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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 15, Issue 6 July
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Todd Spotti

     This month, my overall contribution to this particular issue of the IHMSA NEWS will be a little unusual in that quite a bit of it will be devoted primarily to optics. There are so many fine optical products out there that can be used by silhouette shooters, that one could devote every column, indeed every whole issue of the IHMSA NEWS to this one subject and not come even close to adequately covering the area. Well, this time weíll attempt to make a just a small dent in that particular mountain of optical products out there that I found especially interesting.

Alpen 16 X 52 Binoculars

     Weíd all like to own the best sports optics that money can buy, but the fact is that very few of us can. Weíve got rent to pay, doctor bills, and there are kids to feed (sometimes even grand kids). Itís funny how those kinds of things have a way of cutting into to our recreational budgets. Folks who are new to the sport of silhouette shooting also tend to be cautious when buying equipment. After all, theyíre not sure if theyíre going to like it or not. Weíre sure, but theyíre not - yet.

     So whatís a person who either doesnít have a lot of money or is unsure about making a large financial commitment to silhouette, or both, to do when it comes to buying something to spot the targets with? Well, one alternative is Alpenís 16 X 52 Magna View binoculars which retail for only around $65. (By the way, the numbers indicate that the binocs are 16 power and the objective lenses are a whopping 52mmís in diameter).

"These Alpen binocs offer huge objective lenses at a very reasonable price."

     Alpen, which is a relative newcomer in the world of sports optics, has quickly gained an enviable reputation as being a company that provides a degree of quality in its products well beyond their prices. Indeed, they are a four time winner of Outdoor Life magazineís "Great Buy" award.

     As Iíve said in previous columns, binoculars provide one advantage that even the most expensive spotting scope canít - stereo viewing. Why is that important? Because stereo viewing will help your spotter see your misses far, far more effectively and therefore will be able to better give you the information you need to make the appropriate adjustments so you wonít miss again.

     Of course the main characteristic of these binocs are the big, fully coated, objectives lenses. Besides helping to boost brightness, they also assist in providing a generous field of view for their relatively high magnification power. Indeed, field of view at 100 yards is over 22 feet.

     These are really nicely styled BK7 porro prism binoculars which are armored in Alpen green rubber. The underside of the body even has a couple of molded indentations to place your thumbs for increased comfort and grip when holding them. The focus adjusting knob on the center spindle is also rubber covered and is oversized to make focusing easier and more precise. I found focusing to be smooth with no binding or unevenness. Both eye pieces are also rubber covered and have folding rubber eye cups to block out stray light and to increase contrast. Speaking of blocking out extraneous light, a quick look down the twin bodies revealed that they were ribbed on the inside to reduce internal reflections - a nice feature.

     Of even more interest to silhouette shooters is the fact that they are fully tripod adaptable. Just unscrew the cap on the front of the focus adjusting spindle and screw on the Alpen tripod adaptor (optional accessory). When I mounted these binocs on my tripod, I had no problem seeing seeing both hits and misses on all of the targets - even at 200 meters.

     I was frankly pleasantly pleased with these inexpensive binoculars. They give you a lot of features usually found on only much more expensive products. If they have a disadvantage, itís the fact that they aren't weatherproof. However, considering the type of shooting that many people do, thatís not very much of a disadvantage for them at all. This is a good solid inexpensive product that is also backed by a lifetime warrantee. Alpen products can be bought at any number of regional sporting goods chains across the country. They can even be bought at WalMart. If you donít have a dealer in your area, just go to their web site at ( and theyíll sell to you direct. Nice for the price.

Burris Lever Locking Rings

     Iíve always liked Burris scope bases and rings, especially their Weaver styled "Zee" rings. So when when Burris announced they they would be offering Weaver style, lever locking type rings for 2004, I was very interested. This was especially true since Iím constantly moving scopes on and off guns all the time and thatís where these kinds of rings really shine.

     As you would think, the new Burris rings are primarily distinguished by their one inch long locking levers located on the side. Rotating the levers a couple of turns are all thatís necessary to screw the beefy steel locking clamps of the rings against the Weaver rail on your gun. Since no tools are involved, this completely eliminates the possibility of messing up the screwdriver slots usually found on the cross-bolts on regular Weaver style rings. The use of fine threads on the Burris cross-bolts also insures that when the rings, with scope, are detached and then later reattached, that theyíll be within a catís whisker of their original position. Indeed, when I removed and reattached a scope with these rings on my XP-100 6 TCU, my next shot was within one bullet diameter of the last shot before the scope was removed, and that could have easily been an aiming error on my part.

     These levers also have another very handy feature. There're spring loaded so they can be pulled outward and then rotated to any of 12 different positions in a 360 degree circle. This means that they can then be repositioned so that they wonít protrude in any awkward orientations - like across the gunís ejection port.

"Burris lever locking rings are
convenient to use, strong, and innovative."

     It also means that you can also position them in what ever manner that looks esthetically pleasing to you as well - clever idea.

     These are very strong steel rings that are nicely pleasing to the eye, are very innovative, and are particularly easy to mount. Youíll like them.

How Much is Free?

     Whenever someone offers us something thatís free, weíre immediately suspicious. What ever that free something is, we assume that it canít be very valuable. After all, free = no value. Right? So if itís free, it canít mean very much. Additionally, even though we donít like to admit it, quite often we consider the free thing as something we deserve, I guess because weíre such a deserving person. "They owe it to me - because."

     Well every day IHMSA members get a lot of free stuff thatís extremely valuable, and thatís the time, labor, and skills of the volunteers that put on the matches and run the organization. The regular employers of those volunteers pay big bucks for the very same time, labor, and skills in the workplace that we get for free. However, because itís free, we take those extremely valuable things for granted.

     These volunteers are really strange people. They donít get a darn thing for their efforts except grief, complaints, and comments on what they should do differently. So why do they do it? Are they crazy? Beats me. I suppose that they believe in a cause greater than themselves. I suppose that they want to make a difference. I suppose they even like to help people. Yep, I guess they really are crazy.

     Volunteerism in this day of "Whatís in it for me" is really an acronym, but thank the stars that we have people willing to do so. Youíve heard this before, but it should continue to be said. Pitch in and help that match director. Also run for IHMSA offices like state and regional director and above. Just paying your fees at a match is not enough. Youíre not a customer. Youíre a member with all that implies. If you have an idea to make things better, by all means suggest it AND THEN be willing to volunteer to step forward and implement your idea. Donít just say "Those guys should do this or that" and then sit back and do nothing except complain. If you think your idea is good enough to verbalize to all your buddies, itís good enough for you to volunteer to make it happen.

     Lastly, show your appreciation for that match director. Either take them out to a nice dinner, or have them over for a barbeque, or give them a plaque, or shake their hand, or pat them on the back and tell them how you appreciate their efforts and how much you enjoyed the matches, or all of the above. And donít wait until the end of the season to do so. Do it now and do it often! But what ever you do, DO SOMETHING to show them that their efforts are appreciated and that you donít consider their efforts to be free.

Hodgdon Data for the Ruger 204

     Hodgdon has just finished developing 35 loads for the new 204 Ruger cartridge that I reported on a couple of issues ago. Since my coverage, a couple of new bullets have come on the market from Hornady and Berger which are covered in the new data. You can get all the info by going to ( or calling them on their tech line at 913-362-9455.

     If you remember, the new cartridge will develop over 4000 fps when loaded with a 32 grain 20 caliber bullet. I suspect that those kinds of loads might be only marginally effective on our steel half scale targets as the bullets are likely to blow up without delivering their full momentum and leave targets standing even when well hit.

     However, the 32 grainers are the lightest of the 20 caliber bullets currently available. Other weights are as follows: 35 grs, 40grs, and 50 grains. I used to shoot half scale with a XP-100 chambered in 223, and used 50 grain bulk bullets at a little over 2700 fps. The load worked very well and did not damage targets. Consequently, the 50 grain loads just might be viable for half scale.

     Hodgdon lists six loads for a 50 grainer using a Berger HPBT going between 3071 - 3167 fps. The powders used are Varget, BL-C2, H335, H4895, Benchmark, and H322. Of course, these loads would have to be tested to see if they would damage targets or not. At any rate, thereís no doubt that the 204 is going to make a name for itself in the varminting world, and who knows, it could end up being a workable, low recoil silhouette cartridge as well when teamed up with the right bullet and powder.

Rams Beware

     Sierra just announced the introduction of a new 7mm bullet that weighs in at 175 grains. The new slug was designed specifically for rifle silhouette shooting and other long range applications. The bulletís main characteristics are its long ogive, longer boat tail, and a somewhat shorter body. Iíd have to characterize it as a semi VLD design.

     The improved aerodynamics of the long, slender bullet means thereís going to be more down range momentum being delivered on target and wind drift characteristics should be improved over their old Sierra standby - the 168 gr Match King. The new bullet has a ballistic coefficient of .605 and donít worry that youíll need a super fast twist barrel for this long bullet. Since the body is relatively moderate in length, a 1:9 twist barrel will provide fine accuracy.

     175ís used be not uncommon in the old 7 IHMSA cartridge, and reloading data is still available for it. They were real ram killers. Donít see why the 175 Sierra couldnít be used in the 7 BR as well. Itíll be fun to give it a try.

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.