Shot Show 2006
Exclusive AccurateShooter.com Report
Three days at Shot Show gave us plenty to write home about. The new 6.5x47 Lapua cartridge goes into production in March. Brass should be available for purchase in the USA by early May if not sooner. 6XC fans can rejoice--Norma has agreed to produce a CIP-standardized 6XC case. David Tubb predicted the brass would be available for purchase in late May or early June. Norma also has arranged for a new importer, Black Hills Shooters Supply, to carry its fine line of powders. We can't wait to get some Norma 203B and URP powders for testing.
The consolidation of the propellant industry continues, with Hodgdon acquiring the Winchester powder line. (In late 2004, Western Powders (Ramshot) acquired Accurate Arms, maker of Accurate powders). Fans of Winchester powders need not worry however, as Hodgdon plans to maintain all the popular Winchester powder products.
Scope design seems to be the field with the most innovation. Both Burris and Zeiss unveiled integrated scope/rangefinder units. The Burris LaserScope is affordable. The Zeiss Diarange is very expensive, but it is a beautifully executed product, perhaps the most significant new scope of the past decade.
For reloaders, RCBS unveiled a new and improved version of the popular ChargeMaster digital powder dispenser. Expect this unit to continue to grab market share in the months ahead while Lyman and PACT play catch-up.
|Stars of the Show
As in year's past, this year's Shot Show featured mostly pistols, AR type rifles, historic repro rifles, deer rifles, and shotguns. Displays of precision shooting equipment are few and far between. There were more visitors clustered around the beef jerky stands than I saw at the Anschutz booth. Apparently the gun industry still doesn't really understand the market for precision rifles. Accordingly, the notable items on display were components rather than complete rifles. We are seeing the adaptation of modern electronics into optics. Both Burris and Zeiss displayed integrated scope/rangefinder systems.
Lapua 6.5x47 Brass
Erkki Seikkula, Lapua's Export Coordinator, and two of Lapua's design engineers, were on hand. The big news from Lapua (and much anticipated by AccurateShooter.com readers), was the new 6.5x47 brass. I received some pre-production samples of the 6.5x47 late last year. In November I was told a "final" decision had been made to produce the brass with large flash holes and large primer pockets. I conveyed to Erkki that many Americans would be running the cases at pretty high pressures (62,000 psi+) and that many of us had a preference for small flash holes, as found in the 6mm BR and 220 Russian cases. Well, the folks at Lapua apparently were listening, and they continued to test, using both large and small primers. The latest word is that the 6.5x47 will feature a small flash-hole with small rifle primer pocket. And, to our surprise, the cartridge is rated to 63,090 psi (4350 bar). This, then, is truly a "Big BR" case. To download a .pdf file with 6.5x47 Cartridge Specs (thanks to Arne Brennan), Click Here.
A quick look at the data sheet provided by Lapua for its 6.5x47 aroused our interest. Readers have been asking "how do the ballistics compare with a 6BR?" Quite favorably, it appears. Running the .547 BC 123gr Scenar, the 6.5x47 shows 2" less wind drift than a 6BR (with 105gr Scenars) at 600 yards, and 7" less drift at 1000. Interestingly, we predicted the 6.5x47 might be able to hit 2950 fps with the 123gr Scenar. Lapua quotes 2887 fps with the 123. Keeping in mind that Lapua quotes a conservative 2789 fps for the 6BR with 105s, a velocity well below what many people are actually running, we think 2950 fps should be within reach for the new case. That should give it outstanding ballistic performance combined with better barrel life than most 6mm chamberings.
|6.5x47 Lapua + Bullet
|Muzzle Vel 28" bbl
|9 mph Drift at 600 yards
|9 mph Drift at 1000 yards
Note: By comparison, the 6BR has 75.05" of drift at 1000 yards and the .308 Win has 93.34".
Leica RangeMaster CRF-1200
While prowling the Leica booth I saw something that caught my eye, because it was small--real small. "Wow--what's that?", I asked. Leica's rep replied: "THAT is our new range-finder. Same electronics as our 1200 model, but a lot smaller." I picked it up. It fits very comfortably in one hand and the ranging button is conveniently placed on top. Weighing less than eight ounces, with dimensions of 4.5"x2.25"x1.25", it can easily stow in a shirt pocket. The 7x monucular optic was clear and sharp, as we've come to expect from Leica.
As with other Leica rangefinders, a small red box in the middle of the view area is used to "aim" the laser. Push the button and the range appears immediately. Ranging output appears with large, easy-to-see illuminated Red LED numerals in the glass. The CRF 1200 is very simple and user-friendly, compared to some of the other rangefinders on the market. One other brand in particular uses black LCD numbers surrounded with a bunch of function icons, tabs and labels, that are confusing to say the least. I prefer the simplicity of the Leica. The new CRF 1200 offers 7x magnification and a large field of view. The watertight housing is nicely rounded to fit the hand comfortably. Click Here to download product description as a .pdf file. MSRP is $795, so expect to pay about $100.00 more than the larger Leica RangeMaster 1200 Scan (Street Price $600.00). You'll find the CRF priced at $699.00 at a number of online stores.
Schmidt & Bender, 5-25x56 PMII
The new Schmidt & Bender 5-25X scope is impressive in every respect. Controls are smooth and positive. In the cm/milrad version, S & B's unique "Double Turn" elevation knob traverses the entire 100-MOA adjustment range in just two revolutions. And with color-coded index marks, you don't lose track of your clicks. With a 34mm main tube, the scope is strong and rugged. Eye relief is excellent--making it very easy to line up the correct sight picture. I can't exactly explain why, but with the S & B I found it was easier to see the whole image (without vignetting) than with any other 25-power scope I've tried. Perhaps a larger exit pupil or more forgiving eye relief explains this. Simply put, when you look through the scope, you can pick up the full "circle" of light almost immediately. By contrast, with a NightForce set at 25x, it seems I'm always shifting my head back and forth a bit to try to center the image. The Diopter adjustment works really well, bringing the reticle into razor-sharp focus quickly and positively. (A Leupold requires lots of turns to accomplish the same thing). We can't comment on the scope's tracking ability, but the glass was as bright and sharp as anything I've ever looked through in this power range, and the contrast and color fidelity were better than the Nightforce 8-32s I've tried. The scope is quite a bit brighter than a Leupold 8-25 LRT, and there is less distortion at the edges of the image. The new S&B is really a spectacular scope, as it should be, with a suggested retail price of about $2850. Adjustable parallax, illuminated P4 reticle and cm/Milrad windage and elevation adjustments are standard. Quarter-MOA adjustments and the P3 reticle are available as options.
Zeiss 3-12x56 Diarange Scope
The Zeiss Diarange is so new it's not even listed in the regular Zeiss catalog, and the sales people couldn't give me a firm price--but it's expected to be in the $3500+ range. The optics are outstanding and the ranging (with an illuminated dot or cross in the middle of the reticle) was rapid and very positive. Ranging data appears at 6 o'clock at the bottom of the field of view. Red LED numerals appear against a black background so it is easy to see the read-out in all light conditions. At 14.2", the scope is reasonably compact, though thicker in the middle than a conventional scope. The Diarange is nitrogen-charged and waterproof. Weight, with battery, is 35 ounces, the same as a big 8-32x NightForce. It uses a special slotted mount on the base, rather than conventional rings, so it may be a while before mounting systems are available for all rifles. The controls are large, and easy to operate. A Bullet-Drop-Compensating elevation knob is available, calibrated to your ammunition. The range-finder is rated to 1000 yards and uses readily-available AA batteries. There are four reticle variants: either fine plex or fine cross-hairs, each with either illuminated dot or cross in the center. Overall, I was very impressed with this scope. It is packaged nicely and extremely well-executed. I just wish Zeiss made a 6-24x version. That would be the ultimate varmint scope. Diarange Product Info with video.
Complete Rifles--What's New
There wasn't a whole lot new in the way of complete rifles, unless, as John Brewer observed, "you are interested in 15 more variants of the AR-15". Still there were some interesting rigs on display. David Tubb unveiled his elite SpectacLR Rifle, a upgraded Tubb 2000 with 20 modifications, some major, some minor. The gun, shown in the photo, featured a snappy "Splash Camo" finish that certainly caught the eye. Fitted to the barrel was Tubb's unique adjustable muzzle brake. This can be screwed inwards and outwards to fine tune the barrel harmonics. As well, the ports on the brake can be set at various angles. David says he's found that a 10- or 11-o'clock position helps control muzzle movement. The SpectacLR system also features a Schmidt & Bender scope with a proprietary reticle with hold-overs to 1600 yards, plus spin-drift compensation. That reticle looked like something NASA would produce. Click on David's photo to download a short video of David demonstrating the SpectacLR's unique features. (11 Meg Video)
Dakota Arms had a big display of traditional hunting rifles, including some stainless Model 10 Falling Blocks that looked very much like Ruger Number Ones. These would make fine "walk-around" varminters, but the narrow fore-ends would probably shoot better off a bipod than sandbags. The classic single-shot obviously still has many fans, including the rich and famous, because Dakota has sold quite a few exhibition-grade Model 10s for as much as $8000. That's a hefty tariff for a factory rifle.
Two new custom chrome-moly actions were introduced at the show, G.A. Precision's 7000 action and the new Wasatch action. GAP's 4142 CR-MO action is designed to fit a Rem 700 inletted stock (with the lug cut moved forward), and was built from the ground up to work as a repeater. It features a one-piece bolt, a 0.300" longer tenon (for more barrel support), an extended bold handle, a 2.830"-long ejection port (.420" larger than Rem 700), and a 20-MOA rail attached with 8-40 screws. Unlike the Surgeon action, the GAP 7000's recoil lug is attached separately. However, there is a groove cut in the mouth of the action for precise location of the lug. Since the GAP 7000 will work with any Remington bottom metal, it is fully compatible with the AICS mag system. GAP's owner, George Gardner, has priced the new action at $700.00 with base and lug. However, at this time, the GAP 7000 action is not sold separately; you'll need to purchase barreled action or complete rifle from G.A. Precision.
While at the McMillan booth, we saw the new Wasatch action (its designer brought it over to show to McMillan's staff). Of chrome-moly construction, the action sported a matte black phosphate coating. Like the GAP 7000, the bolt on the Wasatch worked very smoothly. The Wasatch features an integrated recoil lug. Regular production is just getting started. The new action will carry a $750.00 price tag. The new Wasatch Action is built by Wasatch Precision Machine, Ogden, UT, (801) 731-1995.
In addition to the GAP and Wasatch actions, another new custom action with a Remington-style profile will soon be available. The new Pierce chrome-moly action, though not on view at Shot Show, was on display at the Harrisburg, PA gunshow recently and Jason, our 1000-yard editor, was impressed by what he saw. Jason reports: "John Pierce (the fellow that makes aftermarket Remington fire controls) is making a new action. At Harrisburg last weekend I got a look at one of the first...looks like a winner, and felt like one too. The re-cocking was Amazingly smooth--similar or better than a Viper or BAT. The Pierce is chrome-moly for now, but a stainless version will be made if the demand is there. I was told the Pierce action features lots of EDM work, but I don't remember the full specs." The Pierce action features a one-piece PTG bolt, and will cost $850.00 with a Remington extractor, or $875.00 with a Sako-style extractor. To order, contact E.H. Avello, (610) 444-1727, email@example.com.
Both Berger and Sierra maintained large, well-staffed operations at the show. Walt Berger himself was there and he proudly showed us two new .22-caliber bullets. The first is a 90-grain VLD designed for long-range match rifles, particularly Service Rifles that are limited to the .223 Rem. However, these bullets would work superbly with a 22 PPC or 22 BR. Berger estimates the BC at .517, best in class among production .22-caliber pills. (Sierra rates its 90gr SMK at .504 BC at 2200+ fps.) These long projectiles demand a 1 in 7" twist rate.
The other new Berger bullet is a 77gr "Match Grade" boat-tail. This will provide good long-range performance in a 9-twist or faster barrel. The samples looked very good and measured very consistently. If you shoot an AR15, 22BR, or 22-250, you owe it to yourself to try the new Berger 77- or 90-grainers. The 90gr VLD will certainly challenge Sierra's 90gr SMK for "top dog" status among long-range .22-caliber bullets.
Speaking of Sierra, the big news at the "Green" booth this year was the 210-grain .30-Caliber MatchKing. Designed for peak performance with the big cases used in 1000-yard shooting, the 210s have been eagerly anticipated by the 1K Heavy Gun crowd. BC has not been officially announced but it should meet or beat the impressive .629 BC of Sierra's 220gr .308 MatchKing. Production of the new 210 MatchKings is in full swing, and they should be available right now from major vendors. MidwayUSA is selling 500-count boxes for $174.99, product # 384313. Grafs.com has 50-count boxes for $22.99, product # SRA2235.
As noted above, the major news on the brass front was Lapua's official announcement of the 6.5x47 brass. Production will start in the end of March and Lapua hopes the new brass will be available for purchase in North America by late April or early May.
Not to be outdone, Norma has agreed to produce a CIP-certified version of David Tubb's 6XC cartridge. We spoke to Norma's CEO literally minutes after the deal was finalized between Tubb and Norma. Norma said they are "fully committed to producing the 6XC brass" and they will be moving "full speed ahead." Norma says they expect 6XC brass to be available in June.
As you may know, Dakota Arms and Lapua have been working on OEM production of PPC and Varmint brass (including 20 Tactical, .221 Fireball, and 20 Vartarg). We spoke to Todd Kindler of Small Caliber News, who was representing Dakota at the Show. He acknowledged that there are "issues remaining to be resolved", but that the plan is still moving ahead, though perhaps for fewer cartridge classes than we had been lead to believe earlier. Todd said he would keep us apprised of further developments. We then went back to the Lapua booth and I queried Erkki Seikkula about the Dakota deal. I got the same reluctant, vague answer--the parties are still working on it, the types of brass to be produced are not yet resolved, and production dates and import quantities are, as yet, unresolved. Bottom line, Dakota will bring in Lapua-OEM brass at some point, but we can't tell you which cartridges or when they will arrive.
The big news item was the acquisition by Hodgdon of the complete Winchester Line of Powders. Chris Hodgdon told us Hodgdon plans to continue to offer the full Winchester powder inventory, including 748 and 760, both of which are good choices for small cartridges such as the 6mm BR. Chris also noted that Hodgdon has released a new, slow-burning powder designed for large magnum cartridges, US 869. Click Here to download an Acrobat (.pdf) file with US 869 load data. While chatting with Chris, I noted that many folks have reported that recent lots of Varget seem to be pretty hot. Jerry Tierney did some testing just last week and found this to be the case. Chris assured me his testing department would see if there have been any changes in formulation.
Good news for 6BR, 6XC, and Magnum caliber shooters--Norma powders should be widely available in North America within a few months. Norma told us that a new Importer/wholesale distributor has been secured for Norma powders, Black Hills Shooters Supply in South Dakota. Black Hills does not sell direct to consumers, but they will be able to supply Norma powders to major retailers such as Grafs.com and MidwayUSA.com. That's welcome news for precision shooters. Norma 203B was specifically formulated for the 6mm BR Norma case, and it is perhaps the ideal powder, in terms of case-fill and burn rate, for shooting the heavy bullets in 8-twist barrels. Norma URP ("Universal Rifle Powder") is a new medium-burn-rate powder, similar to H4350, that should work very well in the 6XC and .243 Win cartridges. Norma MRP, with a burn rate similar to H4831, N165 and Reloader 22, is an excellent powder for larger-capacity cases.
We found our friend Kent Sakamoto at the RCBS booth within the RCBS/Speer/CCI/ATK island. (When you see all those brands together you realise how powerful ATK is within the shooting industry).
Kent had the latest ChargeMaster 1500 on display. RCBS has made a number of upgrades, some visible, some very subtle. OK guys, we know you are very interested in this, so read carefully. First, the clear plastic cover has been modified. Now there are dual hinges so the cover can swing from either left or right, or be removed altogether. The drop pan is now made of metal, not plastic. This change was made because the plastic pan apparently contributed to static build-up inside the plastic cover. The dispensing tube is fatter--something that's quite apparent on first glance. The increased diameter (and larger exit hole) reduces clumping at the very end of the dispensing cycle. It also improves the unit's performance if it is not completely level fore and aft. Kent said the current models are less sensitive to slight tilts (either sideways or front to back) than the first run of Chargemasters. You should still level the unit in all planes, Kent cautioned.
One major internal software upgrade relates to the auto-tare feature. Kent noted that there was a glitch that would allow a slight auto-tare error to replicate itself multiple times until the zero could be off by a significant amount. This programming fix has actually been in place for the last couple of months. As soon as RCBS found the problem they reprogrammed all units in inventory. Kent noted: "The auto tare issue with the ChargeMasters was found prior to that batch being shipped out. None should have hit the field. The reprogramming and hardware changes were the reason that supplies dried up over the holiday season."
One other completely new feature is "Auto-dispense". With this option activated, the machine will dispense a new load, at the designated charge weight, each time the pan is replaced on the load cell. That's a handy feature. However, we prefer, after each charge, to lift up the pan and set it back down again to get a second, confirming read on every charge. If you follow that practice, you'll need to disable the Auto-dispense function.
RCBS also showed a nice, new chamfering tool. With a longer 22-degree cutting section, it is similar to the Holland tool. RCBS claims this provides a smoother chamfer that works better with long, boat-tail bullets. The new tool can either be used manually with a plastic handle or it can be power-driven using the RCBS Trim Mate powered case prep center.
We visited all the major spotting-scope manufacturers, including Leica, Leupold, Nikon, Pentax, Swarovski and Zeiss. No completely new spotting scopes were introduced, but a number of the optics makers showcased new accessories allowing the use of their large spotting scopes with digital cameras. "DigiCamming" was the hot buzz word around the optics booths this year. We got a chance to look through the top-of-the-line spotting scopes from each of these companies. We concen-trated on the bigger scopes, because they are the best choice for resolving bullet holes at very long distances.
|Leica 77 Televid
|Nikon 82ED FieldScope
|Zeiss 85 FL
|Street Price (Body Only)
Leica Televid 77: Very bright image, scope is relatively lightwight, eye relief is average. The dual-speed focus was very handy. Overall, in terms of fit, finish, and particularly quality of the eyepieces, it did not seem to be in the same class as the Zeiss or the Swaro. For the price, you can do better.
Nikon FieldScope 82ED: Very sharp, good color rendition, but eye relief is very short and the focus function is not as handy--it uses one giant ring around the full diameter. This was fairly stiff and it was easy to disturb the scope if you didn't steady the tripod with the other hand. To be honest, while the Nikon provided a very nice image, I would rather have the Pentax 80ED for $220.00 less or the Pentax 100 for about $330 more. The Big Pentax is a spectacular scope.
Pentax: These scopes are long and heavy compared to the Zeiss or Leica. However the eye-pieces are superb. If I wanted to resolve small bullet holes at 500 yards and beyond, the PF-100ED would be my first choice. Adorama's $1330.00 price (body-only, item PXSS100) is a steal. And the PF-80ED blows away anything in its price range. The available single-power Pentax lenses are sharper and brighter than any of the zooms I looked through. Let me explain something about the Pentax lenses. They are BIG--the diameter of a soft-drink can. The extended eye relief is great--you don't have to jam your eyeball right into the optic. Bottom line, it's just much easier to see the image with these big eyepieces. With the XW7 model eyepiece, the Pentax delivers 90x magnification in the 100-ED model, and 74x on the 80-ED. Notably, at 74X (fixed power), the Pentax 80-ED was brighter than the Nikon 82ED Fieldscope at the 60-power upper end of the Nikon's zoom range. The XW10 eyepiece (photo) delivers 52x with the PF-80ED and 62X with the PF-100ED.
Swarovski STS-80: Very good glass, but it is longer than the similarly-priced Zeiss and it uses a single, central focusing knob. If you're changing yardages frequently, the scopes with dual-rate focus knobs are handier to use. At 47 ounces, the Swaro STS-80 is by far the lightest of the larger observation telescopes. Between the Zeiss and the Swaro, we'd pick the Zeiss. If size and weight isn't an issue, you can get the Pentax 100-ED for the same money.
Zeiss Diascope 85: The Zeiss glass was razor sharp, and the dual-speed focus system worked well. The two focusing knobs are separated so it is easy to select the right one by feel alone. A recent test rated the Diascope as the best of the 80-mm class Spotting scopes and we can see why. This is a very nice unit, quite compact for its magnification range. It is smaller than the Leica 77 and the Pentax 80-ED. Birdwatching.com declared: "Of all the dedicated birding scopes with around 80mm apertures, the Zeiss Diascope got the best scores on the resolution tests. The image is remarkably bright. At a magnification of 60, the Diascope 85 resolved finer detail than any other dedicated birding scope we tested, with absolutely no color fringing. The Zeiss Diascope became the instrument we used as the reference scope."
Oehler's phasing-out of its Model 35 chronograph line has left a void in the market for high-grade chronographs. The new PVM-21 chronograph from Germany will fill that need. It has many advanced features and comes packaged with very sophisticated software. If you've ever fooled around with a Shooting Chrony or PACT chrono, you'll know that the lower-end chronographs can be very fussy about lighting. This editor's personal Shooting Chrony works pretty well with overcast skies but it throws fits with bright sunlight directly overhead.
With the PVM-21, which employs multiple infrared emitters, you can use the chrono in any light condition--indoors or outdoors. Tests of two PVMs set in parallel proved the units give extremely consistent results. Measuring a 55-grain .223-caliber bullet, two units showed an average variance of less than 1.5 fps on the shot by shot readings. Compared to an Oehler, the front and rear light sensors are placed fairly close together. With conventional engineering, longer spacing normally produces more accurate and reliable results. However, the PVM-21 employs a very high measuring frequency (16.0 Mhz) to provide excellent results even with compact dimensions. Additionally, the unit samples ambient light every 10 seconds allowing it to automatically adjust to changing light conditions. You can also adjust the light-screen's sensitivity for different bullet sizes (from .17 to 50 caliber), either via software or via the remote control.
The PVM-21 features a 250-shot memory, and full PC-compatibilty via USB interface. Output can be displayed on a laptop PC, as well as the LCD readout on the PVM-21's display unit. The PVM-21 is controlled with an infrared remote control hand unit, similar to those used with televisions or VCRs. Data from the PVM-21 can be exported to QuickLOAD and QuickTarget, and the included software has many amazing functions--in addition to Average Velocity, you can plot ES, SD, Span, and even calculate the BC of individual bullets, shot by shot. Invented by Werner Mehl, the PVM-21 is made in Germany by Kurzzeit.com, and distributed in the USA by Neconos.com, (800) 451-3550. Price, complete with Chronograph, Light Screen, IR2C Controller, 120V to 12V Power Supply, Cables, and Software, is $729.95.
NOTE: Currently the PVM-21 ships with a AC power hookup only. However, since it actually operates on 12-volt DC through a transformer, and draws only 2.1 Watts, it would not be difficult to run the PVM-21 from a 12-volt battery. Werner Mehl is currently working on a dedicated battery pack.
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