This column is going to be a little different than my usual mix of
product reviews and industry news. Iím still going to cover those things,
but thereís an important subject that needs to be discussed first because it
greatly affects the health and well being of many, many people and their
Ever hear of dystonia? No, itís not a small Eastern European
country on the Baltic Sea. Thatís Estonia. Give up? Well donít feel bad if
you donít know what dystonia is because almost no one knows anything about
it - unless you or a family member has it.
Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder that can literally
turn the human body into a bizarre, permanent, painful pretzel where the
individual affected is so twisted that they canít walk, dress, feed
themselves, or live any type of normal life. It can also take away a
personís sight by causing their eyelids to lock closed even though the eyes
themselves are perfectly normal. It can even rob someone of their speech by
causing their vocal cords to lock closed or even to lock open.
How does this happen? Well something goes haywire in the brain
causing it to send an inappropriate signal to a muscle, or a set of muscles,
or to almost all of the bodyís muscles to lock them up and/or to pull and
twist them in ways that they were never meant to do. Painful? You bet.
Imagine having a permanent "Charlie Horse" all over your body that never
Dystonia is a real paradox. It is the third most common
neurological movement disorder behind Parkinson's Disease and tremor and
affects a minimum of over 300,000 people in the United States (although this
number is probably grossly understated). Yet, your standard physician knows
almost nothing about it, and more importantly, doesnít know how to diagnose
it when they see it. What is even more surprising, is that your standard
neurologist doesnít know how to diagnose dystonia either. Seemingly, only
neurologists specializing in movement disorders know know anything about it.
As a result, in almost every case, a person with dystonia will be
referred to a psychiatrist on the assumption that they must suffering from
some form of hysteria or other mental illness. The standard treatment is
often mind altering drugs that do nothing to address the real problem. As a
result of this inability of most medical practitioners to diagnose this
disorder, itís not unusual for a person with dystonia to go several years,
or even decades without a correct diagnosis or treatment, even after seeing
doctor after doctor. Why is that?
So who gets dystonia? By and large, children, and people in their
middle years. In some cases, early onset dystonia is caused by a gene that
has only been recently discovered. Others can develop dystonia after some
kind of trauma - a physical injury, chemical exposure, etc. However, for the
very great majority of dystonia patients, no one has the remotest clue as to
how, or where it comes from.
So what can a person with dystonia do about it? Not much. For the
most severe forms of dystonia, deep brain stimulation is a new option. This
is a surgical procedure that was recently developed for Parkinson's and has
been recently approved for dystonia. Here, two electrodes powered by a
pacemaker type battery pack are inserted deep into the center of the brain.
An electric current from the electrodes interferes with the "bad" signal
that the brain is sending to affected muscles. The results of the surgery
can vary from dramatic to somewhat improved. The operation is very expensive
and is appropriate for only a few percent of those affected.
The most common treatment for dystonia is botox injections into
the affected muscles. Yes, this is the same stuff John Kerry and the
Hollywood stars use to smooth out their facial wrinkles. Refined Botox was
developed by the government during W.W.II as a bio weapon. However, in the
1970ís it was discovered that in an extremely dilute form it could be used
to relax the muscles locked by dystonia. It wasnít until the late 80ís that
botox was finally approved as a treatment. By the way, it was when botox was
used to treat involuntary eyelid closing that someone noticed that wrinkles
around the eyes went away. Thatís when the cosmetic use of this substance
took off. Botox is the most generally accepted treatment for focal dystonias
i.e. those in just in one or a relatively few muscles. In cases where many
muscles are involved over many parts of the body, the amount of botox that
would have to be injected would soon cause the patient to build an immunity
that would render it ineffective as a treatment.
After injection, Botox will gradually wear off and shots have to
be repeated every 3-4 months at a cost of around $1000 or more.
Ok, so here we have a situation where large numbers of people have an
incurable illness that almost all doctors donít know how to recognize and
donít know how to treat. If the dystonia person should get lucky and
eventually get a good diagnosis, their treatment options are limited,
extremely expensive, and the results highly variable.
So whatís the government doing in the way of research? Very
little. All government medical research funding is managed by the National
Institute of Health (NIH). Iíll guess you never heard of it. Indeed, until
just recently, neither had I. Yet this organization has a budget of well
over $27,000,000,000. Yep, thatís billions. Yet they have spent only about
ten million on dystonia research. These days, ten million bucks wonít even
buy you the stationary for a medical research project. Heck, weíve just sent
15 million bucks to Viet Nam for AIDS! It was only recently that the NIH
even requested the scientific community to submit proposals to do dystonia
research. The scientists responded enthusiastically, but there was funding
available for only a fraction of the work that the medical research
community felt could be accomplished.
Much of the limited medical research for this
neglected disorder is funded by the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation, a
small, private, non profit organization founded by a couple whose daughter
developed this mysterious ailment many years ago. The Foundation raises
money from corporations, wealthy individuals, and though the individual fund
raising efforts of ordinary people people, like me, who have dystonia
themselves. (I have a type of dystonia that locks my vocal cords closed and
prevents me from from being able to speak. I get regular botox shots which
temporarily gives me my voice back.) However, this hard working Foundation
is tiny by most standards. Through the extraordinary efforts of its members,
the Foundation has been able to fund approximately 19 million dollars in
research. In comparison, in 1999 the government spent well over 27 million
dollars on AIDS research PER DAY.
So why am I raising this issue of under-funding
for dystonia research now?
Well if I know one thing about IHMSA people,
itís that we have an acute sense of justice and fairness. If we see that
somethingís not right, weíre not afraid to not only say so, but are willing
to do something about it as well. The current under-funding of dystonia is
just plain not right. Ten million spent out of a budget of 27 billion? This
is less than a joke. This is an embarrassment.
Iíve seen small children twisted into a painful
knot by dystonia. Iíve seen talented men and women who have lost their jobs,
careers, and had their lives destroyed in their most productive years and
who are now near destitute because no one will hire them because they have a
strange illness. This isnít right and it can happen to anyone - even to you,
and your family, and very little is being done about it.
So what can you do? At a minimum, contact your
Senator and Congressman and urge them to support increased dystonia research
funding. You can e-mail them or call their local offices or call toll free
to their office in D.C. The numbers are in your local telephone book. You
can also clip this column from the paper and mail it to your representatives
if you like.
It doesnít matter what your political
affiliation is or what their political affiliation is. This is not a
political issue, and I not asking you to support any particular candidate or
party. This is a simple moral issue of getting help to people like you and
yours who desperately need it and who are being largely ignored.
Another option for you to consider is to
contribute to the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation by having a barbecue
or other fund raiser during a match or whatever. 87 cents of every dollar
goes directly into medical research.
Also, if you know or see someone whose body is
twisted, or whose head is pulled to the side, or who speaks in a strained
voice, or has uncontrolled eye blinking or facial grimacing or other unusual
body movements, they may have dystonia. Donít pass them by. Ask them to
consult with a movement disorder neurologist. Also ask them to visit
the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation web site at (www.dystonia-foundation.org)
for information and to find a near by support group. Take these actions
because itís just the right thing to do. If you have any questions about
dystonia, feel free to call or email.
Accurate Arms in Sale Negotiations
"The new owners have promised there will be no changes to the
Accurate family of powders"
As of this date (29 July), Accurate Arms, makers of silhouette
favorites like 2015, 5744, and #9 reloading powders is in intense, final
negotiations for the sale of the company to Western Powders of Miles City,
Montana. Western is primarily a distributor of several different brands of
powders including their own "Ramshot" line which is manufactured for them in
Belgium. Negotiations have been going on for approximately 5 months working out
the complex details of the sale. A Western spokesperson assured me that after
the sale was complete, it was their intention to retain the entire Accurate line
of reloading powders and that no changes in product were foreseen. Itís
anticipated that the sale of Accurate will be completed by the middle of August.
The Sierra Hammer
If youíre at all familiar with Norse mythology, you know that the god
Thor had this giant hammer that he used to bash this enemies. Well, it turns out
that modern day Sierra has a big hammer also. Itís their new 175 grain, 7mm, low
drag bullet that they designed specifically for rifle silhouette shooting. That
means the bullet was designed to be especially hard hitting and to be ballistically efficient.
When I first got the press release for the new slug, I thought Iíd be
fun to try it out in a 7 BR. The new bullet was bound to be a heavy hitter and
any ram hit by this slick Sierra would probably wish it was Thor instead that
was kicking its posterior.
There were two possible approaches that I considered to load for this
bullet. One - the traditional method i.e. bigger bullets and more powder. Two -
the Whisper approach i.e. subsonic all the way. Unfortunately, there wasnít
enough time to explore both methods so I took the traditional approach this time
around. Iíll try the subsonic route at a later date.
The test gun would be my trusty 10" MOA falling block production gun.
The first thing I did was to seat a bullet into an empty case so that it was
placed just off of the lands of the barrel. By laying another bullet along side
the seated bullet and even with its top, I could see how far the long 175
protruded down into the case. As it turned out, the base of the bullet was even
with bottom of the shoulder. That then gave me a rough idea of how much powder I
could put in the case without the bullet compressing it.
Selection of the powder would be very critical to any success in
reloading this heavy bullet. When working with jumbos, slow burning is always
better than faster burning. Consequently, I avoided traditional favorites such
as H322 or AA2015, etc. My first choice was the very versatile H4895. Iíve used
this powder in everything from the 222 through the 30-06 and itís always worked
great. I then filled a case up to the bottom of the shoulder and dumped the
powder into the pan on my RCBS reloading scale. It measured out right at 25
grains. I then proceeded to load 5 rounds. Just to be on the safe side, I loaded
another five rounds with 24.3 grains which I would use as my starting load.
Hereís the results.
24.3 gr. H4895
25.0 gr. H4895
Primers looked normal and interestingly, I had no
problem keeping my shots on the 200 meter 24" range gong, even through my iron
sights were set for 50 meters. That bullet wasnít dropping very much.
I then tried another old favorite - WW748. This is a ball powder which
is also very versatile in cases like the 223, 308, etc. Because of the ball
powderís smaller grains, more powder could be dropped into the same volume of
space in the case. This of course, resulted in somewhat high velocities.
26.3 gr. WW 748
27.2 gr. WW 748
Recoil seemed to be softer with this powder as well.
I then tried another popular powder often used in small, high pressure
cartridges i.e. H335. I filled the case to the same level as the other powders
(base of the shoulder). Powder weight came out to 28 grains. This turned out to
be an unacceptably hot load. Primers were cratered to the point that I had some
difficulty opening the MOAís action. The velocity produced by the load was
extremely impressive however. I started reducing the load and still got
impressive velocities and the pressure was reduced sufficiently so that the
MOAís action opened easily and the cases fell from the gun with no problem.
28.0 gr. H335
27.5 gr. H335
27.0 gr. H335
These loads were heavy recoiling by anyoneís standards,
especially considering that they were coming out of a 10" barrel. It would take
a very stout individual to shoot 40 of these in a match. Shooting them in an
unlimited gun would reduce recoil somewhat but even so, it would still be very
uncomfortable for 40 shots. However to use them just as ram busters would not be
unreasonable for some. Obviously, dropping the load down into the 25.5 and 26
grain range is very doable as well without too much of a velocity penalty. One
nice thing about the 335 was the fact that it was very clean burning. There was
no unburned powder granules or other debris in the barrel at all - just a light
coat of ash.
In summary, even the lightest of the loads discussed here will take
down the rams with great authority. With a BC of .605, this bullet isnít going
to slow down very much for anyone - a perfect hammer.
Mexican manufacturer Agulia has evidently beat Hornady, Speer, et al
to the marketplace with its new 17-22 rimfire ammo. If you remember, in my Shot
Show story, I reported that Hornady and Speer had jointly developed a new
cartridge which was basically a standard 22 Long Rifle necked down to 17
caliber. They called it the Mach II. It was the next logical step after the
fantastic success of the Hornady 17 HMR cartridge.
The Mach II is scheduled to enter the marketplace sometime this Fall.
Well, just yesterday (July 30th), my good friend Ron Sadler showed up
at the range with a Ruger 10-22 rifle fitted with a custom Mach II barrel and a
box of Agulia ammo. The new ammo is using a 20 grain jacketed, non-expanding
bullet (although it looks like a hollow point). Ron graciously allowed me to
fire five rounds over my Oehler chronograph to get some early real world data.
Hereís the results.
It seems odd that Agulia would choose a non-expanding bullet for this
cartridge as the Mach II is really meant for very low recoil small game and
general purpose shooting. Recoil was nonexistent and the 10-22 was easily able
to produce a one inch group at 50 yards. This is a fun little cartridge which
will be selling for well under $5 a box. Iím looking forward to trying one in a