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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 14, Issue 3 April
  The Ranging Shot Email Todd:
  With ( Comments or questions? )
Todd Spotti

     A couple of issues back I wrote about the benefits of light, fast (2500 fps plus) bullets in the 22 Hornet. Even the 35 grain Hornady at these velocities seemed to have sufficient momentum to take down a 100 yard Field Pistol ram. Other benefits included low recoil and very flat trajectories, which translated in minimal sight changes between targets.

"Speer 33 gr bullet (shown with a 64 gr.) is very accurate
and fast in the Hornet."

     Well, Speer has just introduced a 33 grain hollow point Hornet bullet for 2003 that can be safely loaded up to 2700 fps. I was recently able to obtain newly developed, unpublished Speer reloading info for the new bullet and found it to be extremely interesting. Take a look.


12.8 grs 2703 fps

AA #9

10.8 grs 2674 fps


12.8 grs 2600 fps


10.6 grs * 2580 fps


11.5 grs * 2554 fps

* Compressed load

     No, these velocities aren't out of a rifle but are out of a 10" Contender, and none of these loads exceed the SAMMI pressure limits of 43,000 CUP for the Hornet. They are all max loads however, and should not be exceeded. If youíre curious and own a 22 Hornet rifle, the above loads will crank out roughly another 500 fps in a longer barrel. Not bad.

     Another interesting point is that Speer found that it was able to get higher, and more consistent velocities when using CCI standard small pistol primers - not rifle or small pistol mag primers. In fact, the above loads are recommended ONLY with regular small pistol primers and nothing else. As of this writing (Feb 17th), the new 33 grain bullet is just now coming off the production line and will be shipping next week. So by the time this is published, they should be available. If I can get a box, Iíll see how well they work on steel and will report.

March 4th. Got a box of the new bullets and loaded up a couple of dozen to see how theyíd do on the range. I decided to go whole hog and use the 12.8 grain load of WW296. First step was to zero my Weaver 4 X 16 on my 10" Contender Hornet barrel at 50 yards. Primers very flat but not cratered. No case stretching noted.

Step 2 - Shot some groups at 100 yards while simultaneously chronographing the velocity. The first thing I noticed was that even though the scope was zeroed for 50, the bullets were hitting dead on at 100. There was no bullet drop at all. Better still, even though there was a heavy overcast making viewing difficult, the Speer bullet was printing a very nice one inch group. Velocity was a little off from what the Speer data indicated however. The average I got with the chronograph sensors located 10í from the muzzle was 2667 fps. No biggie. Maybe the Speer data was taken at the muzzle.

Step 3 - Put up some Field Pistol rams and see if the little 33 grainer could take them down. Put the crosshairs in the center of ten rams and ten rams went down (very, very slowly).

Conclusion - 33 grains, even when itís going very fast is marginal on 100 yard steel rams. However, it should be dynamite on ground squirrels, rabbits, and other small game suitable for being taken with a Hornet. This bullet is very accurate and coupled with the very large and aggressive nose cavity design, I'm sure itís a great hunter.

Binoculars for Spotting? - Back in the olden days when I was very new to silhouette, Iíd occasionally see someone at a state or maybe a regional match using binoculars instead of a regular spotting scope to call the shots. Some of those binocs were run of the mill 7 X 35ís and some looked like they had last seen service on a German U-boat. They were absolutely huge!

     At first, I thought the people using them were just making do with what they had on hand rather than going to the expense of buying a spotting scope, or perhaps they were just demonstrating their individuality. I really didnít think much about at first, but a tiny kernel of curiosity was created and it started to grow. It finally got the best of me one day and I approached this very nice husband and wife shooting team that was using one of these twin barreled uberoptiks. "Why?" I asked. They immediately recognized me for a newbie, but were polite anyway. "Stereo" they replied. "Stereo?" "What does stereo music have to do with spotting?" "No, not stereo music. Stereo viewing." Then it sunk in. Two eyes plus two sets of optics coupled into a single instrument = stereo imaging, and stereo imaging = depth perception. With a regular spotting scope, only one eye is used and so all we get a mono view of the target. The nice lady then remarked on what a huge, and positive difference it made to spot the targets in 3D, especially when determining where a miss went. I immediately saw she had a very valid and very important point.

     I then inquired about the cost and the origin of the very handsome binoculars that they were using. Well, they were astronomical binoculars and so was the price - about 3-4 times that of a good quality spotting scope of the time. Yes, they did have a significant advantage, but the cost was way out of my price range.

     Well times change. As most people are aware, the cost of optics has really dropped over the last 4-5 years and the quality has really gone up. Simply put, you get more for your bucks than you used to. This is especially true of binoculars, primarily because of the explosion in interest in birding. Thereís over 70 million birders in the U.S. and everyone of them either owns, or wants to own a set of binoculars. Consequently, the competition in that market is ferocious, and thatís good for everyone.

     I recently read with interest that Nikon had just come out with a 16 X 50 version of their very nice Action series binoculars, and that it was tripod adaptable. "Aha!" I thought, "Maybe we now have an affordable set of binocs that can be used for silhouette?" So letís take a look at these in comparison with the features we should consider when buying binoculars.

"These binoculars can be mounted on any standard

Magnification & Objective - 16 X 50 means that we have sixteen power and 50mm lenses. Your standard set of binocs are 7X35. The first question was whether 16 powder was sufficient to spot the targets effectively. If youíve read my previous optics articles, you know that Iím not a big fan of high magnification because it reduces brightness, resolution, color clarity, and shrinks the field of view. Mirage frequently becomes a problem at high magnifications as well. I always have the magnification on my variable power spotting scopes cranked as far down as theyíll go - 20 or 25X. Since thereís not a lot of difference between 20 power and 16 power, I felt confident that it wouldnít be a problem. Indeed, when I mounted the Nikon on my tripod, using the supplied "L" shaped attachment bracket, I could see that the 200 meter rams were of sufficient size in the image to call the location of the shots with no difficulty.

     As mentioned before, the standard binoc will have 35mm lenses. Since doubling the size of a objective lens will increase its light gathering ability by four times, a 50mm lens will be almost twice as bright as a 35mm lens. Indeed, the image I saw at 200 meters was very clear and bright.

Field of View - This is very important when spotting silhouette targets. How many times has the competitor been aiming at one target and their spotter has been looking at another because the field of view on their scope was too narrow (often because of over-magnification)?

     Field of View is determine by the amount of magnification being used and the size of the objective lens. For some reason, field of view for binocs is measured at 1000 yards, versus spotting scopes which are measured at 100 yards. Never the less, the Nikon has a field of view at a 1000 yards of 214 feet and thatís around 21 feet at 100 yards and 42 feet at 200 which is more than ample for our purposes.

"The rubber eye cups keep stray light out or can be folded down for eyeglass wearers"

Eye Relief - This is the point in space behind the eyepiece where the image is focused. Since I wear glasses, I like plenty of eye relief so I donít have to worry about getting too close to the eyepiece and scratching my glasses against it. The Nikon has a little over 12mmís which is adequate although Iíd prefer 15mmís. The Nikon also has rubber eye cups that can be folded down to allow eyeglass wearers to get closer in. If you donít wear eyeglasses, leave the cups as they are and theyíll reduce stray light coming in from the sides for an even better image.

Contrast - High contrast is important in discerning small objects (like bullets in flight) from the background scene. This is where coatings become very important.

Lens Coatings - One of the most important features of any optical instrument. Coatings maximize the amount of light entering the binocís tubes over and beyond what any theoretical exit pupil value may be. Consequently, exit pupil numbers have very little practical value and shouldnít be really considered an important factor in evaluating any optical instrument.

     One of the ways coatings maximize light transmission is by reducing the amount of light reflected and scattered off the objective lens surface and away from the binocular. Actual measurements have shown that lenses without coatings will reflect away 4% of the light hitting them. Just a single coating will reduce the reflection down to 1.5%. Multicoating will reduce it even more down to about .4%. Now to fully appreciate how important this is, we have to appreciate that this principle applies to every optical surface in the system. Binocs will usually have a minimum of four lenses in their design. Consequently, you can see where the cumulative benefit of the coatings on each lens gives a compound return in maximizing light transmission throughout the system. As mentioned before, contrast is also enhanced. The Nikon uses only multi-coated lenses.

Prisms - All binoculars use prisms. When the light elements of an image pass through the objective lens, they are inverted (turned up side down).

     A prism is then used in the binocular design to turn things right side up again. These prisms come in two designs. The most traditional is the Porro prism. Itís this type of prism that gives the familiar bulge in the sides of most binocs. Then thereís the roof prisms which are very compact. Binoculars with roof prisms donít have the traditional "bulge" in their optical tubes and are characterized by straight bodies. The standard mini binocs that are so popular use roof prisms.

     Prisms are made of either BK-7 (borosilicate) glass or BaK-4 (barium crown) glass. BaK-4 glass is very, very dense, and as a result when polished properly has almost no internal light scattering. Consequently, images are as bright and sharp as possible. The Nikon uses BaK-4 glass.

Near Focus - This is the closest distance you can see an object while maintaining a clear, crisp image. The Nikon will focus down to approximately 30 feet - good enough for even 22 rimfire silhouette chicken targets.

Eyepiece Design - The Nikon uses an aspherical design for its eyepiece lens elements. A common simple lens will usually have a very pronounced curve across its diameter. This results in some degree of distortion where straight lines would then appear to be curved either upward or downward. It can also result in situations when the center of an image is in focus and the outer edges of the image are not, or vice versa. Images can also be stretched both vertically and horizontally as well. Aspherical lenses are very flat compared with other lens designs and were developed for cameras where itís important to have imagery with the maximum amount of fidelity and a minimum of distortion. This type of lens is definitely an asset in high quality binocs.

Resolution - This is determined by the quality of the lenses, the lens coatings, and the degree of precision in the mechanical alignment of the various optical components in the design. High resolution will give you very crisp images where small objects and subtle differences in the background can be clearly seen.

     These particular binocs retail for $179.95. Consequently you canít expect them to have comparable resolution with a name brand 80mm spotting scope selling for close to a $1000 or even $500. On the other hand, even the most expensive spotting scope wonít give you a stereo view of the target.

     To check the resolution of this product I used my home made resolution target which Iíve found to be useful in previous reviews of optical products. As you can see, the chart is simply a line of "Oís" in different type sizes. Anyone with a home computer and printer can easily make one. The idea is to put up the target at 100 yards and see whatís the smallest line of type that can be clearly read. I donít know of any other writer that uses any kind of resolution chart when writing about optical products. By using an easily available chart like this, any reader can evaluate the optics theyíre currently using and compare the results with any other product.

"This home made chart can be used by anyone to evaluate optical performance"

     Mounting the Nikon on my tripod with the supplied bracket was very easy. First, screw the bracket onto your tripod mounting plate. There are two threaded holes on the bracket for this purpose. Now look at the front of the center focus adjusting spindle where youíll find a knurled cap. Simply screw out the cap and youíll see a threaded recess. All you have to do now is just fasten the binocs to the bracket with the large screw with the plastic knob thatís permanently attached to the bracket.

"No tools are necessary to mount binoculars to a tripod, "Tripod mounting bracket supplied with Nikon 16X50 Action Series binoculars"

     Before starting any serious viewing, you want to adjust the focus on each eyepiece so theyíre perfect for your individual eyes. You also want to adjust the separation distance of each tube from the other so that the center of each eyepiece is located directly in front of the center of each of your eyes. This is very important for the best viewing. The Nikon has a scale on the back of the central spindle that will help you repeat this setting. (As an aside, I wish the binocular manufacturers would provide a means for locking this adjustment so once itís accomplished it didnít have to be repeated every time you use them. However to the best of my knowledge, no one does this).

"The scale helps you to repeat the distance adjustment between the tubes"

Yellow arrow / Scale - Red arrow - Rubber eye cups folded back

     The day I checked the binocís resolution wasnít the best - heavy overcast and occasional sprinkles. Never the less, I placed the resolution target out at 100 yards and found that the smallest line I could clearly distinguish was the one with 36 point type. I then had an inspiration. I also had my 22 Hornet TC with me and itís equipped with a Weaver V-16. This is a really nice scope that Iíve used on everything from the Hornet to a couple of varmint rifles. I wondered how a 16 power rifle scope would compare to the Nikon 16 power binocs. Answer - tie match. 36 point type was the smallest line that the Weaver could clearly resolve at that distance. This is a very credible degree of performance for the Nikon.

     In spite of the fact that the Nikonís objective lenses are significantly larger than the run of the mill binoculars, they still come in a fairly compact package. The binocs measured a reasonable 7" X 7.6" and weigh just a tad over 2 pounds. They also came with a nice carrying case and an extra carrying strap. Given their credible optical performance and sensible dimensions, Iíd have to say theyíre suitable for both field and silhouette work. However, if you want a pair of binoculars that would make Captain Nemo proud, Nikon makes a suburb 18 X 70 thatís almost twice as large and weighs more than an Encore pistol, with scope. It also retails for around $1200.

     Thereís no doubt that seeing the targets in 3D is a significant advantage and if you choose to go that route, the moderately priced 16X Nikon Action binocs deserve a good look.

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.