“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.”
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.
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 advantages is that you can set it up without needing to walk forward of the firing line.
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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.
Gunslick 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
Tipton 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).
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.
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Most 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 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 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.
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Product 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.
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.
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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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.
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.”
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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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.
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.
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Flat-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:
Hunting season is right around the corner. If you don’t own a worthy deer-hunting rig, there are many affordable options available. You can often save yourself $100.00 or more by purchasing a “turn-key” deer rifle package — a hunting rifle combo complete with rings and rifle-scope.
The American Hunter magazine website recently published a guide to affordable package hunting rigs. Jon Draper spotlights Four Off-The-Rack Deer Rifle Combos from Howa, Mossberg, Ruger, and Savage. Two of the four rigs, the Mossberg and Savage entries, come in at under $500 including scope/rings. Next up is the Ruger American Rifle, priced at $679.00 MSRP with 3-9x40mm Redfield Revolution scope.
The priciest entry is Howa’s Hunter Zeiss Walnut Package. MSRP is a not insubtantial $1103.00 for the Howa package, but this includes a premium-quality Zeiss Terra 3-9x42mm optic. The Howa also has a very nice two-stage 2.5 to 3.8-lb HACT trigger* that we prefer to the triggers on the other three, lesser-priced rifles.
To learn more, CLICK HERE to read the American Hunter Deer Rifle Combo article.
* HACT stands for Howa Actuator Controlled Trigger. Howa’s HACT assembly is a trigger and sear unit that works like a two-stage trigger. This allows the shooter to take up trigger creep before squeezing through. HACT trigger pull weight adjusts from 2.5 to 3.8 pounds. We like the lower weight for varmint rifles shot from prone or portable benches, while we prefer the heavier pull weight for a carry rifle.
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For centerfire ammo, you can choose from dozens of flip-top boxes, storage bins, or milsurp-style ammo cans. For rimfire ammo, there are not so many good choices. Our preferred rimfire ammo carrier is the MTM SB-200 Small-Bore Fitted Ammo Box. This flip-top plastic box holds 100 rimfire rounds in 10×5 black grids on the left and right. In the center is a storage area that will hold another 100 rounds in factory boxes. MTM’s SB-200 box was recently re-designed so it will now hold 17 HMR rounds, as well as 17 Mach 2, 22 short, 22 Win Mag Rimfire, and of course 22 Long Rifle (.22LR)
MTM Case-Gard 200 Round Smallbore Box
This is really the only product of its kind on the market. It allows you to conveniently and securely hold 200 rimfire rounds, and also segregate your ammo by brand or bullet type. These boxes fit all types of popular rimfire ammunition. The vertical clearance of the lid is sufficient to hold the longer .22 WMR Rounds, and 17 HMR (as well as .22 LR naturally). The lid fits securely so you don’t have to worry about your rimfire ammo spilling out on the way to the range.
If you don’t have one of these boxes yet, we recommend you order one or two. They cost less than $15.00 and are available in Blue or “Rust” (a brick color).
A quality borescope is a pricey tool, but once you get to use one, it’s hard to imagine how you ever did without it. To learn how a borescope can help you diagnose barrel issues, you should read a Rifle Shooter magazine feature story, What the Eye Can See.
In this article, writer Terry Wieland explains how to inspect for defects in new barrels, how to recognize different kinds of fouling (in both barrels and brass), and how to spot throat erosion in its early stages. Terry uses a Gradient Lens HawkEye BoreScope. The current generation of HawkEyes can be attached to a still or video camera to record digital images of your bore. The most interesting part of the article is on the second page. There, author Wieland provides photos of various types of internal flaws that can appear in barrels. This will help you spot pitting, excessive land wear, rust damage, and damage from corrosive primers.
Wieland notes that BoreScopes aren’t just for barrels: “The borescope has other uses as well. It can be used to examine the interior of a cartridge case to look for the beginnings of a case separation or to examine the interior of a loading die that is giving you trouble. When you consider the number of tubular objects that play such an important role in rifle shooting, it is a wonder we were ever able to function without such a method of studying bores.”
This Gradient Lens video shows how to correctly borescope your barrel:
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If you have a digital camera or scanner, you can measure your shot groups easily with the FREE On-Target software (read our On-Target Software Review). However, not many people want to lug a laptop to the range just to measure their groups. Most folks measure their groups at the range with a small ruler, or a set of calipers. That works pretty well, but there is a much more precise method.
Neil Jones Target Measure Tool
Neil Jones makes a specialized group-measuring tool that fits a special optical viewing lens and shot-size template to your precision calipers. There are two main parts to the tool. The first part, attached to the fixed caliper jaw, is a block holding a spring-loaded plunger with a sharp point (used to anchor the tool). The second part is clamped to the sliding jaw assembly. This viewing unit has a magnifying lens plus a plexiglass plate with scribed centerline and circular reticles for various calibers (.224, 6mm, 30 cal). This device works with both conventional and digital calipers. You’ll find the Jones Target Measure Tool used by the official target measurers at many big benchrest matches. Jones claims that his tool “will speed up the measuring process and be more accurate than other methods.” The Neil Jones Target Measure Tool costs $80.00, which includes magnifier, but not calipers. It comes in two versions, one for dial calipers, the other for digital calipers. Neil Jones also sells his tool complete with dial calipers for $120.00, or with digital calipers for $150.00. It is probably cheaper to source your own calipers.
To order the Jones Tool, visit Neiljones.com, email email@example.com, or phone (814) 763-2769.
We normally use a gun cradle when cleaning or adjusting our rifles. But there are situations, such as when working on a barreled action, when it’s nice to use a pad that lies flat. Many work pads are too small — they’re nothing more than oversize mouse pads. Here are three gun pads that are big enough to work well with rifles and/or barreled actions.
DryMate Gun Cleaning Pad
The Drymate Gun Cleaning Pad is a full 54″ wide x 16″. That’s four and a half FEET wide — longer than most rifles, so you have plenty of surface area for working. Conveniently, this product can be washed with soap and water. It is offered in three versions: Green, Blaze Orange, and Camo. We like the Blaze orange version because the bright color makes it easier to see small parts such as screws and springs.
Boyt Harness Counter Pad
The 48″ x 12″ Boyt Harness Counter Pad was originally designed more for display purposes than for serious work sessions, but we like this product. It is useful if you want to lay your gun on a bench to make small adjustments. The Boyt Counter Pad is nice and big, a full four feet from end to end. The back side is canvas while the top-size is a quilted cotton fabric. This product has received high praise from buyers. Here are actual owner reviews:
Expensive… but worth every penny. I bought three of them because I want to have at least one always around. I use one for a shooting bench or tailgate mat and another for my primary gun cleaning workbench mat. Awesome for both purposes. This one was perfect for my array of needs. — Joe D.
This mat is great for cleaning guns and keeping your surfaces clear of oil or solvent. The mat has plenty of space for a rifle or handgun and the padding is thick enough[.] I would definitely buy again and have recommended this to my friends and family. — Safety Guy
I bring this to the rifle range with me every time, to rest my rifle on the table without worrying about scratches. It fits nicely in my soft rifle case. One side is a tough canvas material that doesn’t show scratches, and the other side is a soft fleece material that protects the finish of your gun. — MACPSU
Hoppes Gun Cleaning Pad
The Hoppes Gun Cleaning Pad is 36″ wide x 12″. That’s big enough for many barreled actions (unless you have a really long barrel). This pad has a non-slip nylon backing, and Hoppes claims that the “Soft acrylic material absorbs 8 times its weight in fluids.” This Hoppes Cleaning Pad is very affordable. It costs just $8.39 at Amazon.com with free shipping for Prime members.
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