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Computers track hunters and their bullets.

One of the many things the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) does is to collect statistics on anything and everything related to the shooting sports. Some of the more interesting nuggets unearthed recently were as follows: The number of hunters who reload has jumped from 26 percent six years ago to 37 percent today; 20 percent of today's hunters have college degrees; and the average hunter's income is over $44,000.

Now I have no trouble with those first two statistics. Not that I have some personal polling system against which to compare; I'm just basing that on gut feelings and knowing what I do having been in this business for nearly 25 years. The third stat, however, the one which states that Joe Average Hunter makes about 45 grand per annum, I find hard to believe.

Surely a posh sports store in Manhattan, downtown Chicago, or L.A. is going to average much more affluent customers than Moe's Gun Rack in Freezurass, Montana. It's just that for every Abercrombie's there are 1,000 Moe's, and I don't think there are enough Donald Trumps out there among the hunting fraternity to up the average that much.

The final determination of the worth of this figure, however, has to come from you folks out there who deal with consumers on an everyday basis. Do you feel that particular stat applies to your typical customer? In effect, it's saying that one out of five customers who walks through your door with a hunting license is a college grad and the average income among all your customers is around 45K.

You know, as useless as statistics generally are, I've gotta' admit to having learned one thing: The one about average income? I'm in the wrong business.

Personal Ballistics Lab

I just finished spending the best part of a week at a seminar in Pennsylvania with Dr. Ken Oehler who is quite literally the father of the personal chronograph. Ever since his first model some 25 years ago, Oehler chronographs have been the industry standard.

This mini-seminar was to introduce a few of us gun hacks to the soon-to-be-introduced Oehler Model 43 Personal Ballistic Lab, a new computer system that is more than "just a chronograph." Its sophistication goes far beyond what all but the most serious handloader could ever need ... or for that matter, want.

By epoxying a small transducer about the size of your fingernail to the barrel at the mid-way point of the chamber, pressure readings are instantly computed and shown on the screen of your laptop or notebook computer. Each shot is also graphed using a time/pressure curve.

By the way, you don't need one of the super 486 computers. Oehler used a little notebook computer that had the old 8088 chip and it worked fine, if a mite slow.

Exciting Features

Besides offering Joe Hand-loader the capability to measure chamber pressures in his own rifles for the very first time, the PBL does all sorts of other neat things which make the job of a gun writer infinitely easier.

Take the optional Acoustic Target, for example. This gizzy consists of a triangle made from ordinary 1/2-inch PVC water pipe. You can make the triangle as large as you like; two feet on a side, three feet, four ... whatever. You simply clamp three equal lengths of pipe in the fittings supplied and you're ready to set it out at whatever distance you wish. All you have to do is measure the distance exactly, then input that data into the program. The target distance is limited only by the amount of telephone cord (110 yards are supplied with the unit).

Of course, you must have some sort of target or aiming reference inside the triangle if you're shooting for groups.

By acoustic triangulation a microphone at each corner of the triangle senses the point of bullet passage, then plots it back at your bench on the computer's monitor. The graphics not only show to scale where in the triangle the bullet impacted, but a second image shows at the POI on a 1 -inch grid and tells you the horizontal and vertical dispersion, and the group size in tenths of an inch!

One of the most impressive demonstrations among the many I saw was when Oehler used graph paper to plot to scale a five-shot group I fired with my rifle according to the graph shown on the monitor. He then retrieved the target and placed it over the plotted impact points. Through each of the bullet holes you could see the five Xs. It was a near-perfect match.

The Oehler 43 also automatically logs all pertinent load and gun information and lists the velocity at both the muzzle and the target, the time of flight, and the ballistic coefficient of the bullet based on that time of flight. It also summarizes the data and computes average velocity, standard deviation, lists high and low velocity, and extreme velocity spread. It also computes all necessary external ballistics based on an instantly changeable zero range -- data such as bullet path, wind deflection, remaining velocity and energies -- then computes a "power factor" based on momentum.

At around $1,700 for the whole set up, the Oehler 43 PBL is only for the most serious handloader and for clubs and ranges which have a sophisticated clientele that would want to know that much about a given rifle and handload; and yes, shotguns and revolvers can be accommodated, but not auto pistols.

Obviously, Oehler does not expect to sell many 43s to individuals. I mention it here because, the 43 represents the kind of benchmark product that comes along only once or twice in a lifetime. Also, if you do cater to the $44,000-a-year crowd, they might enjoy purchasing, or even renting time on a system like this.

It's not just another gun-nut gizmo, but a true ballistic lab that for the first time enables the interested handloader to measure chamber pressures in his gun using his handloads.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Special Intelligence; Oehler Model 43 Personal Ballistics Lab
Author:Sundra, John R.
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:Column
Date:Aug 1, 1992
Previous Article:Sports South: dealers of the round table.
Next Article:"What should I buy to go with my gun?" (firearm accessories) (Lethal Force)

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