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Published in The IHMSA News, the Official Publication of The International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association
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Volume 15, Issue 2 March
  The Ranging Shot Email Todd:
  With ( Comments or questions? )
Todd Spotti

     I donít know why but it seems like thereís been a number of safety notices from various manufacturers in the shooting industry. The latest is from Hodgdon. As you know, they publish a booklet type annual reloading manual. Turns out in the 2004 edition there is a mistake on page 132. The data listed for the 45 Long Colt with 250 grain Hornady XTP and 300 grain bullet with Hodgdon's Long Shot powder is intended for Freedom Arms, Ruger, and T/Cs only. Use of those loads in a regular Colt or a reproduction Colt "could result in severe personal injury (including death) or gun damage to the user or bystander".

     Boy, thatís the first time Iíve ever heard a manufacturer say the "D" word i.e. death. So if you have the 2004 annual manual or plan to pick one up, get a fat black magic marker and cross out that data.

     Actually, the 45 Long Colt isnít really that bad a cartridge for silhouette. A modest charge under that big fat bullet is really a ram buster. Several years ago my friend Hulan Mathies took the NRA nationals in revolver by shooting a Dan Wesson in 45 Long Colt. So, the old Colt cartridge can be very accurate as well. Might be fun to try out.

New Products from Hoppes

     Hoppes, the most famous people in firearms cleaning products, has a couple of new things this year. The item that I really like the best is itís new graphite cleaning rod. This is a 36" rod with a plastic bore guide that actually fits into the action of my XP-100. The biggest advantage of the graphite rods is the fact that theyíre solid graphite all the way through. Unlike coated rods, if you scratch them, youíre not exposing bare metal underneath. Iíve got a couple of coated rods that are really scrapped up. Thatís never going to happen with my Hoppes rod.

     The main thing however is the fact that a graphite rod is never, ever, going to damage the rifling lands in your gun. The graphite is not a hard material and itís also fairly slick. Make sure to give the rod a wipe with a paper towel now and then when cleaning your gun to make sure its not picking up grit on its surface.

     Another nice thing is the fact that the rod is very light in weight. I donít know, but as a result, it just seems easier to maneuver. Additionally, when I have a tight patch on, the rod really does rotate with the rifling. My coated rods usually donít, and the patch just slips over the top of the rifling. These rods are more expensive, but unless something really drastic happens, they ought to last a life time.

     Hoppeís also has a new "Elite" line of bore cleaners. The Elite Field Cleaner is an all purpose CLP (cleaner, lube, and protectant) type. The other is the Elite Gun Cleaner which is more geared toward heavy duty cleaning. I tried both on a TC barrel that I have that is a real copper fouler. The Field Cleaner did a good job of getting rid of the carbon and most of the copper, however it was the Gun Cleaner that did the best job of getting everything out. Hoppes claims that the Gun Cleaner will clean a barrel to a level that is even better than its original finish. I canít verify that statement but it does a very good job of cleaning up leading and copper fouling.

"New Hoppes bore cleaners provide the shooter good performance and the graphite cleaning rod is one of the very best."

     The icing on the cake is that both of these products are nontoxic, nonflammable, and biodegradable. The nontoxic part might be important to some. A well known gun writer from several years ago unfortunately developed and subsequently died of cancer. In one of his last published articles, he squarely laid the blame for his disease against the chemicals used in a very popular bore cleaner that he used extensively. His claim was never proven and the manufacturer in the following issue pointed out that there has never been any proven link between their product and cancer. However, if you want to limit your exposure to chemicals, the new Hoppes products may be for you.

Some Notes on Wolf 22 Ammo

     Iíve been playing around with Wolf Match Target and Wolf Match Extra 22 rimfire ammo lately. The Match Extra costs approximately a dollar a box more than the Match Target. As anyone who has tried it knows, Wolf ammo gives a lot of performance for the price. I got curious as to exactly how much better the more expensive variety was over the "cheaper" stuff.

     Consequently, I decided to sacrifice a box of each to the experiment. The first thing I did was weigh fifty rounds of each. The Match Target ammo varied in weight from the lightest to the heaviest by two grains - quite a bit. That represents a 5% variation. The Match Extra varied by only .4 of one grain. Pretty good.

     I then set out to discover where exactly the weight variations came from. That required me to break down all 100 rounds from both boxes. I donít recommend that you do this. This is what I found. All one hundred cases weighed exactly the same. No variation what so ever.

     I also found that the Match Target ammo was loaded with 1.2 grains of a disk type powder. Like the cases, there was no variation in weight of the powder what so ever. The more expensive Match Extra ammo was loaded with 1 grain of a fine extruded type powder. Again there was no variation in the powder charges. All were exactly one grain. Period.

     If the cases all weighed the same and the powder weighed the same, that must mean that the weight variation must be in the bullets. Just to be thorough, I then weighed the pulled bullets. Yep. The bullets from the inexpensive Match Target varied by 2 grains. The bullets from Match Extra varied by only .4 of a grain.

     I then proceeded to the range to see how they would chronograph and what the accuracy would be. For a test gun, I decided to use my Winchester 52D with a 28" barrel and my Burris 8 X 32 scope. I wanted to give the ammo the very best chance to perform in a high quality firearm. The Match Target averaged 1055 fps with a standard deviation of 14 fps. The more expensive Match Extra averaged 1041 fps with a standard deviation of 15 fps - for all intents and purposes this is identical to the Match Target. I frankly expected the less expensive ammo with the wide variation in bullet weight to have much, much worse numbers.

"Wolf Match Target gave the best performance at the lowest cost."

     I then set up a target at 50 yards. The more expensive Match Extra produced a very good group of .253 inches - just a bit over a quarter of an inch. Very nice indeed! The inexpensive Match Target then produced a group approximately half that of its big brotherís i.e. .174 inches!! How could this be? Never the less, there it was. Just when you start to think you know something about 22 ammo, you get kicked in the teeth by something like this. The only thing I can think of that might explain the superior performance of a cartridge with a fairly wide variation in bullet weight is the powder. That disk powder just might be a better type than the extruded stuff used in Match Extra. However, thereís no way for a consumer to solve that riddle.

"Wolf Match Extra provided high quality control and good grouping ability."

     Bottom line. As you know 22 firearms are very cranky about what ammo they like. Try a box of both types in your guns. You might get lucky like I did and have the cheap stuff shoot the best.

Some New Cartridges

     2004 is bringing at least two new cartridges to the shooting scene. The first is the 204 Ruger. A joint effort by Ruger and Hornady, this is essentially a 222 Mag case necked down to 20 caliber. (The 222 Mag is approximately 5% larger than the 223.) It uses a 32 grain Hornady V-Max type bullet that when loaded to factory specs will develop over 4200 fps. That beats even the 220 Swift in raw velocity.

     The cartridge is designed primarily to out shoot the 22-250, which has long been the darling of varmint hunters. Besides itís obvious velocity superiority, the advantage of the new cartridge is that because it uses less powder and a lighter bullet, recoil is correspondingly reduced. Additionally, any action that can accommodate a 223 class case can also handle the new 204.

"The 204 Ruger by Hornady is engineered to outshoot the 22-250."

     I also have it on good authority that Thompson Center will be churning out barrels for both the Encore and the G2 Contender in 15 and 26 inch lengths for the 204.

     Iíve already received some calls and e-mails asking if I thought this new case could be used as a basis for a silhouette cartridge. Sure it could, but it wouldnít have any real significant advantage over a standard 223 or 222 Mag case. An unaltered 204 probably could be used for half scale, but I suspect itíd be kind of rough on the targets.

     The other new cartridge announcement comes from Remington. In a much lower key, Remington revealed the 6.8 Remington SPC. By the way 6.8 = 270 caliber. (Why donít they just say 270?)

     Additionally SPC stands for "Special Purpose Cartridge". This was a joint development with the U.S. military, so Iím sure that "Special Purpose" really means "sniper".

     The new cartridge is based on the old, obsolete 30 Remington. If youíre of a certain age, or a cartridge buff, youíll know that the 30 Remington is a rimless version of the 30-30.

     It was basically made to work in a Remington semi auto rifle and a slide action rifle of the period. Performance of the cartridge was identical to the standard 30-30.The new cartridge uses a 115 grain Sierra MatchKing bullet that will being going around 2800 fps. A Remington boat tail hollow point and a full metal jacket will be available as well. The cartridge is designed to work in M-16 rifles and be accurate and effective out to 500 meters.

     Again, the question will arise as to whether it can be used as a basis for a silhouette cartridge. Yes, but thereís a catch. The case head on a 30 Remington is not a standard size and so any gun chambered for it will need a appropriately sized bolt head. But as they say, money can just about solve any problem if youíre willing to spend it.

New Burris Spotter

     Got an announcement for a new version of Burrisís 50 mm Landmark Compact spotting scope. The standard model comes with a 20X lens. The new model sports a 12 X 24 variable eyepiece. I have to admit that I like compact spotters. Even for range work, theyíre very easy to cart around and use. If youíre going into the field, dragging an 80 mm around is totally out of the question. I especially like the fact the new spotterís variable goes down to 12 power. Most scopes are grossly overpowered. In other words, their magnification capability goes way beyond the ability of the human eye to actually use. 12 to 24 powder strikes me as an ideal range, especially for a 50 mm objective.

     These scopes come with all of the nice to haves i.e. fully multicoated lenses, water proof, and fog proof. The price wonít blow up your wallet, your check book, and your IRA either.

Reloading Favorites

     One of the guys brought a copy of one of the slick paper shooting magazines to the range the other day. During a line break, I picked it up off his bench and just flipped through it casually. One of the articles was entitled "Reloading Equipment I Couldnít Do Without" or something like that. I didnít read the article but it got me thinking about what reloading stuff I really use a lot. Hereís a list of my favorite things.

     RCBS JR. Reloading Press - I bought this thing back in the late 70ís and it has served me faithfully without a hitch for all that time. I believe it may be actually indestructible. Itís a real shame that theyíre no longer made. When buying a press, match your needs to the product. In other words, if you reload for the big, over sized type cartridges, then of course buy a big press. On the other hand, if you reload primarily for smaller cartridges up to 30-06 in size, save some money because one of the high quality smaller presses will be much easier to use and will still last a lifetime.

     RCBS Digital Loading Scale - Not sure how old it is but I got one of these as a Christmas present just after RCBS put them on the market. Again, never a problem with it. While digital scales are no more accurate than a balance beam type, boy are they convenient and fast. Iíve weighed everything from primers, powder, cases, bullets (cast & jacketed), gas checks, and 22 ammo on that thing and it still keeps on ticking. Love it.

"The RCBS digital scale has proven to be very reliable, fast, and accurate."

     Redding Competition Seating Die - revolver reloading doesnít get serious attention from most shooters and yet it is the most demanding of any of the reloading disciplines other than perhaps benchrest. To squeeze the most accuracy from a firearm that has between five and six separate chambers and requires the bullet to jump across an air gap into the barrel, every reloading trick in the trade needs to be utilized. A lot of people use special seating dies for their bottlenecked cartridges in their single shot firearms. They should do the same for their revolvers. The die insures that bullet and case are as aligned with each other as mechanically practical to ensure the bullet is seated straight. A must have.

"The Redding profile crimping die is a must have for any revolver competitor."

     Redding Profile Crimp Die - This uses two types of crimp to make sure a bullet wonít move in the case when a revolver is in recoil. If the case has been used several times, the brass at the mouth is probably getting weak and the crimp is not as effective as when new. The result can be bigger groups or sometimes if a case is very well used, even a flier. This is the best crimping die there is.

"Sinclair International Case Spinner - This simple tool is the fastest way to clean brass"

     Sinclair International Case Spinner - this is basically a spindle that I chuck into a portable electric drill with a shell holder on the end. Put the case in the holder, tighten it down, and rev her up. Take a wad of 0000 steel wool and hold it around the case to clean it up in a flash. Works really well on filthy revolver cases used with cast bullets. To make cases shine like new, use a wad of "Never Dull" instead of steel wool.

     Oehler Dual Channel Chronograph - while not strictly a reloading tool, this instrument will show me whether the care and attention to detail Iíve given to my reloading efforts have paid off in practical terms. If I know the velocity of a load, I can calculate momentum/knockdown. A standard deviation number will indicate differences in bullet drop for us at 200m from one shot to another. A big jump or even a drop in velocity when adding powder to a previous load is a serious indicator of dangerous pressure even when the appearance of the primer seems ok. There are all kinds of things that a good chrono can do for us. However, the numbers from a chronograph will not tell you how accurate a load will be. Only bench testing can do that and donít let anyone tell you different. The Oehler machine is more expensive than other chronographs but the quality is very, very good. The thing that really makes it stand out though is the customer service. Just outstanding. Iíve dealt with others, and they donít come close.

     While I use lots of other things when I reload, these are the things that I seem to use the most because they work, theyíre extremely reliable, and as mentioned, customer support is superb.

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.