Even good habits…

…can have unintended consequences.

After an embarrassing incident last year that could have been very bad, I’ve gotten into the habit of racking a new round into the chamber of my .45 before leaving the lair in the morning, and then putting the shucked round back into the magazine. Since I carry the pistol every day but rarely actually fire it off the shooting range I can get a peculiar jam where the first round in the magazine nose-dives and refuses to chamber, leaving me with an open-slide malf that can take several seconds to clear. It never happens if I’ve recently shaken up the ammo queue.

So like I say, every morning just before grabbing my hat I rack the slide and chamber a new round. The boys have learned this, and take it as a signal that Uncle Joel’s starting to think in terms of Walky Time. They approve highly.

So this morning it’s June 1, and I’m about to spend another day in a field that’s allegedly all aslither with rattlesnakes. (yesterday I didn’t see any.) I thought, it’s about time to load a couple of rounds of snake shot. So I dug around in the ready-ammo cabinet and found my little thingy of snakeshot. I unholstered the .45, thumbed off the safety, and made the snick-snack-snick-snack noise…

..And was suddenly hip-deep in excited dogs, certain they were about to get the good walky they were denied yesterday. Unfortunately Uncle Joel has to work today and needs his legs, so it’s Gitmo this morning as well. Sigh.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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6 Responses to Even good habits…

  1. Its fascinating how dogs get used to the order and rhythms of a routine. This past weekend my hubby took the kids camping with out me, my weekend with the girls. I decided to keep the dogs at home so the hubby could be free to do more with the kids.

    We have only been three times so far this year and already they knew what the dufflebags, cooler at the front door meant. Bear spent the morning by the front door, very excited to be leaving. Looking for his leash. Lola was right by his side.

    They were very upset when the posse pulled out with out them, they barked and whined as if to say ” Hey..what about us?”. Dogs get routines pretty fast.

  2. That “peculiar jam” is actually pretty common with the “chamber round” of a carry pistol. I know that for years I employed this practice:

    Loading in the morning:
    1. Rack slide to chamber top round of magazine.
    2. Top off magazine with additional round (which was yesterday’s chamber round).

    Unloading in evening:
    1. Clear magazine well and chamber.
    2. Store magazine and single round separate from pistol.

    With each chambering, the bullet in a cartridge slams violently into either the front of the magazine, magazine well, and/or feedramp, and then possibly the top surface of the chamber as well. This wreaks havoc on the taper crimp of an auto pistol cartridge (a taper crimp is required because auto pistol cartridges headspace on the case mouth), and effectively pushes the bullet deeper into the case. (Try miking the OAL of a fresh new round of hardball, then chamber it a couple of times, and re-mike it: it will be shorter, and this is the reason.) After enough of this abuse, the OAL will have changed enough to begin affecting feeding in some pistols, and other problems like increased pressures, chewed-up case rims (from the extractor snapping over the rim), etc., can result as well. And so I always tried to keep ammo rotated pretty frequently.

    Two things caused me to change my habits regarding the “chamber round” of a carry piece: 1) the V-Line gun case, and 2) economics. I’m a pretty poor SOB these days, and I need my carry ammo to last as long as humanly possible. And that little gun vault makes the following procedure quite comfortable:

    1. When the gun comes out of the holster, it goes straight into the vault, loaded in Condition One.
    2. When the gun comes out of the vault, it goes into the holster with a chamber check.

    The vault is opened with a customizable, mechanical combination (I do not–do not–trust electronic locks), and it works; nobody is going to get that thing open without either knowing my combination or making a bloody racket. If for some incomprehensible reason the gun were to discharge inside the vault, its steel walls will contain the shot. And the box is portable enough that it can accompany me on travel.

    The benefits have been considerable. Ammo life is prolonged considerably, and as a reloader I appreciate not having chewed up case rims on my once-fired brass. I also get to practice, every day, using that lock, so that I am well-habituated to it should I actually need it in the middle of the night. (And at that point, I’m quite happy for Condition One.) In addition to ammo life, reduced administrative handling means fewer instances in which even practiced hands can slip, fumble, or otherwise create a safety concern. It is also a much quieter procedure than loading and unloading, which makes a difference with a sleeping baby in the house!

    Anyway, it’s been a great change for me, and I can recommend it highly. I think that if I found myself in snake country again, with a real need for shotshells, I’d probably consider either carrying a revolver, or possibly a separate snake gun. If it’s considered potent enough (I don’t know, honestly), the idea of an NAA mini with shotshells, riding in a pocket or clipped on the belt, is intriguing.

    What’s the thinking on .22 shotshells for snakies?

  3. Joel says:

    I’m not at all impressed with .22 snakeshot and feel it’s safest to assume the snakes wouldn’t be either, except at ranges much closer than I prefer to come. I’ve never patterned it out of an NAA mini, and to be truthful I always shoot so low with mine that the only use I can find for it is as a weak-side pocket pistol to persuade someone to take his hand off my holster – and that situation has never arisen.

    I bought a box of .45 snakeshot after missing a Mojave Green in dim light, which began an adventure I’d happily never experience again – the snake went under the lair, and I had to go get it. There’s enough spread at snake-shooting range that I believe it will be a help, and .45 caliber holds enough pellets to do more than piss off the reptile. But so far I’ve never actually had occasion to shoot a snake with it, so it’s all theory.

  4. Fair enough there. And I’m quite happy that snakes are a non-issue in Alaska anyway. (Of course, we’ve our own share of backcountry risks, the most statistically troubling being the pissing off of a cow moose. They account for more than the bears do!)

    There are a few guns I’ve always wanted to find a use for, because it just seems like there should be a use for them. One of those is the NAA mini, which I’ve never owned but always been intrigued by. It’s just so tiny that it’s impressive.

    Thing is, between the Steyr Scout 308, Marlin 45/70, 16-gauge Ithaca pump, 5″ 1911 .45 and 2″ Airweight J .38, I can do anything that I might be called upon to do with a firearm. Justifying to my budget the concept of “need” vs “toy” for additional guns gets tough when these items do their jobs as well as they do. (This is why I still use archaic words like “drat”, btw. Sometimes it sucks to be an adult.)

    Perhaps that’s also behind your use of snakeshot loads in your .45, and if I were to go to snake country today, I’d probably look for a load for the .38 J on the same theory.

    Or perhaps this is the secret sweet spot of the otherwise amusing Taurus Judge? 🙂

  5. CorbinKale says:

    On my 9mm and M4gery, I load the rounds into the chamber by hand. I let the slide on the 9mm slam home by releasing the slide catch, but I gently ride the bolt carrier forward on the .223 and lock the bolt by pushing the forward assist. This prevents damage to the rounds and the annoying primer dent from the floating firing pin in the AR.

    After the chamber round is loaded, I insert the magazines for both guns.

  6. CorbinKale, you may already be aware of this, but the practice of hand-loading the chamber round is fine with some pistol extractors, and not with others. In particular, 1911 extractors don’t like to be repeatedly bent in that way (in normal operation the 1911 is actually a controlled-feed design); I found this out years ago when I caused mine to lose its tension adjustment, and noted that while the bullet seating was indeed unaffected, the case rims took a horrible beating.

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