The most hotly-anticipated cartridge brass, the new-for-2017 6.5 Creedmoor cases from Lapua, arrived late last week at Graf & Sons. With the strength and uniformity for which Lapua brass is famous, this new brass should definitely “raise the bar” for 6.5 Creedmoor and 6mm Creedmoor shooters. Note — the new Lapua 6.5 Creedmoor brass features a small flash hole and small primer pocket. As of 9:00 am Monday morning this brass is in stock at Grafs.com priced at $119.99 per 100-ct box, with a max order of five (5) boxes.
UPDATE: The 6.5 Creedmoor brass sold out after we posted this story. But there will be more coming. You can ask Graf’s to be notified as soon as the next shipment arrives.
TECH TIP: For those who have been loading Hornady or other-brand 6.5 Creedmoor brass with large primer pockets and large flash holes, you may need to reconfigure your reloading tools. Check your sizing die — you may need to change to a smaller-diameter decapping rod. In addition you’ll need to use a small primer size “pusher” on your priming tool.
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The 2017 Berger Southwest Nationals (SWN) are now history. This was a great match, with extremely close competition, and record-setting scores. For the first few days, conditions were very mild. That allowed the “top guns” to shoot “cleans” and even set a few new National records. In individual competition, there were familiar faces among the Top Ten, but also some rising stars. In the F-Open and Sling team events, two new squads topped some of the experienced “all-star” teams. Overall it was a great match — one of the most tightly contested ever. Even with 400 competitors, everything ran smoothly. For those who attended the 2017 Berger SW Nationals, this has been a truly memorable week at Ben Avery. F-Open and F-TR Final Results Posted HERE.
This is our final Berger SW Nationals video for 2017, with interviews with the three class winners: John Whidden (Sling), David Gosnell (F-Open), Donald Erpenbach (F-TR).
Top Five Competitors in Each Class
John Whidden, 1248-84X
Adrian Harris, 1243-74X
Allen Thomas, 1242-65X
Justin Skaret, 1242-59X
Erik Rhode, 1241-59X
David Gosnell, 1247-84X
Jay Christopherson, 1246-74X
Keith Glasscock, 1245-79X
Pat Scully, 1243-71X
Dan Bramley, 1243-70X
Donald Erpenbach, 1230-53X
James Crofts, 1225-43X
Alan Barnhart, 1224-32X
Ian Klemm, 1222-55X
Bryan Litz, 1222-49X
Bryan Litz congratulates Sling winner John Whidden. John is reigning National Long Range Rifle Champion.
Below are SWN F-Open Champion David Gosnell (left) and F-TR Winner Donald Erpenbach (right).
Record-Setting Performances in 2017
This year Ben Avery conditions were very good — calm mornings, and little wind in the afternoons for the first three days. With the very calm Day 1-3 conditions, we witnessed some spectacular individual and team performances. Lester Bruno shot a brilliant 200-23X at 600 Yards, setting a new National record. Ian Klemm set a new 60-shot, 600-yard National record of 599-38X. The Cluster Ducks set a new National F-Open Team Record for 800/900/1000 yards with their 1789-100X Score. And the talented North-by-Southwest F-TR squad set both a National Record and an overall SWN match record.
The North-by-Southwest team won the 2017 SWN F-TR team event in fine fashion, setting new National and range records in the process.
And here is Team Longshots, winner of the F-Open Team Title. Individual F-Open Champ David Gosnell is at far right. The winning Sling Team was Scotland Thistle.
Forum Admin Finishes a Very Close Second in F-Open
Hats off to AccurateShooter.com’s very own Systems Admin, Jay Christopherson. A talented tech expert, Jay runs our web servers and manages our Forum software. His skills and dedication keep the Forum running smoothly, even as we approach 35,000 members. Jay shot a brilliant match at Ben Avery this week, finishing second in F-Open, just one point behind F-Open winner David Gosnell. We’re proud of Jay, and we want to recognize his achievement. It’s interesting to note that Jay shot the entire match with the new SEB Mini rest, and he was using a Vortex 15-60x52mm Golden Eagle scope. Here’s a short video of Jay shooting his .284 Win rifle on Saturday.
The show’s over — it’s time to pack up the gear and head on home. We’re already looking forward to the 2018 Berger SWN. See you next year!
Big News for Berger Bullets
Big news in the Industry is that Berger Bullets is becoming part of the Nammo Group, parent of Lapua, Vihtavuori, SK and other companies. This major acquisition will combine Nammo’s resources and advanced engineering with Berger’s match-winning bullet designs and strong focus on competition. Yes, you can expect to see factory-loaded ammunition with Berger projectiles and premium Lapua brass. To learn more about the big Berger/Nammo deal, watch this interview with Berger President Erik Stecker.
Eric Stecker, Berger’s President, says the exact timing of the move has not yet been set, nor has the location been chosen. Arizona is high on the list of potential sites, but Berger is considering other states as well. Once the new factory location is determined, Eric says he expects the move to be completed “by December 2018 at the latest”.
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At the request of our readers, we provide select “Deals of the Week”. Every Monday morning we offer our Best Bargain selections. Here are some of the best deals on firearms, hardware, reloading components, and shooting accessories. Be aware that sale prices are subject to change, and once clearance inventory is sold, it’s gone for good. You snooze you lose.
1. Aero Precision — Cerakote AR Upper and Lower Kit, $399.99
Thinking of putting together an accurate AR for the new PRS Gas Gun series (or 3-Gun matches)? Here’s a good place to start. Aero Precision now offers a kit with Upper and Lower Receivers and Handguard — all with a durable Cerokote finish. Just add barrel, buttstock, trigger, controls and your bolt carrier group. Note: This kit will work with the .223 Rem and similar-length, larger-caliber cartridges such as the 6mmAR and 6.5 Grendel. If you want to shoot a 6.5 Creedmoor, you’ll need an AR10 platform rifle.
2. Midsouth — Labradar Chronograph and Accessories
Midsouth Shooters Supply is now carrying the advanced Labradar chronograph. This unique unit allows you to measure your shots without having to set up a tripod and skyscreens downrange. When you start using a Labradar, you’ll never want to go back to old-style chronographs. You can also purchase the Labradar from Bruno Shooters Supply. Price is $559.95 from either vendor. NOTE: In a few months Labradar plans to offer Bluetooth functionality, allowing you to control the machine remotely with your mobile device. This functionality will come via new software — the Bluetooth transceiver is built-in to all current Labradar units, so you can buy one now and use Bluetooth later (when the software is released this spring).
3. EuroOptic.com — Tikka T3 Liquidation Sale, Huge Discounts
Looking for a great price on an excellent hunting rifle? Here is the Tikka Deal of the Decade. EuroOptic.com has received nearly 3,500 Tikka T3 rifles, which will be sold at deep discounts as part of an inventory clearance program by Beretta, Tikka’s parent company. The Tikka T3 is a good, stout rifle with a smooth action, crisp trigger, and quality barrel. Accuracy is typically well under 1 MOA (for three shots). T3 barreled actions also are a good “core” for a tactical build. The strong T3 action handles detachable magazines, and fits a variety of third-party stocks.
4. Natchez — RCBS ChargeMaster Dispenser, $259.99
Here’s a very good deal on the popular RCBS ChargeMaster combo scale/powder dispenser. This unit sells elsewhere for up to $389.00. You may want to act quickly as sale pricing changes frequently and many other vendors have recently raised their prices. Grafs.com sells this for $382.99 now while the current Amazon.com price is $296.99. You can save a lot through Natchez right now.
If you are serious about your precision firearms, you need one of these. We use the Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge to test the triggers on all our match and varmint rifles. The unit is precise and repeatable. Once you try one of these you won’t want to go back to crude spring trigger gauges. Amazon.com offers this unit for $51.95 with free shipping for Prime members. Walmart also has it for $51.95 with free shipping or free in-store pickup.
6. Sportsman’s Guide — Frankford Arsenal Case Tumbler Kit
For just $69.99, this Frankford Arsenal Kit provides everything you need to clean brass: Vibratory Tumbler, Rotary Media Separator, Bucket, Corn Cob Media (3 lbs.), and Brass Polish. The Case Tumbler holds up to 600 9mm cases or 350 .223 Rem cases. The separator system is generous, with a 3.5-gallon bucket. NOTE: Sportsman’s Guide Buyers Club members can purchase for $62.99.
7. Amazon — Tipton 12-pc Ultra-Jag Set, $16.99
Brass jags work well — with one hitch. Strong copper solvents can leech metal from the jag itself, leaving a tell-tale blue tint on your patches. This “false positive” can lead shooters to over-clean their barrels. No such problem with these nickel-plated Ultra Jags. For just $16.99 you can get 12 jags in a handy, clear-top fitted caddy. All Tipton nickel-plated jags have 8-32 thread, except for the .17 caliber jag which has a 5-40 thread.
8. Amazon — Neiko Digital Calipers, $16.45
Even if you have a good set of calipers, you may want to get one of these Neiko 01407A Digital Calipers. The #1 best-selling digital caliper on Amazon.com, this Neiko tool features a large LCD Screen and measures up to 6.0 inches. With over 2300 customer reviews, this product has earned an overall rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars. It’s hard to go wrong for $17.74, even if you just use these as a spare set for measuring group sizes and case trim lengths.
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We saw a change in weather on Saturday. It dawned warm and relatively calm, but the winds picked up in the afternoon as clouds rolled in. There wasn’t any rain though, and for shooters who were sunburned after many days in the Arizona sunshine, the overcast was a bit of a relief. On Saturday, Ben Avery hosted both individual and team matches. All three classes (Sling, F-Open, F-TR) shot two 1000-yard individual matches. This was followed by 4-person Team Matches at 1K. Here are the top five performers in Saturday’s individual matches:
Top Five Competitors in Each Class
Kevan Hoffarth (P), 400-19X
Jerry Iliff (A), 400-18X
John Whidden (A), 399-23X
Peter Church (A), 399-22X
Gary Rasmussen (A), 399-16X
Dan Bramley, 399-28X
Robert Hoppe, 399-27X
Pat Scully, 399-24X
Erik Cortina, 399-22X
John Meyers, 399-20X
Ian Klemm, 394-16X
Bryan Litz, 393-16X
Nancy Tompkins, 392-19X
Peter Ricci 392-13X
Alan Barnhart, 392-9X
In a great individual performance, Kevan Hoffarth, shooting a Palma Rifle, shot clean to beat ALL sling shooters, including those in the “Any Rifle” sub-class. In fact, “Any” shooters took the next four sling places. In the F-Open Division, it was a very tight race, decided by X-Count for the top five places, with Dan Bramley edging Robert Hoppe for the win by one X.
Watch Highlights of Day 4 at the Berger SW Nationals:
What the Berger SW Nationals is All About
When folks usually talk about shooting matches they focus on the obvious — scores and hardware. But the Berger Southwest Nationals (SWN) is about much more than putting holes in paper with bangsticks. We’d say this match has become so popular (with 400 entrants) because it offers the whole experience — fun, challenge, a warm-weather escape, and above all, camaraderie.
Some shooters come to Ben Avery for the swag (the prize table is amazing). Others come for the sunshine (think warm 75-85° weather). And even more folks come to try out their shiny new toys and to test their skills against the nation’s best shooters.
But we’d say the number one reason most folks make the pilgrimage to Ben Avery every year is the camaraderie — the chance to connect with friends, rekindling connections that may go back decades. Fundamentally, then, the Berger SWN is about the people. For this Editor, the chance to meet good friends such as John Whidden, Gary Eliseo, Doan Trevor, Nancy Tompkins, Anette Wachter, Shiraz Balolia, Adam Braverman, Jay Christopherson, Erik Cortina, Scott Harris, and so many others, gives me plenty of motivation to make the 7-hour drive from California.
For many of us, this is the only time of the year when we get a chance to meet fellow shooters from distant corners of the USA. And where else will you find a past NRA President (John Sigler) on the firing line, and have a chance to chat with him during a lunch break. The SWN is very special.
The Brain Trust — Experts Galore
The best minds of the shooting world come to Ben Avery every year. Got a question about ballistics? Well, Ballistics Guru Bryan Litz will be happy to answer your questions between relays. Want some expert advice about wind reading? Seek out Mid Tompkins (usually found hanging around the club-house) or Emil Praslick, one of the most knowledgeable wind coaches on the planet (Emil was shooting and coaching this year). And if you have a gunsmithing question, you’ll find some of the top barrel-fitters and stock makers, including Doan Trevor and Gary Eliseo.
Emil Praslick III heading out to the firing line…
Tubegun Chassis-Maker Gary Eliseo was at the match
Compete against the Best
If you want to test your mettle against some of the best shooters in the world, get yourself to Ben Avery in February. Here you can compete, shoulder to shoulder, against the best Sling and F-Class shooters on the planet. Guys like John Whidden (reigning Long Range National Champion) and Kenny Adams (reigning World F-Open Class Champion). If you want to play with the “Big Boys”, Ben Avery is the place. Having said that, novice shooters will enjoy the experience as well, because you’ll find that these top shooters are (almost universally) happy to share their knowledge.
Learn from Top Talents
If you want to improve your game, this is the place. Walk down the firing line and you’ll stand shoulder to shoulder with many national champions. There is no question that you can improve your techniques by watching top shooters, and you can get ideas about hardware by looking at the rigs campaigned by the best. Where else will you find a half-dozen national F-Class champs seated around a table. Or an 11-time National High Power Champion (David Tubb), hanging out at the Lapua trailer in the parking lot.
2015 F-TR National Mid-Range and Long-Range Champion Bryan Litz helps a Junior shooter
Mid Tompkins at Shooters’ Clinic
Gun Gear Candy Store
If you are thinking about upgrading your match rifle, you’ll find plenty of inspiration at Ben Avery. On the firing line you’ll fine the newest actions from Barnard, BAT, and Borden, the latest/greatest optics (see Vortex Golden Eagle below), and the newest most advanced stocks. F-TR guys will find a wide variety of exotic bipods plus the latest generation of sandwich-construction bipod “mats”. (NOTE: These are becoming rigid, elevated platforms with low-friction tops — will the rules be tightened?).
Warm Arizona Weather
When we arrived in Phoenix on Tuesday it was a relatively mild 76°. By Friday it had warmed to a balmy 84°. We didn’t hear any complaints from the Canadians who fled ice and snow to shoot the match. Even while California was getting soaked with rain it was sunny and warm in Arizona. And you can even have a balloon ride right over the Ben Avery range.
Enjoy a Desert Escape
The Ben Avery Shooting Facility is located in a scenic corner of Arizona, north of Phoenix. Get here early in the morning and watch the balloons take off. Head northwest and you can visit the historic town of Prescott. Two hours north is Sedona, famed for its stunning Red Rock scenery. A few hours south you can visit Tombstone and the OK Corral. There’s a lot to see and do in the Phoenix area that makes the trip worthwhile in addition to the gun fun at the range.
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Tech Tip by Doc Beech, Applied Ballistics Support Team
I am going to hit on some key points when it comes to bullet pointing. How much pointing and trimming needed is going to depend on the bullet itself. Specifically how bad the bullets are to begin with. Starting out with better-quality projectiles such as Bergers is going to mean two things. First that you don’t need to do as much correction to the meplat, but also that the improvement is going to be less. NOTE: We recommend you DO NOT POINT hunting bullets. Pointing can affect terminal performance in a bad way.
NOTE the change in the bullet tip shape and hollowpoint size after pointing:
Don’t Over-Point Your Bullets
What is important here is that you never want to over-point. It is far better to be safe, and under-point, rather than over-point and crush the tips even the slightest bit. To quote Bryan Litz exactly: “Best practice is to leave a tiny air gap in the tip so you’re sure not to compress the metal together which will result in crushing. Most of the gain in pointing is taking the bullet tip down to this point. Going a little further doesn’t show on target”. So in essence you are only bringing the tip down a small amount… and you want to make sure you leave an air gap at the tip.
Also keep in mind, bullet pointing is one of those procedures with variable returns. If you only shoot at 100-200 yards, bullet pointing will likely not benefit you. To see the benefits, which can run from 2 to 10% (possibly more with poorly designed bullets), you need be shooting at long range. Bryan says: “Typically, with pointing, you’ll see 3-4% increase in BC on average. If the nose is long and pointy (VLD shape) with a large meplat, that’s where pointing has the biggest effect; up to 8% or 10%. If the meplat is tight on a short tangent nose, the increase can be as small as 1 or 2%.” For example, If you point a Berger .308-caliber 185gr Juggernaut expect to only get a 2% increase in BC.
Should You Trim after Pointing?
Sometimes you can see tiny imperfections after pointing, but to say you “need” to trim after pointing is to say that the small imperfections make a difference. Bryan Litz advises: “If your goal is to make bullets that fly uniformly at the highest levels, it may not be necessary to trim them.” In fact Bryan states: “I’ve never trimmed a bullet tip, before or after pointing”. So in the end it is up to you to decide.
Pointing is Easy with the Right Tools
The process of pointing in itself is very simple. It takes about as much effort to point bullets as it does to seat bullets. We are simply making the air gap on the tip of the bullet ever-so smaller. Don’t rush the job — go slow. Use smooth and steady pressure on the press when pointing bullets. You don’t want to trap air in the die and damage the bullet tip. You can use most any press, with a caliber-specific sleeve and correct die insert. The Whidden pointing die has a micrometer top so making adjustments is very easy.
Bryan Litz actually helped design the Whidden Bullet Pointing Die System, so you can order the Pointing Die and Inserts directly from Applied Ballistics. Just make sure that you pick up the correct caliber sleeve(s) and appropriate insert(s). As sold by Applied Ballistics, the Whidden Bullet Pointing Die System comes with the die, one tipping insert, and one caliber-specific sleeve. To see which insert(s) you need for your bullet type(s), click this link:
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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Friday at the Ben Avery Range in Phoenix, hundreds of competitors shot the individual Palma Match, a three-yardage (800/900/1000) day-long event. Competition was tough. The first four F-Open competitors didn’t drop a single point, all finishing with 450-point “cleans”. In F-TR it was equally close. Phil Kelley won with 447-23X, but the next three finishers were just one point behind at 446. In the sling division, John Whidden topped a very strong field with his 449-31X score, showing why he is the reigning National Long-Range Champion. But the next four Sling competitors were just one point behind at 448 points.
Top Five Competitors in Each Class
John Whidden, 449-31X
Anette Wachter, 448-26X
Randy Teissedre, 448-24X
Robert Stekette, 448-23X
Allen Thomas, 448-22X
David Gosnell, 450-38X
Keith Glasscock, 450-34X
Danny J. Biggs, 450-32X
Jay Christopherson, 450-25X
Gilber Lucero, 449-27X
Philip Kelley, 447-23X
Donald Erpenbach, 446-21X
Richard Dixon, 446-20X
Alan Barnhart, 446-16X
Daniel Lentz, 445-16X
Berger SW Nationals DAY THREE Highlights Video:
The match can’t happen without the dedicated folks doing pit duty — it’s all part of the experience.
Aussie Tim Lawrence’s stock was custom-built from Rosewood in New South Wales, Australia.
The state of the art in F-Open rifles is very high indeed. Check out this handsome F-Open rig with a Speedy-designed Shurley Brothers ARK series wood stock.
Four F-Open Competitors All Shot Clean
Remarkably, the four top F-Open Competitors all shot “clean” 450s, not dropping a single point. That’s mighty impressive for a 45-shot match at three yardages. AccurateShooter’s Systems Manager Jay Christopherson, who finished fourth, said: “Shooting clean today doesn’t suck. Shooting clean and still taking 4th place is a little harder to accept. Extremely tough crowd of competitors, as always.”
Checking the wind at the beginning of the day. Dawn at Ben Avery is beautiful. (Photo by Steve Fiorenzo).
Interview with Multi-Time Champions David Tubb and John Whidden
We had a chance to chat with David Tubb and John Whidden. Between the two of them, David and John have won 21 National Rifle Championships. David has 11 National High Power titles plus 6 Long-Range titles. Reigning National Long Range Champion John Whidden holds 4 Long-Range titles, having won his latest LR championship in 2016. David is truly a living legend in the world of competitive shooting and John is one of the best sling shooters in the game today, a man capable of winning any match he enters. In fact he did win Friday’s match in the Sling division, topping the field with a 449-21X.
Berger SW Nationals Gallery of Competitors
At the Berger SW Nationals we have the opportunity to meet old friends from all over the country and make new friends. Here are some folks we saw at yesterday’s match.
Here’s Friday’s Sling Class winner John Whidden (449-31X) buckling up right before his relay.
Noma Mayo, one of our great senior shooters. She’s always smiling and helping others…
Tom Whitaker (left) chats with Emil Praslick III (right), one of the best wind coaches in the world.
Like father, like daughter. This smiling twosome is from Texas. Father David, an Accurateshooter Forum member, tells us: “Claudette turned 15 on the day we drove out, Tuesday, and this is her first Berger SWN match. She and my son Royse (17) have won Texas junior championships, but this match is the largest we’ve attended.”
We caught past F-Open National Champion (and past SWN winner) Larry Bartholome logging his score at the 900-yard line. Larry is one of the greatest F-Open shooters ever. Larry posts in our Forum as “LBart”.
And here’s the man who started it all, Walt Berger himself. Without his dream to build better bullets, and his hard work over many decades, there wouldn’t be this wonderful match each year. The popularity of this event is testimony to Walt’s dedication and passion for the sport. Walt still competes in Benchrest matches.
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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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If you want smoother bullet seating, inside neck lube can help. Forum member Ackleyman II likes to add a little Mica powder inside his case necks before seating bullets. This is easily done with the Forster three-brush neck lube kit. Ackleyman tells us: “Many loads that I have will not shoot well with a dry neck compared to a neck that is cleaned and lubed with this [Forster Dry Lubricator] — the best $15 you have ever spent.”
The Forster Case Neck Lubricator features three brushes attached to a tough, impact-resistant case with holes for bench mounting. The brushes accommodate all calibers from 22 to 35 caliber. The kit includes enough “motor mica” to process 2000 to 3000 cases and has a cover to keep dust and grit from contaminating the mica. By moving the case neck up and down on the correct mica-covered brush, the neck can be cleaned and lubricated at the same time.
Function: Lubricate case necks for easier resizing
Contents: Kit with base, lid, and three nylon brushes
Lubricant: Includes 1/10 oz. of Motor Mica, enough to process 2000-3000 cases
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Thursday was TEAM DAY at the Berger Southwest Nationals (SWN). In the Sling, F-TR, and F-Open classes, dozens of 4-person teams shot under coaches at 800, 900, and 1000 yards. The key difference between the team game and individual competition is that (for the most part) shooters function as trigger pullers only. Wind and elevation calls are typically made by the coaches, who sometimes even dial clicks for the shooters. In the above photo Bryan Litz is just about to click his shooter’s elevation turret.
This year the Scottish Thistle Team won the Sling division, lead by a strong 449-27X performance by Angus McLeod. The Hayes Rays of Sunshine Team finished second, six points back. In the highly competitive F-TR class, North by Southwest took the team title, with Da Bulls in second.
In the F-Open class, the Cluster Ducks (clever name) took the win, edging out second place The Longshots by a single point. Third in F-Open was Tex-Mex #1. Kudos to AccurateShooter’s own Jay Christopherson, our site systems manager, who lead 4th Place Team Lapua/Brux with a strong 448-25X. Jay keeps our servers running smoothly — and he’s a great shooter in his own right.
Here’s Team Krieger (foreground) getting ready on the 1000-yard line.
Anette Wachter (in chair) shot a 450-36X in the Team Match — not dropping a single point. Outstanding!
TEAM EVENT TOP THREE in SLING, F-OPEN, and F-TR
1st Place — Scotland Thistle 1786-100X
Angus McLeod, 449-29X
Sandy Walker, 447-27X
Ian Shaw, 445-24X
Michael Barlow, 445-21X
2nd Place — Hayes Rays of Sunshine 1780-97X
3rd Place — Sabine 1775-88X
NOTABLES: Annette Wachter, 450-36X (4th Place Team High)
1st Place — The Cluster Ducks 1789-100X
James Laney, 450-27X
Kevin Shepherd, 448-24X
Norman Harrold, 448-21X
Joe Meyer, 443-28X
2nd Place — The Longshots 1788-103X
3rd Place — Tex-Mex #1 1781-93X
NOTABLES: Jay Christopherson, 448-25X (4th Place Team High)
1st Place — North by Southwest 1773-74X
Daniel Lentz, 445-22X
Ian Klemm, 445-17X
Daniel Pohlabel, 443-18X
Ken Klemm, 440-17X
2nd Place — Da Bulls 1770-81X
3rd Place — Michigan F-TR Team 1764-85X
NOTABLES: Mike Plunkett 447-16X (4th Place Team High)
NEW F-OPEN TEAM Record: The Cluster Ducks set a new National Team Record for 800/900/1000 yards with their 1789-100X Score. In fact, the second-place Longshots also broke the previous 1786-104X record, set by Team Grizzly in 2014. Because the Cluster Ducks edged The Longshots by one point the Ducks will go down in the record books. But both teams can rightfully say they broke the then-current 1786-point F-Open record. Well done shooters!
Team Thunder-Struck from the Land Down Under brought along an inflatable mascot.
GUNS and GEAR HIGHLIGHTS
Interesting Competition Hardware at Ben Avery
Eliseo F-Class Chassis with Two-Piece Barrel Block
Christine Harris was shooting a new prototype Eliseo F-Class stock with a two-part barrel block. This is similar to the Eliseo F1 stock but the bolt-together barrel block allows easier exchange of barreled actions.
Stunning F-Open Rig from Cerus Rifleworks Cerus Rifleworks showed us a jaw-dropping new F-Open rifle. This is an amazing combination of beauty and advanced performance. The CNC-milled stock is stiff and straight, with tolerances that put most wood stocks to shame.
A Lady Soldier’s Coat and Rifle
This Monard shooting coat belongs to SSG Amanda Elsenboss, a shooter with the USAMU Team. The rifle features a Barnard action in what appears to be a classic Robertston Composites H&H-style prone stock. Nice hardware for a talented lady soldier.
Pair of ‘Pods
We saw many SEB Joy-Pods on the front end of F-TR rifles. These light-weight bipods offer quick and easy aiming via a joystick-controlled coaxial head. The large flat feet allow the rifle to move back smoothly on recoil, and then slide right back on target.
Gear-Hauler for Many Seasons
This cart has seen countless matches over the years. Those stickers are markers in time, recording decades of shooting matches in many venues. How many stickers can you identify?
Distinguished Rifleman’s Spotting Scope
The stories this old spotting scope could tell — how many targets has it seen over the years? The most important sticker, “Distinguished Rifleman”, bears witness to its owner’s skill and commitment to the sport.
Nightforce Optics Competition Scopes
Nightforce, a major sponsor of the Berger SW Nationals, had a variety of scopes mounted on viewing rigs. You could quickly compare one scope vs. another. We’d like to see more optics makers demo their scopes at major matches.
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We first ran this article in 2012, and it was very well received. Since then, many Forum members have requested an explanation of MILS and mildots, so we decided to run this feature again…
In this NSSF Video, Ryan Cleckner, a former Sniper Instructor for the 1st Ranger Battalion, defines the term “MilliRadian” (Milrad) and explains how you can use a mildot-type scope to range the distance to your target. It’s pretty simple, once you understand the angular subtension for the reticle stadia dots/lines. Cleckner also explains how you can use the milrad-based reticle markings in your scope for elevation hold-overs and windage hold-offs.
Even if you normally shoot at known distances, the hold-off capability of milrad-reticle scopes can help you shoot more accurately in rapidly-changing wind conditions. And, when you must engage multiple targets quickly, you can use the reticle’s mil markings to move quickly from one target distance to another without having to spin your elevation turrets up and down.
WEB RESOURCES: If you want to learn more about using Milliradians and Mildot scopes, we suggest the excellent Mil-dot.com User Guide. This covers the basics you need to know, with clear illustrations. Also informative is The Truth about Mil Dots by Michael Haugen. Mr. Haugen begins with basic definitions: 1 radian = 2 PI; 1 Milliradian (Milrad or ‘Mil’) = 1/1000th of a radian; 1 Milliradian = .0573 degrees.
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Man does not live by long-guns alone. We know that many of our readers own .45 ACP handguns and load for this extremely accurate “classic” cartridge. When selecting a powder for the .45 ACP, there are many good options. All the major powder manufacturers make propellants with appropriate density and burn rate characteristics for the .45 ACP. Popular powder choices include: AA #5 (Accurate Powder); Bullseye (Alliant); Clays, HP-38, and Titegroup (Hodgdon); VV N310, N320, N340 (Vihtavuori); and WW 231 and WST (Winchester). We’ve tried these powders in a variety of .45 ACP handguns. When we consider the factors that make for a good pistol powder, we think N320 is one of the best available propellants for the .45 ACP. Vihtavuori N320 is very accurate, it meters well, and it burns clean, with minimal smoke and flash. If you haven’t tried VV N320 yet, you should.
Pros/Cons of Different Powders for .45 ACP
This Editor has personally tried out eight or more different powders for the .45 ACP. Bullseye works but it is very dirty (both smoke out the barrel and sooty powder fouling on case). Though it otherwise burns clean, Titegroup leaves a singular (and nasty) high-temp flame streak on your brass that is hard to remove. AA #5 is a good choice for progressive press newbies as you use more powder so a double charge will (usually) be obvious. I like AA #5 but N320 was more accurate. Clays burns clean but some powder measures struggle with flake powders like this. WW 231 offered excellent accuracy and metered well, but it kicked out sparks with little pieces of debris that would hit me in the face. Who wants that?
I personally tried all the powders listed above with lead, plated, and jacketed bullets. After testing for accuracy, consistency, and ease of metering, I selected VV N320 as the best overall performer.
No powder tested was more accurate (WW 231 was equally accurate).
Meters very well in all kinds of powder measures.
Produces very little smoke from muzzle.
Does not put nasty burn streak on brass like Tite-Group does.
Low Flash — you don’t get particles and sparks flying out like WW 231.
Cases come out from gun very clean — so you can tumble less often.
Forum member and gunsmith Michael Ezell agrees that N320 is a good choice for the .45 ACP. Mike has also found that WW 231, while accurate, produces sparks and a large flash. Mike writes: “I first started using N320 after my first night shoot, while shooting IDPA/IPSC matches. It was astonishing how much of a fireball the WW 231 created. I was literally blinded by the flash while trying to shoot a match. As you can imagine, that didn’t work out very well. I went from WW 231 to N320 and never looked back…and the flash from it was a fraction of what a kid’s sparkler would give off. I have nothing but good things to say about [N320] after using both. Night shoots are a real eye-opener! When it comes to a personal protection… there is, statistically, a very high chance that if you ever have to use a gun to protect yourself or your family, it’ll be in the darkness[.] Being blinded by muzzle flash (and deafened by the noise) are things that should be considered, IMO.”
This Editor owns a full-size, all-stainless S&W 1911. After trying numerous powders, I found VV N320 delivered the best combination of accuracy, easy metering, consistency, clean burning qualities, and low muzzle flash. My gun has proven exceptionally accurate using N320 with bullets from 180 grains to 230 grains — it will shoot as accurately as some expensive customs I’ve tried. At right is 5-round group I shot offhand at 10 yards with my 5″ S&W 1911. The bullet hole edges are sharp because I was using semi-wad-cutters. Rounds were loaded with Vihtavuori N320 and 200-grain SWCs from Precision Bullets in Texas.
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At the Berger SW Nationals this week in Phoenix, the nation’s top long-range shooters will try to put all their shots in the 10-Ring at 800, 900, and 1000 yards. A good foundation in ballistics is vital if you want to succeed in the long-range game.
How much do you know about BCs, Bullet Shapes, Trajectories, Wind Drift, and other things in the realm of External Ballistics? You can test your knowledge of basic Ballistics principles with this interactive quiz. The questions and answers were provided by Ballistics Guru Bryan Litz of Applied Ballistics LLC. Bryan is the author of Applied Ballistics for Long-Range Shooting and other popular resources in print, DVD, and eBook format. Have fun with our Quiz.
The Quiz contains ten (10) questions. When you complete all ten questions, you can see your results, along with the correct answers.
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At the Berger SW Nationals this week many of the nation’s top sling shooters will be competing in the Palma (full-bore) class. You’ll see a scores of .308 Win Palma rifles on the firing line in Phoenix. However, we doubt any of those Ben Avery rigs will be more eye-catching than this Barnard-actioned beauty in an stunning Turkish Walnut stock…
In our Shooters’ Forum, there’s a long-running thread entitled Pride & Joy Rifles. There you’ll find dozens of fine firearms — from hunting handguns to long-range benchrest rigs. A while back, Forum member John L. (GunDog64) posted this handsome Palma rifle, built by Chad Dixon.
John reports: “Here is my new ‘Pride and Joy’ Palma rifle. The action is a chrome-moly Barnard supplied by MT Guns. The gun is set up for switch-barrel use with two Medium Palma-contour Bartlein barrels, one chambered in 6CM, the other in .308 Winchester. Both barrels feature 5R rifling. Up front is a Riles 30mm front sight, while the rear sight is a Warner. The stock was crafted from a superb Turkish walnut blank supplied by Luxus Gunstocks in Mt. Orab, Ohio.
Gunsmithing by Chad Dixon — Stock Finish by Owner
All gunsmithing and assembly work was performed by Chad Dixon at Long Rifles Inc., Sturgis, South Dakota. Chad designed the trigger guard, handstop rail, recoil lug, and cheek-piece adjuster. John, the rifle’s proud new owner, completed the finish work on the stock. John reveals: “This project was a year in the making but well worth the wait”.
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Alliant’s Powder for 50-Caliber Applications
In 2009 Alliant unveiled Reloder 50, a new powder designed for long-range, 50-caliber rifle shooters. According to Alliant, the burn rate is “a little slower than Winchester 860″ and the powder is showing excellent lot-to-lot consistency. Load density is optimized for the 50 BMG and similar cases. Like Reloder 17, Reloder 50 employs a process which penetrates the kernels with the burn-rate-controlling chemical. This should allow a longer, flatter pressure curve, yielding more velocity than conventional powders can deliver. Alliant says that Reloder 50 offers “superior velocity and the ability to burn cleaner (with less residue).” Reloder 50 comes in both 1-lb (#150527) and 8-lb (#150528) containers.
Giraud 50 BMG Case/Bullet Comparator Giraud Tool makes a comparator for 50-Cal cartridges. The double-ended comparator is quite versatile. In one orientation you can measure base-to-ogive bullet length and also measure cartridge OAL from rim to bullet ogive. When reversed, you can use the comparator to measure cartridge headspace. The $30.00 Giraud 50 BMG Comparator gauge is constructed of 303 stainless and fits most any vernier, dial, or digital caliper. CLICK HERE for more info.
Forster 50 BMG Trimmer
50 BMG enthusiasts asked for a dedicated 50 BMG case trimmer, so Forster created a trimmer specifically for that cartridge. Forster’s cutter tip is much sharper than the cutter on the Lyman 50 Cal. AccuTrimmer. However, with the Forster tool you will pay more for that superior cutting ability — Forster’s 50 BMG trimmer costs $95.99 at Sinclair International. Yes, Lyman also makes a dedicated 50 BMG Case trimmer ($66.49 at MidwayUSA), but the Forster cutter head is much sharper, and we prefer the Forsters collet-style case-holder. Bottom line — the Forster gets the job done more quickly, with less effort, so it’s worth the extra money.
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The competition phase of the Berger SW Nationals kicked off today with a 600-yard match for Palma, F-TR, and F-Open rifles. Today’s star was Lester Bruno, who drilled a 200-23X with a 6mm BRX F-Open rifle he built himself. This rifle features a BAT Action, Krieger barrel, and presentation-grade Bastogne Walnut stock. Loaded with Berger 105gr Hybrids, Varget Powder, and Federal 205m Primers, this rifle absolutely hammered at Ben Avery on Wednesday — Lester put 23 shots in a row in the half-MOA X-Ring at 600 yards. Under NRA rules, if you shoot all Xs through the designated string of fire (here 20 shots), you are allowed to keep shooting until one shot falls outside the X-Ring. Lester drilled three extra Xs after shooting all Xs for his designated 20-shot string.
Lester Bruno Sets Pending National 600-yard Record with 200-23X in F-Open Division
Lester was excited to set a pending National record, breaking the previous 600-yard record by one X: “Conditions were in my favor, and it was a lot of fun.” However, Lester revealed the record string was nerve-wracking: “I was nervous after I shot 20 and they told me I could keep shooting to try to break the record. I had no knowledge I was able to do that.” Lester took his time, watched the conditions, and shot carefully: “I held off probably at least half of my shots but never held out of the X-Ring. It depended on the condition. A left to right condition was pushing the bullet down so I was holding a little high but when it went right to left I held a little low. I was very patient.”
Lester was all smiles after his 200-23X performance this morning. He told us: “This will be my first record in this discipline though I’ve set records in short-range benchrest.” (Lester is a member of the Benchrest Hall of Fame).
How’d You Like a Rifle That Can Shoot 200-23X
NOTE: If you want a rifle that shoots like this, you may be lucky. Lester says this is a working prototype of a new line of match rifles he’ll be offering for sale through Bruno’s Shooter Supply. These will be high-end rifles for guys who want the very best. The Bastogne wood for Lester’s own gun cost over $1500.00 (that’s just for the blank), but it’s a beauty.
Calm Conditions — But You Needed to Watch the Mirage
Conditions were very good most of the day, with very little wind. However, there WERE subtle directional changes you need to monitor. Bryan Litz, who won both mid-range and long-range F-TR National Championships here at Ben Avery in 2015, said that he did have to hold one side or the other though the wind was very calm. With the mirage roiling and distorting the view through his scope, Bryan said the Bullseye looked like a Medusa head rather than a concentric circle.
F-TR competitor Ian Klemm also had a Mid-Range match for the ages, dropping just one point for the whole day, to finish at 599-38X, and win the F-TR class. We’re told this 599-38X was also a new National F-TR record. Ian was shooting a new McMillan XiT stock.
Here are the Top Five Competitors for Each Divsion:
Allen Thomas, 600-40X
Benjamin Lucchesi, 600-37X
Erik Rhode, 599-49X
Anette Wachter, 599-45X
Trudie Fay, 599-39X
Dwayne Draggoo, 600-44X
Danny Biggs, 600-43X
Dan Bramley, 600-35X
Todd Hendricks, 600-34X
Don Nagel, 599-37X
Ian Klemm, 599-38X (New Record)
Phil Kelley, 599-32X
James Crofts, 598-41X
John Moreali, 598-28X
Bryan Litz, 597-33X
Note: Results are prelminary, subject to final tabulation.
Watch Highlights from the SWN Mid-Range Match:
Ben Avery Bling — Stunning Paint Job and New SEB Mini
Jay Christopherson, AccurateShooter’s Systems Manager, had a stunning metallic flame paint job on his F-Open rifle. Up front, that beautiful stock is resting on the new SEB Mini coaxial pedestal rest. This looked very stable and Jay said the joystick works perfect. Jay is very impressed with this new coaxial front rest. We expect to see more Minis on the line in future F-Open matches.
Sling Shooters in Palma Division
There were many Eliseo tubeguns in the hands of the sling shooters. For the Palma division, the cartridge of choice is the .308 Winchester. This old cartridge is still capable of extreme accuracy. Never underestimate a skilled sling shooter with a good Palma rifle.
Wickenburg High School Rifle Team
While most of the competitors at this match shooters were middle-aged or older, it was nice to see a youth contingent from Wickenburg High School in Arizona. These young folks shot well — Ben Avery is their “home range”, so they felt confident with the conditions.
Disaster Averted by British Ingenuity
British competitor Tom Rylands had his rear sight break during the middle of a string. Undaunted, Tom secured the sight with some electrical tape and finished the string with a good score. We applaud Tom’s “never say die” attitude. Have tape, will travel…
Ladies Love Ben Avery…
The T-Shirt says it all — there were many female competitors at the mid-range match, including some “all-girl” teams. There were some great lady shooters competing on Wednesday, including Nancy Tompkins and Trudie Fay.
First Lady of Shooting — Nancy Tompkins
It was great to see Nancy Tompkins on the firing line. A strong argument can be made that Nancy is the greatest female long-range competitive shooter in the history of the sport. We chatted with Nancy between relays. She revealed she had not shot sling “in quite a while” so she need to readjust some items on her gun. So… even the great ones need to tweak their gear now and then.
The True Spirit of Competition
The team at the Berger SW Nationals encourages all participants, even those with disabilities. Here competitor Bob Depp shoots from a bench because he cannot hold his rifle normally, due to injuries sustained while serving as a U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper in Vietnam. It’s all about participating.
The Smell of Victory…
With the wind flags hanging straight down most of the day, perhaps the best wind indicator of all was the smoke coming from the Barbeque pit. You have to love the Berger SW Nationals at Ben Avery — where else can you get delicious, hot BBQ on the 600-yard line?
Long-Range Matches Run Thursday through Sunday
All the relays Wednesday were held at 600 yards. Starting Thursday, the shooters will compete at 800, 900, and 1000 yards. If conditions hold similar to today (with very little wind), we could see some impressive performances at the longer yardages. But as with any shooting venue, things can change quickly at Ben Avery. We’ve seen morning calms followed by afternoon gales. Good luck to all the competitors.
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For you guys competing at the Berger SW Nationals this week, we’re repeating an excellent article by Steven Blair on wind reading. Steven, a top F-Class shooter, talks about mirage, topography effects, tail winds, and other subtle factors that can cause frustration for shooters. Steve explains that wind effects can be complex — there’s more going on than just velocity and angle. You need to notice things like berm locations and effects of temp changes over the course of the day.
Wind Reading Tips for Competitive Shooters by Steven Blair, 2012 California State Long Range F-Open Champion
Assess the Terrain and How the Wind Will Interact with It
Before you begin a match, take a few minutes to look around the range at the terrain, any obstructions, range topography (berms and backstop), and trees, buildings or structures that could affect wind flow over the range. Imagine what might happen if the wind was from the left or right, headwind or tailwind. Depending upon the direction, significant effects may be seen on range. A head or tail wind may ripple across the berms, causing elevation changes, both high and low. A tall side berm, like the east side berm at Ben Avery, may cause turbulence when the wind comes from that direction. Blocking features might shield most of the wind but a break along the range can funnel strong gusts through the gap with no other indications. Take a few notes about the effects of different wind directions and refer to them if the prevailing direction changes. (Tip courtesy Tony Robertson.)
Use a Spotting Scope, Even When Shooting a Scoped Rifle
A good spotting scope can “see” mirage much more clearly than even an expensive rifle scope. Take your spotting scope to the line and position it as sling shooters do, close enough to use without much movement. Focus the scope approximately 1/3 of the way down range or where the most significant wind effects are likely to occur. Take a quick look while waiting for pit service, glance at the flags and compare to your scope sight picture. I often see ambiguous indications at the target through the rifle scope, but see a clear indication of wind direction and speed through the spotting scope at the shorter distance. When shooting the Arizona Palma Championship at Ben Avery last weekend, I was scoring while the wind was coming from the east. Shooters up and down the line were out to the left, losing points. Mirage at the target looked moderate and the flags weren’t indicating strong wind. As I focused the spotting scope back, the mirage suddenly looked like it was flowing twice as fast around 500 yards than it was closer or farther. It wasn’t until I realized that the access road cut through the berm there that I understood what was happening. (Tip courtesy Gary Eliseo.)
Don’t Over-React to Something That May Be an Anomaly
On ranges with sizable berms, a headwind or tailwind can cause significant elevation problems. It is generally not possible to see or predict when this will occur. When the conditions exist that cause elevation changes and other competitors are experiencing the same problem, the best strategy is to ignore it. Certainly, avoid shooting when the head or tail wind is gusting, the same as you would in a crosswind. But, if you react to random, range-induced elevation changes, the only likely result is to make it worse. Whether the problem is caused by range or ammunition, maintain your waterline hold until you have evidence that something has fundamentally changed.
My .284 Shehane will usually require a click or two down during a string as the barrel warms. That is normal and manageable. But, if your shots are just bouncing up and down in the 10 ring, leave it alone. The same is also true of an occasional gust pushing a shot into the 9 ring. If the conditions have not changed and one shot just went out, it may be the result of a random occurrence that was not predictable. (Tip courtesy “School of Hard Knocks”.)
Adjust Spotting Scope Focus and Magnification as Needed to View Mirage vs. Target Details
In F-Class we only need to see mirage, spotters, and scoring disks. That does not take a lot of magnification. My scope is a Nikon 25-75x82mm ED. It is a superb scope for the money and makes it trivial to see minor variations in mirage. It is good to have the high magnification available, and it can always be reduced if necessary. I use different power settings for different situations.
Setting Magnification Levels
During a match, in very good viewing conditions, I set my spotting scope at 75X, full power. The mirage is more subtle in the morning and greater magnification is needed.
During a match with heavy mirage I set my spotting scope at about 40X. I have no problem seeing mirage, even at this magnification.
When practicing at 300 yards or closer I set my spotting scope at max power (75X) so I can see the little 6mm holes from my 6BR rifle. I usually need to focus back and forth between shots to see both bullet holes and mirage.
Steven Blair, 2012 California State Long Range F-Open Champion, has been shooting since childhood and competing for over 30 years. Before retiring, Steve spent 16 years in Engineering and IT with General Atomics. He has held Engineering and Marketing positions with several firearms companies and worked on projects from pistols to 155mm howitzers.
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Efficient cartridges make excellent use of their available powder and case/bore capacity. They yield good ballistic performance with relatively little recoil and throat erosion.
Cartridge Efficiency: A Primer (pun intended!)by USAMU Staff
Each week, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) publishes a reloading article on its Facebook Page. In this week’s article, the USAMU discusses cartridge case efficiency and its benefits. While this is oriented primarily toward NRA High Power Rifle and Long Range (1000-yard) competition, these factors also apply to medium/big game hunters. Assuming one’s rifle and ammunition are accurate, key considerations include ballistic performance (i.e., resistance to wind effects, plus trajectory), recoil, and throat erosion/barrel life.
Efficient cartridges make excellent use of their available powder and case/bore capacity. They yield good ballistic performance with relatively little recoil and throat erosion. A classic example in the author’s experience involved a featherweight 7x57mm hunting/silhouette rifle. When loaded to modern-rifle pressures, just 43-44 grains of powder pushed a 139gr bullet at 2900 fps from its 22” barrel. Recoil in this light rifle was mild; it was very easy to shoot well, and its performance was superb.
An acquaintance chose a “do everything” 7mm Remington Magnum for use on medium game at short ranges. A larger, heavier rifle, it used ~65 grains of powder to achieve ~3200 fps with similar bullets — from its 26″ barrel. Recoil was higher, and he was sensitive to it, which hampered his shooting ability.
Similarly efficient calibers include the 6mm BR [Norma], and others. Today’s highly-efficient calibers, such as 6mm BR and a host of newer developments might use 28-30 grains of powder to launch a 105-107gr match bullet at speeds approaching the .243 Winchester. The .243 Win needs 40-45 grain charges at the same velocity.
Champion-level Long Range shooters need every ballistic edge feasible. They compete at a level where 1″ more or less drift in a wind change could make the difference between winning and losing. Shooters recognized this early on — the then-new .300 H&H Magnum quickly supplanted the .30-06 at the Wimbledon winner’s circle in the early days.
The .300 Winchester Magnum became popular, but its 190-220gr bullets had their work cut out for them once the 6.5-284 and its streamlined 140-142gr bullets arrived on the scene. The 6.5-284 gives superb accuracy and wind performance with about half the recoil of the big .30 magnums – albeit it is a known barrel-burner.
Currently, the 7mm Remington Short Action Ultra-Magnum (aka 7mm RSAUM), is giving stellar accuracy with cutting-edge, ~180 grain bullets, powder charges in the mid-50 grain range and velocities about 2800+ fps in long barrels. Beyond pure efficiency, the RSAUM’s modern, “short and fat” design helps ensure fine accuracy relative to older, longer cartridge designs of similar performance.
Recent design advances are yielding bullets with here-to-fore unheard-of ballistic efficiency; depending on the cartridge, they can make or break ones decision. Ballistic coefficients (“BC” — a numerical expression of a bullet’s ballistic efficiency) are soaring to new heights, and there are many exciting new avenues to explore.
The ideal choice [involves a careful] balancing act between bullet BCs, case capacity, velocity, barrel life, and recoil. But, as with new-car decisions, choosing can be half the fun!
Factors to Consider When Evaluating Cartridges
For competitive shooters… pristine accuracy and ballistic performance in the wind are critical. Flat trajectory benefits the hunter who may shoot at long, unknown distances (nowadays, range-finders help). However, this is of much less importance to competitors firing at known distances.
Recoil is an issue, particularly when one fires long strings during competition, and/or multiple strings in a day. Its effects are cumulative; cartridges with medium/heavy recoil can lead to shooter fatigue, disturbance of the shooting position and lower scores.
For hunters, who may only fire a few shots a year, recoil that does not induce flinching during sight-in, practice and hunting is a deciding factor. Depending on their game and ranges, etc., they may accept more recoil than the high-volume High Power or Long Range competitor.
Likewise, throat erosion/barrel life is important to competitive shooters, who fire thousands of rounds in practice and matches, vs. the medium/big game hunter. A cartridge that performs well ballistically with great accuracy, has long barrel life and low recoil is the competitive shooter’s ideal. For the hunter, other factors may weigh more heavily.
Cartridge Efficiency and Energy — Another Perspective
Lapua staffer Kevin Thomas explains that efficiency can be evaluated in terms of energy:
“Cartridge efficiency is pretty straight forward — energy in vs. energy out. Most modern single-based propellants run around 178-215 ft/lbs of energy per grain. These figures give the energy potential that you’re loading into the rifle. The resulting kinetic energy transferred to the bullet will give you the efficiency of the round. Most cases operate at around 20-25% efficiency. This is just another way to evaluate the potential of a given cartridge. There’s a big difference between this and simply looking at max velocities produced by various cartridges.”
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If you shoot a pistol, you should watch this video. It covers the key fundamentals of handgun shooting: stance, arm position, grip, sight alignment, and trigger control. This excellent video features USAMU shooter SGT Shane Coley.
Arm/Elbow Position: You should not lock your elbows says SGT Coley: “Because my elbows are slightly bent, it allows the recoil to transfer into my shoulders, down my core, into my legs and to the ground, allowing me to maintain a flat-shooting gun … on multiple targets.”
Grip (Hand Position): SGT Coley explains how to divide the support between both hands: “In terms of grip pressure, I’m applying about 60% to my support hand, and 40% to my strong hand. This is because I need to maintain dexterity with my strong hand to operate the trigger at high rates of speed.”
Trigger Control: The placement of your finger on the trigger blade itself is very important notes Coley: “Putting too much (or not enough) of your finger on the trigger can cause you to pull or push your shots. When you squeeze the trigger, make sure to squeeze it all the way to the rear, in one smooth motion. A quick dry-fire drill to help you with this is to take an empty piece of brass and place it on the front of your slide. Aim at the target, and with the proper trigger control, you should be able to break the shot without the piece of brass falling.”
On the web, you’ll find hundreds of pistol shooting videos — some good, some not helpful at all. In some of those “not helpful” videos the featured shooter has bad habits, or more often than not, he exhibits poor accuracy on target. You won’t find those kinds of shortcomings in this USAMU-sponsored video. SGT Coley doesn’t make foolish mistakes, nor does he exhibit bad habits when shooting. And his accuracy is outstanding. When you look for a pistol trainer — stick to someone like SGT Coley, who has solid fundamentals, the complete skill set, and superior accuracy. A trainer can’t teach a skill that he doesn’t understand himself.
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The Berger Southwest Nationals (SWN) kicked off with a two-day shooting clinic held Monday and Tuesday, February 6-7, 2017. Competition at the Ben Avery range begins with a 600-yard Mid-Range Match on Wednesday, followed by long-range matches Thursday through Sunday. Three classes of competitors will be on the firing line: Palma (.308 Win sling), F-TR, and F-Open. This is one of the most popular matches of the year, drawing competitors from around the nation (and a few foreign countries).
The Berger SW Nationals event has become the premier long-range match of the year in the Western United States. This prestigious rifle competition, hosted at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility, outside Phoenix, Arizona, draws the nation’s top F-Class and sling shooters. Over 360 shooters have already registered for the SWN.
2017 Berger Southwest Nationals Schedule of Events
Monday, 6 – Tuesday, 7 February 2017, 9:00 AM
Shooting Clinic: Two-Day clinic includes instruction in both classroom and live fire settings. Instruction will start at 9:00 AM.
Wednesday, 8 February 2017, 9:00 AM
Mid-Range Match – Three, 20-shot matches at 600 yards.
Divisions: Palma, Any Rifle/Any Sight, F-Open, F-TR
Thursday, 9 February 2017, 9:00 AM
4-Man Palma Team Match – 15 shots for record at 800, 900 and 1000 yards.
Divisions: Palma, F-Open, F-TR
Practice available to those not shooting with a team.
Friday, 10 February 2017, 8:30 AM – Start of Grand Agg
Individual Palma Match – 15 shots for record at 800, 900 and 1000 yards.
Divisions: Palma, F-Open, F-TR
Swap Meet – after conclusion of fire at 1000-yard line.
Saturday, 11 February 2017, 8:30 AM
Individual 1000-Yard Matches – Two 20 shots matches at 1000 yards. Any Rifle-Iron Sight (Any sight for F-Class shooters). (Divisions – Palma, Any Rifle-Iron Sight, F-Open, F-TR)
4 Man Team Match – 20 shots at 1000 yards. Any Rifle-Iron Sight (Any sight for F-Class shooters). (Divisions – Palma, Any Rifle-Iron Sight, F-Open, F-TR)
Banquet Dinner – Approximately 5:00 pm at Indoor Range.
Sunday, 12 February 2017, 8:30 AM
Individual 1000-Yard Matches – Two 20 shots matches at 1000 yards. Any Rifle-Any Sight (Any sight for F-Class shooters). (Divisions – Palma, Any Rifle-Any Sight, F-Open, F-TR)
Awards Ceremony at the Indoor Range.
To help you prepare for the Berger SW Nationals, here are some competition tips from Bryan Litz. Bryan knows the Ben Avery range well. He won the Mid-Range and Long-Range F-TR National Championships there in 2015. And twice he has won the sling division at the Southwest Nationals. Here are wise words from Bryan:
Competition TIP ONE. Improving your scores in long range competition is a constant process of self-assessment. After each match, carefully analyze how you lost points and make a plan to improve. Beginning shooters will lose a lot of points to fundamental things like sight alignment and trigger control. Veteran shooters will lose far fewer points to a smaller list of mistakes. At every step along the way, always ask yourself why you’re losing points and address the issues. Sometimes the weak links that you need to work on aren’t your favorite thing to do, and success will take work in these areas as well.
Competition TIP TWO. Select your wind shooting strategy carefully. For beginners and veterans, most points are typically lost to wind. Successful shooters put a lot of thought into their approach to wind shooting. Sometimes it’s best to shoot fast and minimize the changes you’ll have to navigate. Other times it’s best to wait out a condition which may take several minutes. Develop a comfortable rest position so you have an easier time waiting when you should be waiting.
Competition TIP THREE. Actively avoid major train wrecks. Sounds obvious but it happens a lot. Select equipment that is reliable, get comfortable with it and have back-ups for important things. Don’t load on the verge of max pressure, don’t go to an important match with a barrel that’s near shot out, physically check tightness of all important screws prior to shooting each string. Observe what train wrecks you and others experience, and put measures in place to avoid them.
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