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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
Published monthly except November/December - January/February
IHMSA on the web at http://www.ihmsa.org
Volume 18, Issue 1 - Jan/Feb
 
  The Ranging Shot Email Todd:  TSPOTTI@worldnet.att.net
  With ( Comments or questions? )
Todd Spotti
 
Leadheads Bullets
     I was chatting a while back with my good friend Tommy Mace of Leadheads Bullets - arguably the best commercial cast bullets that you can buy anywhere. During the course of the conversation, Tommy mentioned that he had included a new heavy .357 bullet to his already very comprehensive line up. I already regularly use two of Tommyís .357 bullets i.e. the 180 grain RCBS design, and the 205 grain Marty Flack design (both gas checks and both tack drivers). His 7mm RCBS 140 grain gas check is also a favorite of mine. Naturally, I was very interested in learning more about the new bullet.
 
     Turns out that the new slug is a 200 grain LBT revolver design. If you donít know, LBT stands for Lead Bullet Technology. This is a company owned by Veral Smith who as a bullet designer, has to rank right up there with Elmer Keith and the other greats. LBT revolver bullets are distinguished by main three characteristics:
 
  • 1. The bullet body behind the driving band is somewhat shorter than most other designs. This means that the bullet doesnít protrude down into the case as far. This then has the effect of providing more room in the case for additional powder. More powder in the case = more velocity.
  • 2. The accuracy robbing bullet jump across the barrel/cylinder gap is minimized by making the forward portion of the bullet longer and wider. However the overall length of the bullet is not increased.
  • 3. The forward driving band on the bullet is wider than normal and thatís said to insure a very strong, non-stripping grip when the bullet hits the barrelís lands.
     The particular LBT type bullet being offered by Tommy is the Wide Flat Nose (WFN) design which, as the name indicates, has a somewhat larger diameter flat nose. Itís primarily a hunting bullet designed to deliver greater impact shock, but that doesnít eliminate it from being used effectively as a silhouette competition bullet either. Some shooters prefer cast bullets with large flat noses saying that they grab hold of the steel and impart their momentum more efficiently than more pointed bullet designs, which are said to have a tendency to skid or skip when they hit - thus delivering their momentum intermittently rather than in one massive, effective blow. I donít have any way to verify this but do know that blunt nose cast bullets work extremely well when it comes to kicking down silhouette steel. However, compared to Leadheads more aerodynamically slick 200 grain Marty Flack bullet, youíll definitely have to crank in extra clicks for distant targets with the new bullet.
 
     Iíve regularly referred to Leadheads bullets as being the best  commercial cast bullets that you can buy. The reason I make that statement is because Iíve never used a Leadhead of any design or caliber that didnít shoot exceptionally well. One of the keys to Leadheads success is the lead itself. Itís a propriety blend made in a foundry just for them, and no one else. This particular blend is hard, BUT not so hard that it wonít upset and fill the bore to effectively seal the propelling gases behind it. Yet, itís plenty hard enough to do its thing on silhouette steel or smash through heavy bone and tissue when hunting.
 
     Quality control is also exceptional. I randomly weighed 20 bullets and they only varied from 199.9 to 201.2 grains. Considering that this included the bullet, the gas check, and the lube, this kind of high volume consistency is truly amazing. I also measured the diameter of the bullets in four places and every one was a consistent .358 inches in diameter. No egg shaped bullets here.
 
     So, how did they shoot? As you can see, very well indeed. A load of 14.6 grains of Hodgdonís H110 fired up with Federalís small pistol mag primers really did the job. This was just something I threw together on the spur of the moment. However my Freedom Arms revolver topped with my custom Leupold 2 X 8 really seemed to like this particular combo. I suspect that some further tweaking or perhaps another powder (say Hodgdonís Lil Gun) could tighten things up even more.
 

"This 50 meter group shows that the new LBT 200 gr. bullet from Leadheads can be very accurate."

     The bottom line here is that if you like shooting cast bullets but donít have the time to do your own casting, you should definitely check out Leadheads. Yes, you can buy cast lead bullets cheaper elsewhere, but you wonít get the quality in workmanship and materials that translates into superb accuracy. I know. Iíve tried those cheaper ďgun showĒ cast bullets and have gotten shotgun patterns rather than groups with them. Donít waste your dollars trying to save pennies. The cost for Leadhead products is very reasonable, especially when compared to jacketed bullets, and when you include the performance factor, the advantages become even greater. Iím not the only one who thinks so. Cor Bon, the semi custom performance ammunition maker is now using Leadhead bullets as well. If you haven't used them before, give them a try, you wonít be sorry.
 
Sinclair 3000 Neck Turner Tool
     In a previous column I spoke about the value, and the sometimes lack of value of neck turning. I also spoke about how to use a basic neck turning tool such as my trusty Sinclair 1000. Since then Iíve been able to get hold of a Sinclair 3000 neck turner which is a more advanced tool.
 
     The primary thing that distinguishes the 3000 model from the 1000 is the fact that the cutter blade is easily adjustable both in and out. Let me explain. On the 1000, the blade is adjusted deeper by turning an adjusting screw with an allen wrench. Easy. OK, but say you turned the blade too far down so that itís cutting too deeply. If we now turn the adjusting screw out to reduce the depth of the cut, nothing happens. The blade will remain in itís last position. The only thing you can do is to back out the adjusting screw a fair amount and physically push the blade back and start the process over. On the other hand, the 3000ís cutter blade moves easily both in and out when you turn the adjustment screw in either direction. This is a big improvement which makes things much more convenient.
 
     Another improvement in my way of thinking is the fact that the new tool uses two allen wrenches (supplied) to set things up versus three wrenches with the older model. I hope one day, itíll be just one wrench. A third improvement is the fact that the universal handle that the case is clamped into, and which is then used to rotate the neck under the cutting blade, has a small thumb screw type knob to tighten and loosen things up. The 1000 uses an allen screw and wrench to do the same thing. The thumb knob is definitely faster and more convenient to use.
 
     Using the new tool is very similar to using the old one and the same considerations apply. Perhaps the most important consideration in neck turning is to first size your fired brass. We want the case neck to have a smooth, but snug fit on the turning/cutting mandrel. A fired case neckís diameter is way too large and will be slopping and flopping around on the mandrel. The result will be very uneven cutting. The diameter of Sinclairís turning mandrels is compatible with most sizing dieís expander balls, so a sized case neck should slide on ok. However, you probably should LIGHTLY lube the mandrel with a high quality product such as Reddingís Imperial Sizing Wax, RCBS, etc. Some benchresters even swear by STP. This is necessary to prevent the possibility of galling.
 
     To be perfectly honest though, on some dies, the expander balls are just too small, and so the sized case neck will not fit onto the mandrel - a frustrating situation. You have two choices. You can call the die manufacturer and see if they will send you a larger expander ball, or you can buy a Sinclair expander body and an expander mandrel.
 
     An expander body is very similar in external appearance to a regular sizing die. However there is no de-capping rod assembly with an expander ball. The sole purpose of the expander body is simply to accommodate an expander mandrel.
 
     An expander mandrel is nothing more than a slightly larger turning/cutting mandrel. After de-priming your cases by running them into your regular die, you lube the neck interiors and run them into the expander body & mandrel which expands the neck to a diameter thatís a perfect fit for the turning/cutting mandrel.
 

"The Sinclair 3000 neck turner is much easier to adjust than the old model."

     To be honest, I regard this as being more work, so being the lazy dog that I am, Iíd prefer to see if I could first get a larger expander ball for my sizing die from the manufacturer. Thereís no guarantee that theyíll be able to accommodate you however. A third, perhaps more expeditious option would be to simply chuck the turning/cutting mandrel in an electric drill and then polishing it to size with some emery cloth. Remember, just like Goldilocks porridge, the fit of the sized case neck on the mandrel has to be ďjust rightĒ.
 
     A couple of final notes. Iíve cautioned in previous articles that you shouldnít get carried away with your cutting. Unless weíre talking about very highly customized type tight chambers and custom dies, we just want to turn off only the high spots on our case necks. Sinclair recommends that no more than 70-80% of the neckís surface should be turned off as a result. If you remove too much metal from the neck wall and make it too thin, your sizing die may not have enough metal to size down in order to properly grip the bullet. The result is a ruined case. A good clue that youíre probably taking off too much metal is when you see a long, continuous curl of brass being cut away from the case. If youíre just taking off the high spots, the brass shavings will look more like chips rather than long curly cues.
 
     The other thing to keep in mind is that you want to insure that metal debris doesnít accumulate around the cutter blade. It can bind things up and mess up a case as a result.
 
     Lastly, to speed the turning process, if you donít already have one, you might want to consider investing in a Sinclair case holder and a power screw driver of some kind. I already owned a case holder and used it in an electric drill to rapidly spin and polish my dirty cases with 0000 steel wool or ďNever DullĒ polishing wool. However, the case holder and a power screw driver can also be used to speed up the turning process by around 200-300 percent. Turning is a tedious procedure and anything that can speed it up is ok with me.
 
     In summary, case turning can provide tangible benefits to the serious competition shooter, but having the right tools to do the job effectively and efficiently is very important. Sinclair International (www.sinclairintl.com) is the first place you should look to fulfill those specialized needs.
 
What Is Exit Pupil?
      Exit pupil is a term that many sellers of optical equipment like to throw at us. They like to use it as a way of defining how bright the image in their products is. They also use the figure as a way to prove the ďsuperiorityĒ of their products over that of their rivals i.e. ďMy number is bigger than your numberĒ. However, in reality, exit pupil is totally worthless as a means to determine the brightness or the quality of any spotting scope, rifle/pistol scope, or binocular.
 
     First, letís define what exit pupil is. Itís simply the diameter of the shaft of light which contains the image that is exiting the eyepiece of the scope or binocular. Now letís look at how this diameter size is determined. Itís actually a very simple equation. Just divide the diameter of the objective lens (in millimeters) by the magnification. So if you have a 6X pistol scope mounted on your unlimited any sight gun, and it has a 36mm objective, the exit pupil value would be 6mmís. On a spotting scope with an 80mm objective lens with the power set at 20X, the exit pupil is 4mm. Crank up the power on that 80mm to 60X and the exit pupil is now 1.33mm. The bigger the number, the brighter the image is supposed to be.
 
     So far so good. OK, hereís the main catch. (There are several.) Take a no name 80mm gun show spotting scope, imported from a country you never heard of, and compare it to an 80mm Ziess. When set at the same magnification, the two scopes will have exactly the same exit pupil number.
 
     Are we really supposed to believe that the image in the gun show special, selling for $150, is just as bright as in the Ziess scope which sells for around $2500? I donít think so.
 
     What really determines the brightness and quality of the image in any scope is a lot more complicated than a simple equation dealing with just the size of the objective lens and the power setting. Itís also determined by:
  • 1. The overall optical design i.e. are the number, type, power, specifications, etc. of the lenses in harmony with the other lenses in the optical train to produce the best image in order to achieve the optical goal of the instrument? This design process is known as light management. For example, typically, low quality scopes have much more magnification power than their feeble light management design can accommodate. The result is a extremely poor, highly distorted image. This kind of design is obviously way out of balance.
  • 2. The quality and type of glass used in the lenses
  • 3. The number and type of lens coatings. (Extremely important !!!!!)
  • 4. Whether the coatings are applied to both sides of the lens or just one side
  • 5. The precision of the mechanical system to mount and adjust the lenses
      Bottom line: Unfortunately the sports optics industry isnít interested in providing us with an objective means of comparing image brightness, much less other image characteristics such as resolution and distortion. Consequently, we as consumers have to be very careful when someone prominently displays the exit pupil number for a product theyíre selling. Theyíre likely trying to make their product appear to be much better than it really is. Iíve written extensively in the IHMSA NEWS over the past couple of years about what distinguishes a good scope from a bad one. Review those past articles and arm yourself with the information when shopping. Copies of those articles can be seen at the LA silhouette clubís web site (www.lasc.us).
 
Factoids
     40 million Americans are active in shooting sports and hunting. During their lifetime, theyíll spend an average of $109,568 each on those activities. (Jeezzz, my wife tells me I spent that much on shooting just last year.) That leads to a grand lifetime total to the economy of 4.3 TRILLION DOLLARS. No one canít say weíre not doing our share.
 
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.