No, it's not The Pit and the Pendulum, but the basic principle is the same. Sort of. I was 'raiding' the American Handgunner Archives the other night, and in the January/February 1978 issue, the late Jeff Cooper described the need for measuring relative 'pistol power' in IPSC competition during the era before the affordable electronic chronograph. The answer, back in the Dark Ages, was The Ballistic Pendulum. The year was 1976 when I first encountered one of these things, and it was perhaps the most dastardly, deviously designed and conceived contraption I have ever found on a firing line. The scene was a decidedly unsanctioned 'IPSC' match sited in the quintessential dry gulch of the (really) Old West. Matter of fact, I don't think the 'range' had even seen 'backwater' since the Jurassic Period. Then again, I wasn't quite the Master Class shooter myself. Far from it, in fact. For one thing, I was at a rather - How shall we say it? - tender young age. For another, my equipment selection left more than just 'something' to be desired. So, having little room and no inclination to offer up any complaints to the powers that be, I knuckled down and conjured up the real meaning behind the Boy Scout motto: I brung what I had and persevered. At least I had the ballistic bases pretty well covered, or so I thought. Being a teenager, I of course knew everything about the 1911 so I naturally chose to use a revolver instead, albeit a pretty decent one, a brand-new 4-inch Colt Python. And I was ready to meet the monster, too: I brought my own reloads (!). Of course, I told no one this. Ever. But seeing as how the statute of limitations has probably passed, I guess it's OK to let on now. Like the loyal little trooper I was, I worked hard that summer furiously scooping ice cream, watching every penny like an old miser, then wound up blowing nearly the whole wad on the gun plus accoutrements, including reloading gear. So, diving right into the trusty old Speer Manual I miraculously had the wits not only to buy but consult, I found the .357 Magnum page and got to work. I also whispered a silent little prayer. You see, I worshipped at The Handgunner's Holey Temple of the Triumvirate: Cooper, Keith, and Skelton, and it was there on the Second Altar that I prayed. From that lofty vantage point, there could be only one course to ultimate vindication and victory, the one that could slay a dragon if need be. Sadly, the fog of creeping middle age precludes even a winsome recollection of detail at times, but I do remember the powder was 2400, the charge was 15.0 or 15.5 grains, the primer was a CCI 550, and the bullet was a 158-gr jacketed number. (If it eases your mind any, I meticulously weighed each and every charge. What's that? It doesn't? Ha! Why do you think I waited over 30 years to come clean?) For those who neither reload nor remember that revolvers need 'friends' too, this combination wasn't exactly a ticking time bomb, but it wasn't a powder puff, either. Now, all I needed was leather. I hied myself down to the local gun emporium and picked a spiffy new Roy Baker Pancake to fit the Python. Seeing that I chose one in black basketweave, but perhaps not realizing it was the only one in stock, the clerk cheerfully asked me which 'department' I was with. Not taking the question seriously because of my age, I named my nearby hometown. The clerk replied that was a nice place, so to be polite I inquired about grips for the Python and was shown a pair of Herrett Troopers. Ever willing to exercise my one-track mind, I made a half-hearted attempt to rationalize the purchase of both items from the rapidly dwindling reserves in my so-called 'savings' account, then grabbed them and ran, not walked, to the register. At checkout, the clerk inquired again about my 'department' and mentioned they gave a police discount. I said I wasn't a cop, just a kid interested in guns. Well, the clerk thought that was just dandy and gave me the discount anyway, thus proving, I think, that 'those were the days.' They also let kids into gun shows back then, but I digress... I also needed speedloaders to 'compete,' but was just about tapped out cash-wise, so a friend leapt to the rescue by loaning me his, and it was all downhill from there. (Er, so to speak...) It was like destiny calling. (Or something...) I was just sure I would become the next rising star of IPSC competition around the globe. At long last, Game Day arrived and found me facing the subject of this windy tome: The Ballistic Pendulum. Earlier that morning, the ever-helpful match officials had whacked the thing right and proper, thus setting the bar. Now, it was my turn. Stepping up to the line, I prepared myself by doing my best imitation of the Weaver Stance, awaited the command to fire, then... BLAM! The 158-gr projectile took the paddle squarely amidships, neatly tore it off the arm of the demonic device, and launched it into low-earth orbit. There followed a hushed silence among all assembled, then after what seemed like an eternity, the range officer stepped up to the line and said, "Son, I think that makes Major." Epilogue So how did I do in the match itself? Let's just say that - this was by sheer coincidence, you understand - I was compelled to clean out my bank account the very same afternoon in order to cover the 'tab.' Vaguely Relevant SongBite (aka, ViRuS): Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft - Klaatu (1974) Wanna kill these ads? We can help!