes this makes a grosse affaire. If I make another set of cases, I will correct this, of course.

I also just ordered pilots (.264”) to ream necks both inside and outside. I have a feeling I will need them at some point.

The fire-forming worked swell. I should mention I tried a lighter charge of fast burning powder and it almost worked.

With all this cold working of the cases, I then annealed the cases to soften and return the malleability to the case necks and shoulders. Good information on line if you haven’t done this before. Not really a difficult operation, but one needs a proper place to do it.

According to Cartridges of the World the military loading of the 6.5 Dutch round features a 156-159 grain (10 grams in metric) round nosed bullet at 2433 feet per second. Wiki agrees with this, but that may mean it was copied. CotW also has a couple suggested loads.

My goal is to duplicate the original loading of cartridges for ‘obsolete’ military rifles. In my thinking the sights are set up for the ‘issue’ load. Also, one can reasonably try out the rifle as it was intended and intelligently form an opinion of the system.

Should one desire ‘lighter’ loads for plinking or fun – including those acquaintances who have never fired a rifle of such age – the loads shown in CotW can be reduced somewhat, or lighter bullets used, or ultimately use light loads for the 6.5×54 Mannlicher-Schonauer.

Cartridges of the World suggest either IMR 3031 or IMR 4350 to duplicate the original loading. See our next exciting episode – Bang! Please note, it is cold and snowy in the Central Plateau. I estimate the next proper shooting date to be at soonest mid April.

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The Last Savage

I should qualify the title. The pistol of which I write is the last production variation of the Savage Model 1907 pistol in .32 ACP. The Savage 1910 and 1917 were still in production until the middle 1920s or so and Savage continues to build rifles to this day. Savage made the Model 101, a single shot .22 pistol made to look like a single action revolver for about 10 years in the 1960s. They also made a Model 502 Striker pistol, which is a pistol length bolt action single shot in choice of .22 long rifle, .22 WRM or .17 rimfire something. It was a fairly recent arm, but is not on the Savage Arms site, so I presume it is no longer in production. (I don’t follow ‘new’ guns much.)

However, the Savage model 1907. variant 19, modification 2 was the last of the models 1907. According to the serial number, the one here was made in 1919. This seems to be the year more Savage 1907 pistols were made than any other. The 1907 ceased production in 1920. The 1915 and 1917 carried on longer.

Left side - rear - view of the pistol.  Very good condition.

Left side – rear – view of the pistol. Very good condition.

As Savage pistols (of that type and vintage) go, it is pretty much the same as all the other models 1907. It does of course have distinctives which distinguish it from other variations.

Probably the major telling differences between this variant and the earliest variants is the hammer is a spur type with the rear of the spur exposed, vice the burr version; and the small and more dense cocking serrations on the slide, vice the fewer and wider serrations of earlier versions.

This variant has no legend on the side of the frame proudly displaying the Savage name. (That marking seems to be a bit uncertain. Many of the variants did have the name either on the right or left side of the slide, just above the respective grip and many did not.)

Atop the slide is the usual legend of

SAVAGE ARMS CORP. UTICA N.Y. U. S. A. CAL. 32
PATENTED NOVEMBER 21, 1905 — 7.65 MM

This slide top legend also varies from variation to variation, but is consistent in message.

Grips are hard rubber – possibly gutta percha. They are black, tending to a very dark brown probably from ‘fading’; that may not be the correct chemical term, but it suits the common usage.The grips on this example are intact; they are not cracked or chipped and show no wear. Reportedly, the grips can be removed by gently prying each grip to bend the panel (fore and aft) which will release the grip panel from a groove arrangement in the frame. However, the material of the grips does not age well and tend to break when manipulated in such manner. If the grips are in good condition, don’t fool with them.

Finish on this variation is a matte bluing. It is not the bright bluing of the earlier models, nor is it the ‘paint’ finish attempted at one point. On this example, it is rather complete with a few spots of light rust over the pistol. There is some wear on the front muzzle and on exposed edges. The magazine is a double slot (for magazine catch) type and rather worn of bluing. I have a small suspicion the magazine may not be original; however, as the magazines were not serialized to the individual pistol, I cannot tell.

Note the clean and unworn appearance of the engraved markings.

Note the clean and unworn appearance of the engraved markings.

The case hardening on the trigger is visible and not too badly faded.

The sights are the later type.

The rear sight is machined into the top of the slide. The rear sight ‘notch’ is an almost “U” shaped groove. The sides of the groove are slightly slanted outboard; giving the appearance of a compromise between a thin “V” and a “U”. The bottom is rounded.

The front sight is a separate piece, fitted into a mortice milled into the front of the slide, then riveted from the bottom; much like the front sight on a traditional Government Model. It is tapered, wider at the base, and does have a flat top. However, when aimed, the top of the front sight exactly fills the top of the rear sight notch. Consequently, the ‘windage’ is just a bit vague.

To be fair, this pistol was designed as a close use arm. I’d be willing to bet the sights are nearly unused.

The bore is in amazingly fine condition. Many of these pistols have bores ranging from ‘somewhat worn’ to ‘nasty’. No doubt some combination of corrosive primers (primers leaving a salt deposit, attracting moisture; therefore rust) and lack of cleaning (to remove those salts) are to blame for this condition. This example was obviously cleaned. Or perhaps never fired, just carried a bit. The breech face is also rather clean and fresh.

Shooting this pistol was rather ordinary. I chronographed five shots from my secret stash of Privi Partizan brand .32 ACP ammunition – that lot which I use only for velocity comparison between various pistols. Average velocity was 721 feet per second. (Advertised velocity for the .32 ACP is 900 feet per second; no pistol I’ve tested does that.)

I shot five rounds (not the velocity lot) slow fire at 10 yards for accuracy. The group was just under 2.25“ wide by just under 5 “ high. The group was centered to the left (from the shooter’s view) of the aiming point. As the accompanying photo shows, the group was neatly contained in the head of the target. Then ten shots rapid fire into the main area of the target, also from 10 yards, one handed;. I think I missed once – can’t find the tenth hole – but the nine hits measure seven inches wide by eight and one half inches wide, with one flyer another four inches out to the right. All were within the “C” area of the target, albeit centered lower than one would desire.

Five shots @ten yards on head section of combat target.

Five shots @ten yards on head section of combat target.

Ten rounds fired 'rapid fire' at ten yards.  One missing shot.  Circular pattern indicates I was focusing on target more than front sight.

Ten rounds fired ‘rapid fire’ at ten yards. One missing shot. Circular pattern indicates I was focusing on target more than front sight.

Savage used the marketing phrase “Ten shots fast!” in connection with the Savage pistols. It was more or less true. The M1907 (and the following M1910 and M1917) in .32 ACP utilized a ten shot, staggered magazine. (This was some twenty-eight years BEFORE the FN P-35 (High Power) was released with its thirteen shot magazine. It was also eleven years AFTER the Mauser Broomhandle with a staggered magazine, but since the Broomhandle was loaded via stripper clip and the magazine was not removable, I’m not sure it counts.)

Not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but the Savage M1907 is just a bit small for my hand. I quickly say, my hands are not large by any stretch. Holding the pistol in firing position I find my trigger finger extends through the trigger guard and my trigger finger rests with my first joint (from the tip) rather than the ‘pad’ of my finger on the trigger. Normally the pad of the trigger finger is to be on the trigger. (Of course, with the hideously heavy trigger pull, attempting a ‘target’ trigger pull with the pad of the trigger finger is quite difficult.)

Speaking of trigger pull, this example breaks at twelve pounds or so. Fairly normal for these pistols; they were not made as target guns, but for self defense. One presumes the heavy trigger pull was to discourage premature discharges and may owe some to the somewhat complicated trigger mechanism.

Again, I am amazed at the utility of this design. Okay, the trigger device – that is, the linkage between pulling the trigger and releasing the sear – is probably more complex than needed. (Which never seems to bother advocates of the FN P-35.) The sights, by modern standards, are rather small and not prone to quick acquisition and the caliber is, again by modern standards, pretty anemic. Still, it is very easy to use. The ‘delay’ device is functional and quite positive.

And it is a very good looking bit of ordnance.

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Battle Sight Zero – a somewhat technical discussion

“Battle Sight Zero” is a phrase used by the U. S. Armed Forces (and probably others) in two separate but related meanings.

* First meaning is the concept of combining the properties of the trajectory of the bullet (which depends on the firearm – usually rifle and the loading of the round used), the effectiveness of the bullet loading (that is, how far it will either dispatch or seriously wound an enemy soldier), the effectiveness of the bullet in maintaining a true flight (accuracy in terms of wind drift), the size of the target (in this case the torso area of a ‘standard size’ adult human belligerent) and the line of sight of the rifle and shooter in such a way as to maximize the probably of a hit for the furthest possible distance. When determining this condition, ‘elevation’ is the only sighting variable considered. One is on one’s own for windage.

Depending on the authority and the round in question this elevation is a distance of up to 20 inches. This is NOT a single point targeting technique. The rifle is sighted – aimed – at the belt or waist level of the belligerent up to a specified range, then, again depending on the rifle and ammunition, aim may be shifted to shoulder level.

* Second meaning is the actual sight setting for an individual and rifle (and load) which causes the proper combination to achieve the above. For instance, for the U. S. M14 rifle with ball ammunition, the sight setting is the 300 yard rapid fire setting, MINUS two clicks [lowered elevation]. Other rifle and ammunition combinations will vary.

Trajectory diagram 30-06 2

The above illustration (NOT TO SCALE) is a diagram of trajectory and battle sight – danger zone – setting for the M14 rifle with ball ammunition (M59). This is remarkably similar to the U. S. military .30(-06) M2 ammunition fired from a rifle. They are roughly the same bullet weight and type at the same muzzle velocity. (Not perfectly identical.)

The blue line indicates the trajectory of the fired bullet. Note the bullet is above the line of sight out to 400 yards range. The highest or greatest change from line of sight is called the ‘mid-range trajectory” – which is not really at the mid point of the trajectory, but early on shooters thought it was. (This ignores the first 25 yards or so of flight where the bullet is lower than the line of sight. However this distance can never be more than the distance between the muzzle and the sights – typically a matter of one and one-half inches; perhaps a bit more with a telescopic sight. This ‘lower than line of sight’ area is insignificant, unless one is firing at a fly or spider.)

From the muzzle to 400 yards, the bullet from the rifle under discussion will impact a human torso presumed the rifle is correctly aimed at belt level. The blue rectangles represent the torso area of a belligerent. The entire range where a specific bullet will strike a human torso (with either belt line or shoulder hold) is the ‘Danger Zone’.

Notice the blue rectangle past the 400 yard Second Intersection. The ‘Battle Sight Zero’ distance can be lengthened by – at a certain distance depending on the trajectory of the rifle/cartridge used – aiming at shoulder level. The bullet is still falling, but by aiming at the shoulder level the bullet will still impact the target area for some distance.

As noted, the illustration is NOT to scale. However, since a falling object (in this case, the bullet) falls faster with time (which corresponds to downrange distance in this case) the first portion of the ‘danger zone’ is longer than the second portion of the ‘danger zone’ past the Second Intersection.

This technique can also be used in hunting. The target zone (either heart/lung or spine/neck) is smaller, therefore the ‘danger zone’ where the trajectory of the bullet not rising over X inches from line of aim is shorter. One notes the small the target area, the shorter the danger zone or effective range for this technique.

The technique does NOT work well for formalized target shooting, where the 10 or X ring is smaller still.

How far is the danger zone? This depends on the cartridge and load used. From the illustration, one should note a ‘flatter’ trajectory makes a longer danger zone. Conversely, a ‘higher’ trajectory makes a shorter danger zone. It should be apparent the danger zone begins at the muzzle; clearly the bullet cannot depart from the line of sight/aim sufficiently to miss a torso sized target between the muzzle and First Intersection with the aiming line.

A second limitation for the ‘danger zone’ is the effectiveness of the bullet at range. At some range, all ammunition runs out of power – usually determined by kinetic energy – and will no longer deliver a suitable blow for the purpose at hand. At whatever range a hit with a given round will not injure the belligerent, seeking hits at that or further range is pointless.

So how does one – the average shooter – use this technique and knowledge to one’s advantage. Glad you asked.

Ground rules. This will work with any rifle and any ammunition – to different results. A .30 Winchester Center Fire will not have as much range as a .300 Winchester Magnum, typically. However, one can get the maximum range from the rifle and ammunition combination as is possible. The shooter must be able to shoot a ‘group’ from the rifle in question. That is, with the shooter’s selected ammunition, the shooter must be able to deliver at most a five inch grouping at 100 yards. In other words, if one cannot shoot worth a hoot, this probably won’t help.

Step One: Determine the rifle and ammunition to be used. In many cases, this will be the rifle one has. Then decide which brand and type of ammunition that best serves one’s needs for the use intended. Some may choose a quasi-military rifle and the ‘regular’ ammunition which is intended for such rifle. Or one may buy an exotic rifle and hand load for it. No matter – pick A rifle and A type of ammunition.

Step Two: Determine the trajectory of the selected rifle and ammunition. No need to make a graph, like I did, but simply have a table showing the drop of the bullet (from the selected ammunition). Some of the loading manuals have this and I’m sure the information is on line some where. One may also look up the ballistic coefficient of the bullet used, actual velocity and calculate it – but I’m not that compulsive.

Step Three: Determine the allowed target size for intended use. The vitals of a deer are bigger than the width of a prairie dog. Both are considerably smaller than the torso area of a marauding, predatory human evil-doer.

This ‘allowed target size’ determines just how much elevation from line of sight is to be allowed. For instance, a six inch diameter ‘target’ limits the mid-range elevation of the trajectory to six inches.

Step Four: Determine the maximum effective range of the rifle/ammunition selection for the purpose intended. Pretty much any hit one can make on a prairie dog will be effective, regardless of caliber or loading. A deer or moose will require some greater level of kinetic energy to kill humanely. Any rifle/ammunition selection will – at some range – lose energy down to an unsatisfactory level. Such distance may be shorter than the range at which one can score a hit on the intended target. This rather limits the ‘battle sight zero’ range.

Step Five: Fit the information from Step Two into the allowed parameters of Step Three. Make sure the elevation at the ‘mid range’ point is NOT outside the parameters of the intended target.

Step Six: After determining where the ‘battle sight zero’ should register at 100 yards (note in the diagram above, the 100 yard difference in bullet impact is 8.6″), go to the range.

First, shoot at 25 yards to ensure a zero setting. With most modern calibers, this will put one on paper at 100 yards.

Then, shoot at 100 yards to match the 100 yard impact from the range and drop table. Remember the ground rule about ‘shooting a group’? One may well ask “How am I supposed to have the group be 8.6″ high?” The answer is to have a ‘group’ more or less centered 8.6″ above the aiming point. Do NOT aim 8.6″ high, aim at the bull or aiming point and adjust the sights so that the bullet impacts are – on average – 8.6″ above the bull.

There are other problems at times. A rifle equipped with buckhorn or otherwise ‘open’ sights utilizing a ‘wedge elevator’ may be difficult to adjust perfectly.

Historically, the Springfield 1903 rifle first used the 1903 cartridge. Then in 1906 the Army decided to change rounds and started issuing the 1906 (.30-06) round.

The two rounds are nearly identical, except the ’06 round is slightly longer. The serious difference is the ’03 round used a 220 grain bullet at a muzzle velocity (officially) of 2300 fps; the .30-06 used a 150 grain bullet (with a slightly better streamlined shape) at a muzzle velocity of 2700 fps. This difference in bullet weight and velocity alters the trajectory noticeably. The ’06 bullet simply shoots flatter.

It is more complicated, of course. In 1926, the Army developed the .30 M1 Ball to better accomplish indirect fire in machine guns. This round was somewhat heavier and slower, but had better long range ballistics in terms of retained velocity. Then, 1938 the Army found the M1 round would shoot too far for some ranges, and the M2 round (more or less the original ’06 round) was developed. All of which have different trajectories.

This is further complicated by current ‘claims’ by the U. S. Government. Army Technical Manual TM 43-0001-27 published April 1994 is titled Army Ammunition Data Sheets Small Caliber Ammunition FDC 1305. Small Caliber includes up to .50 BMG rounds.

Page 5-9 lists information for “Cartridge, Caliber .30, Ball, M2” the .30-06 Springfield round mentioned earlier, in common speech. The TM has NO listing of the bullet weight (traditionally accepted as 150 grains), but lists the propellant as “IMR 4895, 50 gr”. The chamber pressure is listed at “50,000 psi” and velocity as “2740 fps, 78 ft from muzzle”.

One notes this information (combination of bullet weight, powder charge and velocity) is somewhat verified by reloading information.

Speer loading manual #14 shows 150 grain FMJ BT with a maximum of 49.5 grains of IMR 4895 for a velocity (chronograph distance not provided) of 2722 fps.

Hodgdon #26 shows 150 grain bullet (not further defined) with 49 grains of IMR 4895 at 2852 fps (no details).

Lyman #49 shows a 150 grain jacketed soft point bullet with 51.5 grains IMR 4895 at 2958 fps and pressure of 49,200 C. (Fired from a 24 inch Universal receiver.)

Hornady 9th edition shows loadings for .30-06 Springfield and a separate section for M1 Garand. Neither section lists loads for a 150 grain bullet with IMR 4895 powder.

The 7.62 (x 51) NATO round (very much the same as the .308 Winchester) for the M14 rifle seemed to maintain essentially the same loading for ball (infantry) rounds. (Page 11-3 of the TM, if anyone cares to look.)

The last few statements are merely to reinforce the idea that even the Army sometimes ‘over advertises’ their figures.

The M16, et al then reintroduced the problem. Not satisfied with the original M16, the various Armed Forces decided to change the physical shape of the arm, usually shortening the barrel (called the M4, if memory serves); which changed (lowered) the velocity of the issue round. Somewhere in this process, the issue round was altered to fire a boat tailed bullet, which caused a change in retained velocity. In other words, a different trajectory.

One also notices the 5.56mm NATO round lags to just over 400 foot-pounds of kinetic energy at 400 yards. This is enough for a fatal wound IF in a suitable location, but may not inflict a serious non-fatal injury at such range. One also notes the wind drift suffered by the rather light bullet fired by the 5.56mm round at ranges greater than 300 or so yards.

For these and perhaps other reasons, the 5.56mm NATO round usually has a battle sight zero determined ‘danger zone’ of not more than 300 yards. On the other hand, the 5.56mm round battle sight zero setting normally has bullet strikes no more than 8 inches or so above line of sight. Additionally, the 5.56mm round seems to not use the ‘shoulder hold’ concept. On the one hand, it somewhat limits the ‘danger zone’ of the battle sight zero. On the other hand, I never could remember the exact range to switch from belt to shoulder and I was never good at range estimation.

One can determine the ‘switch’ range. When the bullet impact ‘falls’ with range to the point of aim, one then moves the point of aim to the top of the target area. One will have to do some range testing to find this point, or calculate it from drop tables. Using the information for the arm being used, of course.

That’s it. Actually, it’s simpler than it looks if one remembers the bullet trajectory is a curved line in space (technically called a parabola) and it always, always, always happens.

Since I began writing this, I’ve found a ‘cheat’. The web site http://www.jbmballistics.com/ballistics/calculators/calculators.shtml
has a calculating program where one can enter the details for one’s own rifle or pistol and get a full result. One might have to ‘play’ with it a bit. Ballistic coefficients are not available for obsolete and proposed rounds, but it will do.

However, what I’ve outlined here is the basis of the calculations in the web site.

Just for the tally-book, I am not associated with that web site or any products or services sold therein. (Other than lip, sass and grief, no one gives me much of anything; other than my retirement and God, who simply loves me more than I deserve.)

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Filed under Firearms and their use, physics

Some Notes on Transitional Cartridges

In the long ago and far away (not so far away for some), armies were armed with smoothbore, muzzle loading, black powder powered muskets. They were not ‘accurate’ in the modern sense. Therefore, the soldiers of one side all lined up and fired a ‘volley’ – everyone in the front line shot on command – in the general direction of the enemy who were similarly lined up some fifty or sixty yards distant. The theory behind this was someone was bound to be hit. When enough soldiers on one side or the other had been wounded or killed, the remainder either broke ranks – a disgrace – or surrendered.

In the middle of the 19th Century, rifling was made practical for most all rifles and cartridge ammunition was developed. (The concept was invented some time earlier, but wasn’t ‘practical’ for mass production.) Which are stories all their own. This story begins in the latter part of the 19th Century…

In the past 150 (as of this writing) years, there have been two existential changes in the philosophy and theory of cartridges for military use. The first was the change from Black powder to Smokeless powder; and the practical and design changes either required or made possible thereby.

The second change is the change from ‘full power’ rifle rounds to ‘intermediate’ rounds; this shows itself in changes to cartridge and firearm design.

This discussion is limited to mainly infantry type rifles. Sporting rifles have followed the developments and inferences are easy to make.

Traditional Gunpowder – Black powder, commonly – has been around since at least the 14th Century in Western Culture and probably longer in Eastern Culture depending on who is writing the story.

It had drawbacks, but that’s another story. We will also forgo the development of guncotton a ‘beginning’ to what we think of as smokeless powder.

In 1864, a French chemist named Paul Vieille found a way to alter organic substances – generally cotton or wood pulp – into what currently is known as smokeless powder. The result was a compound – powder, more or less – which burned rapidly only under compression, was manipulable, and had three times the gas expansion (or power in cartridge context) as Black powder. We are skipping the further research part, as well. The French Government paid Mr. Vieille (by the way, I have no idea of how to pronounce the gentleman’s surname) 50,000 franks as a reward.

The existence of the powder was a French state secret for some years, but they developed and adopted for Army use the 1886 Lebel rifle. This was the absolute first rifle used by any army in the world to use a rifle firing a cartridge designed to use smokeless power. (Remember that the next time one wants to make condescending remarks about the French.)

State secret or not, very soon after the appearance of the Lebel rifle, the knowledge of smokeless powder was noted and everybody and everybody’s dog started working on how to duplicate it. Since the essential process is pretty simple, pretty quickly everyone had it.

So what did they do about it?

When black powder is used as a firearms propellent, it has a relatively slow burning rate. (However, it burns at the same rate whether confined or in the open – this made black powder great as a general explosive and rather dangerous to carry around.) The muzzle velocity an arm can attain is limited by this and black powder weapons top out around 2,000 feet per second. (This gets argued sometimes, but it is limited.)
Actually, smokeless powder also has top velocity limit as well, due to the velocity of expanding gases. As I understand it the limit is close to 6,000 feet per second and it will be some time until we push past that with current technology.

One of the side-effects of a ‘maximum’ velocity limit is the amount of energy available from the bullet. Currently, to give a specific bullet weight more energy, we – whoever ‘we’ are – design a firearm to handle greater pressure and make the bullet go faster. The kinetic energy in a particular projectile increases with the square of the velocity; in short, a bullet going twice as fast has FOUR times as much energy, all other factors being equal (the same weight bullet, primarily). Obviously, with a relatively low top speed, one had to increase the size (weight and diameter) in order to get more energy. One could make a .22 caliber bullet weighing 500 grains, but it would rather long.

So all military types rifles were relatively large bore rifles. In the latter part of the 19th Century, nearly all the military rifles were between .40 and .50 caliber. Bullets were heavy.

As examples:

U. S .45-70 Govt. cartridge fired a 405 grain lead bullet at around 1300 feet per second (fps). (There was a lighter ‘carbine’ cartridge, I believe the bullet was around 350 grains.)

U. S .45-70 Govt. cartridge fired a 405 grain lead bullet at around 1300 feet per second (fps). (There was a lighter ‘carbine’ cartridge, I believe the bullet was around 350 grains.)

The 1871 Mauser (11mm Mauser) fired a 370 grain bullet at 1430 fps.

The 1871 Mauser (11mm Mauser) fired a 370 grain bullet at 1430 fps.

The Brits .577 Snyder used a 450 grain bullet at 1300 fps.

The Brits .577 Snyder used a 450 grain bullet at 1300 fps.

And so on. Please peruse the following comparison information:
.45-70 Gov’t fired a bullet of 458 caliber, weighing 405 grains at 1330 fps.  This developed 1590 pounds of muzzle energy, and in the 10 pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 24.37.
11mm Mauser fired a bullet of 446 caliber, weighing 386 grains at 1425.    This developed 1740 pounds of muzzle energy, and in the 9.92 pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 25.9
.577 Snider fired a bullet of 570 caliber, weighing 480 grains at 1250.    This developed 1665 9.56 pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 29.94.
.30-06 fired a bullet of 308 caliber, weighing 150 grains at 2740.    This developed 2500 pounds of muzzle energy, and in the 8.7 pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 15.93.
8mm Lebel fired a bullet of 323 caliber, weighing 198 grains at 2380.    This developed 2481 pounds of muzzle energy, and in the 9.2 pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 17.54.
8mm Mauser fired a bullet of 323 caliber, weighing 154 grains at 2880.    This developed 2835 pounds of muzzle energy, and in the 9  pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 16.95.
.30 Army (Krag) fired a bullet of 308 caliber, weighing 220 grains at 2200.    This developed 2365 pounds of muzzle energy, and in the 9.3 pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 18.37.
8mm Kurz fired a bullet of 323 caliber, weighing 125 grains at 2247.    This developed 1408 pounds of muzzle energy, and in the 10 pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 6.59.
7.62×39 fires a bullet of 311 caliber, weighing 122 grains at 2329.    This developed 1470 pounds of muzzle energy, and in the 7.7 pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 6.68.
.30 Carbine fired a bullet of 308 caliber, weighing 110 grains at 1975.    This developed 955 pounds of muzzle energy, and in the 5.2 pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 5.21.
.223 Remington/5.56 mm fires a bullet of 224 caliber, weighing 62 grains at 3100.    This developed 1325 pounds of muzzle energy, and in the 7.18 pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 3.77.
.375 Holland & Holland fires a bullet of 375 caliber, weighing 300 grains at 2500.    This developed 4160 pounds of muzzle energy, and in the 9 (Win Exp)  pound rifle gave a recoil impulse of 42.64

Information comes from Cartridges of the World, Wikipedia (for arms weights), and recoil calculations from a friendly website.

Notice the heaviest recoil of any military smokeless powder rifle is less than the lightest recoiling black powder rifle. This is in connection with smokeless powder rifles are lighter – easier to carry – than black powder rifles.

Obviously, these are only a very few representative cartridges. They were all initially military, infantry calibers, except the .375 H&H, a sporting caliber.  (I put it in for comparison and as example of serious recoil.)

So when the various military designers thought about this new-fangled smokeless powder, they were still rather thinking ‘black powder’. Bullets were still round nosed and relatively heavy. The .30-40 Krag-Jorgensen was designed by the U. S. Government and adopted in 1898. It was a smokeless powder cartridge but had a 220 grain roundnose bullets and a velocity of 2000 fps.

Other developments in Europe included the 8mm Mauser. Initially using a smokeless powder loading, it used a bullet of around 230 grains at 2100 fps. Later, the Germany armed changed this to a lighter bullet and a faster velocity. That lighter bullet weighted 154 grains and left the rifle at 2880 fps. Also, making use of other developments, they made the new bullet a streamlined shape. The term they used was ‘Spitzgeschoss’ which means ‘pointy bullet’, more or less. In the United States, we still use the term ‘Spitzer’ for a projectile coming to a point, with ogives shaped as ‘radii’ instead of straight sides (spire point).

Since most everyone likes pictures, I have attached a few photos of various cartridges under discussion. As I write these lines, I realize readers would probably appreciate photos of the firearms as well. Sadly, I don’t have many of the rifles being discussed.

Somewhere during this period, both upper echelon officers in various armies and (cartridge and arms) designers realized infantry rifles could shoot faster in both muzzle velocity and rate of fire. Therefore, ‘lighter’ bullets could be just as effective as the older, heavier black powder era bullets on either enemies of the republic or Mr. Bear.

So bore diameters were reduced. Typical bore diameter for military rifles dropped from between 40 to 50 caliber to near 30 caliber (some smaller yet).

Because bores were reduced, the ‘bottleneck’ cartridge was developed.

Since smokeless powder was far cleaner – relatively – than black powder – the arms didn’t require extreme simplicity to keep them functioning.

Since smokeless powder generates less smoke when firing, repeating arms and even machine guns became practical. The man or men operating such weapons were no longer enveloped in a cloud and unable to see. Nor did the smoke cloud invariably and instantly give away one’s position to the unholy. (Just to clarify, ‘smokeless’ powder does generate some smoke. However, relative to black powder, smokeless powder is ‘miraculously’ less smokey than black. Smokeless powder does leave some residue in the arm. Again, relative to black powder, it isn’t so much. And ‘corrosive’ ammunition since the advent of smokeless powder derives much more from (now obsolete) primer compounds that left ‘salts’ in the bore and workings which attract water; ergo rust. The primers didn’t have a direct corrosive effect on steel.)

Due to the proliferation of semi and fully automatic arms, the cases themselves needed to be re-designed. Rims and highly tapered cases were now a liability. In the ‘old days’, case bodies were nearly the same diameter from top to bottom. A ‘rim’ or ‘flange’ (as the Brits call it) keeps a cylindrical case from falling through the chamber and barrel. But a bottle neck case has a shoulder to stop the case from moving further forward, AND with the motion of moving through an automatic process of loading, rims became a problem. Better off without rims.

Highly tapered cases were useful with black powder. if the chamber was getting dirty from the black powder residue, a tapered case was easier to force into the chamber – especially in the heat of battle. Also, removing a tapered case is easier to extract after firing; as moving the case even a small distance removes the case from rubbing on the walls of the chamber. But a heavily tapered case is awkward to place into a magazine. Look at an AK-47 round and magazine sometime; note the taper of the AK-47 round and the curvature of the magazine, especially an extended version.

Over a period of time – fairly short, really – nearly all military rifle cases were relatively un-tapered (there’s still a bit) and rimless. Except of course, for the Russian/Soviet/Russian again 7.62x54R

Somewhere in the transition, bullet technology had to improve. Cast or swaged lead bullets worked well with the low velocities of black powder. They probably leaded, but as one had to clean the bore religiously, leading didn’t build up as much. However, with smokeless powder not leaving as much deposit in the barrel AND velocities being over twice the former velocity, lead bullets just didn’t work in rifles. I’m going to skip over the details, but jacketed bullets became the norm in just over twenty years. As it happens, a fully jacketed bullet is less prone to deform when being moved through the action of a rifle, let along semi or full automatic weapon, also a good characteristic.

Yet another benefit of jacketed bullets is the jacket holds the rifling better, which produces better accuracy. The higher echelon military leaders and thinkers and the designers quickly realized the new technology rifles could shoot both farther and more accurately than before. (What wasn’t realized is the distances of separation of hostile troops didn’t get much bigger. Fire-fights were still fairly close up and personal interchanges. That is a different story, however.)

At this point, the concept of “keeping up with Jones’ ” came into play. Since the French had smokeless powder, ‘we’ – whoever ‘we’ were – had to have smokeless powder as well. If ‘their’ rifle could theoretically hit a belligerent at XX yards, ‘our’ rifle had to hit a belligerent at XX and fifteen yards. If ‘their’ rifle could hold five rounds, ‘ours’ has to hold seven to ten. If ‘their’ rifle could be reloaded ‘instantly’, ‘ours’ has to be reloaded ‘instantlier’. Etc.

One notes nearly all the early smokeless powder cartridges featured (relatively) ’heavy’ bullets. Nearly all of them fairly quickly lightened the bullets used. With a lighter bullet, velocity and range was extended. This is a direct consequence of smokeless powder. Remember black powder can only push a projectile within limits. So does smokeless powder but the limit is three to four times as great.

In some instances, the government in question developed a ‘heavier than the infantry load, but lighter than the original load’ for use in machine-guns. Whereas a lighter bullet can be driven faster and therefore develop greater kinetic energy at ‘closer’ range, a heavier bullet will normally carry further and maintain velocity better.

The U. S. Government introduced a 220 grain bullet with the 1903 Springfield, then dropped the bullet weight to 150 grains in 1906. Then later developed a 174 grain bullet and load for use in medium and heavy machine guns.

The French did about the same thing with the 8mm Lebel round in roughly the same era.

Machine guns are currently utilized mostly direct fire mode. That is, machines are used much like rifles and fired directly at hostiles forces in line of sight.

Initially, machine guns were often used in indirect fire mode; very similar to artillery. The machine gun was fired at a high angle at areas unseen by the gunner to deny movement to hostile forces and cause casualties in the belligerent forces. That technique required ammunition to be capable of going a long way and still be effective.

The upshot of all this was rifles could now (back then) accurately disable or kill an enemy soldier out to a whole lot further than before. As a result, the sights on most rifles were refined quite a bit. The rifle sights of the First World War were predominantly ‘open’ type sights. The rear sights were some form of notch – usually a “V” or “U” shape. Front sights were either a post, squared off at the top, or a pyramidal shape.

The U. S. Rifle, Model of 1917, or ‘Eddystone’ (the one with the ‘bent’ bolt handle) was one of the first military rifle to feature ‘aperture’ sights. The front sight was a squared off post and the rear sight was a disc with a small hole (the aperture) in it. By the Second World War, nearly everyone had aperture – or ‘peep’ – sights.

By this time, most infantry rifles could – depending on the soldier – incapacitate a hostile out to possible 500 yards (or meters or paces, depending on where one’s rifle was made and how they marked them). Effective range became a matter of national pride.

However, it must be noted that armed encounters between armies (or more often, squads) were often much closer to each other than several hundred yards. Depending on terrain and plant life (trees, for instance), ranges of encounter could be quite short. In the battle called the Battle of Belleau Wood, fighting was so close shotguns were employed as assault weapons. So long range rifles were not always needed.

Now we mentally jump ahead to the Second World War. Gone is the trench warfare of much of the First World War, where one sat in trenches – some of the time – and ranges were perceived to be longer. In WWII the fighting was much closer and personal. Europe has – had, perhaps – much forested land and combatants could get much closer to one another. There were more trucks and troop carriers to get combatants to the ‘front’ as well as move laterally or forward in support.

There was lots of fighting in towns, cities and more or less ‘urban areas’. Both sides were fighting from house to house. Not much need for a five hundred yard rifle. But the rifle still had to have the power to incapacitate an enemy.

In 1943, the NAZI Army introduced the Sturmgewehr (StG) 44, also known as the MP43 and MP44. It was a breakthrough in design for several reasons.

Aside: The Soviet Union claimed they were working on a similar concept prior to the StG44. Truthfully, I don’t know if they were. History records the StG44 (in 1943, oddly enough) first. The finished Soviet project rifle, the familiar AK-47, was adopted and issued in 1947. So the STG44 gets the ‘honor’, as it were. End of aside.

The StG44 was one of the first actual rifles to be fully automatic – upon demand by moving the ‘selector’- hand held and issued to practically everyone. In the First World War, the U. S. had the Browning Automatic Rifle, but it was issued only to a limited number of troops (one per squad as I recall) and it weighed nearly twenty pounds. The StG 44 weighed – loaded – less than 11.5 pounds. The Garand rifle of the U. S. was about the same weight.

The StG 44 had a detachable box magazine holding thirty rounds. The Thompson submachine gun had magazines holding twenty or thirty rounds. Typically the twenty round magazines were used for convenience. The StG 44 had a bit further range and a bit more kinetic energy.

The StG 44 had a ‘new’ cartridge, the intermediate class round. Physically, it was the full size 8x57mm Mauser (actually 7.9x57mm) round shortened to 33mm, using a 123 grain (or so) at a muzzle velocity of around 2,250 fps. It is called – and I’m not sure who named it – the 7.9x33mm Kurz. (Kurz meaning ‘short’; go figure.) Here was a fully automatic rifle that could be (more or less) controlled by a soldier and didn’t hamper him.

The StG 44 had a bore diameter exactly the same as the standard 98 Mauser and machine-guns of the Reich. So existing machinery could be used. Additionally, the cases are very similar to the case of the 98 Mauser and that machinery also could be employed. No point in re-inventing the wheel.

Sadly for ‘them’, (good for the free world) it was too late to effect the war much. But it did start a new ‘transition’ in rifle ammunition. When the Second World War was over, the 7.9×33 Kurz was done. There are some rifles chambered for it as a curiosity, but no one mass produces rifles – either full or semi-automatic – for it anywhere. The accuracy and range limits are not well established and rather immaterial at this point.

Next in this cavalcade of intermediate rounds came the Soviet 7.62x39mm round. It also fires a bullet of 122 grains (both this and the Kurz round were designated in grams, so they don’t seem ‘even’) at a muzzle velocity of nearly 2,400 fps. It is more powerful than the U. S. .30 Carbine, but just a bit less than the .30-30 Winchester round.

The Soviet round is another short cased round. The then current Soviet rifle was the now familiar Mosin-Nagant 1891/30 rifle. The 7.62×39 round uses the same bullet diameter so the same machinery for boring and rifling barrels can be used; and the same machinery to manufacture bullets can be adjusted and used to make ammunition.

Currently, the AK-47 rifles and the round do not enjoy a positive reputation for accuracy. They do enjoy a great reputation for reliability and functioning under adverse conditions, like mud and dust. However, there are reasons for both these reasons and they are much the same. I’m going to let that lie for this essay.

Both the NAZI and Soviet round have an outside range of about 300 to 350 yards. Which actually covers most current fighting around the world. Maybe. (Wait for it…) Both rounds are suitable for shooting hostile combatants, but have little margin for error. However, they were designed to be light and shoot a lot. Both rifles employ loaded cartridges lighter than the full sized rifles preceding them, so number of rounds carried can be increased for the same weight.

Aside: The U. S. did have an ‘intermediate’ round already. The .30 Carbine was adopted in 1942. However, it was never employed as a primary combat weapon officially. It was to replace the pistol, rifle and submachine gun for non-front line troops. The round is not as powerful as either the 7.9mm Kurz or the 7.62×39 Russian cartridge. The .30 Carbine is not classed with the ‘intermediate’ cartridges for these reasons. End.

So, once again military cartridges have ‘transitioned’ from one ‘form’ to another. What is interesting is the change from fairly short range to long range back to short range. Another interesting thought is military theory and tactics with firearms began with our side firing a huge number of shots at their side with the expectation (hope?) of hitting some of them. Then military theory and tactics went over to the idea of shooting at a specific enemy ‘target’. Now ‘we’ (most of humanity) is back to the fire a huge number of shots at their side and expect (hope?) some of them get hit.

Humanity will have more wars and armed conflict in the future. Someone will see it and write a semi-cynical essay about it.

Left to right: 8x50 Lebel, .303 British, 6.5x55 Swedish Mauser, .30-40 Krag, .30-06 Springfield, .308 Winchester (7.62x51 NATO) 8mm Kurz, 7.62x39mm Russian, 5.56mm NATO, .375 Holland & Holland.

Left to right: 8×50 Lebel, .303 British, 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser, .30-40 Krag, .30-06 Springfield, .308 Winchester (7.62×51 NATO) 8mm Kurz, 7.62x39mm Russian, 5.56mm NATO, .375 Holland & Holland.

Cartridges shown in photo:

8 x 50R(mm) Lebel 232 grain flat nose bullet 2060 feet/second Rimmed case
Adopted in 1886, this is the first smokeless powder cartridge ever used by a military in the world. By modern standards it looks ‘crude’, but at the time, it was ahead of anything else. The cartridge in the photo is the original loading, the “Balle M”; the bullet (balle) weighs fifteen (15) grams or 232 grains, has a lead core, a cupronickel jacket and a wide flat meplat (the very tip) for use the 1886 Lebel rifle with tubular, under barrel magazine. Muzzle velocity – so I am told – was 628 meters per second; in dog years that’s 2,060 feet per second.

In 1898 the round was changed to the “Balle D” configuration. The “Balle D” was a light 12.8 grams (198 grain) spitzer – boat tail type bullet made of mostly brass. Muzzle velocity was 700 meters per second (2297 fps). The “D” was the first time a military power used a spitzer – boat tail officially. So the 8mm Lebel was in fact a real trend sitter.

For the record, there are several other varieties of 8mm Lebel ammunition. Do a web search. (This applies to all the other ammunition listed and most that isn’t listed here.)

.303 British 175 grain bullet 2440 feet/second Rimmed case
Adopted in 1888 as a black powder cartridge with 215 grain (round nose) bullet at 1850 feet/second. Updated in 1892 to use cordite (smokeless) propellent – with the same bullet – for 1970 feet/second. Updated again in 1910; bullet weight dropped to 174 (or 175) grain bullet at 2440 feet/second. This last loading was used until 1957 when the cartridge and rifle were replaced.

6.5 x 55mm Swedish Mauser 139 grain (9 grams) bullet 2625 feet-second Rimless case. It was adopted in 1894 as smokeless powder round. Initially loaded with a 156 grain (10.1 grams) bullet at 2370 feet/second, it was updated in 1941 to the lighter bullet giving higher velocity.

.30-40 Krag or .30 Army 220 grain bullet 2200 feet/second Rimmed case
The first U. S. smokeless powder cartridge adopted (1898), the rifle showed to be overloaded with issue ammunition and was replaced in 1903 by the Springfield.
.30-06 Springfield 150 grain bullet 2740 feet/second Rimless case
The ’06 cartridge is a re-work of the original .30-03 cartridge. The ’03 cartridge used a 220 grain bullet at 2300 feet/second. In 1906, the cartridge and loading was altered; the case was shortened by .07 inches and the load updated to 150 grain bullet at 2740 feet/second. This was far more ballistically advantageous and shows the advantage of smokeless powder over black powder as a propellant. The ’06 round was also loaded by the U. S. Government with a 172 or 174 grain bullet at 2640 for machine gun use. This change extended the range of the machine gun a good deal, as the heavier bullet would carry further.

308 Winchester or 7.62 x 51(mm) NATO
Adopted in 1957, the 7.62 x 51 NATO essentially duplicated the ballistic ability of the .30-06 Springfield infantry round with a case about .5 inches shorter. Additionally, the case was altered internally, making the head and web area stronger for use in machine-guns and semi-automatic rifles. This was not actually a transitional round and is included only for comparison. Also used in light and medium machine-guns, this is probably the last ‘full charge’ rifle round designed for military rifles. Note: The two cartridges are the same dimensionally, internally and pressure limits. The only potential difficulty is using commercial .308 Winchester ammunition with bullets heavier than those used in semi and fully automatic arms. The extra bullet weight somewhat retards the pressure curve and may transmit too much pressure to the operating system. The heaviest bullet used in military M-14 rifles is a target load, with a 172 to 174 grain bullet; much like the old 30-06 machine gun round.

7.92 x 33mm Kurz
Historically the first intermediate infantry cartridge (argued by the Soviet government). This round could almost be considered experimental, but it was used by the NAZI Army in WWII in the Sturmgewehr (44) rifle. It is a shortened 8 x 57mm case shortened to 33 mm and uses a lighter (125 grain) bullet at 2247 feet/second. This physically began the transition from ‘full charge’ rifle rounds to ‘intermediate’ rounds which are easier to control in fully-automatic, hand held weapons. As it happens, it is the same length as the .30 Carbine round.

7.62 x 39mm Russian
Adopted by Soviet Union in 1947 with the AK47 and arguably the best known military rifle in the world. Designed as an ‘intermediate’ range infantry cartridge, rather than a ‘full charge’ rifle round, it was employed in various rifle and machine-guns in the Warsaw Pact (Soviet Bloc) nations. Like the 7.92 Kurz, this was never a black powder round, but is transitional from ‘full charge’ rifles and loads to the intermediate level infantry rifles.

A further ‘transition’ occurred in 1974 when the Soviet Union adopted the AK-74, using the 5.45x39mm Soviet round. It seems to be the 7.62x39mm cartridge necked down to accommodate .221 or .222 inch projectiles of roughly 55 grains. The ‘smaller’ round became ‘smaller’ still.

5.56mm NATO
Sometimes referred to as the 5.56x45mm NATO rifle round. It is also – somewhat inaccurately – called the .223 Remington. They are exactly the same size and dimension, but they are NOT interchangeable. (They’re sort of interchangeable; the commercial .223 Remington can be safely fired in 5.56 NATO chambered rifles, but the military (5.56 NATO) round develops higher chamber pressure AND the U. S. military rifles have somewhat different chamber and throats than sporting rifles.

The 5.56 NATO round was invented (designed?) in the middle 1950s and adopted for use in 1964, along with the M16 rifle. The round and rifle do not match the power of earlier rifles, like the .30-06 Springfield and .308 Winchester. However, it is lighter and suitable for ranges of 350 yards and less. And one can carry two or three times the number of rounds for the same weight load.

Something curious and perhaps ironic about this cartridge: Remember all the early smokeless powder rounds began with very heavy bullets and then reduced the weight of the bullet? The 5.56 NATO reversed that action. The first accepted round for the M-16 (5.56 NATO) was the M193 round, using a 55 grain bullet at muzzle velocity of 3250 fps. In 1980, NATO changed the official round to what they called the SS209 round. It uses a 62 grain bullet at 3100. The U. S. identifies the SS209 round as the M885.

Changing the bullet weight required re-barreling all extant rifles and fitting new rifles with barrels of faster twist to stabilize the longer bullet. Just for the record, the heavier bullet can be safely fired in the slower twist barrels, the pressure is not changed; but if a particular bullet isn’t spun by the rifling enough, the bullet is not stable and will ‘wobble’ in flight and be inaccurate.

The heavier bullet was desired to give the round more distance and retain more energy at distance. Even with the heavier bullet, the rifles so employed recoil much less than any of the older, more powerful rifles.

.375 Holland & Holland
This is sporting – hunting – round. Introduced in 1912 (as a smokeless powder cartridge) the .375 Holland & Holland will kill most everything in the world graveyard dead with a minor amount of attention on the part of the shooter. Factory loads are either a 270 grain bullet (FMJ for penetration) at 2650 feet/second, or a 300 grain FMJ bullet at 2500. Soft point bullets are also available, but tend not to be as desired for dangerous game

Even so, it is probably not best for animals of the Cape Buffalo or larger class IF they are charging. (I prefer a 3.5 inch rocket launcher, myself.) But this round has done it all. It has never been a military cartridge. I add it to the discussion for those who feel the ‘full charge’ military rifles of the era were too harsh in recoil.

NOT shown in group photo:

8 x 56(mm)R

8 x 56(mm)R

8 x 56(mm)R 208 grain bullet 2300 feet/second Rimmed case
Designed in 1930 and first used in the Solothurn machine-gun. Shortly after, it was also used in the Austrian and Hungarian rifles (the Austro-Hungarian Empire) designed by Ferdinand von Mannlicher designated the M95 (1895) rifle. (Initially the rifle used the 8 x 50R round; an originally black powder load.) All the rifles were converted to the 8 x 56R cartridge (officially at least) shortly thereafter 1931.

The 8 x 50R Mannlicher

The 8 x 50R Mannlicher

The 8 x 50R Mannlicher used a 244 grain, round-nosed bullet and developed just over 2000 feet/second. The 8 x 56R uses a 208 grain bullet at 2300 feet/second. As a curiosity, these two related rounds use a bullet diameter unique in the known Universe. Although ‘named’ an 8mm, the actual diameter is .329 inches. (See notes on 8 x 57 Mauser for alternative solution.)

8mm Mauser or 7.92 x 57 Mauser

8mm Mauser or 7.92 x 57 Mauser

8mm Mauser or 7.92 x 57 Mauser
The round was actually designed by the ‘Commission’ who designed the 1888 German Infantry rifle, not Paul Mauser. The initial loading was a .318 inch diameter bullet (round nosed) weighing 226 grains (14.6 grams) with a muzzle velocity of 2093 feet/second. In 1898, the well known Mauser 1898 replaced the 1888 rifle. In 1905 the rifle and cartridge was updated to a
.323 inch diameter bullet weighing 154 grains (just shy of 10 grams) with a ‘spitzer’ shape at 2880 feet/second. Other than opening the case mouth a bit more, the case is the same for both cartridges.The larger diameter load was deemed unsafe to fire in the smaller diameter barrels. The smaller diameter round is since then called the “J” round – long story- and the larger diameter round is designated “S” for spitzer to tell them apart – mostly on packaging.
In retrospect, this seems to your humble correspondent as being a ‘new’ cartridge. But it wasn’t so treated. (Perhaps attorneys were not as prominent in those days?)

.30 Carbine

.30 Carbine

.30 Carbine
Never a ‘rifle’, this round was designed for a carbine to replace the Garand (full sized rifle) and the .45 Automatic pistol for some troops in WWII. It can be considered an ‘intermediate’ level round, but the U. S. Government never officially intended replacement of the (full) rifle as in the case of the NAZI and Soviet armies.
The round uses the same diameter bullet as the rifle, but the bullet weight is 110 grains with a muzzle velocity of just under 2000 feet/second.

.30 Russian or 7.62 x 54(mm)R

.30 Russian or 7.62 x 54(mm)R

.30 Russian or 7.62 x 54(mm)R
Adopted in 1891 for the Mosin-Nagant rifle. Also used in machine-guns, the Drogonov sniper rifle and some sporting arms. Initially, the round sported a 210 grain, roundnose bullet (Full Metal Jacket, of course) with a muzzle velocity of 2020 fps. This round was found lacking in the Russo-Japanese war and in 1908 the loading was changed to a 147 grain bullet at 2840 feet/second. There are some other varieties of ammunition extant for specific purposes.
It is still in official use in current Russia (machine guns and specialty rifles) and is the oldest military round in continuous use in the world.

Currently, the U. S. is NOT fighting a war in the Middle East against ISIS or anyone. However, soldiers from the United States are currently shooting at people who are shooting back. The terrain being rather “flattish” and only what in the United States would be called ‘scrub brush’, the combat range is lengthened; much further away than in Vietnam, for instance. The current U. S. rifle, chambered in 5.56mm NATO seems to be somewhat less than overwhelming at longer ranges and the obsolete M-14 rifles shooting the 7.62x51mm NATO round is being employed.

So maybe I’ll see another ‘transition’ in my lifetime. I’m only in my middle 60s; there’s time.

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