November 9th, 2014

IBS Gear Spotlight: Home-Built Co-Axial (Joystick) Front Rest

Do-It-Yourself Joystick Rest — Jeff’s Labor of Love
Quite a few competitors chamber their own barrels, and a few construct their own stocks. But Jeff Godfrey takes the prize for do-it-yourself audacity — he built his own co-axial front rest from scratch. Sam Hall provides this report:

“Jeff, one of Piedmont Gun Club’s regulars, is a talented fabricator. He made one of the smoothest joystick rests that I have ever laid my hands on. Jeff’s home-built coaxial rest rivals the Farley and Seb Max. It will also handle a wide fore-end Heavy Gun. Constructing virtually every part of this rest from scratch, Jeff made his own co-axial to save money. You have to admire his ingenuity and his dedication. Jeff says it took him over 100 hours to make. He said there would be no way he could make another one for profit!”

IBS Benchrest Piedmont Rutherfordton 600 yards Sam Hall

Permalink Gear Review, Gunsmithing 3 Comments »
October 22nd, 2014

Storage Sacks for Firearms in Your Safe

Bore-Store Gun SacksOur take on Bore-Store Gun sleeves is simple: They work great, so buy them and use them — for ALL your valuable firearms.

These thick, synthetic-fleece sacks cushion your guns, preventing nicks and scratches. The breathable fabric wicks away moisture, and the fibers are coating with corrosion inhibitors. I personally use Bore-Stores for in-safe storage with all my guns, and I have never had one of my guns rust inside a Bore-Store, even when I lived a stone’s throw from the ocean.

Bore-Stores are offered in a wide range of sizes, so you can find something to fit everything from a Snub-nosed revolver to a 32″-barrelled 50 BMG. Rifle-size Bore Stores can be purchased for $12.00 – $21.00 from Brownells. For long F-Class or tactical rifles, we recommend the 10″x52″ Scoped Shotgun Bag, Brownells item 132-000-003. You can also order direct from the Bore-Store manufacturer, Big Spring Enterprises, www.BoreStores.com. Big Spring will also craft custom sizes on request.

Consider Military-Style, Triple-Layer Bags for Long-Term Storage
While we prefer Bore-Stores for regularly-used guns, if you have heirloom firearms that will be kept in storage for very long periods without seeing any use, you may want to grease them up and place them in the thin, but rugged three-layer storage bags sold by Brownells. The bags are made from a three-layer laminate of polyester, aluminum, and polyethylene film, with a shiny silver exterior. Though the laminate is thin, the Brownells storage bags are puncture-resistant, and have a 0% moisture transmission rating so moisture can’t get inside. These bags are also resistant to petroleum-based chemicals and they won’t break down even in contact with soil or moisture.

3-layer Brownells storage bagHere’s one VITAL bit of advice for using these bags. Be absolutely sure, before you seal up the bags, that your guns are DRY and that all metal surfaces have been coated with an effective anti-corrosive, such as BoeShield T9 or Eezox. Brownells’ storage bags are inexpensive. A three-pak of 12″x 60″ rifle sacks (item 083-055-003WB) costs just $22.99 — under eight bucks a gun. That’s cheap insurance for rifles and shotguns that may cost thousands of dollars.

Get Your Guns Out of Foam-lined Cases — They Are Rust Magnets
Just about the worst thing you can do in the winter (short of leaving your rifle outside in the rain) is to store firearms in tight, foam-padded cases. The foam in these cases actually collects and retains moisture from the air, acting as the perfect breeding ground for rust.

Foam-lined hard caseRemember, those plastic-shelled cases with foam interiors are for transport, not for long-term storage. Don’t repeat the mistake of a wealthy gun collector I know. He stored four valuable Colt Single Action Army (SAA) revolvers in individual foam-padded cases, and locked these away in his gun safe. A year later, every one of his precious SAAs had rusted, some badly.

Permalink Gear Review, Tech Tip 9 Comments »
October 18th, 2014

Fun Gun for the Family? Try a Repro 1866 or 1873 Lever Gun

While devotees of this site are hard-core accuracy addicts, who normally shoot tiny groups with sophisticated Benchrest and Varmint rifles, we should not overlook the pure fun of shooting a simple rifle at reactive targets.

Uberti 1866 1873 Winchester lever gun

Nailing a nice, tight 1/4-moa group is very satisfying. But for pure unadulterated shooting fun, it’s hard to beat a slicked-up “race-ready”, Winchester-clone lever gun. In fact, this editor’s favorite rifle for “fun shooting” is my 20″ Uberti Model 1866 “Yellowboy” Lever gun. Shooting light-loaded 38 SPL rounds at steel targets from a standing position offers old-fashioned shooting satisfaction. On the “fun meter” this tops the scale. My rifle features a slicked-up action and lightened trigger. After a “CodyMatic” action job by cowboy gunsmith Cody Conagher, my Yellowboy’s lever can be cycled with just one finger. Trigger pull is about a pound and a quarter. The high-gloss, blued octagonal barrel is very accurate and the mirror-finish bore cleans up easily.

Uberti Winchester 1866 Yellowboy

Based on the Model 1866 Winchester, Uberti’s Yellowboy, and its Model 1873 “older brother”, feature a toggle-link action that is extremely smooth. The toggle action design also keeps the linkages separate from the chamber so the gun runs extremely clean. After firing a hundred rounds or more, all you need to do is wipe off the bolt and breech-face with some solvent and run a bore-snake down the bore a few times. To be honest, the Yellowboy is more fun to shoot at steel than my AR Carbine. And maintenance-wise, for every five minutes I spend maintaining the 1866, I’ll spend an hour detail-stripping and cleaning the AR. The shooting-to-cleaning ratio favors the lever gun by orders of magnitude.

Uberti Winchester 1866 Yellowboy

These Italian-made Winchester clones are very handsome, with nicely figured wood under a durable clearcoat. You can polish the brass receiver to keep it shiny, or leave it alone to develop an authentic, dulled patina. Uberti’s Model 1873 features a steel receiver with gorgeous color case-hardening.

Uberti Winchester 1873

After the fun factor, what’s the best thing about Uberti lever guns? Resale value. I can sell my 1866 for quite a bit more than I paid for it. Over the past decade, the price of Italian-made Uberti lever guns has been steadily rising. This means that older rifles fetch a premium on the used market.

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October 2nd, 2014

World’s Most Expensive Scope? $12K Hensoldt 6-24x72mm SAM

When does a scope cost as much as a new Harley-Davidson? When it is a top-of-the-line 72mm Hensoldt (by Zeiss). The remarkable Hensoldt ZF 6-24x72mm SAM scope integrates ultra-bright apochromatic fluorite glass with a calculator module that provides ballistic info and weather data to the shooter. This 6-24x72mm SAM Hensoldt may be the most advanced riflescope on the planet. With a street price of $11,982.00, it is certainly one of the most expensive. Take a 360° tour with this cool video from Hensoldt Zeiss.

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Hensoldt ZF 6-24x72mm SAM
SAM stands for “Sniper Auxiliary Module”. An integrated ballistics calculator can be programmed for up to four different types of ammo. Sensors in the integrated ring mount measure weather parameters. These values, as well as scope data, are then directly projected into the visual field of the eyepiece. This provides selectable displays of elevation clicks, windage clicks, angle of fire, cant angle, temperature, and air pressure.

Hensoldt Zeiss

Hensoldt Zeiss

Hensoldt Zeiss

Permalink Gear Review, Optics 6 Comments »
October 1st, 2014

BYO War Wagon — Shooting Trailer for Varmint Safaris

In our Shooters’ Forum thread about Portable Shooting Benches, Forum member John H. of New Mexico (aka “Skratch”) showed off a nicely-crafted mobile shooting bench that he can haul with his ATV. This trailer-mounted, movable bench is built on a central tubular spine that also serves as the tongue for the trailer, which attaches to a standard hitch. The bench offers two (2) shooting positions so it works for both left-handed and right-handed shooters.

Shooting Varmint Bench Trailer

Up front, for storage, a surplus .50-Cal ammo can is secured to the trailer frame. The V-shaped middle section of the wood benchtop looks to be reinforced with a metal stiffener frame on the underside. The front section of the bench is supported by twin tubular uprights attached to the box-section axle housing. The two wooden bench-style seats (on left and right) ride on a cross-tube. At the ends of that cross-tube are adjustable legs for additional support.

Shooting Varmint Bench Trailer

Great Rig for New Mexico Varmint Hunting
There are plenty of great varmint hunting areas in Skratch’s home state of New Mexico — you’ll find some huge prairie dog fields there. But to get the best results on a varmint-hunting field session, you need a solid shooting station that can be easily hauled to new locations as needed. It looks like John (aka “Scratch”) has come up with an outstanding “War Wagon” for his New Mexico varmint safaris.

Click on image frames to see full-size photos

Some readers wanted to know how John’s War Wagon is positioned in the field and if it is ever detached from John’s ATV. John answers: “We do unhook the 4-wheeler for target-checking unless we have an extra along which is usually the case. That way we can level the table front to rear. We have an umbrella from a patio table to provide shade on extra warm days.”

Permalink Gear Review, Hunting/Varminting No Comments »
September 29th, 2014

You Can’t Shoot What You Can’t See

“All dressed up and nowhere to go” was the comment our IT guy, Jay Christopherson, sent with this photo. This is Jay’s testing set-up at his home range, complete with PVM-21 chronograph and wireless target-cam. The camera signal is sent, via WiFi, to Jay’s laptop computer. However, even with all that high-tech electronic gear, you can’t make the shot if you can’t see the target through the rifle-scope. On this morning, heavy ground fog completely obscured the target. Jay told us: “I ended up waiting a little over an hour for the fog to burn off enough so that I could see the 600-yard target. What was funny was that I had a perfectly clear picture of the target via the target-cam and monitor. But there was no way to aim the rifle since the riflescope showed nothing but fog.”

PVM-21 Target Cam Camera Labradar Video Fog F-class Washington Jay

This photo was taken by Jay at the Cascade Shooting Facility in Ravensdale, WA. The rifle is Jay’s .284 Shehane F-Class rifle. Jay was testing primers for Extreme Spread (ES) variation around 9:00 am. Nature was not cooperating. Jay was running Hodgdon H4831sc and testing various primers to see which provided the best numbers.

The chronograph is the Kurzzheit PVM-21. Equipped with infrared sensors, the PVM-21 is our “go-to” chron for most velocity testing, with an Oehler 35P for “back-up”. The PVM-21 (now updated with Kurzzheit’s BMC-19 model) sets up quickly and gives reliable results in any light conditions. But there is something even more sophisticated on the horizon — the new Labradar, a “stand-off” chronograph that uses Doppler radar to measure bullet speed.

PVM-21 Target Cam Camera Labradar Video Fog F-class Washington Jay

Jay explains: “I am (somewhat) patiently waiting for the new Labradar to release. The PVM-21 works pretty well most of the time and is easy to setup. I do get odd readings out of it every so often, but they are pretty obvious when they occur.” The advantage of the Labradar (if it ever comes to market) is that the unit sits to the left or right of the rifle. The Labradar is situated out of the bullet path, so there is no chance of shooting the chronograph by accident. Another advantage of the Labradar is that you can set it up without needing to go forward of the firing line, which would require a safety break.

Permalink Gear Review, Tech Tip 4 Comments »
September 21st, 2014

Solvent-Resistant Cleaning Jags Eliminate “False Positives”

Brass jags perform well for their intended purpose — with one hitch. Strong copper solvents can actually leech metal from the jag itself, leaving the tell-tale blue tint on your patches. This “false positive” can be frustrating, and may lead shooters to over-clean their barrels.

Nylon JagGunslick Nylon Spire-Point Jags
There are now some good alternatives to brass jags. The best may be the Gunslick® Nylon Snap-Lock™ jags shown at right. These never leave a “false positive”. A while back, Larry Bartholome, past USA F-Class Team Captain told us: “The best spear-type jags I have used are the GunSlick black nylon tips. I have used the model 92400 for the last couple years in my 6BR and 6.5-284s. Unlike the white plastic jags, these are strong and there’s no brass to worry about.” You can purchase these nylon jags directly from GunSlick just $1.49 each. At that price, they’re worth a try.

#92400 for 22 through 270 calibers: $1.49
#92421 for 30 through 375/8mm calibers: $1.49
#92423 for 38 through 38/9mm calibers: $1.49


MidwayUSA Nickel Cleaning JagsTipton Nickel-Coated Jags
If you prefer a metal jag, consider the Tipton Nickel-coated Ultra Jags, sold both individually and as a boxed set. All Tipton nickel-plated jags have 8-32 thread, except for the .17 caliber jag which has a 5-40 thread. The vast majority of user reviews have been very positive. A few guys have complained that the nickel-plated Tipton jags run oversize, but we use a .22-caliber jag in our 6mms anyway, so this hasn’t been a problem for us. The 6mm (.243 caliber) nickel-plated jag (MidwayUSA item 259834) costs $4.79. The complete 12-jag set, covering .17 to .45 calibers, including a flip-top carry case, is offered by Midsouth Shooters Supply for $17.56 (Midsouth item 094-500012).

For a couple dollars more, you can get the new-style, 12-Jag Kit from MidwayUSA (Midway item, 812503, $19.99). This features an easy-to-use, clear-topped fitted caddy that can lie flat on your bench, or be attached vertically (to save space).

MidwayUSA Nickel Cleaning JagsMidwayUSA Nickel Cleaning Jags


Clear-Coating Your Brass Jags
If you’re reluctant to give up your collection of brass jags (after all they’ve worked pretty well so far), try covering the jag itself with a thin, transparent coating. Forum Member BillPA says: “I give the brass jags a coat of clear lacquer or acrylic; that works for me”. You may need to experiment to find a coating that stands up to your favorite solvent. BillPA says: “The only solvent I’ve found that eats the lacquer off is TM Solution. Butch’s, Shooter’s Choice, or Wipe-Out don’t seem to bother it. Most of the time I use rattle-can clear lacquer”. If you’re feeling creative, you could even color-code your jags by adding tints to the clear-coat.

Permalink Gear Review, Tech Tip 6 Comments »
September 17th, 2014

Thumbhole and Pistol Grip Tactical Stocks from McMillan

McMillan stock gunstock A-2 A-TH A3 tacticalMost of us are familiar with McMillan’s popular “A” series of tactical gunstocks. The original A-2 is a still-popular “tactical classic”. The A-3, a modified, lighter version of the A-2, is probably the most widely-used field sniper stock. The A-4, originally designed for the USMC, features a butthook on the underside of the stock — a feature you now see on many other tactical designs.

In addition to its conventional A-series stocks (A2-A5), McMillan now offers two very different tactical stock designs: the A-TH and the TPR. These stocks are designed to work well for off-hand as well as prone shooting. They offer many of the advantages of a chassis-style stock with durable, user-friendly fiberglass construction. If you are planning a tactical rifle project for the Precision Rifle Series or other application, you may want to consider the A-TH and the TPR.

McMillan stock gunstock A-2 A-TH A3 tacticalMcMillan A-TH Thumbhole Stock
The A-TH stock was created after numerous customer requests for a thumbhole stock in McMillan’s tactical line. It uses a flat, square-type forearm very similar to the popular A-3 but with textured grooves on the sides for better grip when shooting off-hand. The butt-hook also has texture and a thumb groove for enhanced grip and control when shooting off a bench or prone. The ergonomics of the pistol grip are designed to put the shooter’s hand in the most natural and comfortable position. The A-TH must be ordered with one of the integral cheekpiece options and is available in right hand only. It can be inletted for most Remington, Sako, Tikka, and Savage blind magazine type actions and for barrel contours up to a 1.250″ straight blank. Color shown: Tan, Dark tan, Olive vertical marbling.

McMillan stock gunstock A-2 A-TH A3 tactical

McMillan TPR Stock
In designing the pistol grip TPR stock, McMillan came up with something completely different — not just another “A” series variant. The design evolved from a desire to create a stock that offers everything that a straight line chassis stock offers along with the enhanced accuracy, vibration damping, and recoil reduction characteristics of a fiberglass stock. Fully ambidextrous, the TPR can be inletted for most Remington 700 type actions and Savage blind magazine actions. The forearm can be inletted for most barrel contours up to a 1.350″ diameter straight contour and has enough depth for installation of a Versa-Pod bipod stud. Color shown: 50% olive, 25% black, 25% tan marble.

McMillan stock gunstock A-2 A-TH A3 tactical


McMillan stock gunstock A-2 A-TH A3 tactical

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September 14th, 2014

Combo RAS Tuner & Muzzle Brake from Bostrom Gunsmithing

RAS Rifle Accuracy System TunerProduct Preview by Jim Bennington
Rifle accuracy and precision have come a long way in the past 15 years. The most recent tool to significantly improve precision is the barrel tuning system. The Rifle Accuracy System (RAS) developed by Precision Rifle Systems, LLC of Myakka City, Florida, brings a fresh approach to tuning. The RAS incorporates a precision muzzle brake with the tuner.

This system provides significant precision improvements and was the subject of a June 2012 Precision Shooting (PS) magazine article, titled “Improved Rifle Accuracy” and will also be featured in an article in the November 2012 issue of PS titled “Tuning with Confidence”.

READ MORE about RAS Tuner Tests on .260 AI, .223 Rem, and 22LR rimfire rifles.

Copies of both articles and detailed instructions on RAS installation and tuning can be downloaded from www.bostromgunsmithing.com. Eric Bostrom is the distributor for the RAS.

RAS Rifle Accuracy System Tuner

Accuracy is the ability of a firearm to hit what it is aimed at within the limits of the precision of that firearm. Precision is the ability of a firearm to place successive shots in or near the first shot. A firearm that delivers one minute of angle (1 MOA) precision should, at 100 yards, place the bullet within roughly one inch of where it is aimed (actually 1.047″), or a sight adjustment should correct the problem. All the improvements in optics, manufacturing and components have allowed precision expectations to go from 1 MOA to 1/2 MOA or even sub-quarter-MOA.

RAS Rifle Accuracy System Tuner

What is the next frontier for the precision rifle? While all the other advancements were being made, advancements in the understanding and methods of managing the barrel vibrations were also being made. Once the rifle has been built and the loads developed, it is the management of the barrel vibrations that has the final influence on the bullet as it is leaving the barrel and the final influence on precision. The RAS has demonstrated with many different rifles and calibers that significant improvements can be made with a properly tuned barrel tuner system. What does this mean? Typically, there is a noteworthy improvement. In fact group size improvements between 30% and 60% have been observed with a properly-tuned barrel tuner system. This has been demonstrated on both custom rifles and loads and factory rifles.

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September 9th, 2014

PT&G Replacement Bolt Heads for Savage Bolts

If you own a Savage rifle, here’s a product you should consider. Pacific Tool & Gauge now offers precision-machined replacement bolt heads for Savages. This product, available in a variety of bolt face sizes for $49.50 per unit, can benefit nearly everyone who shoots Savage bolt guns.

Pacific Tool PTG Savage Bolt Head

CLICK HERE for Full Product Review of PT&G Savage Bolt Head

German Salazar’s excellent Rifleman’s Journal website features an in-depth review of the PT&G Replacement Bolt Head for Savage Bolts. Written by Norm Darnell, this detailed review explains the benefits of the PT&G replacements, compared to the standard Savage bolt heads. After polishing, the factory bolt head can become slightly dished. According to Darnell: “The area around the firing pin hole sometimes has an indentation deep enough to allow the primer to flow into this void. This makes an unsightly blemish on a fired primer and can lead to hard extraction or worse. One [Savage] rifle I inspected had a continuing problem with pierced primers despite reasonably mild loads[.]” Even after machining the factory bolt face to make it flat, Darnell encountered problems: “The firing pin hole seemed to wear excessively which was of some concern. Material strength of the … bolt head* appears to be the source of these recurring problems.”

Pacific Tool PTG Savage Bolt Head

After testing out PT&G replacement bolt heads, Darnell found that his problems were solved. With the PT&G replacement bolt head, “the cartridge case heads and primers indicated no case-head rounding or primer damage”. Darnell was convinced, so he proceeded to fit PT&B bolt heads “on all three of my 308 bolts and one 223 with one spare bolt of each.” It appears that PT&G has a winner here — a smart, very affordable product that remedies a commonly-observed problem with factory Savage bolt heads.

* In the article, author Darnell writes that Savage factory bolt heads are investment cast. Fred Moreo of Sharp Shooter Supply says this is not correct: “Savage bolt heads were NEVER investment cast. From the get-go they were machined from solid stock. In 1988 they went to special profiled 41L40 bar stock to save machining operations and heat treated to 35-42 RC.”

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September 4th, 2014

Blast from the Past — Setting Benchrest Records in 1955

Way back in 1955 Sierra Bullets offered a $1000 prize for anyone setting a new Aggregate benchrest record with a 6mm (or larger) bullet. At the time the .222 Remington ruled the roost, and Sierra wanted to promote the larger caliber. Sierra also offered a $250.00 prize for a record-breaking performance with any size caliber (including the .22s). Here is the story of how a Tulsa shooter claimed the $250.00 award with a world-record-setting Aggregate involving 10-shot groups at 100 and 200 yards.

Barney M. Auston of Tulsa, OK with rifle he built to break NBRSA record and win $250 cash award from Sierra Bullets. (From cover of Precision Shooting magazine. May 1956).

The rifle is built on an FN Mauser action with double set trigger, with a Hart stainless steel barrel, 30″ x 1 1/8″ and chambered for the .222 Remington cartridge. The stock, made by Auston, has a Hydraulic bedder as made by L. F. Landwehr of Jefferson City, MO. The scope is a 24 power, 2″ inch Unertl. Mr. Auston shot 50 grain bullets, custom made by W. M. Brown of Augusta, Ohio, with .705″ Sierra cups and soft swedged. His powder charge was 21 grains of 4198. The rifle rests, both front and rear, were also made by Mr. Auston.

Record-Setting Performance
On August 20, 1955, shooting at night in a registered shoot on the John Zink range near Tulsa, Oklahoma, Barney M. Auston of Tulsa broke the existing National Match Course aggregate record and, as the first to do that in 1955, won the Sierra Bullets $250 cash award. Here is the original Sierra Bullets prize offer from 1955:

10-Shot Groups at 100 and 200
Mr. Auston’s winning Aggregate for the National Match Course (five 10-shot groups at 100 yards and five 10-shot groups at 200 yards) was .4512 MOA. He also broke the 200-yard aggregate with an average of .4624 MOA, beating the .4801 match MAO record set by L.E. Wilson only a month earlier.

Barney Auston was a custom rifle maker in Tulsa who fabricated the rifles used by many of the leading benchrest competitors in the Mid-Continent and Guild Coast Regions. Auston was himself one of the top benchrest shooters in those regions during his shooting career.

Editor’s Note: Both of Mr. Auston’s records were broken before the end of the 1955 shooting season, but Auston was the first to win the Sierra Prize. Interestingly, in setting his record, Austin broke the existing Agg record by L.E. Wilson of Cashmere, Washington — yes, the same L.E. Wilson that now makes dies.

Permalink Competition, Gear Review 1 Comment »
September 4th, 2014

Harris Bipod Adapter for Flat-Bottomed Stocks

Harris #9 hb9 flat-bottom flat foreend stock adapter accurateshooter.comFlat-bottomed stocks are great for benchrest shooting, but their geometry is not ideal for mounting conventional Harris bipods, which were originally designed for stocks with a curved underbelly. Long-time Forum member Mark S. wanted to know if there is a way to make a stud-mounted bipod more secure on a flat-bottomed stock: “I have started shooting some steel matches that require shooting from bipods. My best gun for the job is a 6BRX in a MBR benchrest stock. I have installed a stud, but the bipod is still wanting to turn sometimes. What do you use?”

Here’s a solution for Mark and others using Harris bipods on flat-bottomed stocks with studs. Get the Harris-made #9 (HB9) adapter. Costing just $21.05 (at Midsouth), the HB9 adapter provides an extended contact surface with pads, so the bipod will fit securely on your flat fore-end.The HB9 adapter also has a center cut-out for the swivel stud so the bipod adapter aligns properly on the underside of your stock:

Harris #9 hb9 flat-bottom flat foreend stock adapter accurateshooter.com

Midsouth Shooters Supply sells the Harris #9 (HB9) flat-bottom stock adapter for $21.05, part number 053-9. CLICK HERE to order.

Permalink Gear Review, Tech Tip 4 Comments »