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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 15, Issue 7 August
  The Ranging Shot Email Todd:
  With ( Comments or questions? )
Todd Spotti
     Like so many things in life, there are a large number of "truths" that are commonly accepted in the shooting world. In reality, many of these "truths" are nothing more than urban legends. I came in conflict with one of these "truths" just a few weeks ago.

     I was at the range cleaning my 22 Anschutz Exemplar pistol with a brass cleaning rod that Iíve owned for perhaps 15 years. A friend, who shoots 22 and big bore bench rest, stopped by and saw what I was doing. He immediately started to chastise me for using the wrong cleaning rod. He stated that brass rods were too soft, and that carbon particles from the powder fouling in the barrel would actually embed itself into the rod and in effect turn it into an abrasive file and wear away the rifling in my gun. Iíve heard this theory before and very honestly, I really donít buy it and said so.

     Well, my friend was prepared and very shortly produced a very well written article in a magazine written by a very well known person which supported his point. The articleís author went on to say that cleaning rods had to be made from very hard steel (around 60 Rockwell I believe, or there bouts) to prevent carbon particles from embedding or impressing themselves into the sides of the rod.

     Well, I have a lot of respect for that particular authorís work but in this particular instance I just couldnít agree. So I decided to look into the matter.

     The first thing I did was to borrow a bore scope and do a thorough examination of my Anschutz' S bore. That gun is one of the first 25 sold in this country and is either the first or second sold in California and itís been shot a lot. Itís also been cleaned a lot with that very same brass rod. If the theory is correct, I would think that over these many years, my supposed bad cleaning habits would have surely damaged the bore. However, during the course of the examination, I saw no evidence what so ever of any kind of damage. The gun also continues to shoot as well as it always has i.e. around three quarters of an inch at 100 yards, and often even better depending on the ammo and conditions.

     I then wondered where this theory came from. After all, the carbon would have to be very, very hard to impress itself into the side of a cleaning rod.

     Is the soot that we see in the bore really that hard? I then decided to do a little research on the nature of carbon itself.

     What I found is that there are many kinds of carbons. Some are hard, like diamonds, and some, like graphite, can be used as a lubricant. So if there is carbon in the barrel, what kind is it? Well, I never completely found the answer to this question. I do know that graphite is added to smokeless powder to act as a deterrent (helps to reduce the flame temperature and control the burning rate) and so itís reasonable to assume that some of that black stuff in the barrel is graphite. Additionally, smokeless powder contains nitrocellulose which is a polymer derived from gun cotton. I found no information which stated that the ash from the burning of nitrocellulose contains a hard form of carbon. In fact I found some info that implied that the ash is very soft and fine. However that isnít proof.

     I then thrashed around and found someone who has access to a pretty decent laboratory grade microscope. I would put my brass rod under the lens to prove or disprove the theory one way or another. If there was any cleaning rod in the world that had carbon imbedded in it, my well used brass rod would be it. To make a long story short, we looked at my rod from one end to the other at powers up to 480X and found no evidence of carbon or any other kind of particles embedded into the side of the rod. End of story. End of myth? Probably not. Myths never die.

22 Barrel Cleaning

     Now thatís another controversial subject if there was one. Opinions on this one range all the way to "never clean" to "always clean". There are also a few folks that fall into the "sometimes clean" camp, but theyíre the exception. It seems like most either do or generally donít, and those that generally donít are by far the larger of the two groups.

     Interestingly, the debate extends even to the Olympics. Several years ago, I was able to do a face to face interview with a very nice lady who was a member of the U.S. Olympic Shooting Team and who had just won a gold medal in the 3 position shooting event. The subjects we discussed ranged all over the place from bore cleaning to eating special foods prior to shooting (sheís a professional nutritionist).

     When I asked her about what the members of the U.S. Olympic Shooting Team did as far as cleaning their fancy 22 rifles, she said "Some do and some donít." To say that I was really disappointed by her answer would be putting it mildly. The truth is that I was devastated. I thought I was going to learn some deep secret, as well as a really great way to clean clean my guns with an unusual product like yak butter so I would be tightening up my groups by at least 50%. Oh well.

     If you want to explore some of the more interesting methods of 22 barrel cleaning, all you have to do is post a question on one of the various 22 internet sites. The replies can be fascinating. One of the more recent and reasonable concoctions that Iíve seen lately is a 50-50 mix of Kroil and Shooters Choice. However, many of the other cleaning mixtures discussed on those sites are just too wild to be repeated here.

     Another big area of controversy is whether to use a cleaning brush or not. It doesnít seem to matter if the brush is plastic or brass, but the common consensus on the internet sites is that use of a brush is really, really bad.

     There are two basic reasons given for this mistaken assertion. One is that a brush (any brush) will scratch the interior of the bore and ruin it.

     The second reason supports the first, and that is the mistaken belief that the steel in 22 barrels is softer than that used in big bore barrels, and so cleaning, especially cleaning with a brush, will quickly wear out a barrel. Like many good urban legends, this has an tiny element, but only a tiny element, of truth to it. Up until around the 1920ís to the 1930s, some low quality, cheap, often imported rifles used a zinc steel alloy for their barrels that was not as strong or wear resistant as regular gun barrel steel. I doubt if any of these guns from at least 70-80 years ago are still around as the barrels (and the rest of the gun) did wear out more quickly, especially since early 22 ammo used black powder as a propellant. If you should own one of these cheap, odd ball rifles from yesteryear, itís true that you probably want to use extra care in dealing with the bore. However just about all 22 firearms from the 1930ís and on use the same type steel as is used in center-fire firearms. There might be some rare exceptions but I donít know of any.

     So where do I fall on the issue of whether to clean or not to clean? I confess Iíve always been a cleaner and am proud of it. The poor folk who have to put up with me at my local range have heard me pontificate many times "A clean barrel is an accurate barrel". I came to that conclusion from my own practical experience and experimentation. Indeed, long time readers of the IHMSA NEWS may recall that several years ago I did a little experiment in which I compared groups shot with my Exemplar from a clean barrel (5 fouling shots) and groups shot with the same gun after it had not been cleaned for several months. The groups shot from the dirty barrel were significantly larger and exhibited a tendency to walk upwards from left to right. After the barrel was cleaned once more, the groups went right back to their normal smaller size.

     Additionally, I believe the recent explosion of rimfire benchrest competition seems to have also confirmed the fact that dirty barrels are not as accurate as clean barrels. Talk to any of the successful rimfire benchrest competitors about cleaning and the answers would be all the same. They regularly clean, and they take the cleaning process very, very seriously. In fact, many clean after every string of shots taken in competition.

     However a recent event provided additional information to confirm my belief in the wisdom of a regularly scrubbed 22 barrel. A good friend had purchased a mint condition Winchester 52 at an big Oklahoma gun show. The gun was decked out in a very nice benchrest stock and a 2 oz Jewell trigger. The action and the barrel were manufactured some time in the 1960ís, however the stock and trigger were fairly recent additions. My friend also had mounted a Leupold 36X scope on the gun. The price he paid for this updated classic 22 competition gun was extremely, almost suspiciously, reasonable.

     Upon taking it to the range, my friend soon discovered that the gunís accuracy ranged from barely mediocre to downright terrible no matter what ammunition was used. While several eyeball examinations of the bore showed it to be in apparent perfect condition, it just wouldnít shoot. Just by chance, my good friend Dr. Jim Williams had his bore-scope with him that day and generously loaned it to me in order to do a more thorough inspection of the 52ís bore. I didnít have to go far to find the problem. The leade (that part of the chamber immediately in front of the rifling) was riddled with lumpy lead deposits.

     Once the lead problem was discovered, my friend used a ton and a half of elbow grease cleaning those lead deposits out of there using every liquid bore cleaner on the market. As it turned out, JB Bore Cleaner paste from Brownells on a brush was the most effective product in removing the buildup. Once the deposits were removed, the 52 started shooting gangbusters. It now delivers quarter inch groups or less at 50 yards with just about any decent ammo.

     Moral of the story? Regular and frequent cleaning WITH A BRUSH, a good bore guide, and a good quality bore cleaner like Shooters Choice will prevent lead from ever accumulating in your gun and ruining its inherent accuracy. Remember "A clean barrel is an accurate barrel".

Rocky Steps Forward

     As you know, Iím a big fan of the products produced by Rocky Shoes and Boots. In the past Iíve usually reviewed insulated, scent protected boots geared towards toward hunting applications. (Hard to believe but hunting season is not that far away.) The innovative, electrically warmed Rocky "Charger" boots that I discussed in my Shot Show report are a good example.

     However, Rocky makes all kinds of other shoes and boots for just about every application you can think of i.e. steel toed work footwear, womenís outdoor footwear, and even outdoor boots for kids. They also make a very complete line of more casual shoes and boots for day to day wear. The Rocky model 1091 Ravine Hiker is just such a boot.

     This is a fully waterproof, GORETEX lined, leather and nylon fabric boot that is just perfect for regular day to day use. In spite of the fact that the breathable GORETEX liner will keep your feet perfectly dry, Rocky goes the extra mile and waterproofs the outer leather and fabric on this boot for good measure.

     Besides being 100% waterproof, the boot is also a lot lighter than other similar boots. It also uses a tough rubber one piece sole, and inside, they use plenty of the same lightweight cushioning material thatís used in high end running shoes. The bootís toes are also covered in an extra wrap of very tough material to protect it from scuffs and scrapes.

     One feature that I really like are the metal lace retainers. They make it very fast and easy to lace and unlace your boots. Additionally, you can tighten the laces all the way up the boot with just one firm pull.

     In summary, the Ravine Hikers are waterproof, very tough and durable, lightweight, and perhaps most importantly, comfortable to wear all day long. These are really excellent boots that can be used in almost every environment. Suggested retail is around $100, but as you know discounts are available if you shop around. However, if you need insulated boots for cold weather hunting or for outdoor work, Rocky has has several dynamite models and styles that can accommodate you. Visit their web site at ( for more info.

Low Light Leupold's

     Leupold has come up with a mid-year release of a couple of neat scopes optimized for low light conditions like when in the deep woods or what you would encounter just after the start of the legal hunting day in heavy overcast conditions. One is a 3X9 and the other a 4X12. Both these scopes carry big 50mm objective lenses for generous light gathering ability, so of course you want to use high or even perhaps extra high scope rings. The 3x9 has the standard Leupold multicoat treatment on the lens surfaces and the familiar Leupold friction type windage and elevation adjustments. Eye relief runs from 3.7" at 9X to 4.2" at 3X. Needless to say the image is very, very bright.

"Big lenses insure these new additions to the Luepold VX line provide a bright image in low light conditions."

     The 4X12 is the more sophisticated of the two. It carry Leupoldís Multicoat 4 treatment on the optical surfaces, which is their top of the line process. In addition, itís also equipped with nicely audible 1/4" click adjustments on the windage and elevation controls. One feature that I really like is the fact that it not only has a fast focus eyepiece, but also that it has a lock ring on it to insure that itís not going to get moved around under heavy recoil or rough conditions. I believe this may be the only scope currently available with that feature on a fast focus lens. Another really nifty feature is the fact that the power selector ring has indents in it so you can actually feel it when you change the power from one value to another (a very nice idea). Additionally, eye relief on this scope is for all practical purposes identical to its lower power brother.

     Both these scopes have all the features needed to be really, really bright in less than optimal conditions and to be absolutely brilliant when the light is good. Definitely worth going out of your way to check out.

New IMR Reloading Guide

     As you know Hodgdon is the new owner of IMR Powders. As part of the amalgamation of IMR into the Hodgdon way of doing things, the IMR reloading guide has been reformatted into a Hodgdon style booklet. Frankly, I like the new, more compact booklet better than the old styled IMR guide. It also seems to be better organized and easier to read.

  Jumping over to another but related subject - if youíre a fan of the old fashioned IMR metal powder cans, better start collecting them now. Hodgdon has started transitioning IMR powders to their round, black plastic containers. As stocks of the metal cans are depleted, all of the IMR powders will be be packaged in Hodgdon styled cans and jugs. The plastic containers are more inexpensive to buy, easier to fill with their large pickle jar-like openings, and lighter and easier to ship than the metal cans, so the decision to switch was a no brainer. Iíll be interesting to see if the old metal powder cans become a nostalgic collectible in the future.

     Speaking of Hodgdon, if you haven't tried one of their Experimenter Paks of powders youíre missing a good deal. For the rough cost of a single pound of powder, you get 4, quarter pound containers with a variety of Hodgdon rifle powders. Itís kind of like those variety packs of breakfast cereals that you used to take on hunting and camping trips several years ago. When developing loads for a new gun, you donít have to spend a fortune in order to try several different powders. In fact you could buy two Experimenter Paks and have 8 different powders to try out. This is just a great idea. Thereís an Experimenter Pak in fast, medium, and slow rifle powders. Now, if we could just get them to do a couple of Experimenter Paks for pistol powders.

Quick Tip

     See if thereís a feed store somewhere in your area. If there is, chances are that they sell ground, dried corn cob in big 25 lb bags. The stuff is sold as critter litter for pet rabbits, hamsters, etc. It also makes a pretty good tumbling media for far less money than what you would pay from most other conventional sources. Itís also good for filling sand bags or other shooting bags like the Uncle Budís Bull Bag without the excessive weight. A giant bag of this stuff sells for $10 in my area. It works.

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.