June 28th, 2019

Seeing Bullet Holes at 1000 Yards? Yes It IS Possible…

Pentax PF 100ED
Coalinga Range in California. At dawn we could clearly see 7mm and .30 Cal bullet holes at 1000 yards.

Pentax smc-xw 10mmWhile attending the CA Long Range Championship a few seasons back, we had the opportunity to test the performance of a high-magnification (63X) spotting scope in near-ideal conditions (maybe the best I’ve ever witnessed). On the event’s last day we arrived at 5:45 am, literally as the sun was cresting the horizon. I quickly deployed our Pentax PF-100ED spotting scope, fitted with a Pentax SMC-XW 10mm fixed-power eyepiece. When used with the 100mm Pentax scope, this 10mm eyepiece yields 63X magnification. Befitting its $359.00 price, this eyepiece is extremely clear and sharp.

At the crack of dawn, viewing conditions were ideal. No mist, no mirage, no wind. The first thing this Editor noticed was that I could see metal nail heads on the target boards. That was astonishing. As soon as the first practice targets went up, to my surprise, I could see 6.5mm, 7mm, and 30-caliber bullet holes in the white at 1000 yards. No lie…

That’s right, I could see bullet holes at 1000. I know many of you folks may not believe that, but there was no mistaking when I saw a 7mm bullet cut the white line separating the Nine Ring and Eight Ring on the target in view. (I was watching that target as the shot was fired and saw the shot-hole form). And when I looked at the 30-cal targets, the bullet holes in the white were quite visible. In these perfect conditions I could also make out 3/8″ bolt heads on the target frames.

The Human Factor
When viewing the bullet holes, I was using my left naked eye (no safety glasses or magnification). I also had a contact lens in my right eye (needed for distance vision). To my surprise, while I could see the bullet holes without much difficulty with my left eye, things were fuzzier and slightly more blurry with the right eye, even when I re-focused the scope.

Pentax smc-xw 10mmThen I invited 3 or 4 shooters to look through the scope. One younger guy, with good eyes, said immediately: “Yeah, I can see the holes — right there at 4 o’clock and seven o’clock. Wow.” Some older guys, who were wearing glasses, could not see the holes at all, no matter what we did to the scope’s main focus and diopter adjustment.

The lesson here — if you have to wear glasses or corrective contact lenses, just that extra bit of optical interference may make a difference in what you can see through the scope. Basically anything that goes between the scope eyepiece and your eyeball can degrade the image somewhat. So… you may be better off removing your glasses if you can still obtain good focus sharpness using the diopter adjustment and focus ring. I did the left vs. right eye test a half dozen times, and I could definitely see small features at 1000 yards with my naked eye that I could not see with my right eye fitted with a contact lens. (I did have to re-focus the scope for each eye, since one had a corrective lens while the other did not.)

Mirage Degrades Image Sharpness and Resolution
The “magic light” prevailed for only an hour or so, and then we started to get some mirage. As soon as the mirage appeared I was no longer able to see raw bullet holes, though I could still easily see black pasters on the black bulls. When the mirage started, the sharpness of the visible image degraded a huge amount. Where I could see bullet holes at dawn, by mid-morning I could barely read the numbers on the scoring rings. Lesson: If you want to test the ulimate resolution of your optics, you need perfect conditions.

Chromatic AberrationChromatic Aberration Revealed
As the light got brighter and the mirage increased I started to see blue and red fringing at the edges of the spotting disk and the large numerals. This was quite noticeable. On one side of the bright, white spotting disc you could see a dark red edge, while on the other side there was a blue edge (harder to see but still present).

The photo below was taken through the Pentax spotter lens using a point and shoot camera held up to the eyepiece. The sharpness of the Pentax was actually much better than this photo shows, but the through-the-lens image does clearly reveal the red and blue fringing. This fringing is caused by chromatic aberration — the failure of a lens to focus all colors to the same point. Chromatic aberration, most visible at high magnification, causes different wavelengths of light to have differing focal lengths (see diagram). Chromatic aberration manifests itself as “fringes” of color along boundaries that separate dark and bright parts of the image, because each color in the optical spectrum cannot be focused at a single common point on the optical axis. Keep in mind that the Pentax does have “ED” or low-dispersion glass, so the effect would be even more dramatic with a cheaper spotting scope.


CLICK HERE to view LARGE PHOTO that shows aberration more clearly.

If you wonder why top-of-the-line spotting scopes (such as the $2980 Swarovski ATS-80 ) cost so much, the answer is that they will deliver even LESS chromatic aberration at long range and high magnification. With their exotic apochromatic (APO), ultra-low-dispersion glass, a few ultra-high-end spotting scopes can deliver an image without the color edging you see in the photo above.

The Pentax PF-100ED is a heck of a spotting scope. Any scope that can resolve bullet holes at 1000 yards is impressive. But if you want the ultimate in optical performance, with minimal chromatic aberration, you may need to step up to something like the 88mm Kowa Prominar TSN-884 with Flourite Crystal lenses ($2450.00 body only), or the 82mm Leica APO ($3899.00 with 25-50X eyepiece).

EDITOR’s NOTE: The purpose of this report is to show what is possible… in IDEAL conditions. With this Pentax 100mm, as well as a Swarovski 80mm, we have often been able to resolve 6mm bullet holes at 600 yards. But again, that performance requires really good viewing conditions. By 10:00 am at my range, even with the 100mm Pentax at 75 power, seeing 6mm bullet holes is “iffy” at best. So don’t go out and mortgage the house to buy a $4000 optic with the hope that you’ll be able to spot your shots at 1000 yards. If conditions are anything less than perfect, you’ll be lucky to see bullet holes at 500 yards. The real solution for very long-range spotting is to set up a remote target cam that broadcasts a video picture to a screen at your shooting station.

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March 1st, 2016

Bob Gill Wins CA Fullbore Championship with .223 Palma Rifle

Bob Gill California Fullbore elesio R1 .223 Rem championship

Report by Johnny Fisher
Here’s something you don’t see very often — a fullbore shooter with a .223 Remington topped a field of talented .308 Win shooters. Not only that, he scored more points than any F-Class competitor (however, F-Classers shot a smaller target). Bob Gill’s performance proves that, even in an era of high-BC .308 bullets, the little .223 Rem cartridge can still hold its own in the hands of a great shooter.

At last weekend’s California State Fullbore Championships, Bob Gill bested over 30 competitors for the championship with a .223 Palma rifle, only dropping 7 points over the weekend for a 993-56X. The event was sponsored by the California Rifle & Pistol Association and hosted by the Coalinga Rifle Club.

Bob Gill California Fullbore elesio R1 .223 Rem championship

Bob Gill Talks about the ‘Mental Game’
Conventional wisdom when shooting any match is to just stay focused on each and every shot and let the scores work themselves out after all firing is complete. “Two To The Mound” shooting changes all of that, as each competitor is not only aware of their own standings throughout the course of the match – but also of their closest competitor during these pair-fire strings. With this championship never further out than a 2-point lead throughout the weekend, stress was high and every once of mental focus needed to be tapped.

Bob recalls, “The entire match was neck and neck. After a few mental mistakes and a few wind mistakes, with three shots remaining the thought is three shots and a 1X lead. I need to shoot three 10s. Everything else goes away. Shoot three 10s and he can’t catch me.”

Three 10s later, Bob won the CA State Fullbore Championship by one point and one X. Well done!

Gun Specifications
Bob was shooting a 1970s-era .223 Remington B-40X action inside a Competition Machine R1 chassis. The barrel is a 30.5″ Heavy Palma taper, 1:7″-twist Brux with a Wylde chamber and .220 freebore done up by Randy Gregory at Accuracy Unlimited. The Tubb 7T7 two-stage trigger was set at 1 + 1 pounds.

.223 Remington Accuracy Load — Berger 90gr VLDS, Varget and BR4s
Gill loaded 90gr Berger VLDs in front of 25.0 grains of Hodgdon Varget powder, jumping 15 to 20 thousandths for a 2.708 COL with a BR4 primer inside Lapua brass. Bob uses a Redding Full-Length S-Die to push the shoulders back .004 to match that of new Lapua brass and a bushing chosen to achieve .004 neck tension. He sorts his brass by weight into 0.5 grain lots and each piece is trimmed on a Giraud trimmer after sizing because he says “it grows like crazy”.

Bob Gill California Fullbore elesio R1 .223 Rem championship

Fullbore Course of Fire — Pair Firing on Day 2 at Coalinga
The Fullbore Course-Of-Fire for this match was squadded on the first day by classification for 15-shots string-fire at each yard-line: 300 / 600 / 900 / 1000 yards. These scores were then used to determine “two to the mound” squadding for the second day, when each competitor pair-fired with his closest competitor, and also kept score in between his own shots. In this “pair fire” arrangement, only 45 seconds are allowed between shots after a shooter accepts his shot score. This forces competitors to shoot through condition changes as opposed to waiting for a more favorable pattern.

CLICK HERE for CA Championship Individual Results | CLICK HERE for Team Results

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April 5th, 2014

Profiles of Palma: Classic Images from CA LR Championship

One of our readers, Joshua Targownik, is a very talented photographer. Last year he captured an evocative series of photos at the 2013 California State Palma Championships, hosted at the Coalinga range. Joshua reports: “I shot all these images on good old-fashioned medium format black and white film”. We like Joshua’s images — they have a classic “old school” look which seems to suit the Palma (Full-bore) discipline. The black and white photography seems appropriate to the world of iron sights, leather shooting coats, and “hard-holding” marksmen.

Images by Joshua Targownik. To see more of Joshua’s photos, visit TargoPhoto.com.

Click Image to see full screen version

CLICK HERE to View Full PHOTO GALLERY (17 images).

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July 13th, 2010

California Grizzlies Junior Team Readies for National Matches

California Grizzlies junior teamNext month, the California Grizzlies Junior Rifle Team will head to Camp Perry to compete in the NRA High Power National Championships. Those of us here in California are very proud of these young shooters, who topped the USAMU in last year’s “6-Man Rattle Battle”, the National Infantry Trophy Team Match. Using rifles fitted with “bullet buttons” or other devices rendering their AR15s compliant with California’s draconian gun laws, the Grizzlies have managed to become one of the nation’s top junior teams, despite the misguided efforts of California politicians to ban AR-style rifles.

The California Grizzlies Junior High Power Team currently consists of 15 juniors who are from different parts of California. The team is open to NRA High Power-classified California youths between the ages of 13 and 20. The California team has the privilege of competing in the National Rifle Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio every August. Shown below are team members at Camp Perry last year, with coach Jim O’Connell (orange sweatshirt).

California Grizzlies junior team

California Grizzlies Jr. Team Biographies (with photos) | California Grizzlies 2009 Match Results

Grizzlies High Power Training Video
The video below was filmed in June, during an intensive, week-long training clinic held at the Coalinga range in central California. During the clinic, Grizzlies members honed their position shooting skills in preparation for the 2010 National Championships. We wish these boys and girls good luck in their quest for another big win at Camp Perry.

YouTube Preview Image

Thanks to Steve of The Firearms Blog for first writing about this video.

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