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Volume 15, Issue 4 May

  The Ranging Shot Email Todd:
  With ( Comments or questions? )
Todd Spotti

     Hauling our silhouette handguns to and from the range can be a hassle. Thereís a lot of practical issues to consider when deciding what kind of a gun case we want to use. If we want to transport our handguns some distance to a regional match or to the Internationals where we might want to hop an airline flight to reach our destination, things can get even more complicated. The point Iím leading up to is that the gun cases that we use need to be the best quality that we can afford so we can get the maximum practical protection for our guns without having to take out a second mortgage on our homes. So what kinds of criteria come into play when choosing a case to drag our stuff here and there? In my examination of this topic, Iíll use a SKB double layered rifle case as a basis of discussion. By the way, SKB is one of the largest manufacturers of heavy duty shipping and storage cases for industry and the military, as well as for musical instruments and all kinds of sports equipment.

     Size - How much room do we need? Well, thatís determined by how many and what kind of guns weíre going to carry. As I indicated in another article, I like versatility in the things that I purchase. In other words, products that can be used for more than one thing. We could use a specialized pistol type case to haul our silhouette guns, but obviously, because of its size and shape, it can only be used for pistols. The other alternative, is to use a rifle case instead. A rifle case is more flexible, in that both handguns and rifles can be carried in the same container, either separately or even together. This becomes even more practical if the case happens to be a double layer type.

     At my home range, our silhouette matches also include both big bore and small bore "cowboy silhouette" competitions shot side by side with the handgun disciplines. These cowboy matches originally were limited to lever action rifles shooting cast bullets, but have evolved to any and all rifles with cast bullets. These are strictly non official, fun matches. The advantages are that they get rifle shooters involved in silhouette and they in turn bring in additional revenue to the match.

     However, the point is that if a shooter wants to participate in both a sanctioned silhouette match and then shoot a round of cowboy just for the fun of it, they have a potential transportation problem. If theyíre using a specialized case for their handguns, that means that a second case for their rifles will be necessary. Thatís double the expense and double the space in the car that the cases will occupy. On the other hand, if you can put both your handguns and one or two long guns in a rifle case you can potentially save money and space. Even if you donít take a rifle to a handgun silhouette match, you may want to when going to the range for just casual weekend shooting where you might want to do some practice on the silhouette swingers and punch some holes on paper targets with a rifle.

     Rifle cases can also be used to carry the other miscellaneous things we use in a match other than just our guns. Our spotting scopes are prime examples. We can put a lot of money into a quality spotting scope, however even the best of the best can have their optical train knocked out of alignment by being rolled around in the trunk of a car. The end result is that those premium lenses are now delivering a level of performance two or three steps down from what they were before. Carrying our spotting scopes in a hard sided, padded rifle case makes a lot of sense. The rifle case can also be used to carry additional Contender barrels, sight setting books, cleaning rods, or just about anything that needs to be carried.

     Strength - This is certainly the 2nd most important consideration after size, especially if thereís any possibility at all that the case may be used for airline travel. This is certainly one of the primary areas where the SKB cases really shine. Theyíre made from a very, very dense type of polyethylene which is extremely strong. You wonít ever have to worry about this material, which is used by the US military, ever cracking or being crushed. I have two inexpensive plastic cases that apparently had a lot of stuff stacked on top of them when they made an airline trip. The result was that the two halves of both cases were bowed away from each other. Thatís not ever going to happen with a SKB case. In fact theyíre made to be stackable.

     Another feature of the SKB cases that contributes to maximum protection of their contents are several large modernistic looking bulges molded into the sides of the case. These bulges measure approximately 1" X 1" X 4" are are found to the right and left of the locking latches, and around the four corners and on the bottom of the case. These bulges primarily function as bumpers, or crash barriers if you will. So, if the case gets smashed into something or something gets smashed into the case, the bumpers will take the impact. Their positioning also gives a degree of protection to the locking latches themselves. Besides acting as crash barriers, the bumpers also function as "feet" when standing the case on the side or laying it flat on the ground.

"Molded bumpers protect the case and it's contents from damage"

     As I mentioned, this case is very strong. How strong? Strong enough that it qualifies for a ATA 300 Class 1 rating. So whatís that? ATA stands for Airline Transportation Association and a 300 Class 1 rating means the case is certified as being able to take a minimum of 100 airline flights without damage. Considering that the airlines only hire 800 lb gorillas to work in their baggage departments, thatís a heck of a certification. Donít bother asking the makers of the inexpensive plastic cases if they have a certification, because theyíll quickly change the subject.

     Latches - Having good locking latches on any gun case is extremely important. On my old plastic cases, the flimsy sheet aluminum locking latches stopped locking smoothly after only about a year. I was always fiddling with them to get them to work. Then, they started breaking off the cases due to metal fatigue after being opened and closed many times. The SKB latches are good, solid, heavy duty types and completely rust proof. In the unlikely event that a latch ever fails, just call and theyíll send you a new latch which is easily replaceable.

     Cushioning - This is certainly an important feature of any case. If your guns and gear is being rattled around and beat up on the inside of the case, it really doesnít make much difference how strong the outside of the case is. The interior of the double case has good quality foam on top and bottom. Unlike most cases however, there is also cushioning material lining the ends as well. Many, if not most cases, will skip this altogether.

"Unlike many others, even the ends of the interior are protected with heavy foam"

     The foam layer which separates the top and bottom sections of the double case is kind of unusual. Itís comprised of actually two pieces of foam bonded to a strong but flexible sheet of reinforcing plastic in between them. This now provides a cushioned barrier between the two layers of guns. So if severe conditions are encountered, like if the case is dropped from a height, one layer of guns isnít going to be crashed against the other layer of guns. This is really a great idea.

     Hinges - Inexpensive cases will have two or three hinges, often of very suspicious quality. Full length piano hinges with lots of rivets holding them in place can provide a lot of strength and resistance to twisting when the lid is open.

     Sealing Gaskets - If you ever ship guns on an airline, this is a must. I canít describe the frustration I felt when I was going on a hunt and saw my gun case sitting out on the ramp with everyone's elseís luggage in a driving rain waiting to be loaded on the plane. When I got to my destination and was able to check my guns, I found that the foam in my inexpensive case had acted like a sponge soaking up water. Luckily my guns had been well treated with Shooters Choice Rust Prevent in preparation for the trip and so were not affected. The SKB is equipped with a sealing rubber gasket that is a very effective weather barrier. Most cases donít have a gasket.

     The SKB rifle case has only one disadvantage, and that is compared to inexpensive cases of the same size, itís relatively heavy. However, thatís really a good thing. In the world of gun cases, weight is a primary characteristic of a strong, well made product. In this instance, weight really isnít a big problem. To assist us in getting this case from one place to another is a set of very functional built in wheels and a spring loaded handle on the end for pulling. Works good.

     The bottom line here is that the SKB is a very strong, high quality case that is practically indestructible. Itís also able to deliver all of this without falling into the premium price category. If I had to characterize itís price range Iíd say that it fell some where in the middle. Thatís quite an accomplishment, but as I indicated earlier this is a high volume manufacturing concern heavily involved in supplying industry at large and the military, so you get the advantages of volume production. Visit their web site at and then check out their prices at your favorite gun shop or catalog outfit and see if you agree. Bet you do.

Stoney Point Rimfire Headspace Gauge

     Ever have one of those mysterious fliers when shooting rimfire ammo. You know what I mean - where everything is lined up perfectly, trigger pull is perfect, sight picture is perfect, everythingís perfect and yet, in spite of all that perfection, the shot goes off somewhere into the blue. Weíve all had this experience - even when using premium ammunition.

     22 benchrest shooters are well aware of this phenomenon and so naturally are really persnickety about their competition ammo. Itís not unusual for them to go through extensive testing to determine not only what particular brand and type of ammunition works best in their gun, but also what lot of that particular ammunition works best. Once they discover that, theyíll often spend thousands and thousands of dollars and buy as much of that lot that they can lay their hands on. It doesnít stop there either. Then, before a match, theyíll use a 22 headspace gauge to check every individual round that will be used that day in order to make sure that every cartridge has the exact same rim thickness. 22 benchrest shooters know that headspace or rim thickness affects accuracy.

"Stoney Point Rimfire Headspace Gauge"

     There are three basic philosophies about this issue. One is that you use the gauge to find the rim thickness that your individual gun likes best. The second is that you use the gauge to weed out the 22 cartridges whose rim headspace is significantly thinner or thicker than the average or typical rim thickness for that particular brand/lot of ammo. The third and most common is that you use the gauge for both purposes. A 22 benchrester without a rimfire headspace gauge is either a newbie or a very rare duck.

     I wonít even begin to suggest that silhouette shooters go to the same lengths as the bench guys, but never the less, we can take a lesson from them. Sorting rimfire ammo by headspace, even premium rimfire ammo, has value in order to weed out that one in a 100 or even that one in 500 flier that will turn a perfect 40, 60, or 80 into something less. If youíre using less than premium ammo, those odds go up.

     Stoney Point who makes a ton of very neat precision shooting oriented equipment and perhaps the largest selection of shooting sticks, canes, walking staffs etc. has added a very nice rimfire thickness gauge this year.

     The gauge consists of basically three parts: a barrel shaped fixture that clamps onto the stationary blade of your calipers with a brass knurled knob, a bushing that slides into the end of the barrel which is also held in place with a knurled knob, and lastly a flat anvil that clamps on to the moveable blade, again held in place by a knurled knob. After the three sections are attached to the calipers, bring the jaws together tightly. Then loosen all the knobs to allow the parts to self align. Now tighten up the knobs again.

     Two bushings are furnished in the kit - one for standard 22 long rifle ammo, and a second that can handle 22 Mag and 17 HMR ammo. Iím sure the 22 LR bushing will be able to handle the new Hornady Mach 2 ammo as well.

     In addition to these basic parts, the kit also comes with a black, nylon lanyard. This is a safety device. The idea is to loop the lanyard around your calipers and then hang the caliper/gauge combo around your neck.

     The lanyard is sufficiently long so you wonít be restricted when you use the gauge. The idea here is that if you have a round in the gauge, and you drop it, thereís a possibility that the impact of hitting the floor could fire the cartridge.

     Using the gauge is very easy after you install it. Just close the anvil against the empty bushing and zero the dial on your calipers. Now open the jaws of the calipers and insert a 22 into the bushing nose first. Gently bring the jaws together so the anvil is resting against the cartridgeís rim and take the reading. Thatís your headspace.

     I use an old beat up muffin pan when sorting my ammo. All the cartridges of one reading will go in one of the muffin cavities, another reading will go in another, etc. I label each cavity with a piece of masking tape with the headspace reading. Iíve found that premium ammo will have very consistent headspace. There Iím looking for those maybe one or two oddballs in a box that will have a different reading from all the others. Those will be set aside and eventually used for casual shooting. For lesser quality ammo, youíll find that headspace can vary significantly, and it wonít be unusual to have all the muffin cavities in the pan filled up.

     All and all, I found the Stoney Point gauge to be a very handy and useful tool. I liked it. Their products are found almost everywhere. Also check out their web site at ( Lots of interesting stuff there.

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.