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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 7 - September
 
  The Ranging Shot Email Todd:  TSPOTTI@worldnet.att.net
  With ( Comments or questions? )
Todd Spotti
 
     Rimfire ammo performance is one of those subjects that seems to be governed more by art than science. On second thought, maybe I should have said ďmore by voodoo than scienceĒ. By comparison, center fire ammo performance is boring. Put this bullet with this amount of powder in this kind of case, and we have a pretty decent idea of what kind of results we can expect without ever firing a shot.
 
     Rimfire on the other hand is a total crap shoot. It doesnít matter how much we paid for the ammo or what the gun is, we really donít know what the probable result will be. Itís no secret that rimfire guns are very particular about what kind of ammo they will shoot well. Why is that? No one knows. But why donít we know? We donít know that either. Iíve torn down tons of rimfire ammo over the years (donít do it as its very dangerous), weighed and measured bullets, powder, cases, recorded velocities and standard deviations and still donít have a clue as to why one brand of ammo works better in one gun versus another.
 
     Shooters who are really fanatical about rimfire mumbo jumbo really like Eley ammo because Eley prints all kinds of information on their boxes to identify the contents. For instance, most brands of 22 ammo will just have the name of the company and the ďmodelĒ of the product on the box i.e. ďWolf Match TargetĒ. On the other hand, for its better ammo, Eley will have that info plus its velocity, the month and year of manufacture, the lot number, and even which machine the ammo was produced on. With all that info available, the true rimfire fanatic can go into synaptic collapse or a state of ecstasy trying to find some accuracy advantage in all those numbers.
 
     Let me give you an example of the information found on the Eley Match EPS ammo that Iím currently using. On the left side of the box youíll find the numbers 1006-04201 and underneath that line the number 1061. The first four numbers (1006) is the date of manufacture i.e. October 06. The second set of numbers (04201) represent the machine used to make the ammo and the lot number i.e. machine #4 and lot 201. BTW, Eley has five cartridge assembly machines and so many people favor machine #5 as they believe that it, being the newest and the most modern, must make the best ammo. On the other hand, machine #1 (the oldest) has been recently rebuilt, and there is a group of people who believe that it produces the best ammo. Tea leaves anyone.
 
     OK, on line two, the number ď1061Ē represents the velocity of that lot as measured at the factory. However, I have to say that in my experience, IĎve never found any relationship between the velocity printed on the box and the velocities Iíve personally recorded with my Oehler three channel chronograph which I place ten feet from the muzzle. For that particular lot, my chrono tells me the actual velocity is 1097 fps with a standard deviation of 8 fps. A difference of 36 fps between whatís printed on the box and whatís happening out of my gun is quite a bit. Itís also a little unsettling in that the bullet velocity average is right on the ragged edge of being supersonic. (As a general rule 1100 fps is considered to be supersonic, however, this varies somewhat by altitude, temperature, and humidity.) In fact, two of my shots out of that measured string were just over 1100 fps. Obviously, most silhouette shooters want to keep their shots safely subsonic to avoid transonic turbulence and its negative effects on accuracy. However, in my experience there actually seems to be some validity to the belief that individual guns prefer ammo of one particular velocity or another. Why? Again - who knows? Mind you, velocity is just part of the accuracy picture but it does seem to be an revenant part.
 
     In order to find what velocity ammo that your gun prefers the best, try to find an ammo dealer that will make up a brick of Eley ammo that contains ten boxes with wide variety of velocities printed on the boxes and give them all a try. Shoot them in as windless conditions as possible. When you find the velocity that your gun likes best, order more. Championís Shooter Supply should be able to help in that regard.
 
     I guess my bottom line here is that many people lay great stock in the miscellaneous information provided on the box and will go to great lengths to relate that information to the accuracy performance of their gun. Other than helping you to identify the ďmagicĒ velocity for your gun, I donít see a lot of use for it.
 
     On the other hand, I should also mention the mental part of this equation. Iíve always said that 80% of competition shooting is mental. The noted silhouette shooter of some years ago, Bob Kelly, disagreed with me and said it was 95%. So if someone believes ammo from a particular machine made on a particular date is better in their gun than ammo made from any other machine or some other month of manufacture etc., it probably will be. Funny how those things work out.
 
Bushnell Sold . . . Again
     For the third time since 1995, Bushnell Outdoor Products has been sold off to an investment firm. The first time it was to Asian based Worldwide Sports and Recreation who held it for four years and then sold it to Wind Point Partners, another investment firm. They in turn have sold Bushnell to MidOcean Partners, yet another investment company, which was founded by a couple of German bankers. This time around, the sales price was a whopping $600 million plus. This is particularly interesting in that the Remington sale that I reported on recently was for a comparatively measly $370 million. You could say that the numbers reflect what we knew all along i.e. that the optics on a gun quite often cost more than the gun itself and thatís where the real money is.
 
     Under the terms of the sale, the top management at Bushnell will be staying on the job and in fact will now be part owners of the company. As Iíve reported to you in these pages, Bushnell has been growing substantially with its acquision of Hoppes, Tasco, Uncle Mikeís, Butler Creek, and Stoney Point. It also owns Bolle and Serengetti eyeglass makers. Itís not a well known fact but Bushnell also owns the technology for all sports oriented laser range finders. Anyone selling those products like Simmons, Nikon, etc. must pay Bushnell a royalty fee. Bottom line - Bushnell has been making a bundle of money under the current management and unless the new owners start playing games with it, Bushnell should continue to do well.
 
Wolf Primers
     Wolf, seller of inexpensive good quality rimfire and center fire ammunition, is now selling primers. I recently was able to get hold of a variety of them and was able to try them out.
 

Wolf primers are now available and at advantageous prices

     But first, have you ever asked yourself exactly who is Wolf, and where are their factories located? Well Wolf isnít a manufacturer at all. It has no factories. Itís a company that buys all of its center fire ammunition from several former state owned facilities located in Russia. Its rimfire ammo is manufactured in former East Germany. Just like its center fire ammo, Wolf primers are also made in Russia. They are currently being sold for around $3-$4 less than comparable U.S. made primers.
 
     I first tried some large rifle types in my 22-250 rifle. The primer cups appear to be made of aluminum and are less shinny than U.S. primers. During the seating process I found that they are harder than the CCI BR primers that I was going to compare them against. The reason that I know this is a powder granule some how got into the cup of my primer seating tool which then made a small dent into the CCI primers when I pressed them into the cases. However the granule didnít dent the Wolf primers. Other than that, the seating process was normal. My load consisted of 36 grains of Hodgdonís Varget (a great powder), a 50 grain Remington HP, and Remington brass. Here are the results:
 
Wolf Primers CCI BR Primers
3628 fps 3636 fps
SD 31 fps SD 58 fps
     The group size for both were for all intents and purposes identical at about a half inch at 100 yards. The fact that the Wolf primers were a little harder than the CCIís had no apparent effect.
 
     I then tried Wolf small rifle primers in my XP-100 chambered in 6 TCU equipped with a custom Leupold 2.5 X 8 scope. This gun is a tack driver at all ranges and with just about every Sierra 6mm bullet made. This primer was a little different in that it was copper colored.

     It looked very much like the copper wash that is commonly seen on 7.62 steel cases. Consequently, I thought that because of the color, that the primers might be made of thin steel, but a magnet had no effect so I guess theyíre made from some other material. Brass perhaps? The load I used consisted of 24.7 grains of WW748, a Sierra 85 gr BT HP, and Norma cases.

Wolf Primers CCI BR Primers
2342 fps 2291 fps
SD 29 fps SD 11 fps
     In this case, the load definitely preferred the CCIís.  The 50 yard CCI group was a tight, uniform half inch while the Wolf group was double that size with one shot going high and another going low and three in the middle.
 
     Of course shooting just a few groups with the new primers doesnít mean very much, but I intend to try them over a period of time to try to get a sense of how well they shoot. Of course nothing is better than your own experience with your own guns. The price is right so give them a try.
 
Rimfire Bullet Lubricant
     I was bench shooting some very accurate Eley ammo at 50 yards many years ago and it was performing flawlessly. The group couldnít have been more than a quarter inch. I then decided to switch over to another brand that was less expensive and less accurate. (Got to save the good stuff you know.) Now usually when I switch ammo, Iíll clean the barrel before I start shooting again. However a friend came over to chat and I got distracted and forgot to clean the bore. Well the first shot was dead center. The second shot was right on the first one. In fact, it was hard to tell whether there was one shot on the target or two. I immediately began to wonder what was going on as this ammo never seemed to shoot so well before. Then, shots 3, 4, and 5 opened things up predicting a group of around 3/4Ē which was normal with this ammo. I stopped and kind of thought about what just happened.
 
     Kind of on a whim, I repeated the situation. I cleaned the barrel, fired a couple of fouling shots with the Eley and shot a group. Again it produced a very nice quarter inch group. I then switched over to the other stuff without cleaning out the bore and again the first two shots stacked on top of each other and the next three opened things up again. So what was going on here?
 

The group on the left was produced with bullets coated with Lithium grease while the group on the right was coated with Shooters Choice gun grease

The left group was shot with bullets shot with Graphite grease and the right group was shot with ammo right out of the box

     I came to the conclusion that the residual bullet lube in the bore from the premium ammo was improving the accuracy of the less expensive ammo. But after two shots, the lube from the good ammo was then worn away and the cheaper ammo reverted to its normal accuracy level. Then I thought how nice it would be if somehow one could buy some of that premium lube. You could then put it on middle priced ammo and get premium performance. Well I didnít think that Eley would sell me a barrel of Ten X lube so I wondered if I could find a substitute. That kicked me off on a multi month experiment where I tried at least a zillion different lubes which ranged from super heavy duty industrial greases to hair care products and everything else in between. They only made things worse. Nothing worked and so I gave up.
 
     Then a couple of weeks ago, the same thing happened again, and again, it got me thinking about rimfire lubes again. This time my experiment would be more limited. Like most people, Iíve noticed that expensive brands of rimfire ammo always seem to have white lubricant, while the less expensive brands have black lube. Just what is that white stuff? I wondered if it could be white lithium, so I thought Iíd give it a shot. I also had some general purpose graphite grease in the garage, so that got added to the list. Lastly, as I was casting my eyes around my work bench looking for something slippery to try, I saw a tube of Shooters Choice gun grease. Perfect.
 
     I chose Wolf Match Target ammo for the experiment as it shoots fairly decently in a lot of guns and the price is right. The first step in the experiment was to remove the factory lube. This was easily accomplished by wetting a paper towel with acetone and spinning the bullet in the same. I then applied the respective lubricants on seven bullets each. Two bullets would be for fouling shots, and five would be shot for group. I should note here that my lube coatings were very thin and were applied by putting the smallest of dabs on my fingers and twirling the bullet around. I was very careful to insure that there was no lumping of the greases on the bullets and that the coating was even and uniform.
 
Lithium Grease .536Ē
Shooters Choice .178Ē
Graphite Grease .328Ē
Original Lube .140
     All shooting was done at 50 yards. Again I used my wind flags to insure that all shots were taken under as identical wind conditions as possible. Here are the results:
 
     It was easy to see that both the lithium and graphite greases really degraded the accuracy of the ammo. It also confirms the fact that lubricant is a significant factor in rimfire accuracy. The Shooters Choice gun grease however was a nice surprise in that it produced a very pretty, very tight group. However, in spite of its excellent performance, it still didnít match the effectiveness of Wolfís original lube. Of course when youíre getting down to groups that are measuring in the 1ís, the differences between groups is very small and can be caused by almost anything, including random chance.
 
     Bottom line - unless you like to experiment for the fun of it, fooling around with alternate lubes for rimfire ammo isnít worth the trouble. If you do like to experiment, this is a subject that can keep you occupied for a long time. Mmmmmm I wonder how some RCBS or Redding die lube would work?
 
Alpen Optics
     Over the years Iíve been really blessed in that Iíve gotten to try out and write about at least two and a half boxcars full of optical products of all kinds. Consequently I hope that Iíve been able to help the you, the reader, to pick and choose wisely from among the thousands and thousands of scopes and such that are being offered to the shooting public by the ever increasing number of companies who are in the sports optics business.
 
     I guess the word has gotten around that I have some experience in this area as I get tons of emails from people asking for information and advice. I would say that the most common question goes something like this: ďI donít have a lot of money to spend but I need a good, reliable scope. What do you recommend?Ē My answer is always the same. ďFor good quality products at reasonable prices that wonít break the bank, look at Alpen Optics first.Ē Yes, there are other scopes that cost less, but the quality (especially the mechanical quality) just isnít there.
 
     I donít know how they do it but Alpen always seems to give their customers more for a given amount of money than the other optics manufacturers. For instance, their 50 and 60mm spotting scopes could easily be priced $50 more than they are, and their 80mm spotter really should be priced $100 more than it is. The same is true of their rifle scopes and binoculars.
 
     Their products are also uncommonly reliable. Once on a visit to their headquarters I asked to see their repair department. They just laughed and said that they didnít have one. I asked ďWhy not?Ē They replied ďBecause we hardly ever get any of our products back.Ē My own experience verifies that. Iíve had a 6x24x50 and a 4x16x50 Alpen rifle scope for several years now that have been mounted on and off a wide variety of guns both big and small and have never had a hint of a problem. So if you, like me, fall into that very large category of shooter that hasnít won the lottery yet, and you need a good scope for a good price, take a look at Alpen.
 
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.