Category Archives: Handgun Silhouette Shooting

NRA Silhouette Nationals

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Californians survived the riots, extinguished the fires, endured the earthquakes. We found alternate routes around the col­lapsed freeways for millions of cars. But after the riots sub­sided, the fires were out. and the after­shocks calmed, another kind of disaster struck the California shooting communi­ty, and a new band of heroes emerged to deal with the problem.

Late last winter, only a few months before the scheduled events, the NRA withdrew its sponsorship of the 1994 Pis­tol Silhouette Championships!

The reasons given were related to finances and the priority of near-term political battles vs. match sponsorship. I can’t argue the priorities: nothing is more important to shooters than maintaining our Second Amendment rights.

But the timing of the NRA’s decision was disastrous, and their handling of the issue left a bit to be desired. Over the next year, I’m sure that the parties involved will find a way to make silhou­ette shooting more self-supporting.

Following the stunning announce­ment, a group of shooters and match directors, led by Ron and Lee Cottriel, decided they could indeed put Humptey Dumptey together again. First, they reached an agreement with the NRA that the Association would at least sanction the match even if they could not afford to sponsor it.

Second, they turned to their longtime industry supporters for help, and they were not disappointed. Thompson/Center donated two Contenders for fund raising raffles. Freedom Arms donated one of their .357 Magnum revolvers that raised $4,000 dollars from sale of raffle tickets.

Wesson Arms donated one of their .357 “Maxi” Super Ram revolvers that come from the box all ready to win silhouette matches. And Jim Rock of RPM donated his very first, brand-new XL Hunter Model in .356 Win­chester. This beautiful single shot was topped with a vari­able power 2-6x pistol scope courtesy of Bausch & Lomb. Numerous other prizes were donated, but these were the big ticket items without which the match would not have taken place.

Throw in a few hundred man-hours of range prepara­tion work by lots of southern California shooters, and the matches were on.

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Match Goes On

There were a couple of differences between the ’94 matches and those of previous years caused by the NRA’s withdrawal of sponsorship. First, attendance was down due to shooters who could not change schedules again after the initial NRA announcement of non-participation caused them to cancel their original plans to attend.

Second, the Down Under contingents from Australia and New Zealand were unable to get their schedules reorganized during the confusion of the on-again, off-again championships. If you’ve never had a chance to socialize with and compete against these tremendous people that spend their lives walking around upside down on the bottom of the world, you can’t appreciate how much they were missed. Not to mention that a number at U.S. shooters had been waiting a year for a chance to get e\ t on a couple of tear: matches!

Third, running the matches consec­utively at one location with volunteers made for a grueling two-week stint at the Los Angeles Silhou­ette Club range for the match officials.

All personnel concerned did a remarkable job maintaining their enthusiasm and cheerfulness despite the signs of fatigue that were visible toward the end of the matches. It was a remarkable achievement!

Last, and most important, I missed annual barbeque! Worse than that, the menu had been expanded to include ribs as well as beef and chicken. Worst of all, the deliciousness of everything was explained to me in great detail later, and not a single scrap was left. Needleless to say, this must not be allowed to happen again next year!

Good Shooting

I think there’s an old axiom to the effect that when good shooters get together, you see some good shooting. There was a lot of good shooting at the Nationals, but the two individuals who emerged from the dust and smoke as Grand Aggre­gate Champions were Bob Vaughn for Long Range (big bore) and Marvin Tannahill for small bore.

Bob’s consistency is remarkable. He didn’t win a single individual event, but his aggregate score for the six events was nine points ahead of the next closest com­petitor, who just happened to be Marvin.

Marvin really is a bit of a marvel. In addition to winning Grand Aggregate in small bore by a whopping margin of 21 points, he took second overall in Long Range beating his nearest competitor by five targets.

Marvin dominates the standing events, and provided the match’s touch of deja vu. Two years ago. Marvin missed the first per­fect score in Stand­ing Unlimited with a 79 out of a possible 80. The story line: he was distracted by a fly that landed on his scope.

This year in Unlimited Stand­ing, he left a ram standing for another “almost perfect” 79. Folks, could this be The Fly: Part Deux or maybe Son Of Fly.

What makes Marv’s achievements even more impressive is that he only took up the free-style events in the last year having previously shot just the standing matches. Obviously someone needs to take him aside and explain how difficult this sport is.

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Despite a cumulative lack of sleep from weeks of working round the clock to make this match a reality, the Cot-triels still managed to win their share of championship trophies. Lee won the Ladies Grand Aggregate in Long Range, and Ron won multiple free-style events as well as the Freestyle Small Bore Aggregate.

The “Iron Young Man” award— more accurately called the Junior Grand Aggre­gate Long Range Champion trophy— went to Eric Raisch. Freestyle Aggregate Long Range Cham­pion was Krista Morris who is still not quite as big as her smile, and does­n’t yet shoot the standing events, but shot a pair of equiva­lent back-to-back 39’s in Long Range Unlimited to fall only two points short of a perfect score.

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Brett Henry took the freestyle Small Bore Aggregate Award while Joyce Robertson dominated the ladies small bore events taking both Grand and Freestyle Aggregate awards. Gene Grant captured the Senior Grand Aggregate in both Small Bore and Long Range match­es, while Bob Brissette took Senior Freestyle Aggregate for both matches. Yep, good shooters shoot good scores!

Protest Incident

There was an incident during the shootoffs involving a protest and subse­quent ruling by the committee that left a bad taste with some of the competitors. I don’t have all the facts, nor was I aware of events at the time, so it would be inappropriate for me to discuss it.

But I would offer this comment. I have the utmost respect for the silhou­ette shooters who conducted and partici­pated in the 1994 Nationals at LASC. Given the NRA’s last minute withdraw­al, the efforts of these individuals were truly Herculean. If a bad decision was rendered at the end of those grueling two weeks of matches and months of preparation, I would certainly suspect fatigue, and not any “hidden agendas.” as the contributing factor. I salute all involved for an outstanding achievement!

Published:  American Handgunner – May/June 1995

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The Dreaded Assault Single-Shots

title copyWe live in an age of labels. Worse still, most of these labels are assigned with political motives to achieve a calcu­lated emotional effect. Shooters suffer as much or more than any other group from this 20th century phenomenon.

Some of the best known examples include:

If it has a black, plastic stock, it’s an assault weapon.

If it’s a military related development, it’s only possible purpose is to kill people.

If it’s a small, relatively inexpensive handgun, it’s a Saturday Night Special.

Perhaps the most ridiculous example here on the West Coast was our gover­nor’s stated rationale when he signed the bill banning the T/C Contender single-shot with a .45 Colt/.410 pistol barrel in California: “We want to keep these guns out of the hands of the gangs.” Well, you can imagine how much safer I feel!

In my usual, rambling fashion. I have subtly introduced the contents of this article and you, the reader, have grasped the nuances of my title. But just in case my brain is becoming dysfunctional (another popular ’90s label that tends to absolve adults of personal responsibility for their actions), we’re going to look at the currently available single-shot pistols in .223 caliber.

No, they clearly are not assault weapons. But they all fire a round devel­oped for military use (even though we renamed it for the civilian market) and there is black plastic or rubber on some of the guns. What they do represent is possibly the most accurate group of handguns on the planet, and every one of them, in its own way, is a thing of beauty in form or function.

T/C Contender

We’ll begin with the gun that, more than any other started the American handgunner’s current love affair with sin­gle-shot pistols. And in return for that love, T/C has made numerous improve­ments over the years in response to field inputs.My test gun was blued, had a 10 inch barrel, very attractive wood forend and grip with the rubber insert at the back of the grip. Optics consisted of a stream­lined set of T/C base and rings and the company’s 2.5-7x variable lighted pistol scope.

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The scope has an extra turret, or con­trol knob, on the left side that holds a bat­tery and allows you to dial lighted crosshairs. It works like the dot scopes, but you only use it in dim light condi­tions; otherwise, the normal crosshairs are available for use.

With its 10 inch barrel, it was the lightest and easiest handling gun in the group. What it lost in velocity with the short barrel, it more than made up in holsterability and off-hand shooting comfort.

It was amazingly tolerant of almost everything I fired through it. Specifically, of the 21 factory and handloads tested, only two loads failed lo shoot 2″ or less at 100 yards! And these are five-shot groups I’m talking about.

Factory fodder preference went to Winchester 53 gr. H.P. and Hornady 55 gr. S.P. Both crowded the 1.5″ mark with Hornady clocking 2,555 fps and Win­chester an impressive 2,700 fps. The magic one MOA mark was achieved with three powders: WW 748, Hodgdon 322, and AA 2015. Bullets of choice were Speer’s 52 gr. H.P. and Nosier’s 50 gr. B.T.

The break-open, or tip up, action of the T/C lacks the rigidity of a bolt gun and allows some flex with hotter loads. Although there was a feeling of “sticki­ness” when opening the action after firing the hotter factory loads, the gun func­tioned reliably with everything fired through it.

I rate the T/C with a short barrel as an excellent walk-about hunting handgun. Flat enough to holster, comfortable enough to shoot from any position, and accurate enough to take game humanely.

For sustained shooting from a single location overlooking a prairie dog town, you might opt for a longer, heavier barrel. The least expensive way to add that capa­bility is with an extra 14″ T/C barrel. There ain’t no down side with T/C, which is probably why so many people buy their guns.

Remington XP 100

This is the gun that introduced bolt-action rifle performance to handgunners and is still the accuracy standard against which other handguns must be measured.

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But the gun in this test is a far cry from the stubby, plastic-stocked Fireball of the Sixties and Seventies. We’re up to a 15″ barrel (courtesy of the silhouette shooting community) and a production

 Remington wood stock! It’s a smooth, oil-finished, laminated wood stock that feels and looks great, a stock guaranteed to produce envy, not ridicule, from your most competitive friends.

Slapping on Burris bases, rings, and their masterpiece 3-9x pistol scope pro­duced accuracy results that were exactly what we have learned to expect from XP’s over the years.

Every factory load but one crowded or surpassed one-inch groups at 100 yards. Hornady 55 gr. S.P. put four shots into one hole at 2.960 fps with the fifth open­ing the group to 0.75″. Remington 55 grainers and Federal’s 40 gr H.P.s stayed under an inch, with velocities of 2,900 fps and 3.300 fps respectively.

Just about every handload pushed the magic MOA mark with some doing noticeably better. Superior performance came from Hornady 50 gr. spire point in front of either Reloader 12 or AA 2015. and 52 gr. Speer hollowpoint backed by H335. I should mention that all reloads were held to the mild side to insure easy extraction.

Judging from the factory loads, I had another couple of hundred feet available in the XP. Preferences might change at the higher performance levels, but the gun produced excellent results with some combination of every powder and bullet tried. Try your favorite powder and bul­let, or whatever you have available— this gun isn’t going to disappoint you.

If I were to start work tomorrow as an employee of Rodent Control Inc. and my first work station was a hillside overlook­ing Prairiedogville. USA, the Remington XP 100 would be the first item into my company tool box.

With this baby laid out across an improvised sandbag. I would cheerfully agree to payment on a quota basis. And while there might be some work slow downs or stoppages due to heating of the XP’s slender barrel, my family would be adequately supported financially and I would be one of the world’s happiest employees.

On the other hand, if I was the chief supplier of furry victuals to a raptor recovery center, and did most of my hunt­ing in the walk, stalk and shoot mode. I would set the XP reluctantly aside and select a different candidate.

MOA Falling Block

Not widely known outside of silhou­ette shooting circles, the MOA falling block with its 11″ bull barrel (actually it’s 103/»”) is a remarkably compact, very rigid and extremely accurate firearm.

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Its sloping, “plow-handle” grip with the loop lever is nostalgically western looking and. indeed, feels very much like a cowboy gun. For single-action revolver aficionados, it is the perfect transition into single-shot handguns.

I selected the shorter bull barrel because the gun gets quite muzzle heavy with the 14″ version, and with the shorter barrel, it appeared to be a reasonable can­didate for a roving hunter. Topped with Leupold’s 2.5-8x variable pistol scope, it was ready to go to work.

The gun showed a tremendous prefer­ence for handloads. Only Winchester’s 55 gr. FMJ and Remington’s 55 gr. spire point pushed the MOA circle at some­thing over 2,650 fps. Conversely, lots of handload combinations went into an inch.

Try RL-12, H322, WW 748. or AA2015 with whatever .224″ bullets you have in your reloading area; it won’t be a lengthy search.

If there’s a down side to the MOA, it’s the reloading process. Slightly slower than most with less access to the chamber in the event of a sticky shell, it’s still rela­tively simple for a hunter on the move. It requires more manipulation of the gun when shooting off bags due to the long, downward arc of the lever, but it’s a skill you’ll master easily within a few rounds.

And its bull barrel heat sink and off­hand shootability make it a better dual purpose gun (over sandbags vs. stalk-and-shoot) than either the T/C or XP.

One of my younger hunting partners borrowed the MOA for a totally success­ful spring javelina hunt. The gun couldn’t be too difficult to load because, despite his lack of familiarity with it, there were more holes in his javelina than I thought possible from a single-shot pistol!

The XL Pistol

Having been in the hands of silhouette match winners for years, the XL pistol (formerly the Merrill) with its break-open design and full-time safety is making more appearances in the handgun hunting fields.

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Since all current XL barrels are untapered and have the same external config­uration, RPM varies barrel length (from 8″ to 14″) to achieve proper balance depending on the caliber and intended application. In .223 and with off-hand shooting a requirement, my XL barrel is 12″ long.

With Weaver bases having multiple slots, the scope can be mounted in vari­ous positions to maintain your preferred balance point. I topped mine off with Burris’ new 2-7x variable power pistol scope and ventured range ward.

The XL was tolerant of— but not ter­ribly fond of— factory ammo. It put four rounds of Federal’s factory into one inch at the 100 yard mark, but let the fifth round wander out to two inches. At over 2,800 fps, the Federal 55 grainers (and a few other factory loads) made the XL’s opening latch difficult to release, so their suitability in the field might be question­able in this particular gun without the addition of RPM’s loading latch lever.

PMC’s 55 gr. spire points kept five rounds under 2″ at a more sedate 2,650 fps with no case sticking. Good choice for walking up small game, but for longer range shooting, we have to turn to the reloads.

No problem, since most of the reloads pushed or exceeded the one inch mark. WW 748 with 50 and 55 gr. Nosier boat-tails went under an inch as did H322 with 50 gr. Hornadys. RL-12 and AA2015 with 52 gr. Speers were also both right at an inch.

The XL is the most comfortable of the single-shots (along with the T/C) to carry in a shoulder holster. Its balance, grip angle, trigger reach distance, and overall ergonomics make it the most comfortable off-hand shooting gun of the group for me.

Its bull barrel will heat up more slowly on those extended prairie dog shooting sessions, but eventually it will literally get too hot to handle. It’s more flexible action, which suggests the use of milder loads in the field, is offset by easy access to the chamber in the event of functioning problems. It also offers the fastest barrel change of any single-shot tested.

Pachmayr Dominator

The Pachmayr is basically a conver­sion kit to modify a 1911 frame into a single-shot. The three major parts (besides the frame) are a barrel assembly, forend, and a slide and bolt assembly.

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The bolt, which has a shell-holder slot in front, rotates and locks up with lugs inside the barrel assembly, much like a rifle or the XP. The slide assembly comes drilled and tapped, so I mounted Burris bases, rings, and their I Ox pistol scope.

As outstanding as the lOx Burris is for long range bench rest shooting, after range testing, I switched to a 2-7x .Simmons variable scope to take advantage of the Pachmayr’s excellent handling character­istics for field use.

The Dominator did not like most of the factory ammo with one notable exception: Federal’s 40 gr. H.P. put five rounds under an inch at a sizzling 3,300 fps! Nothing else came close to one minute of angle until we went to handloads. And while it was more tolerant with reloads, it still had very strong preferences. With Win 748 and Speer 52 gr. H.P., it pro­duced 5 shot half inch groups at the 1(k) yard line. It stayed under an inch with AA 2015 and Hornady 50 graincrs. It slipped just over an inch with 748 and 52 gr. Sier­ra H.P. H322 and RL-12 would hold 4 shots in .75 inch but would let one shot slip to 1.5 inches. The accuracy is there, you just have to spend a little time finding the right combinations.

The Pachmayr has the same key nega­tive and positive features as the MOA. The Dominator is the slowest of the sin­gle-shots to reload. The round must be slipped carefully into the shell holder in the bolt face. Same for unloading: emp­ties don’t just drop out into your hand or eject to the side.

And access to that bolt face is restrict­ed with a scope in place. For the meticu­lous handloader who never lets his empty cases hit the dirt, perhaps this is a plus. Either way, the loading/unloading drill can be learned rather quickly even if the end process is a little slower.

But the really great news is that 1911 frame with the grip that many American shooters think is the ultimate in handgun ergonomics. So for all the action shooters racing frantically through several hundred rounds of healthy, therapeutic shooting every weekend, let me suggest that you slow down a little and smell the powder residue.

Pachmayr’s Dominator will show you that there is life— and bullet impact— beyond 50 yards.

Lone Eagle

On first viewing, the Lone Eagle’s appearance invites caustic comments. Like calling it the Lonely Eagle, or even the Ugly Duckling.

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But if you instantly dismiss this gun simply because of its physical appearance, you would be making the most serious mistake of your varmint shooting career. This plastic handled club with the big rotary breech and extended metal cocking lever on the left side is brutally simple and the lowest priced gun of the group.

With its compact dimensions (the rotary bolt mechanism extends the overall gun length only about an inch beyond the basic 14″ barrel) it might be the ultimate “truck” or “tractor” varmint gun.

In keeping with its budget market niche, I put on a Weaver base and rings.

and a very economical Bushnell 2-6x variable pistol scope. And the fun began!

Nothing fired in it shot over two inch groups at 100 yards! Three factory loads (PMC 55 gr. SP, PMC 55 gr. FMJ, and Homady 55 gr. SP) all stayed under an inch at velocities from 2.850 fps to 3.050 fps.

With handloads, this gun liked WW 748. It put Sierra 52 gr. HPs into just over half an inch, and 50 gr. Nosier BTs into one inch. AA 2015 and Homady 50 gr. SPs went into % inch. Numerous other hand-loads were between 1 1/4 and 11/2 inches.

I’d start with WW 748 or AA 2015, but if you have something else in the garage, try that first. I suspect you’ll see MOA performance not later than your second trip to the range.

Bottom line on the Lone Eagle? Well, it’s like that great hunting dog out in the kennel that you’re too embarrassed to bring into the house and introduce to your friends, because he’s always breaking wind and nosing lady guests in forbidden places.

But when it’s time to go hunting, he’s the first one in the truck because the great outdoors has a way of dissipating nasty air pockets, and the only thing he’ll get his nose into is your day’s limit of birds!

Summary

There are no bad choices in this group of candidate hardware. In firing several hundred rounds through these six guns, there were some clear advantages and dis­advantages among the different designs.

Some are easier to use for different hunting scenarios. Some are more toler­ant of ammo variations. And some will appeal more to an individual’s personal preferences than others.

Once you have defined your hunting needs, try to get your hands on as many brands as possible to determine personal fit and feel. The Contender, XP, and Magnum Research’s Lone Eagle are available through retail dealers and can be handled in most major gun stores.

You might encounter used XLs. MOAs or Dominators in a gun store or at a gun show, but for a new one, you’ll need to contact the manufacturer. You can see many of these guns (probably in different calibers) at silhouette matches, and if you indicate you’re interested in buying one, you’ll probably be offered a few shots by a competitor at the end of the day. You may even get hooked on silhouette shooting!

If you’re a casual shooter of wheel-guns or self-loaders, try long range shoot­ing with one of these precision single-shots. If you occasionally shoot single-shots, try handgun hunting or silhouette shooting.

And if you shoot anything at all, join the NRA. When politicians are ignorant (or determined) enough to ban a single-shot handgun barrel in California, you have nothing that can be considered safe.

Published:  American Handgunner – September/October 1994

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’93 IHMSA Field Pistol Championships

Fall in Arizona, the camaraderie of silhouette shooters, automatic tar­get setters, and the opening of quail season. Like the beer com­mercial says. “It doesn’t get any better than this!”

And more than 180 entries in the IHMSA Field Pistol Championship match sampled this taste of Utopia at the Tucson Rifle Club last October.

There’s not enough poet in me to ade­quately describe the beauty of October in southern Arizona, or the warm feelings that accompany a gathering of old friends and handgunners. so I’ll skip the schmaltz and get to the basics.

Suffice it to say. if you get a chance to combine a fall vacation trip to Ari­zona with a sil­houette match at any of the clubs from Phoenix to the Mexican bor­der, jump on it!

Those of you who attended the long range International Championship match in Tennessee saw the pneumati­cally powered target setters in action on the .22 targets, but this was my first exposure to the system, and the first time it had been used on big bore tar­gets, albeit half scale field pistol size. Designed and manufactured by IHMSA’s Vice President Gary Wrigley. it performed beautifully!

The Tucson system was set up so that all targets were reset (and clamped, if necessary, during periods of high winds) from the range master’s station on the fir­ing line.

There were some instances of “pilot error” where the range master forgot to retract the target setting bar that also acts as the target clamping device, but there were absolutely no malfunctions of the mechanical or pneumatic systems.

The compressor is the only noisy ele­ment in the system, so it’s best to locate it somewhere off the firing line. Interestingly, the Tucson guys put the compres­sor in the men’s restroom where its unanticipated start-ups throughout the match injected some sudden excitement into the morning meditations of several participants!

There are some huge advantages in the use of the new automatic system. First, is the reduction in the amount of recurring labor cost to put on a match. Instead of the usual number of target setters, this match used a maximum of four people to paint targets, and that was only after every other five shot string.

This allows more shooters per bank of targets due to the accelerated time table. You might hear a little grumbling about going too fast at the first couple of match­es, but shooters will adjust to newly learned timetables.

And in the event of wind knocking tar­gets over, clamping or unclamping targets is achieved with the push of a button, so there are no more long delays or agonized decisions over what to do.

Gary is working on an up-sized sys­tem to handle full-size, big bore targets and hopes to have one operational soon. From what I saw at Tucson, I expect nothing less than total success. Giant kudos to Gary on his terrific innovation!

In an attempt to facilitate loading rimfire cartridges into the BF single shot, falling block pistol, long time silhouetter Lynn Hayes designed and built an extremely simple loading tool com­prised of plastic tubing and wooden dowels.

Basically, the plastic tube holds the .22 round by the rim, and the wooden dowel slides down inside the plastic tube pushing the cartridge out of the tube and into the chamber when the tool is inserted into the breach of the BF. Lynn says it also works for the MOA pistol, and while I don’t think he’s offering these tools for sale commercial­ly, you can probably build one just from the photograph.

For you stat buffs, 181 entries from 11 states competed using nine different brands of guns. Single shots were used in 83 percent of the matches with T/Cs and XLs dominating, but MOA and BF had hardware in all four different disciplines. Wheelguns and semi-autos made up the other 17 percent, with Browning having the edge in .22 events and the revolver manufacturers sharing the centerfire events.

Marvin Tannahill won three of the four events, Centerfire Scoped and Small­bore Open Sights by a respectable mar­gin, but had to whup Mike Stimson in a shoot-off for Smallbore Scoped.

Bob Kelly won the Centerfire Open Sight outright, but with Tannahill and Stimson breathing heavily in hot pursuit. Marv’s dominance in the individual events made him aggregate champion across the board.

And as she has at so many silhouette matches, Lee Cottriel captured the Lady Two-Gun Hunter’s Pistol, Two-Gun Smallbore, and Four-Gun Aggregate Championships.

For information on the Automatic Target Setting system, you can contact Gary Wrigley at Gateway Hose and Coupling Co., Dept. AH, 246 E. Monroe, Kirk-wood, MO, 63122; phone: (314) 822-7400.

Published:  American Handgunner – March/April 1994

1993 NRA Long Range Silhouette Championships

Having proved her total mastery of the elements at last year’s Nationals, Big Mama Nature cast a gentler countenance on the 565 entries at the ’93 NRA Long Range Silhouette Championships.

The winners’ circle was visited by some familiar faces and some new kids. Bob Vaughan displayed tremendous consistency in all events to win the Grand Aggregate Championship, beating his nearest competitor by 15 huge points.

Lee Cottriel again captured the woman’s Grand Aggregate as well as a few individual trophies along the way. Gene Grant won High Senior with a score that made me re-evaluate my plan to dye my hair grayer and lie about my age. And finally, a 12-year-old young lady named Krista Morris won the Junior Free Style Aggregate with some great shooting skills and a dazzling smile.

The number of manufacturers with displays at the match wasn’t large, but the hardware on display was truly representa­tive and showed the continuing evolution of the sport. Hooded front sights, most of them made by Iron Sight Gun Works, were on just about everything. That’s the same outfit that makes the precision rear sight on all the single shots and revolvers except for S&W and Ruger.

Randy Smith from Freedom Arms brought all their calibers and made them available to any competitor want­ing to try one at the end of the day. Great marketing move! Ted Zysk liked the octagon barrel Freedom Arms .44 Magnum so much, he shot it in revolver class scoring one of only two perfect 80s recorded during the week!

Not only is that long octagon barrel a thing of beauty, but also Creedmore shooters maintained that the sharp edges make it “stick to your leg.” I caught the Freedom Arms fever and borrowed Randy’s 454 to knock off 60 of the crit­ters in Standing Unlimited, and while that’s a respectable score with a full power hunting handgun, it doesn’t get you an invite to the shoot-offs against today’s outstanding shooters.

Rock Pistol Manufacturing is slim­ming down the bull barrels of the XL sin­gle-shot pistol from .850″ to .800″ to facilitate making weight. Of interest to the handgun hunter, as well as the stand­ing class competitor, is that it makes for a much better balanced handgun and, while the .05″ doesn’t sound like much, the resulting gun looks much sleeker.

As noted in last year’s match, most of the really competitive unlimited standing shooters are using some kind of high rise scope mount system. Many of these are manufactured by Ken Light, a local shooter whose hardware is as impressive as his competitive achievements.

Machined from T6 aluminum, his ris­ers arc drilled to tit the hole pattern of numerous factory guns with slots on the top rail to accept standard Weaver rings allowing some flexibility in scope loca­tion. Simple and innovative in design, Ken makes a scope riser to comply with the rules of all silhouette events from air pistols to ram ringers.

Seth Wesson announced that a new model Wesson revolver will be in pro­duction this fall designed for the silhou­ette shooter. It will have a 1:16 twist bar­rel with a Taylor throat. (That’s more freebore than usual.) Every gun will have Hoguc grips, 1SGW rear sight, hooded front sight, and an action job. Caliber will be .357 Maximum.

Interestingly, the other revolver class perfect 80 at this year’s Nationals was shot with a Dan Wesson in caliber .45 Long Colt by Hulan Mathis. Hulan has shot more than one perfect score on the half-scale critters with different calibers, so it was no great surprise when he won the shoot-off and revolver championship with that Wesson .45 Colt. I think given a week’s practice and a few semi-round rocks. Hulan could probably bowl a per­fect 80!

A completely new bolt action unlimit­ed gun came to the match with David Dewsbury. Australia’s director of Metal­lic Silhouettes. Called the MAB Model SP and chambered in 7 BR. in Dave’s competent hands it shot the third highest unlimited score of the week.

The gun has a couple of interesting and unique features worth noting. (Dave has a couple of interesting features too, like a big, “down under” grin and one of those great Aussie hats!) The gun’s bolt face is threaded into the bolt to be easily replaceable if you want to change calibers or head space.

The locking lugs are in the barrel, not the receiver, which also facilitates a cal­iber change. Bolt release is by means of an externally accessible lever on the left side of the receiver. The gun is manufac­tured by Graham Bugden in Brisbane, has an Omark match barrel and is Mag-Na-Ported. (MAB is the Mag-Na-Port agent in Australia.) Designed by and for silhou-etters, the weapon is currently only avail­able in Australia.

It was a beautifully run match. When I filled out three identical forms at registra­tion, I chuckled at the thought that per­haps the NRA needed to spend a little less time in Washington. D.C.. but how-many sports would allow someone to par­ticipate in a National Championship with no match scores for over a year?

Throughout the week, the “stat shack” crew processed the paper work and posted scores rapidly and efficiently, while the AFROTC Cadets from Canyon and Crescenta Valley High Schools had targets set and score cards completed before new-relays could get to the line.

And the lady that ran the outdoor kitchen had me trained like Pavlov’s dog. It didn’t matter if she was fixing barbecue or tub-o-spaghetti. she’d ring the cowbell and I’d come running!

Special thanks to E.A. Brown Co.. Rock Pistol Manufacturing, and Wesson Firearms who highlighted the Friday bar­becue raffle with their contribution of firearms.

Published:  American Handgunner – January/February 1994

 

The First IHMSA Field Pistol Internationals

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If you have never been to southern Arizona in the late fall, you’ve never seen one of God’s chosen resorts. Of slightly less galactic importance, you’ve also never attended one of the his­toric handgun silhouette events at the Tucson Rifle Club. You missed a double opportunity this past fall when TRC host­ed the first ever Field Pistol International Championship sponsored by IHMSA.

For those of you who don’t shoot field pistol, it’s a standing silhouette match with half-scale targets shot at half the normal ranges with production guns and straight wall centerfire cartridges.

There is also a .22 caliber match called Smallbore Field Pistol. Both cen­terfire and .22 matches can be shot with iron sights or scopes and electronic dot sights.

Sound sim­ple? Remember, “half scale” means that each dimension is halved; the resulting target is one fourth the area of a full size silhouette target.

There were approximately 150 entries in both centerfire and rimfire events, with about a dozen more contes­tants in centerfire. Single shots dominated the match with half the competitors shooting Jim Rock’s XL and one-third (about 50 contestants) shooting T/Cs.

The XL’s popularity in Tucson is understandable: not only does Jim’s gun have the home court advantage, but also competitors get to see first hand how well his guns shoot in the hands of Bob Kelly, IHMSA’s current international big bore aggregate champion.

Moving to the repeaters, Ruger had nine guns go to the line, split pretty even­ly between centerfire and .22s, while Browning sent a total of seven guns to the line, all .22s. The choices in centerfire calibers surprised me a bit. One third of the competitors (25) were using XL’s chambered for the .270 REN, a very recently developed cartridge designed specifically for Field Pistol competition. It’s the .22 Hornet case “blown out” to .270 caliber to comply with the field pis­tol rule requiring straight wall cases.

Since its creation, the .22 Hornet has been legalized for FP competition, and I would expect its popularity to soar, par­ticularly since my experience with the cartridge in an older Merrill pistol showed it to be equally at home with cast and jacketed bullets in terms of accuracy.

A distant second in calibers was the .357 Magnum. Sixteen shooters ventured to the line with this reliable old per­former, but the vast majority of these (14) were used in the open sight event.

Close behind the .357 was the .32 H&R mag with 14 entries; then the .32-20 with nine shooters; and finally the .30 Carbine with 5 shooters.

Clearly, this is not a power-oriented shooting sport. The match went very smoothly with target setters doing an excellent job maintaining relay schedules. The only problem I noted was with the waist-high bench running the length of the shooting line.

While the bench was a very conve­nient place for gear, competitors tended to edge forward when firing and had to be reminded about not resting stomachs over the edge of the bench.

This is a natural tendency for us big guys who eat lots of burritos and drink beer. Or. as Jane Russell would call us, “We full-figured men.”

Speaking of eating, the entry fee included a bar-beque dinner at a local restaurant called El Musque-tal that looked like a con­verted barn and served some of the best beans I’ve ever had. I’m not sure how much those beans were enjoyed during the rest of their bio­logical cycle, but they were delicious going in!

The match director was John Rock, who has been doing yeoman service at the Tucson Rifle Club’s hand­gun metallic silhouette matches starting with the first one in 1975. For this match, like most at TRC, John and the crew ran spe­cial, fast-paced “Tres Banditos” matches that were fun for the shooters, financial­ly helpful to the sponsoring club, and filled in the inactive lull while match results were being tabulated.

In the finals of the Bandito match, both teams turned their last 100 meter tar­get sideways without knocking it off the stand. Ever tried hitting a 5″ tall, .375″ wide target at 100 meters?

In recognition of his efforts over the years, John was presented with an out-standing service award by IHMSA’s president. Frank Scotto.

IHMSA Status

I had a chance to chat with Frank about his three years as president and the progress made by IHMSA in that time. In a nutshell, IHMSA is now financially sound and growing again.

While maintaining a “low key pres­ence,” Frank makes an equivalent half dozen cross country trips a year promot­ing IHMSA and actively participating as a shooter.

Newcomers to the sport can’t imagine the depth and extent of the wounds that Frank and his staff have healed during his three years service.  And perhaps the most ironic measurement of success in the 20th century is that his year IHMSA has achieved a status that both permits and requires the purchase of liability insurance!

Enough reading: con­tact IHMSA to participate in the match nearest you. There might even be a video available to facili­tate your silhouette educa­tion and whet your appetite since professional photographer Dan Fong was at this match exploring the prospects of a promo video for IHMSA. But no matter how you take that First step, you’re going to meet the friendliest bunch of shooters around and have more fun than the law usually allows.

For information on joining IHMSA, write to them at P.O. Box 36X. Burlington, IA 52601.

Published:  American Handgunner– May June 1993

NRA 1992 Long Range Pistol Championships

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Radical new scope mounts debut at national champs!

For an old silhouette shooter, attending one of the national championship matches it is a bit like going to a family reunion: you get to visit with folks you’ve known for years, meet some new family additions and catch up on recent developments.

The extra ingredient at a match is that you see the finest long range handgunners in the world.

Held at the Los Angeles Silhouette Club this summer and directed by long­time participants Ron and Lee Cottriel. the match featured all six of the NRA events which include: unlimited and con­ventional standing, full-scale and half-scale unlimited, conventional single shot, and revolver.

Competitors were greeted with heavy rain early in the week and finished in typ­ical summer California sunshine (spelled h-o-t!) But the temperatures were mild compared to the hot performances turned in by many of the shooters.

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Ron and Lee not only know how to run a smooth match, they know how to shoot one. Lee swept all the women’s cat­egories and took the overall runner-up titles in both unlimited events setting a new woman’s national record in half-scale with a 78/80.

Ron was in the top three of every event except conventional standing, and won unlimited full-scale, grand aggre­gate, and freestyle aggregate.

And he didn’t just win unlimited full-scale: he beat 23 other perfect scores by winning the shoot-off!

John Glennon shot the only perfect score in revolver with a mixture of great showmanship and concentration. John had a one shot alibi on the last ram bank. With everyone on the line watch­ing and knowing this last shot was for the gold, John had 24 seconds to think and deliver.

When the bullet kicked up a dust cloud high above the ram 200 meters down range, the crowd groaned collec­tively, not knowing the bullet had split on the edge of the ram’s back. But as the ram slowly toppled backwards, the groans turned to cheers and applause. It is rumored that John declined to demon­strate his split bullet trick a second time!

Marvin Tannahill set a national record in unlimited standing by leaving one turkey out of 80 targets. Marv said a fly landed on his nose, “and he flinched as the gun went off.” I’m not sure whether it was Marv or the fly that flinched, but if I had come up one target short of the first perfect score ever fired in standing. I’d still be out hunting for that fly!

Manufacturers’ Row

While Manufacturers’ Row was quite a bit smaller than the SHOT Show, many of the game’s dedicated supporters were in attendance. For wheelgun fans. Free­dom Arms’ Randy Smith was there with an assortment of what many folks believe is the world’s finest revolver. Included was the new Model 353 in .357 Magnum that Randy feels will be dominating the winner’s circle in next year’s matches.

Wesson Firearms had their newest addition on hand called the Compensated Barrel Assembly or “CBA” for short. Clever idea: cut ports in the barrel shroud and let it extend 1.5 inches beyond the barrel.

If you already have a Wesson, just buy a new barrel assembly with the built-in port system and slap it on your revolver frame. Should be great on their 445.

Jim Rock of RPM was on hand with a couple of new items for his XL single-shot pistol. His new latch lever greatly eases opening the gun without adding serious bulk or weight. Beneficial to both the multi-round silhouette shooter or the one-shot hunter utilizing max loads that might occasionally stick, this little goody can be retrofitted on existing guns.

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And since the latest approach to unlimited standing has gone beyond the “taco hold” to using elevated optical sights, Jim had his newest “scope riser” on hand. It’s an aluminum parallelogram that raises the optical sight about four inches above the gun and moves it slight­ly toward the muzzle.

According to Jim, the milder calibers suitable for unlimited standing (e.g. 270 MAX) no longer require a muzzle break. because the gun rotates under the chin and the scope stops short of the face.

Available from RPM drilled and tapped for different single-shot pistols, the riser is selling like hot cakes for $40 because it saves the cost of a muzzle break which is around $100+.

Since Jim regularly competes with his XLs and swept all but one event in the seniors class, I’m not arguing with him.

Ron Cottricl had his variation of the riser, called a ladder, on a Wichita bolt gun. Have I mentioned that Ron did pret­ty well at this match?

The Old And The New

Representing perhaps the oldest and newest players in silhouette shooting were, respectively, some examples of the XP artistry available from Remington’s Custom Shop, and the BF Pistol from E.A. Brown Mfg.

What can I say about Remington’s XP? A great shooting gun that just gets better and better.

Although I haven’t personally worked with the relatively new BF single-shot, a situation I hope to remedy, the little falling block pistol has reportedly worked out most, if not all, the initial manufactur­ing bugs and has evolved into a beautiful firearm.

International Flavor

The international flavor came from Down Under with teams competing from Australia and New Zealand. Australia’s Tim Anderson, David Dewsbury and Mike Pomerenke excelled in all events to capture 3rd, 6th, and 10th places respec­tively in the Grand Aggregate.

I didn’t catch up with the Aussie con­tingent, but I did get to chat with Carl Rofe of the New Zealand National Pistol Council about laws and possible handgun hunting opportunities there. Interesting.

If I’m reading my notes right, there were no restrictions in New Zealand until the 1930s when “registration” came into being. At that time handgun ownership became restricted.

Since then, gun owners have been working diplomatically through police to obtain more allowable handgun events. In case you didn’t know, New Zealand has no constitutional guarantee of gun owner­ship like our second amendment.

The final evening offered a sumptuous BBQ, and as usual, I made a big pig of myself, but since I seemed to be among my peers, it apparently went unnoticed. There was an over abundance of meat, (even after I finished) so these incredible slabs of beef were sold at a pittance to anyone who could carry them off. For a few frenzied moments, the traffic from the BBQ to the camper area looked like a parade of troglodytes returning from a successful mammoth hunt. When you fire 500 rounds of high power ammo in a week, some of the trophies should be edible!

Published:  American Handgunner – January/February 1993

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