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Volume 18, Issue 8 - October
  The Ranging Shot Email Todd:
  With ( Comments or questions? )
Todd Spotti
     A couple of years back I published a generic list of “must have” equipment that every outdoors person should have. On that list was a good, rugged flash light. Whether you’re a dyed in the wool hunter or an occasional camper or fisherman, a tough, capable light is a piece of gear that will sooner or later will come in handy, or could even save your bacon in a hairy situation.
     The day of the traditional double “D” cell flashlights that most people keep in the junk drawer in the kitchen is technologically long over, although a huge number are still sold, mainly because they’re cheap and familiar. But they’re also relatively fragile and very heavy for the amount of light that they put out. Flashlights, especially those geared towards outdoor activities, have changed dramatically. They’re smaller, much more powerful, provide light for longer periods of time, often  use more sophisticated batteries, and are almost impervious to outdoor conditions.
     One light in this category that especially caught my eye a couple of years ago is Streamlight’s Sidewinder. Even by outdoor light standards, the Sidewinder stands apart from the crowd of the usual black aluminum LED type lights that are so typical of this class. First, there’s its appearance. Instead of being round, it’s rectangular. Instead of being made of aluminum, its made of a tough nylon polymer, and instead of having a fixed head, the Sidewinder’s swivels 180 degree's.

"The Sidewinder is a heck of a tough light for any outdoors person."

     So what does that give us. Being flat means that it will fit into a shirt pocket for an easy carry. However, a heavy duty, hard holding anodized spring steel clip on the back means that the light can be fastened on to your shirt or jacket pocket as well. (The clip is also contoured to fit either a MOLLE or ACH attachment point which is used by emergency, police, and military personnel.) Swivel the head 90 degrees while attached to your jacket, and you now have your hands perfectly free to change a tire at night or to climb a tree stand in the predawn darkness. Turn the head to the vertical position, and you can hand hold the light as you would any standard flashlight.
     The light is also 100% waterproof and even meets Mil-STD-810F which means it will survive being underwater for at least one hour. BTW, don’t be afraid of taking your light into rough territory. It’s been drop tested from 30 feet onto a concrete surface. Bottom line here - this is a very tough light that can take just about anything the outdoors can throw at it.
     So how’s it work? Great! As you know from my scribbling in these pages over the years, I like products that are versatile. In other words, products that can be used for many applications or that do many things. The Sidewinder besides being able to be used in all of the standard situations that a strong, shockproof light can be used for, also has a host of other functions to make it even more useful to the hunter. For one, besides the standard white LED, the Sidewinder also has a green, blue, and red LED as well. Green can been used on a hunt in the predawn night as that color won’t spook game the way a white light would. Blue is very useful for making a blood trail stand out. Red is a universally recognized distress signal. Lastly, there’s a strobe function. By double clicking on the waterproof switch, any of the different colored LED’s can be made to flash at a rate of around 2-3 per second (my guess). A red flashing LED makes a dandy distress signal.
     Additionally, there are also four levels of brightness available for each of the four LED’s. Select the level that is the most appropriate to the situation to conserve battery life. For instance, for the white light, when set on “low”, the batteries will last 100 hours. When set to high intensity, the white light will last 7 hours. You can use either standard AA alkaline batteries or better yet, lithium batteries. When using the lithium’s, the Sidewinder can be used in temperatures ranging all the way from 40 degrees below zero to 150 degrees above. To replace the batteries, there’s a 3/4” knob located in the center of the unit’s base. Unscrew the knob and the entire base can be removed. You’ll notice that the base plate is tethered to the flashlight with a short length of stainless steel cable to ensure that it can’t be lost (a wise precaution).
     To select among the various LED’s, pull up and turn on the knob located on the side of the Sidewinder’s swiveling head. To turn on the selected color, push the pressure switch in the center of the knob. If you hold down the switch, the light will advance through its four levels of brightness. When you reach the level you want, release the switch. To activate the strobe, press the switch twice from the off position. However, the switch is kind of stiff. Any adult would have no problem with it but a child just might. To be honest though, this is really not a child’s flashlight.
     You should note that this particular model’s light pattern is different than from other Streamlight products that I’ve used - probably because of the rectangular reflector. With a standard round Streamlight reflector, you’ll get a bulls-eye type light pattern with a very intense “hot spot” in the center and a more diffuse circle of light around it. The light is very focused into a distinct cone. The Sidewinder’s pattern is very broad and uniform, with no real central hot spot. It fills a room with a very even level of light.
     The bottom line here is that the Streamlight Sidewinder is a light that can successfully work in a military type environment, and as such would be an excellent choice for the active outdoors person. Streamlight is sold everywhere so check “” to locate a store near you.
     Pro-Tec is essentially a company that produces specialty lubricants for a wide variety of industries including the gun care market. I really get the impression that cleaning rods are a just sideline for them as they can be hard to find - but what a cleaning rod it is. In my opinion it’s absolutely the best that you can buy and it doesn’t cost any more than other “name” rods.
     All of Pro-Tec’s rods are made of carbon fiber. Now I own other rods made of both coated and uncoated steel, brass, and carbon fiber. Of all those types, I prefer the carbon fiber rods best because they’re the smoothest. Can I prove that scientifically? No. But that’s the way it feels to me.
     Now I’ve discussed cleaning rod myths in past issues particularly the common belief that rods MUST be made of very hard steel or otherwise combustion byproducts will become embedded in the rod turning it into an abrasive file. I won’t repeat all the details of what I’ve already written in the past except to say “It ain’t so” and to also say that the people who insist that it is so have NEVER offered the slightest bit of proof to support their assertions. That being said, carbon fiber is extremely strong, won’t get bent, and is very flexible (Example: I just bought a set of tires with carbon fiber belts.)

"Two bearings make the ProTech rod move freely down your gun's bore."

     Because of these characteristics, I own four carbon rods. Two are made by Pro-Tec and the others are from two other makers. The thing that really sets the Pro-Tec rods apart are the handles. First of all, they’re big. Most other rod makers skimp when it comes to their handles.  The Pro-Tec’s are just under 6” long and are an inch and a quarter wide. They’re made out of a solid billet of aluminum and are very finely knurled. On the inside, at the rod end, are two ball bearings. As a result, the rod turns better than any other rod I’ve ever used. In fact, in a small experiment, I gave the handle a little flip to get it spinning, and the handle kept coasting along smoothly for a full 12 seconds. I couldn’t even get three seconds from the handles on my other rods.
     The other end of the rod is hollowed out for about three inches and has a screw on cap. This is the perfect place to keep your cleaning jags, brushes, and perhaps some patches. All the workmanship is first class and Pro-Tec rods have a lifetime warrantee.
     As mentioned before, these rods can be hard to find and often are out of stock as the demand outstrips production capacity on a regular basis in spite of the fact that there is very little company advertising for them. I bought my Pro-Tec rods on line from Cabella’s which also seems to have the best prices for them. Try one out, you’ll like it.
     Let’s admit it. The main reason we clean our cases is because very few things in this whole wide world look nicer than a big pile of brilliantly shining brass. I don’t know whether it’s the luster, or the color, or what. Polished brass just has a quality that appeals to the human psyche.
     Of course there are practical reasons for cleaning and polishing our brass cartridges i.e. safety and accuracy. Dirt and black soot can hide case defects such as a split in the neck or a crack in the web just above the rim. So yes, cases should be at least cleaned on a regular basis.
     Now there are lots of choices available to us on how we can go about doing this. To choose which method to use we have to decide which of these factors are more important to us: time, effort, convenience, or cost. The number of cases that need to be taken care of is also a big factor.
     When I have a small number of cases to clean and polish I always go to my Sinclair case holder system. This is just a little gizmo made by Sinclair that locks the case into a kind of spindle. The spindle is then chucked into my electric drill and rapidly spun. I then take either a wad of 0000 steel wool or Never Dull polishing wool and hold it against the spinning case. The steel wool both cleans and polishes. The Never Dull also cleans and polishes and a brighter finish can be had from it as well. However, the polishing compound in the wool has to be removed from the case afterwards. I use an old t-shirt to do so while the case is still spinning. It takes me about a half hour to do 50 cases and they’re just beautiful.
     For a large number of cases, 50 or over, other methods have to be used. Here you have a choice between wet and dry. For really filthy cases like some pistol brass and used military stuff that’s been laying around for a long time, wet cleaning has advantages. I like Iosso’s Quick Brite cleaning solution which comes in a big plastic jug. Just put the dirty brass in a plastic bucket and cover with the cleaning solution which contains a mild acid and I believe a soap solution. Agitate the cases in the solution from time to time. After about 7-8 minutes the cases should be clean. Strain out the solution and empty back into the jug as it can be reused. Rinse the cases with clean water and let them dry thoroughly inside and out. I usually lay them out in an old pan in the oven set at 150 degrees to do so. The advantages of this method is that it’s very easy and very fast. The cases will be very clean but won’t have that polished, gleaming look.
     To get that super shine on large numbers of cases, you can tumble them. Here you have a choice of either a vibrator type tumbler or a rotary drum type. The people who make the vibrator types say it’s faster, however in a side by side comparison a couple of years ago I found absolutely no difference between the two. I prefer the drum type with a rubber liner made by Thumbler because it’s quieter. It also has a huge heavy duty motor that will last for decades.
     For tumbling media there’s walnut (decent cleaner), walnut treated with red polishing compound (better cleaner and decent polisher), and corn cob (very good polisher but not very good for cleaning). For very dirty cases, you’ll have to clean first and then polish in your tumbler to get the best finish with standard media. This can take a long time as cleaning can easily take 8-12 hours and the same amount of time for polishing.
     There’s one tumbling media can do both the cleaning and polishing best of all. That’s Olsen’s corn cob with chromium oxide. The product isn’t very well known as Olsen’s was a small regional producer in Southern California that sold primarily through local guns shows. (They also made a high quality vibrator type tumbler). Anyway, the media is a fine ground corn cob with little green crystals scattered throughout (chrome oxide). The chrome oxide is an excellent cleaner aggressively scrubbing off the black case residue, and the cob polishes the brass to a brilliant shine. It does the best job of both cleaning and polishing I’ve ever seen on brass.
     Unfortunately, Olsen’s is no longer in business. However, fine corn cob media is available from a number of sources and chrome oxide can be found on the internet or from local abrasive supply houses. Just mix up your own using about 10% of the oxide.
     To summarize, for 50 or fewer cases use the Sinclair tool. For large and very large amounts of really dirty, nasty brass, Iosso’s wet cleaner is the way to go. To clean and polish in a tumbler, Olsen’s formula of corn cob and chrome oxide is # One.
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.