February 5th, 2019

Blast from the Past — 6mmBR Drop-Port Viper

This week we return to our 6mmBR.com roots with an article on David Bergen’s slick 24″ Drop-Port Viper. This was one of the first 6BR rifles we featured. David, who hails from Belgium, developed this project over many months, and the gun proved to be a true tack-driver, with the ability to group in the Ones, even with the heavy boat-tail bullets. David talks about the build and his reloading methods while action designer Jerry Stiller provides technical insights into the design features of his Viper action.

Report by David Bergen

It was a long journey looking for the perfect custom action to build my new rifle. I searched the internet and visited various forums. I even re-read all my old Precision Shooting magazines to find what I was looking for. One evening I conferred by telephone with Mr. Jerry Stiller of Stiller’s Actions in Texas. He patiently answered all my questions. That moment I decided that I wanted a Viper Drop-Port action. [Editor: Sadly, the Viper Drop-Port is no longer in production.]

Component Selection
At the heart of this gun is a Viper action. This medium-sized action can handle cartridges from a small BR up to a 6.5-284. (Stiller’s smaller Cobra action is for PPC and BRs only.) The Viper is milled from aluminum. This keeps weight down while still allowing Vipers to have a large bedding surface like a Stolle Panda.

Viper Drop port action

At first I was a bit sceptical about the aluminum’s toughness, but Mr. Stiller informed me that the action is the perfect marriage between steel and aluminum. The bolt is hard-chromed and the action body is hard-anodized. This gives it two surfaces that resist wear and make an already-slick action even slicker. Stainless steel is used for all the heavy-stress points including barrel threads, locking lugs, and the rear camming surface. The bolt is made of steel with a very light, small-diameter firing pin to prevent primer piercing with heavy loads. Everything is held very concentric to the bore axis. The Viper is a very smooth action mainly because the design and the precise machining of the camming surfaces. Combined with optimal bolt-lift timing, this gives a smooth action. Stiller also keeps the tolerances very tight on these actions, though they are as fast-handling as any you can buy. The trigger is of course a Jewell BR model.

The rifle is chambered in 6mmBR Norma, my favorite cartridge. I have two HV-contour Shilen match barrels, both with 1 in 8″ twists and finished lengths of 24 inches. The chamber has a .266″ neck so neck-turning is necessary. Freebore is .060″ but combined with a 1.5° throat angle this lets me seat a wide range of bullets from 58 grains up to 107 grains.

The stock is a McMillan Edge with moulded-in gray and black marble swirl. I specified 60% black and dark and light gray both at 20%. I went with the Edge stock because I was always pleased with McMillan products and because it had a very low center of gravity. I wanted the barrels very low in the stock because I think it makes the gun track better.

Details of the Drop-Port–with VIDEO!
The visible part of the Drop-Port is a cartridge-sized cut-out in the floor of the action. This tapers into a funnel shape that lets the spent case fall nose-first through a single hole in the underside of the stock. The Drop-Port is carefully sized so that empty brass will fall through from gravity but a loaded round won’t. I’ve found that getting a BR case to eject 100% reliably in a standard action is not easy. The round is short and fat so it clears the chamber too early and the ejector pushes the cases out the extractor too fast. This can result in an empty case sitting in your action, no longer held by the extractor. Needless to say, this can slow you down during a stressful competition. When you get a Drop-Port you can forget all those problems.

Failure to eject is NOT going to happen with a Drop-Port. The system just works every time, and it’s FAST. Right-Click on the Media Player image and “Save As” to download a video (6.9 megs) showing me cycling the action during live fire.

One smart feature of the Drop-Port is the extractor location. A Remington extractor is located at the bottom of the bolt. This way the case is supported by the extractor until the front of the case lines up with the cut-out in the action. At that moment the front of the case tilts down and the rim slips out of the extractor. In the stock there is a funnel which collects the case. The case drops out of the rifle through a single small hole in front of the trigger guard.

Building an Accurate Load
Tools and Recipes

I start with new Lapua cases and after full-length sizing I trim them with a Wilson trimmer. Then I turn the necks for a .264″ neck diameter with a Lapua 105 seated in the brass. After fire-forming I use a “semi-custom” Harrell’s full-length sizing die with bushing. I use a .262 bushing with the moly-coated bullets. This Harrell’s die is the best I ever used — it gives very low run out. [Editor’s Note: Harrell’s stocks a number of dies with various internal dimensions. You send them three fire-formed cases and they’ll pick out a die that fits your brass the best. The cost is very reasonable.] Overall the excellent concentricity I’m seeing with my rounds is a combination of a superb chambering job, a neck-turned Lapua case and the Harrell’s sizing die. The die is supplied with a brass bushing that allows you to measure the amount of sizing you are doing.

For seating I use both a Wilson inline seater (hand die) and a Forster seating die that threads into a press. The latter gets the most use because I find it easier to use. Run out with both is around 0.001″ or better measured on the bullet.

Load development was very easy. I started with Varget and all loads … shot well. Vihtavuori N150 also shot very well with… moly-coated Lapua 105s. To my delight, the light bullets are also shooting very well in the 1:8″ twist. Nosler Ballistic Tips are giving very good results with a case full of N140. I’ve also tried N150, N540 and AA 2520. For all loads I’ve been using CCI BR4. Bullets are seated well into the lands with square marks showing. This gives an overall length around 59 mm (2.32″), depending on the bullet used.

Shooting the Rifle–How It Performs
The rifle is very easy to shoot and it is very accurate, but it had some drawbacks in the beginning. First there is the stock. It is designed for bench shooting and on a table it does this very well. I use a Caldwell front rest and a Protektor rear bag. When shooting prone I’ll also use the rest but the cheek weld is not ideal (the Edge was optimized for free recoil shooting from the bench). The rings that are supplied with the action are rather high. I looked around and found some that were lower. This made shooting easier, but I still wasn’t satisfied. The gun was a bit nose-heavy. There is a weight system built into the stock, but it wasn’t enough to bring the gun in balance. I like the balance point to be just in front of the receiver ring. So I cut the rear off the stock and put in a larger tube and turned some weights to put in it. I also made up an aluminum butt plate. Then I installed a Harrell’s brake to cut recoil to a minimum. With these modifications, the rifle is now shooting the way I want. I think the Edge stock is a very good design for benchrest shooting but for prone shooting it has some shortcomings. I think the MBR is a better stock for shooting prone.

Muzzle Brake–Less Recoil, Same Excellent Accuracy
After testing the barrel with different loads, I decided to put a brake on one barrel. Most of my guns are muzzle-braked and since I had two virtually identical barrels, I put a Harrell’s brake on one. The barrel had to be threaded to mount the brake and here I was a little concerned–I remembered the advice to “never mess with a winner”. The un-braked barrel was ultra-accurate and I was curious whether the process of fitting the brake might affect the accuracy.

Thankfully, my worries were unfounded. My targets showed no loss of accuracy — there was no evidence that the brake had caused any changes (except as to recoil). I have wondered though, perhaps the brake makes the gun more shootable and in that way compensates for some small accuracy loss that may be there? Whatever the case, the gun shoots just as tight as before, except now it’s a lot more user-friendly with less muzzle hop and less “push” on recoil.

This Rifle Literally Shoots Bug-Holes
And now I come to the end of the story. One day when testing the rifle at 100 meters (with brake installed), I spied a fly on the target. Well now, I thought, here is an interesting “precision shooting” challenge. I put the crosshair on the fly, squeezed the trigger, and the fly was history.

One shot, one kill. Now THAT is impressive precision. If you look closely you’ll see what’s left of Mr. Fly around the bullet hole. Or “bug-hole” as you Americans would say. This kind of performance is a real confidence-booster for the trigger-puller, let me tell you.

The Drop-Port — Simple Yet Advanced
Jerry Stiller tells us: “The drop-port ejects the case out the bottom of the action using only gravity. No ejector plunger is required so the system is as foolproof as anything can be. (A normal spring-loaded ejector creates an uneven load on one side of the case head.) Unlike other ejection systems, micro-ports etc., a Drop-Port doesn’t require tuning or adjusting, and just works. Many top shooters tell us they can cycle rounds faster with a Drop-Port action than with any other design.”

“The engineering of the Viper reflects some key design objectives. I wanted it to be able to fit standard commercially available stocks and have a barrel fit-up that was well known in the industry. I liked the idea of the larger bedding area and higher stiffness of the aluminum actions, so I chose the Panda footprint and barrel tenon for the Viper. I also made some changes to what was available at the time to make the product better. I used a smaller diameter firing pin to eliminate primer piercing, hard anodized all the aluminum parts for corrosion resistance and to make the surface hard and slick. The bolts are also coated for the same reasons.

Drop-Port technical drawing, Copyright © 2005, Stiller’s Precision Firearms, All Rights Reserved.

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February 5th, 2019

Three-Position 10m Air Rifle — Popular Sport for Young Shooters

Three Position 3p air rifle airgun precisision competition CMP

Three Position 3p air rifle airgun precisision competition CMPThree-Position (3P) Air Rifle Shooting is the most popular and fastest-growing form of shooting sports competition for junior shooters (High School age and younger). The Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) conducts two different 3P Air Rifle events. Precision Air Rifle is modeled after Olympic-style shooting and allows the use of specialized target rifles and equipment. Sporter Air Rifle is designed for new competitors or those who desire to compete with a minimum of equipment and expense.

In both types of shooting, competitors fire at targets at a distance of 10 meters in three different positions, prone, standing and kneeling. Three-Position Air Rifle provides young competitors with competitive shooting sports opportunities that can be offered on a wide variety of easily accessible or easily constructed ranges, with equipment that is commonly available at affordable costs.

The CMP actively promotes Three-Position Air Rifle shooting as a premier youth marksmanship competition by providing low-cost equipment and pellets as well as training materials and competition activities. In addition, other air gun events for juniors and adults are hosted by CMP throughout the year. CMP facilities have Open Public Shooting evenings, and matches for air rifle and air pistol take place at the CMP Marksmanship Centers.

CLICK HERE to Download this illustration of Olympic Shooter Ivana Maksimovic as a POSTER.

Three Position 3p air rifle airgun precisision competition CMP

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