Friday, May 06, 2011

The Revenge of the Bench-Resters

So I was rummaging through one of the ammo closets in my gun room last night (I have two such closets--one for pistol ammo and one for rifle ammo) and I happened to find a couple of boxed of Prvi Partisan 6.5x52mm ammunition. Carcano food! I really did not even know that was in there, but there it was, shoehorned in next to the 7.5 French rounds. I really need to inventory those closets one of these days.

So with that stuff in hand, I grabbed up the new Carcano and a couple of pistols and headed back out to the range.

I got out there and joy, oh joy, I had the place to myself! So I set my targets and spotting scope up, got the Carcano out, and loaded some of the ammo into those neat six-round clips that the rifle needs in order to function. And it does need them, as I found out. I tried to single-load a round by pushing it into the chamber and closing the bolt only to find that the extractor will not ride over the base of a cartridge that is already in the chamber. The bolt has to pick the cartridge up as it comes up off the follower, and the only way that the round will stay in position for that is if it's in one of those clips. This is not exactly an engineering point in the rifle's favor as it means that soldiers in the field were dependent on these flimsy clips to be able to load and fire even one round.

But the bolt operated so smoothly that you'd think that it was on rollers. It's not on rollers--it's just well-worn, smoothed out by what was probably considerable military use in one if not two world wars and whatever else it did in it's 113 years of existence. Likewise, the trigger is light and smooth and breaks with no indication at all that it's about to fire. I'm used to a two-stage trigger where you feel a bit of resistance or back-pressure before the rifle actually fires, but this rifle, like a couple of other that I have, is completely smooth. It actually makes for a good "surprise break" and once I got used to it, I started to really enjoy it. That 6.5 cartridge is very mild to shoot compared to the 8mm, .303 and .30-06 that I'm used to. And while I wouldn't exactly call the pattern downrange a "group", it was at least fairly consistent in where it put the rounds and after a bit of experimentation I was at least able to keep most of the shots on the paper plates that I use as targets.

The rifle's biggest problem at this range is it's sights. It has the old-style "humpback" sight and the gradations go from 600 meters to 2000 meters.Yes, the sight starts at 600 meters. Optimistic in 1897, weren't they? And with the sight parked in the 600M position, it was hitting a bit over a foot high at 100 yards.

So I flipped the sight to the "battle sight" position, which should have been sufficient for 100M-400M body hits, and to my surprise, it actually worked quite well on the 100-yard plates with a six o'clock hold. Brilliant!Here's the battle sight. The rear blade flips up and all the way over into a notch in the front handguard, and the shooter is left with this fixed rear blade that was beneath it.

So with that figured out, I settled in and began firing aimed shot at the plates, one shot every ten seconds or so, with a check of the spotting scope in between each shot. And I was killing those plates--this rifle is no match rifle and I don't see myself keeping it loaded by the bed to deter late-night home invaders, but it was well worth $40.00.

And then, after I finished and went down to retrieve my targets, upon my return I saw the range care-taker come strolling up.

"Hi", I say.

"I got a complaint that you're shooting too fast down here," he said.


"Yes, seriously," he says. "And you know that you shoot fast. I've talked to you about it before."

"Yes you have," I admitted. "And it's always been for sustained, well-aimed fire, with every round on target. You know that I'm not out here bump-firing like an asshole or putting rounds over the berms."

"I know," he replied. "But a couple of other members complained and I have to come talk to you when they do."

"Dude, I'm shooting a bolt-action Carcano."

"A what?"

"Car-CAY-no. Italian World War One rifle. Bolt-action, holds six rounds. It's not exactly a machine gun. And I'm checking the target with my scope after every shot, so it's not like I'm making with the rat-a-tat-tat here."

He looked over my rifle, and even used my scope to check my target at my invitation. I wanted him to see and count the holes and know that I was putting a bit of care into actually aiming the rifle. Satisfied, he decided that nothing warranted any official club complaint. But when I asked him who complained, he wouldn't tell me. Not that he had to, because by then I'd seen the trucks parked behind the bench-rest clubhouse. They must have come in while I was downrange or otherwise occupied and they apparently decided to lodge a complaint because some non-bench-rester was daring to shoot on "their" firing line. And then they wonder why the rest of us shooter hate them.

Well I was done on the rifle line anyway, so I packed the rifle back up and headed over to the pistol line. The purpose today was to burn up some of the remaining test rounds from my new 9mm load I'd worked up, and also to try out my Browning Hi-Power now that I've got it's new ambidextrous safety installed. The safety, made by Cylinder and Slide, allows lefties like me to use the thumb safety, a must for condition-one carry.

And yeah, about that...I found out now why Cylinder and Slide charges so much to install this piece on your pistol. It's because there was a lot of fitting required, and all of it involved removing metal from their parts and substituting a roll pin that actually fit for the one that they included. That stuff was WAY out of spec, and it took me and a competent smith quite a while to actually get it to fit together. (Thanks, Mike!)

But it works, and it works well. So I shot this pistol and my Beretta 92, just because I'd been using the 92 as a test platform for the new round and had a couple of loaded magazines for it ready to go.

You know, I'm really starting to enjoy shooting this Beretta. It actually is a nice shooter, and if I can get over my tendency to thumb the decocker down, mistaking it for a thumb safety, I could really get to like it as something more than a wall-hanger. This one is an ex-New Orleans Police Department pistol, and it's marked as such. It's noteworthy as an example of blatant hypocrisy for the time that the City of New Orleans under then-Mayor Marc Morial filed the first lawsuit against gun manufacturers--including Beretta--claiming that the manufacturers had irresponsibly flooded the city with guns that criminals were using to shoot themselves and other people with. It did not take long for one of the defendant gun companies to produce a Beretta much like my own and point out that the City of New Orleans had a long history of selling both seized firearms and surplus city-owned firearms to the same wholesale distributors that the companies being sued sold their products to.

Pot, meet Kettle. And quit calling him black.

Anyway, I've never been a fan of the Beretta, but the more I shoot this one, the more it grows on me. And this ex-Commonwealth military Hi-Power has been a favorite of mine since the day that I got it. Until now, the only thing keeping me from carrying it has been the lack of an ambi-safety like my 1911s all have. But now it has one. Woot! And here the two of them are together. The Hi-Power (top) and NOPD Beretta 92 (bottom).I've never really been a 9mm fan, despite the fact that it's been the cartridge of choice for police and military use in Europe for over a hundred years now. My figuring is that 9mm is ok for shooting Europeans, but if you want to put an American bad guy in the dirt, you need a .45.

Still, they just keep making so many wonderful pistols in 9mm. Darn it!

But now I'm home with Murphy, and we're going to sit out on the deck and clean these firearms just as soon as I get all the yogurt out of his fur.

Yeah, I accidentally dropped a container of yogurt on him when he was pestering me in the kitchen. Serves him right, but now I'm the one stuck cleaning him up.

Wait a's starting to rain. Maybe I can just put him out in the rain for a while. That ought to do it!


  1. My puppy would have already cleaned the yougurt up himself, or at least twisted himself in a knot trying!

  2. "My figuring is that 9mm is ok for shooting Europeans, but if you want to put an American bad guy in the dirt, you need a .45."

    Best line ever!! :-)

  3. Wow, the benchresters at your club sound like d-bags. Can't believe the range officer didn't know what a Carcano was, or at least heard of one courtesy of LHO.

    Speaking of which, I got to handle the 91/38 used in Oliver Stone's JFK about 15 years ago. A guy was having a garage sale and had a ton of Kennedy assassination books for sale. I offhandedly remarked that it appeared someone was a conspiracy theorist.

    The guy explained that he'd been a consultant on the movie, then asked if I'd like to see the rifle they used.

    Well, sure.

    My initial impression was that, like you say of your /38, the bolt was kinda loose and sloppy, and I was skeptical that LHO could've placed three shots in quick succession. Later, I became comfortable with the analogy of my manual transmission college era Datsun, or later F-100 pickup, that other drivers found difficult to shift. But to a trained/practiced driver (me) who knew the quirks), it was no problem.

  4. Anonymous10:54 AM

    The Club actually has no rule against rapid fire, only full auto. We need to go out together sometime

  5. They may not have a posted rule, but they enforce it nonetheless. Believe me.

    But give me a shout. I'm game to go out most any time.