Shrap & Frags

Eyeballs, primers, bugs and lead.

I routinely get questions from all kinds of sources. Few are enough to expand into columns, while sometimes the answers couldn’t fit into the entire magazine. So, I bundled some together and picked a couple at random. If yours isn’t among them, well, maybe you’ll find something of interest anyway.

Several questions related to vision and perception: Yes, you can sometimes see a star or distant light from the corner of your eye, but can’t see it when you stare directly at it—and there’s nothing wrong with your vision. Here’s why: The structures in your eyeballs which pick up light and color are called rods and cones; rods sense light, cones sense color. Directly behind your lens and retina you have a mix of rods and cones, but starting a few degrees off center from your pupil, rods not only dominate, they’re more densely packed than those at the center. So, your peripheral vision picks up that star or distant light better than your center-focused vision simply because it’s better equipped for light-and-contrast sensing.

This is one of the reasons why doing a slow, sweeping scan of an area will help you pick up movement much better than staring directly at various points. When movement is sensed, don’t stare straight at it! First try to use your peripheral vision to bracket it with other features so you don’t “lose” it. Soldiers and hunters learned this centuries before science explained it. This takes practice, especially when using binoculars, but it pays off.

Another visual phenomenon to be aware of is superimposing. This happens most in snow-covered, desert, and rocky high-mountain terrain. If you stare at, let’s say, a dark brushpile in snow or knots of debris or dark shrubs in desert, looking for game, enemy or movement, then you stare at another brushpile or shrub cluster, your eye may momentarily superimpose a “blot” from the previous site onto the new one, so you’re not really seeing what’s there. It’s kinda the dark version of the “retinal memory” you get from a sudden bright flash.

Lead and Primers

.22 Lead Fouling: Frank inherited a rack full of .22 rifles described as “shot a lot for many years, never cleaned, and heavily lead-fouled.” Here’s a great technique I got from a top gunsmith. Caution: Wear impermeable gloves and I recommend a filter mask. This process produces highly absorbable lead. Mix up a slurry of JB Bore Paste and Kroil. With muzzle down, liberally douse a stainless steel bore brush with the goop and make a couple of slow passes from breech to muzzle.

Leave the slurry thick in the bore for 10 minutes up to overnight. Then slowly push a snug brass jag down the barrel and marvel at the chunky moosh that comes out. Sometimes you’ll even get “strings” of lead a couple inches long. Clean the residue out with patches, then do a “normal” cleaning and recheck for any remaining lead. Remember, stainless steel brushes should only be used on heavily lead-fouled or rusty steel barrels, and then, sparingly. They’re too aggressive for regular use.

On corrosive primers: One reader bought a case of 1980s production Sellier & Bellot 7.62x51mm ammo, and was surprised to find it has corrosive primers. He thought corrosive primers were obsolete by World War II and asked why they were still being made in the 1980s.

Most militaries continued using corrosive primers through the 1950s. They were using up existing stock, and, because early non-corrosive primers didn’t have the same sure-fire ignition record, especially in freezing temps. The Warsaw Pact countries continued using corrosive primers long after that because the Soviets firmly believed they held up better over long-term storage in deep cold conditions. Their experience supported that, and Ivan knows all about freezing.

Lots of shooters recoil in horror from the thought of using corrosive primers, but proper cleaning isn’t hard at all—just a bit more demanding and requiring follow-up bore, chamber and bolt face cleanings (and gas systems of semi-autos) for a couple of days—not vigorous, but regular cleaning and oiling. I’ve used hot soapy water, diluted household ammonia and Windex with ammonia, with great results. If your weapon has a flash suppressor, be sure to clean, dry and oil its slots thoroughly or rust will form. I’d say take advantage of the low prices on corrosive-primed milsurp ammo, do a little study on proper cleaning, and you’re good to go!

Bugs: Don’t Let ’Em Bug You

About Those Bugs: In my writing about emergency preparedness, many have noted an emphasis on post-disaster protection from insects, recommending inclusion of mosquito netting, sheet plastic, insect repellent and bite-and-sting treatments in your supplies. Several have asked “Why so insistent on that? Are insects really such a problem after fires, floods or whatever?”

Yes, they are! To a lesser extent after fires and to a greater extent after flooding, hurricanes, major storms, etc., insects and bugs of all kinds have been displaced from their usual habitats and become concentrated in the same constricted areas where humans are seeking shelter. Hey, they’re just as determined to survive as you are, and most of ’em are better at it.

You know how infuriating half a dozen flies can be at your backyard picnic table? How hard it is to sleep with just one persistent mosquito in your bedroom? Imagine trying to eat and feed your kids with thousands of flies swarming you, or the hunger of a million female mosquitoes after being “grounded” and unable to feed for 24 to 48 hours. It’s not just a health and medical issue, though that’s serious enough. It’s also about preserving your sanity and decision-making ability. Enough said?

Aside from gathering supplies, here’s something smart you can do in mid-winter: Test yourself and family members for negative skin and respiratory reactions to some popular insect repellent lotions and sprays, particularly any containing DEET. Test only a very small area, and watch for rashes or other reactions. Most repellents have detailed information on testing and reactions. At least, find out which repellents are apparently safe for you before you really need them. It’s not a bad idea to test for reactions to after-bite treatments too.

Believe me, you wouldn’t want to rub something on your wife to soothe her, and find out it makes her swell up and break out like a lobster with scabies! Learn from my experiments and mistakes, OK? Connor OUT
By John Connor

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