Readers who have just recently discovered the Daily Bulletin may not realize that AccurateShooter.com has hundreds of reference articles in our archives. These authoritative articles are divided into mutiple categories, so you can easily view stories by topic (such as competition, tactical, rimfire, optics, shooting skills etc.). One of the most popular categories is our Technical Articles Collection. On a handy index page (with thumbnails for every story), you’ll find over 100 articles covering technical and gunsmithing topics. These articles can help you with major projects (such as stock painting), and they can also help you build more accurate ammo. Here are five popular selections from our Technical Articles archive.
We’re starting to see barrel tuners employed in more competitive disciplines than ever — from 100 yards to 1000 yards. And even some varmint hunters are employing tuners or tuner/brakes now. This allows them to dial in accuracy with different loads (when shooting hundreds of rounds in a weekend). Here’s a quick over-view of the potential benefits of tuners.
Some people love tuners and others hate them. I use them on my rifles and I’ve had more than one person ask me why on earth I would put one of those things on my barrel. I’ve even had a national long range champion tell me to unscrew it and throw it into Lake Erie on my next trip to the pits at Camp Perry. However, there are other shooters that swear by them and have many match wins to back it up.
It’s an indisputable fact that tuners do have an effect on a rifle’s accuracy, however how much is somewhat open for debate. The large heavy target barrels that we use for benchrest or F-class may not be affected as much by a tuner as a lighter weight sporter type barrel. Each barrel that I’ve installed a tuner on not only showed improvement in accuracy but also displayed a wider load window. The increased accuracy is because of the ability to adjust the tuner to the load, however I believe the wider load window is due to the added weight of the tuner slowing down the barrel vibrations. These are both very important aspects of having a very accurate rifle.
While better accuracy and a wider load window are two areas of improvement, I believe the most important feature of a tuner is the ability to adjust the tune during the middle of a match. This is especially important during matches where you must load all your ammo earlier and cannot make adjustments to the load during the match. If you happen to miss the load, instead of having to deal with a gun that isn’t shooting you can make an adjustment to the tuner and hopefully improve the accuracy of the rifle.
While I’ve laid out several ways that a tuner can help, there are also a few ways that tuners can cause problems. They add weight so if you are shooting a discipline that has weight limits on the rifle, you may not be able to install a tuner and still make weight. Sometimes, a barrel just doesn’t show improvement with a tuner installed. These are few and far between, but it is something to consider. If you make an adjustment to the tuner in a match, you need to make sure you move it in the right direction. Adjusting a tuner in the wrong direction can cause very large groups. And finally, if they aren’t tightened properly, tuners can come loose during firing which will cause a lot of problems as well.
As you can see, tuners have both positive and negative aspects. In my personal experience, the positives far outweigh the negatives so I will continue to use them on all of my competitive rifles. If you’ve been thinking about installing a tuner, hopefully some of the information that I’ve presented will help you make an informed decision.
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Photo courtesy NRA MuseumClick Photo to View Larger Image
With today’s plastic-framed Glocks and Keltecs, aesthetics have been sacrificed on the altar of functionality. Not so in the early 20th century — in that period, the best firearm designers created guns that looked as good as they worked. One example is the classic Colt Woodsman. This design came from the legendary John Moses Browning and was later refined by Colt before the pistol’s introduction in 1915. The Colt Woodsman’s frame design evolved over time in three distinct series: Series One 1915–1947, Series Two 1947–1955, and Series Three 1955–1977. Shown above is a stunning Carbonia-blued and engraved Third Series model with ivory grips.
Engraved Colt Woodsman from NRA Museum
In the NRA Museum’s Robert E. Petersen Gallery are many fine engraved arms. This Colt Woodsman .22 pistol is one of the Third Series guns that were made until 1977. Heavy barrels in either 4.5 or 6 inch lengths were offered in this variation. The Museum’s staff says: “We think the poised golden rattlesnake near the serial number is the [best] embellishment without putting down in any way the ivory grip panels or gold outline inlays.”
You can see this lovely Colt and countless other fine firearms at the NRA Museum in Fairfax, Virginia. The Museum is open every day from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm, and admission is free.
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Ed Connors placed three consecutive shots all on target at 2160 yards for a sub-3/8 MOA group. Wow.
Amazing shooting — that’s how we’d describe what Ed Connors accomplished recently with his Speedy-built .338 Lapua Magnum LR rifle. Ed nailed a 3-shot group at 2160 yards that would be great at 1000 yards. Check out the target above. Now consider that the shooter was a full mile PLUS 400 yards away. That is truly remarkable accuracy.
At this distance, 2160 yards, one MOA is 22.61″. This three-consecutive-shot group, measuring about 8 inches, works out to less than 3/8 MOA. Think about that — most guys would be elated to shoot 3/8 MOA at two hundred yards. Ed did that at over two thousand yards!
That takes a great rifle, as well as great ammo. Ed says: “I believe in loading like a benchrest shooter to achieve these ultra long-range shots”.
Gunsmith Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez writes: “Anytime you build a customer a rifle to work out beyond the 1000-yard mark you must work hand-in-hand with your customer and explain everything you are doing to ensure performance at distances most shooters never even contemplate (except in their dreams).
Ed was involved in all aspects of the projects from the reamer print to what we needed for both single-shot work and mag-fed function in timed competition. This was Ed’s very first work-out with his reborn Surgeon-actioned .338 Lapua Magnum. He did great to say the least!”
Pretty Darn Good at One Mile as Well…
While “tuning up” for his 2160-yard session. Ed also produced some very impressive results at one mile (1760 yards). Once he got “dialed in” he delivered three shots you can cover with the palm of your hand. That’s spectacular consistency at one mile.
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Planning a rimfire build in the future, or want to get the exact specifications for your 17 Mach 2, 17 HMR, 17 WSM, .22 LR, or .22 WMR rifle? Then we’ve got you covered. CLICK HERE to download an official SAAMI document with specs for all popular rimfire ammunition. This FREE 89-page PDF includes complete Cartridge and Chamber drawings and headspace specifications. The document even includes info on pressure terminology, headspace gauges, and test barrels.
SAAMI, the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute, is an association of the nation’s leading manufacturers of firearms, ammunition and components. Founded in 1926, SAAMI promulgates industry standards for firearms ammunition safety, interchangeability, reliability and quality.
SAAMI offers diagrams for ALL popular, modern rimfire cartridges:
Here’s the Official SAAMI Drawing for the 17 HMR Cartridge:
SAAMI Website Also Offers Centerfire Cartridge and Shotshell Diagrams
From the SAAMI website you can also access hundreds of FREE official cartridge diagrams and chamber drawings for all centerfire ammo types and Shotshells. Simply click on the Cartridge and Chamber Drawings link and then choose your ammo type: Pistol and Revolver, Rifle, or Shotshell.
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Shooters contemplating purchase of a .338 LM rifle often ask: “What length barrel should I get?” Rifleshooter.com recently performed a test that provides interesting answers…
Our friends at RifleShooter.com like to slice and dice — barrels that is. They have done barrel length cut-down tests for popular calibers like the .223 Rem, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .308 Winchester. But now they’ve tackled something way bigger — the .338 Lapua Magnum, a true “Big Boomer”. Starting with a beefy 30″-long Pac-Nor Barrel, RifleShooter.com chopped the tube down in one-inch increments all the way down to 17 inches (that’s 14 different lengths). At each new (shorter) barrel length, velocity was measured with a MagnetoSpeed chronograph using two different loads, 250gr SMKs with H4831sc and 300gr SMKs with Retumbo. Four shots were fired at each length with each load, a total of 112 rounds.
Load #1: 250gr Sierra MK, Lapua brass, CCI #250 primer, H4831SC, OAL 3.720″.
Load #2: 300gr Sierra MK, Lapua brass, Win WLRM primer, Retumbo, OAL 3.720″.
The .338 Lapua Magnum is a jumbo-sized cartridge, that’s for sure…
Donor Barrel Sacrificed for Science
Rifleshooter.com’s Editor explains: “Brandon from Precision Addiction offered to send us his .338 barrel for our .338 Lapua Mag test. I took him up on his offer and he sent me his used Pac-Nor chrome-moly barrel with about 600 rounds though it. This thing was a beast! A heavy 1.350″ shank that ran straight for 6″, until tapering to 1″ at 30″ in length.”
.338 Lapua Magnum with 250gr Sierra MatchKings
After shortening the barrel from 30″ to 17″, total velocity reduction for the 250-grainers was 395 FPS, an average loss of 30.4 FPS per 1″ cut. The amount of velocity loss per inch rose as the barrel got shorter, with the biggest speed reduction, a loss of 55 FPS, coming with the cut from 18″ to 17″.
Start Velocity: 2942 FPS | End Velocity: 2547 FPS | Average Loss Per Inch: 30.4 FPS
.338 Lapua Magnum with 300gr Sierra MatchKings
Shooting the 300-grainers, total velocity reduction was 341 fps, an average of 26.2 FPS loss per 1″ cut (30″ down to 17″). However, the speed actually increased with the first cut from 30 inches to 29 inches. The tester noted: “The 300 SMK load showed a slight increase from 30″ to 29″. I’ve recorded this in other tests and it seems to be more common with a heavier load. I suspect it is primarily due to the small sample sizes being used along with the relative proximity of muzzle velocities in adjacent lengths.”
Start Velocity: 2833 FPS | End Velocity: 2492 FPS | Average Loss Per Inch: 26.2 FPS*
*Velocity rose with first cut. Velocities ranged from 2,871 FPS (29″) to 2,492 FPS (17″) for a total velocity loss of 341 FPS.
RifleShooter.com crunched the velocity numbers in some interesting ways. For example they analyzed rate of velocity loss, concluding that: “after the initial rate change, the rate of the change in velocity is fairly consistent.” (View Rate of Change Graph)
How Velocity Loss Alters Long-Range Ballistics
The testers wanted to determine how the velocity reductions “affect our ability to hit targets downrange”. So, Rifleshooter.com plotted changes in elevation and wind drift at all barrel lengths. This revealed something interesting — drift increased significantly below 26″ barrel length: “Above 26″ things look pretty good, below 22″ they change quickly.”
We highly recommend you read the whole story. Rifleshooter.com put in serious time and effort, resulting in solid, thought-provoking results. The data is presented in multiple tables and graphs, revealing inch-by-inch velocities, change “deltas”, and SDs at each length.
In Brownells’ GunTech™ Archive of instructional articles and videos, Eric Kiesler has written an informative Guide to Metal Prep for bluing or bake-on resin coatings. Eric’s “how-to” advice will be useful for prepping something as small as a scope ring or as large as a complete barrelled action. Here is a selection from Eric’s article:
Gunsmith’s Guide to Metal Prep for Baking & Bluing
By Eric Kiesler
Prior to bluing or the application of a bake-on coating, a steel surface must be properly prepared. In either case, at a minimum the work piece must be thoroughly and completely degreased. There are many acceptable ways to degrease steel parts, so long as no residue remains the method used is not critical. We typically recommend TCE (#083-060-024) for degreasing prior to the application of Brownells Baking Lacquer (#083-046-801) or Oxpho Blue (#082-024-004). The TCE in the spray can is preferable as it allows you vigorously spray the surface, start at the top of the part and hose it down to the bottom chasing the grease off.
Prior to hot caustic Bluing (#082-005-007) the parts are immersed in a heated detergent bath using Dicro-Clean (#082-005-008) because (like TCE) we know it will have no adverse after effects or residue that could cause problems later on. Once the degreasing is complete, the part could be blued or coated, however, with bake on coatings, adhesion is greatly enhanced if the surface of the parts are roughed up. This can be accomplished by sanding them with a fine abrasive cloths, sand paper, Emory Cloth (#657-110-120) or by abrasive blasting. Abrasive blasting is preferable because it will typically reach areas that sand paper might not.
For the Gun Kote (#083-051-001) brand of bake-on finish, aluminum oxide (#084-206-060) must be used as the abrasive blasting media in your abrasive blaster. For our other bake on coatings (and even Aluma-Hyde) sand or glass beads may be used in the blaster. If you do abrasive blast the part (highly recommended), it should be degreased afterwards because the blasting media may have contaminants in it. You don’t want to coat a highly polished part since shiny metal resists the coating, but a highly polished part could certainly be blued.
Here’s a little known fact that may startle most readers, even experienced gunsmiths: your barrel wears out in a matter of seconds. The useful life of a typical match barrel, in terms of actual bullet-in-barrel time, is only a few seconds. How can that be, you ask? Well you need to look at the actual time that bullets spend traveling through the bore during the barrel’s useful life. (Hint: it’s not very long).
If a bullet flies at 3000 fps, it will pass through a 24″ (two-foot) barrel in 1/1500th of a second. If you have a useful barrel life of 3000 rounds, that would translate to just two seconds of actual bullet-in-barrel operating time.
Ah, but it’s not that simple. Your bullet starts at zero velocity and then accelerates as it passes through the bore, so the projectile’s average velocity is not the same as the 3000 fps muzzle velocity. So how long does a centerfire bullet (with 3000 fps MV) typically stay in the bore? The answer is about .002 seconds. This number was calculated by Varmint Al, who is a really smart engineer dude who worked at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, a government think tank that develops neutron bombs, fusion reactors and other simple stuff.
On his Barrel Tuner page, Varmint Al figured out that the amount of time a bullet spends in a barrel during firing is under .002 seconds. Al writes: “The approximate time that it takes a 3300 fps muzzle velocity bullet to exit the barrel, assuming a constant acceleration, is 0.0011 seconds. Actual exit times would be longer since the bullet is not under constant acceleration.”
We’ll use the .002 number for our calculations here, knowing that the exact number depends on barrel length and muzzle velocity. But .002 is a good average that errs, if anything, on the side of more barrel operating life rather than less.
So, if a bullet spends .002 seconds in the barrel during each shot, and you get 3000 rounds of accurate barrel life, how much actual firing time does the barrel deliver before it loses accuracy? That’s simple math: 3000 x .002 seconds = 6 seconds.
Gone in Six Seconds. Want to Cry Now?
Six seconds. That’s how long your barrel actually functions (in terms of bullet-in-barrel shot time) before it “goes south”. Yes, we know some barrels last longer than 3000 rounds. On the other hand, plenty of .243 Win and 6.5-284 barrels lose accuracy in 1500 rounds or less. If your barrel loses accuracy at the 1500-round mark, then it only worked for three seconds! Of course, if you are shooting a “long-lived” .308 Win that goes 5000 rounds before losing accuracy, then you get a whopping TEN seconds of barrel life. Anyway you look at it, a rifle barrel has very little longevity, when you consider actual firing time.
People already lament the high cost of replacing barrels. Now that you know how short-lived barrels really are, you can complain even louder. Of course our analysis does give you even more of an excuse to buy a nice new Bartlein, Krieger, Shilen etc. barrel for that fine rifle of yours.
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We’ve been giving a lot of coverage to tactical rigs and gas guns lately, so we though it was time to showcase a purebred, state-of-the-art 1000-Yard Benchrest rig. This article features the impressive .284 Shehane Light Gun used by Henry Pasquet to capture the 2013 IBS 1000-yard Nationals.
With a 5″-wide “hammerhead” front and a special 3″-wide bag-rider plate in the rear, this 17-lb rig is ultra-stable in the bags, and tracks like a dream. In this story, Henry explains his set-up plus his processes for loading super-accurate ammo. Every long-range shooter can benefit from some of tips revealed here. And F-Class guys — if you’re shooting a .284 Win-based case in F-Open you should definitely read Henry’s precision reloading advice.
EDITOR: Guys, there is a ton of solid gold information in this article — take your time and read it carefully.
Yes old dogs can learn new tricks. Just five years ago Forum member Henry Pasquet (aka “HenryP”) got started in 1000-yard benchrest shooting. He was 66 at the time. Henry worked hard, learned fast, and pursued accuracy with a vengence. That all paid off when Henry won the 2013 IBS 1000-yard Nationals this summer, finishing as the Two-Gun Overall National Champion. Henry was kind enough to talk about his rifle, his reloading methods, and his strategy for success. In fact, Henry was eager to share “everything he knows, so that other guys can fast-track their learning process”. Henry told us: “I want to share every lesson I’ve learned, so that other guys can improve their game and enjoy the sport more.” Henry also wants to encourage other senior shooters: “If you pay attention to details (when reloading), and get a good rifle with a good barrel, age is not a handicap. With a good set-up, older guys can compete with anyone out there. This is one sport where you can be a champion in later life.”
Click on Rifle Photos to View Full-screen Versions
Q&A with Henry Pasquet, IBS 1000-Yard National Champion
Q: First, do you have any advice for older shooters getting started in their golden years?
Henry: You’re never too old. In this sport, you can excel even in your 60s, 70s and beyond. At this stage in life, we now have the time and money to get good equipment and rifles. Plus, our years of work experience help us to think, analyze, and thereby make progress. In this game, we older guys can definitely compete on a par with younger shooters.
Q: Tell us about your Nationals-winning rifle and bench gear. Is there anything unique about your hardware that gave you an edge?
Henry: At the Nationals, I used my 17-lb Light Gun for both Light and Heavy Class. This rifle has a 1.55″, round BAT LP/RE action, fitted with a Bartlein barrel chambered for the .284 Shehane (an improved version of the .284 Winchester). The barrel was near-new; this was the first time I had used it this year. A great barrel and great batch of Berger 180gr VLDs all made a difference. Jay Cutright chambers my barrels. Jay’s metal-work is so precise that I can screw any barrel he’s chambered to any BAT action I own. The laminated stock was modified by Tommy Shurley from a standard 3″-wide fore-end to a 5″-wide True-Trac with an adjustable 3″-wide rear plate. It’s not pretty but it tracks like a Heavy Gun stock. Tommy made my other stocks as well.
On top is a Nightforce 12-42x52mm Benchrest scope with CH-3 reticle. I used a Fulghum (Randolph Machine) front rest with an Edgewood bag made with the low-friction 3M material. In the rear I use a special-order Protekor rear “Doctor” bag with ears spaced 3 inches apart. The rear bag also has the new 3M material on contact surfaces (photo at right).
Q: During the Nationals, at the last minute you switched guns. Why did you go from a 6mm Dasher to a 7mm Shehane?
Henry: I had planned to use my Light and Heavy Dashers, but after placing the Dasher on the ready line, decided to switch to the .284 Shehane. It was still early in the morning and I felt that the heavier bullets would be easier to see against the berm. The Dasher had actually been giving tighter groups under perfect conditions, but seeing the impact is important.
Q: Tell us about the combined tuner/muzzle brake on some of your barrels. How does this improve rifle performance and how do you set the “tune”? Do you tune the barrel to the load?
Henry: I use a tuner or tuner/brake on every barrel. I started with Time Precision tuners. Art Cocchia advised getting a load with a good known accuracy node with minimum extreme spread, which controls vertical. Do not go for the hottest loads, which just reduces brass life. Then use the tuner and tune the barrel to the load. The .284 Light Gun needed a muzzle brake and tuner. I had a local gunsmith cut a thread on the muzzle brake for a tuner I got from Sid Goodling. (Eric Bostrom developed an almost identical unit at the same time. I use Eric’s tuner/brakes on all my new barrels.) Just before Nationals, I tried going up and down one marker. Down one mark cut the group in half! Think how much range time (and barrel life) that saved me. Using a tuner is easier than messing around changing loads and tweaking seating depths. Tuners definitely can work. Last year I shot a 3.348″ 10-shot group at 1000 with my .284 Win Heavy Gun fitted with a Time Precision Tuner.
Q: What are the advantages of your stock’s 5″-wide fore-end and 3″-wide rear plate? Is there a big difference in tracking and/or stability? Does the extra width make the rifle easier to shoot?
Henry: I had true Heavy Guns with 5-inch fronts and 3-inch rears. They tracked well. I felt the same result could be had with a Light Gun. I talked two stock makers into making them. I initially had the standard rear stock until Tommy Shurley and Mike Hearn came out with an adjustable rear plate. The stocks track perfectly. You can see your scope’s crosshairs stay on the target the whole time and push the rifle back for the next shot. There is no torquing (gun wobbling) when cycling the bolt. Us old guys need all the help we can get. I am getting rid of my 45-pound Heavy Guns and replacing them with Light Guns with heavy barrels.
Q: Some people say the .284 Shehane is not as accurate as the straight .284 Winchester. You’ve proved them wrong. Why do you like the .284 Shehane? More speed, less pressure?
Henry: The reason I rechambered my 7mm barrels to .284 Shehane was not velocity, pressure, or brass life. It was all about bolt lift. My straight .284 almost required me to stand up to eject brass. I damaged an extractor and had to send the bolt back to BAT. With the .284 Shehane, my bolt cycles like there is no case to eject.
Q: People want to know about your load and your loading methods. What can you reveal?
Henry: For my .284 Shehane at the Nationals, I loaded 52.5 grains of Hodgdon H4350 and Federal BR-2 primers behind Berger 180gr VLDs. I usually anneal the brass each winter. I have used the same brass for years. I use Redding bushing dies, apply Imperial sizing wax, resize, wipe off wax, clean and uniform the primers pockets using the RCBS Trim Mate Case prep center, then apply Imperial dry neck lube with a bore mop.
To dispense powder, I use a RCBS ChargeMaster set 0.1 grain below my desired load and then weigh them on a Sartorius GD-503 magnetic force restoration scale to get identical charges. I use a K&M Arbor Press with seating force gauge when seating the bullets with a Wilson inline die. My “target” seating force on the K&M dial is 20-23 units for Dashers and 35-40 units for the .284 Shehane. I put any variables aside for sighters. I do not weigh brass, bullets, or primers. My bullets were so consistent that I did not sort by bearing surface. I did trim the Berger VLDs to the shortest bullet length with a Hoover Trimmer, and then pointed the meplats just enough to close them with a Whidden pointer. I sort my bullets to 0.005″ overall length, rejecting about five percent.
Q: What kind of precision are you looking for in your reloads? Do you trickle to the kernel? Does this really help reduce extreme spread?
Henry: I try to keep my charge weights consistent to one kernel of powder. I use the Omega powder trickler with a Sartorius GD-503 lab-grade balance to achieve that. For accurate dispensing, put very little powder into the Omega so you can drop one kernel at a time. Single digit ES (Extreme Spread) is the goal. This does make a difference at 1000 yards. If you get the same push on the same bullet with the same neck tension, good things are going to happen.
Q: You believe consistent neck tension (i.e. grip on the bullet) is really important. What methods are you using to ensure consistent bullet release?
Henry: I apply Imperial dry neck lube to the inside of my case-necks with a bore mop. The K&M arbor with seating force gauge shows the need to do this. If you put a bullet into a clean case, it will be jerky when seating the bullet. You may see 40 units (on the K&M dial) dropping to 20, then slowly increasing pressure. I explained to a friend that not lubing the neck is like overhauling an engine without lubing the cylinders. Smooth entry gives the bullets a smooth release.
Q: You go 60-80 rounds between cleaning and the results speak for themselves. What is your barrel cleaning procedure? Do you think some guys clean too often or too aggressively?
Henry: I cringe when I see people wearing out their barrels with bronze brushes between relays. I clean my barrels at the end of each day when I get home. I shot my best-ever 1K Heavy Gun group (3.348″) at day’s end after 60 to 80 rounds. After trying other solvents, I have gone back to Wipe-out’s Carb-Out and Patch-Out products. I use about four patches of Carb-Out, let it sit a few minutes, then use one stroke of a nylon brush followed by Patch-Out until the barrel is clean. I use a bore mop to clean inside the chamber, then some Break Free LP on the bolt followed by bolt grease on the lugs and cocking part. I use a bore guide when anything goes down the barrel.
Shooting Skills and the Learning Process
Q: Henry, you can shoot long-distance on your own property in Missouri. How important is practice, and what do you do during a typical practice session?
Henry: I can shoot 1000 yards on my farm. I have a concrete bench using a slab from a yard furniture place on concrete blocks. Two 4 x 8 sheets of plywood hold four IBS targets. I never practice. I only test, keeping a notebook with all the info. I do most of my testing at 300 to 500 yards, shooting off my deck so I can see my shots immediately.
Q: How much of your success do you credit to really accurate rifles, versus superior shooting skills?
Henry: I do not consider myself another Carlos Hathcock or some master marksman. I am an average 1000-yard shooter, but I do work hard getting the most out of my rifles. Four other people have shot their first 1000-yard matches with my rifles, including my wife, and all of them won relays! I loaned my Dasher to another shooter two years ago and he got second at the 600-yard Nationals. Others will tell you that the rifle must be “on” to win. If your barrel or bullets are average, don’t expect to perform above average in competition.
Q: What you do enjoy most about long-range benchrest shooting? What are the attractions of this sport?
Henry: The sport offers good people and a real challenge. 1000-yard shooting keeps us all humble, but we still keep trying to see how good we can do. I am thankful for Robert Ross providing the only match location that I can shoot regularly.
Q: Henry, you have been a Forum member for many years. Have you learned important techniques from other Forum members and other shooters?
Henry: I have followed the AccurateShooter Forum since 2008. At my age I am not good at computers. I copied and analyzed many articles, especially on the .284 and the Dashers. Without AccurateShooter.com, I would probably still be shooting double-digit (10″+) groups at 1000 yards, and I sure wouldn’t have my name on a National Championship trophy.
Q: You are in your 70s now and have only been shooting competitively for a few years. How did you get so good so fast? How did you manage to beat shooters who are decades younger?
Henry: I had 20/10 vision when I was young, but am down to only 20/20. I have been interested in long range shooting for a long time including ground hog hunting. I went to some VHA jamborees also. In 2008, I went to the Williamsport Benchrest School with a friend from Pennsylvania, John Haas. We would compare notes frequently. I bought a BAT three lug from Tom Mousel in Montana. We also compared notes and made each other better. At IBS matches I studied other shooters’ equipment and techniques. I tried some, accepting some and rejecting some.
Here’s my advice:
Always be ready to learn something new. If it makes sense, try it. I would also encourage other older shooters not to quit. Stick to it. You can make enormous progress in a few seasons.
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TEN Shots in 0.303″ (0.289 MOA) at 100 Yards
How does Dan’s XP-100 pistol shoot? Look at that target showing TEN shots at 100 yards, with eight (8) shots in the main cluster at the top. The ten-shot group measures .303″ (0.289 MOA), as calculated with OnTarget Software. Not bad for a handgun! What do you think, can your best-shooting rifle match the 10-shot accuracy of this XP-100 pistol?
Report by Boyd Allen
This pistol belongs to Dan Lutke, a Bay Area benchrest shooter who publishes the results for the Visalia matches to the competitors and the NBRSA. He has been an enthusiastic competitor for an number of years, at various ranges, notably Visalia and Sacramento. The action is a Remington XP-100, to which a Kelbly 2 oz. trigger has been fitted. On top is an old Japanese-made Tasco 36X scope (these were actually pretty darn good). The Hart barrel (a cast-off from Dan’s Unlimited rail gun) was shortened and re-chambered for the 6x45mm, a wildcat made by necking-up the .223 Remington parent case. The custom stock/chassis was CNC-machined by Joe Updike from 6061 Billet Aluminum to fit the XP-100 action and mount a target-style AR grip with bottom hand rest. The gun was bedded and assembled by Mel Iwatsubu. In his XP-100 pistol, Dan shoots 65gr custom boat-tails with Benchmark powder.
This diagram shows the most common 6x45mm wildcat, which is a necked-up version of the .223 Remington parent cartridge. NOTE: The dimensions for Dan Lutke’s benchrest version of this cartridge may be slightly different.
ACAD drawing by Peter Gnanapragasam CC by SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Title Added.
Story tip from Boyd Allen. We welcome reader submissions.
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Do you own a Springfield M1A (or wish you did)? Then you should watch this 5-minute video from the American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI). This video shows the basics of the operation of the popular M1A rifle, the civilian version of the military M14. In this video, gunsmith John Bush field-strips the M1A and shows how the bolt, op rod, and trigger group fits together and operates. This video contains excerpts from the M1A Rifle Armorer’s Course, AGI Course #1584. The full Armorer’s Course is available on DVD from www.AmericanGunsmith.com.
Watch Highlights of AGI M1A Rifle Armorer’s Course:
Registration Opens for 2017 CMP Springfield M1A Match
The 11th annual Springfield Armory M1A Match will take place during the 2017 National Trophy Rifle Matches. The CMP will host the event on Saturday, July 22, following the John C. Garand Match. Competitors of all experience levels are encouraged to bring their M1A rifles to Camp Perry and compete. Registration for the match will open April 1, 2017, and is open to all individuals ages 12 and above, with an entry fee of $50 (junior $25).
The Springfield Armory M1A match began with one man’s idea and passion. Springfield Armory’s Mike Doy witnessed the waning of classic M1 Garand and M1A rifles from the competitive High Power firing lines. “I really wanted to get those M1A rifles out of safes and closets and back out onto the field. So 11 years ago, I promoted the idea of running an M1A-specific match at Camp Perry. That first year we had over 600 competitors and spectators.” Now the match offers some of the biggest pay-outs at Camp Perry. In recent years, Springfield Armory has donated over $25,000 worth of cash and prizes, including a $2,000 cash award to the overall winner.
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This illustration shows headspace measurement for the popular .308 Winchester cartridge, which headspaces on the shoulder. Image copyright 2015 Ultimate Reloader.
In this Brownells Tech Tip, Brownells gun tech Steve Ostrem explains what headspace is and why it’s one of the most critical measurements for nearly all firearms. Even if you’re an experienced rifle shooter, it’s worth watching this video to refresh your understanding of headspace measurements, and the correct use of “GO” and “NO-GO” gauges.
In firearms, headspace is the distance measured from the part of the chamber that stops forward motion of the cartridge (the datum reference) to the face of the bolt. Used as a verb, headspace refers to the interference created between this part of the chamber and the feature of the cartridge that achieves the correct positioning. Different cartridges have their datum lines in different positions in relation to the cartridge. For example, 5.56x45mm NATO ammunition headspaces off the shoulder of the cartridge, whereas .303 British headspaces off the forward rim of the cartridge.
If the headspace is too short, ammunition that is in specification may not chamber correctly. If headspace is too large, the ammunition may not fit as intended or designed and the cartridge case may rupture, possibly damaging the firearm and injuring the shooter. (Source: Wikipedia)
Headspace is measured with a set of two headspace gauges: a “Go” gauge, and a “No-Go” gauge. Headspace gauges resemble the cartridges for the chambers they are designed to headspace, and are typically made of heat-treated tool steel. Both a “Go” and a “No-Go” gauge are required for a gunsmith to headspace a firearm properly. A third gauge, the “Field” gauge, is used (as the name implies) in the field to indicate the absolute maximum safe headspace. This gauge is used because, over time, the bolt and receiver will wear, the bolt and lugs compress, and the receiver may stretch, all causing the headspace to gradually increase from the “factory specs” measured by the “Go” and “No-Go” gauges. A bolt that closes on “No-Go” but not on “Field” is close to being unsafe to fire, and may malfunction on cartridges that are slightly out of spec. (Source: Wikipedia)
To learn more, read Brownell’s longer article Headspace Gauges and How to Use Them. Among other things, this explains the relative lengths of “Go”, “No-Go”, and “Field” gauges. The “Field” is actually the longest: “The GO gauge corresponds to the SAAMI (Sporting Arms & Ammunition Manufacturer’s Institute) minimum chamber length, while the FIELD gauge usually matches the maximum chamber depth, or slightly less. NO-GO gauges are an intermediate length between minimum and maximum, that, technically, is a voluntary dimension. A firearm that closes on a NO-GO gauge and does not close on a FIELD gauge may not give good accuracy and may have very short cartridge case life from the ammunition re-loader’s standpoint.”
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A little work with the hand axe, after a trip through the band saw…
A while back, Forum member Preacher crafted a nice varmint rifle for fellow Forum member Dave 0. (aka “Waskawood”). But rather than buy an off-the-shelf stock, Preacher crafted this stock all by hand, starting from a laminated blank panel. He calls this stock project his “Axe Job”.
CLICK for Full-size Photo
This stock is being used on a prairie dog rifle, chambered for a 17-caliber wildcat, the 17 VHA, which is based on an H&K 4.6x30mm parent case. With about nine grains of 300 MP pistol powder, the 17 VHA drives 20-grainers at about 3850 fps. (SEE details at end of article).
The ‘Axe Job’
Report by Preacher
I like carving with the laminates because all the lines are right there in front of my eyes, so it’s easy to follow along and get it just right, until it’s pleasing to the eye. I never use a template, I just keep checking the lines as I go along. I have all the needed equipment to power build one of these, but I really enjoy the time spent on the hand work. From start to completely ready-to-install, I’ll have about six (6) weeks into one of these stock projects. A lot of that is drying time for the clear coats.
The majority of the laminated blank panels I use for my gunstocks are purchased directly from Cousineau Wood Products or from Rutply.com. You have to buy at least four full panels at a time, all the same color, but that will yield eight (8) stocks. Seems like I have a little over $150.00 in a blank large enough to start making a full-sized, benchrest-style stock.
A little work with a chisel…
A little work with a rasp. (Before I was rich and famous and could afford really good rasps, I used a good old horse shoe rasp.)
A little more work with the chisel…
Preacher’s Advice on Carving Your Own Stock
The one main advantage of being older that dirt, and tormented with MS the past 40 years, is lots of free time to enjoy what ever I can do these days, as long as I can set down to do it, and I can make a lot of wood chips setting down.
Any one can do this if they have the time to devote to it. All it takes is time and a good eye for details. I made a lot of firewood over the years, until I got the hang of it. Most all those problems were inletting, and screw hole spacing. Get those right the first time and you’re on your way….
A little more work with the rasp…
A few coats of Auto clear has it about buttoned up…
Micro 17 VHA Wildcat
Here’s the finished rifle built by Preacher for Dave, using the ‘Axe Job’ stock. Dave tells us: “Preacher chambered the rifle for the 17 VHA, a wildcat based on the H&K 4.6x30mm MP7 PDW case necked down to 17 caliber. There are numerous articles in the Varmint Hunter’s Magazine about it. This efficient little round shoots 20gr ballistic tips at 3850+ fps. That’s not too shabby for ‘nine point something’ grains of pistol powder.”
“My intentions for my 17 VHA rifle are to plop down in the middle of a PD town with my swivel bench and shoot prairie dogs. I also thought it would be a nice platform to test the accuracy of the cartridge. If I like the little round as well as I think, I plan to build a more practical rifle that I can carry. I really want to thank Preacher for his patience with me through this project, as it was my first custom build.”
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Forum member Bill Goad’s 6XC II Hunter Rests in a Whitetail Rack taken this past year.
One of the most popular items in our Shooters’ Forum is the ongoing “Pride and Joy” thread. Since 2009, Forum members have posted photos and descriptions of their most prized rifles. Here are some of the most recent “Pride and Joy” rifles showcased in our Forum. Do you have a gun you’d like to see featured there? Just Register for the Forum and you can add your favorite gun to the list.
TT Freestyle’s Husband and Wife Borden Benchrest Rifles
Here’s a pair of “His and Hers” rigs delivered by Santa in December. Forum member TT Freestyle reports: “After our rookie year in Short Range Benchrest with good used equipment, my wife and I decided we liked it enough to get two new Bordens for Christmas!”
FalconPilot’s Fabulous F-Classer in Shurley Claro Walnut Stock
This beauty belongs to Forum member FalconPilot. He tells us that his “Lastest F-Classer features a Shurley Brothers SOD stock in beautiful Claro Walnut.” Components include Bat M action, Bix-N-Andy trigger, and Nightforce Comp scope. FalconPilot has several barrels for this Open-Class rig, including tubes chambered for .284 Win and 6mm Dasher.
Eric’s Blacktical .308 Win for Precision Rifle Series
Forum member Eric32 spent months building out this rifle, “getting it to work just right for PRS”. Designed for practical/tactical matches, this rugged rig features a blue-printed Rem 700 action (with 1.5-lb 40X trigger) in an XLR Element chassis. On the end of the .308 Bartlein 5R barrel is a JP brake. Other components include: PiG skins barricade grips, Atlas Bipod, and GGG bungee sling. On top is a SWFA HD 5-20x50mm optic with Vortex scope level and custom throw-lever.
Forum member Willow reports: “Here is my new F-Open gun. It features a hydro-dipped LowBoy stock and LH Barnard Model P action with ‘V’ bedding block. The barrel is a straight profile 32″, 1:8.5″ twist Bartlein 5R, chambered in 280AI by Matt Paroz”. On top is a Vortex 10-60x52mm Golden Eagle in a Spuhr 3001 mount. Willow says his lightning bolt rig is a shooter: “After 42 rounds through the barrel, I’m liking what I am seeing so far”. Check out that trick aluminum base for his rear Edgewood bag.
Stinnett’s 6.4×47 Lapua Tactical Rig
Forum member Stinnett tells us: “This is my third 6.5×47 Lapua rifle — the 6.5×47 is the best cartridge ever! I’m not a huge fan of muzzle brakes. I look at them as tools — use the correct tool for the job. The ’47 doesn’t need a brake. .308 Winchester and up need muzzle brakes. For this rifle, I’m going to start out with 123gr Scenars and Reloder 15. I also like to shoot the 123gr SMKs and Varget. The SMKs are much less seating-depth sensitive. Very easy to find a load! Also gonna try the Berger 130 Hybrids and H4350.”
Components: McMillan A5 adjustable stock in GAP Camo, Stiller TAC 30 A/W action, Jewell HVR trigger, Badger bottom metal and DBM, Atlas Bipod, Nightforce NXS F1 3.5-15×50 with MLR 2.0 reticle. Metal has been Cerakoted graphite black.
6mm BRX Benchgun with Home-Made Cherry/Redheart Stock
You have to give credit to a guy who crafts his own custom wood stock. This 6mm BRX benchgun features a custom-built laminated stock featuring Cherry wood with vivid Redheart pieces on the sides and Redwood Burl on the buttplate. The front of the stock is 4″ wide. The action is a Benchrest Borden RBLP Right Eject unit, with custom titanium scope rings on top. Owner Erick C. is proud of this stock, saying it is “the best one I’ve built so far”. We agree it’s a beauty.
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Ever wondered how the parts inside an AR15 work together? Just exactly how does the reciprocating bolt carrier feed rounds from the magazine? How do the elements in the trigger group work and reset after each shot? How does the gas system bleed gas from the barrel and operate the bolt carrier? These and other questions are answered in this eye-opening video from 45Snipers. Using “cutaway” 3D computer animation, this 5-minute video shows all features of an AR15 inside and out. This fascinating firearms animation allows the viewer to look inside the upper and lower receivers, into the bolt carrier, chamber, barrel, and magazine.
This video starts off slow and has annoying background music, but it is well worth watching if you own or shoot any AR-platform rifle. It illustrates all the key operations during the charging, loading, firing, and ejection processes. The cutaway animation shows how rounds are stripped from the magazine and then chambered. It then shows how every part of the trigger group works, and how the firing pin strikes the primer. You can even watch the bullet move down the barrel before the empty shell casing is removed from the chamber and tossed out the ejection port. Here are sample frames from the video:
Video find by Grant Ubl. We welcome reader submissions.
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A lot of claims are made about accuracy for AR-platform rifles, but much of that is just “sales talk”. But if you want a truly accurate black rifle, there are some key upgrades that, collectively, can transform a plain jane AR into a true tack-driver. Here’s an article by a genuine AR expert that will help you identify those components that really make a difference — the parts that can deliver true “match-grade” accuracy. Built right, a modern AR can deliver half-MOA accuracy with handloads. In this article, Robert Whitley explains how that’s done.
In our Shooters’ Forum, one member recently asked: “What makes an AR accurate? What parts on an AR can really affect accuracy — such as free-floating handguards, barrels, bolts, bolt carriers?” Robert Whitley posted a very comprehensive answer to this question, based on his experience building and testing dozens of AR-platform rifles. Robert runs AR-X Enterprises, which produces match-grade uppers for High Power competitors, tactical shooters, and varminters.
Building an Accurate AR — What is Most Important
by Robert Whitley
There are a lot of things that can be done to an AR to enhance consistent accuracy, and I use the words “consistent accuracy” because consistency is a part of it (i.e. plenty of guns will give a couple great 5-shot groups, but won’t do a very good 10- or 20-shot groups, and some guns will shoot great one day and not so good on others).
Here are 14 key things we think are important to accuracy.
1. Great Barrel: You’ll want a premium match-grade barrel, well-machined with a good crown and a match-type chambering, true to the bore and well cut. The extension threads must also be cut true to the bore, with everything true and in proper alignment.
2. Rigid Upper: A rigid, heavy-walled upper receiver aids accuracy. The typical AR upper receiver was made for a lightweight carry rifle and they stripped all the metal they could off it to make it light to carry (which is advantageous for the military). The net result are upper receivers that are so thin you can flex them with your bare hands. These flexible uppers are “strong enough” for general use, but they are not ideal for accuracy. Accuracy improves with a more rigid upper receiver.
3. True Receiver Face: We’ve found that truing the receiver face is valuable. Some may argue this point but it is always best to keep everything related to the barrel and the bore in complete alignment with the bore (i.e. barrel extension, bolt, upper receiver, carrier, etc.).
4. Barrel Extension: You should Loctite or glue the barrel extension into the upper receiver. This holds it in place all the way front to back in the upper receiver. Otherwise if there is any play (and there typically is) it just hangs on the face of the upper receiver completely dependent on the face of the upper receiver as the sole source of support for the barrel as opposed to being made more an integral part of the upper receiver by being glued-in.
5. Gas Block: You want a gas block that does not impose pointed stress on the barrel. Clamp-on types that grab all the way around the barrel are excellent. The blocks that are pinned on with tapered pins that wedge against the barrel or the slip on type of block with set screws that push up from underneath (or directly on the barrel) can deform the bore inside of the barrel and can wreck the accuracy of an otherwise great barrel.
6. Free-Float Handguard: A rigid, free-float handguard (and I emphasize the word rigid) really makes a difference. There are many types of free-float handguards and a free-float handguard is, in and of itself, a huge improvement over a non-free-float set up, but best is a rigid set-up. Some of the ones on the market are small diameter, thin and/or flexible and if you are shooting off any type of rest, bipod, front bag, etc., a rigid fore-end is best since ARs want to jump, bounce and twist when you let a shot go, as the carrier starts to begin its cycle before the bullet exits the bore.
7. Barrel Contour: You want some meat on the barrel. Between the upper receiver and the gas block don’t go real thin with a barrel (we like 1″ diameter if it’s workable weight-wise). When you touch off a round and the bullet passes the gas port, the gas system immediately starts pressuring up with a gas impulse that provides vibrations and stress on the barrel, especially between the gas block back to the receiver. A heavier barrel here dampens that. Staying a little heavier with barrel contour through the gas block area and out to the muzzle is good for the same reasons. ARs have a lot going on when you touch off a round and the gas system pressures up and the carrier starts moving (all before the bullet exits the bore) so the more things are made heavier and rigid to counteract that the better — within reason (I’m not advocating a 12-lb barrel).
8. Gas Tube Routing Clearance: You want a gas tube that runs freely through the barrel nut, through the front of the upper receiver, and through the gas key in the carrier. Ensure the gas tube is not impinged by any of them, so that it does not load the carrier in a stressed orientation. You don’t want the gas tube bound up so that when the gas tube pressures up it immediately wants to transmit more force and impulse to the barrel than would normally occur. We sometimes spend a lot of time moving the gas block with gas tube on and off new build uppers and tweaking gas tubes to get proper clearance and alignment. Most gas tubes do need a little “tweaking” to get them right — factory tubes may work OK but they typically do not function optimally without hand-fitting.
9. Gas Port Tuning: You want to avoid over-porting the gas port. Being over-gassed makes the gas system pressure up earlier and more aggressively. This causes more impulse, and increases forces and vibration affecting the top end and the barrel. Tune the gas port to give the amount of pressure needed to function properly and adequately but no more.
10. Front/Back Bolt Play: If accuracy is the game, don’t leave a lot of front/back bolt play (keep it .003″ but no more than .005″). We’ve seen factory rifles run .012″ to .015″ play, which is OK if you need to leave room for dirt and grime in a military application. However, that amount of play is not ideal for a high-accuracy AR build. A lot of front/back bolt play allows rounds to be hammered into the chamber and actually re-formed in a non-consistent way, as they are loaded into the chamber.
11. Component Quality: Use good parts from a reputable source and be wary of “gun show specials”. All parts are NOT the same. Some are good, some are not so good, and some aftermarket parts are simply bad. Don’t be afraid to use mil-spec-type carriers; by and large they are excellent for an accuracy build. Also, remember that just because a carrier says “National Match” or something else on it does not necessarily mean it’s any better. Be wary of chrome-plated parts as the chrome plating can change the parts dimensionally and can also make it hard to do hand-fitting for fit and function.
12. Upper to Lower Fit: A good upper/lower fit is helpful. For quick and dirty fit enhancement, an Accu-Wedge in the rear helps a lot. The ultimate solution is to bed the upper to a specific lower so that the upper and lower, when together, are more like one integral unit. For the upper receivers we produce, we try to get the specs as close as we can, but still fit the various lowers in the market place.
13. Muzzle Attachments: Don’t screw up the muzzle (literally). Leave as much metal on the barrel at the muzzle as you can. People like to thread the muzzle for a flash hider, suppressor, muzzle brake, or some other attachment, but if you really want accuracy, leave as much metal as you can there. And, if you have something that screws on, set it up so that it can be put on and have it stay there without putting a lot of torque and stress on it right where the bullet exits the bore. If you are going to thread the end of the barrel, make it concentric with the bore and make sure what you screw on there is as well. For all muzzle attachments, also ensure that the holes through which the bullet passes through are dead true to the bore. Many aftermarket screw-on things are not so good that way. Anything that vents gas should vent symmetrically (i.e. if it vents left, it should vent equally right, and likewise, if it vents up, it should vent down equally). Uneven venting of gas can wreck accuracy.
14. Quality Ammunition: Ammo is a whole story by itself, but loads that are too hot typically shoot poorly in an AR-15. If you want accuracy out of an AR-15, avoid overly hot loads. Shown below are test groups shot with four (4) different uppers, all with moderate loads. These four uppers all pretty much had the same features and things done to them as explained in this article, and they all shot great.
With all the blacktical rifles and tacticool camo gear on display at SHOT Show, it was nice to see some old style craftsmanship — hand-built rifles with colored case-hardened receivers, fine engraving, and beautiful wood. We found just that at the Shiloh Sharps booth. The heritage style of the Shiloh Sharps rifles harkens back to another era, when the West was still wild, and gifted smiths crafted rifles with pride, skill, and true artistry.
The cartridges shown in the photo (left to right above rifle) are: 45-110, 50-100, 45-90, and 40-70.
This video shows how Shiloh Sharps crafts its rifles, from “Foundry to Finish”:
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Can you list all the serious problems that excessive headspace can cause? For that matter, could you even explain what, exactly, is meant by the term “headspace”? If not, you should watch this instructional video from Brownells. This video defines the term “headspace”, explains why proper headspacing is critically important, and illustrates how headspace gauges work.
Headspace is a measurement from the bolt-face to a point in the chamber. This point of measurement will vary based on the type of cartridge. Improper headspace, either excessive or (conversely) under SAAMI specifications, can cause a variety of problems, many serious.
Problems Caused by Too Much Headspace
Excessive headspace issues can include: light primer strikes, failure to fire, bulged/blown cases, case separations, split shoulders, or unseated primers after firing. Case ruptures caused by excessive headspace can lead to catastrophic failures causing serious injury. That is why headspace is such an important measurement.
Problems Cause by Too Little Headspace
Insufficent (or excessively tight) headspace can prevent the firearm from going into battery, resulting in failure to fire or deformation of the cartridge case. Various feeding and functioning problems can be caused by cases with too little headspace, even if a round can be chambered (with effort).
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Top to bottom – Remington firing pin assembly with ISS, Tubb SpeedLock alloy-composite system without ISS (current versions have dual, opposite-wound springs), and Remington short action firing pin assembly without ISS.
Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. Last week’s “Handloading Hump Day” article covered mechanical issues and related ignition irregularities that can cause vertical fliers even with good ammunition in an otherwise excellent rifle. We highly recommend you read this article, which offers some important tech tips.
Vertical Dispersion: Mechanical/Ignition Issues?
Poor or inconsistent ignition has long been known to be one of the “usual suspects” when one encounters vertical fliers that just shouldn’t be there. By having a sense of some of the basic principles involved, and a few basic areas to check, the shooter may avoid colsiderable frustration, not to mention time, expensive loading components and barrel wear.
Is your well-built rifle of high-quality components plagued with vertical fliers across more than 1-3 handload combinations? Consider the bedding, crown and scope/sight mounts. Are they correct? If so, then you might check for ignition issues before boldly undertaking an extensive, expensive, and quite possibly fruitless quest for the “magic handload”.
SEEING IS BELIEVING: While the author had been aware for many years that poor ignition should be considered and ruled out when dealing with vertical fliers in an otherwise-excellent rifle, actually seeing the problem and its almost instantaneous cure really drove the lesson home.
He was working with a “dot” rifle – a .22 LR match rifle that really stacked bullets into little piles at 50 yards and beyond. With one lot of ELEY Tenex, it produced consistent “bughole” groups at 50, but with another, selected lot of Tenex, similar groups were regularly ruined by single, vertical fliers that did not appear in other rifles. Rather than spending days burning up expensive, select ammunition looking for “magic lots”, he contacted a well-respected rimfire gunsmith and explained the situation.
Without so much as batting an eye, the highly-experienced ‘smith tore into the rifle’s action, and quickly found the cause(s) of the problem. He discovered a demonstrably weak firing pin spring, plus a chip out of the face of the firing pin where it contacted the cartridge rim.
After replacing and tuning the offending parts, the rifle immediately began shooting tiny, bughole groups with the previously “unacceptable” lot of Tenex. Centerfire rifles can also benefit from ensuring positive, consistent ignition. A wise riflesmith is literally worth his weight in gold!
So, what are some issues we as shooters can inspect in our rifles to help determine if ignition woes could be part of our problem? At the club level, ask yourself if that “experienced” Remington, Winchester 70, or even Springfield-based match bolt gun you’re using is still running its’ original 40-80 year-old factory striker spring? If so, a new replacement is cheap insurance against current or future problems. (And BTW, it might be best to stick to the normal, factory-spec spring weight. A super-powerful spring can cause vertical, just as a weak one one can.) Along with that, a routine check for proper firing-pin protrusion is a quick preventive measure that can rule out potential issues.
Other areas to consider are the centering and consistency of the firing pin’s operation in the bolt. Admittedly, with the increasing use of precision-machined custom actions, this is becoming less an issue every day. Below is the firing pin assembly from a custom BAT action:
However, particularly with factory actions, a very quick and easy check is to remove the bolt, let the firing pin go forward, and look at the firing pin tip through the firing pin hole. Is the tip off-center in the hole, and possibly striking it as it moves forward? Is the hole out-of-round or burred from being struck repeatedly? If so, a trip to the riflesmith is likely in order.
Similarly, machining issues in the bolt/firing pin system can lead to rough and erratic firing pin movement, in which the firing pin drags against an internal surface of the bolt. In high-quality rifles these issues are relatively rare, but not unheard-of, and it takes mere minutes to rule them out. It may be worthwhile to remove the cocking piece/firing pin/spring assembly and look for any unusual gouges, dings, peening, burrs or signs of abnormal wear.
This task is especially easy with Winchester 70s, Springfields, and the similar Mauser 98s, involving little more than the push of a button and unscrewing the cocking piece assembly. This is just one of the many reasons these tried-and-true actions have earned such a loyal following in the field, among hunters who must maintain their rifles away from a shop.
Particularly with older rifles, watch for and remove excess grease (or even Cosmoline!) from both the firing pin assembly and inside the bolt. This can help improve firing pin speed and consistency. Other bolt-action designs may need a take-down tool or other measures.
As part of this inspection, AFTER ENSURING THE RIFLE IS UNLOADED, slowly cock the rifle, dry-fire, and repeat several times. Listen carefully near the action for inconsistency in the sounds it generates. Does the striker falling make the same sound each time? Do you hear or feel grinding upon operation? If so, where?
Be sure to check the operation of the cocking piece (bolt shroud), firing pin within the bolt shroud, the cocking piece cam and the rear of the bolt body where the cocking piece cam operates. As with our examination for abnormal wear marks discussed above, look for marks indicating roughness or a possible need for light polishing. Then, clean and lightly grease the bearing surfaces while you’re at it.
Remington 700 bolt shroud and cocking cam
These are relatively easy checks that shooters can undertake to perform a preliminary inspection on their own. Other mechanical issues can also cause ignition issues, chiefly centered around the action of the trigger, sear and sear spring. If these are suspected, a trip to an experienced, qualified riflesmith for diagnosis is recommended. We hope you find this information helpful! Join us again next week, and in the meantime, enjoy the shooting sports safely!
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A customer of well-known gunsmith (and Hall-of-Fame shooter) Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez recently asked Speedy about bedding compounds. Speedy offered some interesting advice based on long-term testing of various materials. Speedy favors Marine-Tex because it is very stable over time, while other materials can shrink up to 6% dimensionally. A good bedding job should be a perfect fit to your barreled action. If the bedding material shrinks over time, that is NOT a good thing….
Speedy’s customer asked: “I know you’re not a Devcon man in regards to bedding compounds but I respect your input in such matters and my question is this in regard to aluminum actions. If Devcon was considered, for an aluminum action, would you prefer aluminum compound formula or steel formula? I personally prefer Devcon steel and Marine-Tex for steel receivers but my experience with aluminum is limited. Also do you have a release agent preference that works better with aluminum?”
Speedy answered: “My only preference of one epoxy over another is their stability over time. My buddy who works for the Texas State Weights and Measures Department had me cast several of the most common types of epoxies used for bedding into 1.000″ machined blocks. After one year of being kept in a controlled climate and measured for shrinkage monthly, the Marine Tex shrunk only 1/10th of 1% (i.e. 0.1%) whereas almost all the others (including Devcon Steel formula, Devcon Aluminum formula…) shrunk 3% to 6%. The only other compounds that matched the Marine Tex were Araldite 1253 and Araldite 2014, with the latter being quite expensive for daily use.”
Speedy added: “The Marine Tex Grey has no atomized metal in its makeup even though it appears that it does. This can be proven by the use of a strong neodymium magnet. What is humorous to me is that people don’t like aluminum yet will bed their actions atop aluminum pillars that have twice the coefficient of expansion (COE) of steel. Like Devcon, it is what people have always done and used. Thus [they] perpetuate the same old stuff. That’s my two cents’ worth. But as I tell everyone, ‘I’ll tell you what I know or do, but it’s not my job to convince anyone to do it my way’.”
Release Agents — Try Shoe Polish
Regarding release agents, Speedy stated: “I use Kiwi Neutral or Tan shoe polish. This works great and you can find it anywhere. Do NOT use the black or brown as it will stick.”
View More Photos of Speedy Inletting and Bedding Job CLICK HERE to see an interesting bedding job done by Speedy using a custom titanium bedding block. Speedy notes, “The stock was a raw blank requiring full inletting for the action to fit properly plus the titanium block. All the loading ports, bolt handle cut, bolt stop, and trigger guard cuts were done with diamond tooling to eliminate fraying and/or delamination of the wood.” You’ll find more projects by Speedy on his Facebook Page. Speedy is in San Antonio, Texas now, and accepting new projects with his company S.G. Rifles LLC.
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