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The "Ranging Shot" Is A Regular Column In The IHMSA News
Published in The IHMSA News, the Official Publication of The International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association
Published monthly except November/December - January/February
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Volume 13, Issue 10 Nov/Dec
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Todd Spotti

     17 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 silhouette shooter.

     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 200.

     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 Sierra 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 well.

     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 dark background’s.

     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.

Good luck and good shooting. Todd

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Warning: All technical data mentioned, especially handloading and bullet casting, reflect the limited experience of individuals using specific tools, products, equipment and components under specific conditions and circumstances not necessarily reported in the article or on this web site and over which IHMSA, The Los Angeles Silhouette Club (LASC), this web site or the author has no control. The above has no control over the condition of your firearms or your methods, components, tools, techniques or circumstances and disclaims all and any responsibility for any person using any data mentioned. Always consult recognized reloading manuals.