Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tribal Knowledge: A to Zins

There’s a lot of undocumented information in the shooting community.  You know, knowledge that one group collects from their experience and shares with others.  In the engineering community we call it “Tribal Knowledge.”  It’s the kind of thing Jim Croce sang about in “You Don't Mess Around With Jim.” 

Lemme clear my throat….
“…don’t tug on Superman’s cape,
 …don’t spit into the wind,
 …don’t pull the mask of that old Lone Ranger…”

You get the idea.  The problem is how to know what part of Tribal Knowledge is true and valuable and which part is just dross.

You could try everything you read and hear, but then what’s the advantage of learning from others?  And that’s the answer to this little problem.  Learn from the person who, as Jeff Cooper said, “...has seen the elephant.”

I had a chance to talk, but mostly listen, to Brian ‘Gunny’ Zins.  You should recognize that name: 10-time NRA Pistol Champion and one of the final four on the 2011 season of Top Shot (History Channel).

The conversation was about the 1000-yard phase of shooting the Barrett .50 BMG.  If you watched that episode, you may have noticed the independent spotter helping each of the participants.  Brian talked about riding the Barrett recoil back and then down onto the target in time to see the bullet impact, making a correction and finishing the trigger pull before the spotter could score the impact.  

That's right, finishing the pull.  During the recoil he prepped the trigger so the last fraction of the squeeze occurred as soon as the correction was made.  This let him walk the impacts onto the target with impressive speed.  His success comes from his educated trigger finger.

Being able to control your trigger finger is critical to bull’s-eye shooters.  It may be more critical to the tactical shooter.  The Top Shot .50 BMG range was selected to have a safe, suitable backstop.  I can almost guarantee you that in a self-defense shooting, the backstop will be the worst possible.

Trigger control will assist you with keeping your rounds on target when conditions degenerate into a shoot or be killed situation.

Want to develop Zins’ educated trigger finger?  Look into bull’s-eye shooting with all the associated practice and work.  Of course, it helps to have the hand/eye coordination and reflexes the top shooters have, but every one of us can improve.  Remember, only hits count and misses carry a frightful cost.

Zins has also introduced his own line of match grade .45 ACP.  Here the tribal knowledge has broken down.  We all know FMJ ball is the best.  We all know that a bull’s-eye load should have a velocity of about 600 feet per second with a 185 gr. lead semi-wadcutter.  We all know this is true. 


I expected Zins’ match grade ammo to be 185 FMJ semi-wadcutter with a muzzle velocity of 550-600 fps.  Was I wrong!  The round is a 185 gr. JHP with a muzzle velocity of 821 fps.  For someone grown up in a bull’s-eye culture that spoke of lead bullets (to protect the backstop), low velocity (to protect the shooter’s joints), and semi-wadcutters (to enhance scoring), this is incredible.

A great review can be found at Tony’s Blog.  He has researched it better than I could.  Bottom line, this ammo has tighter tolerance, is extremely reproducible, and produces remarkably tight groups.

Nothing is said about the more traditional concerns of JHP: expansion and penetration.  Zins’ bullets are made by Nosler, so I called them with a typical reloading question: “What velocity do I need to get your 185 gr. .45 ACP JHP to expand properly?

Nosler told me the bullet will start opening up at 600 fps, but they recommend 800-900 fps for expansion and penetration.  That fits Brian’s specifications.

In my world, the hierarchy of needs is:
  • Total reliability of gun and ammo,
  • Shot placement,
  • Stopping power performance based on bullet design, and
  • Micro accuracy.

Brian is at Camp Perry this week introducing his ammo (  It’s a good price ($425 per thousand) compared to other high-end ammo.  If you’re a bull’s-eye shooter and you think you are being held back by your ammo, this could be your answer.  Try a couple hundred rounds and find out: is it you or your ammo?

If you’re a tactical shooter who’s learned the lessons of bull’s-eye shooting and needs tighter groups, I think this ammo may also solve your problems.

Both shooters still need to answer the question: will it feed flawlessly in my .45 semi-auto?

Now, what about us 9 mm shooters?  I don’t know, but Brian mentioned a brand and weight of a 9 mm round that had great inherent accuracy.  So you never can tell what’s on his mind.

Anyway…We wish him good luck and success!

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