February 5th, 2019

Blast from the Past — 6mmBR Drop-Port Viper

This week we return to our 6mmBR.com roots with an article on David Bergen’s slick 24″ Drop-Port Viper. This was one of the first 6BR rifles we featured. David, who hails from Belgium, developed this project over many months, and the gun proved to be a true tack-driver, with the ability to group in the Ones, even with the heavy boat-tail bullets. David talks about the build and his reloading methods while action designer Jerry Stiller provides technical insights into the design features of his Viper action.

Report by David Bergen

It was a long journey looking for the perfect custom action to build my new rifle. I searched the internet and visited various forums. I even re-read all my old Precision Shooting magazines to find what I was looking for. One evening I conferred by telephone with Mr. Jerry Stiller of Stiller’s Actions in Texas. He patiently answered all my questions. That moment I decided that I wanted a Viper Drop-Port action. [Editor: Sadly, the Viper Drop-Port is no longer in production.]

Component Selection
At the heart of this gun is a Viper action. This medium-sized action can handle cartridges from a small BR up to a 6.5-284. (Stiller’s smaller Cobra action is for PPC and BRs only.) The Viper is milled from aluminum. This keeps weight down while still allowing Vipers to have a large bedding surface like a Stolle Panda.

Viper Drop port action

At first I was a bit sceptical about the aluminum’s toughness, but Mr. Stiller informed me that the action is the perfect marriage between steel and aluminum. The bolt is hard-chromed and the action body is hard-anodized. This gives it two surfaces that resist wear and make an already-slick action even slicker. Stainless steel is used for all the heavy-stress points including barrel threads, locking lugs, and the rear camming surface. The bolt is made of steel with a very light, small-diameter firing pin to prevent primer piercing with heavy loads. Everything is held very concentric to the bore axis. The Viper is a very smooth action mainly because the design and the precise machining of the camming surfaces. Combined with optimal bolt-lift timing, this gives a smooth action. Stiller also keeps the tolerances very tight on these actions, though they are as fast-handling as any you can buy. The trigger is of course a Jewell BR model.

The rifle is chambered in 6mmBR Norma, my favorite cartridge. I have two HV-contour Shilen match barrels, both with 1 in 8″ twists and finished lengths of 24 inches. The chamber has a .266″ neck so neck-turning is necessary. Freebore is .060″ but combined with a 1.5° throat angle this lets me seat a wide range of bullets from 58 grains up to 107 grains.

The stock is a McMillan Edge with moulded-in gray and black marble swirl. I specified 60% black and dark and light gray both at 20%. I went with the Edge stock because I was always pleased with McMillan products and because it had a very low center of gravity. I wanted the barrels very low in the stock because I think it makes the gun track better.

Details of the Drop-Port–with VIDEO!
The visible part of the Drop-Port is a cartridge-sized cut-out in the floor of the action. This tapers into a funnel shape that lets the spent case fall nose-first through a single hole in the underside of the stock. The Drop-Port is carefully sized so that empty brass will fall through from gravity but a loaded round won’t. I’ve found that getting a BR case to eject 100% reliably in a standard action is not easy. The round is short and fat so it clears the chamber too early and the ejector pushes the cases out the extractor too fast. This can result in an empty case sitting in your action, no longer held by the extractor. Needless to say, this can slow you down during a stressful competition. When you get a Drop-Port you can forget all those problems.

Failure to eject is NOT going to happen with a Drop-Port. The system just works every time, and it’s FAST. Right-Click on the Media Player image and “Save As” to download a video (6.9 megs) showing me cycling the action during live fire.

One smart feature of the Drop-Port is the extractor location. A Remington extractor is located at the bottom of the bolt. This way the case is supported by the extractor until the front of the case lines up with the cut-out in the action. At that moment the front of the case tilts down and the rim slips out of the extractor. In the stock there is a funnel which collects the case. The case drops out of the rifle through a single small hole in front of the trigger guard.

Building an Accurate Load
Tools and Recipes

I start with new Lapua cases and after full-length sizing I trim them with a Wilson trimmer. Then I turn the necks for a .264″ neck diameter with a Lapua 105 seated in the brass. After fire-forming I use a “semi-custom” Harrell’s full-length sizing die with bushing. I use a .262 bushing with the moly-coated bullets. This Harrell’s die is the best I ever used — it gives very low run out. [Editor’s Note: Harrell’s stocks a number of dies with various internal dimensions. You send them three fire-formed cases and they’ll pick out a die that fits your brass the best. The cost is very reasonable.] Overall the excellent concentricity I’m seeing with my rounds is a combination of a superb chambering job, a neck-turned Lapua case and the Harrell’s sizing die. The die is supplied with a brass bushing that allows you to measure the amount of sizing you are doing.

For seating I use both a Wilson inline seater (hand die) and a Forster seating die that threads into a press. The latter gets the most use because I find it easier to use. Run out with both is around 0.001″ or better measured on the bullet.

Load development was very easy. I started with Varget and all loads … shot well. Vihtavuori N150 also shot very well with… moly-coated Lapua 105s. To my delight, the light bullets are also shooting very well in the 1:8″ twist. Nosler Ballistic Tips are giving very good results with a case full of N140. I’ve also tried N150, N540 and AA 2520. For all loads I’ve been using CCI BR4. Bullets are seated well into the lands with square marks showing. This gives an overall length around 59 mm (2.32″), depending on the bullet used.

Shooting the Rifle–How It Performs
The rifle is very easy to shoot and it is very accurate, but it had some drawbacks in the beginning. First there is the stock. It is designed for bench shooting and on a table it does this very well. I use a Caldwell front rest and a Protektor rear bag. When shooting prone I’ll also use the rest but the cheek weld is not ideal (the Edge was optimized for free recoil shooting from the bench). The rings that are supplied with the action are rather high. I looked around and found some that were lower. This made shooting easier, but I still wasn’t satisfied. The gun was a bit nose-heavy. There is a weight system built into the stock, but it wasn’t enough to bring the gun in balance. I like the balance point to be just in front of the receiver ring. So I cut the rear off the stock and put in a larger tube and turned some weights to put in it. I also made up an aluminum butt plate. Then I installed a Harrell’s brake to cut recoil to a minimum. With these modifications, the rifle is now shooting the way I want. I think the Edge stock is a very good design for benchrest shooting but for prone shooting it has some shortcomings. I think the MBR is a better stock for shooting prone.

Muzzle Brake–Less Recoil, Same Excellent Accuracy
After testing the barrel with different loads, I decided to put a brake on one barrel. Most of my guns are muzzle-braked and since I had two virtually identical barrels, I put a Harrell’s brake on one. The barrel had to be threaded to mount the brake and here I was a little concerned–I remembered the advice to “never mess with a winner”. The un-braked barrel was ultra-accurate and I was curious whether the process of fitting the brake might affect the accuracy.

Thankfully, my worries were unfounded. My targets showed no loss of accuracy — there was no evidence that the brake had caused any changes (except as to recoil). I have wondered though, perhaps the brake makes the gun more shootable and in that way compensates for some small accuracy loss that may be there? Whatever the case, the gun shoots just as tight as before, except now it’s a lot more user-friendly with less muzzle hop and less “push” on recoil.

This Rifle Literally Shoots Bug-Holes
And now I come to the end of the story. One day when testing the rifle at 100 meters (with brake installed), I spied a fly on the target. Well now, I thought, here is an interesting “precision shooting” challenge. I put the crosshair on the fly, squeezed the trigger, and the fly was history.

One shot, one kill. Now THAT is impressive precision. If you look closely you’ll see what’s left of Mr. Fly around the bullet hole. Or “bug-hole” as you Americans would say. This kind of performance is a real confidence-booster for the trigger-puller, let me tell you.

The Drop-Port — Simple Yet Advanced
Jerry Stiller tells us: “The drop-port ejects the case out the bottom of the action using only gravity. No ejector plunger is required so the system is as foolproof as anything can be. (A normal spring-loaded ejector creates an uneven load on one side of the case head.) Unlike other ejection systems, micro-ports etc., a Drop-Port doesn’t require tuning or adjusting, and just works. Many top shooters tell us they can cycle rounds faster with a Drop-Port action than with any other design.”

“The engineering of the Viper reflects some key design objectives. I wanted it to be able to fit standard commercially available stocks and have a barrel fit-up that was well known in the industry. I liked the idea of the larger bedding area and higher stiffness of the aluminum actions, so I chose the Panda footprint and barrel tenon for the Viper. I also made some changes to what was available at the time to make the product better. I used a smaller diameter firing pin to eliminate primer piercing, hard anodized all the aluminum parts for corrosion resistance and to make the surface hard and slick. The bolts are also coated for the same reasons.

Drop-Port technical drawing, Copyright © 2005, Stiller’s Precision Firearms, All Rights Reserved.

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January 29th, 2019

Dasher Fever — Match-Winning 6mm Dasher Rig on a Budget

Bob A. 6mm Dasher Sacramento F-Class March Madness

With the 6mm Dasher wildcat cartridge now becoming popular with PRS competitors as well as the benchrest crowd, we thought it was time to re-visit a special rifle chambered for the 6mm Dasher wildcat. This gun has a great story behind it. Forum member Bob A. (aka “Killshot”) used his “Forum Classifieds Special” to beat all comers in the F-Class Division in the American-Canadian Match and the Long Range Regional Match in 2013 in Sacramento, CA. Bob’s 6mm Dasher sports a blue-printed Rem 700 action. Who says you need a high-dollar custom action to run with the big dogs? In fact, this same gun, built with components sourced from AccurateShooter Forum Classified Ads, set a Sacramento F-Class range record of 200-17X a few years back. In this story, Bob talks about the build, and he explains his methods for loading ultra-accurate Dasher ammo.

Bob A. 6mm Dasher Sacramento F-Class March Madness

Bob’s Budget-Build Dasher F-Classer
I wanted to build a proper rifle for F-Open but needed to keep it simple and, well, cheap. I found a solid “base” to build on in the form of a Dave Bruno-built, “pre-owned” 6-6.5×47 Lapua that I located in the AccurateShooter Forum classifieds in late 2011. The base action was a trued and blue-printed Remington 700 receiver circa 1971 with a spiral-fluted bolt. It was in a Shehane ST1000 stock painted sky blue and had a Jewell 1.5-oz BR trigger. I sent the bolt to Greg Tannel (Gretanrifles.com) to have the firing pin hole bushed and sleeved, the ejector removed and the hole filled and the face trued. I upgraded to Tannel’s Light Steel firing pin assembly while it was out.

Having the working bits completed, I needed a barrel. So I went to the AccurateShooter classifieds again and found a 1:8″-twist, 30″ x 1.25″ (diam.) Bartlein with a 0.236″-land bore. I called Dave Kiff and explained my pursuit and he recommended his PT&G “world record” 6 Dasher reamer (.2704″ no-turn neck and .104″ freebore). A month or so later the reamer and gauges arrived.

I had the barrel chambered by Marc Soulie of Spartan Precision Rifles (510-755-5293, Concord, CA). Marc is a great builder and I’m pleased to call him a friend.

Bob A. 6mm Dasher Sacramento F-Class March Madness

The rifle got its good looks from a Pennsylvania artist named Kenny Prahl. His Prahl Designs shop (724-478-2538) added the white ghost-flames over the existing sky blue metallic paint.

Looks Great, Shoots Better
Fire-forming showed great promise — ten-shot groups of half an inch at 200 yards were typical. I lost only one case to a split neck and the “blow lengths” are good and consistent. This was followed up with load development which saw 100-yard, five-shot groups in the .1s and .2s as the rifle showed its preference for Reloder 15 over Varget powder, and for CCI 450s over all other primers. The bullet of choice was the ever-popular Berger 105gr Hybrid Target.

Bob A. 6mm Dasher Sacramento F-Class March Madness

In February 2012 I began shooting the Dasher in monthly club matches at the Sacramento Valley Shooting Center, the home range of a number of excellent F-Class, Benchrest and High Power shooters. Using a Farley Coaxial rest up front (also picked up from a WTB ad on AccurateShooter’s Forum) and an Edgewood bag in the back, I gradually improved my gun-handling to the point where I could shoot a respectable score. This was very different from the bipod shooting I’d done in the past in F/TR.

Bob A. 6mm Dasher Sacramento F-Class March Madness


Bob A. 6mm Dasher Sacramento F-Class March MadnessDasher Loading Tips
My chamber is set up for blue box Lapua 6mmBR brass. My case preparation is straight-forward. I fire-form with virgin cases right out of the box. I don’t size them but I will give the primer holes a good look and clean up the flash hole with a .058″ bit in a pin vise. To fire-form, I seat a Berger 108gr BT .030″ into the lands over a standard 6mmBR load of Varget.

For match loads, I use Alliant Reloder 15. While Varget is less sensitive to temp changes, RL15 has given me lower extreme spreads and better long range control. [Bob acknowledges that every barrel is unique, so a different powder, such as H4895 might work better for you.]

I clean my fired cases with stainless steel media in a Thumler’s rotary tumbler after every firing. I anneal after every other firing using a Bench-Source machine which is very well made and easy to operate. I use a Whidden full length bushing die with Redding bushings for sizing.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Competition, Tech Tip 1 Comment »
May 7th, 2018

Recoil Comparison — .223 Rem vs. 6mmBR vs. .308 Win

6mmBR NormaMany visitors to the site ask us, “I’ve got a .223 and .308. What will a 6mmBR Norma (6BR) give me that I’m not getting already?” Well first you may well average somewhat smaller groups than your current .223 or .308 rifle (assuming the 6BR has a quality barrel and trigger). A good .308 Winchester can be superbly accurate, no question about that, but the lesser recoil of the 6BR works in the shooter’s favor over a long string of fire. Even with a Rem 700 or Savage action factory action, a 6BR with a benchrest stock, premium barrel, and a high-quality chambering job should deliver 5-shot groups in the high twos to mid-threes, provided you do your job. We have one 6BR rifle that shoots Lapua factory-loaded 6BR ammunition in the low twos and high ones. That’s exceptional, we admit, but it still shows how the 6BR is an inherently accurate cartridge, even with factory loads.

Compared to a .223, the 6BR offers a better selection of high-BC projectiles and small-maker match projectiles (such as Bart Sauter’s “Hammer” and the Vapor Trail line). The 6BR will also deliver considerably more power on the target. Compared to the .308 shooting 168gr MatchKings, a 6BR shooting 105-107gr bullets offers better ballistics all the way out to 1000 yards. (The story changes with .308s with very long barrels pushing the 180-210 grain projectiles). Plus, for most people, the 6BR is just easier to shoot than a .308. Recoil is less than half of the .308 Win cartridge. Both the .308 and 6BR chamberings offer good barrel life, but the 6BR uses 15-18 grains less powder, saving you money. Here’s how the 6BR stacks up vs. a number of popular calibers:

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Tech Tip 1 Comment »
April 5th, 2014

Norma Website Now Offers Cartridge Histories

NormaOn the Norma website, in the products area, you’ll find dozens of illustrated cartridge profiles. Many of these have been augmented with “Caliber Histories” providing background information, both historical and practical. These entries will benefit those interested in the origins and development of popular hunting and match cartridges. Many of the “Caliber Histories” also include information on bullets and twist rates.

CLICK HERE to access the Hunting Products page on Norma’s website. There, on the left, you’ll see a vertical list of 58 different cartridges. Click on any cartridge name and you’ll see an illustrated “overview”. For most (but not all) listed cartridges, there is also a gray tab labeled “Caliber History”. Click that tab to see a cartridge diagram and a few paragraphs explaining the cartridge’s lineage and design features. For example, the .280 Remington Caliber History explains: “This cartridge was constructed in 1957 for Remington’s model 740 Autoloader. It is basically a .30-06 necked down to accept 7mm bullets, but the shoulder was moved forward a little in order to prevent the cartridge from being loaded into .270 Win. rifles by mistake.” Many of the Caliber History entries offer recommended bullet weights and barrel twist rates. Shown below is the 6.5×55 Swede’s Caliber History:

Norma 6.5x55 Swede Cartridge History

Norma 6.5x55 Swede Cartridge History

Article tip by EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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November 25th, 2010

Holiday Hunt — 6mmBR for Deer

Forum member Jerry S. posted this story yesterday in our Shooters’ Forum. It shows that, with the right bullet and good shot placement, the diminutive 6BR is more than enough cartridge for deer.

I decided to try something different this year. Instead of dragging out my trusty .44 Smith or the 6.5×55 Remington 700, I took my 6mmBR Norma Prairie Dog rifle deer hunting. We got a lot of wet sloppy snow the week before the opener and had a freezing drizzle on the first morning. I decided to hunt close to the house since my old bones couldn’t handle the trip to my normal hunting stand.

I set the 6mmBR P-dog rifle up on my shooting bench and began the long, cold wait. The deer trail I was watching is about 180 – 230 yards from where I was sitting.

Buck Lined up in Cross-hairs
At about 2:30 this afternoon, I was watching some does feeding along the trail and looked away for a minute then looked back and saw a third deer moving up behind them. A quick check in the spotting scope showed horns and I got behind the rifle. There is no safety on my P-dog gun so it wasn’t loaded and I quickly chambered a round. The does stepped into the woods and the buck stopped for a minute and looked right at me. I centered the cross hairs on his chest and touched the trigger. I could hear the impact as he leaped straight in the air and hit the ground running into the woods.

6mmBR and .338 Win Magnum

I figured it was a good hit, so I poured a cup of coffee and relaxed for a bit to let him tire out and drop. After my coffee, I picked up my 6.5×55 and went out to where he was shot. I was 190 yards from my bench and there was no blood. He was headed toward a swamp south of me so I figured I’d cut him off and see if I could cut his trail farther into the bush. I hadn’t gone ten yards when I came across a good blood trail.

Deer blood trail

I followed it for a few more yards and found him crumpled up. He had only gone 25 yards from where he was shot. While I was looking at him and taking photos, two more deer showed up. You can see one standing on the other side of my rifle.

Deer staring at hunter

My buddy brought his 4-wheeler over and helped me drag it to the house where we skinned it out. The bullet had taken the top off the heart and he was totally bled out. All in all, it was a successful hunt, and the 6mmBR did its job.

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