Friday, February 15, 2013
The Handi Rifle for Sustainable Survival - Final Tests
After going back to the drawing board and re-thinking what I actually want in a long term grid down firearm and putting the H&R Handi rifle through a few more tests I must say I am a bit happier with the outcome.
Certainly a single shot rifle capable of having extra factory barrels for different calibers and the like would be extremely useful. Truth is there is very little that can go wrong with this rifle. As I explained in other posts however if you plan on buying extra barrels for this platform always start out with a rifle caliber. Adding extra barrels requires sending the gun into the factory and it is tiered. A rifle can take a pistol, shotgun or black powder barrel while a Pistol caliber can only take a shotgun or black powder barrel. You can go down or sideways but never back up so to speak so a pistol caliber cannot be fitted with a rifle barrel after purchase.
So getting that bit of knowledge out of the way my first venture into a single shot, deep backup grid down gun had a few other criteria that I felt were very important.
1. I really wanted a rifle that would have commonly available ammunition but use a straight sided cartridge as opposed to modern day high caliber cases with a shoulder and neck. My reasoning was that the straight sided cases from my own experience survive many more re-loadings than the hi-powered cases as most of the stretching and eventual cracking happens in the neck. Yes straight sided cases will eventually pull apart along the bottom but as I said my experience has shown they last much longer.
2. I wanted a caliber that fit number 1 but also was a caliber I easily could continue to collect brass from even if fired from another weapon. That took .45 ACP right out because honestly I can never find all my .45 ACP brass. Ever. The same went for 9mm and .40 SW. I will admit the fact that I had a few cans of .38 special and .357 once fired cases laying around more than likely made me a bit biased towards a .357 rifle.
Hey go with what ya got right and of course a .357 is really two calibers in one so to speak.
3. I wanted a caliber that I could produce viable bullets for by casting my own, even if this meant I had to go around stripping lead and tin off of abandoned automobiles and pulling it out of old houses after a collapse. A pistol caliber is perfect for shooting hand cast bullets, especially the older calibers, as they were originally designed for a solid lead projectile anyway.
As an added bonus there was also powder use. Let's face it a couple of pounds of HP38 or Accurate number 5 will last a pistol shooter a long time. Not so with a pound of H335.
Of course there are some trade offs. For one thing no matter how hard I tried I really never found a load that would reach out to 100 yards with any great accuracy, especially after a dozen rounds or so were fired. That slow burning pistol powder is kinda dirty and the leading from hand cast bullets, although manageable does make a difference after a few shots.
Once I settled for accuracy at 50 yards or less I never had a problem and all the loads I attempted produced satisfactory results. In thick Missouri brush or even the small agricultural fields we have in the bottom 2/3'ds of the state 50 yards is plenty of range. If however you have much more wide open spaces to contend with you may need a different solution. To be honest I could hit pretty accurate out to 100 yards with only a slight elevation correction especially with the first five rounds or so. It's a single shot rifle so I am only going to get one real shot at 100 yards anyway.
As I understand it the problem is the bullet drop and the slow burning powder used for pistol rounds. It's just difficult to get that chunk of lead to travel well out past 50 to 100 yards.
During the course of my testing I fired about 500 rounds through my handi rifle. I used some wadcutters loaded with old Bullseye powder, some 158 grain hand cast bullets loaded with a mid range charge of HP38 and some jacketed 128 grain bullets and accurate number 5. The jacketed bullets performed the best with no leading of course but was not really the make or break test I was looking for. I do not think producing my own jacketed bullets is ever going to be in the cards so I was much more interested in the hand cast bullets. The drop at 100 yards was pretty severe but for what I intend this rifle for I was happy.
As an added bonus I fired off about 300 rounds of the wadcutters I mentioned but these rounds had been loaded back in 1991 and had been stored in a minimally climate controlled and very damp basement for over 20 years. I only had 3 miss fires from those rounds, one where the primer fired but the powder didn't and two others where the primer didn't fire.
In conclusion I am happy with this rifle. For taking game around here the caliber is more than large enough and for sustainable shooting all I really need to store are lots and lots of small pistol primers and powder. The range restrictions are not much of an issue here but maybe in your area so your mileage may vary. Still at less than 300 bucks for a backup one can't complain.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!