Bart Sauter of Barts Custom Bullets has acquired a LabRadar chronograph. He was curious to see how his loads performed in actual match conditions, so he brought his LabRadar to a match and set it up right on his benchtop. What he learned was quite surprising. For one thing, Bart found that tuning for the best accuracy (in the conditions), was NOT simply a matter of maintaining velocity. Read all about Bart’s experience in this AccurateShooter Forum Thread.
LabRadar Report by Bart Sauter
Bart posted: “I shot a short range NBRSA match [in March] with the LabRadar on the bench! The benches were quite close, but the LabRadar was able to pick up my shots even with the other guns going off very close to it. This is a pretty impressive piece of gear.”
It’s great for tuning. I can’t say for sure but what I saw with the PPC is that just maintaining a certain velocity will not keep the gun in tune.”
One Forum member asked: “Was the LabRadar able to pick up shots that far back (behind the muzzle) and to the side? What setting did you have it set at?”
Bart’s LabRadar unit had no trouble picking up shots when set on the bench, a bit behind the muzzle. In fact, Bart noted: “Yes it can go a long way back. At home I could get back up to around 8 feet and pick up the bullet. It’s more sensitive about the side distance. I had mine on level 4. You can be a lot farther behind the muzzle then advertised. You can also point it at your buddy’s target and get his velocity.”
Bart set his LabRadar to be triggered by the shot: “I had a tuner on the gun but no muzzle brake. [The Chrono] was set to be triggered by the sound of the gun. When you move back you have to play with the trigger level. I put mine on a tripod and was able to pick up projectiles 8 feet back, but from the side had to be within 18 inches.”
Long-Life Battery Power
Powering the LabRadar at the range is not a problem. Bart used a portable battery pack that can power the LabRadar for a long time: “I bought a RavPower battery pack from Amazon.com. It was the most powerful compact cell phone charger they had and [it costs about $30.00]. It was able to run the LabRadar for two full days without recharging and still had juice.”
The LabRadar is a pretty expensive piece of kit, but there’s nothing else like it on the market. Bart notes: “The LabRadar itself is about $560.00. The stand is $29.95 for the bench mount and the padded carry case is $39.95. So you’re around $630.00 plus shipping.”
LabRadar Field Test by Ray Gross
If you are considering purchasing a LabRadar Chronograph system, we strongly suggest you read the very thorough and informative LabRadar Review by Ray Gross, Captain of the USA F-TR team.
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Over the years, noted gunsmith and a Benchrest Hall-of-Fame inductee Thomas ‘Speedy’ Gonzalez has learned a few things about “tuning” rear sandbags for best performance. On his Facebook page, Speedy recently discussed how sand bag fill levels (hard vs. soft) can affect accuracy. Speedy says you don’t want to have both your front and rear sandbags filled up ultra-hard. One or the other bag needs to have some “give” to provide a shock-absorbing function (and prevent stock jump).
SAND BAGS & HOW TO FILL THEMby Speedy Gonzalez
I was asked several times by competitors at the S.O.A. Matches and F-Class Nationals as to how I fill my sand bags for benchrest competition. Here is a copy of a reply I gave several years ago:
Back in the old days, about the time Fred Flintstone was still alive, I worked for Pat McMillan for free, from time to time to learn all his secrets. One day little Speedy was filling some new sand bags out behind Pat’s shop, stuffing them with more sand than Taco Bell put beans in their Burritos. When Pat stepped out the back door and inquired as to what in the hell was I doing packing them there bags the way I was.
I looked up at him with eyes like a kid with his hands in a cookie jar. My reply must have sounded like Homer Simpson “Doooh”. Finally I said “I don’t know, Boss. I just thought you were supposed to fill these babies up and go shoot. I got that ‘You dumb bastard look’ from Pat and I knew it was lecture time. This was what he told me:
You can not have two bags filled so hard that you gun bounces on them in the process of firing round at your target, especially if you have a rig with a very flexible stock. The bags must be set up in a manner for them to absorb the initial shock of the firing pin moving forward and igniting the primer. Then [they must] maintain their shape and absorb the second shock wave as well the rearward thrust and torque of the rifle. What happens to the rifle when this is not done? Well let me tell you. The rifles have a very bad tendency to jump and roll in the bags. This causes many of those wild, lost shots that one can’t explain.
Charles Huckaba, Ken Terrell, Larry Baggett, Ralph Stewart and some of us Texas shooters talk about this phenomena quite often. We have all agreed that:
1: You can not have two hard bags [i.e. both front AND rear] in your set-up.
2: Heavy sand magnifies these phenomena.
3: If you are a bag squeezer, pack ears hard and leave bag pliable enough to squeeze for the movement required. You may pack front bag as hard as rules permit.
4: Free recoil shooters pack both bags firm, but not so hard as to allow stock jump. Especially if you have a stock with a very flexible forearm.
5: We use play-ground sand, also know as silica sand. I sift mine to get any large impurities out then mix it with 25% to 50% with Harts parakeet gravel to the desired hardness that I am looking for. The bird gravel keeps the sand from packing itself into that solid as a brick state.
Speaking of bricks — another thing that happens when shooters employ that heavy zircon sand is the ears form a low spot under them from recoil and then tend to rock back and forth with the rifle causing many low shots to crop up. Edgewood makes an Edgewood/Speedy rear bag specially reinforced under the ears to eliminate this scenario.
One last note –If you use the Cordura bags keep them sprayed with a good silicon spray or “Rain-Ex”. This keeps them from getting sticky. Hey guys, try that and see if it helps. — Speedy
P.S.: I do not like the solid double-stitched leather bottoms. While this seems like a good idea, I see more shooters have problems because of them. They tend to slide around the bench and or slide with the rifle on recoil. The standard Protektor with Cordura rabbit ears and an Otto ring bag with a Cordura front would be what I would suggest to the new shooter or one of the Edgewood / Speedy rear bags, these mimic the “Donut” and feature a ring of leather around the bottom circumference that keep the bottom from rocking on the bench or ground if that is where you reside these days…
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From the late ’70s through 1983, a huge, concrete-walled warehouse in Houston was used for benchrest testing. Virgil King and Bob Fisher set up a bullet-catching backstop at the end of a 30-yard-wide, 325-yard-long fire lane that remained unobstructed even when the warehouse was in use. This allowed accuracy tests in virtually perfect “no wind” conditions. Over a six-year period, about 30 shooters were invited to test their rifles. The results were amazing, with numerous “zero groups” being shot in the facility. Many of the lessons learned in the legendary Houston Warehouse still help benchresters achieve better accuracy today.
Dave Scott explains why the Warehouse was so unique:
“Over a period of six years, the levels of accuracy achieved in the Houston Warehouse went beyond what many precision shooters thought possible for lightweight rifles shot from sandbags and aimed shot-to-shot by human eye. For the first time, a handful of gifted, serious experimenters — armed with the very best performing rifles (with notable exceptions) — could boldly venture into the final frontiers of rifle accuracy, a journey made possible by eliminating the baffling uncertainties of conditions arising from wind and mirage. Under these steel skies, a shooter could, without question, confirm the absolute limits of accuracy of his rifle, or isolate the source of a problem. In the flawlessly stable containment of the Houston Warehouse … a very few exceptional rifles would display the real stuff, drilling repeated groups measuring well below the unbelievably tiny .100″ barrier. The bulk of rifles, however, embarrassed their owners.”
Scott’s article also reveals some interesting technical points: “One thing that IS important is that the bullet be precisely seated against the lands. T.J. Jackson reported this fact in the May 1987 issue of Precision Shooting. In a letter to the Editor, T.J. wrote, ‘…in all our testing in that Houston warehouse… and the dozens and dozens of groups that Virgil King shot in there ‘in the zeroes’… he NEVER fired a single official screamer group when he was ‘jumping’ bullets. All his best groups were always seated into the lands, or at the very least… touching the lands. Virgil said his practice was to seat the bullets so the engraving was half as long as the width of the lands. He noticed an interesting phenomenon with rifles that could really shoot: if the bullets were seated a little short and the powder charge was a bit on the light side, the groups formed vertically. As he seated the bullets farther out and increased the powder charge, the groups finally became horizontal. If he went still farther, the groups formed big globs. He said the trick is to find the midway point between vertical and horizontal. That point should be a small hole.”
You should definitely read the complete article, as it provides many more fascinating insights, including shooting technique, barrel cleaning, neck-turning, and case prep.
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No doubt you’ve heard the term “reticle” before, but it probably brings to mind the cross-hair you see through a rifle-scope. This term “reticle” can also describe an optical aid used to score targets. This story discusses a new scoring reticle with precisely-defined circles etched on clear plexiglass. This scoring reticle (as attached to a magnifying crystal) is used to determine whether bullet holes fall inside or outside the scoring circles on targets. This unique new scoring reticle allows match scorers to “equalize” the shot placements of all popular calibers from .204 up to .308. This way, there’s a “level playing field” for all calibers, and any caliber rifle can compete on an equal basis with the 30s.
New ‘Equalizer’ VFS Scoring Reticle
by Ron Goodger
The ubiquitous controversy over the advantage of larger caliber bullets in VFS (Varmint for Score) matches still rages, but there is a simple solution that is being embraced by all to whom I have shown it. The concept is simple, and it accomplishes the same thing the UBR (Ultimate Benchrest) targets do with the advantage that it can be used on any target a club happens to have on hand.
I had heard shooters complain about the advantage that larger calibers have many times and wish there was a fair way to score targets that would level the playing field for all calibers. The UBR concept came along and I read up on it. When a match was held close enough that I could enter, I did so and observed first hand what it was all about. The UBR targets essentially make the distance from the bullet hole center to the scoring ring edge the same for each caliber by using different-sized rings on the caliber-specific targets. After seeing the accompanying disadvantages of using this method (the chief one being the large number of targets required by UBR rules and the resulting increased time required to hold a match), I began searching for a simpler way to accomplish the same thing. I was aware of a number of mid-West clubs wanting to make scoring fair but unwilling to use the UBR method because of the disadvantages.
I came up with an idea late in 2015 and designed a scoring reticle that would do the job. The following diagrams graphically explain how UBR and my scoring reticle accomplish the same thing. The illustration above shows how different caliber bullets hitting the same center point of impact will each just score the 10 ring edge on the different-sized, caliber-specific UBR 10 Rings . It is clear that it is the distance from the center of the bullet to the scoring ring that is made uniform by the different 10 Ring sizes.
The illustration below shows how my VFS scoring reticle accomplishes the same thing by scoring every shot with an .308-equivalent ring that circumscribes the inner caliber-specific ring. The dotted line shows that the center of each bullet hits the same distance from the edge of the scoring ring. It is clear that, using current VFS scoring techniques, the .224, .243, and .257 bullets would score misses. However, scoring each bullet with the .308 ring around the hole illustrates that all calibers would be scored the same.
Scoring Reticle Converts Any Caliber Shot to a .308-Equivalent Hole
The above photo of an IBS 100-yard target has a 6mm hole that is clearly a nine (9), using current scoring methods. But consider that, if a .308 bullet from a 30 BR hit in the very same location, that .30-caliber shot would score in the Ten Ring. Why should the 6mm bullet, whose center was just as close to the middle of the target, be penalized because of the bullet diameter? The image on the right shows the scoring reticle with the 6mm scoring ring centered on this hole. With this scoring reticle, the .308 ring around the 6mm hole clearly scores the 10 Ring, just as a 30-caliber bullet centered in the same spot would do. That is as fair as it can get.
The above image (two shots per frame) from a Hillsdale Michigan varmint target has two 6mm holes that scored a 16. Score values are 10 points for a shot in the white, 5 points for a shot in the orange, and 1 point for hitting the center dot. This was a match that had 30BRs shooting in it. The next photo shows how scoring this frame with the VFS reticle would have resulted in a 21 because the left side of the reticle’s .308 circle just extends into the 10-point white bulls-eye region. So, in effect, there were two (2) shots in the white for 2×10 points (based on the .308 equalizer effect of the reticle). This shows how the reticle will level the VFS playing field regardless of what target is being used.
VFS Scoring Reticle Features and Specifications
The 6mm circles have been placed in the center of the reticle because it is expected to be the most commonly-used caliber, and that makes it easier to see in the crystal. Any of the ring sets can be used for a .308. The sizes of the circles are guaranteed accurate to within .001″ on the outside edge of the circle by the reticle’s manufacturer. I have found the best magnifier crystal to use is a genuine Badash crystal that measures 3.25″ in diameter. They are available from several eBay sellers and are easily attached using a piece of packing tape about 3/4-inch wide around the edge of the reticle (visible on the crystal in the lower part of the photo). That makes the Plexiglas reticles easy to replace in the event they become scratched up from frequent use.
A number of Midwest rifle clubs have already purchased these scoring reticles. The Plexiglas reticles are available for $15.00 each plus $2.04 shipping from the author (does not include the crystal). Email him at LRGoodger [at] gmail dot com for more information.
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Here’s one of the most popular videos from the Daily Bulletin archives. If you’ve ever wondered how a top-flight, custom rifle is built, watch carefully….
This video, produced for the folks at S&S Precision in Denton, Texas, shows a full custom 6.5×47 bench rifle being crafted from start to finish. It is a fantastic video, one of the best precision rifles video you’ll find on YouTube. It shows every aspect of the job — action bedding, chambering, barrel-fitting, muzzle crowning, and stock finishing.
You’ll be amazed at the paint job on this rig — complete with flames and four playing cards: the 6, 5, 4, and 7 of spades. Everyone should take the time to watch this 13-minute video from start to finish, particularly if you are interested in stock painting or precision gunsmithing. And the video has a “happy ending”. This custom 6.5×47 proves to be a real tack-driver, shooting a 0.274″ three-shot group at 400 yards to win “small group” in its first fun match. NOTE: If you have a fast internet connection, we recommend you watch this video in 720p HD.
We’re told that the founder of S&S Precision, the inimitable “Stick” Starks, is retiring from full-time gunsmithing duties. This video is a nice tribute to Stick’s dedication to his craft for so many decades.
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One of our Shooter’s Forum members recently built a new benchrest rifle. He was concerned because his groups were stringing vertically. This is a common problem that all precision shooters will face sooner or later. In addition to ammo inconsistencies, many other factors can cause vertical stringing. Accordingly, it’s important that you analyze your gun handling and bench set-up systematically.
Hall of Fame benchrest Shooter Speedy Gonzalez has written a helpful article that explains how to eliminate mechanical and gun-handling problems that cause vertical spread in your groups. Speedy’s article addresses both the human and the hardware factors that cause vertical. CLICK HERE to read the full article. Here are a few of Speedy’s tips:
• Front Bag Tension — Vertical can happen if the front sand bag grips the fore-arm too tightly. If…the fore-arm feels like it is stuck in the bag, then the front bag’s grip is too tight. Your rifle should move in evenly and smoothly in the sand bags, not jerk or chatter when you pull the gun back by hand.
• Sandbag Fill — A front sandbag that is too hard can induce vertical. Personally, I’ve have never had a rifle that will shoot consistently with a rock-hard front sandbag. It always causes vertical or other unexplained shots.
• Stock Recoil — Free-recoil-style shooters should be sure their rifle hits their shoulder squarely on recoil, not on the edge of their shoulder or the side of their arm. If you shoulder your gun, you need to be consistent. You can get vertical if your bench technique is not the same every shot. One common problem is putting your shoulder against the stock for one shot and not the next.
• Front Rest Wobble — You will get vertical if the top section of the front rest is loose. Unfortunately, a lot of rests have movement even when you tighten them as much as you can. This can cause unexplained shots.
• Stock Flex — Some stocks are very flexible. This can cause vertical. There are ways to stiffen stocks, but sometimes replacement is the best answer.
• Rifle Angle — If the gun is not level, but rather angles down at muzzle end, the rifle will recoil up at butt-end, causing vertical. You may need to try different rear bags to get the set-up right.
• Last Shot Laziness — If the 5th shot is a regular problem, you may be guilty of what I call “wishing the last shot in”. This is a very common mistake. We just aim, pull the trigger, and do not worry about the wind flags. Note that in the photo below, the 5th shot was the highest in the group–probably because of fatigue or lack of concentration.
Who hasn’t dreamed of having a professional-quality, permanent shooting bench on their own property? Well here’s an article that can help you make that dream come true. This “how-to” feature from the archives of RifleShooter Magazine shows how to build a quality concrete shooting bench step-by-step.
All aspects of the construction process are illustrated and explained. The author, Keith Wood explains: “Construction happened in three phases — first creating the slab foundation, then the support pillars (legs), and finally the table.”
Click image below to load article with slide show.
Each step in the process is illustrated with a large photo and descriptive paragraph. Starting with framing the foundation (Step 1), the article illustrates and explains the 15 Steps that produce the finished, all-concrete bench (see top photo).
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.009″ — The Record That Stood for 40 Years.
In 1973 Mac McMillan shot an amazing 100-yard, .009″ five-shot group in a benchrest match. The .009″ group was measured with a 60x microscope for verification. Mac McMillan shot the group using a handbuilt prototype McMillan rifle with an early McMillan stock.
Mac’s .009″ group was the “Holy Grail” of rifle accuracy. This .009″ record was considered by many to be unbreakable, a record that would “stand for all time”. Well, it took 40 years, but someone finally broke Mac’s record with an even smaller group. In 2013, Mike Stinnett shot a .0077″ five-shot group using a 30 Stewart, a .30 caliber wildcat based on the 6.5 Grendel. Stinnett’s .0077″ group now stands as the smallest 100-yard group ever shot in registered benchrest competition.* Read About .0077″ group HERE.
Stinnett’s success doesn’t diminish the significance of Mac McMillan’s .009″ group in the history of benchrest competition. For four decades Mac’s group stood as the ultimate standard of rifle accuracy*. For those of you who have never seen Mac McMillan’s .009″ group, here it is, along with the NBRSA World Record certificate. The target now hangs in the McMillan Family Museum.
*Somebody else might claim a smaller group, but unless moving backers or electronic targets were used, it cannot be verified. Moving target backers are used at registered benchrest matches to ensure that five (5) shots are actually fired in each group. That eliminates any doubt.
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Butch Lambert of ShadeTree Engineering provided this tip. Butch notes that many 6 PPC benchrest group shooters also enjoy shooting in score matches. But to be really competitive in the BR for score game, that means shooting a 30BR, which has a wider, .308-class rim (0.4728″ diameter). Likewise, if you want to compete in 600-yard registered BR events or in varmint matches, you probably want to run a bigger case, such as the 6BR, 6mm Dasher, or 6-6.5×47. Those cartridges also have the larger 0.4728″ rims.
To convert a PPC-boltface action to shoot the bigger cases you can spend a ton of money and buy a new bolt. That can cost hundreds of dollars. The simpler solution is to turn down the diameter of the larger cases on a lathe. Butch explains: “We’ve seen plenty of interest in rebating case rims. This lets you shoot a 30BR in score matches using your PPC action. All you need is a new barrel. This saves buying another bolt, receiver, or rifle if you have a PPC boltface. Anyone who has access to a lathe can do this job pretty easily. Yesterday I turned 150 case in about an hour.” Below are photos of a rebated 6BR case, along with the lathe form tool Butch uses to rebate the case rims.
Cutting Head for Rebating Rims
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Rodney Wagner shot the smallest 5-shot, 600-yard group in the history of competitive rifle shooting. First measured at a mere 0.349″, then certified on the IBS Record books at 0.336″, Rodney’s group is mind-blowingly small — and it was centered for a 50 score. This amazing group shows what can be done with a great gun, a talented shooter, and superb hand-loaded ammunition. Today’s Tech Tip reveals some of Rodney’s reloading methods that helped him put five shots you could cover with a dime into a target 600 yards away.
Creating Ultra-Accurate Benchrest Ammunition
Rodney takes great care in loading his brass, and he employs a few tricks to get superior consistency.
Fire-Forming — To prepare his cases for fire-forming, Rodney starts by turning his Lapua brass to just past where the new neck-shoulder junction will be: “I just cut enough for the 6mm Dasher neck. A little bit of the cut shows on the shoulder after forming.” Then Rodney runs a .25-caliber K&M mandrel through the whole neck, expanding the neck diameter. After the entire neck is expanded, Rodney re-sizes the top section with a Wilson bushing, creating a false shoulder. Then, as further insurance that the case will be held firmly in place during fire-forming, Rodney seats his bullets long — hard into the lands. When fire-forming, Rodney uses a normal 6mmBR load of 29.8 grains of Varget: “I don’t like to stress my brass before it has been hardened. I load enough powder to form the shoulder 95%. Any more than that is just wasted.” Rodney adds: “When fire-forming, I don’t want to use a super-hard primer. I prefer to use a Federal 205, CCI 200, or Winchester — something soft.” Using a softer primer lessens the likelihood that the case will drive forward when hit by the firing pin, so this helps achieve more consistent “blow lengths”.
Ammo Loading — Rodney is fastidious with his brass and weighs his charges very precisely. Charges are first dispensed with an RFD manual powder measure, then Rodney trickles kernel by kernel using a highly-precise Sartorius GD-503 laboratory scale. He tries to maintain charge-weight consistency within half a tenth of a grain — about two kernels of Varget powder.
One important technique Rodney employs is sorting by bullet-seating force. Rodney batch-sorts his loaded rounds based on seating force indicated by the dial gauge on his K&M arbor press: “I use a K&M arbor press with dial indicator strain gauge. When I’m loading I pay lots of attention to seating effort and I try to batch five rounds that feel the same. For record rounds I try to make sure I get five of the same number (on the dial). When sorting based on the force-gauge readout, you need to go slow. If you go too fast the needle will spike up and down before you can see it.”
In practice, Rodney might select five rounds with a gauge value of 25, then another five with a gauge read-out of 30 and so on. He places the first five like-value rounds in one row of his ammo caddy. The next like-value set of five will go in the next row down. By this method, he ensures that all five cartridges in a five-round set for a record target will have bullets seated with very consistent seating force.
Unlike some top shooters, Rodney does not regularly anneal his cases. However, after every firing, he does tumble his Dasher brass in treated corncob media. After sizing his brass, before seating the bullets, he runs a nylon brush in the necks: “The last thing I do before firing is run a well-worn 30 caliber nylon brush in the necks, using a small 6-volt drill for power. This is a quick operation — just in and out the neck”. Sometimes, at the end of the season, he will anneal, but Rodney adds: “If I can get 10 firings out of the case I’ve done good.” He usually makes up new brass when he fits a new barrel: “If it is a good barrel (that I may shoot at the Nationals), I’ll usually go ahead and prepare 200 pieces of good brass.”
Tips for 600-Yard Shooters New to the Game
In the course of our interview with Rodney, we asked if he had any tips for shooters who are getting started in the 600-yard Benchrest Game. Rodney offered some sensible advice:
1. Don’t try to go it alone. Find an old-timer to mentor you. As a novice, go to matches, watch and ask questions.
2. Go with a proven cartridge. If you are shooting 600 yards stick with a 6mmBR or one of the 6BR improveds (BRX or Dasher). Keep it simple. I tried some of the larger cartridges, the 6XC and 6-6.5×47 Lapua. I was trying to be different, but I was not successful. It wasn’t a disaster — I learned something. But I found the larger cases were not as accurate as a 6BR or Dasher. Those bigger cartridges are competitive for score but not for group.
3. You don’t have to spend a fortune to be competitive. Buy a used rifle from somebody and find out if you like the sport. You can save a lot with a used rifle, but do plan on buying a new barrel immediately.
4. Don’t waste weeks or months struggling with a barrel that isn’t shooting. My best barrels, including this record-setting Brux, started shooting exceptionally well right from the start.
Rodney’s record group was measured at 0.349″ at the match, then IBS record-certified at 0.336″.
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I am very sad to announce that a good friend (and a brilliant shooter) Jerry Tierney, has passed away at age 77. I have worked on this site for 11 years, and Jerry was one of the most helpful and talented men I’ve met along the way. Though he won many championships, Jerry was a modest man who always was there to help other shooters. I will really miss him. AccurateShooter.com owes a debt of gratitude to Jerry. With his technical expertise, he helped me greatly with my understanding of rifle accuracy. Jerry was small in stature, but big in talent. Rest in Peace Jerry. We’ll miss your smarts, your good humor, and your love for the sport. — Paul McM, Editor in Chief.
Jerry Tierney shot competitively for nearly 50 years and won multiple championships in various rifle disciplines. Fellow shooter Donovan Moran noted: “Jerry was the leading member of the NBRSA ‘Long Range Hall of Fame’ — well deserved! He was a very friendly man, a mentor to the sport, and one of the best Long Range competition shooters there’s ever been.”
With great natural talent and the mind of a scientist, Jerry could win events in ways not thought possible. He is certainly the only man I know who won a Benchrest Championship shooting a prone-type tube gun. He pioneered the .284 Win as an F-Open weapon. A self-declared “iron-sight prone guy”, he competed for many seasons in the full-bore and Palma disciplines, but in the last decade he turned his attention to 600-yard and 1000-yard benchrest and F-Class. He won multiple NBRSA Nationals, due in no small part to superb wind-doping skills and mastery of the “mental game”.
A former computer engineer with IBM, Jerry was an extremely bright guy who took a systematic approach to the sport. He made decisions based on hard data. He did things many shooters once considered radical (such as cleaning his barrels infrequently), but he always had the data to back up his methods. He was a forward thinker who wasn’t afraid to depart from conventional wisdom if he found a better way to do things. For me, Jerry Tierney was an important mentor — he showed me how the “state of the art” could be pushed to higher levels with careful experimentation and a willingness to try new things.
We did a lengthy interview with Jerry way back in 2005, when Jerry won the NBRSA 1000-yard Nationals. That performance helped proved the worth of the .284 Win in 1K competition, a cartridge that now is a leading choice for F-Open. Read this interview carefully — even ten years later, Jerry offers many nuggets of advice that can help with your reloading and shooting:
Danny Biggs Remembers Jerry Tierney
Past National F-Class Champion Danny Biggs wrote: “Our long-time shooting friend, Jerry Tierney, left the range last night. Jerry was 77 years old, and was overtaken by bad health over the past year…cancer and other ailments. An accomplished Palma Rifle shooter, his home range was the Sacramento Valley Shooting Center, near Sacramento, CA, and, just 16 miles from his front door, outside Plymouth, CA.
Jerry was a frequent contributor to [Rifle Blogs] in past years. In particular, about 7 years ago, he published considerable results of his testing of the Winchester .284 cartridge. This testing convinced several of us to transition from the venerable 6.5-284 to the straight .284 for both long range ‘sling’ and F-Class Open. Jerry’s testing was primarily in the realm of F-Open; wherein, he fell ‘in cahoots’ with a young F-Open shooter, Charles Ballard, who set an F-Class Open National record that stood for many years. (By the way, Incahoots is the name of Jerry’s favorite restaurant in Plymouth, CA, near his home; where I’ve enjoyed many an evening meal with him.)
Many others have contributed to the legacy of the Winchester .284… but, if you happen to be shooting a .284 in F-Open today, you might just give a thought to Jerry at your next trigger-pull. More than likely, you are shooting some of his data.” — Danny Biggs
Forum Member Killshot added:
“I only new Jerry for a few years, as I began shooting F-Class in 2010 — but he always answered my questions, helped me with my first Wildcat chambering and I never, ever, saw or heard of him ‘Big Timing’ anyone. I’ll miss his gap-toothed grin, like he knew something you didn’t. (and probably did!)
We’re better off for knowing him and worse off for not having him around any longer. So, appreciate your friendships and shoot small… Jerry would.”
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Here’s good news for short-range benchrest shooters. The two most popular powders for the 6PPC, Vihtavuori N133 and Accurate LT-32, are now in-stock at Powder Valley Inc. (PVI). In fact, Powder Valley even has the hard-to-find 8-lb jugs of N133 and LT-32.
For you 30BR score shooters, PVI has both Hodgdon H4198 and Accurate LT-30 in stock, the two most popular powders for the 30BR. A slightly faster-burning version of LT-32, LT-30 is a very promising powder for the 30 BR, while H4198 has traditionally been the “go-to” choice for the 100/200-yard score shooting game. PVI has 1-lb and 8-lb containers of both these ultra-accurate powders in stock now. Visit PowderValleyinc.com, and click on the “Powders” link in the Menu.
30 BR Powders
– PVI has 1-pound LT-32 for $27.10
— PVI has 8-pound LT-32 for $204.30
— PVI has 1-pound N133 for $31.25
— PVI has 8-pound N133 for $202.00
– PVI has 1-lb LT-30 for $27.10
— PVI has 8-pound LT-32 for $204.30
— PVI has 1-pound H4198 for $23.25
— PVI has 8-pound H4198 for $165.00
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It’s important for all serious “gun guys” to share our hobby with new shooters. Sharing the fun with those new to the sport helps keep our shooting heritage alive. And going to the range is also a great way for family members and friends to spend “quality time” together. A father and son outing to the range can be very rewarding, as Forum Member Belton45 observed recently.
Forum Member Belton45 started a thread in our Shooters’ Forum, entitled “Why I Enjoy Shooting.” In the thread, Belton45 described a day at the range with his 11-year-old son: “My son wanted a nice gun like my PPC so I fixed him up a Krieger-barreled 223 AR. [The photo shows] my son shooting the newly-put-together AR. He had the best two small groups of the day with it. Smallest was this .295″ and one a little over .3″. He was very happy as I was also. He is 11 and loves going to range. I am pretty sure I was happier than he was. Although he had to call his grandpa and tell him. On the drive back home he was giving me pointers on how to shoot. He has been shooting with me for 5 to 6 years. He is definitely a good shot. He also shoots a MKIII .22LR pistol very well also. He thinks I’m the ‘coolest dad in the world’. He is a very hard working young man — he mows yards, gets good grades, and is very athletic. I could not be happier.”
Forum Member Tim B had a similar positive experience with his nephew: “I don’t have kids but feel that we need to keep alive the gun aspect of our heritage. I bought a .22 mag rifle and gave it to my nephew. He is a natural in my eyes. He loves that rifle more than anything. He has learned to read the wind and can shoot some tight groups with it. I recently let him shoot my AR I just finished building. The look in his eyes after shooting it was priceless. I hope to build him a very nice target gun someday.”
Forum Member Ray in Wenatchee also gave a young shooter a special thrill: “A 10/22 shooting teenager sideled up to me behind my Anschutz M1413 free style rifle and was amazed at my grouping. His dad had taken him down to do a little shooting, then maybe archery. I set him up on my Bald Eagle rest and let him shoot 5 rounds. [He drilled] a 5-round, nickel-sized hole at 50 yards. Both of them were still waving ‘Thank You’ when I left.”
As an eighth grader, Amanda L (photo above), attended a Benchrest Clinic in Southern California. She ended up shooting one of the small groups of the day, an impressive 0.163″. Who said short-range benchrest is just for pudgy old guys with cranky personalities? Amanda is living proof that precision shooting can be enjoyed by just about anyone, at any age.
And we can also help the sport by giving adult shooters the chance to try a very accurate rifle for the first time. Often, when a novice gets a chance to shoot a real tack-driver, he gets “hooked” on the sport. Forum Member LawrenceH writes:
One of the most fulfilling aspects of benchrest shooting, for me, is to get others interested in the sport. At my home range, most shooters have never seen a benchrest rifle, or wind flags. During range visits I get at least one person who comes over and asks questions about my gun and the flags. I will take a break from my shooting and talk with the interested shooter as long as they care to talk. I will then ask them if they would like to shoot a group with my rifle. More often than not they will say yes. The smile on their face when they finish their group and the cheer in their voice as they talk about how fun it is to shoot that rifle is enough to make my day. I got one guy hooked on the sport and made several friends this way. Being open and friendly with other shooters can go a long way toward sustaining our sport.
When I am at the range practicing, I do all I can to dispel the stigma that benchrest shooters are unapproachable or arrogant. My intention of being open and friendly with other shooters is to provide them the thrill of shooting a benchrest rifle and giving them the opportunity to find out what they can do with good equipment. In the process they will see that benchrest shooters are a good bunch of guys and that benchrest competition might be a fun endeavor. If they chose to pursue the sport, that is a bonus. In any case, it has always been a positive experience to share my knowledge and equipment with other shooters. It boils down to having fun and being a good steward of the shooting sports. I will continue to do my part and hope that other benchrest shooters do the same.”
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If you’re thinking about acquiring a 17 HMR rifle, you should read the 17 HMR Two-Gun Comparison in our Gun of the Week Archives. This two-gun shoot-out compares the performance of a Volquartsen 17 HMR semi-auto and a Ruger 77/17 bolt-action. Glen Robinson, the owner of both rifles, has done some serious comparison testing with both guns, trying out a half-dozen varieties of 17 HMR ammo. The overall results may surprise you. The semi-auto out-shot the bolt gun by a significant margin, with all types of ammo tested.
Comparing the Qualities of the Two 17 HMR Rifles
By Glen Robinson
While the Volquartsen proved to be the more accurate of my pair of 17 HMRs, I still enjoy owning both rifles. Each gun has its strong points and weak points.
Ruger Strong Points: From any angle, the Ruger 77/17 is a nice-looking rifle with classic lines. I like the gray-finish stainless barrel — it goes well with the gray laminated stock. With the addition of the aftermarket sear, the trigger is crisp and the bolt function is smooth. The action is strong and dependable. The conventional “open rear” action allows you to clean “normally” with a bore guide, cleaning rod, and patches/brushes. I feel I can do a better job of cleaning with the Ruger than with the boresnake on the Volquartsen.
Ruger Weak Points: Accuracy is somewhat disappointing. The best 100-yard group the Ruger has shot was about 0.82″ and the gun averages well over 1.25″ for 5 shots. In fairness, I haven’t done anything exotic in terms of bedding the action/barrel, and I would expect that an aftermarket barrel, perhaps combined with a barrel pre-load (up-pressure) pad, could improve the accuracy.
Volquartsen Strong Points: The Volquartsen is a well-made, accurate, dependable rifle. The gun cycles very reliably and requires very little maintenance. To clean it, just pull a boresnake through the bore. The gun exhibits very nice machining, and the VX-5000 stock rides steady on a front sand-bag, even though it’s only about 1.75″ wide. Even without any tweaking the trigger is very good, and the pull weight is fine for varminting.
Volquartsen Weak Points: The VX-5000 stock is not ideal for bench work — the comb is a bit too high, though I like the feel of the vertical grip. This stock profile is really more suited for silhouette shooting, but this stock seemed to be the best option offered by Volquartsen that could be used for both paper-punching and varminting. The receiver design limits your options for barrel cleaning.
Conclusion — The Volquartsen Takes the Prize
Having shot both rifles extensively, if I had to pick one gun, it would be the Volquartsen. The Volquartsen is much more accurate and it offers much faster follow-up shots. For varminting the Volquartsen would be superior, no question about it. I’m happy I bought the Volquartsen and the VX-5000 stock. It is a fun, versatile gun that lives up to the accuracy claims.
To get the best accuracy out of any benchrest rifle, you need to find the optimal position of front rest and rear bag. The important point to remember is that each rig is different. One gun may perform best with the front rest right at the tip of the forearm (Position ‘D’ in photo), while another gun will work best with the rest positioned much further back. This Editor’s own 6BR sits in a laminated stock that is pretty flexy in the front. It shoots best with the front rest’s sandbag located a good 6″ back from the forearm tip (position ‘A’).
Here’s some benchrest advice that can help you reduce vertical and shoot tighter groups… without spending another penny. Many benchrest shooters spend a fortune on equipment and devote countless hours to meticulous handloading, but they never experiment with their rifle’s position/balance on the bags. This article explains why you should test your rifle in various positions. What you learn may surprise you (and improve your scores).
Next time you go to the range, experiment with the position of your rifle on the front rest, and try a couple different positions for the rear bag. You may find that the rifle handles much better after you’ve made a small change in the placement of your gun on the bags. Recoil can be tamed a bit, and tracking can improve significantly, if you optimize the front rest and rear bag positioning.
This competitor has the front rest positioned fairly far forward but not all the way out. Note the stop on the front rest — this limits forward stock travel.
Balance Your Gun BEFORE You Spend Hours Tuning Loads
In the pursuit of ultimate accuracy, shooters may spend countless hours on brass prep, bullet selection, and load tuning. Yet the same shooters may pay little attention to how their gun is set-up on the bags. When you have acquired a new rifle, you should do some basic experimentation to find the optimal position for the forearm on the front rest, and the best position for the rear bag. Small changes can make a big difference.
Joel Kendrick, past IBS 600-yard Shooter of the Year, has observed that by adjusting forearm position on the front rest, he can tune out vertical. He has one carbon-fiber-reinforced stock that is extremely rigid. When it was placed with the front rest right under the very tip of the forearm, the gun tended to hop, creating vertical. By sliding the whole gun forward (with more forearm overhang ahead of the front sandbag), he was able to get the whole rig to settle down. That resulted in less vertical dispersion, and the gun tracked much better.
Fore/aft stock position is important even with very wide fore-ends.
Likewise, the placement of the rear bag is very important. Many shooters, by default, will simply place the rear bag the same distance from the front rest with all their guns. In fact, different stocks and different calibers will NOT behave the same. By moving the rear bag forward and aft, you can adjust the rifle’s overall balance and this can improve the tracking significantly. One of our shooters had a Savage 6BR F-Class rifle. By default he had his rear bag set almost all the way at the end of the buttstock. When he slid the rear bag a couple inches forward the gun tracked much better. He immediately noticed that the gun returned to point of aim better (crosshairs would stay on target from shot to shot), AND the gun torqued (twisted) less. The difference was quite noticeable.
A small change in the position of the forearm on the front rest, or in the placement of the rear bag, can make a big difference in how your gun performs. You should experiment with the forearm placement, trying different positions on the front rest. Likewise, you can move the rear bag back and forth a few inches. Once you establish the optimal positions of front rest and rear bag, you should find that your gun tracks better and returns to battery more reliably. You may then discover that the gun shoots smaller groups, with less vertical dispersion. And all these benefits are possible without purchasing any expensive new gear.
We congratulate Rebecca Richards of Australia for her incredible shooting in the recent RBA Benchrest Grand Prix at the Sydney International Shooting Centre. Consider this, out of the five (5) benchrest classes competing (two air rifle, and three rimfire) Rebecca won four classes outright while placing third in the fifth class. Wow — that represents complete and total domination. Remarkably, Rebecca dropped only 10 points in four days of shooting.
Rebecca’s amazing 4-day performance was near perfection. Overall, she scored 2740 out of a total of 2750 possible points. She shot four of 11 targets with perfect 250/250 scores, and six more with 249/250. Over the course of the event she hit 152 “dots” (center bulls) out of a total possible 275. That’s pretty amazing if you understand how small those center bulls really are. Take a look at the target photo below — the center dot is tiny.
All in all, this was a performance for the ages — one of the best combined airgun/rimfire benchrest performances in Southern Hemisphere history. Kudos to Rebecca for her brilliant performance.
Here’s the modern Sydney International Shooting Centre…
Sam (L.E.) Wilson actively competed in benchrest matches until he passed. He’s shown here with an Unlimited benchrest rifle of his own design.
If you’ve used hand dies with an arbor press, chances are you’ve seen the L.E. Wilson company name. You may not know that the founder of L.E. Wilson Inc. was an avid benchrest competitor who pioneered many of the precision reloading methods we used today. Known as “Sam” to his friends, L.E. Wilson was one of the great accuracy pioneers who collected many trophies for match victories during his long shooting career.
The photo above shows Sam (foreground) with all of his children at a shoot. Behind Sam are Jim, Jack and Mary, shooting in the Unlimited Class. What do they say — “the family that plays together stays together”? Note the long, externally-adjusted scopes being used. Learn more about Sam (L.E.) Wilson and his company on the L.E. Wilson Inc. Facebook Page.
Unlimited Class was Sam’s favorite discipline, because in the “good old days” top competitors normally would craft both the rifle and the front/rear rests. This rewarded Sam’s ingenuity and machining/fabrication skills. In the “build-it-yourself” era, one couldn’t just order up an unlimited rail gun on the internet. How times have changed…
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IBS Match Report by Bob White
The “Mainville Mania” match marked the last International Benchrest Shooters (IBS) group shoot of 2015 on September 26-27, 2015. It was held at the Mainville Sportsman Club in Mainville, PA, and was attended by 30 shooters. Shooting conditions were good, with light winds and temperatures ranging from the upper 50s to high 70s both days. The “Mainville Mania” Two-Gun Aggregate winner for 2015 was Al Auman who recorded an impressive .2294 Overall Agg. There was some very tight competitition this year — second to sixth place in the Two-Gun Agg was separated by only 0.008. Jeff Peinhardt was the Two-Gun runner-up with 0.2545, while Harley Baker placed third with 0.2569.
The Mainville Sportsman Club is a very scenic venue, set in wooded countryside. Here is the view of the covered rifle benches, as seen from the target bays.
Saturday Start to a Great Event
The Saturday morning warm-up began with Light Varmint (LV) class. Sarah Dolinsky, a first-year rookie, shot the smallest group: 0.111 inch. With the start of the record matches, Barney Small jumped out in front with a 0.139 but his lead was short-lived as Howie Levy shot his second sub-0.2 group in match Two to take over first place. Bill McIntyre’s 0.114 placed him on top after match Three. Bill maintained his lead through match Four with a slightly larger Agg. Following match Five and completion of the yardage, by virtue of his 0.121 final group, Wyatt Peinhardt won with a superb 0.1830 LV Aggregate.
Following lunch in the clubhouse (the “Mainville Cafe”), the Heavy Varmint 100-yard event began with record match number One. Al Auman took the lead with a 0.122 group. After match Two, Auman was still on top. But Harley Baker took the lead with a 0.158 after match Three. A new leader emerged after match Four as Howie Levy posted a 0.217 to take the number one spot on the leader board. On the fifth and final group, Bob White, who had been in third to seventh place all afternoon, fired a 0.121 to steal the HV 100-yard Agg. White’s final group edged out Howie Levy by a mere .002 for the win.
More Mirage on Day Two
Sunday’s weather conditions had more mirage, but were still quite shootable. Once again Sarah Dolinsky claimed small group on the warm-up in the Heavy Varmint (HV) class. Not content with a 0.277, she shot a 0.263 in match One. The lead changed to Al Auman in match Two following his first and second groups in the “threes”. However, Al wasn’t done — he improved with a 0.283 in match Three, giving him a 0.1637 Agg (as corrected for 200 yards). It appeared that a record Agg might be possible. Al maintained his lead throughout the match, finishing with a 0.2068 Agg for a solid win.
In the Sunday Afternoon Light Varmint event, Barney Small’s 0.277 in Match One had him on top. He maintained this spot through match Three, but Bob Brushingham was nipping at Barney’s heels. After match Four, Brushingham took the lead with a 0.2011. The final group gave Bob Brushingham the yardage win with a flat .2100 followed by Barney at 0.265 and first year Rookie Jason Brown in third with his 0.2707.
LV and HV Grand Agg Top Guns
Looking at Grand Agg standings in Light Varmint, Wyatt Peinhardt took third with a 0.2595. In second was Al Auman at 0.2476 and Top Dog was Bob Brushingham with a 0.2366. In the Heavy Varmint Grand Agg, Al Auman was the winner with a fine 0.2112. Harley Baker was second with 0.2395 and Howie Levy placed third with a .2423.
As awards were ending Brian Dolinsky (patriarch of the famous shooting Dolinskys) offered a $100 cash prize for the best Mainville three-match Two-Gun Agg average for the 2016 season. Bob Brushingham won the special award for best three-match Aggregate in 200-yard Light Varmint. The $100 award was donated by Kent Harshman to reward the shooter who excels in what are usually the last five targets shot in two-day match. The Mainville Club welcomes other cash award offers for its 2016 season.
The Mainville Sportsman Club (MSC) was founded in the mid-60s to promote pistol and rifle shooting. With over 400 members, the Club hosts benchrest rifle competitions, pistol matches, Cowboy Action events, Buffalo Shoots, and an annual Ground Hog Shoot.
The Club operates a covered 40-bench rifle range, a 6-lane Cowboy Action Shooting area, plus an indoor meeting facility. The rifle range has targets set at 100, 200, and 300 yards. The club also offers Hunter Safety Courses. The facility is located in the Northeast corner of Pennsylvania near Bloomsburg, PA, about 5 miles east of exit 242 on I-80 near Mainville, PA.
The Mainville Sportsman Club has a rich history. In the early years the organization held Dinner-Dances which were popular throughout the community. MSC also held Beef Shoots featuring 6″ black targets shot off-hand at 100 yards. These events were well-attended, with as many as 100 shooters.
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Benchrest Hall-of-Famer Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez has teamed up with the Shurley Brothers on a new ARK series of wood laminate competition stocks. Speedy has combined the best features of various popular F-Class and Long-range Benchrest stocks into new designs to be produced by Shurley Brothers Custom in Austin, Texas. These stocks should be very straight and geometrically correct as they will be crafted on the Shurley Brothers’ new CNC mills. These stocks will be made with new-generation precision technology, not old school duplicating machines.
Initially two models will be offered: the “Hand of God” (HOG) and the “Spear of Destiny” (SOD). Both are designed for multiple shooting disciplines, so they should work well both for benchrest and for prone F-Open shooting. (FWIW, John Myers used a Speedy-crafted stock to win the 2015 Mid-Range National Championship). The forearm is 76mm (2.99″) to comply with F-Open limits. A wide variety of options will be available including adjustable Cheek Piece, adjustable length of pull, carbon fiber inserts, and exotic woods.
We like many aspects of the new stocks. First, the front of the stock is low profile, placing the barrel close to the bags for better tracking (and less hop). However, a deeper (top to bottom) section extends forward of the action — this is important. We have seen some low-profile stocks that suffer from forearm flex/hinging because they don’t leave enough wood under the action area. Speedy’s design eliminates this problem. Another nice feature of this stock is the subtle curve from the back of the action to the buttpad mount. Speedy calls this the “scooped cheek”. This allows the “driver” to shoot without face contact if he prefers, but it also allows for a higher buttpad position — which is useful when shooting heavy recoiling chamberings such as the .300 WSM.
Note how the comb area has a curve to provide clearance. For those shooters who prefer to have face contact on the gun, an adjustable Cheek Piece is offered.
Shurley Brothers Custom says these new ARK stocks are fully customizable for competition shooters with optional carbon fiber, adjustable R.A.D. systems, and many other features. The stocks, uninletted, will run $750.00. CNC-inletting (for action of your choice) is an additional $100.00. Here are some of the many available options:
— Pillar Bed and Inlet: $425.00
— Custom Wood Upgrade (Price Dependent On Wood): $100.00 – $500.00
— Full-length Carbon Fiber Stringers: $200.00
— Cheek Piece Addition: $100.00
— Cooling Ports (Buick Vents): $60.00
— R.A.D. System #2A: $335.00 (plus $100.00 to install)
— 3-Way Butt Plate: Call for Price
— Adjustable Neodymium Magnetic Cheek Piece: Call for Price
— Install Neodymium Magnetic Cheek Piece: $150.00
— Stock Finish & Clear Coat: $350.00
— Carbon Fiber Forearm Tunnel: $300.00
The underside of the forearm is relieved in the center, leaving twin outboard rails. This helps stabilize the rifle and aids tracking. (A conventional, flat forearm without rails tends to rock if there is any hump in the middle of the sandbag). Between the rails is a carbon-fiber stiffening insert.
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Here’s a simple solution for lumpy front sandbags. Cut a small block the width of your fore-end and place that in the front bag between matches. You can tap it down firmly with a rubber mallet. This will keep the front bag nice and square, without bunching up in the center. That will help your rifle track straight and true. Rick Beginski uses wood (see photo), while our friend John Southwick uses a small block of metal. The metal block might work a little better, but the wood version is easier to make with simple tools. John Loh of JJ Industries offers a slick Delrin block with a built-in bubble level. Loh’s block helps ensure that the actual top surface of your front bag is level, as distinct from the front rest assembly.
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