Some months back I did a review of Sinclair International’s
excellent case spinner. This is a simple device that chucks into a
variable speed electric drill or portable electric screw driver. Slip in a
cartridge case, spin it up, and you can neck turn cases in almost the
blink of an eye with Sinclair’s neck turning tool.
I especially liked the case spinner
for cleaning dirty, sooty revolver cases as well. Just spin them up to
high speed and buff with a wad of 0000 steel wool. In just about 6-8
seconds, the cases are burnished clean as a whistle.
Well I just found an even faster way
of cleaning cases using the Sinclair spinner. Again spin up and instead of
steel wool, wrap a wad of a product called a “Never Dull” around it. Never
Dull is used primarily as a brass and metal cleaner by guys into
automobile restoration. Consequently, it can be found in most all auto
supply stores. Sinclair sells it through its catalog as well. It’s quickly
become a staple in the shooting bags of the benchresters who use it to
clean the soot off of their case necks.
Never Dull is packaged in a silver tin
that looks like a mini coffee can around 4 inches tall. Inside is some
stuff that looks like cotton waste or wadding wrapped in a coil. The waste
material is impregnated with a kind of petroleum solvent that cuts through
dirt, soot, and corrosion in an instant. Just tear off a piece of the coil
and shine away. It’s amazing how fast and effortless this stuff
works. After a quick pass on your cases with the Never Dull, use a clean
rag to wipe off the residue while the case is still in the spinner. It’ll
now look brand new. Honest. You’ve got to try this stuff. It really
works. It is literally the fastest way to clean cases there is. I guess my
tumblers are going to take a trip to the bargain table at the next
match. Don’t need them any more now.
New Nosler Reloading Manual
The new Number 5 reloading manual at
728 pages is bigger than ever. There’s plenty of data on cartridges that
are used by silhouette shooters such as the 7 BR, 7 TCU, 7 IHMSA, 6.5 BR,
6 TCU, 357 Max, 44 Mag, etc., etc. You’ll also see some familiar
silhouette shooters introducing some of the various cartridges as well as
other well know gun writers giving us their insights.
Probably one of the main
characteristics of the new manual is their new format ballistics tables
which are much more user friendly. In most manuals, the ballistic data is
looked up under a specific bullet from that manufacturer. The Nosler
manual uses a more generic approach in that you get the data by referring
to ballistic coefficient. So if two bullets from two different
manufacturers have the same or almost the same ballistic coefficient, the
data applies to both, and not just to one bullet from one manufacturer
All the new cartridges are also
included in the manual such as the Remington Ultra Mags and the Winchester
Short Mags, plus all the old familiar standards and our silhouette
wildcats for a total of 105 different cartridges. That’s a bunch.
I also like the fact that the Nosler
manual continues to use bar graphs to illustrate the difference in powder
performance with different weight bullets. This tells you at a glance
which is going to give you the best performance.
If you haven't been there yet, a visit
to this web site is a “must do”. While geared primarily to events at the
Los Angeles Silhouette club, it is much, much more. It is certainly one of
the most comprehensive silhouette sites on the web. Lots of information,
articles, photos, info on the Internationals, etc. It’s also certainly one
of the most popular silhouette sites on the net with something like a
5,100 visitors every week. Check it out.
BSA Platinum 6x24 Target Scope
With the recent demise of Tasco, the
number and variety of inexpensive rifle and pistol scopes available to
shooters of modest means has certainly diminished. The market for such low
cost scopes is considerable, as there are certainly more customers out
there whose financial resources are some what more limited than there are
those with fat, bulging wallets. For every customer that can afford to
casually plunk down $500 or more for a scope, there are at least five that
can’t. Yes, we’d all like to own a top of the line Leupold, Burris, or
Nikon, but for many, it just can’t be done and still make the car payment.
Fortunately, the entry of BSA into the
sporting optics market just a few years ago will cushion the exit of Tasco
from this segment of the marketplace. BSA’s current optical product line
up consists of three categories i.e. very large objective lens hunting
type scopes (Big Cat & Cats Eye), normal hunting type scopes (Deer
Hunter), and target scopes (Platinum & Contender). BSA also sells a
variety of red dots, 22 and airgun scopes, and spotting scopes.
While I’ve had previous experience
with BSA’s very worthy 4x12 airgun scope (which I reviewed in these
pages), I’ve never had the opportunity to use any of their rifle scopes.
Consequently, I decided I should change that situation in light of these
new developments. To do so, I thought I’d check out their Platinum 6x24
with the 44mm objective lens. I figured it would make a viable candidate
for a standing unlimited silhouette gun or for perhaps a Field Pistol gun.
It could also be used for varmint shooting in the off season as well.
While Platinum scopes are also
available with a 52mm objective lens for only $30 more, I choose the 44mm
because I just didn’t have scope rings anywhere high enough to accommodate
a lens that large. After all, 52mm is almost as large as the objective
lens on many spotting scopes. The larger objective lens was very tempting
however as it definitely should provide a brighter image.
Are these scopes economy priced? You
bet they are. Let me give you an idea of how heavily discounted these
scopes can be. The Platinum 44mm has a suggested retail price of $299.99.
I recently saw them being sold by one of the catalog outfits (Midway) for
With such a low price tag, you’d think
that the Platinum 44 would be a stripped down model, but surprisingly,
it’s not. It’s advertised as being fully waterproofed, shock proofed, and
nitrogen filled. It’s also got oversized target knobs that can be zeroed
by adjusting and locking down three small set screws on each knob. The
objective lens is fully adjustable, and the scope offers around 3.5” of
eye relief to the shooter. It also has metal lens caps (I hate the plastic
kind.). The threads on one of the caps were kind of rough however.
Additionally, there’s two metal sun shades included (3 & 5 inches long).
The sun shades can even be screwed together to make a giant 8” shade which
also makes a dandy hand grip when shooting standing. Additionally the
crosshairs have a very nice quarter MOA dot in the center. If a scope is
going to have a dot, this is the one to have. Larger dots have a tendency
to block out significant portions of the target.
Lastly, the scope’s lenses are also
multi coated. In the jargon of the optics industry, this means that some
of the lenses in the scope are multi coated but not all. If all the lenses
were multi coated, the scope would be described as “fully multi coated”.
Hey, what do you want for $135?
Upon examining the scope for the first
time I was somewhat surprised to discover that the target knobs didn’t
come equipped with dust caps. This is the only scope that I’ve ever seen
in which that has been the case. Dust caps are useful to protect the
knob’s settings from being bumped around during normal handling and in
some cases, to provide a further degree of weather protection to the
internals of the scope. The big knobs were easy to use with one click
being equal to an eighth of an inch in movement. They were a bit on the
mushy side however.
I was also surprised that an Allen wrench to
loosen or tighten the lock down screws on the target knobs was not
furnished for some reason or another. These screws are very tiny and are
of an odd size (metric?) and so you would think an appropriate Allan
wrench would have come with the scope. I thought at first that I just
overlooked it in the box, but after a close check I determined
there was no wrench to be found. Oh well, it’s not that big a
deal but it would have made things a bit more convenient as
the elevation knob was loose on my scope and I had to scrounge
around to find an appropriate sized wrench to tighten things
Whenever I check out a variable power scope
one of the things I look at is whether the scope will change point of impact
when you change magnifications. There’s two ways of doing thing. The first and
worst way is to shoot groups at several magnifications. I call it the worst way
because a shooter (me) can make mistakes which can mess up the results. The best
way is to mount the scope on a gun and then install a bore sighter on the
barrel. (A bore sighter kit should be in every scope shooter’s range bag. It’ll
save you a ton of grief zeroing in a new scope.) When you look through the scope
you’ll then see the scope’s crosshairs superimposed against the image of the
bore sighter’s calibration grid. Note the position of the crosshairs and then
turn the scope’s power ring through its entire range several times. If you see
the crosshairs drifting at all from its original position, there’s going to be a
change in bullet impact from one magnification power to another. This indicates
that the erector tube in the scope with its optical train is out of alignment. I
performed this check on the BSA and it passed with no problem.
I also use a bore sighter to see how
consistent the clicks were on the elevation and windage knobs. In this case, you
center the scope’s crosshairs in the center of the bore sighter grid, then turn
the windage knob at least 50 clicks right, then 50 clicks up, then 50 left, and
lastly 50 down. You should now be in exactly in the same place from where you
started. If you’re not, the clicks aren't tracking properly and you’ll want to
send the scope back for adjustment/repair. Again, the BSA passed our test and
brought the crosshairs back to their starting position.
Now it was out to the range. It was a
bright, clear day, just perfect for checking out a scope. For a field checkout,
there’s two things you want to look at. Resolution and brightness. Resolution is
a term describing how well the scope can “resolve” objects in the image. In
other words, how well you’ll be able to distinguish one object from another when
they’re located very close to each other. It’s usually measured in “lines of
resolution” by looking at a special chart of vertical lines of differing sizes.
While I have such a chart, it’s very large
and awkward to take to the range. Consequently I made my own by using the
different font settings on my computer. The chart was just several lines of
“O’s” of varying type sizes. When I put the chart out at 100 yards, I was able
to determine that the 24 point line was the smallest I could distinguish at that
distance with the BSA set on its highest power. Smaller “O’s” just blended into
a fuzzy horizontal blur. This level of performance is actually pretty good,
being very similar to that from my Bausch & Lomb Discoverer 60mm spotting scope.
The B&L’s image was definitely brighter however because of its larger lens.
Unfortunately, brightness is a fairly
subjective characteristic to evaluate. I wish that I had a device that I could
just strap on the end of a scope to objectively measure how much light it was
able to transmit. There are such devices, but even the scope manufactures don’t
have them. The only thing you can do then is do a side by side subjective
comparison with a similar product of known quality.
For the side to side comparison I used a
Simmons Presidential 6.5X20 scope which also had a 44mm objective lens. Just
before it was purchased by Blount several years ago, Simmons was adding a first
quality, premium line of products to round out its regular slate of value priced
scopes. This 6.5X20 and the 2.5X7 pistol scope that I use so often were part of
that series of top quality products. Of the scopes that I own, the Simmons was
the closest in magnification to the BSA. So I turned down the magnification of
the BSA to 20X and just set the two scopes side by side on a stack of sand bags
and started looking through them - back and forth, from one to the other.
The image in the Simmons (which sold at the
time in the middle 400’s as I recall) was clearly better - no pun intended. The
image was crisper, brighter, and the field of view was significantly wider
(interesting since both had the same size objective lens). Even the view of the
crosshairs seemed more clear. However, these advantages weren't anything near
what I would call dramatic. In fact the advantages enjoyed by the Simmons were
definitely more subtitle than blatantly obvious. In other words, you really had
to look hard to find them. As far as I could tell, color clarity was identical,
and edge to edge definition was very similar, with a slight advantage going to
the Simmons. In other words, the BSA was very close in optical performance to a
scope that sold for around 3-4 times as much. I was frankly surprised by the
relatively high level of performance being provided by the BSA.
The bottom line here is the BSA Platinum is
one heck of a buy for the money and can satisfy the needs of just about anyone
who wants a value priced scope to shoot silhouettes, punch paper, or varmint
hunt. While it may a little rough around the edges here and there, its optics
definitely deliver a level of performance beyond its price tag. Give it a look.
Iron vs. Aluminum
Ever wonder which is really better - iron
bullet moulds or aluminum? Both offer advantages that are unique and not
available to the other. For instance, when it comes to weight, obviously
aluminum wins hands down. For long casting sessions, where you’re making a lot
of bullets, working with an aluminum mold can be far less fatiguing. This is
especially true if you’re working with a 4 cavity mold. An iron 4 banger can be
pretty heavy just by itself, and then we’re going to be filling it up with a
fair amount of lead, which will make it a lot more heavy. After a while, you’re
going to get tired, and when you get tired, you’re more likely to make mistakes
or get sloppy. No doubt about it, aluminum is a lot easier to work with over a
period of time.
However when it comes to durability, iron
wins easily. No matter how you cut it, iron is a harder material than even
hardened aluminum. As a result, it just lasts longer. I once had an aluminum
mould that I did an immense amount of casting with. The mould produced beautiful
bullets of my own design - a 215 grain 35 caliber bullet that I shot in a 357
Contender for Production. One day, without warning, the mould stopped
working. The bullets came out looking just absolutely terrible. I played with
the alloy, the heat, had the pins and sprue plate replaced, etc. but nothing I
did worked. The mould just would not produce a decent bullet any longer. This
went on for months and I was practically tearing my hair out in frustration.
Finally, purely by accident, I noticed that the faces of the relatively soft
mould blocks were worn down to the point that the tiny horizontal air vent lines
were almost totally gone. As the lead was pouring down into the cavities, the
air trapped in them had no place to escape, and so bullet quality varied from
rotten to ghastly. It seems that the constant opening but especially the closing
of the mould blocks against each other wore them almost smooth. Good quality
aluminum moulds will last a long time, but iron will last longer. Don’t believe
me? Do you see commercial casters using aluminum moulds? Not likely.
One area where aluminum moulds really shine
is in the area of rust resistance. My aluminum moulds (I own several.) sit in the
open on a shelf out in the garage. Not in a box, not wrapped in treated paper,
they just sit naked on a shelf. I wouldn’t dare do that with my iron
moulds. While the humidity here in Southern California is fairly low most of the
year, the polluted air seems to promote rusting of anything made of iron or
steel. As a result, my iron moulds are kept indoors, wrapped in protective paper,
and tightly sealed in their plastic boxes. Some folks like to spray their iron
moulds with oil as well for additional protection but I usually skip that process
as cleaning them up afterwards is a hassle (admittedly a small one).
I guess the bottom line here is you have to
evaluate your requirements. If you do a lot of casting with just a one or two
moulds, the long term durability of iron may appeal the most to you. On the
other hand, if you have long casting sessions, especially with a 4 cavity mould,
the comfort of using an aluminum mould might be more appealing. Which ever you
choose, make sure you wear the appropriate safety gear for casting and be sure
that you’re doing so in a very well ventilated area.