Saturday, December 8, 2007

Handloading for the 9x18mm Makarov

Hand loading for the 9x18mm Makarov is almost as easy as hand loading for the 9mm Luger. The 9mm Mak case is a little shorter than the 9mm Luger but the head dimensions are similar enough that one can use shortened 9mm cases for use with the 9mm Mak.

There are several manufacturers of 9mm Makarov ammunition, e.g. Sellier & Bellot and Silver Bear but most imports are Berdan primed and hence their cases are not suitable for reloading. Sellier & Bellot cases are Boxer primed, and those cases can be reused for handloading.

Though the Starline Brass makes 9mm Makarov cases suitable for the handloader they are more expensive than 9mm Luger brass. Hence, the thrifty handloader has two choices:
  1. reuse Sellier & Bellot cases
  2. trim and resize 9mm Luger cases
So, let's focus on the process needed to turn 9mm Luger cases into 9mm Makarov cases. We see that the head dimensions of both are similar.

A 9mm Luger case is approximately 19mm long, whereas a 9mm Makarov case is approximately 18mm long.

To trim the 9mm Luger case down to 18mm, we use a RCBS Trim Pro. The model used is the manually cranked one, though RCBS sells a motorized version too.

To hold a 9mm Luger case in place while trimming we use a RCBS #16 Trim Pro shell holder and a 35 calibre pilot.

Once trimmed to 18mm, the cases must be full-length resized using 9mm Makarov resizing dies. I chose a Lee 3-die set for my 9mm Makarov reloading needs, though other manufacturers make 9mm Makarov dies also. The same shell holder is used as for 9mm Luger. I use RCBS shell holders to fit my RCBS hand-priming tool, a #1 in this case.

From here on, the reloading process is the standard one for straight-walled cartridges.
  1. Depriming and full-length resizing using the FL-resizing die.
  2. Belling the case mouth using the expander die.
  3. Priming the cases.
  4. Charging the cases with powder.
  5. Bullet seating, using the seating die.
  6. Crimping of the case mouth using the seating die.
The advanced reloader can use a progressive press, but the novice or beginner should stick with a single stage press until he is familiar with each step of the reloading process, and the die adjustments needed at each step. I use a RCBS Rock Chucker single stage press.

After resizing and belling the cases, we prime the cases. The 9mm Makarov (like the 9mm Luger) uses a small-pistol primer. I use a RCBS hand-priming tool, and CCI 500 primers, though other manufacturers make equivalent products also.

After priming, we charge the cases. I used Alliant Bullseye powder. The recommended weight for 95gr bullets is in the range 3.5gr and 3.9gr. [Warning: when working up a load, always start with the smallest weight and work upwards, always watching for signs of overpressure]. Bullseye powder has a good volumetric consistency, so a RCBS Uniflow powder dispenser is used. The dispenser was calibrated using a RCBS electronic scale.

Bullet selection is quite good for the Makarov, though one should note that unlike 9mm Luger loads, where the bullet diameter is .355", the Makarov is not a true 9mm and the bullet diameter is .364". I use two bullets; a 93gr lead round-nosed bullet from Meister Cast for practice and target use, and a 95gr jacketed hollow-point bullet from Hornady (XTP/HP) for defense use.

I seated the round-nosed bullets to an over all length of 0.980" and the XTP/HP bullets to an over all length of 0.930". The bullets must be taper crimped. The crimping is necessary to remove the bell in the case and to hold the bullet in the case mouth so it doesn't move. Since the Makarov headspaces on the case mouth, care must be taken to not over crimp the mouth as this can lead to "short chambering" and inaccuracy. Essentially, crimp just enough to remove the bell and no more.

Testing the above loads in a Hungarian PA-63 resulted in remarkable accuracy. Both loads were built using only 3.5gr of Bullseye powder. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chronograph with me so could not measure the bullet speed.

Tests were fired, standing shooting unsupported and one handed, at a 8" circle target hung 15 yds from the muzzle. The lead bullets grouped to about 2", about 2" high off POA.

The hollow-point bullets didn't group as well, but well enough for defensive use. The general center of the group was about about 2" high off POA.

The next steps are to increase the powder weight and measure speed with a chronograph. The goal is to preserve accuracy while achieving/maintaining a speed of 1000ft/s.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Some nuts are more equal than others

Yesterday, on the 5th of December, a deranged loser with a felony drug conviction and a stolen SKS murdered 8 people in a Nebraska shopping mall. Today, on the 6th of December, a deranged loser murdered her 5 children with some over-the-counter sedatives and plastic bags.

Now, all things being equal these two sad cases would get equal coverage. But apparently the murder of 5 children between the ages of 3 and 9 by their mother is not nearly sensational enough, nor does it serve political agendas, as the murder of 8 shoppers.

Care to bet whether in the coming days the chattering monkey class will be calling for:

  1. psychiatric screenings of "at risk" mothers, and the ban of over-the-counter sedatives, or
  2. psychiatric screenings of "at risk" teens, and "more gun laws" [never mind that a felony conviction is already sufficient to keep guns out of law-abiding hands]?
If you answered (2), then move to the head of the class.

Nah ... nothing to see here ... move along.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The prof has 'coffed

I met Paul Downham in the summer of 1985. I was about to start my senior year in college and was searching for a room in a house to rent.

This was to be a serious year of study for me. I was doing a double major in Physics and Computer Science and an independent thesis was required for completion of the Physics major. That summer I had decided upon a thesis topic while traveling up to Vancouver and observing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and the, still under construction, Fraser River Bridge. My topic would be on the analysis and simulation of the vibrational modes of suspension bridges.

I needed a quiet place to study. The house at 143 Carl Ave. in Santa Cruz seemed to fit the bill. It was 7 miles from campus, close enough that I could easily ride my bicycle. When I visited, Paul welcomed me into his house despite my being a Physics major. He told me that he liked to have regular meals with all house mates, meaning I should pencil in Sunday evenings. Seemed reasonable. His heavy English accent and rather eccentric demeanor were welcome changes.

After I moved in, I learned that Paul didn't really own the house, but was rather the primary tenant and was subletting to college students. The house had 3 bedrooms, a shed in the back and a drafty and cold garage converted (subverted) into a bedroom. There were five of us living in the house, with Paul in the garage and a German Rastafarian surfer, Robert, in the shed outside.

On Sundays Paul would cook up his trademark roast chicken with roast potatoes a la Paul and steamed vegetables and he insisted that we all join him. I grew to enjoy this togetherness and would bring my girlfriend along. The evenings were typically followed by wine drinking by all and brashy monologues by Paul who was convinced of the inherent fascism of the United States for which Santa Cruz style socialism was an appropriate palliative. I never held that against him. Naked ping-pong tournaments were often held in the living room. No one was excluded, regardless of aptitude or rectitude. The only requirement was that players and spectators rid themselves of clothing and play, or watch, as God created them.

Despite his faith in the convalescent qualities of socialist policies, Paul was remarkably shrewd with money. I discovered how much the landlord was charging him for to rent on the house and quickly realized that the four of us were subsidizing his accommodations. Again, I never held it against him because the arrangement was comfortable and I never felt like Paul was taking advantage of anyone. My father, however, thought Paul was evil and a bad influence. If only he knew to what extent Paul was a bad influence.

After I graduated I tried to visit often, but grad school and employment kept getting in the way. I didn't see Paul as much anymore, but his lawn and living room floor were always available for overnight bicycling trips a privilege I took advantage of often.

When he retired, in 1997, he moved back to England hoping to benefit from expansive British social programs. Much to his dismay, however, he wasn't eligible as, although he remained a British citizen, he was no longer considered a resident.

He returned to Santa Cruz but by then the owner of the house on Carl Ave. had sold the house and Paul was forced to find an "affordable" apartment. After several places, he ended up in a comfortable one-bedroom apartment in a "senior citizens" complex across the San Lorenzo River off Soquel Ave. At times he resented all the "old people" living there, with their fatalistic hopeless outlook, and longed for the times when he shared houses with energetic and dynamic college students.

I visited him in 2003, shortly after the birth of my daughter. While we watched my children play in the park near his apartment, Paul told me about the silly politics of living in a retirement community and the fatalistic attitude of its residents.

I learned of his cancer in November, 2006. He started chemo-therapy treatment. That same year he lost his twin brother, Peter.

His good friends Robert, Andreas, Jeff and Donna organized a 80th birthday party for him at his apartment complex. He looked tired and had lost most of his hair, but he strutted his stuff in front of the other foggies of the complex. The attention showered on him that one day added 8 months to his life.

Paul died in September of 2007, eight months after his 80th birthday. He suffered a heart attack in his apartment. The chemo had done him in. I don't know who found him, or how long he'd been dead. But I hope he died giving the editors of the The San Jose Mercury News and The Santa Cruz Sentinel the middle finger, as he often did with his "stern letters to the editor".

Unlike others, I never considered him a father figure, but he was more than a friend. I guess I came to think of him as an older brother. A fragile, vulnerable but savvy brother. At times eccentric, but always honest and dependable.

Some memorable Paul quotes:
  • Grades are a means of sorting vegetables.
  • Silence, when you speak to me.
  • No, not that bag! That's my wife.
  • You are pretty, kind and good. Pretty ugly, kind of stupid and good for nothing.
  • 'cof you pigs.
  • Dear Sir or Madman.
  • Don't look at me in that tone of voice.
  • I am sitting in the smallest room of the house with your letter before me. Now it is behind me.
  • "No! Not the whip! Anything but the whip!" .... "Anything?" .... "The whip!"
Paul, or Prof. Downham as we used to call him. An accomplished pianist and organist, baritone vocalist and teacher. He had a degree from UCSC and the love and admiration of many friends.

Paul. I'm glad to have known you and I'll miss you.

R.I.P -- 23 Jan. 1927 to 13 Sept. 2007

Update: Donna informed me that Paul did not die alone and was able to summon help:

Just so you know, Paul did have a heart attack in his apartment, but managed to ring the emergency bell in his room for help, which arrived promptly in the form of an ambulance to transport him to the Dominican Hilton where he stayed for 2 or 3 days. Rasta Robert and I arrived to visit just a few minutes after they had transferred him to the Driftwood Nursing Facility so we went right over. He was unconscious when we got there and his breath was rattling. We stayed for a while talking to (at?) Paul and petting him but couldn't manage to wake him, so after a while we kissed his cheeks and said goodbye. Paul was dead within 2 hours after we left. It fell to Robert to dismantle his dear friend's life. What a sad and sorry job that was.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Melting polar ice caps will lead to rise in sea levels .... BULLSHIT!!!!

A lot has been said and written by the global hand-wringers about the catastrophic rise in ocean levels should the polar icecaps melt. The ice caps consist mostly of floating ice, and the hand wringers would have us believe that should they melt, the result would be a rise in ocean levels. However, as it turns it (usually turns out, should I say) the hysteria generated is null because, as I will show in this report, the ocean levels will not rise one iota.

To prove the above, imagine a cube of material of density di floating in a body of water of density dw. The cube has side length L and a portion of it, l2, is floating above the surface of the water. We’d like to determine by how much the surface of the water will rise, r, assuming a rectangular body of water (e.g. in a tub) with surface area A.

Describing the two forces acting on the block, we have


Fd = downward force
Fu = upward force
L = length of the side of the floating cube
g = acceleration of gravity, aka 9.8 m/s2
dw = density of water
di = density of floating cube

The object will float if there is no net force on it, i.e.

and if a portion of the object is above the water or right on the surface of the water, i.e.

Simplifying we get


This is a restatement of the Archimedes principle, which states that the force acting on a floating object is equal to the weight of the water displaced.

Now, for this problem we need to restate the amount of displaced water into a measure of the rise in water level. Assume the object is floating in a rectangular tub of water with surface area A. We represent the rise of level of the water in the tub by r.

Substituting for l1 from the equation above and solving for r, we have

Now, we can further simply this equation by representing di in terms of L and the mass of the floating object. By definition, the density of a cube is its mass, m, divided by the cube of the length of a side, L.

Substituting into the equation for r, we get

This is an important result because it states that the rise in water level, r, is independent of the density, shape or size of the floating object; it is only dependent on the mass, m, of the object. Another way to state this is that if I place two different objects into the water, the rise in water level will be the same if the mass of the two objects is the same.

Now, how does this apply to floating ice which melts over time? The above results apply to a cube of ice floating in the ocean. Suppose now I melted that cube of ice and managed to enclose it in a cubic container of zero mass. Since the density of ice increases as it melts into water, the side of this “water-cube” would be less than L. But, the mass would not change. If I now “floated” this “water-cube” on the surface of the ocean, it would float right on the surface, i.e. l2 = 0.

But, most importantly, because of the result above, the rise in ocean level due to the ice cube is IDENTICAL to the rise in ocean level due to the “water cube”.

So, if the floating ice caps melted, the rise in ocean levels would be .... ZERO.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Forgive and forget?

I have a picture of my son, taken on the 11th of Sept. 2001, blissfully unaware of the two explosions that shook the world. He was almost one year old on that day. The picture is of him riding his tricycle, the soft warm sun on his smiling face.

Children are allowed to be unaware of the presence of evil. That's the foray of adults.

The evil that destroyed the twin towers on that day didn't care about the innocents. It's the same evil that sends suicide bombers into pizzerias and crowded markets. It's an evil that send suicide squads into schools full of children.

Children are allowed to forgive evil and even forget that it exists. Adults are not.

Adults have the world view and experience based on history to recognize evil and realize that they've seen it before, at another time at another place. Children do not.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Save the Polar Bears

"Global warming is leading to death of Polar Bears!" sniffs the hand-wringing set. Poo! I'm just trying to figure out how to make money out of this whole global warming thing. Shoot, if the Great Goreacle can earn $50,000 for every speech he makes, surely I can make a few bucks. Maybe this bumper sticker is a start. For only $4.95, it can be yours too.

Plus, the delicious double-entendre is icing on the cake.

You'll look so dashing and sophisticated sporting it on your truck.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The observatory at the end of the universe

If the world ended, and I was sitting on the edge of it, would I be howling at the moon? Apparently.

As is a tradition of mine going back several years, I do an annual moonlight/sunrise (bicycle) ride up Mnt. Hamilton, the goal being to be up there in time for sunrise. Mnt. Hamilton is the tallest peak in the Bay Area with the famous Lick Observatory at the top. The ride up isn't strenuous; about 4000' of climbing in about 20 miles. It's the getting up at 2am to be up there for sunrise that's getting harder to do as I age.

This year I did it with by good buddy D, and his two neighbours P and J. Though the 26th of August is close to a full moon, it wasn't perfect. Unfortunately, Sunday morning is the only day I can do it. The moon set at 4am rather than being overhead or mostly-overhead for most of the time, so bike lights were needed.

The valley was overcast when we left, but it was a low fog that hovered at around 1000'. Once we climbed through it, the air temperature rose to a very mild and pleasant 70F and stayed that way for most of the ride. I say "most" because if you're familiar with route (HWY 130) you'll know about the infamous dip around the CDF fire station, where the temperature drops a good 20F due to the relative location of the fire station. Brrrr .....

Despite the lack of an overhead moon, there was sufficient light to enable me to ride without lights, allowing my eyes to adjust to small changes in light intensity. I counted about a half-a-dozen shooting stars, which appeared to be moving really slowly and brightly, leaving long-lasting trails in their paths. And apparently human eye visual acuity is directly proportional to available oxygen. Stars appeared bright enough while riding in the dark, but when I stopped and stood still for a while, the "lights really came on", almost as if someone cranked up the stellar brightness knob.

There was a storm over the Central Valley, so the rising sun was obscured by clouds. The sun rose red and the cloud edges were burning golden.

We reached the top about 45 minutes before sunrise.

The valley was completely obscured, except for the peaks of well known landmarks. That's Loma Prieta just over my right shoulder.

And when the sun rose, Mnt. Hamilton cast a shadow over the valley below.

I blew a rear tire on the way down. According to J "It's because you were hotdogging, going too fast, jig-zagging between the Bot's Dots and leaning your bike over so much". :-) He lent me his CO2 inflater. Rather than spending 10 minutes fucking around with a manual pump, the whole operation took about 3 minutes. I'm a CO2 convert.

Attribution: All pictures courtesy of J and P. Thank you very much!