Richard Jernigan -> RE: Hand techniques from brass work (May 4 2019 5:54:15)
Mach 1 is 1116.44 ft/sec.... do bullets break the sound barrier or not quite?
The fastest round I ever fired was the .220 Swift, at better than 4,300 ft/sec. During my first year at university I made a good friend. He had a Model 70 Winchester rifle chambered for the Swift. The rifle was fitted with a relatively high powered telescopic sight. My friend lived on what was then a tract of about 4,500 acres (1900 hectares) of live oak forest southwest of Austin, which belonged to his widowed mother. It is now the town of Sunset Valley.
The .220 Swift was developed by Winchester in the 1930s. One objective of the project was to produce the first commercially manufactured cartridge with a nominal velocity above 4,000 ft/sec. The round was somewhat impractical for a couple of reasons.
One was that the heavy powder load and high velocity bullet eroded the throat of the rifle's chamber fairly rapidly. After several hundred rounds you needed to find a good gunsmith and have the barrel removed. The barrel would be shortened from the breech end by cutting a new shoulder, lengthening the screw threads that attached the barrel to the receiver, facing off the breech end, and recutting the chamber for the cartridge. The barrel had to rotate precisely one more revolution to realign the front sight. The breech end had to be annealed to soften it for the machine work, then re-tempered to the required hardness. After the heat treatments the breech end of the barrel had to be re-blued to match the rest, and the rest of the rifle. It was an extensive, demanding and expensive job. But you got to shoot the world's fastest bullet some more.
Another impracticality was that the very high velocity bullet was easily diverted or even shattered by hitting a small twig or leaf. The .220 Swift was utterly useless in the woods. Maybe you could use it hunting pronghorns on the open plains, but it was no good for anything bigger.
All the same, it was highly accurate and fun (though expensive) to shoot on the 300 yard (300m) range my friend had at his house.
What we shot mostly was .22 long rifle, strolling through the woods and picking off squirrels in the trees. They prospered on the acorns, and were fat in the fall. My friend's mother was a fantastic cook, having been sent to New Orleans as a teenager to live with her aunt to learn to be a lady, and to cook and manage a kitchen for the classic cuisine. She made a delicious stew of squirrel and dumplings, provided we gutted and skinned our quarry.
Having drunk a little too much Scotch whisky to drive home one envening, I spent the night at my friend's house. I awoke to a fusillade of gunfire. He and I made our way to the front of the house. His mother was standing at the front door in her nightgown, her .22 caliber Colt Woodsman pistol in hand.
She said, "You boys may want to put on your shoes before you go out to pick up those rabbits." There were six of them, each dispatched by a single shot.
The tale reminds me of another. My friend's cousin Jakie was a great-grandson of the owner of the biggest firearms store in Austin during the period of the Old West. The store was still in business in the mid-1950s. Once in a while Jakie would go squirrel hunting with us. The first time he went with us i noticed that he carried a combination rifle and shotgun, one barrel above the other, chambered in .22 caliber and .410 gauge. It could carry only a single round in each chamber. The gun was perfectly "white"--all the blued finish had long ago worn off. The stock was nearly bare wood. The front sight was missing.
We set off down a trail into the woods, scanning the trees for squirrels, Jakie behind my friend and me. After shooting a few squirrels my friend picked up a small rock, maybe an inch and a half (3.8 cm) in diameter. He tossed the rock into the air, and called out, "Hey Jakie." Jakie shifted his scan from the trees, spotted the rock, lifted his gun, and without pausing to take a sight, shot it with the .22 rifle bore. He reduced the rock to powder.
The performance was repeated two or three times during the afternoon.
Back at the house, over a cold beer I said, "Jakie, you must have shot that old over-and-under quite a few times."
"For a few years after I turned twelve I shot a box a day."
"Fifty rounds a day is some practice, but not a whole lot," I observed.
"A big box," Jakie replied.
A "big box" contains 10 "little boxes." Jakie shot 500 rounds per day for several years. After that he didn't need sights.
Many years later my brother would occasionally shoot squirrels in the pecan orchard on his country place. His wife, daughters and grand-daughters would complain. He had to make his own stew. Sometimes I would join in the shooting and cooking. Those pecan fed squirrels were tasty.
I was taught to shoot a rifle by an uncle and his eldest son, who was several years older than I. They started me off with a BB gun when I was eight years old. With a little practice, on a bright sunny day you can see the flight of a copper plated BB. I was taught to learn the shape of the trajectory, and to "reach out and touch" the target with the thin copper streak.
I don't think anyone can see a bullet launched from a high powered rifle, but you can learn to gauge distance and to adjust your point of aim for gravity and wind.
The skill stood me in good stead when I made it onto the 4th Infantry Division rifle team, which at times excused me from more boring duties. The coach was a grizzled old sergeant who had been reduced from higher rank more than once for a variety of misconduct, but he was a crack shot, a good shooting coach, and a congenial companion.
He advocated the use of "steadying fluid," a shot or two of bourbon whiskey, which he said reduced the inevitable slight tremor any precision shooter must learn to manage. You accept the fact that your sight will wander a little and learn to squeeze the trigger steadily while heading toward the target, and to retain the pressure but squeeze no harder as you wander away. I had been taught never to drink before shooting, so I did OK without the whiskey.