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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 14, Issue 1 Jan/Feb
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Todd Spotti

     One of those truisms in life is that if you make a mistake, the best thing to do (as painful or embarrassing as it may be) is to admit it, correct it, and move on. Well, in my article "A Haulín Hornet" I made a mistake. Thankfully, the mistake was not of such a nature that it changed the conclusion of the article i.e. "fast 40 grains bullets are a legitimate option for the Field Pistol shooter". Never the less, the mistake needs to be exposed.

     If you recall, I calculated that . 0208 pound seconds of momentum per pound of target weight was required to achieve high knockdown probability. I then weighed a Field Pistol ram and determined that it weighed 7.5 pounds. So by multiplying .0208 times 7.5 lbs, we would get the amount of momentum needed to safely take down the FP rams.

     My mistake was that the Field Pistol ram that I weighed was a 22 Field Pistol target and not a center fire Field Pistol ram. It also explains how one of my 40 grain bullets at 2500 fps nearly went through the 100 yard target during field testing. There was no excuse for my mistake and so I offer a sincere apology to you my readers.

     After I discovered my lapse, I went back and got a proper target - a three eights inch thick, T-1 Field Pistol ram and weighed it on the same scale as used before. The regular FP ram, weighed 10.35 pounds - over a 27% increase in mass over the 22 FP ram

     The fundamental question now became whether a 40 grain bullet at 2500 fps would still generate enough momentum to comfortably take down the heavier ram. To find out how much momentum we need to do so, we now multiply .0208 times 10.35 lbs and get .215 pound seconds as our idealized knockdown standard. In the previous article, we found that our fast 40 grain load was generating .375 pound seconds of momentum. This still comfortably exceeds our .215 lb sec gold standard for taking the FP ram.

     Fine, but as I mentioned before, the rubber meets the road at the range. So I cooked up the same 2500 fps load as used in the article (10.3 grains of AA 4100, Winchester case and small rifle primer, Speer 40 grain spire point bullet). The 10+ pound ram was set at 100 yards. My test rig was slightly different this time. I had removed the BSA 6 X 24 scope from the 10" TC Hornet to use on another gun, and so substituted Burrisís excellent 3 X 12 pistol scope instead. All shooting was off the bench using sand bags for a rest. To summarize, the little Speer slapped down the ram down hard every time. Even when I slipped and punched the ram low in the center of the belly line, it went over with only the briefest bit of hesitation. Better yet, unlike the last time, there was absolutely no damage. The little Speer made only a very bright, but tiny pencil like mark on the steel. Interestingly, every time I went down to examine the target, I would find these little round lead "buttons" laying on the ground right in front of it. They were very similar to the lead buttons you sometimes find in front of the full size swinger targets when using gas checked cast bullets. Obviously, the base of the bullet was flattening itself against the steel and then dropping to the ground.

     So once more, we have to conclude that fast 40 grain bullets are a legitimate option. The momentum is there. The accuracy is there, bullet drop is minimal, and recoil isnít any more, and sometimes even less than other standard FP loads. However, donít expect long case life with these hot 2500 fps loads. But what the heck, you canít have everything.

Big Changes at ATK - As you know, ATK is the two billion dollar defense contractor that bought the Blount sporting goods empire last year. ATK runs the Lake City ammunition plant for the U.S. government and makes a wide variety of large and small ammunition products, gun powders for commercial use, and solid rocket motors for all kinds of purposes including the strap on boosters for the space shuttle and our ICBM arsenal.

     ATK is basically an ammunition company and so it seemed interesting that they would buy a company that included several non ammunition components like RCBS, Weaver, Redfield, Outers, etc. Last February, In an interview with the president of the new ATK division responsible for their new acquisitions, I asked him if he planned to sell off any of these non ammo components. He replied that no there were no immediate plans to do so. If these components were making their profit goals, there would be no changes.

     Well, changes are taking place. The first was ATKís announcement that it had sold Simmons Outdoor Corp. to Meade Instruments, a major manufacturer of amateur astronomical telescopes and accessories. Simmons markets riflescopes, binoculars, and spotting scopes under the Simmons, Weaver, and Redfield brand names. What this really means is that Simmons imported scopes from several overseas manufacturers and sold them under their various brand names. Iíve gotten indications that ATK wasnít happy that it wasnít in full control of the manufacturing of these overseas scopes but was fully responsible for the warrantee service. Thatís not their way of doing things and so consequently they decided to sell. On the other hand Meade has been wanting to get more into the sports optics end of the business, primarily because of the explosion of consumer interest in birding. Simmons et al has been selling a lot of binoculars and spotting scopes in that market. It was a good fit. ATK did retain Weaver and Redfield scope mounts which are made here in the good old U.S.A.

     In another major change, ATK is dropping production of all of Federal 22 match ammunition products. This includes both the supersonic and subsonic versions of Ultra Match, as well as the 900 and 900B Gold Metal Match products. The lower end Federal Gold Metal Target 711B which uses the same dimpled case as the more expensive stuff will be retained however.

     It seems that the Ultra and Match ammo was difficult to make and was tying up too many resources for the amount of money they were bringing in. So, they had to go. Iím really sorry to see these products dropped as they represented a major commitment by an American manufacturer to produce world class 22 ammo. I hate to see that commitment fall by the wayside. So, if you shoot any of those products, buy now while you can.

Clark TC Stock

     Bill Clark of Fontana California is not your regular "in the box" type of person. He likes the unusual and has been the consummate experimenter all his life. Heís also an accomplished pilot and builder of experimental aircraft. Now that heís gotten on in his years, heís taken to building unusual unlimited class Contenders for his own own enjoyment.

     To give you an example, one of the most unique things that Bill has put together is a TC with a 14" tensioned barrel system similar to that found on Dan Wesson revolvers. Like the Wesson, it uses a thin barrel with a shroud that slips over with plenty of room for the barrel on the inside. The shroud/barrel combination is then tensioned with a barrel nut at the muzzle. The shroud is also perforated with a zillion holes which goes a long way to reduce weight and dissipate heat. Tensioning the barrel significantly reduces barrel harmonics and increases accuracy. Because of all of the holes, I call it "Billís piccolo pistol".

     Bill has also turned his fertile mind to the subject of TC stocks. The TC of course is a multi piece gun consisting of barrel, frame, hinge pin, grip, and forend - 5 separate pieces. To be perfectly precise, we could also count the metal screw holding the forend to the barrel and the bolt holding the grip to the frame. Now weíre up to 7 pieces. What if you could eliminate a significant number of those individual parts? Then, there would be less likelihood of something coming loose and negatively affecting the basic accuracy of the gun. This would definitely be a good thing as forends and grips do work their way loose on occasion. A one piece stock that combined the separate forend and grip into a single mono unit would be just the ticket, and this is exactly what Bill designed and put together.

     Additionally, I would also say though that probably the main advantage of the Clark stock is the fact that for the first time we have a stock allows a factory TC barrel to free float just like on a MOA or any high quality rifle.

     Talk to any benchrest shooter and ask him which is better i.e. a free floated barrel or a barrel with a wood forend attached with a screw into the bottom. After he gets up off the ground from laughing himself sick over the thought of it, I think heíll vote for free floating. Why? Because when that screw is tightened up, itís putting considerable stress on the barrel. Barrel makers go through all kinds of expensive and complicated processes to eliminate barrel stress from their products because it reduces accuracy and here we go putting it right back in. Also, as the barrel heats up and expands, the stress on the barrel will likely change and increase. Yes, we can shoot good groups with the standard factory TC configuration, but wouldnít you like to increase your chances of getting even better groups.

     Another condition that the Clark stock addresses is the fact that TCís are also barrel heavy. The good news is that this helps dampen recoil. The bad news is that holding a barrel heavy gun perfectly steady requires a bit of strength making the gun somewhat awkward or even difficult to accurately hold for kids or those that donít have a lot of muscle in their wrists.

     The Clark TC stock actually moves the hand further forward in relationship with the barreled action and thus reduces the downward pressure produced by the relatively long TC barrel. The end result is that the Clark stock produces better balance in the hand.

     The angle of the grip is also very different from the standard TC. The traditional TC grip is angled back towards the shooter which then has the effect of moving the barrel forward or further away. The often delayed G2 Contender angles the grip even further to the rear and consequently moves the muzzle and the weight of the gun out even more than before. This has the effect of producing an even greater muzzle heavy situation.

     On the other hand, the grip on the Clark stock is almost vertical and so is very similar to that of a 1911 Colt. Consequently, itís a more natural and comfortable pointer, especially when shooting standing.

     Speaking of shooting standing, one thing I have never been really been thrilled about when it comes to the TC is its wimpy forend. The little triangular sliver of wood was primarily designed to be used for shooting game off of a rest. By pushing forward against a rest, the gunís elevation could be raised without having to take time to fool with the sights in a fast moving field situation. However, that miniature forend really doesnít give the standing competition shooter much to grab on to. Oh sure, you can make do with whatís there, but itís far from optimum. The Clark TC stock, on the other hand, provides much more surface area to grasp.

     Looking something like an art decco piece of sculpture, the Clark stock gives the impression of being heavy. Actually itís not. Bill reached back to his aircraft building days and uses aircraft grade spruce plywood to build his stocks. This material is both light and strong. This stock wonít put a factory TC over the weight limit.

     The Clark stock is not a custom product and is a standard catalog item and so is readily available for both 10" and 14" TCís, although at this time the stock has not be approved for production use by the evaluation committee. To be perfectly honest, this is not a highly finished item that you would expect from a well known manufacturer. There are definitely some rough edges to it. However, it is strong, and it does work, and the price is right - $50. Clark stocks can be ordered by calling 909-824-9003.

New Nosler Bullet - For those who like to shoot half scale with the 223 or the full size targets with a 22 BR, Nosler has a new addition to their custom competition line. Itís a 77 grain hollow point boat tail with a very slick ballistic coefficient of .340. Like the others in the custom competition class, the new 22 uses Noslerís special, highly uniform, bullet jackets and very highly concentric lead cores. A 1:8 twist barrel is necessary to provide the optimum in stability and accuracy. Nosler will be selling these in their 250 bulk pack as well as in the regular 100 count box.

     For those of you who like to hunt, also check out Noslerís new bonded bullets for 2003. The jackets are made from regular gilding metal rather than the 100% copper jackets usually utilized for this type of bullet. The advantage is far less copper fouling for better accuracy. Bonded construction also means that there is little to no possibility of jacket/core separation no matter what the conditions. The new bullets are available in a wide variety of diameters and feature a white plastic tip.

     By the way, Iíve been using Nosler 180 grain silhouette bullets with my Freedom Arms 353 this last year and have noticed that I haven't had a single ringer with them. After doing a little checking, I think I may have found the secret. Nosler uses extra hard lead cores for their silhouette bullets. As a result thereís less deformation upon ignition and during bullet jump from cylinder to forcing cone and so results in better accuracy. Also seems to hit harder. They work good.

Remington Handgun Ammo - Speaking of bonded bullets, Remington has gotten intensely serious about hunting handgun ammo this year. This is of interest as our silhouette revolvers obviously make superb hunting instruments. Match them with the right ammo, and thereís very little on the continent that we canít take with them. Noting that interest in hand gun hunting has grown substantially in recent years, Remington has responded by coming out with 3 new loads for revolver hunters i.e. a 357, a 44 Mag, and a 454 Casull. All loads feature bonded bullets with patented spiral nose cuts that will open up to 1.6X over the original diameter. Bonded bullets are also known for being able to retain close to 100% of their original weight for the max in penetration. The new bullet even features a patented driving band up front to set up precise alignment in the revolverís forcing cone. This is standard operating procedure for cast revolver bullets but this has got to be a first for a jacketed bullet. The 357 load utilizes a 165 grain bullet at 1290 fps. The 44 Mag uses a 275 at 1235 fps and the 454 uses a 300 grainer at 1625 fps.

     On a side note, if you recall, in a previous column I predicted that additional ammo manufacturers besides Hornady would soon get into the business of offering ammo for the the hot new 17 Rimfire Mag. Well itís coming to pass. The little magnum will be found in Remington green boxes this coming year. Iím sure even more manufacturers will follow. If prices drop sufficiently, the 17 Hornady should be able to put up a serious challenge to the ancient 22 Long Rifle as thereís nothing that the LR can do that the 17 canít do better.

G3 Rimfire Headspace Gauge - When an unexpected opportunity to acquire a Savage Anschutz Model 64 Match rifle came up recently, I decided to treat myself to another Christmas gift. Manufactured in 1967, the rifle was a classic closet queen. In other words, other than a few minor dings on the stock, the rifle was in pristine condition. It had, obviously, been sitting in someoneís closet for probably 30 years.

     The first, rather enjoyable task was to determine what ammo it liked the best. It didnít take long to find out that Eley 10X and Lapua Midas L would produce tiny, tiny little groups at 50 yards. Big surprise. I decided to also try Wolf Target Match to see if something more modest in cost would work as well. The Wolf had promise, as typically 3 or 4 shots would be right on top of each other and then, unexpectedly, one or two would be a half inch or more away. At first I thought it was just me messing up the groups, but it happened time after time.

     Well last year I reviewed the G3 rimfire headspace gauge and found it to be a very useful tool for sorting 22 ammo. The theory behind headspace sorting is this - as you know, rimfire ammo headspaces on the cartridgeís rim. Typically, the rims on most ammo will run between 36 and 42 thousandths of an inch. Ammo with rims that are 36 thousandths of an inch will shoot to a slightly different place than ammo with rims that are 42 thousandths. If a box of 22ís has rims that vary in thickness all over the place, groups will be larger than they would be if the rims are all of the same thickness. 22 benchrest shooters routinely measure the rims of even the most expensive ammunition to insure that their groups will be as small as theoretically possible.

     The G3 gauge is a simple fixture that clamps with a screw on to one of the jaws of any standard stainless steel calipers. Once on, simply bring the jaws together, zero the dial, open the jaws, insert a round in the slot in the fixture, and bring the jaws together to take a reading. Then separate the cartridges into groups. Iíve found that the most common rim thickness in a given lot of ammo is usually the one that works best. The others are used for more casual shooting.

     Just for fun, I head-spaced a box of Eley 10X, Lapua Midas L, and Wolf Target Match. Here are the results. The column on the left is thousandths of an inch.

Eley 10X Lapua Midas L Wolf
37 - 7 37 - 2 37 - 0
38 - 14 38 - 14 38 - 6
39 - 19 39 - 17 39 - 18
40 - 10 40 - 10 40 - 26
  41 - 4  
  42 - 5  

     The results were interesting in that it showed that the Wolf ammo had the lowest spread in rim thickness and that its headspace was more consistent than the more expensive ammo. It was not however the best shooting ammo. Obviously thereís more to producing tiny groups than just headspace. Itís an important factor, but not the only factor.

     To conclude, head-spacing the Wolf ammo definitely did improve its groups but it still did not produce groups as good as the Eley and Lapua did without head-spacing. Again 3 or 4 shots would be right on top of each other, and then 1 or 2 shots would be out of the group but instead of a half inch away, theyíd be approximately an eighth of an inch away - a big improvement. You might have even better luck with your gun. Never the less, the G3 gauge is a useful tool for anyone who shoots rimfire ammo. It can be had at Sinclair International 219-493-1858.

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.