April 8th, 2007

It's Easter–Think Family, Think Fun

This website is all about precision rifles, and achieving the Nth degree of accuracy. But sometimes we should remember the simple pleasures that made shooting fun to begin with. Today, on Easter Sunday, it’s worth contemplating rifles that allow all members of the family to have fun, without a lot of expensive gear or costly ammunition.

I spent a few hours yesterday testing big-buck rimfire bench rifles, shooting through a 36-power scope from a thousand-dollar, one-piece rest. Before heading to the range, I spent two full hours sorting my ammo by run-out, OAL, rim thickness, and weight. The whole afternoon, I strained to deal with the scope’s ultra-critical eye-relief and miniscule 1mm exit pupil. While shooting, my partner and I would grumble and groan if we had a single shot leak out of a group at 50 yards. Then we’d second-guess our wind call, or speculate whether Juenke-sorting the ammo might take 0.10″ off the average group size. The standard of accuracy we demanded made this “Saturday at the Range” more work than play. At day’s end, I realized I had a stiff neck, a tension headache, and a lingering sense of dissatisfaction. Then I thought, wait a minute, shooting is supposed to be fun.

What was missing from Saturday’s “all-business” shooting session was a time-out for some stress-releaving fun stuff. Typically when I go to the range I’ll bring a pistol, or a lever gun, or a factory 22 to shoot steel. It’s very rewarding to stand up on your hind legs with a lever gun and “ring steel” at 50 or 100 yards, using iron sights or a low-power scope with forgiving eye relief and a bright image. When I bring my Marlin 39A to the range, invariably a fellow shooter asks to give it a try, or says “mind if my boy tries your 22?” After sending a dozen rounds of inexpensive ammo downrange at steel targets, they’d hand back the rifle with a big grin saying “Now THAT was fun.” Kids especially love shooting a light, well-balanced 22 offhand and getting instant gratification from the “ping” of a well-placed shot.

marlin 39A lever action 22LR

In our obsession with precision, we can forget to involve the family in the shooting game, and fail to allow needed diversity into our shooting. It’s OK for a Hall of Fame BR shooter to stand up and shoot iron sights now and then. We BR-aholics can actually benefit from trying different shooting disciplines. I find that taking a break from the serious bench stuff and shooting from a standing position with iron sights loosens up the body and clears the mind, so when I go back to shooting from the bench, my performance improves.

CZ 452 453 Varmint 22LR

Here are three great plinking rifles that combine low cost with surprising accuracy. The Marlin 39A is a classic, with the heft and feel of a centerfire lever gun. The Micro-groove barrel provides “best in class” accuracy. The CZ 452 Varmint is a versatile sporting gun with a comfortable stock and quality action. With a Brooks trigger upgrade, it’s good enough to win a club-level silhouette match (or you can get a model 453 with factory set trigger). The Izmash “Biathlon” basic offers a fast-cycling Fortner-style toggle action (kids love them), a heavy barrel, and 1.3-lb trigger pull out of the box. Often priced as low as $349.00, this rifle, from Russian American Armory, is hard to beat from a price/performance standpoint. For more info (including accuracy test results), read this Review of Biathlon Basic. Here are some 50-yard targets shot with the Biathlon Basic by Tod at GunTech.com.

biathlon basic Izhmash

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April 8th, 2007

Elevate that Rear Bag for Prone Work

shooting mat shelf linerMost rear sand-bags (from Edgewood, or Protektor, or SEB) are optimized for use on the bench with low-profile stock designs like the McMillan Edge or Kelbly Klub. If you use these bags when shooting from the ground F-Class style or with bipod, you may find the rifle is too low to the ground for comfort. Yes you can suck in your belly and crank down your front rest, but it makes more sense to elevate the rear bag. Jason Baney has a simple solution that costs under $4.00 in materials.

Get a small 12″x12″ section of 1″ thick plywood and trim it to fit the base of your bag, leaving maybe 1/2″ extra on all sides. Then get some rubberized, waffle-pattern GRIP-IT shelf-liner from your local home improvement center. Alternatively, if you want a more rigid base (with less ‘give’) for hard, flat ground, use high-durometer unlined Neoprene, available from industrial supply shops. Glue a layer of shelf liner or Neoprene on the bottom and top of the plywood. This will give good grip on your shooting mat and provide a stable, non-slip surface for the base of your sandbag. If you need more elevation, just use a thicker piece of wood, or sandwich two pieces together. If you have a heavy recoiling rifle and need a riser with more mass, put a metal plate (same dimensions) between the plywood and the bottom layer of rubber shelf-liner/neoprene. If you want a bag riser without the work of trimming and glueing, Dave Dohrmann sells high-durometer Neoprene riser pads in 1/2″ through 1″ thicknesses, starting at $25. Call Dave at 864-884-0155 or email dbugholes[@]aol.com. With textured surfaces top and bottom, Dave’s heavy pads work equally well to elevate your bag on the bench.

SEB Sebastian Rear Sand Bag

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