Eternal September

September marks the start of spring in South Africa. While we sometimes have rain, this year September 1st was an absolutely gorgeous day.

Also, in the other hemisphere, students go to school after summer holidays. Back in the late eighties and early nineties, new students getting access to the university computer networks caused all kinds of chaos on usenet (what we had instead of the world wide web back then) until they acquired some clue.

This changed in September 1993, when AOL came online and flooded the network with clueless lusers. Some nerd types adopted a new calendar — today being┬áSeptember 7672, 1993.

On September 1st 2014, the lusers got to Tam.

The ‘net is just a little bit poorer today.


History lesson

21 Years ago, one man with a gun made a difference.

Having a gun, even an inexpensive ineffective low-capacity 38 Special snubnosed revolver, is better than not having a gun at all.

Be vewy quiet…

If you wear camo and sit very quietly in the shade of a bush you can get to see interesting things.

See it? Lemme zoom in a bit for you.

I sat watching this fellow as he was making a beeline pretty much straight for me.

This is a split second after he saw me (the camo in the foreground is me). Changed his mind pretty quickly and made for the hills.

And the evening I had to eat a gemmerkoekie* as punishment for not shooting the blighter. Because there are two problem animals that get shot on sight on farms, jackal** and caracal***.

Why didn’t I shoot? The gemsbok were just behind that ridge ahead of me, and I was seriously considering changing my priority from kudu to gemsbok. That ended up not happening and I walked-and-surprised**** a nice young kudu bull the next day. So all turned out well.

* “gemmerkoekie” = ginger biscuit. But laced with Stroh rum. I like Stroh rum. This is a game I play to lose.

** Black-backed jackal, known as “rooijakkals” or red jackal in Afrikaans. The little bat-eared foxes and silver foxes are also “jakkals” in Afrikaans but you don’t shoot those.

*** I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shoot a caracal. And of course the african wild cat is rightly so a no-shoot.

**** You don’t walk-and-stalk a kudu. You walk-and-surprise it. It will see you before you see it, if you’re moving, and it won’t stay around for too long. And once they’re gone, they are gone. Over the mountain, down the other side, over the next mountain, and still going strong, while you’re still trying to find your second wind.


I absolutely have to repost three videos my buddy Weer’d found while I was away playing hide and seek.

“So, in summary, firearms have (at worst) an immeasurably small causal effect on violence, violence is a systemic problem in certain communities, and focusing on singular horrible events because of media buzz is a nasty, racist attempt to deflect attention from the real causes, because those causes are embarrassing, and because certain useless symbolic actions look good.

“The idea that the police are not civilians is a deeply pernicious, dangerous one, and it is demonstrably false.

“The truth is a set of not-too-exciting little details, not a cute soundbite.

“Now of course, and I want to emphasize this, cops’ lives and jobs can be dangerous, and I want them to be able to defend themselves vigorously and successfully when that need arises. But when we define them by that armed conflict role, when that becomes their most salient characteristic, well, no good comes of it.

This third video doesn’t pack nearly the punch of the other two, but it does explain the firearm licencing process in South Africa quite accurately and quite well.




This is what I get up to when the wife is on holiday.

* Grass Widower — in the sense that Tanya and the kids are away for the week, I’m left with the cats and a fridge full of beer. I have no complaints.


A stealthie is a selfie…

… taken while wearing camo. So sayeth Tamsyn.

Note to self. If your pants are too short, and you don’t put suntan lotion on your shins, you will regret it later.

Father and Child Hunt, Richmond, April 2014.

As always, it was fun.



300 WinMag

And so it came to pass that I found myself badly in need* of a flat rifle. Not one that’s been under a truck, mind, but one with a flat trajectory, for use at distances further than the 100m or so that my collection of leverguns are capable of.

So I asked around, and found a new barreled action in 300 WinMag. Perfect. Got an endorsement letter (as a dedicated hunter) from Kaapjag, applied for the licence, waited about four months, got the licence and the gun.

Reading up on the Howa, I came across this page which explains how to adjust the trigger. But the first step is, take the whole thing apart and clean it up. Get the gunk out, and also lightly sand the relevant surfaces to smooth things out.

[When I find the pictures I took I’ll post them here. I suspect they’re on a memstick that crashed. Suffice to say, the inside of the trigger assembly was dirty!]

Johan van Niekerk out in Plattekloof makes awesome stocks. Unfortunately he didn’t have a template for the long Howa action, only for the short one. So I had to wait while he ordered a stock from the ‘states to use as a template. Took from February until June, but I am way happy with the result.

He epoxy bedded the action, put in two aliminium pillars where the action screws go through the stock, and added two crossbolts (you can see the holes, roughly in line with the scope rings).

The scope is a 3-9 Redfield Revolution with the Accu-Range BDC reticle.

Load development

A factory round is made to a specification — typically that set by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI). When handloading, you have a bit more leeway — your hard limits are not the paper specification, but the actual rifle in your hands.

1. Pick a bullet. Every time you change the bullet, you have to revisit all the points below. In my case, I picked the Sierra 180 grain Game King. While the Match King might be more accurate, I’m developing a hunting load here, and in general match bullets are totally unsuited to hunting.

2. Cartridge Overall Length (COL). The cartridge has to fit in the chamber of the gun. The bullet can’t protrude to where the lands of the rifling starts, because it takes the pressure of the exploding powder to force the bullet into those lands and grooves, engraving the lands on the bullet which then impart spin on it.

In general, it’s good to seat the bullet about 10 thou (0.001″ 0.010″ or a quarter of a millimeter) away from where it would contact the lands, so that it has a short “jump” before it hits the rifling. Varying this distance can also improve accuracy.

There’s also a second hard limit that’s sometimes overlooked, and that is that you preferably want your ammo to fit in your magazine. Sometimes, this is not a problem, and there’s plenty space in the magazine, other times, not so much.

So, step the first. Load a bullet in an empty case, just deep enough to hold it in place. See whether this combination fits in your chamber. If not, seat the bullet a little deeper until you can close the bolt. Measure the COL, either to the tip of the bullet or (better) using something like a Stoney Point bullet comparator.

This is the maximum length cartridge that will fit my chamber — about 3.540″. The caliper shows the SAAMI spec 300 WinMag COL of 3.340″. The Howa has a very long throat, obviously.

So far so good, but does this monstrosity fit in the magazine? Not a chance.

Step the second. Continue seating the bullet until it fits in your magazine.

There we go. That fits my magazine.

Notice the other nice thing? All other things being equal (hint: they never are) you want the whole neck of the case to be in contact with the bullet, which means that it should be aligned with the parallel sides of the bullet, which start just after the boat tail and at some stage stop being parallel by turning into the bullet ogive. The pic above shows the IMO optimal seating depth relative to the case neck for a boat tail bullet. Further in and you’re encroaching on your powder space, also at some stage the front end of the case neck stops contacting the bullet (not really an issue with a short neck like this, more of an issue with something like the 30-30). Further out and not all of the case neck is gripping the bullet.

3. Pick a load. The general rule of thumb is, get as many data points as possible, then start low and work up. The Somchem manual lists 60.8 to 67.5 grains S365, 67.5 to 75 grains S361 and 68.5 to 73.5 grains S385 for a 180 grain bullet. I started at 66.6 grains S365 and worked up to 69 grains. The first (3 shot) group was just under an inch at 100m, but a bit slow at 2880 fps. More powder didn’t really give better groups, until the groups started opening up at 68 grains and 2980 fps.

So I switched to S385. 74 grains (which is over the Somchem max, I know) gave 3040 fps and this:

Yes, I know. It’s a fluke. But it’s a pretty fluke.

* People would argue, but I’m calling it a need, so there.

Even more competenter

Yes, I did another bunch of competency exams. This time, the four “Handle and Use a [Handgun | Shotgun | Manual Rifle | Self Loading Rifle] for Business Purposes”.

I had to study — everything I know is not quite the same as the answers in the book, and of course the answers in the book are always right — for example, the four rules of gun safety, in order of importance, are:

1. Always keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction;

2. Keep your booger hook off of the bang switch;

3. Always treat guns as if they’re loaded; and

4. Know your target and what’s behind it.

Now, I learned those in a slightly different order, but it’s simple enough to remember what order the examiner considers correct.

Also, I only ever learned four colour codes, but the course adds black. And not the USMC one, no, black is apparently when people are trying to kill you. Sho sho, I’ll try to remember that next time someone tries to kill me…

Anywayz, the general setup is still the same. Get the book, read through it, do the open book exam at the back. Pitch at the venue, write a closed book exam on the easiest three quarters of the open book exam. Identical questions, (presumably) identical answers, and they leave out the tricky bits like identifying the parts of the firearms by name (except they did ask what you call the lever used to open a double barrel shotty (the “break neck lever”. I suspect I might have misremembered that. And I had to look it up for this post)). Also, “what’s the difference between a boxer primed case and a berdan primed case?” “You can reload the boxer” is not the right answer. The right answer mentions number of flash holes and stuff about the anvil — all stuff I know, but who cares, “berdan cases stuff up your decapping pin” is important.

Then I had to prove that I can shoot. 10 shots with a CZ75 at about 7m, all shots must be on an A5 page. 10 shots with a scoped 22 rimfire boltgun at 7m, all shots must be on an A5 page. 10 shots with an LM5 (semi-auto 223, peep sights) at 7m, all shots must be on an A4 page. And three shots with a shotty, all shots must hit the berm. Didn’t have too much of a hassle with that…

Now I need to make an appointment at the cop shop to apply for a competency to deal in firearms (actually, I just want to store some ammunition for a friend, but this is what’s required).

Busy, but not in a good way.

Some internationally known damn fool goes and shoots his slightly less but still internationally known extremely photogenic girlfriend on Valentine’s Day and the email starts ringing off the hook.

So far I’ve been quoted in the Metro newspaper, Time Magazine and Global Post.

Edit: And CNN (2012-02-25)

In the mean time, the campaigns for victim disarmament are claiming that only the police should have guns (really? Are you kidding?) and that “Very few people successfully use firearms to defend themselves” (really?).

For once I am in perfect agreement with Pierre de Vos:

Meanwhile another women is dead today. Because Oscar Pistorius is famous, I fear that many of us (including many in the media) will forget this. Oscar is not dead. Reeva Steenkamp is. We should not forget that. Neither should we forget that many women are abused or killed by their partners every day.