Lettuce Protector Concept

  • Last Post 13 April 2024
Ed Harris posted this 24 January 2018

The attraction for me of the British "Rook Rifle" concept is that low-powered handgun rounds, fired from a rifle are relatively quiet, like firing standard velocity .22 LR, but they hit MUCH harder than a rimfire, being useful on larger game or varmints .

The .360 No. 5 and .380 Rook Rifle cartridges were used for culling "park deer" in Britain before WW1. These particular black powder Rook Rifle cartridges were similar in dimensions, velocity and energy to the .38 Short Colt or .38 S&W cartridges and were popular in pocket and Constabulary revolvers of their pre-WW1 era. 

The .38 S&W cartridge dates from that same era. When fired out of a rifle you have a modest gain in velocity, but the potential for adiabatic expansion is limited by its tiny powder charge and the greater expansion ratio of the longer barrel. The result is that standard-pressure revolver loads, operating at black powder pressures, with fast-burning powders like Bullseye, deliver ballistics from a rifle-length barrel very much like a .38 Special wadcutter. 

The .38 Special wadcutter performs out of proportion to its kinetic energy, depositing about the same energy into a gelatin block before exiting that .45 ACP hardball does.  My .38 S&W hand loads utilize cast bullets having a large meplat because any expansion is absolutely NOT in the cards at the low velocities we are talking about. 

I have no interest in trying to see how powerful a load I can assemble for my .38 S&W Lettuce Protector. I have other caliber barrels to do for that. The design intent is a small capacity cartridge having ballistic characteristics which approximate a large-caliber air rifle. Heavy, blunt, slow bullet, low velocity, low noise.

The .38 S&W case is ideal in this application, using ordinary revolver loads, fired in the rifle, letting the velocity go where it will.  Because my goal was to use as heavy a bullet as I can, launched at as low a velocity as will reliably exit the barrel, I used a 1:10" twist 9mm barrel to provide optimum gyroscopic stability. My .38 Special rook rifle barrel has a 1:20" twist, which is accurate with standard 110-158-grain revolver loads, but heavier ones must be driven "hard" to be accurate and stable, resulting in a LOUDER gun... 

I wanted a stealthy hard hitter, indeed a smaller version of my .45 ACP/.455 Webley rifle, which the .38 S&W would provide.  John Taylor fitted a Green Mountain "Gunsmith Special" 9mm Parabellum barrel blank and chambered it with a Manson .38 S&W "Rook Rifle" reamer having a 3 degrees Basic forcing cone, having a major diameter of .363" at the case mouth, which engraves the nose of the 190-grain bullet upon chambering, just like forcing a round of Eley Tenex in your Dad's old Winchester 52 match rifle. 

While it is true that the "fat" .362 bullet will raise pressure a bit in getting squeezed down into that .356" groove diameter barrel, the resultant pressure-rise should be well within the design limits of the Infamous Bunny Gun, as John has been known to call it. In other barrels for it I shoot .38 Special +P and .45 ACP which operate at 20,000 psi or so.  I doubt that squirting .38 S&Ws down a 9mm barrel will exceed that. A fat, soft lead bullet being extruded down a gradual origin of rifling, should provide a smooth pressure rise, clean burn of the powder charge and make the most efficient use of the tiny powder charge, about 2 grains of TiteGroup or Bullseye with the 190-grain bullet and about 2.5 grains with a 150-160 grainer.

The resulting "Lettuce Protector" is 34-1/2 inches long and weighs 4-1/2 pounds. The firing table below is my best estimate of what energy and trajectory of the little rifle might look like, firing ordinary 146-grain lead factory loads. Once I know ACTUAL results, the table can be tweaked:

.38 Smith & Wesson, Rook Rifle 20” barrel, 146gr Factory LRN – iron sight 75-yard zero

40___3.8142___756__185 Max. bullet rise, 6:00 hold on small game
75___0.0320___731__173 Zero range, point of aim = point of impact
90___-3.9963__721__168 Max. "point blank" range
150__-35.5832_682__151 Max. range at which rifle velocity drops to approximate revolver muzzle velocity.

Approximate 36" holdover for "E" silhouette at max. range to "repel boarders."

In my field use of these handgun-caliber rifles shooting subsonic loads, I have found it best to utilize an "optimum trajectory" in which the maximum bullet rise does not exceed about 4 inches. With iron sights you take a 6:00 hold on a typical small game animal until the front sight bead about covers the critter, and then blot him out and shoot.

With the .38 S&W cartridge this works out to a 75 yard zero and a 90-yard "point blank" at which the path of the trajectory drops 4" below line of sight. The maximum range at which the rifle velocity decays to the point that remaining energy equals revolver energy near the muzzle is 150 yards, with 36 inches of drop, about the height of an Army E silhouette of you must repel marauding Indians, bandits or Zombies . While no power house out there, a 150-grain bullet arriving with almost no noise to help you identify where it came from would be an unpleasant surprise to an intruder, either 2-legged or four-legged.

A full range report with verified drop and accuracy results will follow when the rain quits and the mud dries out!


Accurate 36-190T Breech Seated showing engraving

The Lettuce Protector

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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David Reiss posted this 25 January 2018

Typical Ed Harris, well written and purely enjoyable. 

David Reiss - NRA Life Member & PSC Range Member Retired Police Firearms Instructor/Armorer
-Services: Wars Fought, Uprisings Quelled, Bars Emptied, Revolutions Started, Tigers Tamed, Assassinations Plotted, Women Seduced, Governments Run, Gun Appraisals, Lost Treasure Found.
- Also deal in: Land, Banjos, Nails, Firearms, Manure, Fly Swatters, Used Cars, Whisky, Racing Forms, Rare Antiquities, Lead, Used Keyboard Keys, Good Dogs, Pith Helmets & Zulu Headdresses. .

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RicinYakima posted this 25 January 2018

Your next to  last picture shows what we are looking for: chamber alignment! Every thing else is secondary to bullet fit in the chamber.

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Ed Harris posted this 25 January 2018

I agree!  Dave Manson was extremely helpful in configuring the reamer, after sending him the bullet drawing from Accurate and knowing that .38 S&W would be the basic brass.  John Taylor has the .38 S&W Rook Rifle reamer and is able to repeat this performance for others.  In our discussions we agreed that the .38 S&W cartridge is a safer one to use for relining and rechambering original old rook rifle and tiny single-shot black powder rifle actions, because factory loads don't exceed 14,000 psi and there are no +P loads made in this caliber. That is the same reason he likes using the .32 S&W Long and the .44-40 for other similar conversions and I agree with his assessment.

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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RicinYakima posted this 25 January 2018

John Taylor is a wise man. Forty years ago I had an acquaintance who had an1873 Winchester rebored from 32 WCF to 357. Since it was a "Winchester" is was "strong". Within a month he had to tap the cases out with a cleaning rod "because the gunsmith screwed up the extractor". Within the next month the links were peened and he was prying out the cases with a screwdriver. You can not protect the world from idiots. So .32 longs, 38 S&W's and .44/40's make good sense to me!

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TheMrNotSoFamous posted this 25 January 2018

Look forward to your follow-up on this. To me it's very interesting. What make of rifle is that?

Owning a firearm doesn't make you armed anymore than owning a guitar makes you a musician...words of Jeff Cooper

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Ed Harris posted this 25 January 2018

My "Lettuce Protector" and the "Infamous Bunny Gun" are built on old, pre-war H&R .44/12mm or .44/.410 shotgun frames.  These are a simple rebounding-hammer break-open design, without transfer bar, made from the 1890s until just before WW2.  Early guns before 1900 were chambered for the .44 Game Getter (.44-40) shot cartridge. Later versions dating from the WW1 period are marked either .44/12mm or .44/.410, being chambered for the original 2" Eley .410 cartridge.  Many of these old guns have since been rechambered for 2-1/2" or 3" shells. I have one with its original .44/.410 2" chamber and full choke, and another which was rechambered to .410 3" and cut-off for a cylinder bore. A third action I got from Ric Bowman was originally a 28-ga. with deeply pitted barrel, which couldn't be salvaged, which is also how I got so cheap. Thank You Ric!

Having complete, new handgun caliber rifle barrels fabricated "from scratch", NOT a stub job, is the best way to go. By doing so the barrels will fit correctly and lock up tightly as they should.  Making, attaching and fitting the underlug, making and fitting the extractor, chambering the barrel, installing sights and bluing is not a "cheap" conversion. Doing everything correctly, with quality workmanship, new barrel, good chamber, well fitted, with good sights and positive functioning ejector you are looking at $300+ the cost of a barrel blank and sights unless you supply those materials. 

I've used Green Mountain barrels on several and am very happy with them. Overall such a project is very much less expensive pouring your money into a basket-case English rook rifle, which easily exceeds four figures, or buying a new lever-action .38 Special or .45 Colt Cowboy gun which tips the scales at over 7 pounds and costs more than twice what a typical Bunny Gun Barrel Fabrication does.

If you want a very light center-fire garden rifle you must first "want it" and then have it purpose built.  There are none available "off the shelf."   Yielding to My Bunny Gun fetish has proven less expensive than building competition benchrest rifles or collecting antique Colts, Winchesters...I don't need to go on vacations anymore, so I spend my money on Bunny Guns. Spending a month in Italy casting and shooting with Giorgio and meeting the Cowboys of Acqui Terme is a hard act to follow, loaded with a lifetime of pleasant memories.  I enjoy staying close to home and tinkering now.

Modern H&Rs are based on the SB2 12-ga. frame. It is difficult to build a gun lighter than 7 pounds. The Turkish Midland Arms copy of the Beretta folder has real possibilities for producing a 4 pound walking rifle and it is affordable, around $150. Currently they offer only  shotguns, but rimfire and centerfire rifles are planned. Their product emphasis has been on short barrels for backpackers and survivalists, because they believe that is what the market wants.  I am trying to educate them into producing a very light .327 Federal or .357 Mag. walking rifle with longer, quieter barrel suitable for use with .32 S&W Long or .38 Special loads which won't make your ears ring.  If enough people would pester them there is hope. Use this link to contact them if you care to  Midland Contact  I think they could carve out a niche for a 4 lb. 26" .327 Federal with XS peep and Picatinny rail, with matching 26" improved cylinder .410 or 28-ga. barrel as a factory produced "Garden Gun and Lettuce Protector." 

The small frame prewar H&Rs are fairly common on firearm auction sites and can usually be had for under $150, but you will have $500 in the package by the time you have a rifle barrel made and fitted for it.  A factory-produced combo could probably retail for $300-350.

The advantage of the old, H&R small frame, is that it is among the few platforms available to built a very light gun.  My .44-40 with 19-1/2" barrel weighs exactly 4 pounds, as does my .32 S&W Long.  My .38 Special with 25" tapered barrel weighs 4-1/2 pounds, as this gun does with it much heavier barrel which is 0.70" diameter at the muzzle, and 20" long.  My .45ACP/.455 gun with 20" full bull 0.90" cylindrical barrel weighs 5 pounds.  I have a .45 Colt barrel of the same dimensions which is accurate and quiet with Cowboy loads.  

Most modern shotgun actions are scaled to the 20-ga.and 12-ga., making them much larger and heavier, which precludes the possibility of a very light walking gun well under 5 pounds.

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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Ed Harris posted this 31 January 2018

_Initial range report on The Lettuce Protector:

Velocity Data of Factory .38 S&W Loads  vs. Cylinder Gap and Barrel length:

Firearm____________S&W 32-1_____Colt_______Ruger______W&S Mk4______S&W Victory___Rook Rifle
Barrel length__________2”___________4”_________4”__________4”_____________5”______________20”
Cyl. Gap_pass 0.004/hold 0.005_p0.005/p.006_p.004/h.005_p.005/h.006__p.008/h.009_Solid bbl.   

Vintage Ammunition____________________________________________________________________________
FN Mk2z___________577,8 Sd______616, 10_____618,19 _____616, 10_________571,22__Bullet Stuck in Bbl!
Kynoch 146LRN_____623,26 _______649, 31_____650,22______695, 7 _________685, 22_____848, 7 prewar commercial
WRA 146LRN (WW2)_659, 10_______701, 13_____727, 5______702, 22_________681, 14_____787, 14 
Rem-UMC 150 LFN__668, 22_______768, 14_____765, 15______n/f____________754, 10____  920, 14 Dogbone balloon head

Modern Commercial Ammunition

Fiocchi 146 LRN_____706, 12______809, 21______820, 23______794,14________709, 24______985, 9
R-P 146 LRN________603, 14______674, 12______697,18______668, 190_______627,22______790,10
W-W 146 LRN_______586, 18______593, 36______662, 29______643, 15________620, 19______801, 12

All Factory ammos:

Column Mean_______631_________687___________705__________686_____________664__________855

Handloads with Accurate 36-155D

6.3#2400___________696, 26_____n/f_________854, 32________n/f________n/f__________1058, 23 +P Postwar revolvers only

2.5 Bullseye_________629, 8_____727, 12_____735, 16_____n/f________680, 25_____856, 22_Fact.dup.load

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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Ken Campbell Iowa posted this 01 February 2018

grrrrrreeeaat stuff ed ...  and the pic of * kleanbore * ammo really got to my nostalgia sensor !! ..

for a few seconds there i could smell the timber during squirrel season ....  thanks, i needed that !! ...

hey those 38 s&w weren't no wimps with cast loads ...



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Ed Harris posted this 02 February 2018

Revised Rook Rifle firing table based on iron sights 1 inch above bore and 150-grain LRN bullet at 845 fps, which is a good average rifle velocity with common revolver ammo:

.38 Smith & Wesson, Lead Round Nose, 150 grain, velocity as fired from a Rook Rifle with 20" barrel:

0__-0.9660___845__238_ simple open sights one inch above bore.
40__3.1934___818__223_Max. bullet rise about 3", 6:00 hold for body shots on small game 25 to 55 yards
75__0.0343___796__211_Point of aim = point of impact at 75 yards 
90_-3.3547___787__206_Max. Point Blank Range 90 yds., about 3" drop below line of sight
130_-18.6401_764__194_Use head hold on "E" silhouette for torso hit, H&I repel borders
150_ -29.8206_753__189_ Energy at 150 yds impact equals .38 Special 4" revolver near muzzle


73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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Ed Harris posted this 15 February 2018

Too dark to chronograph today. Instead I assembled a new portable shooting bench from Sportsman's Guide to put at the 50 yard line on the back side of the pond. This location has a nice level area for setting up the chronograph and still has enough room to move the picnic table to support gallon water jugs for bullet expansion testing etc., while we can shoot groups at 50 yards.  This will be getting lots of use with the rook rifles, cowboy guns, black powder and .22s!!!

Using my new portable bench I tweaked the open sights on the Lettuce Protector so that I now have hard sight dope.  I have flooded both the front and rear sight dovetails with wicking green Loctite, and I assessed the elevation with and without the step elevator in the open rear sight.

With the .70" muzzle diameter and .495" high XS blade sight, the pre-1964 Winchester 94 open rear sight is zeroed at 50 yards with the step-elevator removed and the rear sight resting against the barrel.  This testing was with ordinary Remington 146-grain LRN factory ammo.  Inserting the step-elevator and setting it on the lowest notch, point of impact is about 3" high at 50 yards, which makes a pretty good 100-yard zero holding center-of-mass on the SR1 reduced military 100-yard target.

Ten-shot groups fired with the simple open sights average about 3" at 50 yards, and 6" at 100 yards. About the same as I manage with my Rossi lever-action .44-40 cowboy rifle. My memory of test firing ordinary .38 Special LRN service loads at Ruger from a Universal Receiver and test barrel is that plain vanilla lead service loads don't do much better than 2-1/2" at 50 yards from the test barrel, so for 69 years old shooting simple open sights I am entirely happy with 3" at 50 and 6" at 100 yards.  Quite adequate for making "gong music" on the steel targets.

I need to get Steve Cuccio to cut out a lifesize Bunny Wabbit in 3/8" AR500 with his plasma cutter now...

Also shot some handloads with Magtech 158-grain LRN .38 Special bullets, .358 diameter with cupped base. Graf had these on close-out for $5.95 per 100, which works out to about $2.65 per pound, so you cannot buy alloy and cast bullets that cheap.  I bought 3000... should have gotten more...

With 2.5 grains of Bullseye the Magtechs shoot to the same zero as the R-P factory stuff.  With the lightest charge I can measure, 1.7 grains of Bullseye from the RCBS Little Dandy Rotor #00 bullets exit the 20 inch barrel every time, they are quiet enough to shoot without ear protection and they hit about 3" below the front sight at 50 yards, making 3" ten-shot groups.  Probably step 2 on the elevator would center-up, but with the sight on lowest elevator step and blotting out the 12" gong at 100 yards I ran ten straight hits, and again on the full sized silhouette framing the shoulders with the front sight, and the slow bullets whacking the steel targets made more noise than the gun going off.  Cat Sneeze Perfection! 

Obligatory photos, because if you don't post photos, everybody knows that it never happened...

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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Urny posted this 15 February 2018

Thanks for the report Ed.  Love the photos of the targets, rifle and especially your range across the pond.  I want to make a similar range at the farm in Missouri.



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RicinYakima posted this 15 February 2018

Another great project, Ed. Not only does it shoot well, but I think we are seeing a trend here. Yep we are! What every is your favorite pistol caliber, you can make a little rifle for that cartridge. Looking back over this project the twist of the barrel seems to be the first big decision, will it be accurate with light pistol loads? Next is what range do you want to use the rifle? (for me, if more than 50 yards it has to have a scope for field use). Rimless isn't a problem either, as you can use a Remington 580 series converted to center fire.

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John Alexander posted this 16 February 2018


Great report.

You're going to convince me that I need a Bunny Gun yet even though I no longer have any rabbits to hunt.


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Ed Harris posted this 16 February 2018


Great report.  You're going to convince me that I need a Bunny Gun yet even though I no longer have any rabbits to hunt.


You can always buy steel Bunny Wabbits to shoot.  That's what I am doing, and a groundhog too.


73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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Dale53 posted this 16 February 2018


I have thoroughly enjoyed the journey with the Bunny Rifles. Keep up the good work!


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Ed Harris posted this 16 February 2018

If you want steel Bunny Wabbits and Groundhogs for your own version of "Plinker's Hollow" here is an example of what is available out there:



73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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Ed Harris posted this 20 March 2020

Decided to dust off this thread with the latest experiment.  Accurate 36-240H loaded in the .38 S&W case chambers in the Lettuce Protector and is lightly engraved.  3 grains of AutoComp gets it out of the barrel with no pressure signs, mild report and astounding penetration, zipping through EIGHT gallon water jugs, straight through like a laser, with no signs of yaw.  Bullet is very stable in the 1:10" twist Green Mountain 9mm Parabellum spec. barrel.  Bullet was captured in a 5-gallon jug of kitty litter behind the 8th jug.

36-240H was originally designed as the heaviest plainbased bullet which would be stable when subsonic as fired from a 1:16" twist of rifling in the .35 Remington.  I also wanted to further explore the "Blooper" load at the lowest velocity which would exit the barrel, about 600 fps, but which would be well stablized and shoot clear through any dinosaurs raiding my vegetable garden, without disturbing the neighbors.  Have loaded up more to chronograph and shoot groups.  Stay tuned.


73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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Mike H posted this 22 March 2020

Good stuff Ed,I find these modest low pressure and low noise cartridge projects you come up with are the first posts I look at.

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skeet1 posted this 22 March 2020

What a relief from high velocity super wizz bang cartridges.



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jeff houck posted this 22 March 2020

"zipping through EIGHT gallon water jugs,"

If it takes this much penetration to protect your garden patch then you must have the thickest Wabbits in the country!

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