June 28th, 2020

Sunday GunDay: Trio of Tack-Driving Thumbhole Varmint Rifles

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Mr. Smith’s Tack-Driving Thumbhole Trio
What is it they say? “Can’t have too much of a good thing?” We’ll in the case of Sam Smith of Wisconsin, that goes for beautiful wood-stocked thumbhole rifles that shoot like the blazes. This week we feature a troika of thumbholes, all smithed and stocked by Richard Franklin of Richard’s Custom Rifles (Richard is now retired but still offers DVDs). Not content with a single caliber or twist, Sam commissioned three different chamberings and barrel twist rates.

First, in Fiddleback Walnut — a 6PPC Walking Varminter
thumbhole varmint rigThe most elegant of the three thumbholes is this handsome .261″-neck 6PPC. The blue-printed Rem 700 action is pillar-bedded in a highly-figured stock of laminated Curley Fiddleback Walnut, in Richard’s #004 pattern. Richard uses three sections of wood bonded together so the outside looks like a single piece of Walnut.

The lead photo at top, and the image at right show more details of this rifle. The grain really takes on a rich color in sunlight, with the Tiger-stripe figure showing brilliantly through the clearcoat. Believe it or not, Sam doesn’t even consider this one of his best-looking rifles. Sam tells us, “these three thumbhole stocks are not even close to the prettiest guns Richard has built for me–you should see the Maple ones he did for me–they are unbelievable.”

Sam tells us the gun’s 1:14″-twist Krieger barrel is a hummer — it regularly shoots one-holers at 100 yards. Sam has even logged some groups in the Zeros with the gun–awesome accuracy for a varmint rifle/Sam tells us that, using VV N133 and 58gr V-max bullets, this gun is absolutely deadly on prairie dogs out to 500 yards. (SEE: One-hole Sample Target.)

Rifle #2 — Cherry and Walnut Together in a 6mm Rem Improved

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When more knock-down power or more distant targets are in order, Sam pulls out his 6mm Rem Improved 1:12″-twist thumbhole Varminter. Like the other two guns, this features a pillar-bedded Remington 700 action and Krieger barrel. While the 6mm AI’s #004 stock shares the same shape and form as the 6PPC above, it is much more colorful, employing a seven-layer laminate in Cherry and Walnut, covered with multiple coats of automotive clear-coat. One of Sam’s favorite varminters, this rifle sees more range use than his 6PPC because “the PPC is so accurate I want to keep the round count down.” That’s not to say the 6mm Improved is any slouch in the accuracy department. Using VV N160 and 75gr V-max bullets, the gun averages in the 2s and 3s. The best group to date was .189″ with the 87gr V-Max (See V-Max Target below). Chalk that up to another superbly accurate Krieger barrel combined with outstanding chambering work by Richard.

6mm Rem Improved with 87gr V-Max at 100 Yards
6mm Rem improved target

Rifle #3 — Fast-Twist 6.5-284 with Benchrest Forearm

6.5-284 with Benchrest Forearm

Last but not least is Sam’s handsome 6.5-284 (below), also in a laminated Walnut and Cherry stock. The Krieger barrel is a Heavy Varmint contour, with an 8-twist and .290″ neck. This gun hasn’t been shot much yet, but during initial testing it grouped in the mid-threes with 53gr of H4831 and 142gr Sierra MKs. You’ll note the stock is a bit different than the other two guns–this is the #005 stock pattern, which boasts a 3″-wide, flat forearm. It is identical to the #004 from the recoil lug rearward. Sam tells us that the #005 tracks better than the #004, though he prefers the rounded forearm of the #004 for a walking varminter.

Sam’s all-time favorite stock pattern in Richard’s #007, a roll-over comb design with conventional wrist and Cooper-style Beavertail forearm. Sam has a similar Maple #007 that he says is “even nicer than the gun in the picture.”

Nice Wood? You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet!
After this trio of thumbhole rifles, Sam commissioned two more rifles — a matched pair in 6mm BR Norma and 6PPC, done up in absolutely amazing 500 year-old Turkish Walnut, sourced from a one-of-a-kind 48″ diameter Burl. What does a piece of wood like this cost? Trust us, if you have to ask, you couldn’t possibly afford it. Let us just say these are some of the most spectacularly figured blanks ever shipped from Turkey and they are priced accordingly. Here’s a preview, taken right before Richard bonded the first stock together. The lower two pieces look lighter because of the flash angle but the upper section more accurately shows how all three pieces appear in natural light. “Wow” is right!

gunday sunday varmint rifles Richard Franklin Custom rifles virginia thumbhole

Richard Franklin is Now Retired in Montana
The last we heard, gunsmith Richard Franklin was enjoying his retirement years up in Montana. On RichardsCustomRifles.com Richard posted: “I built fine custom rifles and for many years. I was the first stock maker to laminate woods such high-grade walnut, fiddleback maple and other fancy woods. I designed my own ideas into my patterns and carved, finished, pillar bedded thousands of stocks on the rifles I built. My most popular stock pattern was my Model 11 thumbhole.

I love building rifles but my health has forced me to retire and to take time to smell the roses. I made many great videos on how to build rifles and have been selling them for many years. They are still in great demand.” CLICK HERE to check out Richard’s DVDs about rifle building and varmint hunting.

gunday sunday varmint rifles Richard Franklin Custom rifles virginia thumbhole

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June 28th, 2020

Tactical Treatises — Four Good Books for PRS/NRL Competitors

PRS NRL precision rifle training book print resource manual gun handling instruction

Are you looking to get started in PRS and NRL practical precision rifle competition? Or perhaps you’d like to advance your skill set so you can place higher in big matches (and get your hands on some of those prize table items)? Of course there is no substitute for trigger time in the field, but there ARE some great print resources. These four books can help you select the right equipment, improve your shooting skills, make better wind calls, increase your fitness level, and develop a more efficient between-match training program.

Tactical Practical PRS Precision Rifle Series NRL NRL22 good books

1. IMPACT! — Training and Preparing for Precision Rifle Matches

Rodney Maze, $19.99 Paperback, $4.99 Kindle

PRS NRL precision rifle training book print resource manual gun handling instruction

Impact!, by PRS competitor Rodney Maze, is an entry/intermediate level guide to preparing yourself and your equipment to compete in precision rifle type matches. It will also benefit anyone looking to learn about practical-style long range and precision shooting. We recommend you check it out for yourself — there are 20 Pages of free sample content on Amazon. Topics covered include:

— Rifle, optic, and equipment selection
— Setting up your rifle, bags, tripods for PRS/NRL matches
— Understanding ballistics and how to record and use ballistic data
— Techniques for using holdovers for multi-target stages
— Gun skills, rapid fire techniques, clearing malfunctions
— Shooting off of barricades, and specialty stages
— Effects of wind and how to improve your wind calls
— Tips for live fire and dry fire practice
— Preparing yourself and your equipment for a match
— Mental strategies and techniques

Impact! is illustrated with plenty of photographs. Topics are divided logically, and concepts are explained in clear language. Also included is an extensive glossary of terms used in precision shooting and a list of additional resources you can use to further pursue your precision shooting knowledge. This book also includes a handy Appendix with formatted pages for recording data about your rifle, scope, and ammunition. There is also a Wind table for recording your rifle “dope” and wind hold-offs. Lastly, Impact! has a useful table of unit conversions.

2. Practical Shooter’s Guide

Marcus Blanchard, $19.99 Paperback, $9.99 Kindle

Marcus Blanchard Practical Shooter's Guide

Thinking of getting started in the Practical/Tactical shooting game? Looking for ways to be more stable when shooting from unconventional positions? Then you may want to read Marcus Blanchard’s Practical Shooter’s Guide (A How-To Approach for Unconventional Firing Positions and Training). Unlike almost every “how to shoot” book on the market, Blanchard’s work focuses on the shooting skills and positions you need to succeed in PRS matches and similar tactical competitions. Blanchard provides clear advice on shooting from barricades, from roof-tops, from steep angles. Blanchard says you need to train for these types of challenges: “I believe the largest factor in the improvement of the average shooter isn’t necessarily the gear; it’s the way the shooter approaches obstacles and how they properly train for them.”

3. Long Range Shooting Handbook

Ryan Cleckner, $19.85 Paperback, $9.99 Kindle

Ryan Cleckner’s Long Range Shooting Handbook is the best-selling modern book on practical rifle skills. A former U.S. Army sniper instructor, Cleckner is knowledgeable, and his text is well-organized and chock full of good information. You can view Sample Chapters on Amazon.com.

Ryan Cleckner’s highly-regarded Long Range Shooting Handbook is designed as an intro to important fundamental concepts such as MOA vs. Mils, External Ballistics, and Environmental Effects. Included are personal tips and advice based on Cleckner’s years of experience as a sniper instructor and special operations sniper.

The Long Range Shooting Handbook is divided into three main categories: What It Is/How It Works, Fundamentals, and How to Use It. “What It Is/How It Works” covers equipment, terminology, and basic principles. “Fundamentals” covers the theory of long range shooting. “How to Use It” gives practical advice on implementing what you’ve learned, so you can progress as a skilled, long range shooter. This book will benefit any long-range shooter, not just PRS/NRL competitors.

4. Official U.S. Army Sniper Training and Operations Manual

From U.S. Army Sources, $17.59 paperback.

PRS NRL precision rifle training book print resource manual gun handling instruction

This U.S. Army Sniper Training Manual is a very comprehensive resource, with over 450 pages of information in a large 8.5″x11″ format. NOTE: Unlike other editions on Amazon, this is NOT the basic, outdated FM 23-10. This is the completely-overhauled 450+ page edition (FM 3-22.10). Heavily illustrated, this is a very useful resource for tactical/practical precision shooter. Employed as the “textbook” for the U.S. Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, GA, this big manual explains ranging methods, rifle handling, optics selection and operation, and rifle maintenance.

There is also extensive discussion of ballistics, wind reading, and weather effects. Practical competitors will appreciate the discussions of moving targets, range estimation, and range safety procedures. One reviewer explains: “This book contains the distilled wisdom of the Sniper School’s instructors and expert marksmen, giving you over 450 pages of unique insight into the long range combat shooter’s art.”

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June 28th, 2020

Need to Swap Barrels? Get Grizzly Barrel Vise for $38.95

Grizzly Barrel Vise clamping barrel swap

Grizzly.com has a handy product that should prove very useful for readers who need to swap barrels. This CNC-Machined aluminum barrel vise can be used in your home workshop, or on the road. In the field the vise can be fitted to a block of wood which can then be temporarily clamped to a bench. Or, as you can see below, you can mount the vise to a trailer hitch for use during a match or varmint hunt. The barrel vise is currently ON SALE for just $38.95.

Grizzly Barrel Vise clamping barrel swap

This vise was designed by a member of the U.S. Shooting Team for quickly changing barrels up to 1.5 inches in diameter. Made of T-6061 Aluminum, the top clamping part of the vise is spring loaded so you can hold the gun with one hand while tightening the two nuts with the other. Grizzly notes: “Sometimes the action and scope can even remain on the rifle stock while the barrel is changed out.”

Clamping Range: Secures 7/8″ to 1.5″ Diameter Barrels
Block Dimensions: 5″ x 2.5″ x 1.4″ (Upper); 7.5″ x 2.5″ x 1.1″ (Lower)
Bolt Diameter: 3/4″ | Mounting: Use 1/2″ Hex Bolts to secure

IMPORTANT: This vise was designed for 7/8″ to 1.5″-diameter barrels. It may not work correctly with barrel diameters outside that range, or with unusual barrel contours. Not recommended for fine, polished blued steel barrels unless you protect the barrel surface before clamping. For most situations, where practical, we would remove the barreled action from the stock before using the vise.

Product Tip from EdLongRange. We welcome Reader Submissions.
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