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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 8 September
  The Ranging Shot Email Todd:
With ( Comments or questions? )
Todd Spotti

     This column is going to be a little different than my usual mix of product reviews and industry news. Iím still going to cover those things, but thereís an important subject that needs to be discussed first because it greatly affects the health and well being of many, many people and their families.

     Ever hear of dystonia? No, itís not a small Eastern European country on the Baltic Sea. Thatís Estonia. Give up? Well donít feel bad if you donít know what dystonia is because almost no one knows anything about it - unless you or a family member has it.

     Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder that can literally turn the human body into a bizarre, permanent, painful pretzel where the individual affected is so twisted that they canít walk, dress, feed themselves, or live any type of normal life. It can also take away a personís sight by causing their eyelids to lock closed even though the eyes themselves are perfectly normal. It can even rob someone of their speech by causing their vocal cords to lock closed or even to lock open.

     How does this happen? Well something goes haywire in the brain causing it to send an inappropriate signal to a muscle, or a set of muscles, or to almost all of the bodyís muscles to lock them up and/or to pull and twist them in ways that they were never meant to do. Painful? You bet. Imagine having a permanent "Charlie Horse" all over your body that never goes away.

     Dystonia is a real paradox. It is the third most common neurological movement disorder behind Parkinson's Disease and tremor and affects a minimum of over 300,000 people in the United States (although this number is probably grossly understated). Yet, your standard physician knows almost nothing about it, and more importantly, doesnít know how to diagnose it when they see it. What is even more surprising, is that your standard neurologist doesnít know how to diagnose dystonia either. Seemingly, only neurologists specializing in movement disorders know know anything about it.

     As a result, in almost every case, a person with dystonia will be referred to a psychiatrist on the assumption that they must suffering from some form of hysteria or other mental illness. The standard treatment is often mind altering drugs that do nothing to address the real problem. As a result of this inability of most medical practitioners to diagnose this disorder, itís not unusual for a person with dystonia to go several years, or even decades without a correct diagnosis or treatment, even after seeing doctor after doctor. Why is that?

     So who gets dystonia? By and large, children, and people in their middle years. In some cases, early onset dystonia is caused by a gene that has only been recently discovered. Others can develop dystonia after some kind of trauma - a physical injury, chemical exposure, etc. However, for the very great majority of dystonia patients, no one has the remotest clue as to how, or where it comes from.

     So what can a person with dystonia do about it? Not much. For the most severe forms of dystonia, deep brain stimulation is a new option. This is a surgical procedure that was recently developed for Parkinson's and has been recently approved for dystonia. Here, two electrodes powered by a pacemaker type battery pack are inserted deep into the center of the brain. An electric current from the electrodes interferes with the "bad" signal that the brain is sending to affected muscles. The results of the surgery can vary from dramatic to somewhat improved. The operation is very expensive and is appropriate for only a few percent of those affected.

     The most common treatment for dystonia is botox injections into the affected muscles. Yes, this is the same stuff John Kerry and the Hollywood stars use to smooth out their facial wrinkles. Refined Botox was developed by the government during W.W.II as a bio weapon. However, in the 1970ís it was discovered that in an extremely dilute form it could be used to relax the muscles locked by dystonia. It wasnít until the late 80ís that botox was finally approved as a treatment. By the way, it was when botox was used to treat involuntary eyelid closing that someone noticed that wrinkles around the eyes went away. Thatís when the cosmetic use of this substance took off. Botox is the most generally accepted treatment for focal dystonias i.e. those in just in one or a relatively few muscles. In cases where many muscles are involved over many parts of the body, the amount of botox that would have to be injected would soon cause the patient to build an immunity that would render it ineffective as a treatment.

     After injection, Botox will gradually wear off and shots have to be repeated every 3-4 months at a cost of around $1000 or more.

     Ok, so here we have a situation where large numbers of people have an incurable illness that almost all doctors donít know how to recognize and donít know how to treat. If the dystonia person should get lucky and eventually get a good diagnosis, their treatment options are limited, extremely expensive, and the results highly variable.

     So whatís the government doing in the way of research? Very little. All government medical research funding is managed by the National Institute of Health (NIH). Iíll guess you never heard of it. Indeed, until just recently, neither had I. Yet this organization has a budget of well over $27,000,000,000. Yep, thatís billions. Yet they have spent only about ten million on dystonia research. These days, ten million bucks wonít even buy you the stationary for a medical research project. Heck, weíve just sent 15 million bucks to Viet Nam for AIDS! It was only recently that the NIH even requested the scientific community to submit proposals to do dystonia research. The scientists responded enthusiastically, but there was funding available for only a fraction of the work that the medical research community felt could be accomplished.

     Much of the limited medical research for this neglected disorder is funded by the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation, a small, private, non profit organization founded by a couple whose daughter developed this mysterious ailment many years ago. The Foundation raises money from corporations, wealthy individuals, and though the individual fund raising efforts of ordinary people people, like me, who have dystonia themselves. (I have a type of dystonia that locks my vocal cords closed and prevents me from from being able to speak. I get regular botox shots which temporarily gives me my voice back.) However, this hard working Foundation is tiny by most standards. Through the extraordinary efforts of its members, the Foundation has been able to fund approximately 19 million dollars in research. In comparison, in 1999 the government spent well over 27 million dollars on AIDS research PER DAY.

     So why am I raising this issue of under-funding for dystonia research now?

     Well if I know one thing about IHMSA people, itís that we have an acute sense of justice and fairness. If we see that somethingís not right, weíre not afraid to not only say so, but are willing to do something about it as well. The current under-funding of dystonia is just plain not right. Ten million spent out of a budget of 27 billion? This is less than a joke. This is an embarrassment.

     Iíve seen small children twisted into a painful knot by dystonia. Iíve seen talented men and women who have lost their jobs, careers, and had their lives destroyed in their most productive years and who are now near destitute because no one will hire them because they have a strange illness. This isnít right and it can happen to anyone - even to you, and your family, and very little is being done about it.

     So what can you do? At a minimum, contact your Senator and Congressman and urge them to support increased dystonia research funding. You can e-mail them or call their local offices or call toll free to their office in D.C. The numbers are in your local telephone book. You can also clip this column from the paper and mail it to your representatives if you like.

     It doesnít matter what your political affiliation is or what their political affiliation is. This is not a political issue, and I not asking you to support any particular candidate or party. This is a simple moral issue of getting help to people like you and yours who desperately need it and who are being largely ignored.

     Another option for you to consider is to contribute to the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation by having a barbecue or other fund raiser during a match or whatever. 87 cents of every dollar goes directly into medical research.

     Also, if you know or see someone whose body is twisted, or whose head is pulled to the side, or who speaks in a strained voice, or has uncontrolled eye blinking or facial grimacing or other unusual body movements, they may have dystonia. Donít pass them by. Ask them to consult with a movement disorder neurologist. Also ask them to visit the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation web site at ( for information and to find a near by support group. Take these actions because itís just the right thing to do. If you have any questions about dystonia, feel free to call or email.

Accurate Arms in Sale Negotiations

"The new owners have promised there will be no changes to the Accurate family of powders"

     As of this date (29 July), Accurate Arms, makers of silhouette favorites like 2015, 5744, and #9 reloading powders is in intense, final negotiations for the sale of the company to Western Powders of Miles City, Montana. Western is primarily a distributor of several different brands of powders including their own "Ramshot" line which is manufactured for them in Belgium. Negotiations have been going on for approximately 5 months working out the complex details of the sale. A Western spokesperson assured me that after the sale was complete, it was their intention to retain the entire Accurate line of reloading powders and that no changes in product were foreseen. Itís anticipated that the sale of Accurate will be completed by the middle of August.

The Sierra Hammer

     If youíre at all familiar with Norse mythology, you know that the god Thor had this giant hammer that he used to bash this enemies. Well, it turns out that modern day Sierra has a big hammer also. Itís their new 175 grain, 7mm, low drag bullet that they designed specifically for rifle silhouette shooting. That means the bullet was designed to be especially hard hitting and to be ballistically efficient.

     When I first got the press release for the new slug, I thought Iíd be fun to try it out in a 7 BR. The new bullet was bound to be a heavy hitter and any ram hit by this slick Sierra would probably wish it was Thor instead that was kicking its posterior.

     There were two possible approaches that I considered to load for this bullet. One - the traditional method i.e. bigger bullets and more powder. Two - the Whisper approach i.e. subsonic all the way. Unfortunately, there wasnít enough time to explore both methods so I took the traditional approach this time around. Iíll try the subsonic route at a later date.

     The test gun would be my trusty 10" MOA falling block production gun. The first thing I did was to seat a bullet into an empty case so that it was placed just off of the lands of the barrel. By laying another bullet along side the seated bullet and even with its top, I could see how far the long 175 protruded down into the case. As it turned out, the base of the bullet was even with bottom of the shoulder. That then gave me a rough idea of how much powder I could put in the case without the bullet compressing it.

     Selection of the powder would be very critical to any success in reloading this heavy bullet. When working with jumbos, slow burning is always better than faster burning. Consequently, I avoided traditional favorites such as H322 or AA2015, etc. My first choice was the very versatile H4895. Iíve used this powder in everything from the 222 through the 30-06 and itís always worked great. I then filled a case up to the bottom of the shoulder and dumped the powder into the pan on my RCBS reloading scale. It measured out right at 25 grains. I then proceeded to load 5 rounds. Just to be on the safe side, I loaded another five rounds with 24.3 grains which I would use as my starting load. Hereís the results.

Load Velocity Std. Dev.
24.3 gr. H4895 1704 3
25.0 gr. H4895 1742 15

     Primers looked normal and interestingly, I had no problem keeping my shots on the 200 meter 24" range gong, even through my iron sights were set for 50 meters. That bullet wasnít dropping very much.

     I then tried another old favorite - WW748. This is a ball powder which is also very versatile in cases like the 223, 308, etc. Because of the ball powderís smaller grains, more powder could be dropped into the same volume of space in the case. This of course, resulted in somewhat high velocities.

Load Velocity Std. Dev.
26.3 gr. WW 748 1741 fps 15
27.2 gr. WW 748 1775 fps 8

     Recoil seemed to be softer with this powder as well.

     I then tried another popular powder often used in small, high pressure cartridges i.e. H335. I filled the case to the same level as the other powders (base of the shoulder). Powder weight came out to 28 grains. This turned out to be an unacceptably hot load. Primers were cratered to the point that I had some difficulty opening the MOAís action. The velocity produced by the load was extremely impressive however. I started reducing the load and still got impressive velocities and the pressure was reduced sufficiently so that the MOAís action opened easily and the cases fell from the gun with no problem.

Load Velocity Std. Dev.  
28.0 gr. H335 1949 7

Too Hot

27.5 gr. H335 1923 7  
27.0 gr. H335 1906 14  

     These loads were heavy recoiling by anyoneís standards, especially considering that they were coming out of a 10" barrel. It would take a very stout individual to shoot 40 of these in a match. Shooting them in an unlimited gun would reduce recoil somewhat but even so, it would still be very uncomfortable for 40 shots. However to use them just as ram busters would not be unreasonable for some. Obviously, dropping the load down into the 25.5 and 26 grain range is very doable as well without too much of a velocity penalty. One nice thing about the 335 was the fact that it was very clean burning. There was no unburned powder granules or other debris in the barrel at all - just a light coat of ash.

     In summary, even the lightest of the loads discussed here will take down the rams with great authority. With a BC of .605, this bullet isnít going to slow down very much for anyone - a perfect hammer.

17 Agulia

     Mexican manufacturer Agulia has evidently beat Hornady, Speer, et al to the marketplace with its new 17-22 rimfire ammo. If you remember, in my Shot Show story, I reported that Hornady and Speer had jointly developed a new cartridge which was basically a standard 22 Long Rifle necked down to 17 caliber. They called it the Mach II. It was the next logical step after the fantastic success of the Hornady 17 HMR cartridge.

     The Mach II is scheduled to enter the marketplace sometime this Fall.

     Well, just yesterday (July 30th), my good friend Ron Sadler showed up at the range with a Ruger 10-22 rifle fitted with a custom Mach II barrel and a box of Agulia ammo. The new ammo is using a 20 grain jacketed, non-expanding bullet (although it looks like a hollow point). Ron graciously allowed me to fire five rounds over my Oehler chronograph to get some early real world data. Hereís the results.

Velocity Spread Std. Dev.
1709 fps 48 fps 19 fps

     It seems odd that Agulia would choose a non-expanding bullet for this cartridge as the Mach II is really meant for very low recoil small game and general purpose shooting. Recoil was nonexistent and the 10-22 was easily able to produce a one inch group at 50 yards. This is a fun little cartridge which will be selling for well under $5 a box. Iím looking forward to trying one in a Contender.

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.