July 7th, 2019

Sunday GunDay — 7mm WSM Hunter with Match-Grade Accuracy

wyoming 7mm wsm winchester short magnum elk rifle hunter hunting Win mag

Ric Horst’s 7 WSM is a game-slayer with serious long-range accuracy. Here’s a hunting rifle (with tactical trappings) that performs as well as some purpose-built benchrest rifles, delivering half-MOA ten-shot groups at 1000 yards–from bipod no less! That was noteworthy in itself. But Ric’s rifle, built to take game in Wyoming’s backcountry, also proves the viability of the 7mm Win Short Mag as a true precision cartridge. With the capacity to drive hard-hitting, ultra-high-BC bullets, the 7 WSM is a bonafied rival to the big 30s. This rifle sets a very high bar for long-range hunting rigs.

The Challenge: Creating the Ultimate Long-Range Hunting Rifle

Q: Tell us how you got interested in the 7 WSM and how you got started on this project?

Ric Horst: Chris Matthews and I were invited to help out with a new hunting show on a cable network. We wanted to showcase a rifle that wasn’t typical for the TV program which was about Antelope and Mule Deer hunting in Wyoming. We considered a variety of calibers, but then Sierra announced their new 175gr (.284) MatchKing and that got our attention. In Wyoming, the key thing in choosing a caliber is the availability of good high-BC bullets–the wind will own you out here. After seeing Sierra’s projected BC for the 175s this seemed to be a no brainer. So I told Chris to make the rifle a 7mm WSM.

Q: What were your objectives with this project rifle? Sounds like you wanted to build a state of the art long-range hunting rig?

Our goals were simple–we wanted a tack-driver with long-range capabilities, from 400 to 1000 yards. Really, at the time, the choice of the 7 WSM was easy–no one else was really doing it, and if they were, they weren’t talking about it. So we wanted to be the first make it work, one way or another. There were actually no real surprises or problems along the way, other than it was the first time I was shooting a 7mm and the accuracy of the 175gr bullets was better than I expected. I have total faith in Chris’s gunsmithing abilities. This 7 WSM is the sixth rifle he’s built for me–and they’ve all been tack-drivers.

Q: Give us your perspectives on living and shooting in Wyoming. What makes it such a great hunting ground? How do the game mix and terrain dictate your selection of a rifle?

My requirements for my rifles are, I guess, unique. I like tactical-style rifles. This “style” seems to fit my type of hunting here in Wyoming–tough, rugged terrain where you need to be able to make the long shot should one present itself. Living in Wyoming? Well, if you choose to live in the “out of town” places you need to be well-prepared and tough. Going to town means a 50-mile trip. You don’t just run to the convenience store if you need something. Plus the weather is hard in the winter and always windy. We joke that we have just two seasons, three months of summer and nine months of winter. Our spring and fall are each about two weeks long.

Despite the weather, Wyoming is a great place for a hunter. Game here is second to none: deer (whitetail and mulies ), antelope, elk, sheep, moose, plus varmints galore. What is great about my location is that I can shoot just about anytime I want. I have the ability to shoot as far as 3500 yards out my back door if I choose. Here’s a shot of my playground.

Putting It Together: Exceptional Components and Accurate Ammo

Q: Your 7 WSM has logged 10-shot groups at 1000 yards that could win many 1K benchrest matches. What kind of components does it take to deliver this kind of accuracy?

There is nothing super-exotic in this rifle, but it IS fitted out with some of the best components on the market. We did start with a factory action, however, a Remington 700 short action. Chris trued the action, added an SSG over-sized bolt knob, and fitted the action with a Broughton 5C, 9-twist #7 contour barrel finished at 24″. To reduce recoil we added a Badger brake. The stock is a fiberglass McMillan HTG (General Purpose Hunting) stock in Desert Camo. (This McMillan stock design replicates the original M40A1 Marine Sniper Rifle stock.) Since this is a repeater we added a Wyatts Mag Box. The gun features Badger bottom metal, Badger scope rail and Badger Rings. The Scope is a 4-16 Nikon Tactical, which, so far, has proven to be excellent. All the metal is Teflon-coated in Mil-Spec OD Green. I have a bubble-level mounted on the scope rail.

Q: To achieve the results you’re getting you must have exceptional hand-loads. What is your reloading procedure and do you have any “secret tips” to share?

I use Winchester-brand brass and Winchester Large Rifle Magnum primers. My current load is 64.0 grains of H4831sc for the Hornady 162s (2950 fps) and 61.0 grains of H4831sc for the Sierra 175s (2830 fps).

The only sizing dies I have used are the Basic Redding FL dies–I have since started using the Forester Ultra-Seater and used it when I shot the outstanding groups. My reloading technique is pretty basic. I full-length size and trim all to length. I use the RCBS powered Trim Mate™ station to do most of the brass prep. I do use the VLD case mouth deburrer. I uniform the primer pocket and chamfer as well. I then fire-form those prepped cases. I’ve noted that the new brass usually shoots just as well as fire-formed cases. I then use the FL die to bump the shoulder back .002″. I haven’t really noticed and major difference between Forester and Redding dies except price. I don’t have any “special” secret loading techniques. If you use quality components, I’ve found that you don’t need to weigh this weigh that etc. I tried that for years and it never really showed results to justify the time and effort. I quit doing all the weighing ( except for bullets ) and I shoot just as well. The two things I am anal about are the powder charge and seating depth–these all have to be exactly the same for each round!

I do take time to uniform the brass. First, when I get a bag of brass, I’ll check to make sure all the flash holes are centered, and I’ll pitch the ones that aren’t. Then I’ll measure the shortest case and trim all to that length (after ensuring that fits my chamber). Next, I’ll uniform the primer pockets, and debur and bevel the flash hole on both sides. Beveling both sides is one trick I think helps keep ES down. By beveling the flash side it basically takes the flash and tapers/funnels it to the hole. I think you get more consitency with the primer flash this way. Finally I’ll debur/champfer the inside and outside of the neck using a VLD chamferer.

After firing the cases once, I clean them all up and make one pass on the neck turner just to “clean” the necks to a consistient diameter. Note, I am not necessarily turning for a specific diameter because I have enough clearance to start with. I do this light turn just for consistency. Sometimes the neck turner might only shave a bit off one side.

Q: What’s your load-testing procedure? Do you have any special methods to evaluate/tune your loads?

Again, my methods are pretty simple. I start with the Sierra Load Manual, select the bullet weight, then find the max load for a recommended accurate powder. I like Hodgdon powders, so I start with an “H” powder with an appropriate burn rate, drop the “max” load about 0.5 grains and start there. Typically there is a sweet spot within half a grain up or down from that starting point. I usually seat my bullets to touch the lands or seat just in a bit. I feel this makes up for any bullet-run out when seating them.

When load-testing, I try to get 100-yard groups to be half an inch or less (quarter-MOA is pretty good for me, but not something I can count on regularly.) I then go to the 300- and 500-yard steel plates to see if the load holds its accuracy. If it does, then the load is good to go. However, I will shoot a 5-shot group every now and again to see if I am still in tune. In fact I was re-testing the 162gr A-Max and 175 gr SMK loads the day I shot the screamers at 1013 yards. Two great groups back to back.

Q: How does your 7 WSM perform in terms of recoil and accuracy? Has it met your expectations?

This rifle is by far one of the most fun rifles I have ever had. The recoil is very minimal with either of the loads and the rifle just plain flat-out shoots. The break-in took all of 21 rounds I think. This rifle shoots sub-2″ groups at 500 yards all day every day (often closer to 1″). Note that I don’t do any shooting from a bench and rests except for the initial load work up. The rest of the time I shoot from a bipod. I would really like to stress that I shoot exclusively with bi-pod and “sand-sock”. So many guys out there think that you have to shoot from a bench to get outstanding results. This simply isn’t true. If you are a disciplined shooter and have correct shooting techniques you can do amazing things from any shooting position. Long Range doesn’t have to be from a rest or bench!

What makes this rifle special is that it has an identical twin, built by Chris for my hunting partner Steve. Both rifles shoot exactly the same–same accuracy, same velocity, same trajectories. I never shot a 1K group with Steve’s gun, but at other distances, including 500 yards, it has performed identically to mine. I shot a sub-moa group of 12 shots one day with the Twins. I shot six shots from each rifle, alternating rifles between shots. Remember this is from the prone position and off a bipod–same load, two different rifles–and it produced a single, sub-MOA group. Now that’s consistency. Both these rifles I call point and shoot rifles–point them on target and they’ll shoot it.

Q: What technique do you use when shooting from bipod?

I basically do Froggy’s technique when shooting from a bipod. I get my natural point of aim, then push forward a bit to pre-load the bipod legs. In gripping the stock, I use just my two middle fingers to apply firm pressure straight back into my shoulder. I’m careful not to torque with the thumb or pinky finger. With my focus on the intended point of aim, I’ll let the cross hairs blur a bit and gently press the trigger until it goes boom. Then follow through, watch for the impact, and chamber the next round.

Looking Out to 1000 Yards, and the Results from Ric’s 7 WSM

Permalink - Articles, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Gear Review, Hunting/Varminting No Comments »
July 7th, 2019

Gun Range Etiquette — Key Advice for Safe Shooting Sessions

Gun Range Safety etiquette NRA Blog Eye Ear Protection Rules

There are important safety and behavior rules you need to follow at a gun range. Sometimes bad range etiquette is simply annoying. Other times poor gun-handling practices can be downright dangerous. The NRA Blog has published a useful article about range safety and “range etiquette”. While these tips were formulated with indoor ranges in mind, most of the points apply equally well to outdoor ranges. You may want to print out this article to provide to novice shooters at your local range or club.

8 Tips for Gun Range Etiquette

Story by Kyle Jillson for NRABlog
Here are eight tips on range etiquette to keep yourself and others safe while enjoying your day [at the range]. Special thanks to NRA Headquarters Range General Manager Michael Johns who assisted with this article.

1. Follow the Three Fundamental Rules for Safe Gun Handling
ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

This NSSF Video Covers Basic Gun Range Safety Rules:

2. Bring Safety Gear (Eye and Ear Protection)
Eye and Ear protection are MANDATORY for proper safety and health, no matter if “required” by range rules or not. It is the shooter’s responsibility to ensure proper protection is secured and used prior to entering/using any range. Hearing loss can be instantaneous and permanent in some cases. Eyesight can be ruined in an instant with a catastrophic firearm failure.

Gun Range Safety etiquette NRA Blog Eye Ear Protection Rules

3. Carry a Gun Bag or Case
Common courtesy and general good behavior dictates that you bring all firearms to a range unloaded and cased and/or covered. No range staff appreciates a stranger walking into a range with a “naked” firearm whose loaded/unloaded condition is not known. You can buy a long gun sock or pistol case for less than $10.

4. Know Your Range’s Rules
Review and understand any and all “range specific” rules/requirements/expectations set forth by your range. What’s the range’s maximum rate of fire? Are you allowed to collect your brass? Are you required to take a test before you can shoot? Don’t be afraid to ask the staff questions or tell them it’s your first time. They’re there to help.

5. Follow ALL Range Officer instructions
ROs are the first and final authority on any range and their decisions are generally final. Arguing/debating with a Range Officer is both in poor taste and may just get you thrown out depending on circumstances.

6. Don’t Bother Others or Touch Their Guns
Respect other shooters’ privacy unless a safety issue arises. Do NOT engage other shooters to correct a perceived safety violation unless absolutely necessary – inform the RO instead. Shooters have the right and responsibility to call for a cease fire should a SERIOUS safety event occur. Handling/touching another shooter’s firearm without their permission is a major breech of protocol. Offering unsolicited “training” or other instructional suggestions to other shooters is also impolite.

7. Know What To Do During a Cease Fire
IMMEDIATELY set down your firearm, pointed downrange, and STEP AWAY from the shooting booth (or bench). The Range Officer(s) on duty will give instructions from that point and/or secure all firearms prior to going downrange if needed. ROs do not want shooters trying to “secure/unload” their firearms in a cease fire situation, possibly in a stressful event; they want the shooters separated from their guns instantly so that they can then control the situation as they see fit.

8. Clean Up After Yourself
Remember to take down your old targets, police your shooting booth, throw away your trash, and return any equipment/chairs, etc. Other people use the range too; no one wants to walk up to a dirty lane.

Permalink - Articles, Shooting Skills, Tech Tip 1 Comment »
July 7th, 2019

Five Fun Targets — To Have Fun Like a Kid Again

Ernie Bishop SEB training target
Here Ernie Bishop, USA Dealer for SEB Coaxial, teaches a young fellow how to shoot. Fun Targets make the learning experience more enjoyable for kids (and adults too).

While AccurateShooter.com focuses on precision rifle shooting and competitive disciplines such as benchrest and F-Class — we know there is more to life than competition. We think it’s important to balance the challenges of competition with plain old fun shooting now and then. In fact, probably 95% of rifle shooting is done for fun at targets inside 200 yards. Most of us got started shooting as kids, just plinking for fun. Here’s an opportunity to be like a kid again — to spend a day at the range just having fun with friends and family members.

Here are FIVE FUN Targets for your next range trip.
Right Click Each to Download Printable PDF Version.

Dart-Board

Bingo Card

Bingo Fun Target

Billiards Ball Rack

Bingo Fun Target

Fly Shoot Grid

fly shoot free target pdf

Aim Small, Miss Small

Dots Target

At 25 yards, this is a fun rimfire plinking target. At longer distances it can actually be a great training target for precision centerfire shooters.

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