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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Here’s a clever product from Good Shooting Sales & Service, a shop operated by National Smallbore Silhouette Champion Cathy Winstead-Severin and her husband Jim Severin. The Shooting Skirt, available in either Nylon Mesh or Cordura/Mesh for $32.00, is a cone-shaped, fabric gear-holder that fits around the top of a tripod. The Shooting Skirt has various pockets that can store score cards, timers, Walkie-Talkies, spotting boards, and other accessories. The Shooting Skirt even has a water bottle holder. (Note: the Cordura/Mesh combo version is out of stock, but the all-mesh version is in available.)
We think the Shooting Skirt is a really clever product that can benefit varmint hunters as well as those who are scoring/spotting in shooting matches. For anyone who spends a lot of time working with a tripod in the field or at a range, the Shooting Skirt can be a very handy accessory.
Craft Your Own Custom Shooting Skirt — With High-Tech Options
What’s neat about this basic design is that it could be easily modified to suit your needs. If you (or the significant other) can run a sewing machine, you could make something similar, customized for the particular gear you use. You might add a pocket for a windmeter, or a special section to hold the lens caps for your spotting scope. Or, if you’re really clever, you could add a flexible solar panel to provide back-up power for your PDA, cell phone, or cameras.
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We are already half-way through the NRA High Power National Championship and SSG Shane Barnhart of the USAMU remains atop the leaderboard, with a score of 1193-64X out of a possible 1200 points. Barnhart shot a 595-28X during Sunday’s Navy Cup, Coast Guard Trophy, and Army Cup matches. Barnhart currently holds a three-point lead over second place SSG Brandon Green (1190-58X), the defending High Power National Champion. Like Barnhart, Green shoots for the USAMU. Kenneth Lankford leads the “any sight” (scopes allowed) division with 1191-54X.
High Power Hardware: The Guns of Perry
We thought our readers would like to see some of the ultra-accurate rifles campaigned by High Power competitors at Camp Perry. Both bolt-action and self-loading rifles are popular. Among bolt guns, Tubb 2000s and Eliseo tubeguns are popular. Semi-auto AR platform “Space Guns” offer some advantages (particularly during rapid-fire and for standing position), and are favored by many of the top marksmen. Many Camp Perry High Power competitors are also shooting less exotic AR service rifles.
Here is your current leader, SSG Shane Barnhart, with an AR Space Gun. Note the side charging handle and tall iron sight set-up.
Tubb 2000 with a shortened handguard, and custom hand support bracket forward of mag well.
The modern AR Space Gun, scoped version. Note the side charging handle, and absence of forward assist. A block fitted under the handguard helps with the standing position. The scope is mounted on a “piggy-back” rail that extends forward of upper receiver’s built-in rail.
Tubb 2000 rifle, left-hand version. Note how the butt-plate is adjusted for cant, angle, and drop.
Look carefully — it appears that a separate fore-arm section is duct-taped to the red free-floated handguard. Perhaps this AR owner experienced some wiggle, and that’s why he seems puzzled?
A countdown timer is attached directly to this shooter’s Tubb 2000 rifle.
This Service Rifle competitor shows how to get some “R & R” between relays.
The SCATT MX-02 is a revolutionary electronic shooter training system that is capable of operating outdoors with live, centerfire ammunition, at distances from 25 yards to 600 yards. Tony Chow recently tested this product, as fitted to his AR-15 Service Rifle. Tony concludes this is a very useful tool that can help High Power competitors refine their technique and thereby shoot higher scores. CLICK HERE for Full 3000-word Review.
How the SCATT MX-02 Works
The SCATT sensor mounted on the end of the barrel has a digital camera that recognizes the black bullseye in the target, even in broad daylight outdoors. Using the bullseye as a reference, the SCATT software tracks the movement of the muzzle relative to the center of the target. The unit can plot these movements as a continuous trace, which appears on a monitor as a squiggly, colored line. By sensing the exact moment of shot release, the SCATT can also interpolate relative shot placement (for a single shot or series of shots) — but this is not the same as an electronic target which actually records the exact shot impact location on the target.
Back in January, we reviewed this product from the perspective of a smallbore competitive shooter. (Read Previous Review.) Recently, we had the chance to test SCATT MX-02 again, this time on an AR-15 service rifle, in order to assess its implications for the High Power competition community.
We put the MX-02 through its paces in all three High Power shooting positions and in various environmental conditions. We wanted to find out whether the system can reliably operate in the harsher outdoor settings and withstand the recoil of a centerfire rifle. We also wanted to assess whether it provides added values for High Power shooters over older generation of electronic trainers such as SCATT’s own venerable WS-01.
On both counts, we came away impressed. The SCATT MX-02 stood up to centerfire recoil after hundreds of shots and was able to consistently recognize the often less-than-pristine High Power target faces. Both indoors and outdoors, the MX-02 acts as SCATT should and dutifully captures useful aiming traces and other data. It does that even during outdoor live-fire sessions, where shooter performance often differs from indoor dry-firing due to the sensation of recoil and environmental factors.
SCATT Rapid Fire Results (paper target on left, screen on right).
In particular, SCATT MX-02 allows shooters to effectively troubleshoot and improve their rapid-fire performance, a service that no previous-generation trainers are capable of providing. The unit isn’t perfect — the SCATT MX-02 had some mounting issues with small-diameter barrels, but a cardboard shim provided a quick and effective solution.
Overall, performance was impressive. In most realistic training conditions that High Power shooters experience, the system performed well. We can certainly recommend SCATT MX-02 as an extremely valuable tool for High Power competitors looking to take their performance to the next level.
Test Drive the MX-02 at Camp Perry
SCATT electronic training systems are currently on display at the NRA National Championships in Camp Perry, Ohio. Interested shooters can try out SCATT at Champion Shooters on Commercial Row, Building #1023B.
For more information or to order SCATT products, including the new MX-02, visit ScattUSA.com or call toll-free: 1-855-57-SCATT (72288).
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