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Paul Harkins
There are very few situations in life that wouldn't be more interesting after adding an anvil.
There are very few situations in life that wouldn't be more interesting after adding an anvil.
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I got hit in the face with a .38 caliber laser-cast bullet on Saturday. That is about the fifth time I have been hit by whole laser-cast bullets, and the second time it really hurt. This evening, I looked up the pricing data both at midwayusa.com and at laser-cast.com because I was curious why people would still be using them, and I was surprised to discover that there is no logical reason why a cowboy action shooter would use them except that they can sometimes actually be found in stores.

When I first started shooting, I shot laser cast bullets for a while. They were cheap. It cost me about $15 less per 1000 than Desperado bullets. They had few other redeeming qualities. Now they cost about $6 per 1000 MORE than Desperado bullets. Unless you can get one hell of a deal on shipping (buying them at the store might help, but not much since Desperado bullets are shipped in a USPS flat rate box for about $10 per 1000), it just doesn't make any sense.

My primary complaint is that they are very hard. I can't find specific information on the alloy they use, but the company claims they use 8 elements, including silver. I'm not sure I understand what property silver has that makes it worthy of use in bullet-making, especially considering the current costs of most precious metals, but that's their problem, not mine. Most cowboy bullets are an alloy of lead and tin. Some use a very small quantity of antimony, but most save that for high velocity bullets that need to be really hard. Desperado uses a 20:1 mixture of lead and tin. When I cast my own, I mix anywhere from 20:1 to 40:1. I have seen the best performance with black powder at around 30:1, but 20:1 is less likely to get dented and scratched before loading, so it looks better when a customer opens the box, and I imagine that 30:1 might leave too much lead behind in the forcing cone for some smokeless shooters' comfort (though I have never had that problem).

The reason cowboy bullets don't normally use harder metals: We shoot at steel targets at very close range. Pistol targets are often found at 7 yards. Soft bullets mushroom and splatter close to the target. If a fragment does ricochet back into the crowd, it is usually a very small fragment, and it is generally travelling fairly slowly. Laser-cast bullets, on the other hand, seem to remain mostly intact and bounce off the target, retaining much more energy than a fragment would after the bullet mushrooms. I'm not certain how fast the ricochets are going - certainly not fast enough to kill, but still fast enough to break the skin, and in some cases, fast enough to require a bandaid.

I have also picked up hundreds of laser-cast bullets after firing - some were my own, but most were shot by others. In EVERY case, the lube was still in the groove. Many of the bullets looked like they could be sanded slightly and fired a second time. The purpose of lube is to soften fouling left behind by spent powder so the next round fired will push the fouling out the end of the barrel and keep it clean and accurate. A buildup will cause inaccuracy. I have personally observed a buildup of powder fouling causing a rifle to be off by 10 feet from point of aim at 100 yards while using laser-cast bullets. That is quite significant. Granted I was also using American Pioneer Powder on a hot day with 10 minutes between shooting strings, and I had swabbed the bore with a petroleum-based lube (incompatible with APP in my experience) shortly before I started shooting, but a lesser problem can still be enough to cause a miss even at close range.

The lube problem is likely mitigated by the fact that a large percentage of cowboy shooters use Trail Boss powder because it shoots really clean and they can get away with only cleaning their guns twice a year even if they shoot every weekend. I had trouble getting it to measure correctly in my old powder measure, so for a while I shot 231 with laser-cast bullets. It worked fine at short range, but I had accuracy problems at 30 yards (rifle and pistol) that I didn't have with the same load using Desperado bullets instead of laser-cast. It was only off by a few inches, but if I was actually fast, that would have cost me the long range pistol and long range rifle side matches. I knew I wasn't going to win anyway, so it didn't really matter at the time.

Laser-cast bullets also have a beveled base. This is both good and bad, and it is the only remaining redeeming quality they have since the price went up. A beveled base makes them easier to load. If you set the bullet on top of the case at an angle, it will self-align as it goes into the die. Desperado bullets (and many other cowboy bullets) have a flat base. The flat base will still self-align if the bullet isn't perfectly straight, but it is not as forgiving as a beveled base.

I have been told that beveled base bullets are less accurate. I can understand that they might travel slower, particularly when fired from a revolver, but I have never been able to make sense of the logic behind the inaccuracy claim if it is not based on a slightly slower speed (by maybe 50 feet per second at most). The bevel might allow gasses to escape before the bullet fully leaves the chamber in a revolver, but unless the bevel is inconsistent around the base, the same amount of gas should escape all around the bullet, which shouldn't introduce a significant wobble unless the distance between the end of the cylinder and the start of the rifling in front of the forcing cone is large enough that an extra 16th of an inch of bullet length would actually help to stabilize it as it enters the barrel.

Is easy loading (reducing loading time by maybe 2 minutes per 1000 rounds) really worth an extra $6 per 1000 bullets AND a significant chance of hitting someone in the face at 100 feet per second?
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$drupal_development = $array_definition + $css + strategic_function_naming();
// I don't think I have written more than 50 lines of actual code in the last year.
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Phone surgery. Surprisingly, the patient survived, though not without a few extra bits of dust stuck to internal organs.
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I dropped my phone last night and broke the glass. I thought I was going to have to replace the whole phone, but I found replacement faceplates. This should be fun.
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Much like television sets, alarm clocks work better if you ensure that the switch is set to the ON position.
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