June 27th, 2014
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…
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June 24th, 2014
Texan Mike Bryant is a superb gunsmith and a very successful benchrest competitor. And though he is getting up in years, he hasn’t lost any of his talent as a trigger-puller. In fact, if recent results are any indication, Mike Bryant isn’t getting older, he’s getting better.
Check out this set of targets Mike recently shot, which represent the best 100-Yard Aggregate of Mike’s shooting career. Maybe being a grandfather has improved his skill set.
Mike reports: “Here’s the set of targets I shot at the East-West HV100. Needless to say, I was tickled to death. This is the best 100-yard Agg I’ve ever shot [in benchrest competition]: 0.1744″ average.”
Click Photo for Full-Size Version
Mike is a great gunsmith, but he’s retired for the most part now: “I’ve closed up my shop and won’t be gunsmithing for the general public. I want to help my son on the ranch and shoot more benchrest.”
As far as the “shoot more benchrest” part, it looks like Grandfather Bryant is doing well indeed. Mike credits his recent success to other shooters:
“I owe a lot of what I was able to accomplish with this Agg to Gene Bukys. Gene is currently one of the hottest-shooting benchrest competitors in the United States, and a member of the Benchrest Hall of Fame. After the Cactus Classic this year, Gene shared with us the make, twist rate, and contour of the barrels that he had been using to win everything in sight. He also told me which of his reamers that Dave Kiff had made him that he had been using and which one to order from Kiff to shoot the same chamber.”
“Gene had already matched a die to my previous chamber that [eliminated] the click at the top of the bolt stroke to insure smooth bolt operation. After the Cactus I ordered some of the same barrels that Gene was using and ordered a reamer from Kiff. I chambered two of the barrels with the reamer that Gene was using on Monday and fire-formed brass for them on Tuesday and spent a little time at home trying to get the rifles tuned up for the East-West.”
“On Saturday morning I started with one of the rifles and shot it through the LV 100. Not doing particularly well. So, switched rifles to the other one for the HV 100. It seemed to be working better and seemed to get better as the day went along. After the match, I was out pulling up my flags and Wade Hull walks up to me and holds out his hand and says ‘Congratulations, you won the Heavy 100′.”
Hall of Famers Helping Other Benchresters
Mike concludes: “If there is a story in my experience, it is really about benchresters helping other benchresters. People like Gene Bukys, Jack Neary, and Bart Sauter, all Hall of Fame members, are giving back to other benchrest shooters to help them become better. Jack Neary has been giving Vihtavuori tuning classes for many years, passing on the info that helped him get into the Hall of Fame. Bart Sauter posts on Benchrest.com, passing on key secrets of his success. And let’s not forget Tony Boyer who has helped others in many ways, including one-on-one private benchrest lessons. So, if there is a story here, it’s about these guys, not about me.”
Between benchrest matches, Mike Bryant likes to spend “quality time” with his children and grandchildren. Here is Mike on a playground slide with his grandson. Mike’s philosophy is to enjoy life and stay young at heart. We think that’s a good approach to life.
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June 5th, 2014
Whidden Gunworks offers a nicely-engineered “bolt-on” front plate that will enhance the bench-rested accuracy of any rifle with an accessory rail on the forearm.
The Whidden Track Plate fits securely in the forearm accessory rail on prone, cross-the-course, and Palma rifles. These guns typically have a narrow and/or rounded fore-end so they rock and wobble when used with a front pedestal rest. The TrackPlate cures that. Once installed it provides a rock-solid, 2.9″-wide platform that mates perfectly with a benchrest-type front sandbag. This gives sling-shooters maximum stability when testing loads or zeroing their sights or scope. Plus you can now shoot F-Class competitively with a prone gun.
The Track Plate is light-weight, has catamaran-style runners to aid tracking and prevent rocking, and can be easily stowed in a range bag. The machined aluminum Track Plate fits BOTH Anschutz-style and American-style recessed forearm rails.
The Track Plate is available from Whidden Gunworks for $40.99 or from Champion’s Choice for $40.00 (item W29P). Plate designer (and National LR Rifle Champion) John Whidden says: “The Plate is great for any rifle with a rail whether it ís smallbore, centerfire, or an air gun. Now you can try F-Class with your favorite prone rifle: the Plate has a perfect low-drag finish for riding a rest or sandbags and is competition legal in all dimensions.”
Front Bag-Rider for AR-15s from EGW
Similar to the Whidden Track Plate is a 3″-wide Delrin bag-rider from Evolution Gun Works (EGW). This was developed expressly to fit the fore-ends of AR15-type rifles with round float tubes. The EGW front bag-rider attaches to a front sling swivel stud anchor. That allows it to mount as easily as a Harris bipod — no rail needed! Just unscrew the swivel stud, put the front bag-rider in place and attach one hex-head machine screw. The front bag-rider is contoured to match the handguard profile so it fits securely with no wobble. Overall, it is a slick system. Front and rear bag-riders can be attached in a couple of minutes. The Delrin blocks slide easily in the bags and make the gun ultra-stable. The gun tracks straight back. The front bag-rider comes in two (2) variants, a $39.99 radiused version (item 32141) that attaches via swivel stud, and a $49.99 version (item 32143) that mounts via a Picatinny-style rail.
EGW AR Front Bag-Rider System
EGW Picatinny Rail-Attached Front Bag-Rider
EGW Rear Bag-Rider for AR Buttstocks
EGW also offers a REAR bag-rider that attaches via the sling swivel anchor. The EGW AR Rear Bag-Rider accessory (item 32142), designed to work with A2-style buttstocks, sells separately for $39.99. This rear bag-rider provides a longer, straight “keel” that works very well in rear sandbags, giving the rifle more stability, and improving the tracking.
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May 30th, 2014
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.
1. 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.
5. 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.
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May 17th, 2014
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Field Report by Jeff Stover, IBS President
In IBS-land you know that spring has sprung when the Memorial Shoot at Weikert, PA comes along. This year was the 28th edition which honors the memories of Nate Boop and Rich Altemus. These two gentlemen started the benchrest program at the Union County Sportsmen’s Club. This is one of the finest ranges you will find anywhere in the country. Both the range itself and its setting are world-class.
Boop Shoot Match Results Summary (.XLS File) | Boop Shoot Top 10 Equipment List (.XLS File)
This year 42 shooters hit the benches at the Weikert range. Saturday’s 100-yard targets were shot in somewhat tricky, but shootable conditions — attested by four teen Aggs. Shooters enjoyed the readable conditions on Saturday but the 200-yard stage on Sunday was another matter — with strong breezes that switched on a thin dime. Red with tails out for 10 seconds, then green with tails out for 8 seconds. Then there was a nice mix of both — with tails erect all around. Some of us love to shoot tailwinds, which were there for a few fleeting moments. But there is a lot of target real estate — over an inch — between a tailwind with a wee bit of green and a tiny smidge of red.
Though Weikert is a gorgeous range, it has one drawback. The central Pennsylvania countryside only allowed for an east-facing range. So, on a sunny day, the first three targets or so are shot with most shooters hanging blue tarps from the range roof to block the sun. This works well and does not inhibit small groups.
Curtis Nelson lines up for first shot, with blue tarp sun shade in place.
The Light Varmint 100-yard stage looked to be all Harley Baker, one of the newest inductees into the U.S. Benchrest Hall of Fame. Harley arrives at any match with impeccably prepared equipment tuned to a knife’s edge. He is tough to beat at any range. He was cruising to yet another Agg win, with Smiley Hensley pretty far behind. To finish off with a flourish, Harley nailed a very nice .190 on his last target.
Many times at the last match of an Aggregate, shooters will banter, “last chance to be a hero”. It is so trite as to not get much reaction from the line. Well, some days a hero does emerge. Smiley shot a .071″ group in Match 5 to win the LV 100 Aggregate with a .1902. Harley settled for a flat .2 and second place. Smiley may have won the battle, but not the war, as we shall see.
Most Shooters Use 10.5-pounders Even in Heavy Varmint Class
In the Heavy Varmint class shooters could be shouldering a 13.5-pound rifle. Most, however, stick to their 10.5-pound Sporters (a Light Varmint rifle with a 6mm bore) for an entire weekend. Many times in the loading area you’ll hear, “what are we shooting?” Yes, there a few shooters that will pull out a favored “real” Heavy Varmint, but that is pretty rare these days.
The competition in Heavy Varmint 100 was pretty fierce. Small groups were shot. Teen Aggs were possible. Al Auman shot a fine .1808 to win the Agg. Other Aggregates under 0.2 were shot by Harley Baker (.1950) and master accuracy gunsmith Sid Goodling (.1990).
First Time’s a Charm for Troy Twist. Benchrest Novice Shoots 0.126″ Group.
Shooting a .126 group would make any Benchrest shooter happy. If you accomplish that feat the very first time you ever shot a bench rifle, and in a real match to boot, then you have Troy Twist’s story.
Troy works with Dale Boop and was always talking guns. Dale convinced Troy to show up for the 100-yard stage and Dale let Troy shoot one of Dale’s rifles. Troy performed like a champ, drilling a 0.126″ group — not too bad for a rookie! Nothing like a small group to get a new shooter interested in our game.
Sunday was beautiful with sunny skies and pleasant temps. The wind was another matter. The Heavy Varmint 200-yard stage was conquered by Harley Baker with a .2689 Aggregate. No Match 5 heroes emerged to take away another Agg win from Harley. The only other Aggregate under 0.3 was posted by Jeff Peinhardt. Jeff is a newer shooter that is making a name for himself in Benchrest. Finishing off the top three in the Agg was Wayne Shaw. Wayne is sometimes more associated with score shooting, but he is a top-flight group shooter as well.
The afternoon was set for Light Varmint 200 while the kaleidoscope of rapidly-changing flag colors continued. Jeff Stover led the way with a .2602 Agg. He tried to shoot whatever tail wind was available, and do it as fast as possible. Jeff got away with this sometimes dangerous tailwind strategy for four targets; on the fifth he was not burned as bad as he might have been. Closing in towards the end was Russell Rains with a .2904. Canadian Andy Laidlaw snuck into third place with a .2937 with the only remaining Aggregate under 0.3.
Andy Laidlaw from Canada loads between stages.
In the overall 2-Gun, Harley Baker was the class of the field with a .2466 for twenty targets. Stover followed with a rather distant .2791. Steady Kent Harshman finished close behind with a .2833. Interestingly, both Stover and Harshman were shooting pull-down 8208 powder (from the Vietnam War era) rather than Vihtavuori 133 or the new kid on the block, Accurate Powder LT-32.
Two-Gun Top 3: Kent Harshman (Third), Harley Baker (Winner), Jeff Stover (Second).
Moving backers are used in 100/200/300 yard benchrest competition.
Dale and Russ Boop, shown above, are the sons of Nate Boop, in whose honor this Match has been held for 28 straight years. The Brothers Boop have been shooting Benchrest since they were little kids. Russ is in the Benchrest Hall of Fame and Dale is currently only two points out.
Father and Son Team — The Peinhardts
Jeff Peinhardt from Quarryville, PA owns PR2 Racing Technology. His company does national level motorcycle race engine development and tuning. His operation is a sophisticated engineering facility with CNC and the latest equipment. He has brought this analytical outlook and expertise to Benchrest.
Jeff is relatively new to the game, but has already excelled. His 16-year old son, Wyatt, has now moved from Junior Shooter to Rookie to Tough Competitor. Wyatt now runs with the “big dogs”. His father says the tougher the conditions, the better Wyatt does; he is a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.
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May 13th, 2014
With so much attention given to the newest hardware, and most recent reloading innovations, we sometimes forget that Benchrest shooting, as a competitive sport, has been around for quite a long time. And some of those “old school” shooters managed to put together some pretty fine groups even without 21st Century gadgets and gear.
Click Photo to See Larger Version.
Here are some of the founding fathers of benchrest shooting, in a photo taken nearly six decades ago (4/3/1955). Men’s fashion has changed a bit over the years. Tony Boyer notwithstanding, you won’t find so many Stetsons at a shooting match these days. Courtesy of Sierra Bullets, here’s a “throwback” image of Benchrest shooters at the Brea, California “Round-Up” Shoot April 2 – 3, 1955. Left to right are: Frank Snow, (Founder of Sierra Manufacturing Company), John Moffit, K. E. “Smitty” Smith (NBRSA Director), Al Christie, E.F. Stewart, Jack Rice (sitting), I. F. Jack Williams, Lindsey King (behind Williams), Don “6mm” Smith, Frank Hemsted, and Art L. Elliott.
If you like this sort of “trip down memory lane”, visit Sierra Bullets’ Facebook page. Every Thursday morning, Sierra publishes a “Throwback Thursday” photograph from some decades past, together with a short featurette on the shooting-related item/person in the photo.
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May 12th, 2014
.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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May 7th, 2014
Forum member Eric has built an innovative specialty pistol for long-range benchrest. The gun is chambered in 6.5-284 and built for IBS 1000-yard shooting. Eric originally built the gun with a 3″-wide fore-end, then decided to go with a 6″-wide offset design since the IBS no longer restricts Light Gun Forearms to three inches. Eric explained: “After building the 3″-wide stock I looked at the IBS 1000-yard benchrest rules and found out that there was not a width limit and rails were allowed for a Light Gun stock. I set out to design a 6″ version. I was thinking it should be offset also to help control torque and track straighter. I had a new 6.5mm, 1:8.5″ twist, 1.250″ HV-contour Krieger barrel. I chambered the barrel for 6.5-284 and bedded the stock.”
Eric feeds his pistol Sierra 142gr MatchKings with a load of 51.0 grains of H4831sc. Estimated muzzle velocity with this load is 2900 fps — respectable speed from the short barrel. The gun tracks remarkably well, with very little torque effect, as you can see in the video below.
After initial testing, Eric added a muzzle brake to the barrel. This tamed the recoil considerably. To learn more about Eric’s long-range 6.5-284 pistol, visit our Shooters Forum and READ this POST. To see more videos of the pistol in action (with muzzle brake), visit Eric’s PhotoBucket Album.
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April 28th, 2014
Gunsmiths often have to serve as gun “doctors” as well as gun builders. Gunsmith (and Hall-of-Fame shooter) Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez was recently asked to fix a trigger problem. A customer was complaining about a trigger that was erratic and “mushy”. Speedy quickly diagnosed the problem. The Jewell trigger was clogged with gunk and sludge — left-over solvents and lubricants had gummed up the mechanisms. Here’s how the cleaning process unfolded…
Speedy: “Gee why would I want to blueprint my Jewell trigger….it has just got a little mushy lately. It may just need some adjustment. Yeah right — take a look at this”:
Speedy: “Should I go get a tetanus shot now?”
Gunsmith Mike Bryant comments: “I’ve seen a lot of Remington 700 triggers that were gummed up like [that] Jewell was. Also have seen lots of 700 triggers that had the weight-of-pull screw adjusted [by the owner] to where it had no compression on the spring. I wonder how many of the Remington accidental discharges involved triggers with one or the other of these conditions.”
Speedy: “What?! Powder in trigger as well… hmmmmmm.”
Clean up done with Iosso Lubricant/Cleaner. Speedy says this is the “Best parts cleaner I have ever found if you don’t have an ultra sonic cleaning tank. I just melted that crud off with a Q-Tip”.
Same Jewell trigger all happy now — clean as a whistle.
Trigger ready for final re-assembly, looking better than new. Thanks Speedy!
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April 12th, 2014
New Daily Bulletin readers may not know that our AccurateShooter.com website offers an entire set of FREE TARGETS. There are over 50 free targets, including: Sight-in targets, Load Development targets, Benchrest targets, NRA Highpower targets, Scope Testing targets, Fun Targets, Rimfire BR targets, 3D Bullseye targets, and even a special set of Rimfire Tactical targets.
Most of the targets come bundled in .zip archives, so you can easily download multiple targets with one click. The targets are saved in PDF format (Adobe Acrobat), so they are easy to print and the scale is correct no matter what your screen resolution.
In the photo above, Forum member FireMedic shows some fine shootin’ with our basic Accuracy Target. With small, red diamonds and extended black lines, this target allows very precise aiming at 100 and 200 yards. The gray dot on top provides a reference point for a 200-yard zero. FireMedic reports: “My 30″, 12 twist, 3 groove does pretty good for an old Savage chambered in .308 Win.” With an average group size of 0.208 inches we’d have to agree. Great Shootin’ FireMedic!
Above are two fun targets you might enjoy. The Atomic Target was originally created as a contest for our readers. The design is by Michael Forester of Auckland, New Zealand. Hit the bigger green and red neutrons, then try your luck with the smaller electrons. Or you can try to shot some “bug-holes” with our popular Fly Shoot Target. Watch out for the bio-hazard rings!
Of course, if you happen to have actual insect land on your target, you might just shoot an honest-to-goodness “bughole”. Here we see an accurate “direct hit” on a gnat’s a** by Dr. Clint D., described by GA Precision’s George Gardner as a “gnat protologist”. The shot was made at 100 yards with a very accurate GAP .260 Rem.
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April 8th, 2014
1000-yard Benchrest competitor James O’Hara set four (4) new IBS Records in 2013. These multi-match Light Gun Agg records were secured with O’Hara’s solid performance at the 2013 Virginia 1000-yard Benchrest State Championship. Here are the new records set by O’Hara in 2013:
10-Match Score Aggregate 47.5
6-Match Score Aggregate 49.5
6-Match Score Aggregate 49.83
6-Match group Aggregate 3.072”
During the VA state championships, O’Hara was on fire. All four groups were centered for 50s, with three groups under 3″ and the fourth a 3.715″. That’s consistency.
Target 1- Group 2.996” Score 50.2
Target 2- Group 2.433″, Score 50.1
Target 3- Group 3.715″, Score 50.4
Target 4- Group 2.188″, Score 50.1
Group Average 2.833″, Score Average 50.2
On 1000-yard benchrest targets, the 10-ring is just seven inches in diameter, while the X-Ring is a mere 3 inches in diameter. At the Virginia 1K Championships, James managed to keep all his shots within the seven-inch 10 Ring with eight of the shots inside the 3 inch X-Ring. That is amazing accuracy and consistency. David Goodridge says: “This is truly a remarkable example of superb marksmanship, rifle design, assembly, load development and equipment maintenance.” (O’Hara had previously set a 10-match Aggregate Light Gun World record of 4.5389″ in 2012).
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James O’Hara Talks About Record-Setting Rifles and Ultra-Accurate Long-Range Loads
James generously agreed to share his knowledge and experiences on the many facets of IBS 1000-yard benchrest preparation, reloading and shooting techniques in an intereview with Australian David Goodridge. This feature originally appeared in Australian Target Rifle Magazine. A few of O’Hara’s responses have been updated, based on a conversation with James on April 8, 2014.
Goodridge: James on behalf of the Australian LRBR community I would like to congratulate you on your achievements in 1000-yard Benchrest and thank you for [doing this] interview. To begin, could you provide an outline on your background and the reasons or factors that led you to becoming involved in 1000-yard BR at the Virginia Club.
O’Hara: I started short-range Benchrest in 1996 for a brief time and won my first 100-yard IBS match and I was hooked. Loss of eye-sight in one eye put a damper on it and I quit shooting for while, and I started shooting trap to try to switch over to left-handed. It worked and I started to pick up a gun left-handed so I went back to the rifle and built a tube gun.
I tried the local groundhog matches but the rules changed every match. I then found the Reade Range and 1000-yard matches. I restocked my gun with a long-range stock and started 1000-yard Benchrest. Finding I enjoyed the challenges associated with long range benchrest, I began 1000-yard Benchrest competition at Harry Jones Range and White Horse Range, two IBS ranges in West Virginia. I basically started after the year was under way in 2011 and I must say it was a very humbling experience. I soon learned that my previous short range [techniques] were not working.
New scales, a K&M arbor press with a force indicator, led to improvements. Then designing and obtaining reamers to my own specifications led to further substantial improvements, with the end result being that the same loads now seem to work from barrel to barrel.
James O’Hara Equipment Details
Gunsmithing: I do all the work myself, except barrel chambering/fitting is done by Dave Bruno.
Favored Caliber: I use a 6mm Dasher with a .266 neck and a .135 free bore. My load is a 103gr Spencer bullet trimmed and pointed with Hoover tools. Load is Alliant Reloder 15, 33.0+ grains weighed on a GD503 scale, with a CCI 450 primer. Right now I’m jumping the bullet about .006″. Previously, I shot them about .010” into the rifling but it was pulling the bullets or pushing them back.
Actions: For the IBS record groups I used a Bat 1.350” Bat B action in a Roy Hunter Stock. Other actions in use include a 1.530” Bat B and a Kelby F-Class Panda.
Barrels: The record barrel was a Brux Heavy Varmint, 1:7.83″ twist, finished at 28″, and fitted with a Harrell’s brake.
Stocks: I have two Roy hunter stocks and a PR&T and all track very well. They are balanced at two inches ahead of the receiver. All three stocks are glued with liquid Devcon and are pillared, so they are “glued and screwed”. I think this is the best system.
Scopes: The PR&T-stocked rifle has a March 10-60X and the two Hunter-stocked guns have Nightforce 12-42x56mm NXS scopes.
Rests: My front rest is a Sinclair Competition model that I modified with a cartridge holder that holds cartridges up by the port. I use the new super slick bag by Protektor and a rear Doctor Bag with leather ears.
Scope Mounts: Rings are Burris Signature Extra High (the ones with inserts).
Case Preparation and Reloading Techniques:
My cases are three years old, with close to 100 firings. They are all from the same lot. I anneal the cases dirty to save some work and I anneal every time to have consistent neck tension. I punch the primers out and clean the pockets and run the flash hole uniformer in to make sure there is no carbon build-up. You can use the same tool as you use to prep the new cases. Flash holes are uniformed to .0625″. (Flash holes, “out of the box”, are less consistent than you may think.)
I turn necks to .0102″ with a K&M tool. Some competitors don’t turn necks, but without uniform neck tension you will have vertical. I use a K&M VLD chamfering tool and a Wilson case trimmer for new cases and when I trim fired cases. I use a nylon brush for inside the necks and clean the cases outside with 0000 steel wool using a small power station or a drill to spin them. The cases are sized on a Forster Coax press with a Harrell’s full length bushing die. Priming is done by hand using a K&M priming tool. I throw a “close” charge with Harrell’s bench rest powder measure. That charge goes in the pan of my Sartorius GD503 scale and then I trickle up to weight with an Omega powder trickler.
For bullet seating, I now use the 21st Century Hydraulic arbor press with seating force indiciation. I previously used the K&M arbor press with force indicator — it was good, but the 21st Century unit is more sophisticated, more precise, and easier to read. I have a loading block that is color-coded in the pounds of force needed to seat the bullet. I try to keep rounds in sets of 3-lb seating force settings. Each loaded round is put in the appropriate column (based on measured seating force). All loaded rounds are color-coded to avoid mixing. Leftovers from matches are used at a later date.
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I have now made a tool from an old bearing surface comparator. It will contact the ogive of the loaded round and it will check the seating depth while it is sitting on a granite block. Relying completely on the force and feel of the dial indicator allows seating depths to be held to .0005″ (i.e. one-half-thousandth). Compared to others means, this seems a more accurate way to check seating depth.
Bullets are spun on a Juenke machine after they are trimmed on a Hoover trimmer and pointed on the Hoover tool. For the next step, a Tubb Bearing Surface Comparator is used to sort bullets to plus/minus .0005″. I don’t discard any bullets — if I have some small lots of bullets that have a shorter or longer measurement they are used for testing. With the Spencer and BIB bullets there are not many that are not within plus/minus .001”. I quit weighing cases because of the outside variations. I only do what makes a difference [on target] and I only test and do load development at 100 yards, where I can control the conditions.
Barrel Freezing (Cryogenic treatment)
For the 2013 season, I cut barrels back to 28″ and had them “frozen” (cryo-treated) at Cryo Plus. I think that both barrels are average in the wind, but the first shot from a clean barrel is in the group. I shot around seven 100s with my other Light Gun. In Heavy Gun, I even won the group Aggregate at the Virginia State shoot. I have cryo-treated all of my barrels and I believe I have proof that it does produce benefits. I talked to George Kelbly about this before I did it. My results agreed with what George had indicated: fire cracking was less, chambering was easier and the major benefit was that the groups did not ‘walk’ as the barrels became heated.
Bench Set-up and Shooting Procedures
I use a spotting scope to help see the flags and the mirage. The mount is a Sinclair for the bench. This really helps because I can’t see the flags far out. I think the most important part of the set up is getting the gun to track, it has to come back in the box every time and shooting under the same condition every shot. I know everybody likes to run them — I do if the condition holds — but if it doesn’t you must pick them one at a time. This is where the direction and the speed of the wind come into play; you must shoot in the same condition you zero in.
When I set up to shoot, I line up the gun on my target and I move it back and forth till I can get it coming back in the ten ring and then I set my scope. I load my record rounds in my holder and I use my sighters out of the box. I now am watching and timing the conditions and I now make the decision of the one I will use and this is the only one I sight-in with. If I have some big guns beside me with brakes, I will wait till they are done or try to get in between their shots (this doesn’t always work).
Trigger control is a must and you have to be consistent. I will give up a perfect sight picture for a perfect trigger pull. I use free recoil and only my finger is on the trigger. After the rifle recoils back, I hold the fore-arm and open the bolt — you have to be careful not to upset the gun in the bags. After loading the next round, I close the bolt and push the gun forward with my right hand on the fore-arm. I am guiding [the stock] forward in between the bags. This gives me less chance to make a mistake, and maybe half of the shots need no or very little adjustment. I know it’s hard to get accustomed to, but try not to take your eye out of the scope so you are watching the mirage and not to get caught in a change. For the best part, I shoot free recoil and do all my testing at 100 yards in my backyard range. I zero dead on at 100 and come up 24 minutes for 1000 yards.
Bore Cleaning Procedures
I never try to get the gun super clean at a match, I like to see a little gray on a clean patch. I don’t want the barrel to be squeaky clean — I like to see a little haze on a patch. When it’s like that, after one fouling shot, the next shot usually goes right where it’s supposed to. When it’s squeaky clean, it may take five shots to foul in.
I used a product called WartHog 1134, and it has served me well for a long time but now that the Hazmat stopped the shipment of it, so I went to over-the-counter products and all are equally bad compared to what I had used but they do the job, it just takes longer. I never pull a patch or brush back through (across the crown), I go one way only (outward) out and then unscrew the brush or take the patch off at the muzzle. I use a 50/50 mix of Hoppies and Kroil after I clean. Just before I shoot I run a smaller patch down the bore to leave a very thing film of oil in the bore. I never want to shoot over a dry bore. If you shoot over a squeaky clean, dry bore, you’ll get copper every time.
What the Future Holds for O’Hara
My goal last season was to set the Agg records. Now I only have one more goal — that is the single target group, so I will back off shooting the Heavy Gun. I have three excellent Light Guns and a bunch of barrels to do it… so maybe! I think the greatest enjoyment is the people you shoot with, the common interest is the bond I guess but I wouldn’t change it for anything. — James O’Hara
Goodridge: James, on behalf of all Australian IBS 1000-yard BR competitors, I would like to thank you for your great patience and cooperation in preparation of this article, and for the valuable and interesting insight that you have provided into what is required to achieve success at the highest levels of 1000-yard BR competition. Not that you need it, but good luck for the 2014 shooting season.
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April 7th, 2014
Ten shots… 1000 yards … 2.6872″. Think about that. Ten shots you could cover up with a coffee cup. That’s some amazing shooting. Is this a world record? Consider this — we believe this is the smallest 10-shot group ever shot at 1000 yards in any form of rifle competition, by anyone, anywhere, anytime. It is smaller than the existing Williamsport Light Gun and Heavy Gun 1K records. The IBS and NBRSA do not shoot 10 rounds for Light Gun, but this 2.6872″ group is smaller than the current IBS (3.044″) and NBRSA (4.322″) ten-shot HEAVY GUN records.
This amazing group was shot by Jim Richards at the Deep Creek Range outside Missoula, Montana during the 4th Light Gun Relay of a 1000-yard match. Jim was shooting the small 6mm Dasher cartridge with 105gr Berger bullets. Fellow Deep Creek Shooter Tom Mousel says this should be a new world record. The Deep Creek Range shoots under Williamsport rules, with ten shots for Light Gun. The current Williamsport Light Gun record (as listed) is 3.835″ by Cody Finch in 2006, but we’re told that Paul Martinez shot a 3.505″ at Williamsport last year. If approved at 2.6872″, Jim Richards’ new record is 23% smaller than the 3.505″ previous record. That’s remarkable — Jim Richards utterly demolished the previous mark. (As measured, Jim’s group is also smaller than the current Williamsport Heavy Gun record, 2.815″ by Matt Kline in 2010.)
The Record-setting rifle features a Borden action, Shehane ST 1000 fiberglass stock, and Nightforce Benchrest scope. The Krieger barrel was chambered by King Machine for the 6mm Dasher, with a 0.269″ neck and 0.103″ freebore. Jim Richards was running Berger 105gr Hybrid bullets.
The rifle was purchased used from Tim Claunch. We suspect Tim wishes he had not parted with it! Any gun that can put ten shots under three inches at 1000 yards is a “keeper”, that’s for sure.
Forum member Wayne B. says: “I am really happy for Jim. He has asked 1000 questions, slept in his pickup, upgraded his equipment, bought a rifle from another friend of mine and now he is a world record-holder. The men and women who shoot at Deep Creek in Missoula Montana are the best group of shooters in the world bar none! They will give you all the info you need to win and if you don’t have what you need they will loan it to ya, up to and including a rifle and ammo.”
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