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Published in The IHMSA News, the Official Publication of The International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association
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Volume 13, Issue 7 August
  The Ranging Shot Email Todd:
  With ( Comments or questions? )
Todd Spotti

     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 only.

     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 just $135.

     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 up.

     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.

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.