Seven nifty shooting accessories you might not know exist
By Sam Fadala
Part of a serious shooter’s DNA is do-it-yourself creativity. Scratching that itch takes tools — good ones. Here are seven of the most useful ones in my shooting collection.
1) Frankford Electronic Caliper — As an early blackpowder shooter, I stomped all over the lead round ball. My take was that it couldn’t be accurate. Then John Baird, editor of a muzzleloader monthly, took a verbal switch to my wrong ideas, and I listened. I soon learned that round ball muzzleloaders with slower rates of twist printed pretty patterns on paper. But those globs of lead had to be concentric and uniform. And those made of “pure” lead for obturation to the bore did better yet.
A little formula — ball diameter cubed times .5236, times 2,873.5 — showed me how to detect pure-lead round balls from those containing tin, antimony, zinc or some other material. Without an exact diameter, the formula is useless. I needed a precise tool to measure each cast ball. An easy-to-use unit from Micrometer Calipers came my way. That little tool has been on my loading bench for many years.
A second precise measuring tool graces my bench today. The Electronic Digital Caliper from Frankford Arsenal provides instant measurements in inches or millimeters, no calculation required. The stainless steel tool is accurate to 0.001 inch and opens to 6 inches. It’s great for checking cartridge case lengths when reloading.
My handsome Mannlicher 9x56mm carbine was shooting all over the target. I slugged the bore and measured it to find the optimum bullet diameter for that gun. The digital caliper does so much, it could replace the older Slocomb unit. But it won’t because the two compliment each other.
2) Lyman Products 1000 XP Compact Electronic Reloading Scale — Compact is in. Bulky is out. This scale is thinner than a wallet after Las Vegas, weighs just a few ounces, and has a clear cover that flips back to lay flat on a bench or can be removed. The powder/bullet scale is accurate to a tenth of a grain for the full range of its 1,000-grain capacity. It can even handle bullets for my .45-70 rifle.
With the scale, I weigh powder charges to scientific exactness. I don’t often make loads at the shooting bench, but when I do, powder charges must be absolutely spot-on. After all, the point of preparing test loads is to test them — precisely. The 1000 XP is also great for reloading at the range.
3) MTM Case Gard’s Shoulder Gard Rifle Rest and Predator Shooter’s Table — I learned I could do a credible job of sighting a new rifle, testing a load for accuracy or checking a gun prior to the hunting season with a portable shooting bench. But my “portable” outfit threatened a double hernia wrestling it to the shooting site. The MTM Case Gard’s Shoulder Gard Rifle Rest and Predator Shooter’s Table came to the rescue. The combination rest and portable table proved rock-steady in spite of its minimal weight. My old portable benchrest took one last journey — not to the field, but to the landfill.
4) Wheeler FAT Accurizing Torque Wrench — Minute of angle, or MOA, is a valid benchmark for hunting rifles. Today, accuracy is pursued all-inclusively. Hand-felt torque on scope mounts and screws is lacking in four ways: uneven tightness (especially scope rings), too loose (an obvious curse), too heavy (ever break a screw or bolt?) and non-repeatable tightness. The FAT Accurizing Torque Wrench from Wheeler Engineering remedies all four problems and brings consistency to every screw on a rifle. Scope rings and bases, guard screws, bedding screws, tang screws, all get the same torque. The tool comes with a selection of bits.
5) Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge — As a PH in Africa, I collect game for trackers, skinners and clients. They say a blind hog occasionally finds an acorn. I found my acorn in the form of lucky shooting. I’ve suffered only three misses in Africa. One was a show-off shot in Zimbabwe on a fine waterbuck at about 200 yards. I wanted to impress the outfitter with my 16th one-shot dunk, but there was no camp meat that night.
I blame a poorly sighted rifle with a horrible trigger pull for the miss. I resighted the borrowed rifle, realizing that I had to work hard to overcome that lousy trigger pull.
Trigger pull is one of the most important aspects of good shooting. That’s why a trigger pull gauge ranks as one of my most important shooting tools.
Lyman’s Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge rides the 21st century wave. It’s compact, electronic, has an LED display and performs flawlessly. It measures from 0 to 12 pounds in 1/10-ounce increments.
6) Caldwell Shooting Wind Wizard —Wind raises hob with bullets. A gentle zephyr caressing your cheek at only 20 mph will drift a bullet far from its appointed meeting place at long range. Silhouette shooters, particularly blackpowder cartridge fans hoping to clang a ram at 500 yards, must be able to judge wind with some degree of accuracy. Wind flags are OK, and I learned as a Wyoming antelope hunter that if my neckerchief wagged straight out, the wind velocity was around 30 mph.
Caldwell Shooting’s Wind Wizard is no larger than a small cell phone. It operates on three lithium batteries, providing a clear reading of wind speed in miles per hour, knots, kilometers per hour and feet per minute. Want to know the temperature on the shooting range or in the hunting field? The Wizard does that, too, in Fahrenheit or Celsius. It also supplies wind speed in a Beauford wind-scale bar-graph mode.
It would be nice to know wind chill on a cool morning. Surely the Wizard can’t do that. Well, it can with a wind-chill display.
The Wind Wizard is a serious shooting and hunting tool. I carry mine in the field with an integral neck band. Not to worry if I forget to turn it off; it shuts down on its own.
7) Mountain Meadow Woodworks Gun Cradle — I thought I knew how to clean a rifle. I’d done it for years and figured I wouldn’t learn much from a seminar held at a Safari Club International Convention in Reno, Nev. But I attended anyway and was humbled. My rifles had maintained reasonable accuracy and performance over the years. But I had much to discover about fully removing copper fouling and lubricating triggers. I learned something else of great importance: Cleaning a rifle while relaxing in front of the tube is OK if the gun’s in a cradle. If not, odds are the job will be less than perfect.
A rifle must be firmly secured in order to run the cleaning rod properly through the bore. I immediately availed myself of a rock-solid cradle. Mine came from Brownells. It’s made of straight-grain hardwood and has a padded vise. The cradle is a shooting tool I now use every time a rifle demands proper bore maintenance, especially when removing copper from the bore. The cradle is also great for installing scopes and bore-sighting rifles.
Reprinted from the August 2007 issue of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine. Subscribe today to have GunHunter delivered to your home.