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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
Volume 14, Issue 10 Nov/Dec
  The Ranging Shot Email Todd:
  With ( Comments or questions? )
Todd Spotti

     You know itís really odd, but Iíve observed that in many instances that the less expensive a scope may be, the better the quality of the lens covers that will be furnished with it. Why is that?

     For instance, just look at the scope covers found on inexpensive BSA rifle scopes or others in that price range. Theyíre usually screw on metal caps. Obviously they work very well to protect the lenses from dirt, moisture, scratching, etc. At the other end of the spectrum, pricey Leupold and other similar scopes donít provide any lens covers at all for their rifle and pistol scopes. I donít get it.

     Other brands will sometimes provide rinky dinky loose fitting see through plastic lens caps connected with a elastic cord or something else similar. While these arrangements are better than nothing, they leave a lot to be desired in putting a protective seal over the exposed and somewhat fragile lenses on our costly optical gear.

     Itís the same with spotting scopes. While many spotting scopes are equipped with tight fitting rubber caps up front, and screw on plastic caps on the rear, Iíve seen some very expensive spotting scopes furnished with just flimsy, press on plastic caps that can be easily flipped off with just a vigorous shake of the scope.

     Now you may be wondering why Iím making a fuss over lens covers. After all, who cares? Well, you should.

     You and I are paying serious money for our scopes. Sometimes, itís very serious money. In return, weíre getting a very sophisticated instrument whose lens system is coated with rare earths and other exotic materials to optimize light transmission. Well it doesnít take much dust, dirt, smoke film, or grit to degrade the optical performance of that expensive scope down to the level of something costing $79.95 or there abouts. If we let that happen, we should have just saved our money and bought something a lot less costly. The plain truth is that good quality scope caps are necessary to keep our lenses clean, and clean lenses mean weíll get our full moneyís worth out of our investment.

     Fortunately for rifle and pistol scopes there are a number of aftermarket options available to to shooter. Iíve always been partial to the products made by Butler Creek for that purpose, particularly their "Flip Open" scope covers. They come in two varieties i.e. one that slips on a scopeís objective lens and another that fits on the eyepiece. Both provide a waterproof, and dust proof seal over our delicate lenses. Just push forward on a tab on the front cover to pop up the spring loaded lid, or push down on a red lever on the rear cover to do the same. Easy. Keep them on permanently, or if weight is an issue for your Field Pistol or Unlimited Standing guns, just pull them off when you shoot a match.

     Itís a fine solution for rifle and pistol scopes, but what about binoculars? If you remember, several months back I wrote about the unique advantages of using binoculars for spotting. In a nutshell I said that binoculars would give the spotter a three dimensional view of the target and that would allow them to do a better job. Unfortunately, factory furnished lens covers for binoculars fall into the same situation as those for rifle, pistol, and spotting scopes. Some have good covers, some have lousy covers, and others donít have any at all. As before, price - for some unknown reason, doesnít have anything to do with whether the manufacturer will provide a decent set of lens covers or not.

     Fortunately, there is an alternative. It turns out that the Butler Creek series of flip up scope covers will also fit over binocular lenses as well. I canít take credit for this idea. It came from my good friend Dr. Jim Williams who has an enthusiastic imagination and is always trying new things.

"Butler Creek flip up scope covers will never get separated or lost"

     All you have to do to find the right size covers, is measure the outside bell diameter of the binoculars at the objective and eyepiece ends (a caliper is best). Take those measurements and then consult the chart found on the Butler Creek web site. The chart will give you the inside diameter of the scope covers in both inches and millimeters and the corresponding product model number.

       The arrangement looked so go on Dr. Williamís binoculars, I decided to do the same on the Nikon 16X50 binoculars that I reviewed in the IHMSA NEWS some months ago. Figuring out the right size for the objective lens side of the binocs was easy, but the eye piece end had me puzzled for a bit. The folding rubber eye cups were the problem. With the eye cups unfolded out, the diameter was one thing. With the eye cups folded back, the diameter was something larger. After a little consideration, I decided that if I let the eye cups unfolded out to their full length, their length would interfere with the fit of the scope cover. Consequently, I folded them back, took my measurements accordingly, and ordered the scope covers. When I got them, the front covers slid on without a hitch. The rear covers required a little bit of wriggling to slide them on but the mission was accomplished with very little effort.

"The scope covers give full protection to binoculars and don't interfere with their use"

     I have to admit that I was very pleased with the results. I was a little afraid that when the rear covers were in the "up" position, they might interfere with the use of the binoculars, but that wasnít the case at all. They worked great. I now have a pair of spotting binoculars equipped with a set of scope covers that give max protection to the lenses, are super easy to open and close, wonít fall off at the drop of a hat, and wonít ever get separated and lost somewhere . (I hate it when that happens.) Now if we could only persuade Butler Creek to make them in sizes that would fit spotting scopes as well. If you want the max in protection and convenience for your rifle and pistol scopes, and binocs, try a set of the Butler Creek lens covers.

Forend Stabilizer - Testing loads and shooting groups with a TC is tough. Itís a demanding task that requires a lot of concentration and rock solid support. After all, weíre trying to determine the level of performance of the gun and load and at the same time trying to eliminate the shooters skill or lack of skill as a factor. In other words, were trying to evaluate the gun and load and not the shooter.

     When reviewing a particular cartridge in a TC, or a custom TC barrel, Iíll build a stack of sand bags and jam the gun into the bags with moderate pressure while making sure the bottom of the grip is well supported by another bag underneath.

     Fortunately the bottom the TC grip is flat, so that helps somewhat to control side to side rocking motions. Helps - not eliminate. The real problem is the thin, rounded TC forend which almost seems to have been deliberately designed induce side to side instability into the gun. Yes, there are some TC forends out there that are flat on the bottom, but theyíre so narrow that their ability to prevent these unwanted motions is practically nil.

     Whatís really needed is a wide, flat forend such as is available from the custom TC barrel makers. Such forends, which are often 2.5-3" wide and can be as long as the whole barrel, effectively eliminate all side to side rocking motions and allow you to shoot the best groups the gun and the load are capable of producing. Unfortunately, many of the custom TC barrel makers make these forends to fit only their own unique hanger bar mounting system and not on the standard set up that the TC factory uses.

     There is an alternative however, and thatís the Possum Hollow Forend Stabilizer that is sold by Sinclair International. This is a piece of black, UHMW plastic molding that measures three inches wide and four inches long. Additionally, there are two "ears" measuring 2" high on either side of the plate on which two 1.25" long rubber tipped delrin screws are horizontally mounted .

     The basic idea behind the stabilizer is that it provides a very stable platform that the average sporting rifle shooter could attach to their gun when working up loads for the hunting season. The stabilizer is mounted by simply removing the swivel sling stud that most hunting rifles are equipped with, and using a furnished screw to attach the stabilizer to the stock. When the hunter has developed their loads, the stabilizer is just as easily removed.

     It struck me that such a system would be be just as useful to use when testing a standard 14" TC barrel. There is a small obstacle however. TC forends for 14 " barrels donít have sling studs. No stud, no hole that we can use to mount the stabilizer. You would think that TC would offer such a forend since 14" barrels are supposed to be used for hunting as well as target work, but ....

     Not to worry. Since weíre talking about unlimited guns, I donít see any reason you couldnít just drill a mounting hole into your existing TC forend. If youíd rather not do that, there are plenty of used TC forends floating around for sale at gun shows, etc. that you can pick up to mount the stabilizer on just to check loads.

     After you have the stabilizer securely mounted on your TCís forend, just twist in the two side screws to the point where the rubber tips are firmly pressing against the sides of the forend. Donít over do it as you can buckle the screws. The screws are there just to provide some additional side support to the stabilizer. Now youíre ready to go.

     Now to be perfectly honest, because most TC forends are angled from the rear to to front, the attached stabilizer will be sloped at the same angle as well. Consequently, if you rest the forend on a hard, flat surface like a benchrest without a bag, you wonít have advantage of the full 12 square inches of footprint that the stabilizer provides. However, if you shoot off sand bags as I do, the bags can be arraigned to compensate for this situation.

     The stabilizer is very effective in preventing side to side wiggles, so all you have to do is concentrate on the vertical movements. This is a very simple and robust piece of gear that anyone who tests loads in a TC or in a rifle can use. Itís not expensive either. Just call Sinclair at 260-493-1858 and theyíll sell you one for only $18.25. Also check out their web site at (

More on The 50 S&W - The new giant revolver from Smith and Wesson chambered for the equally new 50 caliber magnum cartridge really got the anti gun, liberal, pseudo intellectual ninnys on a real tear here in Southern California. You wouldnít believe the hand wringing and predictions of doom and devastation that emanated from the press and politicians after it was introduced last February. Well I haven't seen any vehicles exploding on the freeway yet after being plugged by one of the big 50ís, but what the heck, maybe I just haven't been driving on the right freeways.

     Never the less, the reloading industry has embraced the new gun and cartridge and Hodgdon has just published 30 new, safe, well tested loads for six different bullet weights ranging from 275 grains to 440 grains. In looking over the loads I found it interesting that maximum loads were developing pressures in the 50,500 PSI range. On the other hand the 454 Casull will develop pressures in the 55,000+ range. I thought the information was kind of interesting and decided to share some of it with you.

     These are max loads and should not be exceeded (not that any sane person would want to do so).

Powder Bullet Velocity Pressure
44 grs. 4227 275 grs. Barnes 2047 fps 48400 psi
44.5 grs. Lil Gun 325 grs. Barnes 2002 fps 49100 psi
43.0 grs. H110 350 grs. Hornady 1877 fps 50600 psi
44.5 grs. Lil Gun 370 grs. cast 1949 fps 50400 psi
22.0 grs. Titegroup 400 grs. Sierra 1458 fps 49000 psi
35.0 grs. Lil Gun 440 grs. cast 1653 fps 50500 psi

     All loads were assembled using Starline cases and Winchester Large Rifle primers and should not be use with other components. For a more complete look at Hodgdonís loads, go to their web site at ( or call their tech line at 913-362-9455.

     By the way, if youíre really interested in reloading for the 50 S&W, check out Leadheads new 465 grain gas checked cast bullet. It looks like a perfect match. Say what you will about this cartridge, itís not boring.

NEI Bullet Molds - I learned just recently that Walt Melander, owner & operator of NEI, has passed away. Walt and NEI were definitely one of the major players in the world of cast bullet shooting. There was no one that had such an huge selection of bullet molds to choose from. It must have been hundreds of designs.

"NEI aluminum molds are high quality products that are very easy to use

     Walt always worked hard to maintain a personal touch. Whenever, I would do a review of one of his excellent aluminum molds, Iíd always get a very nice letter from Walt commenting on the article. He was a real gentleman in the best sense of the word whom I always enjoyed chatting with. The knowledge that man had about cast bullets and mold making will be sorely missed.

     It looked for a while that with Waltís passing, that NEI might leave the scene as well. However, Waltís daughter Patty has got the business up and running again in a new location in El Paso, Texas. The full catalog is there and they are offering the whole line up of products and services just as before. By the way, although NEI has always been known for their top quality aluminum molds, they offer the same designs in iron as well.

     If you are looking for something different, visit NEI at ( or email them at ( to get a copy of their catalog. I own NEI molds and I can tell you that theyíre first rate. If youíve never used an aluminum mold before, try one now and youíll be surprised how light and easy to use they are and how fast they come up to the proper casting temperature.

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.