When using iron sights making corrections for either windage (left and right) or elevation (up and down) is not always a straight forward affair.  When drifting a front sight blade how far do we move it in which direction for ‘X’ change on the target?  Likewise for the elevation; how much adjustment is required to the height of the rear sight move a bullet point of impact at ‘Y’ range?

To begin with let us first determine how moving the front and rear sights translates to where our bullets will land on the target:

Front sight – move in opposite direction to the adjustment required at the target.  If shots are too far left of the aiming point the correction required is to move the fall of shot to the right.  To do so move the front sight left.  Bullets landing low of the point of aim need to be raised and reducing the height of the front sight will achieve this.  It’s all a lot steering into the skid when your car slips in snow or ice.

Rear sight – move in the direction the fall of shot needs to go.  When bullets are left of point of aim (POA) move the rear sight right.  If shots are landing low on the target raise the rear sight.

Now we have established what bits need to move in which direction the next step is to calculate the amount of movement that is required to correct the error.


Amount of Error X Sight Radius
= Sight Correction Needed
Distance to Target

At 100 yards (3600 inches), your shot is 6″ low and the distance between your front and rear sight is 19.5″.

6 X 19.5
= .0325

Since you are shooting low, you would need to lower your front sight by .032″.

It’s that simple BUT the good folks at Brownells have made it really easy for us all with the aid of this handy little SWF:

Keep your powder dry.



Posted in Ballistics, General, Rifles | Leave a comment


The process of lapping a mould is straight forward and serves two very vital purposes; either cleaning up mould cavities for better bullet release or enlarging mould cavities for larger diameter projectiles. Let’s look at the clean first.

Many moulds, especially those straight from the factory, suffer a frustrating but easily cured disorder that prevents newly cast bullets falling freely from the cavity.  Ideally upon opening of the bullet mould the lead alloy projectile(s) should drop freely or at the very least require only a gentle tap on the handle hinge point to giggle them out.  Freshly cut or neglected moulds can have microscopic burrs on the edges of the cavities invisible to the naked or aged eye that whilst very, very small are more than sufficient to retard the ejection of a cast bullet.  Lapping the cavity with very fine lapping/grinding compound quickly removes these and produces a mould that drops bullets freely.  This process is also very effective for removing surface rust or built up residue such as burnt on oil caused by a lack of proper cleaning prior to usage.

Bullet diameter increase.  Cast bullet accuracy can often benefit from a bullet of a slightly greater girth than a given mould will produce.  Often as little as 0.002 inch can make a substantial difference in the size of a target group and with careful lapping it is very possible to increase the diameter of lead alloy projectiles without specialised equipment.

The first step is to fill the cavity or cavities with lead alloy, allow to solidify and cut the sprues but leave the formed bullets in the mould.  With the sprue plate in place drill a hole via the pouring holds into the base of the bullets.  This hole need not be deep to begin with as it is a guide or starter.  Finish the hold with the sprue plate out of the way.


Next, remove the bullets and place them in a soft jaw vice with careful attention not to deform the projectile and inhibit re insertion into the mould.  Taking a long shank screw, wind the screw into the bullet to create shank to mount in a drill chuck.



Place the shank of the screw in a handheld power drill and coat the bullet evenly and sparingly with fine grinding/lapping compound.  Holding the drill in one hand and the mould in the other close the mould over of the bullet and begin rotating the lap in the cavity slow allowing both hands to move freely so as not to bias the lapping motion.


Burr removal in achieved rather quickly so a minute of slow rotations is most likely enough.  Cavity enlargement is a longer process and directionally proportional to the material from which the mould is constructed.  Aluminium being softer than iron, steel, brass is much faster to enlarge.

The following photo shows a Lyman 225462 double cavity mould (one cavity converted for hollow point casting) after a quick lapping to remove burrs for easier bullet drop.  Cleaning and degreasing is required on completion.


When enlarging a cavity it is important to set a baseline measurement in order to know how much progress is being made.  I enlarged the nose section of a Lee aluminium mould and started by taken sulphur casts of the chambers and measuring them.  As work progressed the mould was cleaned and more casts were taken so as to be able to measure progress.  The benefit of using a sulphur cast is the mould does not have to be taken up to lead cast temperature then allowed to cool again all of which would be time punishing.  The actual sulphur casting commencing measurement need not be exactly the same as the lead alloy bullet as what is needed is a base line to which the intended gain is added. 

EG: a mould throws a lead alloy bullet at .311 inch however a .313 inch is required.  Net gain required is .002 inch.  Cast a sulphur impression and lap until a total of .002 inch is added to the girth. 

The following photo shows the sulphur casting (with a little graphite added for colour) lying beside the cotton swabs.  Sulphur is available at hardware and gardening stores and is easily melted with a butane torch.  Care should be taken to melt the sulphur very slowly so as not to ignite the powder and extreme care should be taken not to inhale the sulphur dioxide emitted by the melting process.


Keep your powder dry.


Posted in Casting, Moulds | Leave a comment


In April of 2015, I bought a Char-Broil brand cabinet smoker. I have thoroughly enjoyed using it!

Right now, (10:10 PM), the smoker is set up for cold smoking and I’m waiting for the smoke to start rising in the box. I’m about to smoke some Gouda, cheddar and Swiss cheese.

On the smoking rack.


Moisture laden smoke falling from condensation drip leg. This initial heavy smoke is a result of the moisture in the wood being steamed out.


When the wood dries, the dry smoke begins to rise inside the cabinet.


The thin, dry smoke rises in the cabinet and the cheese begins to take on the flavor.


When the cabinet temp…


matches the ambient temp…

you know you got it goin’ on!

Posted in RECIPES | Leave a comment


I do my fair share of shooting.  A considerable amount of this shooting is carried out utilising cast bullets.  The combination of the residue from burnt powder, cast bullet lubricant, sizing lube, general dust and grime and repeated shooting make my cartridge cases very grubby.  Dirty cases are not ideal as, in addition to not looking very pretty, they are difficult to clearly detect brass fatigue such as splits in the necks or eminent head separations in and can be the cause of feeding and extracting problems.  Logically then the most obvious solution is to clean the cases.  Short of sitting down for hours on end with a tin of Brasso and a buffing cloth a case tumbler is the only answer. 

Case tumblers are dinky pieces of equipment that use a mildly abrasive buffing media (usually crushed walnut shells) to polish away all the foreign material that builds up on cartridge cases.  The tumbler functions by way of vibrating the media and cases in such a way that both continually rub past each other with the end result being shiny brass.  Most of the major reloading component manufacturers make a case tumbler of one size or another but are quite costly and this is where my dilemma begins. 

You see….basically I am frugal with my money.  Some would say mean.  It comes from being raised in Dunedin with all that Scottish influence and having a father who witnessed the Great Depression (what was so great about it?) first hand.  As such I am always looking for alternate methods of acquiring necessary items other than parting with my hard earned cash. 


If I am too mean to buy a case tumbler the next best option is to build one. 

Enter Craig.  My good shooting friend Craig is a very practically inclined individual who earns his crust in the construction business.  It was he who first planted the seed with his mark one model tumbler the materials for which consisted of simply a 2 litre (1/2 gallon) ice cream tub, an electric motor extracted from an old fan heater and some lacing wire to suspend it all.  He attached the motor to the under side of the tub, fitted an offset bush to the motor shaft in order to unbalance the unit and create a vibration, filled the tub with walnut shells and cases, hung the assembly up and set it running.  In view of how incredibly filthy his .45 ACP brass was (he is famous for it) a mandatory over night soaking in gasoline was undertaken prior to treating in the tumbler.  The result, after many hours of tumbling merrily in his basement, was better than factory shiny brass the likes of which I have never seen in his possession.  Had I not seen it I would not have believed such and simple device was capable of such feats.  

Actually, the sole reason for building the tumbler was than the new barrel he was forced to purchase for his .45 auto which had a much tighter chamber that the old barrel.  The original factory barrel would not only feed extremely dirty cases but also feed a full stack of spent cases straight from the magazine!  Now THAT is a generous chamber.  Of course the new barrel being tighter in the internal dimensions was not having a bar of Craig’s grimy shells. 

With the success of Craig’s appliance I thought it would be almost rude not to build one of my own. 


Now, at risk of offending a good friend it is fair to say that Craig’s mark one tumbler was not the prettiest device ever created.  Actually it was quite agricultural in its construction though, in fairness, like many pieces of improvised Kiwi farm equipment (eg: the Taranaki gate) its simplicity did not detract from the flawless functioning.  The 2 major shortcomings that I could see with the mark one tumbler were lack of an air tight lid to prevent dust from escaping and the inability to sit the media/case receptacle flat on the floor/bench due to the motor being mounted on the underside permanently. 

I had a vision of a free standing arrangement with the vibrating mechanism attached in a way that it was still able to move uninhibited.  The plan would be to build a box large enough to act as a housing it which the operating components would sit.  There would need to be sufficient clearance between the walls and floor of the body of the appliance that the container holding the media and cases could vibrate without touching anything rigid that would dampen the motion.  

To determine the dimensions of the box first I had to establish the measurements of the bit that would do all the work would be.  I liked the idea of using an ice cream tub as they are freely available and disposable.  The tub would then need a base to sit on but not be attached permanently to so the two could be separated for convenience.  The base would bolt to the motor, which would be the source of the vibrations.  Allowing for the width of the pottle the base would have to be 8 inches square and with 2 inches either side for free movement the box would need an inside measurement of 1 foot square.

My other passion besides shooting is mountain biking and as any off road cyclist will testify there is never a shortage of ruined bicycle tubes knocking around in garages of respective owners with little or no practical use; or so you might think.  Flattened out bike tube measures about 1 2/3 inch wide.  I surmised that if 2 pieces of tubing were fastened across the top of the box housing spaced evenly and with a little slack in them they would make a great support for the base with motor attached to sit in supporting the tub holding the cases etc.  This would allow the motor unit to shake until the cows came home completely without any dampening. 


A washing machine water pump electric motor was acquired from a local appliance repair agent for the grand sum of $20.  These motors are around 75 watts and small enough not to be too bulky but powerful enough to get the job done.  In order to make the motor create a vibration a weight in the form of a 170 grain cast bullet was screwed to one of the blades on the fan that was attached to the shaft which would generate an unbalancing effect.  The motor was fitted to a 8 inches square base made from ¾ inch MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard) which in turn had a small edging fitted around the top to hold the pottle securely during operation.  All of this then sat on 2 pieces of bicycle tubing secured with a small amount of slack across the top of a box also made from MDF.  The tumbler was ready for testing. 




Initial tests were very favourable though I could not get my hands on any walnut shells to use as buffing media.  Another friend uses rice as a substitute for walnut so off down to the local supermarket I trundled and scanned along the bulk bins.  Rice was $2.90 per kilo but barley was only $1.80 so being my usual frugal self I purchased a kilogram of the barley.  Who’s mean?  Dumping the barley into the tumbler with a goodly dose of Brasso the appliance was set in action.  Two hours later I had the cleanest .32-20 brass ever seen.  SUCCESS.  Later I was given some walnut shell that has since replaced the barley. 

Unfortunately the success did not continue for as long as I would have liked.  The washing machine pump motor was not of the best quality and during constant operation became very hot at which time the thermal cutout would kick in and shut the project down.  Also, the position of the weight on the fan blade whilst creating a desirable vibration did nothing for the longevity of the motor.  The bushes began slogging out and the tumbler began sounding like a skeleton throwing a fit on a tin roof.  LOUD?  Phewf.  The solution was to replace the mark 1 motor with a better quality piece with ball bearings and be more selective about the placement of the weight. 

A suitable replacement was located which turned out to be 69 watts and though it was slightly less powerful it was a vastly superior in quality and did not get so hot or cut out.  I turned up a 7/8 inch long brass bush on the lathe from some 7/8 inch bar and mounted a long grub screw in it to act as a lock on the shaft and to hold the weight to unbalance the motor.  Tests with increasing weights were conducted until the desired performance was met.  The final combination was 2 flatten .50 calibre maxi bullets that I shoot in my muzzle loading rifle weighing 362 grains a piece.  These are mounted on the shaft only ½ inch below the motor housing and within 7/8 inch of the shaft axis laterally. The new motor is working perfectly and is enormously quieter than its predecessor.

 Something to consider when unbalancing an electric motor in this fashion is that they are not designed to operate like this.  Such motors are tuned by the manufacturer to run perfectly true.  By introducing an off centre weight the motor is put under stresses that it is not designed to handle so the placement of the weight is quite critical as I discovered on the first motor. 

Ideally a sufficiently large weight should be mounted on a short shaft and off centre only enough to achieve the desired result.  Similar vibrations will be able to be generated by placing a lighter weight on a longer shaft due to the leverage that the extra length of the shaft creates but this is a double edged sword as the additional leverage will also stress the motor bearings/bushes more and shorten its life. 


The project has been a great success and one that has cost next to nothing.  Admittedly the capacity of the machine is limited but I can live with that as I will be only cleaning small batches of .223 and .32-20 brass with the odd few .303 and 8×57.  On this subject Craig’s mark 2 tumbler consists of a 10 litre paint bucket with his trusty motor fastened to the bottom and works very well and has much better capacity though over heating appears still to be a challenge.

 Aside from the obvious saving over buying a commercial model I derived a huge amount of personal satisfaction from the project.  It’s a bit like shooting cast bullets.  Using something I made myself.  Still doesn’t make me any less mean though I guess.


Since completion of the tumbler a server fan from a defunct computer has been added to the MDF box.  The purpose of the fan is to blow additional air over the electric motor in operation so as to produce constant cooling.  This modification was at nil cost (surprise, surprise!) and appears to be successful.


Posted in General, Handloading | Leave a comment




Somewhere in the late 70s, I bought a Bicentennial edition Ruger New Model Blackhawk in .357 Magnum. My brother pestered me for a few years about it and I finally gave it to him. He passed away in November of 2014 and left it to me. I sent it off to a gunsmith and had the barrel shortened from 6 1/2 inches to 4 3/4 inches. I got it back today.

I’ll be using this as a “work” gun, out in the woods, fishin’, etc..


I decided to see if I could make some homemade snake shot loads for it, so I started tooling up this morning about 10 AM and I got the prototype done about 1 PM.

STEP 1- I fabricated a coring device to make wads. The hole in the side of the case is for pushing the wad out.


STEP 2- I cored wads from a 5 gallon bucket lid.


STEP 3- I made a special ram to seat the plastic wad over 5 grains of (yup, you guessed it!) Bullseye.


STEP 4- I charged the case with 80 grains of number 6 shot.


STEP 5- I cored a cover wad out of a shipping box, seated it and heavily crimped the case.


STEP 6- From 5 feet, I fired it at an unfolded small flat rate box. The pattern is about 5 inches in diameter. You can clearly see a donut pattern.


I used number 6 shot because it was handy. Somewhere around here, I’ve got a few number 8 shot shells. I’ll cut open a few of those and try that.

Same powder charge, remaining void filled with a mix of 7 1/2s and 8s. Three inch pattern at three feet. The big hole is from the plastic wad. I think this will work.




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IMG_0272[1]I like to brew up batches of lead alloy for my bullet casting sufficiently large that I can rely on a decent degree of consistency in my projectiles over a reasonable run of casting.  Ideally a batch would be 100-200lb at the time but like with so many other aspects of the hobby I am limited by the equipment available.  My basic smelting/batching set up is a former domestic cooking vessel able to hold a maximum of about 60lb of lead with a source of heat being supplied by an ancient kerosene camp stove formally owned by the late Robert Ernest Brown; my father.

Dad’s old kerosene (paraffin) stove is a Veritas Mk 1 and proudly stamped “Made in England” as was everything worthwhile in Dad’s day (though he did concede that some decent stuff came out of the US also).  I guess he would have bought it in the late 40’s or early 50’s as that appears the correct period for the brand and style and he told me about various bicycle tours he and his friends ventured forth on in his years of early manhood.  Such a stove would have been the primary source of cooking heat.  Father was and great proponent of kerosene for heating our old rustic holiday home, providing lighting in said abode and obviously for cooking out of doors.  To this day I can still smell the burning petroleum distillate as it flamed up at the top of the wicks of dad’s menagerie of appliances.  I have to remind my self that this was a time before propane canisters.

Back to the Veritas Mk 1; this weekend just gone I was smelting up a batch of 40-1 alloy that was to be cleaned and poured into ingots in order to later cast some projectiles for my .32-20, .310 Cadet and .30-30 WCF.  The old stove was not co-operating and suitable heat was intermittent; a particularly poor outcome for alloying lead.  The stove is a pressure feed model and relies on an initial warm up of the head unit by burning alcohol in a catchment immediately below the fuel feeding tubes.  Once the cooking head is hot the fuel reservoir is then pressurised by pumping a horizontal plunger at which time the fuel is forced through a tiny orifice or ‘jet’, mists/vapourizes then ignites with a bright, blue and exceedingly hot flame.  Here in lay my problem.  The business end of the plunger has a cup shaped leather piston and over time these leather devices wear out.  I can’t be sure but I suspect this was the original.  Without a good seal it was impossible to pressurise the fuel chamber.


About this time I was ready to pack it all in for the day when my friend arrived.  He immediately recognised the Veritas as a model that had been widely used by Kiwi’s at Scott Base, Antarctica until fairly recently but are now out of service.  He works for Antarctica NZ and surmised there might still be some of the maintenance kits left over so set off to find them.  Within an hour he was back and presented me with a complete and unopened service kit for Dad’s old stove!  Not only does the kit have all the replacement washers, seals, jets and leather piston device, it also has the specific tools with which to remove the parts.  I was absolutely thrilled and figured father would be suitable proud and pleased that his long suffering stove would live on.  What a remarkable coincidence of timing.


Of course the stove was never designed for smelting lead and it not built to withstand the sort of weight that I can subject it to.  Twice I have had to reattach legs using my propane torch (spot the irony here) and a dab of father’s solder (that’s another story).  These days when using the burner I have three cinder blocks that are placed into a ‘C’ shape.  The blocks help shield the stove from any errant breezes but most importantly provide support to the cooking ring.  The ring is slightly wider than the base of the Veritas and the same height as the blocks so the edges of the ring settle on the tops of the blocks and ease the plight of the feet of the stove.  El Perfecto!

It’s a real pleasure and delight to be able to continue to use dad’s old Veritas.  It might be limited in capacity but it’s a piece of family history I am thrilled to have on hand and still operational.

Keep your powder dry.


Posted in Casting, Casting equipment other | 2 Comments


Recently, I purchased a Cricket rifle chambered to accept 22 short, long & long rifle ammunition. The model I chose is the baseline offering with a 16 inch barrel, blued steel and black synthetic stock.


I bought one of these rifles back in 2011 to hunt coons with and had great success with it. Rather than keep it and buy something else, I traded it off for another rifle. After missing the enjoyment I got from shooting it, I decided it was time to have another one.

I had put a scope on the first one and discovered these are very accurate little rifles. I set up a target at 50 feet, put the rifle on a Caldwell Lead Sled and set about to see just what it was capable of. I was amazed at the results.


My hunting friends laughed at me, good naturedly albeit, when I pulled that little ‘kids’ rifle’ out of the case. The first time I pulled the trigger on it while hunting, I put a coon on the ground with a head shot dead center between the eyes. They all said “Man, that little thing shoots good, don’t it?” The defense rests.

I may put a scope on this new one, but for the time being, I’m going to work with the issue rear peep and old style military front sight.

The rear peep sight is a rather simple, being fabricated from stamped parts. Keep in mind, these rifles are primarily marketed as a young shooter’s first rifle.


 The front sight is simple, also. I put a dab of white fingernail polish on it help these old eyes find it.


I have a degree in Redneck Engineering. Using a discarded one inch diameter pincer type rimfire scope ring, I fashioned a bracket that would hold a 250 lumen pocket light on the barrel of the rifle.


This bright little light will illuminate a coon really well, negating the need for someone else to light it up for me. If I set the axis of the light at about two o’clock, the peripheral light illuminates the front sight as well as the target. The body of the light is out of the way of the sights, enabling me to get a good sight picture.

I had forgotten just how little these rifles weigh. I put mine on a digital scale and with the sling, it came in right at three pounds. At half the weight of the average 22 rifle, I can carry this for hours without even being aware it’s there.

The dealer I bought my rifle from told me quite a few men had ordered these rifles, saying the sole purpose was for coon hunting. Aside from having a rather short length of pull for an adult, they’re light, accurate and simple. As far as I’m concerned, that translates to the perfect coon huntin’ rifle.

I’m guessing the manufacturer has some sort of jig or alignment device to set the sights on these rifles. I found mine to be fairly well dialed in right out of the box. 

I have a four-inch diameter steel gong hung on a rope between two trees behind the house. The gong is a laser measured 22 yards from the deck rail. I decided to see if I could hit it with this new rifle and peep sights. Using CCI Standard Velocity ammunition and braced on the deck rail, I hit the gong ten out of ten shots. 

22 yards is no great feat for a 22 rifle. Keep in mind, though, most coon hunting shots are at less than 25 yards. Also bear in mind, I’m 62 years old and wear prescription bifocals. Add to that I was kneeling and bracing on a deck rail, not sitting at a bench with a scoped rifle on a shooting rest. I figure if I can hit a four-inch diameter target consistently under those conditions, I can kill a coon with it. 

I intend to take it with me on the next hunt. We’ll see what happens.


Posted in Rifles | Leave a comment