June 11th, 2016

How Long Will Your Barrel Last? Dan Lilja Offers Some Guidelines

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

Barrel-maker Dan Lilja’s website has an excellent FAQ page that contains a wealth of useful information. On the Lilja FAQ Page as you’ll find informed answers to many commonly-asked questions. For example, Dan’s FAQ addresses the question of barrel life. Dan looks at factors that affect barrel longevity, and provides some predictions for barrel life, based on caliber, chambering, and intended use.

Dan cautions that “Predicting barrel life is a complicated, highly variable subject — there is not a simple answer. Signs of accurate barrel life on the wane are increased copper fouling, lengthened throat depth, and decreased accuracy.” Dan also notes that barrels can wear prematurely from heat: “Any fast varmint-type cartridge can burn out a barrel in just a few hundred rounds if those rounds are shot one after another without letting the barrel cool between groups.”

Q. What Barrel Life, in number of rounds fired, can I expect from my new barrel?

A: That is a good question, asked often by our customers. But again there is not a simple answer. In my opinion there are two distinct types of barrel life. Accurate barrel life is probably the type most of us are referencing when we ask the question. But there is also absolute barrel life too. That is the point where a barrel will no longer stabilize a bullet and accuracy is wild. The benchrest shooter and to a lesser extent other target shooters are looking at accurate barrel life only when asking this question. To a benchrest shooter firing in matches where group size is the only measure of precision, accuracy is everything. But to a score shooter firing at a target, or bull, that is larger than the potential group size of the rifle, it is less important. And to the varmint hunter shooting prairie dog-size animals, the difference between a .25 MOA rifle or one that has dropped in accuracy to .5 MOA may not be noticeable in the field.

The big enemy to barrel life is heat. A barrel looses most of its accuracy due to erosion of the throat area of the barrel. Although wear on the crown from cleaning can cause problems too. The throat erosion is accelerated by heat. Any fast varmint-type cartridge can burn out a barrel in just a few hundred rounds if those rounds are shot one after another without letting the barrel cool between groups. A cartridge burning less powder will last longer or increasing the bore size for a given powder volume helps too. For example a .243 Winchester and a .308 Winchester both are based on the same case but the .308 will last longer because it has a larger bore.

And stainless steel barrels will last longer than chrome-moly barrels. This is due to the ability of stainless steel to resist heat erosion better than the chrome-moly steel.

Barrel Life Guidelines by Caliber and Cartridge Type
As a very rough rule of thumb I would say that with cartridges of .222 Remington size you could expect an accurate barrel life of 3000-4000 rounds. And varmint-type accuracy should be quite a bit longer than this.

For medium-size cartridges, such as the .308 Winchester, 7×57 and even the 25-06, 2000-3000 rounds of accurate life is reasonable.

Hot .224 caliber-type cartridges will not do as well, and 1000-2500 rounds is to be expected.

Bigger magnum hunting-type rounds will shoot from 1500-3000 accurate rounds. But the bigger 30-378 Weatherby types won’t do as well, being closer to the 1500-round figure.

These numbers are based on the use of stainless steel barrels. For chrome-moly barrels I would reduce these by roughly 20%.

The .17 and .50 calibers are rules unto themselves and I’m pressed to predict a figure.

The best life can be expected from the 22 long rifle (.22 LR) barrels with 5000-10,000 accurate rounds to be expected. We have in our shop one our drop-in Anschutz barrels that has 200,000 rounds through it and the shooter, a competitive small-bore shooter reported that it had just quit shooting.

Remember that predicting barrel life is a complicated, highly variable subject. You are the best judge of this with your particular barrel. Signs of accurate barrel life on the wane are increased copper fouling, lengthened throat depth, and decreased accuracy.

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

Benchrest Barrel Life — You May Be Surprised
I thought it might be interesting to point out a few exceptional Aggregates that I’ve fired with 6PPC benchrest rifles with barrels that had thousands of rounds through them. I know benchrest shooters that would never fire barrels with over 1500 shots fired in them in registered benchrest matches.

I fired my smallest 100-yard 5-shot Aggregate ever in 1992 at a registered benchrest match in Lewiston, Idaho. It was a .1558″ aggregate fired in the Heavy Varmint class. And that barrel had about 2100 rounds through it at the time.

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

Another good aggregate was fired at the 1997 NBRSA Nationals in Phoenix, Arizona during the 200-yard Light Varmint event. I placed second at this yardage with a 6PPC barrel that had over 2700 rounds through it at the time. I retired this barrel after that match because it had started to copper-foul quite a bit. But accuracy was still good.

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

Permalink Gunsmithing, Tech Tip 9 Comments »
May 31st, 2016

Nightforce 42x44mm Competition Scope Review by James Mock

Nightforce 42x44mm 42X benchrest competition scope James Mock review test
Nightforce’s 42x44mm fixed-power Benchrest scope mounted on James Mock’s 6mm Dasher.

Nightforce 42x44mm Comp Scope for Benchrest Shooters, by James Mock
Among long range shooters the name Nightforce has long commanded respect because of NF’s great optics and durability. However, the Benchrest disciplines that require either a 10-lb or 10.5-lb rifle had to forego the use of the Nightforce scopes because of their two+ pounds of weight. Some used the Benchrest model in the Heavy Varmint category (13.5-lb max weight) but not many in the Light Varmint, Sporter, or Hunter categories. That may change thanks to a new scope from Nightforce.

The folks at Nightforce Optics listened to benchrest shooters in the lighter classes and developed a new, light weight 42x44mm Competition Scope that weighs just 20.7 ounces. This scope comes as a fixed-power 42X and is without some of the “bells and whistles” of its larger cousins.

Key features of this scope important to Benchrest shooters are: ED glass, 42X power, 44mm objective lens, 88mm eye relief (~3.5 inches), 45 MOA elevation adjustment, 35 MOA windage, 10 MOA per revolution, 2.87-foot field of view at 100 yards, quick focus, click value of .125 inch, parallax adjustment from 10 meters (~33 ft.) to infinity, and an overall length of 15.2 inches. Also, you can set a “zero” easily. After obtaining conventional zero simply loosen one set screw per turret and set the dial at zero.

Nightforce 42x44mm 42X benchrest competition scope James Mock review test

I received this scope on Monday, February 15th and mounted it on my BAT-action 6mm Dasher and zeroed it for a 600-yard match on Saturday, February 20th. My first impression of this scope was the amazing image produced by the ED glass. Although it is made with a 44mm objective lens (to save weight), one cannot say that the image is not clear. The image is outstanding from edge to edge and the image color is true. Nightforce offers two reticle options: the CTR-2 and CTR-3. Both reticles feature .016″ MOA vertical and horizontal lines, but the CTR-2 includes a .095 MOA center dot.

It took a small amount of faith to shoot the scope in a 600-yard match a few days after receiving it. Although I had shot only a few rounds with the scope mounted on my BAT Dasher, I knew that the Nightforce reputation was solid and my results would depend on the “nut” at the end of the rifle.

At the match, I fired a few shots to confirm zero and really appreciated the scope’s crisp 1/8th-MOA clicks. The adjustments were spot on at the 600-yard range and there was no problem getting my zero at the 600-yard distance. Remember, I had not shot at 600 yards with this scope, but I dialed in 11.5 MOA from my 100 yard zero and the resulting impact was correct. Each eight clicks delivered a precise one-MOA movement (about 6 inches) on the 600-yard target. The picture below is at the range as I was preparing for the first relay.

Nightforce 42x44mm 42X benchrest competition scope James Mock review test

Our 600-yard match (non-registered) features 20 record rounds fired on the IBS target with steel gongs for sighters. The winter mirage can be brutal in this part of the country, but the Nightforce handled it without problems. Before the match was over, the left to right wind caused me to dial in two minutes (~12 inches) of windage and the scope was precise and I posted my 3rd best score with 191/200. The very fine .095″ dot allows for great precision in aiming.

Nightforce 42x44mm 42X benchrest competition scope James Mock review test
Actual target shot by James Mock at 300 yards using Nightforce 42x44mm scope. James won the match.

My next match to use the scope was a 300-yard score match on March 5th. I had one chance to zero my rifle for this match and again I had no trouble changing the zero with the crisp, repeatable adjustments of this fine scope. The day was cool with bright sunshine and switchy tail winds. The new Nightforce handled the conditions very well, even with the horrible mirage. We shot two, 10-shot targets on the IBS 300-yard target. I shot 99-3X on the first and 99-3X on the second to win the match by one point over Mitch Young. Above is my second target, and the new scope let me see every shot through the mirage. There were many others who said that they could not see their bullet holes.

Summary of Nightforce 42x44mm Review
This 42x44mm optic is everything that I want in a scope. The 1/8th-MOA adjustments are crisp and repeatable. The center dot is small (.095 MOA). The image is sharp and clear all the way to the edges, and the ED glass provides a sensational image. The turret markings are distinct and there are 10 MOA per revolution. And you get all this in a scope that weighs 20.7 ounces with a 44mm objective lens. The low weight makes this scope viable for all benchrest classes. I believe the short range Benchrest shooters will welcome this scope and pay the sales price of $1742.00 (MSRP is $1795.00). Good shooting — James Mock

Permalink Gear Review, Optics 3 Comments »
May 31st, 2016

Hammerhead Stocks for Long-Range Benchrest

hammerhead stock Precision rifle tool Ray Bowman

hammerhead stock Precision rifle tool Ray BowmanWe know that many of our readers have never seen a “Hammerhead” benchrest stock before. This is a design with an extra wide section in the very front, tapering to a narrow width starting about 6″ back. When paired with a super-wide front sandbag, the hammerhead design provides added stability — just like having a wider track on a racing car. Some folks think mid-range and long-range benchrest stocks can only be 3″ wide. Not so — IBS and NBRSA rules now allow much wider fore-ends. While F-Class Open rules limit fore-end width to 3″ max, there is not such restriction on IBS or NBRSA Light Guns or Heavy Guns for 600- and 1000-yard competition. Here’s a 5″-wide Hammerhead design from Precision Rifle & Tool (PR&T).

Ray Bowman of PR&T sent us some photos of another hammerhead benchrest rig. Ray reports: “Here’s another benchrest rifle that Precision Rifle & Tool crafted. The customer shot this rifle at the 2014 IBS 1000-yard Nationals in West Virginia.” This IBS Light Gun sports PR&T’s “Low Boy Hammer Head” stock in red/black laminate. Other components are a 6mm BRUX 30″, 1:8″-twist barrel, Borden BR Action, and a PR&T 20 MOA scope rail.

hammerhead stock Precision rifle tool Ray Bowman

hammerhead stock Precision rifle tool Ray Bowman

Permalink Gunsmithing, New Product 3 Comments »
May 27th, 2016

Kelbly’s Super Shoot Draws World’s Best Benchrest Shooters

Kelbly Kelbly's Super Shoot Benchrest IBS Tony Boyer Light Varmint Heavy

It’s Super Shoot time. The “Top Guns” of Point Blank Benchrest are battling for prizes and glory at Kelbly’s Rifle Range in North Lawrence, Ohio. This annual event, held May 25-28 this year, draws some of the best 100-yard and 200-yard benchrest shooters in the world. Recent Super Shoots have drawn 300+ competitors from the USA and more than a dozen other countries (about 15% of the competitors come from overseas).

Past Super Shoot Highlights Video (Watch This — It’s Very Well Done!)

If you’ve never attended the Super Shoot before, and don’t know what to expect, former Sinclair International President Bill Gravatt offers some insights into this great event:

Super Shoot — What It’s All About

The excitement and anticipation leading up to a Super Shoot can be hard to explain to those who haven’t been to one. Every year, some shooters arrive at the Super Shoot a week early to dial in their rifles, learn wind conditions for the range, and enjoy the camaraderie of their fellow shooters. As the match draws closer, campers and RVs fill the area behind the range, and shooters stake out turf all over the property with their reloading and cleaning equipment setups.

Many shooters choose to load cartridges in the main barn directly behind the 60-bench firing line, while others decide to work in pop-ups, campers and other outbuildings around the facility. Benchrest shooters tend to load in small batches, and some most load cartridges between each match. Many shooters clean their rifles after each match, while others sometimes go two or three matches between cleanings, depending on the number of rounds they fire.

Another part of high-level benchrest competition that will amaze first-time attendees is the quality and amount of equipment benchrest shooters use. Just in front of the shooting benches and the targets, range flags of all kinds sprout up, from the typical “daisy wheel” flags to very sophisticated velocity indicators that show varying wind intensity. Shooters adjust their flags to align with the particular target in front of a specific bench, just slightly below the path of the bullet but still partially visible in the high-powered scopes.

Kelbly Kelbly's Super Shoot Benchrest IBS Tony Boyer Light Varmint Heavy

The rifles represent a variety of actions, usually custom, with heavy benchrest barrels by various barrel makers. The most popular cartridge used is the 6mm PPC, but occasionally you will run into someone using a 6mm BR or a slightly modified 6mm BR, and as well as a few other cartridges. Rifle rests used are typically heavy tripods or plate rests. You see a lot of Sinclair rests, Farley rests, and a variety of others, including a few homemade rests. Bags are typically Edgewood or Protektor.

Super Shoot — Runners, Pickers and the Pursuit of Perfection
The techniques vary between shooters, and they are interesting to observe. Some shooters “run” their targets and will shoot a quick sighter and then run all 5 shots as fast as they can before conditions change. Others are “pickers” and shoot each shot carefully, going back and forth between the record target and the sighter target to verify wind conditions and bullet drift. These guys will sometimes shoot up to 10 sighters and use the full seven minutes. Both styles of shooting work and many shooters use both techniques depending on the match conditions[.]

Anyone who attends the Super Shoot will come away with a greater appreciation of precision benchrest shooting. Experienced benchresters already know there will be windy days that drive them crazy, and less experienced shooters can get completely lost when… holding off a shot in the wind. But the reward is worth it. It’s very satisfying to hold off a full inch at 100 yards because the wind changes during your string and drop your fifth shot into a sub 0.100″ group with only seconds remaining on the clock. And that’s what the Super Shoot is all about.

Permalink - Videos, Competition No Comments »
May 24th, 2016

IBS Report: 30th Anniversary 2016 Boop Memorial Tournament

IBS Boop Memorial Group Benchrest Shoot Match Pennsylvania

Nate Boop Memorial Match 2016, By Hal Drake, IBS Group Committee Chair
This year marked the 30th anniversary of the Nate Boop Memorial Tournament. 60 shooters from the USA and Canada traveled to Weikert, Pennsylvania, to attend the first IBS benchrest-for-group match of the year. This range is set in some of the most beautiful countryside in the East. All the amenities you could want are within easy walking distance: 30 amp electric hookups, nice covered loading area, restaurant/bar, and even a trout stream! With all this and much more, it’s tough to imagine a more welcoming range than Weikert. It’s not advertised much, but this is a money match (like the Super Shoot), which pays a nice bounty to the top finishers in the Grand Aggs.

IBS Boop Memorial Group Benchrest Shoot Match Pennsylvania
File photo

Most shooters showed up on Thursday or Friday, and were greeted by heavy rains that made for somewhat uncomfortable practice sessions. As I walked down the line on Friday morning, I couldn’t help notice the number of rifles that wear stocks by Roy Hunter. Roy started making stocks just a few short years ago, after a long career as a custom furniture maker. Top gunsmiths like Sid Goodling, Jim Borden, and Dave Bruno feel that Hunter stocks are at the top of the game. Dave told me that he’s extremely impressed with how “dead” the stock is compared to some of the other top end stock makers. Roy’s design has changed quite a bit since he first started, with the latest creations featuring a thicker area behind the tang, and a very robust forend. I have just recently put a new gun together with the latest Hunter stock, and a Rimrock BR action, and can’t say enough about how this new rig handles. His long range versions have a good following as well.

IBS Boop Memorial Group Benchrest Shoot Match Pennsylvania
File photo

Potential New Records Set by Allen Arnett and Howie Levy
It stayed cool throughout the weekend, with Saturday being the best day for shooting small Aggs. On Saturday morning, Allen Arnette threw down a potential new Light Varmint 100-yard Aggregate Record of .1478″ (and there were five other LV 100 teen Aggs shot that morning). Amongst Allen’s targets was a potential single-group record of .040″. Boat Tail bullets have been all the rage in the short-range group game for some years, but Allen continues to prove that his flat base bullets are as good as any out there. In the afternoon, Howie Levy compiled a .1386″ Heavy Varmint Agg, a potential new Heavy Varmint 100-Yard Aggregate record (there were six HV teen Aggs). Howie is a Boat Tail guy for the most part, and he left a mark with his new Dave Bruno-chambered Brux barrel, and his own pills.

IBS Boop Memorial Group Benchrest Shoot Match Pennsylvania

When the shooting was finished on Saturday, we were treated to a pig roast with enough fixins to make Roy Rogers proud. Dale brought in a caterer who delivered a great meal. He showed up on Friday evening, set up his smoker, and got the pig going in the early morning hours. After getting the flags moved for the next day’s 200, we all gathered in the loading area and enjoyed a pretty special feast.

IBS Boop Memorial Group Benchrest Shoot Match Pennsylvania

The crew at Union County Benchrest always puts on a great match, and this year’s 30-year Anniversary made for an even more special event. As usual, the Trutt and Boop Families deserve a big “Thank You” for putting so much time and effort into running seamless matches at one of the premier Benchrest facilities in the country. Hats off to the target crew as well, whom I would put up against any target crew in the country.

IBS Boop Memorial Group Benchrest Shoot Match Pennsylvania

Sunday morning brought heavy winds that would only get worse as the day progressed. Dave Bruno had the right stuff in the morning to bring home the win with a .2485″ HV 200-yard Agg. As the afternoon started, damaging winds were ripping up wind flags and trailer awnings. Russ Boop showed us how to get it done though, with a .3046″ Aggregate in the trying conditions. When all the dust cleared, the Grand Aggs were split by Howie Levy and Dave Bruno, with Howie narrowly sneaking by Dave for the Two-Gun win. Kevin Donalds Senior put on a strong showing to take third.

Boop Memorial Shoot 2016 Top Results by Division

Light Varmint Grand Agg Top Five
Howie Levy .2697″
Dave Bruno .2797″
Harley Baker .2813″
Russell Rains .2818″
Kevin Donalds Sr. .2849″

Heavy Varmint Grand Agg Top Five
1. Dave Bruno .2394″
2. Howie Levy .2442″
3. Kevin Donalds Sr. .2522″
4. Allen Arnette .2532″
5. Craig Rowe .2587″

Boop Memorial Two-Gun Top Ten Shooters

1. Howie Levy .2570″
2. Dave Bruno .2596″
3. Kevin Donalds Sr. .2685″
5. Allen Arnette .2758″
5. Harley Baker .2832″

6. Russell Rains .2876″
7. Craig Rowe .2968″
8. Russ Boop .2985″
9. Dale Boop .2989″
10. Tony Cerone .3029″

The Boop Brothers
IBS Boop Memorial Group Benchrest Shoot Match Pennsylvania
Dale and Russ Boop, shown above, are the sons of Nate Boop, in whose honor this Match has been held for 30 straight years. The Brothers Boop have been shooting Benchrest since they were little kids.

Permalink Competition, News 1 Comment »
May 20th, 2016

How to Succeed at Club Matches — Six Tips

Every summer weekend, there are probably 400 or more club “fun matches” conducted around the country. One of the good things about these club shoots is that you don’t have to spend a fortune on equipment to have fun. But we’ve seen that many club shooters handicap themselves with a few common equipment oversights or lack of attention to detail while reloading. Here are SIX TIPS that can help you avoid these common mistakes, and build more accurate ammo for your club matches.

Benchrest rear bag1. Align Front Rest and Rear Bags. We see many shooters whose rear bag is angled left or right relative to the bore axis. This can happen when you rush your set-up. But even if you set the gun up carefully, the rear bag can twist due to recoil or the way your arm contacts the bag. After every shot, make sure your rear bag is aligned properly (this is especially important for bag squeezers who may actually pull the bag out of alignment as they squeeze).

Forum member ArtB adds: “To align my front rest and rear bag with the target, I use an old golf club shaft. I run it from my front rest stop through a line that crosses over my speed screw and into the slot between the two ears. I stand behind that set-up and make sure I see a straight line pointing at the target. I also tape a spot on the  golf shaft that indicates how far the back end of the rear bag should be placed from the front rest stop. If you don’t have a golf shaft, use a wood dowel.

2. Avoid Contact Interference. We see three common kinds of contact or mechanical interference that can really hurt accuracy. First, if your stock has front and/or rear sling swivels make sure these do NOT contact the front or rear bags at any point of the gun’s travel. When a sling swivel digs into the front bag that can cause a shot to pop high or low. To avoid this, reposition the rifle so the swivels don’t contact the bags or simply remove the swivels before your match. Second, watch out for the rear of the stock grip area. Make sure this is not resting on the bag as you fire and that it can’t come back to contact the bag during recoil. That lip or edge at the bottom of the grip can cause problems when it contacts the rear bag. Third, watch out for the stud or arm on the front rest that limits forward stock travel. With some rests this is high enough that it can actually contact the barrel. We encountered one shooter recently who was complaining about “vertical flyers” during his match. It turns out his barrel was actually hitting the front stop! With most front rests you can either lower the stop or twist the arm to the left or right so it won’t contact the barrel.

3. Weigh Your Charges — Every One. This may sound obvious, but many folks still rely on a powder measure. Yes we know that most short-range BR shooters throw their charges without weighing, but if you’re going to pre-load for a club match there is no reason NOT to weigh your charges. You may be surprised at how inconsistent your powder measure actually is. One of our testers was recently throwing H4198 charges from a Harrell’s measure for his 30BR. Each charge was then weighed twice with a Denver Instrument lab scale. Our tester found that thrown charges varied by up to 0.7 grains! And that’s with a premium measure.

4. Measure Your Loaded Ammo — After Bullet Seating. Even if you’ve checked your brass and bullets prior to assembling your ammo, we recommend that you weigh your loaded rounds and measure them from base of case to bullet ogive using a comparator. If you find a round that is “way off” in weight or more than .005″ off your intended base to ogive length, set it aside and use that round for a fouler. (Note: if the weight is off by more than 6 or 7 grains you may want to disassemble the round and check your powder charge.) With premium, pre-sorted bullets, we’ve found that we can keep 95% of loaded rounds within a range of .002″, measuring from base (of case) to ogive. Now, with some lots of bullets, you just can’t keep things within .002″, but you should still measure each loaded match round to ensure you don’t have some cases that are way too short or way too long.

Scope Ring5. Check Your Fasteners. Before a match you need to double-check your scope rings or iron sight mounts to ensure everything is tight. Likewise, you should check the tension on the screws/bolts that hold the action in place. Even on a low-recoiling rimfire rifle, action screws or scope rings can come loose during normal firing.

6. Make a Checklist and Pack the Night Before. Ever drive 50 miles to a match then discover you have the wrong ammo or that you forgot your bolt? Well, mistakes like that happen to the best of us. You can avoid these oversights (and reduce stress at matches) by making a checklist of all the stuff you need. Organize your firearms, range kit, ammo box, and shooting accessories the night before the match. And, like a good Boy Scout, “be prepared”. Bring a jacket and hat if it might be cold. If you have windflags, bring them (even if you’re not sure the rules allow them). Bring spare batteries, and it’s wise to bring a spare rifle and ammo for it. If you have just one gun, a simple mechanical breakdown (such as a broken firing pin) can ruin your whole weekend.

Permalink Competition, Reloading, Shooting Skills 5 Comments »
April 30th, 2016

Check Out the Legendary .009″ Group By Mac McMillan

Mac McMillan .009 benchrest record group nbrsa

Mac McMillan .009 benchrest record group nbrsa.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.

Mac McMillan .009 benchrest record group nbrsa

*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.

Permalink Competition, News, Shooting Skills 6 Comments »
April 28th, 2016

Ernie’s Got A Gun… the “Batman” Benchrest Pistol

Ernie Bishop Specialty Pistol Batman Dasher
Click Photo to View Larger Image

Here is Ernie Bishop’s pride and joy, a specialty pistol nicknamed “Batman” because the black carbon-fiber stock looks like the Batmobile. This is one sophisticated handgun. Complete with scope, the Batman pistol weighs under 7.5 pounds, thanks to the ultra-light stock. The carbon stock is 6 inches wide at the fore-end, yet weighs just one pound. Ernie tells us: “This gun shoots amazing and is easy to shoot especially with my SEB MAX Rest.” Ernie adds, “The gun will soon also have a field-usable rear-grip stock so I can shoot it prone from a bipod as well.”

The Batman pistol is chambered for the 6mm “Long Dasher”, a 6mm 40°-shouldered variant of the 6.5×47 Lapua. Ernie loads Berger 105gr Hybrid bullets pushed by Hodgdon H-4350 powder.

Gun Specifications
6.5x47 Lapua Dasher 40 degree improvedThe gun, crafted by Eric Wallance of Nawaka Firearms, features an XP-100 action, Jewell trigger, and 15″-long, Brux 1:8″-twist barrel with aluminum muzzle brake. Interestingly, this gun does not have a traditional recoil lug. Instead, gunsmith Wallace milled out a lug from the bottom of the XP-100 action to save weight. On top of the action, the rig carries a Sightron Inc S-III 6-24X56mm scope in Kelbly rings on a custom +20 MOA rail.

Long Dasher Wildcat
Shown at right is a “Long Dasher” 40° wildcat created by Forum member Sunbuilder. This is very similar to Ernie Bishop’s chambering, though there may be small variations related to reamer design (such as freebore). Sunbuilder’s 6-6.5×47 Improved (aka “Long Dasher”) reamer was made by Dave Kiff of Pacific, Tool & Gauge. This wildcat cartridge adds about 2.0 grains capacity to the 6.5×47 necked down to 6mm. The case certainly is impressive with that 40° shoulder. We’re just waiting for the tactical guys to starting run this improved cartridge with its original 6.5mm bore.

Here are three FIVE-shot groups at 500 yards, shot by Ernie’s Batman pistol:

Ernie Bishop Specialty Pistol Batman Dasher

Permalink Gunsmithing, Handguns 3 Comments »
April 12th, 2016

Bart Goes High-Tech: LabRadar at a Benchrest Match

Bart Sauter Ray Gross LabRadar Benchrest Review Chronograph Bench tripod

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.”

RAV battery pack Amazon.comLong-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
Bart Sauter Ray Gross LabRadar Benchrest Review Chronograph Bench tripod

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.

LabRadar Chronograph Bart Sauter

Permalink New Product, Tech Tip No Comments »
April 9th, 2016

Tuning Your Sandbag Hardness — Tech Tip by Speedy

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 THEM by 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…

Permalink New Product, Tech Tip 3 Comments »
March 19th, 2016

Legends of Accuracy — The Secrets of the Houston Warehouse

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 wrote a superb article, the Secrets of the Houston Warehouse which appeared in a special issue of Precision Shooting Magazine. That issue has long been sold out, but, thankfully, Secrets of the Houston Warehouse is now on the web: CLICK HERE to READ Secrets of the Houston Warehouse.

Houston WarehouseDave 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.

Permalink - Articles, Competition 2 Comments »
March 14th, 2016

New Equalizer Scoring Reticle for Score Matches

VFS Scoring Reticle

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.

VFS Scoring Reticle

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.

VFS Scoring Reticle

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
VFS Scoring Reticle

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.

VFS Scoring Reticle

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.

Permalink Competition, New Product, Optics 6 Comments »
January 15th, 2016

Build Your Own Concrete Shooting Bench

build your own concrete shooting bench

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.

build your own concrete shooting bench

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.
build your own concrete shooting bench

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).

Permalink - Articles, Tech Tip 2 Comments »
December 30th, 2015

Ultimate Precision: Mac McMillan’s Historic .009″ Group

Mac McMillan .009 benchrest record group nbrsa.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.

Mac McMillan .009 benchrest record group nbrsa

Mac McMillan .009 benchrest record group nbrsa

*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.

Permalink Competition 4 Comments »
December 17th, 2015

Shoot BR Cases from Your PPC Action with Rebated Rims

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

Permalink Gunsmithing, Tech Tip 6 Comments »
December 16th, 2015

Insane Accuracy — How to Craft Record-Breaking Ammo

Rodney Wagner Insane Accuracy IBS Record 6mm Dasher

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”.

Rodney Wagner IBS 600-yard Record

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.

K&M arbor press bullet seating force accurateshooter.comOne 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 Wagner 600 yard record

Rodney’s record group was measured at 0.349″ at the match, then IBS record-certified at 0.336″.
Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading 5 Comments »
December 13th, 2015

In Memoriam: Jerry Tierney — A Great Shooter, A Great Friend

Jerry Tierney obituary memorial NBRSA Sacramento

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”.

Jerry Tierny memorial

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.

Jerry Tierney NBRSA

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:

READ Interview with Jerry Tierney with Discussion of Wind Reading and .284 Winchester.

Jerry Tierney Danny Biggs Memorial F-ClassDanny 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.”

Permalink Competition, News 3 Comments »
December 8th, 2015

Point-Blank Powders in Stock — PVI Has Jugs of the Good Stuff

Vihtavuori N133 powder valley

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.

6PPC Powders 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

Lapua Vihtavuori burn rate charts

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading 2 Comments »
December 5th, 2015

Sharing the Fun of Shooting is Rewarding for Young and Old Alike

Why I love Shooting Father Son

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.”

READ ‘Why I Enjoy Shooting’ Forum Thread

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.”

benchrest school

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.”

Permalink Shooting Skills 1 Comment »
November 27th, 2015

17 HMR Shoot-Out: Ruger vs. Volquartsen

17 HMR Rifle Test Volquartsen Ruger

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.

17 HMR Rifle Test Volquartsen Ruger

Ruger 17 HMR Volquartsen Ammo test


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 17 HMR 77/17

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 17 HMR

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.

Volquartsen 17 HMR

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.

Read Full Article HERE.

Permalink Gear Review, Hunting/Varminting 7 Comments »