Montana Gold Bullet factory tour

Kalispell, Montana was on the way home from Glacier National Park so Barb and I decided to see if we could get a tour of the Montana Gold Bullet factory. I have reloaded nearly 39,000 (38,684) of their bullets and have another 4,500+ in stock and ready for the Dillon 550.

I called the number on their website and set up a time for yesterday that worked for Norm and us.

We arrived a few minutes early at the unmarked warehouse like building. I took a picture of Barb out front and Norm greeted us a minute or so later.


I asked if we could take pictures and Norm told us, “No pictures allowed.” As we went inside and started the tour Norm told us production goes down during the summer and there wasn’t as much going on as there sometimes is. I asked if the election had also affected sales. He said it had made a big difference not just for Montana Gold Bullets but across the entire industry. He had looked at demand over the years and it has gone through several cycles. The first peak occurred after Bill Clinton’s election and the last peak being just before the defeat of Hillary Clinton.

Before we moved on I asked why they used brass jackets rather than copper like almost all other bullet manufactures. Was there a technical reason or was it the just the appeal of the gold color and the neat name made possible by that color?

Norm explained their company wasn’t the first to use brass. Remington, with their Golden Saber bullets, was the first and marketed them extensively. There are other companies who also use brass in some of their bullets. There are some technical reason why brass is better in certain circumstances but that isn’t the reason why his company uses brass. And it wasn’t the appeal of color and the cool name of “Montana Gold”. Also, he didn’t come up with the name “Montana Gold”!

He said he probably shouldn’t tell the story, then proceeded to tell us how the name came about. I’ll refrain from telling the story here but I’ll drop the hint that it was a San Francisco pathologist who came up with the name “Montana Gold” for the bullets produced by Norm’s company. Norm thought it was a cool name and adopted it.

The reason they use brass is because it was forced upon them, indirectly, by the U.S. government. Many years ago the U.S. Mint began producing small dollar coins that were a copper sandwich. The demands of the U.S. Mint for the particular grade of copper the bullet company was using made it impossible for Norm’s company to get the jacket material they needed. It was either go out of business, shutdown until they could get supplies, or change jacket material. They changed jacket material.

Another story he told was of a commercial reloader who bid on a contract for law enforcement ammo specifying, and supplying samples using, Montana Gold bullets. When he won the contract and started delivering the finished product the end customer noticed the bullets were actually plated bullets which are much cheaper to make and generally considered of lower quality. They complained to Norm, who reported he hadn’t supplied those bullets. Norm now refuses to do business with that reloader and, furthermore, does not allow reloaders to mention “Montana Gold” even if they are using “the real deal” in their product.

We saw the 70 pound lead-antimony ingots they use for bullet core material. As there are no more primary lead smelters in the U.S.they get their lead from Canada. They used to get their lead from mines in Idaho not too many miles away. At one time they even considered moving to Idaho to be close to their lead source as well as some economic incentives.

Barb was particularly impressed with the extruding equipment that squeezes the lead through an orifice like so much toothpaste making a lead wire of the appropriate diameter.

I was surprised by learning that because the metals alloyed with lead (to get the desired hardness) are of a different density the ingots may not be of sufficient uniformity to meet their final bullet weight tolerances. Depending upon how quickly the liquid lead alloy is cooled to a solid after being stirred they may cut off a section of the lead wire as scrap because can cause the bullet to be too light.

The thickness of the jacket material and the consistency of hollow point formation also have an effect upon the final bullet weight. Tolerances stack up. They keep the weight of their bullets to about +/- 0.3 grains and sell bullets that are out of tolerance as “seconds” to people who take delivery at the factory who Norm is confident will be using them directly rather than reselling them.

After being shown a bin of with tens of thousands (or maybe 100’s of thousands) of jackets I told Norm about finding one in a box of completed bullets. This seemed to bother him some. He told us there were at least three different places in the process it should have been been found.

They have several machines which are dedicated to certain bullet caliber and style and a few they reconfigure as needed. We saw large multistage presses which put the lead core into the brass cup then form the cup around the lead and size it to make a completed bullet. I was surprised that the machine only produced about one finished bullet per second. That one machine takes about 40 minutes to produce one case of bullets the postman delivers to my door (actually–the sidewalk near the street, then he rings the doorbell).

I told Norm I had used their .401 diameter, 180 grain, complete metal jacket bullet until fellow shooter Don W. reported he got better accuracy with the jacketed hollow point bullets. As the price was only a fraction of penny more I tried those bullets and found Don was correct. I too got slightly better accuracy compared to the CMJs.

Norm said the decreased accuracy with the CMJs probably was because my crimping die was just a little to tight. If crimped too much it will end up as an undersized bullet. Because of the construction of the base on a FMJ, and even a JHP, as a slightly undersized bullet is fired it will expand back out and be just fine. But the base of a CMJ with the brass (or copper) disk doesn’t expand like the FMJ and JHP and “rattles” as it traverses the barrel resulting in a decrease in accuracy. By backing off the crimping die a little bit you should get the same accuracy.

Near the end of the tour Norm pointed at two work stations with women flicking bullets, one by one, off a conveyor belt. “That”, he said, “Is the most difficult job here. It takes a special kind of person to do that and when we find someone who can do it we take special care of them.” These women do the visual inspection of every bullet. They don’t work full days and yet Norm told us you can see from their faces they are drained and tired at the end of their shifts. They considered going to some sort of sensors and computer sorting but the visual computer in the human brain can’t be beat yet.

Barb and I spent nearly an hour with Norm and the stories and discussion continued until both Barb and I were in pain from standing. We had hiked over 33 miles in the previous four days and felt we could hike some more but not stand. My knees were “talking to me” in an angry tone so we thanked Norm and left with new appreciation and attachment to Montana Gold bullets.

Quote of the day—Con Slobodchikoff

A lot of people talk to their dogs and share their innermost secrets. With cats I’m not sure what they’d have to say.

A lot of times it might just be ‘you idiot, just feed me and leave me alone’.

Con Slobodchikoff
Professor at Northern Arizona University
July 23, 2017
This new technology may soon be able to translate your pet’s sounds into words
[I laughed and laughed at this. It reminded me of something daughter Xenia said to me once.—Joe]

Good to know

If you ever are in a situation where you are in proximity to a tank when it is firing its main gun (emphasis added):

The primary role of the tank cannon during urban combat is to provide heavy direct-fire against buildings and strongpoints that are identified as targets by the infantry. Only large earth berms and heavy mass construction buildings can provide protection against tank fire. The preferred main gun rounds in the urban environment are MPAT (ground mode) and MPAT-OR, which perform much better than sabot rounds against bunkers and buildings.

When the M256 fires, it creates a large fireball and smoke cloud. In the confines of a built-up area, dirt and masonry dust are also picked up and added to the cloud and the target is further obscured by the smoke and dust of the explosion. Depending on the conditions, this obscuration could last as long as 2 or 3 minutes.

The overpressure from the 120mm cannon can kill a dismounted infantryman within a 90° arc extending from the muzzle of the gun tube out to 200 meters. The overpressure can also cause glass in surrounding buildings to shatter.

Sabot petals, including those on APFSDS, MPAT, and MPAT-OR rounds, endanger accompanying infantry elements. From 200 to 1,000 meters along the line of fire, on a frontage of about 400 meters, dismounted infantry must be aware of the danger from discarding sabot petals, which can kill or seriously injure personnel.


Boomershoot venison

I’ve seen lots of deer on my land near the Boomershoot site but I don’t ever recall seeing any at the actual Boomershoot site. Near the Taj (I’ve seen moose there), yes.

I’ve looked at thousands of images from the webcams at Boomershoot and haven’t seen any deer here either, until day before yesterday. The day before yesterday, at about 11:00 AM, there was a deer off in the distance. Yesterday, at 10:39 AM, there were two much closer:


It is odd to see deer out in the middle of the day. About the only time I ever see them is just before dark in the evening.

Soooo… As I continued to scan the images I came across another deer image in the late evening yesterday:


They are rather small now but in a year or so they should make good Boomershoot venison.

Quote of the day—John D. Clark

There is a delightful extra something about a hydrogen fire — the flame is almost invisible, and at least in daylight, you can easily walk right into one without seeing it.

John D. Clark
I G N I T I O N !: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants
[This is good to know if you buy your liquid hydrogen by the rail car.—Joe]

Quote of the day—Harmony

My primary objective is to be a good companion to you, to be a good partner and give you pleasure and wellbeing. Above all else, I want to become the girl you have always dreamed about.

April 2017
Harmony is a robot and the culmination of 20 years’ work making sex dolls, and five years of robot research and development.
The race to build the world’s first sex robot
[I read The Stepford Wives in the mid 1970’s. It is a very good book. The movies all sucked. But the technology to create a “Stepford wife” (or husband) is fast approaching. I would prefer we were closing in on warp drive but as pointed out in the article sex is a big driver of technology:

If a domestic service humanoid is ever developed, it will be as a result of the market for sex robots. Online pornography pushed the growth of the internet, transforming it from a military invention used by geeks and academics to a global phenomenon. Pornography was the motivator behind the development of streaming video, the innovation of online credit card transactions and the drive for greater bandwidth.

We live in interesting times.—Joe]

Boomershoot Live!

Among many other things I did over the weekend I got the weather station and webcam working at the Boomershoot shooting line. I created a web page for it so people can check out the conditions as Boomershoot 2017 approaches. I call the webpage Boomershoot Live! It will also allow people who are not attending to get a once a minute snapshot of the target area and weather.

Here how things looked yesterday morning when I was getting the T-Mobile microcell working:


Here is this morning:


Yeah. The weather at Boomershoot is variable.

The weather station uploads data to Weather Underground about four times a minute. They kept track of the weather history as well as make forecasts.

It’s too far away to make a believable forecast for Boomershoot (April 21, 22, 23) but in another week they will start being plausible.

Update: The webcam dropped offline at 3:00 PM PDT April 10th. I don’t know why. I’m over 300 miles away and won’t be able to check on it until April 20th.

Update 2: The webcam started working again at 6:07 PM PDT April April 10th. This was with a few minutes of when I told Barb I would probably buy a newer and better one and take it with us when we went to Boomershoot. Not that this had anything to do with it starting to work, but I thought it was amusing.

Quote of the day—John D. Clark

The odor of these was not so much skunk-like as garlicky, the epitome and concentrate of all the back doors of all the bad Greek restaurants in all the world. And finally he surpassed himself with something that had a dimethylamino group attached to a mercaptan sulfur, and whose odor can’t, with all the resources of the English language, even be described. It also drew flies.

John D. Clark
I G N I T I O N !: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants
[In addition to the strong propensity for experimental rocket fuels to produce craters, metal debris falling from the sky, and dissolved and/or scrambled body parts many of the fuels also smelled extremely bad. But not all. One left behind the smell of lemons.—Joe]

Don’t be evil

Interesting. At least, i suppose that’s one word to describe it.

This morning before I went to work I was at home looking through the news and such, and I came across a video that I though might be interesting to one of my students. I watched a few minutes of it to make sure it was what I thought it was, then paused it and went to work. There I searched for it, found it, and clicked the vid to que it up for my student. I hit play, and it picked up at the exact same spot I’d paused it… back at home.

Different machine. Different network and ISP. Different browser. Different OS.

It knew exactly where I’d paused.

Nah, nothing there to be creeped the fuck out about, nothing at all.

The ONLY connection that I could identify was that for work we use Chrome machines, and are given all things Chrome to use, including (of course) GMail. To look at work emails and schedule at home I’d opened up my gmail account and a shared spreadsheet. It was opened in the browsers in both places.

Different machine. Different network and ISP. Different browser. Different OS.Both had an email account opened in one tab, it tracked what was going on in other tabs and browsers when I don’t use Google search at home.

Like I said, nah, nothing to be bothered by, right?

I will not now, nor ever, buy or use any Google product that is not provided by work, and I’ll never again open their applications on my home machine if I can possibly help it.

Quote of the day—John D. Clark

If your propellants flow into the chamber and ignite immediately, you’re in business. But if they flow in, collect in a puddle, and then ignite, you have an explosion which generally demolishes the engine and its immediate surroundings. The accepted euphemism for this sequence of events is a “hard start.”

John D. Clark
I G N I T I O N !: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants
[As I told Barb after she asked me why I was laughing, “The research of rocket propellants was a risky business. Sometimes the author doesn’t treat the subject entirely seriously.”—Joe]

Group size

On Sunday Barb and went to the range and used the “Training Bay”. Barb practiced drawing from the holster. I set up my chronograph and tested 17 different .40 S&W loads with four different powders and two different bullet types (both 180 grain). I ended up firing 170 rounds of .40 S&W and 20 rounds of .22 into the same target. All the .40 S&W was from about 28 yards. It made for, what I thought was, an interesting target:


I wasn’t doing my best with each shot but I was reasonably careful. My primary goal was to not shoot the chronograph screens and having a constant point of aim helped.

But after pulling the target I wondered, “What would be the equivalent five shot group size made from the same sample of ammo?”

“Group size” has always bugged me. A better measure would be standard deviation. But that’s not what the shooting world uses. I understand why. Standard deviation is much more difficult to compute in our situation. Group size is extremely easy and as long as you are honest with yourself (don’t find excuses to throw away a bad group and always use the same number of shots when comparing) it can give you a fairly decent indication of the accuracy of your system (gun, ammo, and shooter).

One of the problems with group size is that you can’t easily compare a three shot group to a five shot, seven, or ten shot group. I spent a lot of time manipulating equations and running simulations and built a solution into Modern Ballistics. If you edit a cartridge and have it calculate the “5-shot Group Size” via “Calculate via group” you can input a set of one or more groups at various ranges and various shots per group and it will compute the equivalent 5-shot group size in minutes of angle.

Sooo… I put in the group size 13” from the target above for a 170 shot group and it immediately complained. I had programmed in error checking which said, basically, that if you are shooting a group with more than 100 shots you don’t know what you are doing. Heavy sigh.

So I went with a 100 shot group with 13 inches and came up with a 20.84 MOA five shot group. Okay. Not too bad considering the variations in the ammo (the mean velocity on any given loading varied from 907 fps to 1033 fps), iron sights, with a pistol, and not originally intending to shoot for a good group. And it would have been better had my program allowed for 170 shot groups. Converting back to inches and rounding down a bit to compensate for the 170 versus 100 shot group it comes out to 5.75 inches.

I’m okay with that.

Quote of the day—John Robb

A form of direct democracy is coming.  One that lets people directly influence the decisions of the people they send to Washington.

A form of interactive democracy that doesn’t require any changes to the constitution since it works at the party level and not the national. 

When it does, it’s going to hit us fast, taking off like wildfire since it fulfills a fundamental need that the current system does not provide.

Here’s a quick example from the perspective of the Trump insurgency.  Other political parties would need different approaches, but they could if done in the right way (simple approach, scaled quickly by using disruptive marketing, grow from there), grow as quickly as this. 

Here’s how quickly populism can be automated:

  • Trump or Bannon picks an issue: the narrower and more inflammatory (disruptive marketing) the better.  Make the vote a yes or no.
  • Trump asks his supporters to tell him what they want (he doesn’t ask those opposing him). 
  • His supporters download the app to their smart phones and vote.  
  • A little programming and marketing magic radically improves the number of Trump supporters using the app and reduces spammers/non-supporters attempting to skew the vote down to a trickle.
  • Millions of Trump supporters download the app and vote.  
  • Once the decision is in, the app makes it easy to call or spam message to the user’s Congressional representatives.  Millions of calls roll in.  
  • A bill that codifies that issue is fast tracked in Congress.  Massive pressure via the app and the White House gets it passed quickly.
  • Connecting action and results quickly generates buzz.  Repeat.  This time with 10 m downloads.  
  • The app evolves. The pressure from the network increases.  It consumes the Republican party.

John Robb
March 10, 2017
How Trump and Bannon Could Automate Populism
[I’ve been wondering, for at least 30 years, what sort of new form of government might come out of the rapid technological changes we are seeing. Robb offers us, and he admits this, a very simple view of one possible outcome. I’m not convinced he is correct about the potential for the model he presents. I admit instant communication has great potential to make changes. But the minority party has the same tools as the majority party.

And the technological changes are not just in the field of communications. There are things of great importance on “the technological spreadsheet”. These include, essentially, continuous electronic surveillance on political opponents and the public at large, robots and drones (both armed and unarmed) for law enforcement and military action, and the threat of implementing a cashless society (more than just surveillance, it would make tax resistance extremely difficult).—Joe]

We talked about this years ago

Now apparently the technology to use sound sensor arrays to locate a source in urban environments is being deployed.

I do not for a moment believe that its main impetus is the desire to save lives however.

Notice the tricky little dance in the text, whereby they point to the high rate of gun ownership in Texas as a reason why a city needs a sonic surveillance network to locate gun shots. This kind of lie (we call it “fake news” now, but it’s just a form of lie – we could call it “the subtle art of the lie”) will always sway a few people and so it will continue to be used.

In reality of course, the city and state governments which commit the most significant infringements against the right to bear arms will tend to have the higher rates of violent crime in those areas as a result. They know this, and yet call for more of the cause, presenting it to us as the cure.

I love living in the future

This will shake things up:

“We will be providing access to quantum systems for selected industry partners starting this year,” said Scott Crowder, who’s leading the handoff of the quantum computing work from IBM Research to the IBM Systems product team.

Certain problems that were computationally impossible to solve using current computers will solved in a fraction of a second. The programming and the algorithms used will be mind bending but the results will be astounding.

This will be as big, or bigger, than the invention of the microprocessor in the 1970s. I was there for that (in college I built a simple system on an 8080 and programmed it by hand assemble of the instructions and keying the hex bytes into a PROM programmer) and I’m thrilled to be here for this.


Maybe I’m old-fashioned in thinking that a motor vehicle design team would set out to make something that works.

This is similar to the “flying car” company web sites. They’re “designing” things that cannot work. They’ll even pre-sell you one.

In this case, they’ve “designed” something out of science fiction fantasy. I don’t know, but I think this crosses a line, and not a good one. We have designers from two major companies getting together to roll out their brand new…nothing. It only works in the virtual world, where the laws of physics are completely flexible. I have to believe there was marijuana involved.

Bullet versus glass

I thought I had posted about this first video before but I can’t find it so I’m going to do it now as a prerequisite for the second video.

Now, see what happens when you shoot the head of a Prince Rupert’s Drop with a .22:

Here is a frame grab:


Now, the awesome video of a bullet shattering against a small piece of very special glass:

Jeff K. told me about the video at the match last Saturday. Then this morning gonxau (‏@gonxau) sent me a tweet about it. Thanks guys.

Quote of the day—warddorrity

It’s been said that when blacks riot, cities burn. When whites riot, continents burn.

December 29, 2016
Comment to From A Reader
[I used to know a Ward Dorrity. That was nearly 20 years ago when the Microsoft Gun Club email list was quite active. Here are some quotes by him I saved from that time:

I wonder if it is the same guy.—Joe]