OLD MISSOURI HILLBILLY SITE
|Began August 27 and completed September 1, 2014
I begin this newsletter on a sad note. On June 29th my Mother passed away back in Missouri. She was 91 years old, with significant health problems in recent years, so it was not entirely unexpected. Rick, Ann, and I flew back on July 2nd for services on the 3rd. She was laid to rest alongside Dad who died in 1974 at the age of 52.
We were able to spend July 4th with Ann's Mother, who is in a nearby care facility, before returning home on the 5th. Ann's Mom is 102 years old with 103 on the horizon in April. With loved ones the ages of our mothers, we understand the phone call could come at any time, but still dread receiving it.
In the May/June newsletter I discussed the acquisition of the Browning X Bolt and Cooper Model 52 rifles and presented photos and dialog comparing the appearance and features of the two rifles, along with the promise of further articles to follow. I've either been too lazy or too busy and have delayed too long, but the time has finally arrived to attempt to carry on.
The major premise behind this whole project (other than the fact that I just wanted the rifles of course) was to present a scenario where a person who could afford either rifle, who is not a reloader, and who just wants an effective hunting tool, would find enough differences in these guns to justify owning one over the other. This imaginary person will have a scope mounted and boresighted, sight in the rifle, and use off the shelf factory ammo.
To continue the process of making this determination, we will now venture into how the guns operate, and in yet a third article to follow later, how they shoot head to head, accuracy wise.
While I had good intentions of seamlessly presenting part two of the Cooper vs Browning tests, I immediately ran into a snag. I still hadn't fired either rifle, nor have I mounted scopes, so this session was to compare trigger pulls as set from the factories, and test feed and function of cartridges from the magazines, into the chambers, and through the extraction and ejection process.
Feed and function tests, to be perfectly safe inside the house requires some dummy cartridges. Dummy ammo can be purchased from major gun stores, but it is both easier and cheaper for a reloader, to simply resize some fired cases and seat bullets without powder or primer.
Keeping in mind that I haven't reloaded anything for the .280 Remington caliber for several years, I had to do some scrounging to get everything together for this simple project. Finally, I came up with a total of 13 Remington brand empties from a couple of partially fired boxes of reloads dated 1982. The cases were a bit tarnished, so a couple of hours in the vibratory cleaner with corncob media made sure they were clean so as not to scratch the sizing die or rifle chambers. (The cases were de-primed with a universal de-capping die before going into the cleaner)
Next the .280 reloading dies were dug out of their hiding place and the press set up. Wanting these dummy rounds to be as close to factory specs as possible, they were all full length re-sized with the die set to slightly 'bump' the press ram in its fully raised position.
After re-sizing, the cases were wiped clean of sizing lube, and some 160 grain Sierra bullets seated. The overall length of the rounds was set to factory specs as stated in my latest Sierra reloading manual and the SAAMI website's maximum of 3.330 inches.
Today I pulled the Cooper and Browning out of the safe and settled in to load magazines and cycle bolts to compare feeding and extraction. The magazine loading part went as expected, but neither rifle would chamber my dummy ammo!
Dang! What have I done wrong?
Well, maybe nothing, but let's do some further testing. For some unknown reason, I still have about half a box of Remington brand .280 factory loads. Wonder if they will chamber in the Browning and Cooper? This required a trip outside, where the live ammo could be safely tried in both rifles with the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Both rifles chambered the factory rounds! More investigation necessary! (This will become important later, but these factory rounds were loaded one at a time without being cycled through the magazines)
A bit of further digging through drawers, unearthed the Stoney Point headspace gauges. (Hornady purchased Stoney Point a few years ago, and those products are now marketed under the Hornady brand.) After setting up the dial caliper with the appropriate headspace insert, it became clear that my dummy ammo was some five to ten thousandths of an inch longer from the base to the headspace datum line on the case shoulder as compared to the factory rounds. (For more about the use of Stoney Point measuring tools visit my May 2004 newsletter back on the original oldmissourihillbilly.com site)
This is the headspace measurement of one of the old factory loads.
Here is the headspace measurement of one of the initial resizing efforts. Note that this is some 8 thousandths longer that the factory load.
I need to make clear that the headspace measurements shown on the dial caliper, are NOT a substitute for actual headspace gauges used to set dimensions from bolt face to case shoulder when building or re-barreling a rifle! Real headspace go, no-go gauges are made to much finer tolerances than can be obtained with a dial caliper! Although the numbers will be close, these gauges on the caliper should only be used for comparison purposes and as a means of setting the shoulder for minimal case stretching for your reloads.
I will also note here that the fired cases I scrounged up were fired in my old Remington Model 760 Pump Action rifle of 1963 vintage. Just for another comparison, I tried my dummy rounds in that rifle. They fed, chambered, extracted, and ejected perfectly! I guess that tells me that the old Remington's chamber dimensions are somewhat more generous than either the Browning or Cooper.
So, I'm now going to interrupt these proceedings to pull the bullets from my dummy ammo and figure out what went wrong.
After pulling the bullets from my dummy cases, I reset the sizing die to 'bump' harder and require a bit more pressure at the top of the ram stroke. This is commonly part of the instructions for setting a sizing die to "take the slack out of the press and die threads," however minuscule that might be. (The term 'bump' as used here describes the slight over center movement with which the typical reloading press finishes the ram upstroke)
Running the cases through the die at this setting resulted in moving the case shoulders back about .005 to .007 of an inch, which is very close to the old factory cartridges.
Headspace measurement after resetting the sizing die.
At this stage I decided to add another variable, which might answer the question of whether cases fired in the old Remington Pump were stretched so much in its generous chamber that they simply would not resize to original factory dimensions.
This required sacrificing a half dozen new, unfired nickel plated cases carrying the Winchester brand. These cases had been run through the sizing die, trimmed to factory specs, chamfered and de-burred to await some project that has long been forgotten.
This is one of the new unfired cases. Headspace measures nearly identical to the second resizing of the fired cases.
Again, seating the Sierra bullets to factory overall length specs resulted in a half dozen each of the fired and unfired dummy rounds.
Here are my completed dummy rounds.
Now back to the testing.
The protocol was simply loading magazines to their capacity and cycling the bolts to chamber, extract, and eject the cartridges. This process was repeated approximately a dozen times with each rifle, alternating after each two or three cycles. The first couple of trials were conducted with a cartridge chambered over a full magazine, and the rest with the full magazine inserted with the bolt closed on an empty chamber; this being one of the safest ways to carry a firearm when moving about while hunting.
The Browning magazine is a rotary type with the follower rotating under spring tension as the cartridges are inserted. Material is some sort of polymer plastic. Feeding is from the center of the magazine directly in line with the feed ramp and chamber. Capacity is four rounds. The magazine was straightforward in loading by pressing the case head against the follower or previous cartridge, in front of the retention lips and sliding it back to the end of the magazine.
The Cooper magazines (I ordered an extra with the rifle) are straight stack in design with cartridges directly atop one another, supported and raised by a spring loaded follower. They are of all metal construction and have a capacity of three rounds. Again, feeding is from the center, directly in line with the feed ramp and chamber. Loading is accomplished by pressing the case head down and sliding back under the retention lips.
It should be noted that neither the Cooper nor Browning magazines can be loaded from the top through the action opening, and must be removed from the firearm for cartridges to be inserted.
The Browning tests were without fanfare. Several trials of cycling through a full magazine with both types of dummy ammo resulted in no failures to feed, extract, or eject the rounds. Ejection was brisk and positive with all rounds being thrown clear of the action via the spring loaded plunger ejector.
Now to the Cooper. In as few words as possible, both magazines jammed with the second cartridge in the magazine each and every time when cycling the plain brass dummy ammo! With the nickel plated cartridges, one magazine would feed correctly some of the time, and the other would jam that second cartridge without fail!
Typical jam with the unfired nickel plated cases.
And the same look with the fired and resized cases.
Here's what I think is happening. The magazine followers feel as though they have spring pressure concentrated on the rear portion of the follower with the front being under much less tension. Thus, when the top cartridge begins moving forward, the friction pushes the front of cartridge number two forward and down, with the bullet lodging in the indent of the front magazine latch. Slight pressure on the rear of the jammed cartridge would pop it loose and raise it to horizontal where it would then chamber.
Notch for front magazine latch.
If I only put two cartridges in the magazine, they usually fed into the chamber as they should, but ain't this supposed to be a three round magazine?
Now let's discuss problem number two! In the dozens of times I extracted dummy cartridges from the chamber, the ejector threw them clear of the action on exactly zero occasions! That's right, unless the rifle was canted significantly to the left, the dummy round was simply plopped down onto the top of the magazine. I guess we would call this a 'gravity' ejection system?
While this is clearly not acceptable, even with a cartridge containing a bullet, I did wonder whether an empty cartridge with no bullet would be thrown clear. Cycling a few of the empties answered that question. Only one was thrown clear of the action without tipping them out by turning the rifle.
It's obvious that the Cooper has some flaws, and I will soon be in contact with the customer service folks to see about getting them corrected. But before I do that, I'll make a trip to the nearby Cabela's for a box of new factory ammo and actually fire a couple of magazines full through both the Browning and Cooper.
I intended to do no firing until scopes were mounted and sighted in, so we could do some serious accuracy work from the get go. However, I'm anxious to see if actually feeding and firing some newly manufactured factory ammo will make any difference in functioning as compared to my dummy ammo or the empty cases I've been using in testing.
Well, yesterday I did make the trip to Cabela's, and now have a brand new box of Remington Core-Lokt ammo with 140 grain bullets.
New Remington cartridges.
Since I have the rifles ready to go to the range, I decided that this would be a good time to test the trigger pulls on the rifles. This would have been done long ago had these tests gone in the direction I expected, but as reported, we have had some unexpected glitches.
After inserting a battery in the Lyman digital trigger pull gauge, the rifles were set up in a cradle to check pull weight. The Lyman gauge checks trigger pulls up to 12 pounds to the nearest one tenth of an ounce. It also calculates an average for the last 10 pulls measured.
Lyman digital trigger pull gauge.
When dry firing with finger pressure to get a tactile feel for crispness and overtravel, both rifles passed my trigger finger's standards with flying colors. I see trigger crispness often described as 'like breaking glass' and I guess I can't think of a better metaphor for what I'm feeling with these. Here are the results of the mechanical measurements.
The Cooper pull weight averaged 3 pounds, 5.2 ounces for 10 pulls, with an extreme spread, from high to low, of 7.8 ounces.
The Browning checked out with a 4 pound, 7.8 ounce average pull, with a spread of 16.9 ounces, or just over a pound difference.
I would rate the triggers on both rifles 'good to excellent.' I like a little more consistency in the pull weight, but this variable often gets better as the firearm is broken in. The roughly one pound lighter pull on the Cooper potentially will provide better control when accuracy testing from the bench, but with both triggers being as crisp as they are, would matter not at all from a hunting perspective.
Both rifle's owner's manuals have instructions for trigger pull adjustment by the consumer, but I will most likely leave them just as they are.
Now I will venture to our range and run some of the new ammo through the rifles. Both have been cleaned of any factory residue in the barrels, and dry patched and are ready to go. Both rifles are sans iron sights and no scopes have been mounted, so this will be strictly a point and shoot at my dirt backstop at close range. Let's see what happens?
First, the Browning, as expected from the other function tests, fired a full magazine without a glitch in feeding, extraction, or ejection. Ejection was positive, with the empties spiraling out of the action to land slightly behind and about three feet left of the shooter.
Next the Cooper was fired using both magazines, three rounds each. There were no failures to feed, i.e. no jams, but only two of the six empties managed to exit the action. The rest simply dropped on top of the magazine or remaining cartridges.
I scratched my head a bit about the flawless feeding in light of the near universal jamming of my dummy rounds. Then it dawned on me that the recoil from shooting live rounds was likely enough to shake loose a round that may have been tipped forward and downward as in my previous trials. (Keep reading, as it later becomes clear that this was not the case with the new ammo)
To further my information gathering, I then fired each Cooper magazine with three of those years old Remington factory rounds that I had checked with the headspace gauge earlier. This was a virtual repeat of firing the newer ammo. These fed flawlessly from the magazines during firing, in spite of constant jamming when cycled through the action without pulling the trigger! The duplication even extended to the fact that four of the six empties failed to clear the ejection port while the other two barely dribbled out!
This box of factory ammo was probably purchased sometime in the 1960's, but I'm not sure.
After cleaning the rifles, it was again back to the dummy rounds with the Cooper. After running through three or 4 magazines full of both kinds of dummies with each of the two magazines, I found that the jamming was no longer universal, but did occur about twenty-five percent of the time! As you will read later, the improvement may have been simply that the exposed lead tips of my dummy rounds were being compressed a few thousandths with all the handling, and thus becoming slightly shorter.
I decided to sleep on the situation, so Little Heifer and I went out to supper, came home, and I started a new J A Jance novel!
After overnight consideration of what I had learned, I am back at this project this morning.
First order of business was disassembly of one of the Cooper magazines. This was to check whether the magazine box was too tight, obstructed by burrs, or other condition that would cause the cartridges to tip downward and forward.
Disassembly is straightforward. Just disengage the spring from the notch in the floorplate and slide it off.
No obstructions or roughness was observed, and inserting cartridge cases without spring or follower pressure exhibited no resistance from the sides or rear of the magazine box at any angle.
Re-assembly of the magazine, inserting three cartridges, and using thumb pressure to simulate the bolt pushing a cartridge forward into the chamber, continued to result in that second round tilting downward in front and moving forward just enough to catch in the latch detent. Again, just a slight touch on the jammed case near the head caused it to spring loose.
After another night's sleep, I just can't seem to let this issue rest without more trials and study. Good thing, because this morning I believe I've finally found the actual reason for the jamming problem. It appears to be a simple case of cartridge overall length!
As I stated earlier, my dummy rounds were set to SAMMI maximum overall length of 3.330 inches. The old box of ammo I had on hand also measures right at 3.330, while the newly purchased cartridges measure 3.245, or some .085 inch shorter.
Remember my earlier statement about recoil likely jarring loose any incipient jam? Well, that may be true with regard to those old 1960's factory loads, but not so with the new ammo. Why? because the new ammo simply will not slide forward far enough for the bullet tip to enter the indentation created by the magazine latch!
To illustrate the point, I seated bullets deeper in three rounds of my dummy ammo, for a 3.245 overall length, and tried them in a cooper magazine.
When the shortened dummy round is pushed forward and down to the position that was creating the jams, the case shoulder stops the forward movement before the bullet tip can enter the magazine latch indent, just like the new factory ammo.
Here one of the shortened dummy rounds illustrates the point with the pencil indicating where the case shoulder contacts the magazine wall. When the finger pressure is released from the case head, the cartridge immediately pops up.
One might conclude after the discovery that cartridges only need to be a few thousandths short of SAMMI maximum, that this issue is of no consequence. After all, the shorter cartridges feed fine. However, as a reloader who at some point will be tailoring ammo for the finest possible accuracy in this rifle, it is of consequence to me.
The seating depth of bullets, and therefore the jump from case neck to the beginning of the rifling, is one of the controllable variables that can have a measurable effect on accuracy. In my view, so long as the ammunition is within SAMMI specifications, or perhaps even a touch longer, and the cartridges fit into the magazine and chamber, the rifle should feed reliably.
Needless to say, I'm disappointed that a semi-custom rifle from a reputable gunmaker would exhibit these issues, especially, the consistent failure to eject, but I guess it gives us an opportunity to find out if their customer service lives up to its billing. I would think that even with the feeding problem resolved, the failure to eject could create an interesting situation where a quick follow-up shot is needed for a game animal that bites back!
So, I'm now gonna touch base with Mike at Cooper firearms and see if we can get the problems corrected. We are planning a little vacation trip that will take us near or through Stevensville, MT in the next week or two, so I hope to drop off the rifle for a factory look-see. As my mother used to say when a redo was required, "I think they need to lick this calf over!"
Now turning to family matters. We did have some significant happenings by virtue of our Granddaughter growing up. Last newsletter I talked about Jennifer's High School graduation, now I can discuss her 18th birthday, enrolling at Washington State University, and becoming a Sorority Girl.
Jennifer attained voting age on July 31st and cast her first votes in the Primary Elections on August 5th.
The first birthday celebration occurred July 31st at Rick and Christi's house with an excellent steak dinner and opening of gifts afterward.
Rick can grill a mean steak. These were delicious!
This expression seems to ask, "How am I going get all this 'stuff' into my dorm room?"
As she has every year since 2005, Jennifer chose the next celebration to be dinner at ShoGun restaurant in Spokane on August 3rd. This is one of those Hibachi places where the chef cooks the meal on the tabletop grill in front of the diners. As usual, the experience was entertaining and the fried rice was excellent! The obligatory Geisha costume with picture to take home capped off the evening.
Here we are in the Geisha get-up.
Celebration number 3 consisted of dessert at our house after the ShoGun dinner.
Brownies in lieu of birthday cake.
Blow out them candles girl!
Rick and Christi helped Jennifer move into her dorm room at WSU on August 16th. She moved in a week before classes so she could be there for 'rush week'. She ended up joining 'Chi Omega' Sorority and began classes on August 25th. She has not returned home yet as I write this, and it is hard to determine whether she misses home, or home misses her most? Jennifer and Grandma text each other nearly every day, so we kinda keep up on what is going on.
I suppose I should also make brief mention that my downstairs office remodel project has been completed. Now all I need to do is get the new computer and organize all the junk I didn't know I had. I did go sorta wild with this project though, as I had the contractor paint the walls 'HUNTER ORANGE'. Here's a look at the one corner of the room that isn't still a mess.
Heck, not every volunteer hunter education instructor has an orange office!
This month's hillbilly wisdom comes from another of those grandparent's wisest sayings:
"Find something you love to do, then find a way to make a living doing it."
Well, it's time to shut down here, so. . . . .
'Til next time, Keep 'em shootin' straight, shoot 'em often, and above all, BE SAFE!!!
THE OL' HILLBILLY
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