February Tour History
The February tour history is provided by FWEC Vice President Rod Vargo.
Freedom Firearms treated 16 FWEC members on February 19th to a generous tour arranged on short notice. Keith Wallace, an off-duty Fort Wayne Police officer and National Guard (formerly Regular Army) instructor, took us on quite an exploration. The atmosphere at Freedom Firearms seemed comfortable across age and gender, intending to avoid seeming intimidating or cliquish. The store was worth the visit just for looking, conversation, and historic pieces. Seemingly affordable lessons are offered explicitly for any level of knowledge, and hopefully before acquiring anything for home use. They may try introducing a different firearm each Wednesday night for $20 per night, shooting not required.
Keith covered far too much ground to report properly. The propellant, or “gunpowder” historically speaking, has finely controlled shapes and sizes to produce an absolutely consistent burn rate and power. Pistol ammunition burns so fast (to expend itself within the time allowed by short barrels) that it has a strong probability of exploding the weapon if used as rifle ammunition.
Recoil begins immediately. Books and media usually claim that forces within the barrel are “opposite and equal” until it becomes unplugged. The clear experience in our host firmly settled the question. (The answer impacts how artillery, tanks, and snipers absorb recoil while returning the barrel to precisely the same aim for the next firing.)
Brass cartridge casings still provide the most uniform and effective expansion (due to “exploding" propellant) to seal the breech while still reliably ejecting after use. A consistent weight and length of individual casings is almost as important as consistent propellant in producing tight groupings of bullets in targets. A consistent geometrical seating of the primer in the casing is required for a consistent wave front of fire from the primer. Precise linear alignment of everything is key from the firing pin through the primer to the expansion of the casing through the powder burn to the projectile movement against the linear alignment of the shooter’s skeleton.
Some projectiles had hollow tips or, alternatively, copper jackets might not include the tip of the projectile. These .hollow point. bullets expand in the target, transferring energy into the target instead of using that same energy to continue out the back of the target. When hitting wallboard in homes, the expansion eats up energy and results in a larger, much slower, bullet which often cannot pass through the second wallboard. This may significantly protect family members, but is horrendous if hit by direct fire.
Concrete blocks (such as basement walls) appeared to resist a first shot. In fact, the first round spalls (shatters) pieces off the hidden inner side of the block. One or two more shots cause disintegration. Spalling from the far side of concrete or metal plate is often lethal. A bullet hitting the ground or a solid wall will tend to continue skipping or ricocheting alongside it, so hiding close to them may increase your risk.
Even the least powerful 22 caliber guns (= 0.22 inch diameter bore in the barrel) are very deadly. The small, typically slow, projectiles tunnel (deflecting more than penetrating) around the body before stopping, splitting off pieces and moving sepsis in ways that physicians cannot easily track. Treatment and death are often processes of waiting for infections or bleeding to pop up for weeks.
A small 22LR projectile from a pistol appeared erratic in path while penetrating gallon jugs of water, ending up inside the third jug. A high velocity 22 rifle round blew through five jugs and kept going with some upward deflection. Muzzle velocities were probably 1080 feet per second (subsonic) versus 2800 fps (mid Mach 2). The projectiles weighed nearly the same, so the force was (1080 fps squared) versus (2800 fps squared), a seven-fold difference. (The 22LR has been by far the sales leader in civilian cartridges worldwide for a century.)
Pistols and shotguns tend to be accurate only at relatively short ranges, allowing use of subsonic muzzle velocities (<1150 fps here). Subsonic is much quieter and design of projectiles easier. But, subsonic muzzle velocities tend to require heavier projectiles to offset the low velocity, plus fasterburning powder. The ammo and sturdier weapon load the shooter’s body with a lot more recoil and overall weight.
Revolvers allow a wider range of ammunition choices. A 38 Special round versus a 357 Magnum were tested from a classic detective-style 38 caliber revolver against construction block, and 45 jacketed hollow point versus solid jacketed rounds from a semi-automatic pistol. The Special left a surprisingly neat hole with a 3 inch diameter cone of missing spall behind it. The Magnum disintegrated the first wall of the block and shattered out the second wall, shedding its copper jacket and leaving the lead bullet heat-fused with concrete. The Special was perhaps the limit of most folks’ tolerances for recoil (wrist injury). The Magnum’s concussion bordered on invasive (mental shock).
While not obvious at first, the 45’s revealed military intelligence. The jacketed hollow point (1140 fps) left an unimpressive and shallow 1 inch diameter spall on the shooter.s side of the block, unique to this case. The solid jacketed round (850 fps) left an unimpressive broad visible fracture (somewhat unique) on the shooter’s side and a 2-3 inch spall on the inside. Both rounds had delivered a uniquely thumping hitting blunt trauma. Recoil and noise were somewhat more than the 38 Special, but the 45 semi-auto was intended for military officers until replaced by the 9 mm. A typical 9 mm semiautomatic pistol round calculates to 35 caliber and tested accordingly.
An old Kevlar vest stopped the 45’s but still transmitted lethal blunt force through to the torso (wet newspapers in a bag). An optional hard plate spreads the blunt force over a larger area well enough for “only” extensive bruising. Vests can be even more important during car accidents as noted by our instructor who survived a severe side impact collision in his squad car that would likely have been fatal without the vest.
Various 12 Gauge shotgun rounds were decidedly inferior for most situations except hunting.
Most pistols and rifles have "rifling" grooves cut helically down the length of the barrel’s bore. This causes the projectile to spin like a gyroscope, providing vastly more directional consistency until the spin wanes.
Lighter weapons and ammo have been increasingly required since World War I, forcing much more intense engineering, quality control, and training. Lighter ammunition uses smaller projectiles pushed by relatively huge amounts of propellant to extremely high velocities. Even a small 223 (0.223 inch) round from an AK assault rifle caused significant blast damage within layers of wet newspaper (3200 fps, probably hollow point) but was relatively well contained within the target. Pushing a bullet well into Mach 2-3 AND imparting a spin in as little as 24 inches can cause the barrel to progressively flip and slap from torsional forces, so modern rifling may progressively increase from entry to exit. Muzzle brakes are often threaded onto the end of barrels to provide jets of escaping propellant that counteract recoil. Unintended consequences of the jets can range from annoying to harmful for people in their path, including the shooter. Muzzle fittings can serve other functions including strengthening the muzzle, hiding the muzzle flame, and suppressing noise.
The shape of supersonic projectiles is complex engineering. The back fifth to third of supersonic projectiles now tend to be “boat tailed”: tapered around the aft perimeter to reduce drag, but still retaining some flat or concave rear surface to maximize force from the propellant. (This more than doubled range of artillery pieces.) Upon leaving the muzzle, the projectile must pass through a supersonic shock wave which can cause it to tumble or even fly back end forward.
A projectile fired horizontally will fall downward at the same rate as if dropped by hand (in a vacuum). On level ground, how far a projectile travels before grounding is a matter of velocity. The maximum velocity occurs when a projectile leaves the muzzle and deteriorates from there. Each design of projectile has a ballistic coefficient and other data describing its hypothetical standard trajectory. Additionally, humidity acts as a lubricant and decreases atmospheric density (resistance and drag). Altitude and temperature also affect air density. Shooting into or from a valley progressively changes density as well as adds or subtracts the pull of gravity. East-west rotation of the earth can create enough movement to miss a target at 1000 yards (0.57 mile). Coriolis Effect can induce errors when shooting north-south. Spin drift from rifling is typically 8 inches at 1000 yards, either right or left depending on direction of spin. Wind causes drift, so snipers must read various air movements between them and a target.
BUT, there is an App for all that! Smartphones or PDAs can do most of the above math and measurements including temperature, humidity, pressure density, compass direction, GPS position, and wind speed. Potentially, a laser could read wind effects to the target. A week with a PDA can now offset 40 years of full time experience. Sniping and competition have extended beyond 1000 yards to 2000 yards using enhanced 30 caliber magnum and traditional 50 caliber cartridges.
We concluded with a 308 Winchester Tactical Sniper round fired through a sharpshooting rifle (24 inch barrel, 2850 fps) into a good-sized ham (courtesy of Freedom Firearms). Nearly half exploded into pulled pork. Muzzle velocity was similar to the 22 caliber rifle that we started with. Projectile weights were 9.72 grams versus 2.6. (The 308 Winchester standard round is second in worldwide civilian sales after the 22LR, both being somewhat unique in hunting and target adaptability, versus cost.)
Our host’s response to the American Sniper movie resembled Chuck Yeager’s view of The Right Stuff. Hollywood entertainment leaves out a lot, particularly the hard slow work. And, snipers do not shoot over hills (yet?). Our most sincere THANK YOU to Freedom Firearms!
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