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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
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Volume 19, Issue 5 - June
  The Ranging Shot Email Todd:
  With ( Comments or questions? )
Todd Spotti
     All new silhouette shooters, or those who are just thinking about getting into the sport, are faced with a common dilemma i.e. how much money do they really want to spend on this thing? Even the bare basics such as a gun, dies, powder, bullets, blast shield, elbow pad, etc. etc. can send costs shooting beyond the orbit of Mars. If the new person doesn’t have any reloading gear, the situation becomes even worse. Now some of these costs can be reduced by buying previously owned gear from other shooters, but even so, getting into our sport is darn expensive. In these days of economic uncertainty, someone interested in silhouette shooting is likely to be very cautious about how they spend their hard earned cash.
     One of the “must have” pieces of gear in every silhouette shooter’s equipment bag is a good quality spotting scope. The question now becomes “How much does the new shooter have to spend on a spotting scope in order to effectively see their hits and misses on the silhouette targets.”
     It’s no secret that a super premium spotting scope (Lieca, Swarovski, etc.) can cost as much or more than a Freedom Arms revolver and a TC combined. Even a high quality spotter such as a Kowa etc. can easily cost more than the shooter’s gun. There’s no doubt that those mega dollar scopes produce brilliant, distortion free images. However, is that rarified level of optical efficiency really needed by the new shooter? I would say that in the great majority of cases that it’s not.
     The 80mm plus premium scopes shine best when seeing conditions are poor i.e. heavy overcast, targets located in deep shade, very dark backgrounds, etc. There’s no doubt that such conditions exist at a number of ranges, however, in my experience I would have to say that those ranges are the exception rather than the rule. Most ranges by design give good, unfettered viewing of the targets, and that most matches are shot in sunny or bright overcast conditions. That being the case, I would say then that the typical new silhouette recruit doesn’t need a near thousand dollar or more scope with a massive objective lens to play our game. Now if they have the cash and want to spend it, that’s great. However again, I would say that would not represent the typical new silhouette shooter who is usually a hard working family person that has to carefully watch how they spend their money.
     A number of years ago I did an article on modestly priced spotters. Considering the large amount of email it generated (even from a couple of foreign countries) I’d say that the article was well received. This indicated to me that there was considerable interest in the subject. (BTW, the article is available on line at Well, I recently came across another fairly inexpensive spotter that I thought that might be of interest. It’s the 60mm, Model 745 from Alpen ( It sells for around $210 in most places on the internet. The first thing that hits you about the scope is the unusual design. It kind of looks like a lazy letter “L”. This is because the scope body itself is bent into a 45 degree angle rather than the usual practice of taking a regular straight body and slapping an eyepiece on the end at forty-five degrees. I like the 745 as the angled part of the scope is longer than on most and therefore gives the shooter more flexibility on where to place it, especially when shooting from the Creedmoor position.
     This Alpen is a 20-60X type that is 100% waterproof, not just water resistant like some much more expensive scopes I could name. Consequently it can be fully immersed in water. Some may say “so what”, but life is funny in that it throws a surprise at us every now and then. For instance, while on a camping trip long ago I dropped a non-water proofed spotting scope into the water while unloading a canoe. That was the end of that spotter. The interior of the scope was now permanently fogged up.  In desperation, I even tried to bake it in the oven (at very low heat) to drive out the moisture from the inside, but all I did was to cause the coatings on the lenses to change color to a kind of pink and purple. (Oh well, desperate men do desperate things.) At any rate, 100% waterproofing is a good thing. You never know when you might need it.
     To be honest, I think that 60 power on scopes with a 60mm objective lens is way too much magnification. Even my premium quality 60mm spotting scope with ED lenses only goes up to 45X. In my experience, when one cranks up the power to 60X on a 60mm objective, the image is darkened excessively and the resolution goes to pot. However I have to admit that I’m definitely in the minority on this subject as there are a ton of people out there who like lots and lots of magnification power. So with the 745 it’s there to be used if you want it. If you don’t want to use it, just dial the magnification down to whatever suits you best. For me, I like to have all of my scopes normally set on around 25 - 30X to get optimum resolution and brightness and still have plenty of magnification.
     For the money, you really get quite a bit in the way of technical features with the Alpen. As mentioned, there’s full water proofing, it’s also fully multicoated, and it uses BaK4 prisms, which is the best type. Additionally, there’s also a tripod mount rotation collar around the scope’s body. When fastened to a tripod, the collar allows the scope to be rotated right and left around its axis to any position you like by simply loosening a thumb screw. Most people find this to be very useful and it’s something that all 45 degree type scopes should have. At 100 yards, the 745 gives you a little over an eleven foot field of view at 20X, and a five and a half foot FOV at 60X. It will also focus down to 15 feet. There’s a nice sliding sun shade and a rubber fold down eye cup as well. Soft rubber lens caps are also included, although they’re not tethered. Lastly, although the specifications don’t mention it, the scope is fully rubber armored. When combined with the rugged body, the armor makes the 745 a scope that’s very resistant to bumps and hard knocks.
The only disappointment in the optics department was the amount of eye relief available. In order to get the widest field of view that the scope provided, I had to remove my glasses and move my eye forward to where my eyebrow was nearly touching the eyepiece. If I wore my glasses, I started to get the “tunnel effect”. However, one can’t expect a low priced spotter to be perfect.
The 745’s optical performance out at the shooting range was very good. Interestingly, changing the focus was a little different with this scope. Instead of turning a ring on the eyepiece, the viewer turns a knob located about half way down the scope body. Actually, I liked this arrangement better because it seemed to cause less scope shake when making adjustments. In full sunshine, the image was both bright and had good contrast. Additionally, I wasn’t able to detect any distortions even out at the edges of the image. After I returned home I pointed the scope at an electrical tower some 300 yards away and had no problem seeing a half dozen sparrows sitting on the very top cross member. I could also easily see bolt heads and rust streaks around the structure as well. Just for fun, I then compared the 745 with another manufacturer’s 60mm scope that I had on hand and which cost $65 more, and found that under the same bright, sunny conditions, I couldn’t detect any difference between the Alpen and the more expensive scope.
In summary, the Alpen 745 is a capable, inexpensive spotter that will nicely fill the bill for most typical spotting conditions. It even comes with a little bench tripod and a nylon carry bag with strap. The new silhouette shooter or anyone else on a budget would do well to take a serious look the Alpen 745.
Nosler Brass Part II
Last month I reviewed Nosler’s new custom brass and found it to very high quality stuff that was exceptionally strong and thick. I also mentioned that Nosler advises that because it is thicker than most brass, they recommend that because of the subsequent reduction in powder capacity, that you should use starting loads at first. Only then, should the powder be slowly increased while staying at a safe level. Since then I’ve had a little more time to work with their 204 brass and have found that starting and other mild loads will produce smoke covered cases. This is a clear indication that these very strong cases aren't expanding sufficiently to seal in the gun’s chamber. It’s obvious that more powder is needed to get these cases properly sealed. Proceed with caution however and don‘t exceed safe loads.
The Dog That Bites
     A while back, I reported on the fact that Remington had been purchased by Cerberus Capital Management, a huge investment company that owns Chrysler Corp., several car rental corporations, a bunch of very large European banks, and a slew of other businesses too numerous to list here. I also noted that Cerberus is the name of the three headed dog from Greek mythology that guards the gates of hell. (He keeps people from leaving.) The standard operating plan at Cerberus is to buy struggling but basically sound companies, and to then “find efficiencies”. This is another name for layoffs, reducing benefits, and other means of increasing the bottom line at the expense of their workers.
True to form, H&R 1871, owned by Remington/Cerberus, and maker of Topper rifles and shotguns, just announced that it will undergo a “manufacturing consolidation”. What this means is that the H&R plant in Gardner, MA will be completely shut down and 200 workers will be thrown out of their jobs. It turns out that Remington didn’t even bother to give the city of Gardner, population approximately 21,000, where H&R is a major employer, or the state of Massachusetts any type of notification to allow them to prepare for the economic impact.
While the press release didn’t specifically say so, I would assume that since this is supposed to be a consolidation, that H&R’s products will still be available in the future but that they’ll be made in one of Remington’s other facilities. In a surprisingly callous admission, Remington’s CEO stated that he hadn’t even decided where the H&R operations would be transferred. In my experience, when operations from one location are to be shut down and are to be transferred to somewhere else, a thorough analysis is accomplished to assess which other candidate facilities can accept the additional work with the least disruption. This normally happens way before any shut down announcement is made. Obviously, this was not the case with H&R. It certainly makes one wonder why not, and it certainly is an additional poke in the eye to H&R’s displaced workers knowing that their jobs have been taken away without an apparent thought as to where their work was even going. The shutdown at H&R is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.
Reloading Factoid
With all of the gizmos, gadgets, books, bullets, and powders etc. that are sold in the reloading marketplace, you would logically assume that a huge percentage of the shooting public, or at least the majority, were reloaders. The cost advantage and the ability to customize your ammo to a particular application would seem to make reloading a no brainer.
I once discussed this issue with my friends who work at the various bullet making companies. They admitted that as far as they knew at the time, no one had ever done a survey to really determine just how many shooters reloaded. They guesstimated that only around 10% of the shooting public are actually reloaders.
Recently an organization called Hunter Survey released some very interesting statistics on this subject. The bottom line is that they confirmed that the vast majority of shooters are not reloaders, and those that are, only reload small amounts of ammo. For instance, of the pistol and rifle shooters surveyed, 74% said that they did not reload. Of the 26% that did reload, half (13%), said they reloaded only 20-100 rounds per month, 3.2% said they reloaded 60-200 rounds per month, and 2.4% said they loaded more than 200 rounds per month. An active silhouette shooter who shoots three guns in a monthly match, and who goes to the range once per week to practice, can easily load around 350 rounds per month. (This assumes 25 rounds per week in practice per gun three times a month and 40 rounds per gun in a match once per month = 345 rounds.) Whatever the number, it’s clear that this puts active silhouette shooters in a very rarified class of consumers that use all of those reloading components, presses, and gizmos at an impressive rate. It’s kind of nice to be above average.
Anti Gun Wal-Mart?
In a surprising announcement, Wal-Mart announced that it had joined something called The Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership. This organization was founded by “Mayors Against Illegal Guns”, which was created by anti gun zealot, Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York city. By joining the Partnership, Wal-Mart agreed to a 10 point plan that would in effect, violate the privacy rights of its firearms purchasing customers.
     Among the things that Wal-Mart agreed to, was to video tape its customer’s gun purchases and to keep the tapes on file. (What’s next, mug shots complete with numbers?) It also agreed to create a data base of its customer’s firearms purchases, and to require customers to fill out a declaration form stating that they are legally fit to purchase a firearm. It’s one thing when the government makes you do these kinds of things but it is something completely different when a corporation requires you to do it. (The next thing you know, Wal-Mart will require you to fill out a form when you buy fattening food.) The announcement caught Wal-Mart’s firearms suppliers totally off guard who then expressed shock and dismay. BTW, Wal-Mart is Remington’s biggest customer of firearms and ammunition.
Through this action, Wal-Mart seems to have started abandoning firearms as a retail product, or perhaps the elite corporate millionaire types running the company now are so out of touch, that they just don’t get how much of a slap in the face these measures are to their law abiding customers. Undoubtedly a substantial number of customers will take their business elsewhere when these draconian measures are implemented. The small gun shop owners and the internet firearms retailers are probably laughing and eagerly rubbing their hands together right now. It’s unfathomable, that Wal-Mart in its desperate battle with Target for retail supremacy would abandon a profitable product line. I guess the three piece suit types know more than us dumb customers who pay their salaries. Poor old Sam Walton must be spinning at a thousand RPM right now.
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.