Hunting season is right around the corner. For many of us, that means liberating a rifle that sits in a safe most of the year, grabbing a box of cartridges, and heading to the wilds. But this “once a year thing” carries with it potential risks.
It is all to easy to grab some rounds that may look right, but which are, in fact, a slightly different chambering. Likewise it is possible some hunting rounds got put in the wrong box after last year’s hunting trip. Be very careful when you get ready for a hunting trip — check the headstamp, cartridge dimensions, and bullet diameter of all your rounds. If you make an ammo selection mistake, the consequences can be disasterous, as this story reveals.
The .223 WSSM and 6mmBR Disaster Report by Dr. Jim Clary
Under most circumstances, shooters don’t have to worry about chambering the wrong cartridge into the wrong rifle. After all, the cartridges are well marked and we all know which rifle we are shooting on any given day. In many cases, incorrect cartridges cannot be chambered — larger cases will not fit in smaller chambers, for example. No problem! That being said, I can tell you that even an experienced, careful and normally safe shooter can make a mistake.
The following is an account of just such a mistake that could have resulted in death or dismemberment. Fortunately, the shooter was not hurt, but the rifle was completely destroyed.
Last year, a friend purchased a Savage Precision right bolt, left port, single shot bolt action in 6mmBR Norma. It was an incredible prairie dog gun and he spent the summer burning powder and busting dogs. In October, he purchased a stainless steel Browning A-Bolt Varmint in .223 WSSM. The weather in the upper Midwest turned sour by the time he got the brass tuned up and he only got to fire it a few times before he was “socked in” for the winter. Thus, he spent his evenings loading ammo for the spring thaw.
During a break in the weather, he grabbed both rifles and a couple of bags of .223 WSSM and 6mmBR cartridges and headed to the range to check out his new loads. In case you are not familiar, the 6mmBR is smaller in diameter and a mite shorter than the .223 WSSM. Because of this, it will chamber in a .223 WSSM, but the .243 caliber (6mm) bullet is too big for the .22 caliber bore. That is what happened to my friend.
The rest is history — when he squeezed the trigger, all hell broke loose. The entire bottom of the rifle blew out, including the magazine assembly. The explosion actually cut the stock into two pieces. However, the bolt held and amazing as it may seem, the .243 bullet was “swaged” right out of the .223 barrel.
6mmBR (left) and .223 WSSM (right) cartridges above the remains of Browning A-Bolt rifle.
One Small Mistake Is All It Takes
Now, realize that my friend has been shooting all manner of firearms, safely, for over half a century. He is meticulous, thorough and conscientious in his approach to reloading and shooting. However, he made one mistake. He put some lose 6BR cartridges in a baggie as he packed up from a prairie dog hunt last summer, without noticing that the baggie was marked .223 WSSM in black marker. Then, when the break in his winter weather came, he grabbed the bag, believing it to be the WSSM cartridges and didn’t check the head stamp.
Couldn’t happen to you? How many times have we emptied our pockets of cartridges and dropped them into a plastic container on the shooting bench? How many times have we set down to a marathon reloading session, loading several calibers in a row? How many times have we put the wrong bullets, cases or primers into the incorrect container? My point is that even the safest of us can make a mistake. So, look at the picture above and take a bit more time when you reload your ammunition at home or chamber a round in the field. It might save your life.
Here is a simple but effective product that can benefit varminters and game-hunters. The slip-on, padded RRR (“triple R”) gun rest cushions your rifle on any surface and helps eliminate noise when shifting the gun from one shooting position to another. The RRR slip-on rest is made of neoprene (wet suit material) with a built-in, thick Armaflex foam cushion on the bottom. This $19.95 sleeve protects the finish of your rifle, while providing a cushioned layer between your rifle and the supporting surface.
Hunters will appreciate how the RRR slip-on rest quiets the gun when the forearm is placed on supporting surface (watch video). The padded, neoprene covering acts like a sound deadener. With the RRR in place, the rifle forearm doesn’t clang or rattle, even when you set the gun on a metal frame or hard surface.
Video Shows RRR in Use in the Field
This padded sleeve works great when shooting from a truck, providing a padded surface when aiming from a truck mirror or door frame. Likewise, the RRR rest works well in the field when shooting from a tree-limb, or a boulder.
The patented RRR slip-on rest fits rifle stocks from 1¼ inches to 2¼ inches wide, and will not interfere with your scope. Installation is easy — after unloading the rifle, simply slide the RRR over the barrel and fore-end, with the RRR logo on top, so that the cushion section is under the rifle stock.
► The RRR slip-on rest cushions your rifle. This helps to keep the shot from going high even when the rifle is placed on a hard surface.
► The RRR protects the finish on the stock of your rifle from scratches when resting on hard surfaces.
► The RRR can be slipped over the fore-end with a sling attached.
► The neoprene, water-resistant RRR works well even in wet or snowy weather. (But you should remove from gun after a wet hunting session.)
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Adam Scepaniak, of The Guns and Gear Store, has written an interesting story about Prairie Dog Hunting in North Dakota. If a P-Dog safari is on your “bucket list”, you’ll want to read the full story in the Sierra Bullets Blog. Adam provides many tips that can help you plan a successful prairie dog adventure.
Prairie Dog Hunting in North Dakota with Sierra Bullets (Excerpt)
It’s that time of year where lots of men and women point their vehicles westward and try to push the limits of their rifles on prairie dogs. I was a part of this group of people just a few days ago while in northwestern North Dakota. CLICK HERE to Read Full Story.
Grass Was Too Tall at First Location for Prone Shooting.
Little Missouri National Grassland
Once my hunting party arrived at the Little Missouri National Grassland in North Dakota we immediately began scouting for prime prairie dog towns. There is a certain amount of strategy involved in choosing a prairie dog town … for several reasons. For one, you should try to always stay “above” the prairie dogs.
Small objects like rocks, cactuses, and prairie vegetation can easily obstruct your view if you’re shooting prone on a level plane. We encountered this in the first small prairie dog town we stopped and shot at. The prairie dog town was very visible while walking and standing, but once we laid down with our rifles on bipods the two-foot prairie grass became a severe obstruction. We shortly moved on because the small town became quick-studies to our shooting.
The second prairie dog town we hunted was at the base of a small ridge with a dried, cattle creek at the bottom. This area offered better shooting opportunities because we were above most of the prairie dog holes, and if we were not above them, a deep ravine separated us from the prairie dogs removing any obstructions from our rifle scopes which was our previous problem. This area had its own disadvantage though because of some other wildlife present. There were approximately fifty head of cattle in our close vicinity grazing, which was to no surprise because many ranchers utilize the National Grassland for grazing. We had to wait for the cattle to leave our area as to not have an incidental hit due to a rare ricochet. As the sun passed over the horizon we decided to return to this spot the next morning, but would change our shooting position to increase our advantage.
This Location Offered a Nice Overlook.
Zoomed Image Shows Individual Prairie Dog Mounds.
My previous varminting best was a 275-yard shot near Mobridge, South Dakota on a separate prairie dog hunting trip. With more experience and better reloading, Here in North Dakota I was able to make a solid hit on a prairie dog just over 400 yards which made me ecstatic! For a central Minnesota, shotgun-raised guy, I was pretty happy that my bullet selection and hand-loading ability produced a 125-yard improvement.
Once we cleaned and cased our rifles for the journey home we had shot a little over 200 rounds of my Sierra® reloads. This was a lot less than previous prairie dog trips I have been a part of, but our hit percentage was substantially higher as well. Traveling into a new area meant a lot more scouting and experimentation for us as a group. In future trips or hunts of your own, it can be very beneficial to schedule an extra day just for scouting[.]
Little Missouri National Grassland is a National Grassland located in western North Dakota. At 1,033,271 acres, it is the largest grassland in the country. Within its borders is Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The Little Missouri National Grasslands was once a part of the Custer National Forest, but is now a part of the Dakota Prairie Grasslands, a National Forest unit consisting entirely of National Grasslands. A predominant feature of the grassland is colorful and beautiful badlands, a rugged terrain extensively eroded by wind and water. It is a mixed grass prairie, meaning it has both long and short grass.
The boundaries of the grasslands on certain maps can be misleading. Within the boundaries of the national grassland are significant portions of state-owned and privately-owned land, much of it leased by cattle ranchers for grazing.
The grassland is administered by the Forest Service as part of the Dakota Prairie Grasslands from offices in Bismarck, ND. There are ranger district offices in Dickinson and Watford City.
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Etymotic Research now offers its GSP•15® Electronic Earplugs in a smaller form factor. This gives shooters some of the best “wearable technology” on the market. These small, electronic earplugs protect the user from loud shot and blast noises, while at the same time allowing normal conversations. The active circuitry in GSP•15 earplugs allows for natural hearing when sound levels are safe. (Natural hearing is automatically restored when hearing is not at risk.) In this respect, these small earplugs do the job of a much larger, bulkier pair of electronic ear muffs.
GSP•15 plugs have a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of 25 dB, better than many electronic muffs. And these plugs are small, light, and comfortable. Using the company’s bean-sized Quiet Sound Amplifier® outer case, the latest GSP•15 earplugs fit great. A variety of tip shapes/materials are provided.
Special 15% Off Savings Now Through August 31, 2014
Etymotic GSP•15 Electronic Earplugs normally retail for $399.00. As a special offer for AccurateShooter.com readers, the full GSP•15 kit is now 15% off (roughly $339.15) if you use discount code AS2014 at checkout. This special offer is valid until August 31, 2014.
GSP•15 plugs pack impressive engineering inside a small package. High-sensitivity microphones, high-definition balanced-armature drivers, and advanced signal processing combine to deliver high-fidelity, natural sound. And, like the original model, the new GSP•15 earplugs come with a wide selection of ear-tips, with custom molds an available option.
“Hearing loss is preventable,” says Dr. Patricia Johnson, audiologist and hearing conservation specialist at Etymotic. “Etymotic has been providing the world’s only truly flat-attenuation in passive earplugs for over 25 years. We’re pleased to launch this new version of GSP•15 electronic earplugs that lets wearers hear naturally when sound levels are safe, but be protected when it counts.”
GSP•15s Work Well for Hunters — Providing Protection AND Amplification
Unlike bulky muffs, the GSP•15s fit perfectly under a hat or other cold weather headgear. And while they protect a shooter’s hearing from blasts, these electronic ear plugs also provides up to five times amplification in the enhancement mode. At the flip of a switch, sound is amplified, giving hunters “super hearing” in the field.
Etymotic is a research, development and manufacturing company that designs high-fidelity personal audio products and hearing wellness solutions to assess, enhance, and protect hearing. For more information about Etymotic and its products, visit www.etymotic.com.
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American Rifleman TV begins its new season tonight, July 2, 2014, on the Outdoor Channel at 6:30 p.m. ET and 10 p.m. ET. This week’s episode features the S.A.A.M. Hunter Training Program at the FTW Ranch in Barksdale, Texas. At this facility, ARTV staffers learn the basic principles of long-range precision shooting as part of the S.A.A.M. Safari Course. In the Rifleman Review segment the new Remington R51 is featured, and in the “This Old Gun” segment you’ll see the infamous handgun that started World War I: the FN Model 1910.
Watch Preview of 2014 Season Opening Episode of American Rifleman TV
American Rifleman TV is the on-screen version of the National Rifle Association’s American Rifleman magazine. American Rifleman Television covers firearms, the shooting sports, and gun rights issues. “ARTV is part of the larger American Rifleman brand,” said Editor-in-Chief Mark A. Keefe IV. “It’s a show about guns- we teach the history of them and the people who use them.”
Each episode of ARTV is built around one primary feature segment. In that lead story, ARTV staffers may visit a firearms factory, attend a major shooting competition, or work with elite instructors at one of the nation’s leading training facilities. In this week’s season opener, ARTV’s reporters practice long-range precision shooting at the S.A.A.M. hunter training center in Texas.
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Here’s a handy product with many uses for hunters and shooters. The Sack-Ups Knife Protector roll-up pouch is made from silicone-treated synthetic fabric. The pouch protects blades and tools while helping to prevent rust. (Since leather retains moisture, you don’t want to leave blades in leather sheaths.) While Sack-Ups roll pouches were designed for knives, they can be used to hold other shooting items, such as bolts, loading dies, or expensive tools. The synthetic fabric wicks away moisture. (Nonetheless, we recommend that steel items receive a light coat of a good corrosion-inhibiting oil before long-term storage.)
This month Ruger is introducing a new varmint version of its popular Ruger American Rifle (RAR). The RAR “Predator” model is offered in six (6) different chamberings: .204 Ruger, .223 Remington, .22-250 Remington, .243 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .308 Winchester. All have 22″ free-floated, medium-contour barrels except the .308 Win, which has an 18″ tube, making it a very handy truck gun.
Gun writer Ed Head got his hands on one of the new RAR Predator rifles, chambered in .223 Remington. He reviewed the Predator for the DownRange.TV blog. The reviewer liked the compact 6.62-pound rifle, which features a molded polymer stock and hammer-forged 1:8″ twist barrel. Ed Head liked the short-throw bolt, and he praised the crisp trigger. Accuracy, as tested, was not that impressive — 1.224″ on average at 100 yards. But the tester noted that some types of ammo shot much better than others. So, conceivably, with handloads, this gun could shoot well under 1 MOA. Shooting at steel targets, the tester “managed to shoot 1.5-inch groups at 100 yards, 2.5-inch groups at 200 yards, and 7-inch groups at 300 yards, all with the Lake City ammunition.”
Overall, reviewer Ed Head liked the Predator enough that he decided to purchase his test rifle: “I like this rifle and I’m going to buy it from Ruger. It will shoot ‘minute of squirrel’ at reasonable ranges and should do well on bigger critters — predators — out to 400 yards or more.”
One-piece, 3-Lug 70° bolt with full-diameter bolt body and dual cocking cams.
Integral bedding block system that positively locates the receiver.
Action comes with factory-installed aluminum Weaver-style scope rail.
Two-position safety can lock trigger (but not bolt) to allow safe unloading.
Adjustable 3.5-lb Ruger Marksman trigger with Savage-style inner safety blade.
Barrel factory-threaded at muzzle for muzzle brakes, flash hiders, and/or suppressors.
Rotary magazines with 4- or 5-round capacity (depending on caliber). These magazines are a little tough to load correctly.
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Will you be heading to the varmint fields this summer? Proper planning is key to a safe, satisfying, and productive varmint holiday. Of course you’ll be busy reloading, but you should make a check-list of all the gear and supplies you need. Bring a variety of rifles if possible — you’ll need to switch off as one barrel gets hot, and the chambering that works best for your close shots may not be ideal for those longer shots out past 400 yards. Here are some tips from our Forum members that can help you shoot more effectively, and avoid problems on your varmint hunt.
From PatchHound: “The gear you bring will make or break a trip out to Prairie Dog land. A lot has to do with where you going and how far you are from [civilization]. For starters, bring lots of water. It will be hot in Wyoming in a few more weeks but it don’t hurt to bring warm clothes in case it snows. It’s best to wear leather boots unless you’re real good at dodging cactus while walking around. Good sunsceen will save the day too. [What you need to bring] really depends on whether you’re shooting on some friendly ranch or 100 miles in the middle of [a wilderness area]. Good survival gear is a good thing to have for the latter!”
From Stoner25mkiv: “I’d suggest an adjustable bipod if you are going to do any walking. A laser rangefinder is a huge asset. Have a fanny pack or backpack for extra ammo, water, bore-snake, etc. when you go on your walkabouts. We also take a couple pivoting benches, heavy movers’ pad/blanket, sandbags (Uncle Bud’s Bulls Bag) for shooting from near the vehicle. Boonie hat for blocking the sun, sun glasses, sunscreen. High leather boots.
Anyway, on to the rifles…consider bringing a 17 HMR, .223 Ackley bolt gun, .223 Ackley AR, and a 243 WSSM. Some years the 17 HMR isn’t removed from its case. We had a couple windless days and the 17 was lots of fun. I’d walk into the dogtown and then lay down and wait. After five minutes or so I’d have dogs within easy rimfire range, and out to as far as I’d care to stretch the rimfire. 275 yards was about it.”
From CTShooter: “The .204 [Ruger] is a laser beam and good to 400 yards easy. Forget the rimfire! Do you have a portable bench that pivots? Bring bipod, binocs. Bring a LOT of water. I have a milspec sniper shooter’s mat/drag bag with shoulder straps. It is good to carry everything when you want to wander off and shoot prone with bipod. Here’s a view through my 6BR in ND.”
From RJinTexas: “In most of the locations that we’ll be shooting we’ll usually set up a minimum of 200 yards from the edge of a major dog town. We’ll start by working over the close-in dogs and shooting our way out, some of these towns may run in excess of 500/600 yards deep. I believe that a rimfire will put you at a distinct disadvantage. The only rimfire that will somewhat work is the 17 HMR and you can reload for your 204s for close to the cost of HMR ammo and you’ll be less apt to be under-gunned. Your 204 will work well out to 300/400 yards unless the wind is blowing hard. We classify a 10-mph crosswind as a very calm day and what makes it a little more challenging is that it is usually also gusting. I only took my 17 HMR once, I’ve since even quit taking my 17 Mach IV because when the wind blows hard it range is limited to around 200 yards. Gusting wind will play havoc with 25gr pills.”
From Wes (P1ZombieKiller): “[For my first PD trip] there are so many things I was not ready for. The one thing that I did bring (that no one told me about) was a canopy. I’m glad I did. Even though the weather was [near perfect], I know that sun can humble you real fast. With my pop-up canopy, I could shoot all day without getting killed by the sun. You had to tie the canopy down real well or the wind would blow it across the pasture.
We sat on shooting benches that pivot 360°, and are fast and easy to set up. Most all shots were 175-250 yards. I just felt comfortable at that range. It was more fun for me to be able to film the hits, and the camcorder I was using just did not get good video past 350 yards. The digital zoom distorted the image too much. I knew I would only get this one chance to film my first P-dog outing, and I wanted to get it on film for [posterity].” To learn more about P1′s first Prairie Dog Trip, visit his Website.
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Federal has created an award-winning Bullet Breakdown Video (below) that demonstrates how various hunting bullets perform in ballistic gelatin. This and other videos are found on Federal Premium Ammunition’s YouTube Channel. The Bullet Breakdown Video features four bullet types used in Federal Ammo: Nosler Ballistic Tip; Sierra GameKing; Trophy Bonded Tip; and Barnes Triple-Shock X-Bullet. (Note: you may want to turn down the volume before playback.)
Federal’s high-resolution, slow-motion video-graphy helps demonstrate which loads are the best for specific uses. The ultra-slo-mo footage provides a detailed view of each bullet penetrating ballistic gelatin blocks. These blocks closely mimic animal tissue and clearly display performance characteristics.
“The Bullet Breakdown Video is a great tool for hunters trying to decide on ammunition type,” said Federal’s Jason Nash. “Properly preparing for the hunt is crucial-and not all bullets are made the same. The bullet is the one link between hunter and game and can be the difference between success and failure. This video helps show hunters how different bullet construction affects terminal performance[.]” For more info, visit www.FederalPremium.com.
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Here’s good news for varmint hunters. Hornady just announced that it is ramping up production of the 17 Hornet: “For those of you who love the 17 Hornet, we are manufacturing ammunition right now and you should see it back in stores soon!” The 17 Hornet is a fun, fast cartridge that is ideal for ground squirrels and other small varmints. It has light recoil similar to a 22 WMR, but with the ability to reach out to 300 yards and beyond. Since the 17 Hornet is a centerfire cartridge with reloadable brass, it can actually be more economical to shoot than the 17 HMR, provided you “roll your own”.
Speed Kills — 3650 FPS
Based on the 22 Hornet cartridge case, the 17 Hornet can drive a 20-grain V-MAX bullet at 3,650 fps. At this velocity, the 17 Hornet can match the trajectory of a 55-grain .223 Remington load, but with much less noise and recoil. Take a look at the chart below. You can see that the 17 Hornet’s trajectory (blue line) is almost an identical match for the larger .223 Rem (red line) all the way out to 400 yards or so. The 17 Hornet is an economical, fun .17 caliber centerfire cartridge with way more “reach” than a 17 HRM or 22 WMR.
17 Hornet — Trajectory Comparison
3,650 fps muzzle velocity with a 20 grain V-MAX bullet.
Same C.O.L. as the 22 Hornet – uses the existing action.
Trajectory comparable to a 55 grain 223 Rem, but the felt recoil of a 22 WMR.
Lower cost and comparable quality to the 17 Fireball and .223 Remington.
Video Explains 17 Hornet Features and Performance
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At first glance, these handsome illustrations look like vintage advertising sheets from the early 19th Century. But then you’ll smile a little when you read the slogan for “Lesters Ammunition”.
Potential buyers of “America’s Cheapest Ammunition” are assured that “It Usually Works”. Well, that’s comforting. There is also a British version for “Lesters — The Empire’s Cheapest Ammunition”, illustrating a well-fed lion. These Golden Age Parodies are offered as full-size wall posters or magazine-size framed prints, starting at $95.00 from Blue Loon Fine Arts.
Cheap Tin Signs sells a 12.5″ x 16″ retro-style tin sign printed with the Lesters Bear-Eats-Hunter scene. This vendor offers other parody-style tin signs that should bring a smile to your hunting and shooting buddies. In addition, Cheap Tin Signs offers dozens of other (non-parody) tin signs, with vintage 30s-style artwork for Colt Revolvers, Winchester Rifles, and Smith & Wesson pistols.
Great Man Cave Gift
Looking for an amusing gift for your best shooting buddy, or a “conversation starter” to hang on the wall of your local shooting facility or club-house? Consider a frameable parody print from Blue Loon Fine Arts or a “retro-style” tin sign from CheapTinSigns.com. Both vendors offer art that harkens back to outdoor hunting illustrations from the 1920s and 1930s. But when you look carefully, you’ll see there’s a twist that will leave art-viewers chuckling.
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Everybody knows that powerful spotting scopes work best when mounted to a stable tripod or otherwise secured to a steady mount. Yet when most folks use binoculars, they never even think of using a tripod, despite the fact that tripod adapters are available for many premium binoculars. A serious hunter should learn how to glass with tripod support. With binoculars offering more that 8X magnification, you can really benefit from a steady mount. In this article, Mark Boardman of Vortex Optics, an experienced hunter, explains the benefits of using a tripod with high-magnification binoculars.