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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
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Volume 13, Issue 6 July
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Todd Spotti

Dan Wesson Custom Serial Numbers

     Ever want a gun with a custom serial number? You know, like if your name was John Smith, you might chose JS-1 as the serial number for a new gun or perhaps you’d use your birth date instead. Do you know anything that could be more cool in the world of gun ownership? I don’t.

     Custom serial numbers have usually been the province of the rich and famous, and of the two, it’s usually been the famous that were privileged enough to merit the prestige of having a special serial number stamped on their guns. This practice has always been treated as a special, almost secret, perk from the manufacturers to only a very few select people like movie stars, well known politicians, athletes, or other household names.

     Well guess what? Dan Wesson offers custom serial numbers on any of its revolvers. As long as the number hasn’t been used before, it’s yours. Now you can join the elite, and guess what? There’s no extra charge for the service. Man, it doesn’t get any better than that! I just wish I knew that before as I would have had special numbers on all of my Dan Wesson guns. You can bet I won’t be making that same mistake in the future.

Tasco Is Toast

     Eben Brown, maker of the BF falling block pistol, sent out an e-mail advertisement around the middle of May announcing that he was having a very comprehensive sale of TASCO scopes. It seems he just found out that TASCO was going out of business and as a result Eben was clearing out his inventory.

     The demise of this old time scope line was very surprising to me as I usually have a close ear to the ground about what’s going on in industry, and there had been no hint of any trouble at TASCO at all, although an industry friend had told me that there had been a vague rumor at the NRA Show that TASCO was up for sale. However, rumors like that are a dime a dozen in this industry and nine times out of ten, there is usually nothing at all to them. Consequently, I didn’t think anything of it.

     After I heard the news, I called some industry friends and they were as surprised as I was. I then called TASCO itself and and the main thing I found out was that no one was answering the phone - never a good sign. Although the phone system and their web site was operating normally, no one was picking up. I later found out the reason no one was answering was because almost everyone had just been laid off a few days before.

     After making even more calls to industry friends, I finally got more details. It seems that the current owners paid a extra-premium price for the company, and like most of us when we buy a house, they did it with borrowed money - lots of borrowed money. Well, for some reason or another, sales weren't as high as the owners hoped and they weren't able to generate enough income to both make their massive loan payments and run the company. The bank finally got tired of missed payments and pulled the plug seizing the assets of the company.

     The most valuable asset the company had was its name, and I have heard that there is some mild interest by some investor groups in buying TASCO just for the name recognition. However, there’s a conflict in that the bank wants to be paid back in full. We’re talking a HUGE amount of debt here. Consequently, any investor or group of investors would have to come up with an equally huge amount of money. Unless the bank would be willing to sell TASCO at a very deep discount, no one is likely to cough up that amount of money, because the name just doesn’t have that much commercial value.

     Currently, there is only a very small caretaker staff left, however, even they will be gone by July 15. As mentioned before, this has come as a fairly large surprise as the industry in general is in pretty good shape right now and there seemed to be plenty of activity at the TASCO booth at the Shot Show. While TASCO’s scope business has been always a little shaky, it’s binocular business has been considered by most to be very healthy. In fact I’ve been told, it was the binocular end of the business that was generating most of TASCO’s revenue. I guess TASCO’s sudden collapse is a good indication of just how much debt that the company was actually carrying. Whether the warrantee on TASCO scopes currently in the hands of the shooters will still be honored is still undetermined at this time.

TC Says No to California

     Another piece of bad news has come recently to my attention. Namely that neither TC nor its distributors intend to ship any of the new G2 pistols to California. The “safety” law that I discussed in my last column makes it far too costly to do so. I was hoping that because the internal design of the G2 is more robust than the Contender’s, TC would shoulder the expense of having at least some number of G2 calibers certified as meeting the state’s goofy “safety” standards for handguns. However that will not be the case, Consequently, California silhouette shooters will just have to live with the limited number of Contenders that are already in the state.

Lapua Signum 22 Ammo

     Lapua is one of those old time European companies that has been producing high quality ammunition for many, many years. Founded in 1923, it was totally owned by the Finish government and produced ammo exclusively for the Finish army. It wasn’t until 1947 that it actually started making 22 ammo to help raise money to pay off war reparations.

     Today, Lapua is a cog in a very large and complex munitions conglomerate called the NAMMO group (Nordic Ammunition Company). NAMMO is composed of Patria Industries Oyj (Finland), Raufoss ASA (Norwegian), and SAAB (Swedish cars & fighter jets). To make things even fuzzier, Patria Industries, Lapua’s parent company, is still 33% owned by the Finish government. Patria also owns a German ammo manufacturer SK Jagd-und Sportmuntions GMBH which makes the 22 ammo imported by Wolf which I reviewed a couple of months ago and which uses VihtaVuori powder - also owned by Patria. Whew!  Man, their organization chart would make the most dedicated bureaucrat’s head spin.

     More to the point, Lapua introduced a new line of 22 ammo at the 2002 Shot Show called “Signum” - don’t ask me what it means. Signum’s primary characteristic is the fact that it has 12 vertical lubrication grooves cut around the ogive of the bullet. This is in addition to the standard horizontal lubrication grooves that one finds on all other 22 ammo. As a result, Signum bullets carry 50% more lube than any other 22 bullet on the market. OK. So why is that a good thing?

     The theory is that when a 22 cartridge is fired in a chamber, the bullet will move forward and engage the rifling of the barrel. At this moment, the bullet will encounter a brief amount of resistance which will in turn, cause the bullet to slow for a instant. Pressure in the case will then similarly take a brief spike. This pressure boost then is said to distort the bullet’s heel, which as you know for 22’s is smaller in diameter than the bullet’s body and therefore weaker.

     If the bullet heel is distorted, accuracy is diminished. By increasing the amount of the available lube at the ogive, insertion of the bullet into the bore is said to be accomplished much more even and smooth manner reducing the distorting pressure spike. The extra lube is also said to help prevent lead buildup in the critical throat area and to reduce the effects of temperature and humidity on accuracy.

     I recently was able to find some Signum and was immediately impressed with its visual quality. The cases were clean and the bullets were evenly lubricated and tightly crimped. (I hate it when 22 bullets are loose in the case.) The Lapua logo was even stamped on the nose of the bullet - an unusual but nice touch. Proceeding with my evaluation, I randomly selected ten cartridges from the box and weighed them on my RCBS electronic scale. 8 of the 10 weighed exactly 52 grains each. One weighed 51.9 grains and the other weighed 52.1 grains. Considering that the cartridges are composed of five separate components i.e. bullet, lube, case, powder, and primer, this is an impressive accomplishment.

     Taking this inspection a step further, I decided to weigh 20 fired, empty cases. Case weight is an indicator of case volume, and case volume is critical in tiny cartridges like the 22 Long Rifle. Just the slightest variation in volume can mean significant pressure variations which will then translate into significant velocity variations. One of the first things I noticed about the fired cases was how extraordinarily clean they were on the inside. Some other brands of 22 ammo will be black and dirty with plenty of crusty primer residue on the bottom of the case. The inside of these cases were actually shiny. Amazing. After weighing the 20 cases, I found that 19 weighed 10.4 grains and one weighed 10.3 grains. Again this was an impressive manufacturing accomplishment.

     Next in the inspection process, I proceeded to measure the diameter of the bullets. SAAMI specifications for the diameter of the 22 LR is .221”. Of the ten bullets measured 7 were .2215”, 2 were .222”, and 1 was .223”. For a comparison I compared these measurements with the diameter of Lapua’s Midas M ammo (which I really, really like). The Midas bullets consistently measured .2215” with no variation. Just for an information factoid, Midas L bullets measured .2225” in diameter. Conclusion - Signum bullets were not as consistent in diameter as the outstanding Midas but still were pretty good with 70% being exactly the same.

     I then decided to measure the rim thickness. 22 benchrest shooters do this all the time. The theory is that 22 ammo with the same rim thickness will shoot more accurately because the headspace is exactly the same on all the cartridges. Indeed, in past evaluations with the Neil Jones rim thickness gauge, I’ve found that this is exactly the case, especially with inexpensive ammunition where wide variations in rim thickness is often the case.

     The Signum ammo’s rim thickness proved to be very consistent. 7 out of 10 measured exactly .0425”. The extreme spread from the thickest rim to the thinnest was only .0015”. Again for comparison, I measured the rims from a box of Midas L ammo which I’ve found to be very accurate. The Midas rims were slightly more variable than the Signum rims. The spread between the thickest and thinnest in this case was .002”  However, only 30% of the Midas rims measured exactly the same (.430”) as opposed to Signum’s 70%. However, in this case, we may be splitting hairs as I’ve found Midas to be as accurate as any ammo you can buy.

     Now it was off to the range for the shooting part of our examination. I usually measure velocity at 10’ from the muzzle, but this time I decided to do it right at the muzzle instead. The gun used was my Savage Sports Striker equipped with the incomparable Burris 8 X 32 air gun scope, B-Square rings, and Rifle Basix’s aftermarket trigger.

     Ten shots over my trusty Oehler chronograph recorded an average velocity of 1014 fps. This is an unusually low velocity. Most target type ammo will usually sail along at around 70 to 75 fps faster. Lapua’s own literature even states that it should be doing 1075, although in all fairness that was probably out of a rifle. It just may be that the powder used in the Signum ammo is more adapted to a longer tube than the Striker’s 10 inch barrel. The standard deviation of velocity was a very low 8 fps. Very impressive.

     Anyway the lower than normal velocity wasn’t really a big deal as it certainly didn’t affect Signum’s accuracy. At fifty yards the ammo would shoot as tight as you could hold the crosshairs. If you could hold to one hole, it would shoot one hole etc. It was that simple. At 100 yards, three 10 inch groups averaged 1.17 inches. Whether this degree of accuracy was achieved because of Signum’s extra lube or the general high quality of its manufacture, or both, this is very, very good ammunition and well worth a look.

Cold Steel Recon 1

     It’s true that a strong, high quality, working pocket knife won’t help you shoot a perfect silhouette score, but for any person that spends any amount of time outdoors, it’s a must have. I use my pocket knife for everything from cutting silhouette target templates out of heavy cardboard to cutting the string off the morning newspaper to opening boxes, to even dressing out small game. In other words, for everything that needs doing.

     Over the years I’ve owned just about every major brand of knife including that of a top German company. My favorite? Good old American made Cold Steel. Cold Steel has built an enviable reputation on two basic qualities: strength and quality, and the new Recon 1 is probably the very best of its class ever.

     This is a heavy duty 4” folder that comes in either a spear point, a clip point, or the Japanese inspired Tanto. (Mine has the clip point which is an all round design.) The blades are available in a combination half plain edge and half serrated, or in a full plain edge for the Tanto and clip point.

     Serrated edges are handy for cutting cord, rope, or even tough hide.

     The blades also made from AUS 8A stainless steel that has a higher than normal carbon content and a somewhat lower amount of chromium than other stainless blades. This particular formulation allows the blade to take on and hold a fine edge much, much better than standard stainless blades which usually lose their edge fairly rapidly and then need constant sharpening.

     While the blade’s material and the design of the Recon 1 is certainly exceptional, I’d have to say the main characteristic of this knife is its overall strength and extremely rugged design.  Getting back to the blade - it’s definitely not a wimp. It’s a full .125” thick at the spine. It’s fairly unusual to see a blade that thick in a folder. The blade is also held in place in the handle by a new design “Ultra Lock” (patent pending) which uses a spring loaded locking pin to keep everything perfectly rigid when opened. The combination of the heavy blade and new lock also means that things aren't going to twist or flex when used for heavy jobs.

     This is a heavy duty 4” folder that comes in either a spear point, a clip point, or the Japanese inspired Tanto. (Mine has the clip point which is an all round design.) The blades are available in a combination half plain edge and half serrated, or in a full plain edge for the Tanto and clip point.

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.