Hornady Rimfire Magnum - When
my good friend John Wise showed up at our local range with a new 14" TC barrel
chambered in the recently introduced 17 Hornady Rimfire Magnum, I was naturally
interested. After all, the new Hornady, which is essentially a 22 Mag necked
down to 17 caliber, was the #1 hit at this year’s Shot Show. Now every time I
turn around, one firearms manufacturer or another is coming out with a rifle for
the new cartridge - and just try buying one. Fat chance. Everyone’s back ordered
for a month of Sundays. Custom barrel makers and gunsmiths are being kept very
busy with orders for the new 17 as well.
That’s not too surprising as reports from the shooting press and the field
indicate that the Hornady shoots extremely well and is devastating on small
critters. In fact, my brother Guy, who lives in North Carolina, just recently
told me how he blew the head completely off of a good sized copper head at a
distance of 60 yards using the little Hornady.
As I was watching John zero the scope on his new barrel, a wild thought
popped into my mind. I wondered "How would the new cartridge work in IHMSA Field
Pistol competition?" After all, the 22 mag is sometimes used. Would the 17 work
any better? The main thing it would have going for it would be it’s velocity
(2500 fps out of a 10" barrel), so it should be a very flat shooter, meaning
that once zeroed, there shouldn’t be any sight changes going from one group of
animals to another. John also remarked several times how little recoil there
was. That certainly would be an advantage to a Field Pistol shooter as well.
Another very big advantage is that there’s no reloading involved. Most gun
owners don’t reload. So trying to attract non-reloading gun owners to Field
Pistol silhouette is tough. You’re asking them to make major money outlays on
reloading equipment and components in order to shoot in a sport they’re really
not too sure about yet. No problem if they’re shooting the rim fire Hornady.
On the down side there’s the fact that bottleneck cartridges aren’t generally
allowed for Field Pistol, except for the 22 Hornet and a few others. The purpose
for the rule is to protect the targets from damage. That naturally raised the
question of whether the speedy 17 would wreck the targets. At first thought, it
seemed very likely because of its very impressive speed. On second thought,
maybe not. The Hornady bullet weighs only 17 grains after all. Additionally, the
bullet was built as a varmint killer i.e. fairly frangible. Well, there was only
one way to find out for sure.
Dr. Jim Williams who was also present, bravely volunteered his 22 practice
swinger targets for a little experiment. We figured that if the mild steel 22
swingers could stand up to the 17, surely the larger Field Pistol targets could
as well. To be safe, we’d start off with the ram, and then work our way back to
the chicken. If there was any damage at all, the experiment would stop. John
graciously allowed me to do the shooting.
Even though the scope was zeroed only for 50 yards, I held the crosshairs
directly in the center of the ram. Recoil was negligible and the 17 hit the ram
dead center with a loud smack. No bullet drop here. When I heard that sound
though, I thought for sure we cratered Dr. William’s target. However, a quick
exam showed no damage what so ever - not even a dimple. The splash mark looked
just like an ordinary 22 rimfires, except there was this little bright dot in
the center of the splat.
We decided to skip the turkey and moved up to the 22 pig. Same story. Nice
loud hit, no damage. Now it was the moment of truth. If there was going to be
any damage at all, it would be on the chicken. The 17 hit the chicken hard and
really had it rocking back and forth in its stand. However, once more, there was
no sign of damage - much to Dr. Williams relief. It was clear that the light
weight bullet was a critter killer and not a chicken wrecker.
Mild Steel Smallbore Chicken Swinger
Showed No Damage From The Hornady 17 Rimfire Mag
That immediately raised the question of whether the little bullet could knock
down rams. Since there was no question any longer as far as damage was
concerned, I borrowed one of our club’s regular Field Pistol ram targets and put
it out at 100. A center by center shot kicked it down to the ground in a very
forthright fashion. There was no hesitation about it at all. The experiment was
repeated several times with the same results. A later computer session with the
ballistic tables showed that the 17 is smacking the ram at approximately 1850
fps, which is about as fast as my 22 Hornet load is at the muzzle.
It was a particularly satisfying afternoon as we three determined that
apparently the 17 Hornady has the potential to be a successful Field Pistol
cartridge i.e. very flat shooting, evidently adequate knockdown, little recoil,
and no target damage. However, there are no guarantees in life. Will it knock
down all the rams all of the time. At this point, who knows for sure? I don’t
know of any cartridge that’s totally 100% reliable. I’ve rung rams and even
pigs, both large and small, with just about every cartridge available to a
Will it never damage a Field Pistol target? It all depends on what your
club’s targets are made of. If your club’s targets are made of hard steel, as
required by IHMSA’s rules, there’s no problem. However, I’ve seen some pretty
crude home made targets that were as soft as wrought iron. In fact I think they
really were wrought iron. In those cases, yes there would probably be some
damage. However the targets I used were just plain old regular steel which were
home made for me by a local shooter, and they came through without a scratch.
So what’s the other potential problems with using the 17? Initially, the
biggest problem was that no one made a 10" version of this barrel. However,
manufacturers respond to markets. If there is a market, they’d make the barrels.
Indeed, in a subsequent check, I found that 10" barrels are available from Fox
Ridge, BF, and MOA.
Indeed, in a very informative conversation with Richard Mertz, owner of MOA,
I found out that he was experimenting with his own version of the 17 Hornady
over three years ago. At that time, Richard was using prototype cases from
Winchester and Berger 20 grain bullets. Richard reports that he was getting over
3000 fps out of a rifle. Unfortunately, no one at the time was interested in
producing ammunition for the little 17, so the project kind of stalled out. So
to answer the question of whether MOA chambers for the 17 Hornady, the answer is
a not only a resounding yes, but that they've been doing it for years.
A more real consideration problem is cost. Since the Hornady is a rimfire, it
obviously can’t be reloaded. Therefore, it’s more expensive to shoot. However,
my experience in observing silhouette shooters for over 20 years is that if
something works, shooters will pay for it. I seriously suspect however, that
it’s very likely that this issue of cost will diminish over time. After all, the
other ammo manufacturers aren't going to just sit on their duffs and let Hornady
have all the gravy. I’m sure they'll start offering their own versions of the
17 this next year. Also as it’s popularity grows, prices should come down as
well. In fact, prices have already dropped in many places from $12 a box to $10.
I’m sure as more manufacturing capacity comes on line from the other ammo
producers, the price will drop even further to the point that it won’t be more
than what we’re already paying for good quality 22 long rifle ammo.
At this point in time it looks like the 17 Hornady has a secure future with
the shooting public. Whether it has a future in IHMSA is still open.
Burris Goes Italian - The Burris Company Inc. has just been sold to Beretta Holding, owner of
Beretta USA, Benelli USA, Uberti, Sako, Tikka, Stoeger Industries, and other
asserts. Burris had been owned by Inductothern Industries Inc. which, believe it
or not, is a heavy weight in the foundry business both here in the U.S. and
around the world. Inductotherm owns something like 50 different companies either
operating foundry's or supplying products or materials to the industry. How an
sports optics company like Burris became part of a foundry empire has got to be
a very interesting story. We’re told that Beretta doesn’t plan to make any
internal changes at Burris at the moment but does plan to market Burris products
more aggressively in the international market.
If you recall, I reported that
the Tasco name was purchased by
Bushnell also to gain greater penetration
into the international market where Tasco had a presence. Now it looks
like Berretta wants to make Burris a major player where ever Berretta
products are sold. I can’t help but wonder if the marketing wonks are
starting to consider the American market as being saturated and are
searching for sales growth overseas instead.
Another Look At The Nikon ED Fieldscope III - I got a really good e-mail question from IHMSA shooter John A. Johnson
the other day. Besides silhouette, John shoots 22 rim fire on 200 yard
black paper targets. John said he hasn’t found a spotting scope yet that
would let him see his shots on the black targets at that distance. Would
the Nikon ED?
If you read my evaluation of the 60mm Nikon in the last issue, you know that
I regard it as being the best there is in its size class. However, I really had
no idea whether it would be able to resolve 22 rim fire bullet holes on a black
target at 200. I already knew that it can resolve 223 sized bullet holes at 200
meters with no problem, however, rim fire holes were in a very different
category. They’re a lot smaller. My plan to check this out was to shoot a couple
of groups on a regular black bullseye target with two different brands of 22
ammo at 50 yards. I’d then carry the target out to 200 and check it out with the
Nikon ED Fieldscope.
After I shot the groups, I noticed something interesting. The bullet holes on
one group were much more visible than the other. "Why was that?" I wondered. It
turned out that the shoulder on one brand of ammo was fairly sharp and so when
it hit the target, it tore the paper in such a way that the white paper fibers
under the black top fibers were were exposed and made visible. Consequently,
each hole had a little ragged white halo around it. I strongly suspect that this
was the manufacturer’s intent when they designed the bullet with that sharp
shoulder i.e. to make it easier for the shooter to see his shots on a paper
target so they could adjust their aim accordingly.
However, the shoulder of the other brand’s bullets was more streamlined, and
therefore pierced the paper more smoothly. Result - no white halo. Well, this
threw a new twist onto things.
I then walked the target out to 200 and set up the Nikon. The holes with the
white rims were easily visible. No problem there. On the other hand, the other
group’s holes without the white rims were much harder to see. By playing around
with the magnification adjustment and peering intently, I could locate the
shots, but only just barely. Luckily, the day was clear and bright which helped
quite a bit. If it had been overcast, I doubt if I would have been able to see
the shots at all.
I then had an inspiration. Getting a new target, I placed a white piece of
typing paper under the black target bull and shot another two groups at 50
yards. The presence of the white paper backing insured that every hole would
have a little white halo around it no matter what the shape of the bullet’s
shoulder. It worked like a champ and so all the bullet holes were visible at
So, can the Nikon see 22 rim fire bullet holes at 200? The answer is yes. It
won’t see black bullet marks on a black bull at 200 with perfect certainty under
all conditions though. I doubt if anything could. If you use white backing paper
under the black target - no problem. Bottom line - I still think the 60mm Nikon
ED Fieldscope is the best on the planet.
Sierra 5th Edition Reloading Manual
- Just got the word that the new
manual should be out this coming
January. Amazingly, it’s been eight years since the publication of Sierra’s last
manual, and a lot has happened since. There’s a ton of new powders, cartridges,
and Sierra bullets that have hit the marketplace since then. The new manual
covers them all. Another big change is the fact that they’ve combined the pistol
and rifle manuals into one giant volume - a good idea. Additionally, they’ve
updated the sections on reloading equipment, how to reload, and firearms
cleaning. They’ve also polished up the section on external ballistics. This part
of Sierra’s manuals has always been the hands down crown jewel of all reloading
manual discussions of this very important topic. No one, absolutely no one, does
it better than Sierra, and now it’s even better.
The new manual is 1152 pages full of information and retains its familiar
three ring binder format that lays perfectly flat on your reloading bench for
easy reference when loading. Retail price is $28.95, but I imagine it’ll be
selling for around $25 or less at most places. You can also buy it bundled with
Sierra’s INFINITY Version 5.0 ballistic software program, which retails for
$59.95 for the package. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing and using it.
The Dot is Hot - There’s always been a dedicated group of silhouette shooters who are devoted
fans of red dot scopes to shoot everything from Field Pistol to the full sized
targets. When you look at the considerable advantages of the red dots, you have
to admit that those folks might really be on to something.
First of all, a red dot offers unlimited eye relief. Eye relief limitations
have always been a major problem for those shooting the Unlimited Any Sight
category on the long range targets. There just aren't any conventional pistol
scopes out there that have the amount of eye relief necessary to see the image’s
full field of view when shooting in the Creedmoor position. A nice wide field of
view is always an advantage to avoid the problem of shooting a target out of
turn. This sometimes happens when using a scope with a lot of magnification and
a narrow field of view. To get around this limitation, a scope shooter then has
to buy a special mount that will move the scope’s location around 3 more inches
to the rear.
Not required with a red dot. No matter how close or how far away, the red dot
scope will always give you a full field of view. Thus, the extra expense of the
special scope mount and its extra weight are avoided. And by the way, that field
of view is extremely wide at that. The Nikon Monarch shown here has a field of
view of over 47 feet at 100 yards.
The reason a red dot can give its user such a wide field of view is the fact
that they usually have much larger diameters and bigger lenses than your typical
pistol scope. For instance, the Nikon Monarch is a full 30 mm’s in diameter. The
result is an image brighter than you could ever get from any pistol scope with
its light eating system of multiple lens. As a result, the image in most red
dots is one that’s very dramatic and in which the targets can be seen extremely
There aren't any problems with close focusing either. Since there is no
magnification with a red dot, everything from one foot or less out to infinity
is in focus. And you don’t have to fiddle with focusing rings or objective lens
adjustments to get it.
A red dot user doesn’t have to worry about parallax either. Parallax is a
optical condition in which the crosshairs and the image aren't in the same
optical plane. The result is that when you move your head, even slightly, from
one viewing position to another, the crosshairs will move from one part of the
target to another - sometimes even enough to cause the bullet to miss the target
all together. Since the red dot isn’t as optically complex as a regular scope
and doesn’t use crosshairs, there is never any parallax.
From a mechanical viewpoint, red dots are also very simple devices.
Consequently, they’re very reliable and very resistant to heavy recoil.
When it comes to overcast conditions, the red dot shines even more. When
light conditions are poor, things can get real dark real fast with a regular
pistol scope. However, the red dot’s large diameter will admit more light to
provide a brighter image and and its aiming dot will stand out even more against
Ok, so what’s the catch? The catch is that on most dot scopes, the red aiming
point can get washed out when used in bright sunshine. Consequently, you have to
increase its intensity to overcome the brightness of the background. That
usually results in the dot growing in size, often to the point that it will
completely cover most of a silhouette target. Cranking up the intensity will
also make the dot become more irregular in shape as well. However, the new Nikon VSD model minimizes this problem by allowing the shooter to select from among
four different size dots instead of being locked into only a single size. A VSD
owner can choose either a 1, 4, 6, or 10 MOA dot.
The 1 MOA dot is ideal for silhouette shooting. Unlike other dots, when you
put this one on say a Field Pistol size target, you can actually see animal
around the dot. In other words, the dot doesn’t obscure the entire animal. The
variable dot feature on the Nikon is a first class idea and gives the red dot
scope the true flexibility that it lacked before. Check it out.