Coyote n. A small wolf (Canis latrans) native to western North America.



The Old Coyote's alter ego is:

Anthony A. (Swen) Swenson

Mild-mannered archaeologist by day..

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Visits since May 20, 2002

A Coyote at the Dog Show

Sunday, August 31, 2003- - -  
Via the InstaPundit, Mark Stein says: The barest minimum victory has already been won: Saddam is gone, his entire leadership is dead or in US custody, his sons have been killed, stuffed, mounted and embalmed by the same guy who did Al Gore’s make-up in the 2000 presidential debate.

Poor Al. He was supposed to be green, instead he looked green.

@11:11 AM

Damned if you do. . .
A couple of articles in today's WaPo that highlight the problems we face in Iraq. First, we have this gem that alternates between complaining that we don't provide enough security and complaints that we provide too much.

Then a parallel complaint from the Man Who Would Be King, Ahmad Chalabi, who demands that we quickly turn over power to the Iraqis because an occupying force is unacceptable, but then complains that we're not acting aggressively enough as an occupying force.

@9:54 AM

Stop whining and do something!
Does anyone besides me find it a bit ironic that a US Senator is complaining about a 'lack of urgency' in Washington re Iraq? There are few people better placed than Senator McCain to do something about this, yet we get nothing but the same old hot air and sniping at the administration. And this from another Republican!

Of course, talk is cheap and nowhere cheaper than in DC.

@9:37 AM

What fun!
We went to the Lander Jazz Festival yesterday, which features 'traditional jazz', what I would have called Dixieland. We were very nearly the youngest folks in the audience, but let me tell you, the Sans-a-belt set were swinging! I only hope I get around half as well as those folks when I'm their age. Paramedics were standing by at the dance floor but weren't called on while we were there.

A note to my grandfather (the one who married the Flapper), if he's listening down there: Those jazz bands are every bit as loud as most rock bands I've listened to. My ears are still ringing.

@8:50 AM

Who turned off the lights?
Hmm… Starting yesterday morning and into last night we've been experiencing brief power outages. Only enough to make the lights blink and wack out all the digital clocks. This last infuriates my wife who must have every clock in the house displaying the exact same time -- the better not to miss a minute of a Rockies game. That the outages have been frequent is testified to by the fact that she finally gave up and half the clocks in the house are flashing 12:00 this morning.

We don't often suffer from power outages, as our local electric system is pretty modern. Still, I have a UPS for the computers and it is working fine.

@8:40 AM

Come back, Bill!
Bill Quick has been having problems with his blog and today I'm getting a 404 when I try to access.

@8:34 AM

City Lights
A new blog by Ed Kemmick of the Billings Gazette premiers today, according to Steve Prosinski, the Gazette's editor. We're standing by! (Or sitting by in my case.) At least this one seems to have the mechanics of blogging down fairly well, with permalinks to each post and a Comments section. Now someone should point out that the essence of blogging is to . . . post something! And none of these silly excuses about weekends and holidays: It's not a job, it's an obsession.

Ps. Even without a single post City Lights is doing better than the DenverPost's Bloghouse, which seems to be nothing but a second OpEd section, with a post a week by various DP 'luminaries'.

@8:03 AM

Saturday, August 30, 2003- - -  
Who says American manufacturing isn't still first rate?

@8:53 AM

Medieval Morons
How kind of the local school board to allow the teaching of evolution -- as long as the teachers are careful to point out that 'it's only a theory and not a fact'. As if a theory was somehow the equivalent of a hunch, or just some ill-founded opinion. Of course, this 'only a theory' bit is a cynical parsing of the terminology propounded by folks who know better, playing on the ignorance of those who don't know any better.

@8:45 AM

The Voyage of the Calamaran
L.M. Boyd Revisited in today's Casper Star [not on-line] says that an ancient Greek philosopher identified the Three Conditions of Humankind as: Living, Dead, and Seasick. This gives me pause to thank my Viking genes, or whatever it might be that has spared me that malady.

On the other hand, as an anthropologist I lean toward the structural functionalist school, ala Marvin Harris, wherein seasickness might be suggested to have survival benefits: Don't go out on the water when it's rough enough to make you seasick and you lessen your chances of drowning, thus enhancing your chances of passing your wimpy genes on to the next generation.

The Calamaran is a case in point. This last week my wife had a friend visiting and she rummaged around in the bottom of the film box, in the back of the fridge, and found a partly used disposable camera that had been forgotten -- neither of us had a clue what was on the exposed film. We used it up during Ellen's visit and sent it off for developing, getting the pictures back yesterday.

The exposed frames were from the maiden voyage of the Calamaran, which explains why I didn't remember: There's a lot I don't remember about that trip. Couldn't have had anything to do with the built-in keg cooler amidships of this unlikely craft.

The Calamaran was so named because it was the brain child of Cal Fulfer, who had decided that floating the Bighorn in canoes was passé. Something more innovative was required, particularly as the river was running bank-full in those pre-drought days and he still hadn't succeeded in drowning me, despite great efforts to that effect. Being a construction contractor, Cal has a great store of scrap lumber and cast-off bits from remodeling jobs, and a powerful screw gun to put them all together. From this was born the Calamaran.

Basically, it was two old Coleman canoes braced side-by-side about 4 feet apart, with a decking of 3/4 CDX plywood reinforced by angle iron and various scraps of lumber. PVC tubing supported an arched sun shade amidships, and planking formed a transom at the rear. The whole contraption was held together by decking screws and willpower, with frequent in-stream repairs required to maintain what little seaworthiness it possessed.

But it was destined to be a powerful brute, driven down the stream by the full force of an electric trolling motor and a sweep oar that possessed all the spine usually attributed to the common run of politician. Paddling with teaspoons might have been the better plan, but then the river will take you downstream, power or none, if you don't care whether you do it in controlled fashion. Huck Finn would never have stooped to traveling in such low style.

The very next Saturday morning we winched the Calamaran onto Cal's big flatbed trailer and set out for the river, with sufficient supplies for a weekend-long float -- we may have even brought a sandwich or two. To take full advantage of the navigable portion of the river we launched just below the last irrigation diversion dam, about 4 miles south of Worland, floating down to Worland's boat ramp empty to see if it would float at all. It did. At the boat ramp we picked up the rest of the crew of motleys, several coolers, a vast array of fishing tackle, some bows and guns, the better part of an eight gallon keg left over from some more sedate prior engagement, another canoe fitted with a powerful outboard motor, and a big yellow dog. Let me tell you: When your golden retriever is too tired to play in the water anymore you know you've been having too much fun.

Raising the sun shade, we cast off down the river, little knowing what the river had in store. Why should we worry? We had our boatwright, a master mechanic, several intrepid fishermen, and if all else failed, an insurance agent. We also had a cell phone and the number of a good lawyer, who was wise enough to decline an invitation to the trip.

The first thing we learned was that the sun shade also acted pretty well as a sail and the wind, though slight, was blowing from the north -- upstream that is. We furled the sail, which made some of us less nervous, it having given the whole contraption the outward appearance of a sampan. You never know when some hailed-out old 'nam vet might be down on the river and you could scarce blame him if he unleashed a few flashback-induced shots our way. We did look like some Vietnamese version of the Joads headed for Hyphong.

Things get hazy after that, oddly enough. We unlimbered fishing rods and tried a variety of lures and bait, and I learned the hard way to keep my rod in one hand at all times when bouncing worms on the bottom -- and it was a nice rod too, damnit. This reduced me to carp-shooting, and I learned that the bow of the Calamaran was made for bowfishing, it was much more stable than trying to stand in the bow of a canoe. Unfortunately, and particularly with the heavy load involved, it still had the canoe habit of running suddenly aground and I was pitched head over heels into the water more than once. If I didn't know better I'd swear Cal does this on purpose just to see how big a splash I'll make.

We planned to spend the night on the shore at Manderson, but with the winding river we were still a few miles above our intended port when the chill of evening set in, and as the sun sank in the west we decided to hasten matters by towing the Calamaran behind the canoe, a fine idea in principle that proved less fine in practice, as our unwieldy craft became unsteerable at speeds over a couple miles an hour. Crashing through the low-hanging branches of a Russian olive a time or two near cleared the decks, and we lost what little time we had gained retrieving all our gear from the river. Yet we decided to press on with all due haste, and some undue haste, as we overshot our intended dock in the near-dark and went hurling down the river into no man's land.

Coming around a bend a mile or two below Manderson we finally spied a likely landing spot, and none too soon as it was near full dark by then. With help from our towing craft we reversed course, and with bow upstream to take what little advantage we could from the weakening electric motor we warped the Calamaran in toward shore while I stood to leap for shore with the bow painter in hand. Needless to say we ran aground one last time pitching me off the bow into deep water upstream from that puny but still sharp and fast-rotating prop. Luckily, I swim well and desperation certainly adds power to the stroke. Onlookers say I came out of the water and didn't stop swimming until I was several yards inland. I might have kept going but I was still clutching the painter which snubbed me up short. This was a good thing, as the current was strong and if we had missed the landing lord knows where we would have found ourselves in the dark.

And there our troubles began. The little spit of land had been used as a farm dump at some point and the deep grass was full of old implement parts and treacherous snarls of barbed wire. I had caught my shin on the boat's batteries as I pitched overboard, losing considerable hide and blood in the process and gaining a still visible scar, but I was soon to be joined on the casualty list as one after another found all the sharper bits of trash with their feet and shins. We finally got our gear ashore and built a small fire with what wood we could scrounge, collapsing around it in sodden heaps. One thing we hadn't done was pay much care to keeping our gear dry and it was a cold and wet night for all concerned. My sleeping bag and spare clothes were a dripping mess, but thankfully I had a space blanket and we had enough wood to see us through the night. Still, I did have to remind myself a few times that I was having fun, even if my teeth were clacking together like mad castanets.

Dawn finally came and our spirits went up in parallel with the temperature. We lounged on the bank until we were all thoroughly warmed and more or less dried, and then stowed our gear and set off once again. By now we had learned our lesson and made do with our own bit of power. The keg was among the few things on board that were truly dry and this too undoubtedly contributed to an uneventful day. Late that afternoon we floated into the boat ramp at Greybull and made landfall easily with the benefit of all our experience. We loaded the Calamaran back on the trailer and took it back to Cal's, where he promptly disassembled it before we could forget all the fun we had had and decide to try it again -- one of the few wise moves of the weekend.

The serendipitous finding of the long undeveloped film brought us more than a handful of pictures and this reminiscence. Last night as we passed them around out at the Wringneck we noted that the entire crew was present save one, Pete the Mechanic had moved to Farmington. No one had seen him in a couple of years, although he'd been heard from on occasion. Then we heard the rumble of a diesel as a one-ton truck with toolside boxes and hydraulic hoist pulled into the yard. It was Pete. Calamaran II can't be far behind.

@8:22 AM

@#$%@#$% Computers!
[Ca. 5 pm, Friday] My ISP is apparently having problems. My dad informs me that at least half of the emails he sends are bounced back, and I haven't gotten more than a couple of spams a day for the last couple of weeks. I'm not complaining about the spam shortage, but I wonder how many other legitimate emails I'm not getting.

Now their latest trick has been to deny my attempts to log on with an "Invalid user name or password" message. Which is why I may not be posting this for awhile. At any rate, don't be offended if your message is bounced or I don't answer, and do try again.

Oh, screw it! I've tried everything including a hot reboot and I still can't log on, which means I'm dead in the water. I sure hope the good folks at the ISP left their very best tech on duty for the weekend. . .

[Saturday am] Yeah! I'm back. The ISP was down all evening, but then a good friend was in town from New Mexico and I was busy catching up on old times.

Ps. Hmm. . . The ISP continues their strange ways. In the past 24 hours I've received one email from my Dad, a note from Jeff at Alphecca, and one single spam. Two weeks ago I averaged at least 40 spams a day. I wonder if they are trying to block the flood of viruses and worms that some folks have noted (and that I haven't been receiving), or if they are having problems with a virus themselves.

@5:46 AM

Friday, August 29, 2003- - -  
Life with cats
Jeff Soyer has a touching tale of his life with cats that you shouldn't miss. Fred Feliné adds his hearty endorsement to this one.

@2:17 PM

Another in-apt metaphor
David Ignatius says: For the past several months, France and the United States have been playing what amounts to a game of chicken over Iraq -- with each side stubbornly refusing to change its position and waiting instead for the other to blink.

Hmm. . . Seems to me that the French have been doing a pretty good job of playing armadillo to the Bush pickup truck. And judging from the grease spots on the road the Prez doesn't swerve to miss armadillos.

@12:04 PM

My, how self-effacing
As Ashcroft wrote in an autobiography about his political career, "for every crucifixion, a resurrection is waiting to follow."

In my not so humble opinion, a wooden stake would be the more appropriate metaphorical implement in this case, and extra garlic should take care of any fears of a resurrection.

@11:49 AM

Thursday, August 28, 2003- - -  
It makes perfect sense to me!
Note that in Wyoming it takes 30 days to establish residency to vote, but one year to establish residency for hunting and fishing licenses.

@2:32 PM

Sadistic Bastards
This would be illegal if you did it to a dog.

@12:15 PM

Terminal Media Pout
Today's Washington Post lead editorial says: "PRESIDENT BUSH at last has begun to speak more honestly to the country about the immense challenges in Iraq and the likely costs of meeting them. . . . On Tuesday, Mr. Bush at last delivered a speech acknowledging that guiding Iraq from dictatorship to democracy would be "a massive undertaking" comparable to the reconstruction of Japan and Germany after World War II, a task that "took years, not months."

This reminds me of Kent Flannery's Grandmother Laws: 'All those things your grandmother would have told you if she had only realized that you were too stupid to figure them out for yourself'. Where on earth did these media putzes get the idea that the war on terror was going to be fast, easy, or cheap? (Oh yeah, right. From Clinton's response to terrorism -- bomb an aspirin factory, then forget about it.) Where were they when the Prez gave his speech right after Sept. 11th, saying that the war on terror was going to be long and difficult? (Still chewing chad methinks.) Like six-year-olds in the back seat, they're screaming 'Are we there yet? Are we there yet?' and refusing to accept 'No' for an answer. 'Well, turn the wheel over to the UN then' they whine.

@12:04 PM

Ve haff your namz!

@9:59 AM

Canada bans smiling!
Scowling, glaring, and grimacing are also frowned upon in passport photos. I might have guessed that this was a UN-inspired rule aimed at making it easier for security personnel to recognize the passport holder. I suppose that under the circumstances -- like passing through airport security -- there wouldn't be many smiles in evidence, but surely a mild scowl would help?

@9:39 AM

If you're in the neighborhood
Jalan Crossland will be performing a free concert 5pm Sunday August 31st at the Lion's Park in Meeteetse. This will certainly be a highlight of Meeteetse's 91st Annual Labor Day bash. Jalan really is a very accomplished musician and an outstanding showman. An act not to miss.

Got to love their 'Daily activities', which include the Cowboy Bar (11 am - 1 am Sat. & Sun., 8 am - 1 am Mon.) The Cowboy isn't quite a daily activity with me, but they are high in the running for best food on earth -- I particularly like their sourdough burger melt with mushrooms and jalapenos.

Say. . . Meeteetse has a website! Cowboys got computers? Yipee!!

@9:12 AM

It's not about guns wilderness, it's about control
Via today's Casper Star dead tree edition [article not on-line] comes this AP article:

Contrary to her critics' claims, [Bureau of Land Management Director Kathleen Clarke] insists she enjoys the solitude of federally protected wilderness just as much as the next person.

"But there also are many people — especially in the West — who think those lands should be open for all types of recreation. And in many Western communities, you also have local economies that are dependent on their ability to access public land for grazing, mining, logging — traditional uses," says Clarke.

Of all the federal land management agencies, the BLM has the least percentage of its land locked up in wilderness — just 6.5 million acres or less than 3 percent of the land it manages, [Dave Alberswerth, a public policy specialist for The Wilderness Society] said. That compares with 34 million acres of wilderness across the Forest Service's 191 million acres of national forests.

Okay, one more time. The congressionally designated wilderness areas are not open to mining, logging, or any other form of industrial development, nor am I aware of anyone other than the occasional crank who suggests that they should be. This is simply false, but it seems to be a common scare tactic employed by the fundraisers at the various professional environmental groups.

On the other hand, I've got to wonder if Ms. Clarke has ever been in one of our congressionally designated wilderness areas, with her talk of 'solitude'. I suppose it might seem like solitude to someone from the big city, but you can hardly go an hour in a wilderness area without encountering another group of dayglo-bedecked dimwits. (Just Say No to Dayglo! There's such a thing as visual pollution too, guys.) Designate a place 'wilderness' and point it out on maps, and it will soon be overrun by people seeking solitude who will demand improved trails with signs, bridges across the streams, outhouses at the designated campgrounds, and other 'improvements' that don't seem to me to be in keeping with the concept of wilderness.

And this is why I find Alberswerth's complaint that the BLM has the least percentage of its land locked up in wilderness a bit . . . ironic? Disingenuous? Okay, just plain dumb. You see, when I want solitude I go out on the BLM lands. It's not difficult to find places out there where a person can go for days without seeing a soul. It is wilderness de facto, as opposed to the wilderness de jure that isn't really wilderness at all. Of course, there are no improved trails, no signs, no bridges, no outhouses, no campgrounds, nor has anyone made any other 'improvements' on this wilderness. The real complaint against the BLM by many in these environmental groups is revealed by the phrase 'locked up'. It's not locked up either.

@8:41 AM

Our troops are out-horned?
Capt. JM Heinrichs emails this quote from yesterday's NatPost [article not on-line as far as I can find]:

"The Canadian LAV III infantry fighting vehicles may be the biggest things on the road in Kabul, but their drivers have been chagrined to discover they fall well short in one important way: Their horns cannot compete with the cacophony of beeps, blares and chimes that is rush hour in downtown Kabul.

"They're just sad," one LAV driver said mournfully, pushing the button that activates the vehicle's horn and shaking his head at the resulting thin, weak blare. "Maybe there's dust in them or something."

Traffic in the Afghan capital is congested, chaotic and above all noisy. Afghans use their horns liberally in the daily free-for-all that is a drive through town, honking to announce their presence, signal their intention to cut off the vehicle next to them or just for the sheer joy of making noise.

The bicycles that weave in and out of the lanes of cars all come equipped with horns or electronic noisemakers, and even the horses that can be seen pulling carts along the roads have strings of bells attached to their harnesses. Against such competition, the Canadian LAVs can barely be heard."

Obviously there are two schools of driving at work here. One uses their brakes and the other their horns. I'll bet the LAVs have excellent brakes. Besides, our painfully polite Canadian brethren would never honk their horns at anyone anyway. . .

@7:49 AM

Wednesday, August 27, 2003- - -  
Livestock-killing wolf shot near Ten Sleep
The Big Horn wolf made a total of a dozen wolves killed this year for preying on livestock in Wyoming.

@6:48 AM

Tuesday, August 26, 2003- - -  
Don't miss it!
On your way to Yellowstone, don't miss King's Saddlery and King's Ropes at 184 North Main in Sheridan, Wyo. If you are at all interested in western paraphernalia and memorabilia their store and museum will keep you entertained all afternoon. They have a huge collection of antique saddles and tack, saddler's tools, and many, many other bits of western arcania. My wife finally dragged me out by the ear yesterday. And it's all free . . . Except that you must have a King Ropes hat.

@4:58 PM

Monday, August 25, 2003- - -  
The War on Freedom
Diane Carman at the Denver Post has an interesting column on John Ashcroft's stumping for the so-aptly named Patriot Act, and the effect the Act is having on libraries. Librarians are speaking out, says Ms. Carman. That's good, but there's a more direct and certainly more effective solution to snoopers at the library: shred the records, purge the databases, and wipe the internet history files.

Our very own Washakie County Friends of the Library made their first purchase of the year - a paper shredder. Someone ought to tell Ashcroft that when you lose the little old ladies in tennis shoes in one of the most conservative areas of the country you have a deeper problem than you realize.

@8:00 AM

Change of Plans
Today's totally unscientific but ever perspicacious CalgarySun on-line poll asks: Are the forest fires forcing you to change your plans for the long weekend? 76.3% say 'No'.

Hmm. . . A long-time friend of my wife's is visiting (they've known each other since 7th grade!) and our plan for today was to visit Yellowstone. Unfortunately, I see that they're closing the East entrance again today.

@7:40 AM


@7:38 AM

Generators On Traffic Lights?
I've read several suggestions for future preparedness in blackouts that included the idea that cities should install generators for traffic lights at critical intersections. I have been a bit puzzled by this, wondering where the police fit in -- why don't they just institute an SOP identifying key traffic bottlenecks and insuring that officers are dispatched to these locations to direct traffic?

Well now, via Publicola, I see why that isn't possible. The NYPD at least has a keen sense of priorities and understands that it's much more important to issue parking citations.

@7:29 AM

Saturday, August 23, 2003- - -  
More on the mysteries of internal ballistics
Mike Parker emails with more comments and observations:

Read your latest post this morning.  About the "initial spike" don't forget the primer, which has enough power all by itself to kick the bullet halfway down the bore.  Also, the burn rate for smokeless powder is sensitive to pressure (put a couple of grains of BLC2 on a piece of paper, and light the paper.  When the flame gets to the powder all it does is burns slightly more quickly than the paper.  Black powder, which is an explosive, will go bang though.

So in the initial stages of firing, you've got an initial pressure spike from the primer, and an *accelerating* pressure curve from the burning powder.  Meanwhile the bullet starts moving forward, increasing the space for that pressure to occupy, which tends to lower the pressure.  It's thus a race between the burning powder tending to increase the pressure, and the accelerating bullet opening up space tending to lower the pressure. The powder wins for the first inch or two, but that higher pressure also serves to accelerate the bullet faster, so eventually the bullet wins and the powder cannot continue maintaining the pressure at the rate the moving bullet is expanding the combustion volume, and the pressure starts dropping, and as the bullet accelerates faster the pressure drops faster.  So the combination of factors makes this a very complicated process.

But the larger case capacity in the revolver cartridges essentially gives the revolver bullet a head start, and helps cushion the pressure spike, allowing larger loads of even the fast powders.  Also, revolvers have a very large jump out of the cylinder and into the forcing cone before the bullet hits the rifling and the serious resistance begins, which probably gives them even more of an advantage.

Also, I've never seen a trace where the pressure plateaus like you describe.

Take a look at these, by a company that makes hobbyist, albeit $eriou$ hobbyist, pressure transducers for rifles: link

All of the traces show a huge asymptotic dropoff in pressure, with minor exceptions in a few cases where there appeared to be a bit of late detonation.  This in particular is interesting, since it is evidence that not all the powder burns at once (in this case, a *lot* of powder suddenly ignited towards the end of the firing sequence before the bullet left the barrel).

Obviously my explanation has been grossly simplified.  I haven't discussed the effect of the primer, but then I've not gotten into the effects of chamber shape, throat diameter and length, cylinder gap width, forcing cone geometry, barrel v. bullet diameter, bore and rifling geometry, or any of the myriad of other factors that effect bullet velocity.  I'm saving all that for my forthcoming book, which I'll start writing as soon as I have another 30-40 years of experience at this ;^}

Perhaps 'plateau' wasn't the term I should have used.  The pressure curves depicted on the Recreational Software site link you've sent are similar to those I've seen, with the peak pressure skewed far to the left and the pressure 'tailing off' as the bullet accelerates down the bore, and 'tailing off' probably is a better way to describe this.  Although the heavier projectile loads such as the 12ga. depicted by RSI do tend to have a more pronounced 'plateau', they do still slope somewhat.  For sure, at least half the challenge in writing about such things without the benefit of illustrations is in providing an accurate verbal description.

I find the late pressure spike depicted for the Czech surplus ammo and the 223 Rem 40gr. VMax fascinating (and frightening!!), although I've got to wonder if they are accurately depicting the point where the bullet departs the barrel.  Note that the spike occurs at about 1.0 millisecond, at a point where the remaining loads are still tailing off and the bullet is presumably still in the barrel.  For some reason the time scale in that last graph has been expanded to about twice that depicted in the other graphs and you'll note that the secondary spike is still much sharper than normal.  This looks like a very dangerous situation to me.

It's also interesting that they suggest that this is due to a secondary 'detonation' caused by using ball powder which 'can more easily follow the bullet down the bore'.  Here, I think we're getting into the area of rank speculation, as I see no way to possibly demonstrate that one sort of powder more easily follows the bullet down the bore, nor that it is powder in the bore that is 'detonating' rather than powder still in the chamber (it would be interesting to space sensors down the entire length of the barrel to see what the pressure is at different locations during the firing sequence).  I suspect that all sorts of powder follow the bullet down the bore as they burn, as I've seen unburned ball powder and unburned 'sticks' expelled on the snow in front of my shooting bench and suspect that under 60,000 psi the shape of the powder doesn't matter much.  If you use too much too slow-burning powder some of it will be expelled, either still burning as a glorious muzzle flash, or unburned.  In this circumstance I've also seen balls and sticks of unburned powder still scattered along the bore.  I don't see how unburned powder can be scattered down the bore and expelled on the ground if it's not 'following the bullet down the bore'.

The issue of powder detonation is, as you probably know, very controversial.  I notice that the gun scribes who've never experienced explosive disassembly tend to poo poo the idea, while those who've blown up a gun with their handloads are convinced that it happens -- it couldn't have been their fault after all!  I believe the powder manufacturers are unanimous in maintaining that it can't happen, but then they would be.  I'm at a loss to explain the secondary spike, but I think the RSI folks may be correct in suggesting that it's caused by the ball powder's exterior burn-retarding coating burning away and exposing much faster burning powder at the center of the granule (Yikes!).  At any rate I'll for sure make a note not to use AA2230 without further investigation.

@9:24 AM

Friday, August 22, 2003- - -  
The Dandy Warhols?
Good thing they didn't call themselves the Spike Thees!

@8:59 AM

Bowing to the inevitable?
Today's CalgarySun totally unscientific on-line poll asks: Do you think the city should set up a 'red-light' district to get prostitution out of residential neighbourhoods? 77.1% say 'Yes'.

Hey! Then they could put it on the map of city attractions!

@8:57 AM

In the Bloghouse
The DenverPost's new feature starts out by answering 'What is a Blog?' But then appears more than a little unclear on the difference between a 'blog' and a 'post'. Tsk.

Ah, I see, there is more than one 'post' in each 'blog'. There is no link to the individual posts, but perhaps they're getting there.

@8:42 AM

Andy Rooney is an American Institution?
Just think, next thing, Ted Rall will be considered one of the Old Masters of art.

@8:35 AM

Send Ashcroft to the Ashbin of History
Forgive me if I'm not entirely clear on this, but aren't US Attorneys government employees? And isn't there some law against government employees lobbying the government? Why yes, that would be the Anti-Lobbying Act mentioned in the article. But I suppose it's okay when our government violates the law in pursuit of National Security.

And why do I suspect that "National Security" is becoming to the conservatives what "For the Children" is to liberals, an all-purpose justification for any damn thing they want?

@8:18 AM

Dangerously close to science
I've previously pointed out, and only partly tongue-in-cheek, that ballistics really is rocket science, so who better to comment on the on-going discussion of barrel length v. velocity than a rocket scientist? Yes, indeed, Rocket Man has kindly offered to let me pick his brains on the velocity v. barrel length issue:

You and your readers seem to be extremely knowledgeable about firearms. I only own a shotgun, but my father is a retired Marine (who was on the Marine Corps pistol team at one time) and I have lots of friends and relatives who are gun enthusiasts. However, I can provide you with some general comments on barrel length v. velocity.

A free body diagram of the bullet would show three forces acting on it.

1) A pressure force on the chamber side of the bullet.
2) A pressure force on the muzzle side of the bullet.
3) A friction force on the outside of the bullet as it moves down the barrel.

As long as the pressure force on the chamber side of the bullet exceeds the pressure force on the muzzle side of the bullet plus the friction force on the outside of the bullet the bullet will continue to accelerate. A longer barrel allows more time for the pressure force on the chamber side of the bullet to accelerate the bullet (the area under the pressure vs.. Time curve), resulting in a higher velocity.

As has been stated on your blog, analyzing these forces mathematically is next to impossible. However, the factors that affect these three forces are obvious.

The pressure force on the chamber side of the bullet is provided by the burning of the powder in the cartridge. To achieve maximum velocity, you want the pressure to be as high as possible as quickly as possible (thus increasing the area under the pressure vs.. time curve) WITHOUT letting any pressure leak out. The maximum pressure attainable is limited by the design of the firearm, by the size of the cartridge (amount of powder) the chamber will allow and the quality of the powder used. Minimizing pressure leakage is a function of the cartridge on one side and the bullet and the other. Ideally, you want the leakage to be zero, so the only decay in the pressure vs.. time curve is due to the increase in volume from the bullet traveling down the barrel.

The pressure force on the muzzle side of the bullet is due to atmospheric pressure, and it will increases as the bullet travels down the barrel because the bullet is compressing the air in front of it. A longer barrel will cause this pressure to increase more than a shorter barrel, but this force is very small compared to the other two forces.

The friction force on the outside of the bullet is dependant on the coefficient of friction between the bullet and the inside of the barrel and on the force between the bullet and the barrel. Lead has a low coefficient of friction, a high coefficient of thermal expansion and a low melting point, making it ideal for fabricating bullets. For a firearm to work well, the bullet must be a little larger than the barrel so that no pressure can leak out past the bullet. If the bullet is too small you lose pressure, and if it is too large the force between the bullet and the barrel increases resulting in a higher frictional force. A VERY small change in interference between the barrel and the bullet will have a VERY large affect on this force.

I hope this makes sense and that it is useful.

[I replied with a question]

I note that you mention three forces in operation, chamber pressure, friction, and the one we tend to forget, external air pressure.  But what about the inertia of the bullet?  Although I suppose it's not technically a 'force', I think it is a significant factor early on:

Now that we can chart the chamber pressure over time, what we usually see (and I think the only pressure curves I've seen were from rifles) is the pressure building very rapidly to a sharp spike and then just as rapidly dropping off to a plateau at somewhere between half and two-thirds of the peak pressure.  The pressure then remains fairly stable until the bullet departs the barrel, when pressure drops precipitously back to ambient.

I've puzzled over this sharp spike and the fact that the peak pressure is considerably higher than the 'working pressure' that's accelerating the bullet, and I suspect that it's due to the inertia of the bullet, compounded by the force required to overcome the crimp (if any), and the extra force required to initially engrave the rifling and slug the bullet to bore diameter if it's excessively over-sized.

The conclusion I would have drawn from this is that using a slower-burning powder -- one that builds pressure more slowly but still builds high pressure and maintains it for a longer period, would hold down this peak pressure while overcoming the initial inertia, and still give good velocity. As it is the peak pressure that causes explosive disassembly, a powder with a low peak pressure and high working pressure would seem desirable. However, as you point out, it is desirable to achieve high pressure as quickly as possible to gain a greater area under the pressure/time curve, so perhaps the ideal would be a powder with a working pressure as nearly equal to the peak pressure as possible.

I also suspect that there's some guys in white coats working for Dupont who've spent their lives studying this, and probably a shelf of books on the topic if only I got off my duff and dug them out. . .

[And Rocket Man replies]

You definitely have studied this more than I have. My analysis is based on general engineering principals, not on a detailed knowledge of firearms.

First let me explain two concepts. An object is either in static equilibrium or dynamic equilibrium. When the sum of all the forces on an object equals 0, it is in static equilibrium. Note that an object can be moving at a constant velocity and be in static equilibrium, but in most cases the object is at rest. When the sum of all the forces on an object equals the mass times the acceleration, the object is in dynamic equilibrium. This is the classic F=m*a equation. The quantity m*a is called the inertial force, and it always balances out the sum of the forces on an object. Inertia is defined as the resistance an object offers to attempts to accelerate it. For a bullet (with a mass of mb), a decrease in either the chamber pressure (Fc) or the mass of the bullet (mb) or an increase in either the friction force (Ff) or the external air pressure (Fa) will decrease the inertial force due to the equation Fc-Ff-Fa=mb*a. Conversely, an increase in either the chamber pressure (Fc) or the mass of the bullet (mb) or an decrease in either the friction force (Ff) or the external air pressure (Fa) will increase the inertial force.

Now the sharp spike can be explained in terms of the inertial force. The inertial force (and thus the bullet's acceleration) are initially low exactly for the reasons you describe ("the force required to overcome the crimp (if any), and the extra force required to initially engrave the rifling and slug the bullet to bore diameter if it's excessively over-sized"). The initial pressure spike occurs because of these same factors, plus the fact that the static friction of the bullet is higher than the dynamic friction, resulting in a higher initial frictional force. In other words, the initial force required to get the bullet moving is higher than the force required to keep it moving. Once the bullet starts to move, the powder probably can not burn fast enough to keep the pressure in the larger area constant. Since the pressure will decrease as a function of the increased volume between the bullet and the chamber, small initial motions will result in a large percentage increase in volume and thus a large percentage decrease in initial pressure.

Using a slow burning powder probably wouldn't work to keep the initial pressure spike down. What might work is a powder that could burn fast enough to recover the pressure lost when the bullet starts to move. The powder would have to burn very fast initially and then slow down to keep the pressure from getting to high. The fastest velocity will be achieved when the pressure is at its maximum the entire time the bullet is in the barrel, so the pressure increase from the burning powder would have to exactly match the volume increase between the bullet and the chamber. This would be next to impossible to achieve in practice in my opinion.

I might be missing something here, but the principal of what is happening is pretty straight forward. If you find those guys in the white coats who know all the answers, let me know how good my explanation was.

Thanks Rocket Man! I suspect it's a darn good explanation, and much better than I could have given.

As the Rocket Man points out, the principle here is relatively straightforward, if complicated. The practice is another story, with a variety of uncontrollable and even unknowable variables effecting the outcome at the range. Of course, this is what makes reloading and shooting an endlessly fascinating topic.

@6:49 AM

Thursday, August 21, 2003- - -  
Cough, choke, wheeeeeze!
There are 10 wildfires burning in northern Wyoming and southern Montana at the moment and the smoke is quite ghastly. I was outside awhile ago, it's dead calm and there's getting to be a significant accumulation of ash piling up on every flat surface. My white truck looks dark gray on the top and hood.

@3:45 PM

Yet more on barrel length and velocity
(Hey, this is the Tom Sawyer school of blogging -- get everyone else to submit enough posts and I can coast!)

Mike Parker writes with some observations, and provides some links to, which has some fascinating info.

Mike sez: I've thought about this some as well, and I think the explanation is much
more simple than cylinder gap and extra hot air:  It really is just the barrel length that's
the issue.

Semiauto rounds tend to be developed for 4-5" barrels (length includes chamber).

Revolver rounds tend to be developed for 6-8.5" barrels (length does *not* include chamber, forcing cone, etc, so this is really more like 7.5-9.5").

In a 16" carbine barrel, a semiauto round is dealing with 3-4x the volume it's designed for.

The revolver round is dealing with 1.8-2x the volume it's designed for (plus minor improvements from lack of cylinder gap).

If you go the other way and shorten the barrel to 2" or so (snubs, mini-glock, etc), it is apparent that semiauto cartridges suffer much less from the shorter barrel than revolver cartridges.  40S&W and 9mm don't lose much performance at all, and though you don't see 45's with 2" barrels, even at 3" performs quite well in the FBI denim&gelatin tests.  Neither 38 Special or 357 magnum can pass the FBI denim+gelatin test from a snub.  But again, the semiauto cartridges are working much closer to their design envelope 1/2x "standard" barrel length, versus 1/4x "standard" length for the revolver cartridges.

Hmm, yes. In factory ammo I believe Mr. Parker is correct. One of the things the ammo manufacturers are trying to do in defensive handgun ammo is to keep the muzzle flash down as much as possible, to avoid blinding the shooter and to avoid giving away his position.  This means using a powder that burns completely in the relatively short barrel of a standard semi-auto.  Using such ammo, it stands to reason that you're not gaining much -- if anything -- by increasing barrel length, as the powder has all burned, but you're also not losing much in handguns with a slightly shorter barrel.

However, In the example I originally cited I selected .357 and 9mm loads firing Unique, which has a medium rate of burn (and does produce a spectacular muzzle flash!). Let's take another look at the same set of data organized in a slightly different fashion that might better illustrate the situation:

A max load of 9.7gr. of Unique under a 125gr JHP in 357 magnum yields 1818 fps from a Marlin Model 1894 with 18½" barrel, but only 1359 fps from a 4" vented test barrel. However, using a max load of 5.8gr. of Unique under a 115gr. JHP in 9mm yields 1336 fps from a Marlin Camp Carbine with 16½" barrel and 1233 fps from a 4" test barrel.

Ignoring for the moment the slight difference in bullet weight and barrel length, notice that the 9mm load is 5.8gr. yielding 1336 fps from a carbine, while the .357 load is 9.7gr. yielding 1818 fps from a carbine. The .357 load uses fully two-thirds more powder and it shouldn't be surprising that it achieves a third greater velocity. What is peculiar is that in the 4" barrels the .357's advantage drops to only 1359 fps v. 1233 fps in the 9mm, only 10% greater velocity.

I suspect that there are two reasons for this. First, the vented barrel being used to simulate a revolver's barrel/cylinder gap is losing some pressure, and second, the larger charge of powder is probably not all being consumed in a 4" barrel, contributing to the muzzle flash I've noted in firing similar loads of Unique in revolvers. If this is correct, a faster burning powder such as Bullseye should not give such a significant boost in velocity when fired in a .357-chambered rifle. Unfortunately, the Lyman reloading book gives Bullseye loads for the revolver but does not provide loading data for Bullseye in the carbine. Which, when you think about it, may be answering our question.

Mike Parker replies:

My hornady manual gives bullseye and unique loads for 125 and 158gr bullets in a carbine, but not in pistol.

In a winchester 1892 w/ 22 3/4" barrel, it gives:

125gr jhp, 8.9gr bullseye@1850fps, 10.0gr unique@1900fps
158gr jhp, 6.6gr bullseye@1400 fps, 8.9gr unique@1550fps

so there's still a big improvement in MV with the increased barrel length.

As to why the advantage in MV drops as barrel length decreases, I think you're seeing that the powder kernels don't all burn at the same time or at the same rate.  With the longer barrels they all get a chance to finish burning, but with the shorter barrels only 2/3 of the powder may actually burn.  With the smaller 9mm case, the primer provides a higher initial pressure spike, and lights off a greater percentage of the powder (same size primer, remember), so it finishes burning faster.

My wife has a 3" barreled 357 magnum, and a 9mm that I think has a 3" barrel as well (Kahr K-9).  Similar loads (5.8gr AA#5, 158gr in a 38 spl case, 125gr in a 9mm case) produce a much larger muzzle blast and bloom from the revolver.

Back to the improved carbine performance:

I think the critical factor is the ratio of cartridge volume to barrel volume, and this ratio favors the long revolver cartridges (or a bottlenecked cartridge, if there were more of them).  The larger cartridge volume lets them use more powder at any given burn rate, giving more gas volume at whatever the max pressure is, with lower pressure drop as the bullet goes down the barrel.  Of course, the larger volume also lets the revolver cartridge use even greater charges of slower burning powder as well, which factory loads do take advantage of.

There's a point with increasing the barrel length at which you reach rapidly diminishing returns, and it looks like that is somewhere around 3 1/2"-4" with a 9mm, 4 1/4-5" with a 45 acp, and 6-8" with a 357 magnum.  Do the math, and I think you find that the ratio of internal case volume to barrel length is pretty consistent among these.

Yes, the ratio of cartridge volume to barrel volume is a significant factor, particularly in rifles. Also, we're at least partly comparing apples to oranges when we compare the 9mm, operating at a max pressure of about 33,000 CUP (according to the Lyman handbook) to the .357 magnum operating at a max pressure of 42,000 CUP. One thing to bear in mind though is that the case capacity of the .357 is much more than needed to hold most any sane powder charge. The .357 is just a .38 Special with the case lengthened, not primarily to allow more powder capacity, but rather to insure that the longer .357 cartridges can't (usually) be chambered in handguns chambered the .38 special.

On the other hand, the semi-auto rounds had no antecedents chambered in older and weaker weapons, and they were designed to efficiently contain the required powder charge without a lot of waste space. While there certainly is an advantage to the reloader in the longer and more capacious handgun rounds, this wasn't necessarily a goal of their design.

@3:40 PM

Tuesday, August 19, 2003- - -  
Wishful Thinking?
Today's CalgarySun on-line poll asks: Do you think the PM's decision not to leave office soon will hurt the Liberals' fortunes in the next federal election? So far 65.7% answer 'Yes'.

@10:17 AM

Our tax dollars at work
The Rawlins-Sinclair water pipeline is nearly complete. Of course, it's only 20 miles long and it's been under construction at least since this time last year. Not in the permitting process, under construction. Now if this had been one of my clients laying pipe for some industrial development they would have had the pipe in the ground in a couple of months. I bet they'd have done it a lot cheaper too. But then they're spending their money, not yours.

@10:08 AM

If it waddles like a government. . .
This is one of the reasons why I fail to understand the distinction that some libertarians make between 'government', which is Bad, and home owners associations and such, which are Good. To me it seems that if a bunch of people get together, form an association, elect officers, and give them power they've just formed a sort of government, no matter what they call it. On the other hand, if the homeowner's association has no power, it's just a debating club.

Ps. The DP's closing kills me:

There should be a balance between keeping a community looking nice and allowing residents the freedom to enjoy their homes within reason. And if HOAs can't respect such fundamental concepts, the legislature should curb the obnoxious trend toward micromanaging other people's lives.

"Curb the obnoxious trend toward micromanaging other people's lives"? There's a difference between being 'fair and balanced' and exhibiting multiple personalities. After all, these are the same guys who regularly demand that the legislature further micromanage peoples lives when it fits their agenda.

PPs. And notice that 'within reason' bit. The author of this screed doesn't have any problem with micromanaging peoples' lives, he just had his homeowner's association tell him to tear out the new hedge and he's in a snit.

@9:32 AM

Jump on that bandwagon!
The Denver Post has a new look today, including a new blog: Bloghouse. We'll see. Right now it reminds me of traditional OpEds except less well edited. There doesn't seem to be any way to directly access the 'blog', and one post per week from each contributor? A poor show so far.

@9:11 AM

Hmmm. . .
I didn't know Denver had a hospital for the seriously mentally ill. I thought they shipped them all down to Larimer Square.

And good lord, $24 million a year to serve 153 patients? That's $150,326 per patient per year, or $412 per patient per day. I suppose that's not entirely out of line with any other hospital in-patient care, but then hospital in-patient care is out of line everywhere.

@8:58 AM

Bring it on!
Despite my header, I think it remains to be seen if the administration set out with the intent to make Iraq into a terrorist Roach Hotel, or if it was entirely serendipitous. But does it really matter as long as it's working?

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- An audiotape, purportedly from an al Qaeda terrorist, calls on Muslims around the world to travel to Iraq and fight the U.S.-led occupation.

The speaker on the tape, obtained by the Associated Press and aired on Al-Arabiya television, claimed to be Abdur Rahman Najdi, a Saudi-born militant sought by the United States.

He called on Muslims to join the fight in Iraq and to help overthrow the royal family in Saudi Arabia, calling them puppets of the United States. A U.S. official familiar with the tape could not confirm its authenticity.

I've also suggested before that we could be helping ourselves a lot by planting phony tapes. . .

@8:41 AM

Things that make me laugh
I get a chuckle out of Rocket Man's 'a liberal is. . .' and 'a conservative is . . .' post. However, I'd rewrite most of them to replace 'conservative' with 'libertarian', as here:

Rocket Man sez: A Liberal believes that the Government is the best solutions [sic] to most problems. A Conservative realizes that the Government is the cause of many problems.

I would suggest: Liberals believe that the Government is the best solution to most problems. Conservatives agree, they just don't agree on the problem. Libertarians realize that the Government is the cause of many problems and the solution to few of them.

After all, if conservatives didn't believe that the government was the solution to all our problems would we have the ghastly Department of Homeland Security or the Patriot Act? If these aren't Big Government programs then I don't know what a Big Government program is. In my not so humble opinion, modern liberalism and modern conservatism are just the Janus faces of the Big Government party.

@8:11 AM

The Rocket Man says ". . . Boulder is not practically a parody of itself, it is a parody of itself. . . "

Ah, yes. Awhile back I posted on a visit we'd paid to the Crossroads Mall, where a woman with a definite Back East accent told us that 'all this construction in and around Boulder is just ruining the place. You wouldn't believe how much it's changed just in the year I've lived here'.


@7:08 AM

Masked bandit spotted at Worland bank!
From today's Northern Wyoming Daily News police reports [story not on line]:

[A reporting party] reported she was chased by a raccoon outside the Rendezvous Lounge as she left work. She last saw it in the Pinnacle Bank parking lot.

We don't call it the RhondaZoo for nothing, although Rhonda doesn't work there anymore. And don't laugh, an adult raccoon can weigh 50#.

@6:20 AM

Good one!
Rocket Man has a great take on tree house environmentalists posted in the comments at Bill Quick's:

An environmentalist is someone who owns a house in the mountains. A greedy developer is someone who wants to build a house in the mountains.

How very true.

@6:15 AM

Monday, August 18, 2003- - -  
Whyzat ya spoz?
Oddly enough, every on-line office supply store I've ever bought anything from is touting uninterruptible power supplies this week.

@1:03 PM

More on barrel length v. velocity
Craig Henry first noted the phenomenon that barrel length effects velocity, and I picked up on that thread below. Now I've received a couple more emails theorizing on the effects of barrel length and cartridge capacity.

First, James Rummel replies with some tongue-in-cheek theorizing:

I have an idea as to why larger revolver cartridges push bullets to much higher velocities in carbine barrels over smaller autoloader cartridges.  I think it's the air.

See, the way that I understand it is that the primer touches off the powder, which burns so hot-n-fast that the air in the cartridge expands.  It expands so much that the bullet pops off the brass and is pushed down the barrel.  The walls of the cartridge are made of brass (usually) so they'd be pushed out by the expanding gas and form a gas seal at the operator's end.  This makes everything much more efficient since the expanding gas can't whistle past the cartridge and blow back into the shooter's eye.  The only way the pressure can be relieved is by the bullet to fly out the open end of the barrel.

Okay, nothing but a grade school primer on how guns work above.  But as the bullet travels through the barrel the pressure pushing it out drops since it has to fill up a greater volume.  I think that the greater volume of air to start with in the larger revolver cartridges means that there's a greater volume of hot gas pushing the bullet down the loooonngg carbine barrel.  This would mean that the pressure wouldn't fall as fast as it would if there was only the smaller amount of gas found in an autoloader cartridge.

This explanation has been rejected by just about everyone who's heard it, but try as I might I can't think of any other reason.

You mentioned something about the gap between the barrel and the cylinder that's found on a revolver.  If I'm reading your post correctly, you think that this might be why handguns don't get better velocities since the gap would bleed off the gas that might otherwise push the bullet out faster.

I don't think that this is particularly significant.  The reason why is because the Russians came up with an interesting revolver called the Nagant.

The idea was that cocking the hammer would not only revolve the cylinder but also shove the cylinder forward so as to close the cylinder gap and provide a gas seal.  It worked well enough, but according to British gun historian Ian Hogg they only realized a 50 to 75 fps increase in velocity, which is about a 5% to 8% increase.
But the gas seal meant that the revolver could be silenced easily enough.  This is amazing considering how archaic the design happens to be.

Very interesting, but there's a reason that everyone rejects this theory. Here it is again: But as the bullet travels through the barrel the pressure pushing it out drops since it has to fill up a greater volume.  I think that the greater volume of air to start with in the larger revolver cartridges means that there's a greater volume of hot gas pushing the bullet down the loooonngg carbine barrel.  This would mean that the pressure wouldn't fall as fast as it would if there was only the smaller amount of gas found in an autoloader cartridge.

The thing to remember here is that propellant powders don't explode, they burn 'progressively', and very very quickly. For the purpose of this discussion, much of the difference between all of the available powders is in their burning rate, with fast-burning powders being most suitable to short-barreled arms firing light-weight bullets, and slower burning powders more suited to longer barrels and heavier bullets. The ideal, from the ammunition manufacturer's or reloader's standpoint, is to match the propellant to the length of barrel and weight of bullet so that the powder continues to burn and maintain pressure in the barrel until the bullet leaves the barrel. Such ideal loads will produce optimum velocity (and we'll get into this a bit more with my next correspondent).

If too little powder is used the pressure may actually drop, as Mr. Rummel describes, but this is very undesirable because the bullet may start up the barrel and then be slowed and even stopped by the friction of the barrel after the powder charge burns out. At the very least a bullet stuck in the barrel is a pain in the behind. If another cartridge is fired while the barrel is so obstructed it can be very dangerous. On the other hand, if too much, or too slow-burning powder is used and the powder is still burning when the bullet departs the barrel the excess powder will be expelled causing excessive muzzle flash and blast. ( Assuming that the load doesn't exceed the pressure tolerance of the firearm and cause 'explosive disassembly'). Like Goldilocks, the reloader is looking for a powder charge that's not too hot and not too cold, but just right.

For a given powder charge and bullet weight, larger case capacity -- which means 'more air' in the case -- actually reduces peak chamber pressure slightly, an effect that draws its explanation directly from the behavior of gasses we all learned in high school chemistry. For a given mass of gas, at a given temperature, increasing the volume decreases the pressure of the gas. The wise reloader will bear this in mind, as the converse is also true: decreasing volume increases pressure. This is a major reason why you pay attention to seating depth and apply a firm taper crimp on autoloader cartridges. If the bullet is pushed back into the case as it is slammed against the feed ramp, reducing the case capacity of the cartridge, chamber pressure will soar creating a potentially hazardous situation. While heating the air in the cartridge case undoubtedly increases the overall gas pressure, we're dealing with pressures running from 15,000 to over 30,000 psi in handguns, and up to 65,000 psi in rifles. I’m too lazy to calculate just how hot a couple of cc's of air would have to be to generate 30,000 psi, but it would have to be very hot indeed. Clearly, the vast majority of the pressure derives from the gasses and heat given off by the burning propellant.

The Nagent is a very interesting design, or over-design as the case may be, and the fact that sealing the barrel/cylinder gap only increased velocity 50-75 fps suggests that we can't necessarily attribute all of the velocity loss in revolvers to this gap. As I said earlier, I'm dissatisfied with barrel/cylinder gap pressure loss as the whole explanation. Unfortunately, internal ballistics -- what happens inside the weapon as it is fired -- really is a black science. Until just the last few years, about all even the best laboratories could measure was muzzle velocity and peak chamber pressure, with pressure derived from measuring the degree of crushing of a small copper cylinder in a test chamber, hence the term 'copper units of pressure'. It is only in the last few years that even the major reloading manuals have started to list peak pressures in pounds per square inch, and not all of them do that even today. It's been an even shorter period since we've developed methods of measuring the pressure curve with strain gages and such, and have been able to see the build-up and let-off of pressure as the powder burns, the bullet begins to move, and finally exits the barrel. The Oehler Personal Ballistic Laboratory now allows gun writers and even hobbyists to measure chamber pressure, but they are -- alas -- rare and more than a bit spendy. There's also the technical problem of affixing the strain gage to the barrel of a semi-auto handgun or cylinder of a revolver, I don't know if it can be done and I've never heard of anyone doing it.

And speaking of pressure curves, that's the topic of my next email, from Tom Dahlgren:

I have been following and contributing to this discussion regarding pistol rounds in revolvers and carbines and a thought occurs to me.  We have all seen how, all other things being equal (bullet, powder, primer, etc.) when a given round is fired out of a longer barrel greater velocity is achieved.  .  After spending some time speculating on these alternatives I have come to conclude that the truth is often somewhere in between and likely beyond the range of predictablitity for most of us without access to pressure barrels.

My understanding is that velocity, for any given round, fired under any set of circumstances, is directly related to the area under the curve as described by an x-y plot of pressure v.s. time.

When comparing the pressure v.s time plot of a given round fired in a pistol v.s the same round in a carbine, all other things being equal (including chamber lock time for each firearm) we should expect that the plots would be essentially identical up to the point at which the bullet leaves the shorter pistol barrel.  I believe that if we were able to calculate the difference between the two plots the difference would correspond to the difference in observed velocity.

In your latest post you mentioned the problem of revolver cylinder gap.  I do believe that the cylinder gap is responsible for much of the observed underperfomance of revolvers v.s. carbines.  Again, I would dearly love to see a pressure-time plot comparison of a carbine and revolver of equal barrel length.  I would not be surprised to see a significantly reduced area-under-the-curve for the revolver, and would also not be surprised that this loss was proportional to the velocity loss.  When you consider that the pressure loss from the cylinder gap occurs quite early in the combustion process you can see how it would literally have the effect of leaving the revolver 'behind the curve' and never able to catch up to any carbine of equal or (more likely) greater barrel length.

Unfortunately, this is also as simple as it will ever get.  Apples to apples comparisons are useful from a conceptual standpoint but they do little to help us with the real world variables of various bullet weights and configurations, and the myriad varieties of powders with their own entirely ideosyncratic burn profiles.

Eggzactly! All else being equal, projectile velocity is indeed a function of pressure acting over time, and is directly related to the area under the curve of the time/pressure graph, at least in theory. While this explanation delves dangerously close to science, it's practical application is demonstrated every few years by one of the gun pundits who takes to the range with a chronograph, a long barreled rifle, and a hacksaw. What we almost always see in these experiments is a slight loss of velocity, usually on the order of about 20-30 fps, with each inch that the barrel is shortened. About the only exception to this is those rare cases where the powder is so poorly matched to the caliber, or the barrel is so long, that the powder burns out before the bullet departs the barrel, in which case the velocity may actually increase as the barrel is shortened and friction is reduced, up to the point where barrel length and powder burn-out synchronize.

As Mr. Dahlgren points out in closing, this is all a great oversimplification. In practice, not only is the instrumentation for graphing pressure over time expensive and somewhat experimental, there are so very many other variables involved that the actual velocity that will be achieved with a given load in a given length of barrel can only be roughly predicted. It is not at all unusual for the velocity of two identical rifles firing an identical load to differ by 100 fps, or more. In fact, a 50 fps variation from shot to shot in a single rifle with a single load is fairly common. Bullets often vary in weight by a grain or more, and vary in diameter by 0.0005". Cartridge cases can very in weight by several grains and this equates to varying powder capacity. Case neck thickness, and thus, the degree of grip that the case exerts on the bullet -- 'bullet pull' -- can vary considerably. Likewise, the tightness of the crimp, if any, affects bullet pull and can vary from cartridge to cartridge, particularly if the cases vary at all in length. The depth of the primer pocket can vary and will effect the force of the firing pin striking the primer and that will effect the rate of burn of the powder. All these things effect velocity, there are a host of other variables that affect overall accuracy. Benchrest shooters can go absolutely berserk trying to control for all of these variables. However, unless your rifle weighs at least 15# and sports a fine piece of railroad tie for a stock, it is very difficult to demonstrate any difference in accuracy due to these variables. That's not to say that your accuracy won't suffer if any of these things are seriously out of spec, and some, like too long cases, can pose a hazard.

Bottom line, most any firearm firing any suitable ammunition is adequately accurate for its designed purpose. The greatest variable in accuracy is the shooter's ability. Thus, it is my philosophy to prime and charge cases, cork them with bullets, and shoot. Repeat often!

@12:31 PM

Banal evil
We watched The Pianist last evening and I'll be digesting for awhile. It does reinforce for me how very accurate Eric Raymond is in his essay The Myth of Man the Killer. In that vein, I suspect that the movie captures the emotions, motivations, and psychology of the period quite well. I think Raymond is onto something here: If there was a root cause to the Holocaust it was an excess of obedience on the part of all the parties involved.

@6:29 AM

We're Number One!
Of course, that's not always a good thing:

WASHINGTON – More than 5.6 million Americans are in prison or have served time there, according to a new report by the Justice Department released Sunday. That's 1 in 37 adults living in the United States, the highest incarceration level in the world.

@6:05 AM

Sunday, August 17, 2003- - -  
More on new (and old) weapons designs
James Rummel writes:

Just saw your post RE the P90 and the Colt Imp.  Just thought I'd let you know that I wrote about the P90 as a possible primary arm for support troops last month. I'd like to get my hands on one of those and see how they shoot.

 In a similar vein, it would seem that the US is actually spending money on developing a lighter assault rifle for the troops.

Then things got off on a tangent because Craig Henry at Boone Country pointed out that you get a vast improvement in velocity if you have a carbine chambered for long cartridges, like the .357 or .44 Magnum.

Then things went even further off of the rails when we started to wonder why that would be so for large and mostly empty handgun brass but not for smaller and more modern cartridges, since the .45 ACP and the 9mm don't enjoy similar increases.  But that's blogging for you.

Very interesting posts, all. I will point out that Col. Cooper has been using the term 'poodle shooter' for the 5.56mm for many years and I suspect he deserves the credit for its coinage. If I don't always give proper attribution I'll fall back on the excuse that 'poodle shooter' is like 'four score and seven years ago', a phrase everyone ought to recognize, from one of the Great Men of our time.

As Craig Henry points out, it is interesting that semi-auto cartridges don't give similar results to revolver cartridges when they're fired in carbines. I've pulled out my copy of Lyman's reloading manual (#47) and studied the figures, and I’m at a loss to explain the phenomenon. At first I suspected that it was due to the folks at Lyman taking advantage of the carbine-length barrels and the greater capacity of the revolver cases to soup up their rifle data, using slower-burning powders for greater velocity, or some such. However, this doesn't appear to be the case. They use pretty much the same powders and pretty much the same maximum loads. For instance, Using a max load of 9.7gr. of Unique under a 125gr JHP in 357 magnum they get 1818 fps from a Marlin Model 1894 with 18½" barrel, and 1359 fps from a 4" vented test barrel. However, using a max load of 5.8gr. of Unique under a 115gr. JHP in 9mm they get 1336 fps from a Marlin Camp Carbine with 16½" barrel and 1233 fps from a 4" test barrel. The powder and bullet are exactly the same in each case. The only difference I can detect in Lyman's data is their use of a vented test barrel in 357 handgun testing -- presumable to simulate the barrel/cylinder gap of a revolver -- while they use an unvented barrel for 9mm handgun testing, and of course, the rifles have unvented barrels.

So perhaps it's not so much that the revolver cartridges gain more from being fired in a carbine, but that the semi-auto cartridges lose less in a handgun with no barrel/cylinder gap. I find it hard to believe that the 357 handgun is losing that much velocity due to barrel/cylinder gap, but I suppose it's possible. Actually, it becomes far more believable after you've touched off a couple of .357s from your favorite hogleg in low-light conditions, there's an awful lot of fire coming out of that barrel/cylinder gap!

I've long been an aficionado of lever guns firing revolver cartridges, but have little experience with carbines firing semi-auto rounds, so this phenomenon is new to me. I'll have to ponder this further.

One thing about the revolver cartridges in carbines that doesn't see much ink but should is the fact that these higher velocities have a very definite down-side. Expanding bullets are designed to work within a narrow range of velocities. Push them too slow and they don't expand, push them too fast and they explode on impact like a varmint bullet. Thus, the 357 magnum 125gr. JHP that is so very effective from a handgun frequently vaporizes on impact when fired from a carbine, failing to penetrate or cause more than superficial wounds. Jacketed bullets from a 44 magnum carbine behave in similar fashion.

I've learned to be very careful in my choice of bullets for these carbines. I've had good luck with hard cast lead semi-wadcutters, and I've experimented with the Nosler Partitions. Although I haven't used the handgun partition bullets on game, they do hold together and penetrate well in dry newspaper, which will take anything but premium bullets apart.

All this would tend to suggest that a carbine chambering a semi-auto round would be the better choice for personal defense, as the bullets will still be traveling at speeds within their design parameters.

@10:13 AM

Saturday, August 16, 2003- - -  
Technically, I suppose it's a slingshot, not a thong.

@6:37 PM

The Bureaucratic Principle
"It turns out that what a captive audience gets from a media megalith with a government-enforced subsidy is exactly what a beginning student of economics would predict: The BBC may be arrogant, but it's also incompetent, not to mention surly and evasive when criticized." (Josh Chafetz as linked by the InstaPundit)

As Reynolds says, "It's a short road from the BBC to the DMV." 'Arrogant, incompetent, surly, and evasive'? Doesn't that pretty much sum up the bureaucrats in your life?

@5:45 PM

Capt JM Heinrichs sends another link to an even more abbreviated bullpup, the FN P90. Note that the P90's fore grip is becoming almost vestigial. Also notice that the P90 is in an experimental 5.7mm, allowing a much smaller lighter weapon than can chamber a 5.56mm. Which reminds me. . .

A few years back I played with a Colt Imp, chambered in .221 Fireball and completely lacking a fore grip. It had top eject and the grip and trigger mechanism rotated to allow the magazine to lay along the inside of the forearm of either arm. Nor did it have a butt of any kind, as it was designed to strap to the forearm. When you extended your trigger finger it almost reached the muzzle. The idea, and a darn good one, was to create a weapon that pointed very naturally, and the sights on the one I handled seemed like an afterthought.

The Imp is about as close as I can come to a weapon that meets Fuze's criteria of a bullpup that doesn't pelt the user with hot brass and can be instantly switched from one hand to the other. Sorry, I couldn't find anything on-line about the Imp, it was an experimental weapon that was being shown around to the military. (It is pictured on page 22 of the First Edition of Jane's Pocket Book of Rifles and Light Machine Guns.) I thought it was cute as hell, but reports from the range said it had some serious functioning problems and, if I recall correctly, they may have been test-firing an up-sized 5.56mm version, as I'd heard plenty of objections to acquiring a weapon that fired a round so similar to one we already had. Logistically it made sense to stick to the 5.56, but the lower-powered and shorter .221 would function in a smaller, lighter weapon.

@6:19 AM

Friday, August 15, 2003- - -  
More bullpups
I've started something now. First, Capt. JM Heinrichs sent a link to the new Israeli Tavor Bull Pup Assault Rifle. The Fusilier Pundit responded to point out the practical problem of having a rifle's ejection port pointed toward the lefthander's face. Now, Douglas Chandler writes:

One other problem with bullpup designs is getting a good trigger pull.  Back in the 60's a number of people were trying cables, walking beams, and other devices to overcome the problem of the sear to trigger distance. I think this might be one of the reasons why the AUG trigger is activated by the whole hand.

Right now the 5.56 mm round has been improved for range, penetration at range, and penetration of body armor.  Unfortunately these improvements have reduced its stopping power on close in opponent with no body armor. The heavier, longer, faster spinning bullet reportedly zips right through close in unarmored opponents, the round doesn't tumble at all at ranges even farther than reported during the Viet war. While trying to run down some more information on the XM-8 replacement for the M-16 and M-4 as reported on "The Strategy Page" website. I ran into two reports on contracts that have been let for frangible anti-ricochet rounds.  The government says they need these rounds for when they don't to hit and hurt what they aren't shooting at.  Sounds like that rural sheriffs department that went to soft points for the M-16's they got a deal on.  They also said they needed it for SWAT type situations in houses.  I! suspect some of this frangible stuff is going to be used to get some stopping power.  I could see some trooper loading up a mixed magazine of standards and frangible.  What do you think?   I have included a link to the Black Hill ammo contract.

What Mr. Chandler is referring to is the mechanics of the trigger in a rifle where the shooting hand grips the weapon in front of the receiver, rather than behind it. In a normal firearm, a primer in the rear of the cartridge fires the round. The primer is struck by a firing pin or hammer that is situated behind the cartridge. A sear controls the firing pin or hammer, holding it to the rear, and a trigger trips the sear, allowing the hammer or firing pin to fall and fire the cartridge. The hand grip is behind the trigger where the trigger finger will fall naturally on the trigger. Finally, a butt stock extends behind the hand grip to a point about 13 inches behind the trigger, the approximate natural 'length of pull' of a normal-sized man. The locations of all these parts aren't just a matter of convention, they have logical locations and associations. A stock that's one inch too long for you makes the gun very unwieldy. A stock that much too short can be awkward as well. Thus, although the myriad of long guns may look very different, their mechanisms are in many ways the same and arranged the same, even regardless of action type.

Then you build a bullpup and stuff the action of the rifle into the butt stock, behind the hand grip. Suddenly, you have things very much out of order, and the fit of the two parts out of order -- the trigger and sear -- is among the most critical in the whole weapon. It is the trigger-sear fit that is 90% of most 'trigger jobs'. Usually the fit of the trigger to the sear is literally polished, in a bullpup they're 10 inches apart. All sorts of linkages have been developed to connect the trigger to the sear, but all have at least some moving parts, all of which add play to the trigger-sear engagement. Instead of getting a 'breaking glass rod' clean trigger release, you get 'crunch, crunch, grit, boom!' I don't know that anyone ever came up with the solution, other than the guys with the experimental electrically primed, electronic trigger guns. On the other hand, these weapons are really only effective at 300-400 yards, max, and 200 yards in the hands of most. At that range the rough trigger pull can be managed, but it will have an adverse effect on accuracy at any range.

The military wanted a rifle with a 500 yard effective range, but the 55 grain bullet of the M193 round drifts too much in the wind (over 40 inches at 500 yards in a 10 mph breeze!) This made hitting a target at ranges over 300 yards as much luck as marksmanship. Also, a 55 grain bullet starting out with around 1200 ft.lbs. of energy is going to have less than 250 ft.lbs. left at 500 yards.

The 55 grain bullet was not overly stabilized by some of the slower 1 turn in 10 inch or 1 turn in 12 inch rifling of the earlier rifles. At the first touch of the target these bullets destabilized violently, tumbling through the body and causing destruction all out of proportion to the bullet's tiny weight and limited energy. The couple of guys I know who really liked the M16s when they used them in Vietnam liked them because they did a lot of damage for a small light weapon.

But here's the rub, and this is pretty counter-intuitive: To make the rifle more effective at longer range it was necessary to use a heavier bullet, thus the new 62 grain slug in the SS109 cartridge. The heavier bullet actually retains greater velocity and kinetic energy at longer ranges (the counter-intuitive part) because it is not slowed as quickly by air resistance. Likewise, the heavier bullet is not drifted nearly as much by the wind. It has greater 'sectional density' and 'ballistic coefficient'.

So no problem, just make the bullet heavier, right? Oops, it's not that easy. The 1 turn in 10 inch or 1 turn in 12 inch rifling of the earlier rifles would not stabilize a bullet heavier than 55 grains, a rapid loss of accuracy is noted as bullet weight increases. The Greenhill formula calculates the twist rate needed for a given bullet length (and it's actually length, not weight that controls the bullet's stability at a given velocity and rotation. Length and weight are, of course, closely correlated, and bullets are customarily listed by weight.

So put faster twist rifling in the rifles, right? Well, that's what they did, putting a 1 turn in 7 inch twist in the new M16A2 to match the SS109 bullet. It stabilizes the bullet and it does give better accuracy and retained power at long range. But, as Mr. Chandler points out, the cost is in lost effect at close range. At close range, the SS109 bullet is so well stabilized by the 1 turn in 7 inch rifling that it remains stable after it hits its target. And it's a full metal jacket intended not to expand or deform. Thus, it penetrates with about as much effect as being stabbed by a big knitting needle. Very little tissue is permanently disrupted. To put it scientifically, it doesn't work worth shit.

The military can't go to a bullet that expands to get greater effect, what with the Geneva and Hague Conventions, but they've discovered an end-around on the Conventions: frangible Reduced Ricochet Limited Penetration bullets. They're not designed to expand and cause greater damage to their target, they're designed to be safer for bystanders because they don't ricochet and they don't penetrate walls. There's a humanitarian purpose behind them. The fact that they are probably the most devastating round available is entirely beside the point. They literally explode when they hit anything, transferring all their kinetic energy to the target almost instantaneously, which is very devastating. But they're not explosive bullets, There's no explosive in them, only metal powder or small fragments. They're Reduced Ricochet Limited Penetration bullets used strictly for humanitarian purposes. Please remember that.

Frankly, I find the conventions against expanding bullets an amazing anachronism in a day and age when we can target someone with a smart bomb. It's my personal opinion that if we are to send our troops into combat they should be armed with the most devastating weapons we can devise for them. The weapons shouldn't be designed to inflict pain and suffering, they should be designed to stop the enemy dead in his tracks. Anything more than that would be overkill.

@4:40 PM

You know what this means. . .
9 months from now -- elevator babies will be in the news.

@11:06 AM

Au Contraire!
The DenverPost editorializes that the California recall isn't funny. Obviously they don't have much taste for comedy noire. I suppose it isn't very gracious of me to derive a certain satisfaction from the California predicament, but then I've lived in Wyoming for many years, a state that's long been treated as a convenient banana republic by our betters in CA. ("It's really cheap and they speak English!") Our own homegrown liberals have long pushed for more Californication of our state, so it's entertaining to see the lemon-sucking looks on their faces when the end result of such efforts can no longer be denied.

For years the NIMBYs have kept any extensive energy development out of California and the BANANAs among them have caused a great deal of difficulty all the way out here in Wyoming. For years we've joked about environmentalists shivering in the dark if they truly had their way. Then it happened. Can you blame us if we're a little smug at our vindication?

For years California's masses have voted for lower taxes and higher spending, and for politicians who would promise to deliver bread and circuses on demand. A rising economy floated that paper boat for a long time. But now people are fleeing the crowds and the crime and the sheer grime of California, looking for a safe, sane place to live and raise their families. The bubble has burst. If the population is relatively stable it is because the illegal immigration matches the legal emigration. The refugees wash up on our shores and we hear the tales of two house breakings and three auto thefts in five years -- how fun. (How could anyone live that way and be anti-gun?) And the stories of retiring to find that your SocSec won't pay the taxes on the home you've lived in and paid for over 30 years. And the stories about couples holding down five jobs between them and even though they were lashed to the mast not being able to make ends meet. (How do you make the payments on a $500,000 mortgage?) Of course I feel sorry for the working folks who find themselves in this predicament. Sometimes you don't get the government you personally deserve. In that case you are always free to vote with your feet. Or you can vote for the miracle worker of your choice, because it's a sure bet that the masses won't vote to suck it up as long as there's one more shiny idiot to promise a painless fix. I've lived in the big city. I can't do it. Can you blame me if I smirk when some new neighbor says "I couldn't live that way anymore?"

Finally, in the last throes, the current bag-holder, who's promised to conjure four more years of prosperity, can't deliver the impossible. When the impossible becomes clearly impossible -- no you can't have 6¢ retail electricity when the wholesale price is 9¢ What were you thinking? -- you would think folks would face reality. But it's less painful to throw money at the problem and when that doesn't work it's much more fun to chuck the bugger out. I have no sympathy for Gray Davis, he gets what he richly deserves. It's only too bad that you can't retroactively recall the last six governors, who are no less to blame. When you've shot yourself in the foot you've got to try to be good-natured when people joke about it.

We do indeed live in interesting times. The Joads are moving back to Oklahoma. If I laugh, be assured that I do it bitterly.

@7:33 AM

More on Kobe
Reggie Rivers has an interesting take on the Kobe Bryant case. Suppose he's innocent?

There's been a lot of hand-wringing over the issue of the privacy of the accuser in this case, but it has occurred to me that no one seems much alarmed by the effect such accusations have on the accused. As Rivers points out, even if Kobe is acquitted a lot of folks will think he used his money to wriggle off the hook.

It's all well and good to protect the identity of the accuser in such cases, but I've got to wonder if we shouldn't be protecting the identity of the accused as well, as the repercussions of such accusations can be huge for both parties. Nor is this a problem only for celebrities.

Ps. It has also occurred to me that the only way to really cleanse the taint of an accusation of rape is to thoroughly tar the accuser. If the accusation carried no such taint it is possible that there would be much less motivation to try the victim in defense, which would not be a bad thing. Not being a lawyer, I have no idea if it is even possible to withhold the identity of the accused, and we could be tiptoeing along the precipice overlooking all sorts of star chamber-like results. What do you put in the police report, 'six John Does are being held for unspecified crimes'? How about the court report, 'In the case of Doe v. Doe, Mr. Doe was acquitted after trial'? It's a tough problem. False accusations are made and this is one case where being acquitted in court gives only partial relief. It would be nice if some mechanism could be found to avoid the tendency to tar the alleged victim in pursuit of relief from the accusation.

@6:07 AM

60 puppies offered for adoption in Denver
I'd stay away from the Vietnamese restaurants for awhile.

@5:49 AM

I'm surprised everyone didn't turn around
This is a quirky little tale - fake drug checkpoints on the highway leading to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

Ps. What we need here is for all the totally straight libertarians in the audience to immediately turn around when they see signs like this. They could probably charge you with interference of some sort, but couldn't prove that you were doing more than making an illegal U-turn. Playing tricks on the population isn't nice.

@5:45 AM

Can't blame it on Gray Davis
The sister-in-law called last night to let everyone know she was okay. It took her an extra hour to get home from work in Manhattan to her house on Staten Island. We didn't get many details as her landline was out and she couldn't recharge her cell phone. Perhaps this power outage is a good thing, in that it will force us to face the fragility of much of our infrastructure.

@5:35 AM

Right in the eye!
The Fusilier Pundit responds to my earlier post on the new Israeli Tavor:

The Tavor is obviously a repackaged Galil. I've seen photos of the Tavor field stripped, and it's a Kalashnikov through and through.

Your point on bullpups: "they make a lot of sense, at least to this spectator. A weapon that's compact but still has much more firepower than a handgun would be great for support troops"

Agreed. However, one nagging problem with bullpups, worse even than for conventionally configured carbines: the ejection port is trouble for left-handers. I don't think anyone has solved that problem neatly. Brits' SA80 has an armorer's kit to change from right-eject to left. Steyr AUG can be switched by the user, by field stripping. French FAMAS, not sure but probably user field-strip.

If I were to design a bullpup (yes, I've been toying with it on paper for 10-plus years, watch for a post on it), I'd build it so I can switch while the weapon is still loaded, without dumping hot brass down my shirt and risking a jam. I might want to shoot around the left side of a barrier, for example, then run away to my right. I won't have time to strip it and reassemble it during a firefight.

But then I'd chamber it for something other than 5,56 too. It's called .41 Auto Mag.

I hadn't given the ejection problem much thought, but now I note that a "left hand kit (bolt)" is listed among the optional accessories at the IMI site. I suppose some such would be necessary, but I can attest that such handy conversion kits are also a logistical nightmare. Fuze's desire for a weapon able to switch on the fly is also well taken. I'm pretty much ambidextrous with a handgun, but this ejection problem and the awkward handling of most long guns has kept me from using them left-handed. With the new Tavor's bullpup design it would be a particular problem, but I guess it didn't occur to me because it's such a problem with most long guns.

A setup such as the Steyr AUG (Austria's Ugly Gun*), which can be converted from left to right eject by the user, relieves the logistical problem, but may only exacerbate the problem in the field. Note that in the accounts of the ill-fated 507th convoy the troops were grabbing whatever small arms came to hand as theirs jammed, a sure way to get hot brass in the eye if those weapons are randomly set for left- and right-eject. A better solution might be a design with bottom or forward ejection, or better yet, a caseless round with no ejection.

Of course, any long-time reader of this site knows that I agree with Fuze about the 5.56 poodle shooter. Unfortunately, it appears that the cartridge is locked in for the foreseeable future. Fuze's idea of a .41 Auto Mag is a good one. With a heavy bullet with broad meplat, a full metal jacket need not be a handicap to stopping power. Range would be limited to about 200 yards, but that's most folks effective range anyway. The only downside I see to such a hopped up handgun cartridge in a carbine is the ammo weight factor. A sample M193 5.56 cartridge weighs 11.3gm, while a sample .41 magnum with 210gr. bullet weighs 22gm, almost twice as much per cartridge. This would cut in half the amount of ammo that could be carried and would be entirely contrary to the current 'spray and pray' philosophy of combat small arms. Hmm. . . Come to think of it that's another good reason to favor the .41 Auto Mag idea.

I think the problem here is the search for one single general purpose weapon design that will be issued to everyone regardless of MOS. From a logistical viewpoint that is obviously desirable. Unfortunately, in designing an all-purpose weapon you tend to wind up with one that won't do any one thing particularly well. In keeping the weapon and ammo light weight and low recoil you automatically sacrifice effective range and target effect. However, you gain a weapon that is at least marginally useable for support troops who have minimal training. Unfortunately, as we've seen, the M16 becomes a 3-shot disposable weapon in the hands of those minimally trained folks, so we have a way yet to go in our small arms design.

*Actually, I think the AUG is cute as hell, a very clean design almost unique in military weapons in that it doesn't look like it's half Erector Set and half Legos.

@5:21 AM

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