October 26th, 2018

Suppressor Myth Busting — Do Silencers Degrade Accuracy?

Shooting Sports Suppressor Sound

Shooting Sports Suppressor SoundAre sound suppressors useful in competition shooting? In some disciplines, and in venues where sound “moderators” are permitted, the answer is “yes”. Some years ago Shooting Sports USA (SSUSA), published an interesting article about the use of sound suppressors (aka “cans”). The article explores the use of suppressors in Europe and in tactical matches in North America. You’ll also find an explanation of the rules and regulations governing suppressor ownership and use in the United States.

Former SSUSA Editor Chip Lohman tested three rifles from the bench and found that suppressors did not harm accuracy (at least with these rigs). In fact, all three test rifles (.223 Rem, .308 Win, and .338 Lapua Magnum), shot slightly better 5-shot groups at 200 yards with a suppressor than without. However, the suppressors did alter point of impact. Interestingly, velocity standard deviation (SD) values were lower with suppressors in place for all three test rifles. This observation calls for further study.*

CLICK HERE to Read Suppressor Article in Shooting Sports USA.

Shooting Sports Suppressor Sound

So the use of suppressors in competition could be a good thing. However, in the United States, current NRA High Power rules prohibit the use of sound suppressors. NRA Rule 3.16.1 subsection (a) states: “Sound Suppressors are not authorized for use in High Power competition.” In addition, there are some practical problems with suppressors — the heat rising off of a naked suppressor can create mirage problems (that’s why some shooters wrap their cans with a cover).

Despite such issues, it is now common to see moderators on rifles used in non-NRA-sanctioned tactical matches such as the Precision Rifle Series. For example, many competitors in the popular Steel Safari field challenge match use suppressors. The photo below shows our friend Zak Smith competing in the Steel Safari with his suppressed Accuracy International rifle.

Zak Smith Thunder Beast Steel Safari Suppressor

Commentary — What Can We Conclude?
Obviously, this three-rifle SSUSA test was not definitive. One well might observe different results with different types of suppressors, fitted to different kinds of rifles. Mounting a suppressor to any barrel will certainly affect harmonics and “tune”. But this SSUSA study does suggest that tactical shooters, who are allowed to use suppressors in competition, may find that the benefits of suppressors (significantly reduced recoil and less noise) outweigh any meaningful accuracy loss, at least in PRS-type matches.

*The article cautions that one should not extrapolate too much from the SD numbers, given the low number of test shots. Chronograph-maker Ken Oehler, when asked to comment on the SD values stated: “[You should] report the observed SDs, but draw no conclusions until… you can do more testing with larger sample sizes.”
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October 26th, 2018

Stick, Flake, and Ball — Do You Know Your Powder Properties?

Widener's Reloading Smokeless Powder propellant Guide

Widener’s Reloading & Shooting Supply recently published a helpful introduction to reloading powders. Widener’s online Guide to Smokeless Powders shows the various types of powders, and explains how the differences in powder kernel/flake size and shape, and burn rate affect performance. We recommend you visit Widener’s website and read the Powder Guide in full.

Take a close look at these illustrations which show the key differences between the four main powder types: extruded (stick) powder, ball (spherical) powder, flattened ball powder, and flake powder.

Widener's Reloading Smokeless Powder propellant Guide

Widener's Reloading Smokeless Powder propellant Guide

Widener's Reloading Smokeless Powder propellant Guide

Widener's Reloading Smokeless Powder propellant Guide

Burn Rate Basics

Widener’s Guide to Smokeless Powders also has a useful discussion of Burn Rate (a confusing topic for many hand-loaders). Wideners explains: “While a gun powder explosion in the cartridge seems instantaneous, if you slow it down you will actually find that each powder has a different ‘burn rate’, or speed at which it ignites.” This video shows powders with two very different burn rates. Watch closely.

Different burn rates suit different cartridge types notes Widener’s: “In general a fast-burning powder is used for light bullets and low-speed pistols and shotguns. Medium-rate powders are used for magnum pistols, while high-velocity, large bore rifle cartridges will need slow powders[.]

It should be noted that burn rate does not have a standardized unit of measurement. In fact, burn rate is really only discussed in comparison to other powders; there is no universal yardstick. Specifics will change by cartridge and bullet types[.]”

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading 1 Comment »
October 26th, 2018

NEW High-Performance 27-55x80mm Leupold Spotting Scope

Leupold Stevens Santiam SX-5 Spotter spotting scope HD 26-55X 80mm

Leupold recently annouced a new, premium spotting scope with outstanding low-light performance. Leupold’s new Santium SX-5 Spotter features a jumbo 80mm objective with a 27-55X zoom eyepiece. The SX-5 is offered in both straight and angled versions. Suggested retail price (including eyepiece) is $2339.00. Best “street price” should be around $1800.00. That positions Leupold’s SX-5 above Vortex, Burris, and Pentax price-wise, but the SX-5 is over $1000 less than high-end, 80mm-class Swarovski and Leica spotters which approach $3000 with eyepiece.

We’re interested to see how this new Leupold stacks up against the Kowa TSN-880 Prominar spotter ($2450.00 on Amazon) which has been a benchmark in the 80mm class. Leupold worked hard to give the SX-5 “second to none” low-light performance. The goal was to create a truly superior optic for hunters who may spend long periods “glassing” for game at dawn and dusk.

Leupold Stevens Santiam SX-5 Spotter spotting scope HD 26-55X 80mm

The SX-5 features High Definition (HD) glass with proprietary lens coatings to maximize light transmission and color fidelity. Zac Bird, Product Manager for Leupold states: “The human eye is most sensitive to colors outside the middle of the spectrum during dawn and dusk, when game is moving — the Twilight Max HD Light Management System literally helps you see more in less light. The superior glare reduction it offers ensures the maximum amount of usable light gets to your eye. Our proprietary lens coatings and superior optical design help deliver the very best contrast and resolution”

Features of New SX-5 Santiam HD 27-55x80mm Spotting Scope:
– Full-Diameter Focus Ring for smooth and precise focusing
– Oversized Eyepiece for reduced fatigue
– Guard-Ion Rain-Shedding Lens Coating
– Built-in Retractable Lens Shade
– Tough Rubber Armor Coating
– Full Lifetime Warranty

Leupold Stevens Santiam SX-5 Spotter spotting scope HD 26-55X 80mm

Price vs. Performance in the Field
Should a hunter spend a couple grand ($2000) on a spotting scope? It depends on your priorities. Leupold says: “Don’t underestimate the importance of a quality spotting scope. Your spotter can mean difference between tagging out or going home empty-handed…. Ultimately, you can’t shoot what you can’t find.”

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