October 6th, 2019

Sunday GunDay: Chris Nichols’s 600-Yard Light and Heavy Guns

IBS Benchrest Chris Nichols Heavy Gun Record HG aggregate north carolina
Chris Nichols with potential world record (1.297″ 4-Target Agg) Heavy Gun Targets!

Report by Bart Sauter, Bart’s Custom Bullets
Chris Nichols is one of the best 600-yard shooters in the game. This 2019 season he compiled one of the most impressive mid-range benchrest seasons ever. Check out the stats — Chris’s nine-match, Two-Gun Group Aggregate (Agg) for the year is 1.983″! That’s under two inches average at 600 for 72 record targets fired in competition. Many 600-yard shooters aspire to shoot a single, 4-target Agg that measures 1.983″, but doing that for 72 targets is amazing!

And of the nine matches Chris shot, he took SIX Overall Two-Gun wins — a 67% win ratio. And in the process Chris also shot what is possibly the smallest 4-target Heavy Gun Agg ever recorded — 1.297 inches. Hey readers — that Agg works out to 0.206 MOA average group size — well under quarter-MOA for four, 5-shot groups at 0.34 MILES (600 yards)!

IBS Benchrest Chris Nichols Heavy Gun Record HG aggregate north carolina
Chris with 0.665″ group at 600 yards. This is the smallest HG group fired in the IBS in 2019.

The Equipment: 6mm Dasher Light Gun and Heavy Gun
Chris likes to run 1.550 stainless steel Bat “B” actions, Jewell triggers, Brux or Bartlein barrels. He prefers wooden stocks as he feels they produce a better resonance for Long Range rifles. Chris has his own stock design crafted by Johnny Byers. Imagine a Wheeler LRB stock front half mated with an McMillan ST 1000 rear section and you have Chris’ stock! It features a Wheeler-type, 4″-wide fore-end with an ST 1000 low-comb profile in the back. Both Light Gun and Heavy Gun sport Vortex 15-60x52mm Golden Eagle scopes mounted with Harrell’s double screw tall rings. Chris does NOT use either muzzle brake or tuner.

IBS Benchrest Chris Nichols Heavy Gun Record HG aggregate north carolina
Here is Chris at his home range with his Light Gun (17 lbs. max).

Chris Nichols’s Heavy Gun is a true heavy coming in at around 42 pounds. It was responsible for the HG Agg of 1.297″ (potential new world record). His season-long aggregate with his Heavy Gun was 1.861″ for 36 targets! This rifle has similar components as his Light Gun, except the barreled action rides in a barrel block in a McMillan HBR 50 BMG stock.

IBS Benchrest Chris Nichols Heavy Gun Record HG aggregate north carolina

Both rifles ride a top of a Sinclair competition rest with a Protector DR Flat Top rear bag. When Chris goes to HG gun he simply switches tops (made by Daniel Greenlaw) on his front rest to accommodate the larger forend. As Chris says ,” This keeps things simple and exactly the same. ” Just the way he likes it.

Reloading for the 6mm Dasher
Chris’s load choice for both LG and HG is Hodgdon Varget pushing 105gr Berger VLDs. He uses CCI 450 primers, seated with an old Lee hand primer. When it comes to reloading, Chris likes to keep things as simple as possible. “If people saw me reloading they’d probably laugh!” Chris revealed that he doesn’t anneal or clean his cases. He just sprays them down with Hornady One Shot Case Lube, resizes, then runs a brush down the necks, and cleans the primer pockets. The only cleaning his cases get is when he wipes the lube off of them. Chris WILL trim and chamfer as needed.

Chris says seating consistency is critical — he uses a K&M Arbor press with force dial indicator. I asked if there were certain numbers he looks for when seating. Chris replied, “I’m only concerned with consistency and not a certain number, 5 pounds or 60 pounds. It doesn’t matter as long as they are the same. I take what the brass gives me.”

Tuning the 6mm Dasher for Record-Setting Accuracy
I asked Chris what was special about his Dasher and how he kept it tuned and so competitive? His reply is something all shooters should pay careful attention to: “[Success] starts with having a good reamer, bullets and barrels. But more than that, it’s KNOWING your Cartridge, KNOWING your bullets, and KNOWING your barrels! I’ve shot it so much I just know what to do. I’m comfortable with it. I know how to get it to shoot and when it’s not, I have a pretty good idea how to get it back in tune. Once you know your equipment, then you can learn how to get the most out of it.”

IBS Benchrest Chris Nichols Heavy Gun Record HG aggregate north carolina

Chris has a range at his house and he tunes at 300 yards. He looks for consistent, 300-yard 5-shot groups of 0.600″ or less! He wants to see nice round groups! Not groups with four in and one out or vertical strings. Chris starts by finding “touch” (to the lands) then he moves the bullets .002″ off the lands and begins tuning. Chris has found that usually somewhere around .008-.012″ off the lands is where his Berger 105gr VLDs shot best. I asked Chris what’s the biggest factor contributing to his success? He said, one big thing was that he can do his own work. That’s a huge advantage.

Look for Accuracy First, Velocity Second
Early on Chris had it in his mind that for a 6mm Dasher to shoot best he needed to achieve a certain velocity range — 2990 to 3030 FPS. The problem was he wasn’t paying attention to what the target was telling him. He’d get to the speed he was looking for but the accuracy wasn’t there. Once he started slowing the speeds down and giving the barrel what it wanted, then the accuracy came! Also with the slower speeds came better consistency.

Chris Nichols’s Tuning Tips for 6mm Dasher:

• Take consistency over speed.
• Only change one thing at a time and run it to the ground.
• Every barrel is a little different, so give it what it wants.
• Pay attention to what your target is telling you.
• Don’t be afraid to REDUCE your powder load.

Chris Nichols’s Advice for New Shooters
Chris says the best thing a new shooter can do is align themselves with knowledgeable people, and if they will talk, listen! Next, be ready to buy the best equipment or be ready to buy it twice. Chris also says: “Don’t cheap-out on sighters. Sighters need to be just as good as your record rounds.”

In the Beginning — Learning the 600-yard Benchrest Game
Chris’s shooting career began in 2012. His first win came in 2014. He was shooting beside guys like Sam Hall, Larry Isenhour, Mike Hanes, Jeff Godfrey James Coffey, and Chad Jenkins, who are very tough competition indeed. He said when he won he was ecstatic and he’ll never forget it! That first trophy had him feeling like he’d just won the Nationals! Chris shot a 6BR for the first two years of his career, before switching to the 6 Dasher. I asked him why he switched? He said, “guys were starting to shoot the Dasher and winning with it!”

I asked Chris if he had a mentor and he said, “not really”. He learned by watching the guys who consistently finished Top 5 at matches and occasionally asked them a question. Not two questions, just one! Chris didn’t want to push his luck by asking too much. Then Chris would take that information and test it and apply it to his own shooting. Chris says, “he learned mainly by the ‘school of hard-knocks’. The good thing about learning that way is it sticks with you!”

Chris Nichols 2019 600-Yard Win List and Statistics

(more…)

Permalink - Articles, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Competition, Gear Review, Gunsmithing No Comments »
September 10th, 2019

Great Day at White Horse — Mike Shoots 600-Yard Personal Best

600 yard benchrest white horse firearms range IBS West Virginia

We like to acknowledge excellence in marksmanship, particularly when a competitor manages to shoot a personal best, dropping five shots right in the middle of the target at 600 yards in windy conditions. That’s worth celebrating.

600 yard benchrest white horse firearms range IBS West Virginia

Recently Michael Bencivengo was competing in a 600-yard match at the White Horse Firearm & Outdoor Education Center in Philippi, West Virginia. Even with windy conditions during the match, Mike drilled an impressive 1.227″ group, all centered for a 50 score. And four of the five shots are clustered in about one-half-inch of vertical!

No this is not an IBS record, but it is a mighty fine group and a personal best for Mike. We think that’s worth acknowledging. As all of us get older, it is great to experience a personal best.

600 yard benchrest white horse firearms range IBS West Virginia

Posting on the USA Benchrest Facebook Group, Mike notes: “[I shot] my personal best and smallest group on a very windy day at the GBA 600-yard match 50-0X with a 1.227 inch group.”

600 yard benchrest white horse firearms range IBS West Virginia

We’d all be smiling after shooting a target like this at 600 yards…

600 yard benchrest white horse firearms range IBS West Virginia

The scenic White Horse Firearm & Outdoor Education Center is located at 127 White Horse Lane, Philippi, WV 26416. (Mailing address is White Horse Center, P.O. Box 2091, Buckhannon, WV 26201.) The White Horse range is close to many large East Coast cities:

Permalink Competition, Shooting Skills 2 Comments »