IBS Match Report by Kenneth Frehm
The International Benchrest Shooters (IBS) held its New York State Championships and Annual Pro-Am Group Shoot at the Camillus Sportsmen’s Club on July 9-10, 2016. Forty-nine benchrest competitors vied for glory and trophies. Among these forty-nine, we were fortunate to have two of the fairer sex (such as Donna Sutton, below), as well as youngsters and seniors taking part. The event provided ample opportunities for old friends to reacquaint with each other, as well as time for making new ones. The great camaraderie exhibited by these competitors helps define our sport of Benchrest shooting.
Donna Sutton was “Pretty in Pink” — even down to her pink rifle stock.
As early as the Thursday before, new arrivals tried to learn and master the prevailing conditions at the range. Of course, once the shooting events started, Mother Nature had a few surprises in store for the folks on the line. The surrounding topography at our Camillus Range assures that wind is ever-present, fickle and as changeable as can be! Both days presented the shooters with difficult wind and weather challenges. Saturday was sunny, warm and the winds ranged from two to approximately ten miles per hour. However, twitchy tails on the wind flags made for unpredictable holes appearing in the targets.
Saturday, the wind direction changed constantly making each relay different from the ones before or the ones upcoming. Flags spun along the 100-yard span showing different colors and their streamers indicated the constant changing velocities. Of course, the top shooters managed to correctly analyze these variables and produce Aggs in the “point one+” range — impressive shooting given the conditions.
On Sunday everything changed. We were greeted with what we natives call “Syracuse Sunshine”. This is cold weather, gray skies, with rain showers that came and went all day long. On rare occasions, the sun peeked out along with its partner mirage. However, for most of the day, the 200-yard contestants had to deal with extremely high winds.
Although a left-to-right direction prevailed, wind probes were pegged, their streamers stood straight out, vibrating to gusts that may have topped 25 mph! Those intrepid shooters who didn’t put “dope” on their scopes braved shots that almost went completely off their targets!
Those few opportunities to shoot in a constant condition were rare and only lasted for a few seconds in duration. As in the day prior, the top guns conquered these difficulties. The men were separated from the “boys” as those with the most well-honed skills prevailed.
As for equipment — almost everyone shot 6 PPCs in all classes. This is still very much the cartridge of choice in 100/200 group benchrest competition. There was one .22-caliber rig and Bruce LaChapelle experimented with a new “Wildcat .20 Caliber” rig that he designed and machined himself.
There were many interesting T-Shirts on display at the match:
Pro-Am Competition with Two-Person Teams
One interesting element of this match was the “Pro-Am” competition. The “Pro-Am” features two-person teams with one experienced top-level BR shooter and one amateur shooter. For each two-man team, both shooters’ Two-Gun Aggregates are combined. The Pro-Am winning team is the twosome with the best winning combined, Two-Gun Aggregate. Both shooters receive First Place Pro-Am plaques. The winning amateur, Chris Jeffers (below), also won a barrel blank from Hart Rifle Barrels.
Under Pro-Am rules, an “amateur” is a shooter who has participated in registered BR events for five years or less. The “Pro” level includes shooters who have competed in registered events for six years or more. The Pro-Am was started 18 years ago to encourage new shooters and recognize amateurs in hopes they will continue with the sport. This is a good concept that could be tried at other events.
L to R: Todd Jeffers, Bob Brushingham, Bill Goad, Paul Mitchell, Wyatt Peinhardt, Cody Kurtz, Kevin Donalds Sr.
Our hats are off to the many folks who worked so hard to make this two-day event successful. I didn’t hear any grumbling or nary one complaint. Hal DeBoer, our new club President, ran the line and kept everything running smoothly and safely. Event chairman Bob Hamister had crews of club members working weeks in advance, preparing targets and organizing the many tasks that needed to be accomplished. Colin Hillman and his crew from the Syracuse Police Dept. and Jim Palumbo with the Youth Clay Targets Program were in charge of the target crews. They managed four different target crews, one for each morning and afternoon.
The ladies in the scoring booth (see above) had to analyze each relay, carefully scoring and posting the scores. They did this so efficiently that score sheets were posted immediately after each match. We also were fortunate to have Christopher’s Catering crew who provided breakfast, lunch and dinner during the two days. The food was delicious, plentiful, and affordably-priced.
Top Shooters by Category/Class:
Pro-Am Event Winners: Chris Jeffers (Amateur) and Dale Boop (Pro). Two-Gun: Harley Baker, Bob Hamister, Paul Mitchell, Wyatt Peinhardt, Bill Goad, Dale Boop. Heavy Varmint: Harley Baker, Paul Mitchell, Bob Hamister, Dave Bruno, Mike Mastrogiovanni. Light Varmint: Wyatt Peinhardt, Todd Jeffers, Bill Goad, Bob Brushingham, Barney Small.
I really enjoyed my job as photographer and roving reporter. I don’t have to worry about reloading, getting to the line on time, or trying to shoot small groups. I had ample opportunities to chat with competitors. I learned a little about them, where they lived, and had a chance to pick their brains about their ongoing quest for accuracy. I saw many different styles of loading at the benches and the many variances in equipment, shooting styles and techniques.
Once again, my most important take-away was that this group of sportsmen and sportswomen are friendly, helpful and genuine. Shooting tips, local knowledge, and advice are shared openly by all and help is there, charitably given to anyone who seeks it. — Kenneth Frehm
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Harold Seagroves’ 3-time Hickory Ground Hog Match-Winning Rifle
At clubs across the country, varmint fun shoots (also known as “groundhog matches”) are becoming more popular every year. In these matches, usually shot from the bench, you engage paper targets, clay pigeons, steel “critter” silhouettes, or some combination of paper and reactive targets. Shooters like these matches because you can shoot a wide variety of rifles, you don’t have to spend a fortune to be competitive, and there is fun for the whole family. Rules are inclusive — you won’t be turned away because your rifle is two ounces overweight. A large percentage of the match fees usually go back to shooters in the form of cash prizes. And the level of camaraderie is high.
Inclusive Rules Welcome All Shooters
Forum member Danny Reever has explained the appeal of groundhog matches: “We don’t have a governing organization, or have to pay $50 a year membership just to compete in matches. Sure the rules vary from club to club, but you adapt. You build your rifle (or even pistol) to fall within the rules of either the clubs you shoot, or to fit all the clubs rules. If not there still is a class for you to compete in. If your factory rifle doesn’t conform to the rules, it can shoot in a custom class. If your custom doesn’t make weight for Light Custom (usually 17 pounds and under), you shoot it in heavy custom class. If you want to try your Tactical rifle or F-Class rig, bring it out there’s a class you can shoot it in. If you don’t like one club’s rules, you just don’t shoot there. It’s no big deal.
There are no National records, or Hall of Fame points — just individual range records. If you want to shoot in BIG matches (with big prizes), there is the Hickory Ground Hog Shoot among others. If competition isn’t your bag, many clubs offer mid-week fun matches that you can shoot just for fun. You shoot the same targets but with a more relaxed atmosphere with no time limits.
The best part is you don’t have to shoot perfect at every yardage. You always have a chance because in this sport it really isn’t over until the last shot is fired. Typically ALL the entry money goes to the host club, with much of the cash returned back to the shooters via prizes. Junior shooters often shoot for free, or at a reduced rate. That lessens the burden on the family’s wallet (not a small thing in these economic times). The low entry cost also encourages young guys to get involved who don’t have $4000 custom rifles or the money to buy them.
More Fun, Fewer Complications
There isn’t a sea of wind flags to shoot over or to put up and take down. If the range has a couple of flags so much the better, but after all it is a varmint match. No pits to spot shots and slow things down either. If you can’t see your hits through your rifle scope or spotting scope well you are in the same boat as everybody else. That’s what makes it interesting/ sometimes frustrating!
As for calibers, I’ve seen everything from .223 Rem to .338 Lapua and everything in between. Our range record at my club is held by Bill Slattery, who shot a 147 out of a possible 150 with a 22BR 13 months ago. That’s on a target with a 1.250 ten ring at 200/300/500 meters. That record will stand for awhile, and shows you that some very good shooting is done at groundhog matches.
The best part is it’s laid back, everyone gets along, there is no place for big egos here. We who shoot the Ground Hog Matches don’t begrudge the other organizations and shooting disciplines, or those that shoot in them, heck some of us cross over and compete in registered benchrest matches too. Life’s too short, live and let live is our motto so just come out and have fun!”
Fellow Forum members chimed in:
FdShuster: “I’ve competed in our local ground hog matches for several years now, have introduced a number of others to them, and we all enjoy them and more importantly, continue to learn from them. Distances are as close as 100 yards, (with a 5/8″ 10 ring) to as far as 500 meters. With a 2″ 10 ring. Wind, mirage, bullet trajectories, all make them a challenge, and unlike shooting for group, where the group can be anywhere on the paper, in this game they must be very small, but also in the 10 ring. With the different classes — Custom, Factory, Hunter — almost any rifle will fit in somewhere. And Danny is correct about the friendly attitudes. I’ve seen competitors go out of their way, and jeopardize their chances of winning, to help someone else who may have a problem on the line.”
Mike C: “Here in Texas, our version of groundhog matches involves shooting at clay pigeons at 400 yards. We use 60mm, 90mm, and 108mm clay pigeons attached to target boards. You have 10 shots to break 8 clays, with a seven-minute time limit. We have developed a good following at these matches. In past years, a Shooter of the Year Award was given based on the Aggregate score for three of our matches, which are held in Utopia, San Angelo, and Huntsville.”
40X Guy: “I would have to say upon finishing my first year ever of groundhog matches, that the average Joe can grab his Swift, or his 25-06, or his 22-250 and go rip some holes in paper. Everybody is having a good time and its a gathering of like-minded people who have all shot chucks at some point or another. Even if one does not win the match, you can look at your target and say “darn that chuck target has five holes in him at 400 yards and he’s dead” just as well as the next guy shooting a custom bench rifle. Everybody fits in and everybody, 8 to 80, is having fun! It is addictive and will drive you to spend your hard-earned currency for sure!”
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How well can the 6mm Dasher perform at 1000 yards when conditions are good, and the shooter is riding a hot streak? Well here’s a shot-by-shot record of Scott Nix’s 4.554″ 10-shot group shot at Missoula, Montana at the Northwest 1000-yard Championship a few years back. All 10 shots were centered for a 100-6X score. That’s about as good as it gets. If Scott had stopped after 5 shots, his group would have been under 3 inches!
Video Demonstrates Amazing 1000-Yard Accuracy
Watch the video. You can see the group form up, shot by shot. It’s pretty amazing. Scott’s first shot (at the 45-second mark of the video) was right in the X-Ring, and four of Scott’s first five shots were Xs. That’s drilling them! This video was recorded from the pits at the 1000-yard line, during record fire.
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For the International Benchrest Shooters (IBS) by Frank Danisienka
The IBS Executive Board has voted to create two new awards. These awards recognize the significant performance of a select number of shooters. Patches for Score shooting a perfect score of 750, and a perfect target of 250-25X, were designed by the board. To score 250, you need to shoot five (5) tens on each of the five record targets at a particular yardage. To score 750 you need to do that at all THREE yardages — 100, 200, and 300 yards. Certificates accompanying the patches document the commitment to excellence and dedication by these shooters to our sport.
Perfect 750 Multi-Yardage Score — A Rare Occurrence
In the long history of IBS competition only 16 members have shot a perfect score of 750 in one match! That’s 250 at 100 yards, 200 yards, and 300 yards. This very select group of shooters includes: Al Weaver, Rod Morton, Dave Short, Dennis Collins, Ken Livengood, Wayne Shaw, Dick Spencer, Hal Drake, Kim Llewellyn, Shaun Shank, Roy Hunter (2), Dean Breeden, John Bosley, Wayne France, Ricky Read and John Cascarino.
Dean Breeden is one of only 16 Shooters to have recorded a 750 total score in a match.
All Xs — the Perfect Target, 250-25X
The remarkable feat of shooting a perfect 250-25X target has been accomplished 37 times by 26 members. They are: Dennis Collins (2), Ted Parreco, Jeff Buchannan, Carl Baker, James Goody, Joe Enterkin, Rich Whiteash, Dean Breeden (2), David Apple, Al Weaver, Rod Morton, Mike Bigelow, Ken Livengood (3), Roger Avery (2), Joe Pellegrene, Mark Ludinsky (3). Herb Llewellyn (2), Jackie Stogsdill, Hal Drake (2), Johnny Lorick, Ron Collins, Wayne France (2), Shaun Shank, Steve Jaynes, Kevin Donalds Jr., Randy Jarvais (2).
Our sport continues to evolve toward perfection both in the quality of the equipment and the skill of our members and these awards recognize them for their accomplishments.
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22nd Bud Pryor Memorial Matchby Dick Grosbier
Saturday June 11th was the 148th running of the Belmont Stakes in New York, and the 22nd running of the Bud Pryor Memorial Match at Thurmont, Maryland. Since this is a shooting website, I will be writing about the “Bud”. This year’s offering was a two-day match with 100-yard and 200-yard relays on Saturday followed by the 300-yard match on Sunday. This was a return to the format used from 1994 until we started having to turn shooters away in 2004.
It was typical “Bud” weather — hot well into the mid-90s on Saturday. Sunday was considerably cooler and with extremely challenging wind conditions all day long. There was no rain on Saturday but a big threat of a thunderstorm on Sunday. Luckily the thunderstorm held off as the shooters had their hands full just dealing with the high winds.
Wayne Lewis from South Carolina took the early lead in Varmint For Score (VFS) class, by winning the 100-yard stage with a fine 250-23X score. Wayne France, Dave Short, and Jim Cline were right behind him with 21X each. K.L. Miller won the 100-yard event in Hunter class with a 250-16X Score. Millers’s score with his 6X power-scoped rifle would have put him in the top half of VFS class. That’s impressive shooting with a low-power optic.
Pennsylvania shooter Dave Short won the 200-yard VFS with a 250-8X. Paul Bielec took second place honors with a 249-4X. Unfortunately Paul had a misstep at 100 yards on the final match. Cross-firing onto the target of the empty bench to his right and incurring a 5-point penalty marred his otherwise excellent performance for the weekend. Paul’s situation left Dave Short as the only shooter who was not at least two points down going into the 300-yard section on Sunday. Meanwhile in Hunter Class, K.L. Miller trudged along, beating second-place Orland Bunker with a 243-0X to Orland’s 241-6X.
Here are some of the top shooters. Left to Right: Richard Sissel (300-yard VFS Winner), K.L. Miller (Hunter 1st Grand Agg), Hillary Martinez (3rd VFS Grand Agg), Dan Breedan (2nd VFS Grand Agg).
Notably, the top three shooters all used Vihtavuori N130 powder, not Hodgdon H4198, the “go-to” choice for the 30BR for many years. Could this start a trend? Federal 205m primers were used by nearly all, and BAT actions were favored by the majority of competitors. Most of the Top 20 barrels were Kriegers, but Brux barrels took the number two and three spots overall. There were mostly high-end March and Nightforce scopes on the line, but overall winner Dave Short ran a 36X Weaver, proving you don’t need to spend two grand on a scope to win a big match.
Bud Pryor Memorial Shoot Equipment List (Listed in Order of Grand Agg Score) Click Chart to View larger, easier-to-read complete Equipment List
Sunday was the 300-yard stage, this is always the big equalizer in a 100/200/300 match. As previously mentioned, conditions were unusually challenging Sunday. This was demonstrated by the fact that Richard Sissel won the Aggregate with a 243-3X. Dave Short was a close 2nd with a 243-2X. Dean Breeden & Michael Clayton also turned in 243s; after that the scores fell off fairly fast. Back in Hunter Class once again K.L. Miller finished on top with a 238-1X. Scott Garman from Maine turned in a nice performance with a 236-3X.
Grand Aggregate Results — Dave Short Wins Over Runner-Up Breeden
When all the scores were totaled, Dave Short easily won the VFS Grand Aggregate with a 743-31X, Dean Breeden was 2nd with 741-27X, Hillary Martinez 3rd with 739-31X, and 100-yard winner Wayne Lewis was 4th with 739-29X. It looked like Wayne had a second-place finish in he grand until the last target of the day when instead of dropping 1 point per target as he had been doing all day, he dropped 5 points moving him to sixth place. In the Hunter Class, K.L. Miller led the entire weekend. Miller’s 731-17X Grand Agg Score put a substantial distance between himself and second-place Orland Bunker.
File photo from 2014 Bud Pryor match.
All in all I think everybody had a good time (some better than others) and I believe most will be seen back in Maryland the second weekend in June 2017 for the 23rd Annual Bud Pryor Memorial. Unless perhaps they go to New York for a horse race.
About the Bud Pryor Memorial Match
Bud Pryor was a fine gentleman who started shooting IBS matches in 1983. He was a machinest turned gunsmith who made friends and got many people started in shooting IBS registered matches over the next few years. Bud and Dick Grosbier ran the first IBS match at the Thurmont range in April 1983. CLICK HERE to see vintage photos of the 1983 match.
After Bud’s untimely passing a few years later, the club decided to put on a big match and dedicate it to him. As Thurmont is one of the few ranges around with 100/200/300 yard capabilities, we decided to put on a 3-yardage Grand Aggregate match. This was not as simple as it seems, since 100/200/300 was not an IBS-recognized Aggregate. After an agenda item was approved at an IBS winter meeting, 100/200/300 records were set at Thurmont. Over the years most records have stayed at this scenic range. There are a total of four IBS ranges now holding 100/200/300 yard matches in 2014.
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Building your own portable shooting bench is a great do-it-yourself project. You can build a sturdy bench for well under $100 in materials. Compare that to some deluxe factory-built benches which may cost $600.00 or more.
FREE Bench Plans on the Web
You’ll find a wide assortment of home-built shooting bench designs (both portable and fixed) on the internet. Renovation Headquarters has links to FREE Plans and building instructions for fourteen (14) different shooting benches. There are all-wood shooting bench designs as well as benches that combine a wood top with a metal sub-frame or legs.
Heavy Wood Bench That Converts to Three Sections for Transport
In addition to the fourteen benches mentioned above, here is an interesting break-down bench design. Call it a “semi-portable” bench. The legs and frame are made from stout 4×4 post segments so the bench is fairly heavy. However, this bench can break down into three (3) sections for easier transport to and from the range. Dado-cut channels assure proper top alignment. This might be a good choice if you plan a multi-day excursion to a location without fixed benches. This three-leg bench design can be made from easy-to-locate materials. Note: The dimensions of this bench are are larger than typical fixed benches to accommodate 50 BMGs and other big rifles. CLICK HERE for more details.
When a rifle isn’t shooting up to it’s potential, we need to ask: “Is it the gun or the shooter?” Having multiple shooters test the same rifle in the same conditions with the same load can be very revealing…
When developing a load for a new rifle, one can easily get consumed by all the potential variables — charge weight, seating depth, neck tension, primer options, neck lube, and so on. When you’re fully focused on loading variables, and the results on the target are disappointing, you may quickly assume you need to change your load. But we learned that sometimes the load is just fine — the problem is the trigger puller, or the set-up on the bench.
Here’s an example. A while back we tested two new Savage F-Class rifles, both chambered in 6mmBR. Initial results were promising, but not great — one gun’s owner was getting round groups with shots distributed at 10 o’clock, 2 o’clock, 5 o’clock, 8 o’clock, and none were touching. We could have concluded that the load was no good. But then another shooter sat down behind the rifle and put the next two shots, identical load, through the same hole. Shooter #2 eventually produced a 6-shot group that was a vertical line, with 2 shots in each hole but at three different points of impact. OK, now we can conclude the load needs to be tuned to get rid of the vertical. Right? Wrong. Shooter #3 sat down behind the gun and produced a group that strung horizontally but had almost no vertical.
Hmmm… what gives?
Shooting Styles Created Vertical or Horizontal Dispersion
What was the problem? Well, each of the three shooters had a different way of holding the gun and adjusting the rear bag. Shooter #1, the gun’s owner, used a wrap-around hold with hand and cheek pressure, and he was squeezing the bag. All that contact was moving the shot up, down, left and right. The wrap-around hold produced erratic results.
Shooter #2 was using no cheek pressure, and very slight thumb pressure behind the tang, but he was experimenting with different amounts of bag “squeeze”. His hold eliminated the side push, but variances in squeeze technique and down pressure caused the vertical string. When he kept things constant, the gun put successive shots through the same hole.
Shooter #3 was using heavy cheek pressure. This settled the gun down vertically, but it also side-loaded the rifle. The result was almost no vertical, but this shooting style produced too much horizontal.
A “Second Opinion” Is Always Useful
Conclusion? Before you spend all day fiddling with a load, you might want to adjust your shooting style and see if that affects the group size and shape on the target. Additionally, it is nearly always useful to have another experienced shooter try your rifle. In our test session, each time we changed “drivers”, the way the shots grouped on the target changed significantly. We went from a big round group, to vertical string, to horizontal string.
Interestingly, all three shooters were able to diagnose problems in their shooting styles, and then refine their gun-handling. As a result, in a second session, we all shot that gun better, and the average group size dropped from 0.5-0.6 inches into the threes — with NO changes to the load.
That’s right, we cut group size in half, and we didn’t alter the load one bit. Switching shooters demonstrated that the load was good and the gun was good. The skill of the trigger-puller(s) proved to be the limiting factor in terms of group size.
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Want to see new-born Pandas? No, not the furry kind — rather Stolle Panda actions produced with state-of-the-art CNC machinery. If you’ve ever wondered how precision benchrest, long-range, and tactical rifles are built, check out video from Kelbly’s. You’ll see actions finished, barrels chambered and crowned, pillars installed in stocks, barreled actions bedded, plus a host of other services performed by Kelbly’s gunsmiths and machinists.
CLICK Triangle to Launch Kelbly’s Video
If you’re a fan of fine machine-work, this video should be both informative and entertaining. You can see how precision gun work is done with 21st-Century technology. Tip of the hat to Ian Kelbly and crew for producing this excellent video visit to the Kelbly’s production center.
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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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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
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We 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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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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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.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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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.
The 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:
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Bart Sauter of Barts Custom Bullets has acquired a LabRadar chronograph. He was curious to see how his loads performed in actual match conditions, so he brought his LabRadar to a match and set it up right on his benchtop. What he learned was quite surprising. For one thing, Bart found that tuning for the best accuracy (in the conditions), was NOT simply a matter of maintaining velocity. Read all about Bart’s experience in this AccurateShooter Forum Thread.
LabRadar Report by Bart Sauter
Bart posted: “I shot a short range NBRSA match [in March] with the LabRadar on the bench! The benches were quite close, but the LabRadar was able to pick up my shots even with the other guns going off very close to it. This is a pretty impressive piece of gear.”
It’s great for tuning. I can’t say for sure but what I saw with the PPC is that just maintaining a certain velocity will not keep the gun in tune.”
One Forum member asked: “Was the LabRadar able to pick up shots that far back (behind the muzzle) and to the side? What setting did you have it set at?”
Bart’s LabRadar unit had no trouble picking up shots when set on the bench, a bit behind the muzzle. In fact, Bart noted: “Yes it can go a long way back. At home I could get back up to around 8 feet and pick up the bullet. It’s more sensitive about the side distance. I had mine on level 4. You can be a lot farther behind the muzzle then advertised. You can also point it at your buddy’s target and get his velocity.”
Bart set his LabRadar to be triggered by the shot: “I had a tuner on the gun but no muzzle brake. [The Chrono] was set to be triggered by the sound of the gun. When you move back you have to play with the trigger level. I put mine on a tripod and was able to pick up projectiles 8 feet back, but from the side had to be within 18 inches.”
Long-Life Battery Power
Powering the LabRadar at the range is not a problem. Bart used a portable battery pack that can power the LabRadar for a long time: “I bought a RavPower battery pack from Amazon.com. It was the most powerful compact cell phone charger they had and [it costs about $30.00]. It was able to run the LabRadar for two full days without recharging and still had juice.”
The LabRadar is a pretty expensive piece of kit, but there’s nothing else like it on the market. Bart notes: “The LabRadar itself is about $560.00. The stand is $29.95 for the bench mount and the padded carry case is $39.95. So you’re around $630.00 plus shipping.”
LabRadar Field Test by Ray Gross
If you are considering purchasing a LabRadar Chronograph system, we strongly suggest you read the very thorough and informative LabRadar Review by Ray Gross, Captain of the USA F-TR team.
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Over the years, noted gunsmith and a Benchrest Hall-of-Fame inductee Thomas ‘Speedy’ Gonzalez has learned a few things about “tuning” rear sandbags for best performance. On his Facebook page, Speedy recently discussed how sand bag fill levels (hard vs. soft) can affect accuracy. Speedy says you don’t want to have both your front and rear sandbags filled up ultra-hard. One or the other bag needs to have some “give” to provide a shock-absorbing function (and prevent stock jump).
SAND BAGS & HOW TO FILL THEMby Speedy Gonzalez
I was asked several times by competitors at the S.O.A. Matches and F-Class Nationals as to how I fill my sand bags for benchrest competition. Here is a copy of a reply I gave several years ago:
Back in the old days, about the time Fred Flintstone was still alive, I worked for Pat McMillan for free, from time to time to learn all his secrets. One day little Speedy was filling some new sand bags out behind Pat’s shop, stuffing them with more sand than Taco Bell put beans in their Burritos. When Pat stepped out the back door and inquired as to what in the hell was I doing packing them there bags the way I was.
I looked up at him with eyes like a kid with his hands in a cookie jar. My reply must have sounded like Homer Simpson “Doooh”. Finally I said “I don’t know, Boss. I just thought you were supposed to fill these babies up and go shoot. I got that ‘You dumb bastard look’ from Pat and I knew it was lecture time. This was what he told me:
You can not have two bags filled so hard that you gun bounces on them in the process of firing round at your target, especially if you have a rig with a very flexible stock. The bags must be set up in a manner for them to absorb the initial shock of the firing pin moving forward and igniting the primer. Then [they must] maintain their shape and absorb the second shock wave as well the rearward thrust and torque of the rifle. What happens to the rifle when this is not done? Well let me tell you. The rifles have a very bad tendency to jump and roll in the bags. This causes many of those wild, lost shots that one can’t explain.
Charles Huckaba, Ken Terrell, Larry Baggett, Ralph Stewart and some of us Texas shooters talk about this phenomena quite often. We have all agreed that:
1: You can not have two hard bags [i.e. both front AND rear] in your set-up.
2: Heavy sand magnifies these phenomena.
3: If you are a bag squeezer, pack ears hard and leave bag pliable enough to squeeze for the movement required. You may pack front bag as hard as rules permit.
4: Free recoil shooters pack both bags firm, but not so hard as to allow stock jump. Especially if you have a stock with a very flexible forearm.
5: We use play-ground sand, also know as silica sand. I sift mine to get any large impurities out then mix it with 25% to 50% with Harts parakeet gravel to the desired hardness that I am looking for. The bird gravel keeps the sand from packing itself into that solid as a brick state.
Speaking of bricks — another thing that happens when shooters employ that heavy zircon sand is the ears form a low spot under them from recoil and then tend to rock back and forth with the rifle causing many low shots to crop up. Edgewood makes an Edgewood/Speedy rear bag specially reinforced under the ears to eliminate this scenario.
One last note –If you use the Cordura bags keep them sprayed with a good silicon spray or “Rain-Ex”. This keeps them from getting sticky. Hey guys, try that and see if it helps. — Speedy
P.S.: I do not like the solid double-stitched leather bottoms. While this seems like a good idea, I see more shooters have problems because of them. They tend to slide around the bench and or slide with the rifle on recoil. The standard Protektor with Cordura rabbit ears and an Otto ring bag with a Cordura front would be what I would suggest to the new shooter or one of the Edgewood / Speedy rear bags, these mimic the “Donut” and feature a ring of leather around the bottom circumference that keep the bottom from rocking on the bench or ground if that is where you reside these days…
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From the late ’70s through 1983, a huge, concrete-walled warehouse in Houston was used for benchrest testing. Virgil King and Bob Fisher set up a bullet-catching backstop at the end of a 30-yard-wide, 325-yard-long fire lane that remained unobstructed even when the warehouse was in use. This allowed accuracy tests in virtually perfect “no wind” conditions. Over a six-year period, about 30 shooters were invited to test their rifles. The results were amazing, with numerous “zero groups” being shot in the facility. Many of the lessons learned in the legendary Houston Warehouse still help benchresters achieve better accuracy today.
Dave Scott explains why the Warehouse was so unique:
“Over a period of six years, the levels of accuracy achieved in the Houston Warehouse went beyond what many precision shooters thought possible for lightweight rifles shot from sandbags and aimed shot-to-shot by human eye. For the first time, a handful of gifted, serious experimenters — armed with the very best performing rifles (with notable exceptions) — could boldly venture into the final frontiers of rifle accuracy, a journey made possible by eliminating the baffling uncertainties of conditions arising from wind and mirage. Under these steel skies, a shooter could, without question, confirm the absolute limits of accuracy of his rifle, or isolate the source of a problem. In the flawlessly stable containment of the Houston Warehouse … a very few exceptional rifles would display the real stuff, drilling repeated groups measuring well below the unbelievably tiny .100″ barrier. The bulk of rifles, however, embarrassed their owners.”
Scott’s article also reveals some interesting technical points: “One thing that IS important is that the bullet be precisely seated against the lands. T.J. Jackson reported this fact in the May 1987 issue of Precision Shooting. In a letter to the Editor, T.J. wrote, ‘…in all our testing in that Houston warehouse… and the dozens and dozens of groups that Virgil King shot in there ‘in the zeroes’… he NEVER fired a single official screamer group when he was ‘jumping’ bullets. All his best groups were always seated into the lands, or at the very least… touching the lands. Virgil said his practice was to seat the bullets so the engraving was half as long as the width of the lands. He noticed an interesting phenomenon with rifles that could really shoot: if the bullets were seated a little short and the powder charge was a bit on the light side, the groups formed vertically. As he seated the bullets farther out and increased the powder charge, the groups finally became horizontal. If he went still farther, the groups formed big globs. He said the trick is to find the midway point between vertical and horizontal. That point should be a small hole.”
You should definitely read the complete article, as it provides many more fascinating insights, including shooting technique, barrel cleaning, neck-turning, and case prep.
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No doubt you’ve heard the term “reticle” before, but it probably brings to mind the cross-hair you see through a rifle-scope. This term “reticle” can also describe an optical aid used to score targets. This story discusses a new scoring reticle with precisely-defined circles etched on clear plexiglass. This scoring reticle (as attached to a magnifying crystal) is used to determine whether bullet holes fall inside or outside the scoring circles on targets. This unique new scoring reticle allows match scorers to “equalize” the shot placements of all popular calibers from .204 up to .308. This way, there’s a “level playing field” for all calibers, and any caliber rifle can compete on an equal basis with the 30s.
New ‘Equalizer’ VFS Scoring Reticle
by Ron Goodger
The ubiquitous controversy over the advantage of larger caliber bullets in VFS (Varmint for Score) matches still rages, but there is a simple solution that is being embraced by all to whom I have shown it. The concept is simple, and it accomplishes the same thing the UBR (Ultimate Benchrest) targets do with the advantage that it can be used on any target a club happens to have on hand.
I had heard shooters complain about the advantage that larger calibers have many times and wish there was a fair way to score targets that would level the playing field for all calibers. The UBR concept came along and I read up on it. When a match was held close enough that I could enter, I did so and observed first hand what it was all about. The UBR targets essentially make the distance from the bullet hole center to the scoring ring edge the same for each caliber by using different-sized rings on the caliber-specific targets. After seeing the accompanying disadvantages of using this method (the chief one being the large number of targets required by UBR rules and the resulting increased time required to hold a match), I began searching for a simpler way to accomplish the same thing. I was aware of a number of mid-West clubs wanting to make scoring fair but unwilling to use the UBR method because of the disadvantages.
I came up with an idea late in 2015 and designed a scoring reticle that would do the job. The following diagrams graphically explain how UBR and my scoring reticle accomplish the same thing. The illustration above shows how different caliber bullets hitting the same center point of impact will each just score the 10 ring edge on the different-sized, caliber-specific UBR 10 Rings . It is clear that it is the distance from the center of the bullet to the scoring ring that is made uniform by the different 10 Ring sizes.
The illustration below shows how my VFS scoring reticle accomplishes the same thing by scoring every shot with an .308-equivalent ring that circumscribes the inner caliber-specific ring. The dotted line shows that the center of each bullet hits the same distance from the edge of the scoring ring. It is clear that, using current VFS scoring techniques, the .224, .243, and .257 bullets would score misses. However, scoring each bullet with the .308 ring around the hole illustrates that all calibers would be scored the same.
Scoring Reticle Converts Any Caliber Shot to a .308-Equivalent Hole
The above photo of an IBS 100-yard target has a 6mm hole that is clearly a nine (9), using current scoring methods. But consider that, if a .308 bullet from a 30 BR hit in the very same location, that .30-caliber shot would score in the Ten Ring. Why should the 6mm bullet, whose center was just as close to the middle of the target, be penalized because of the bullet diameter? The image on the right shows the scoring reticle with the 6mm scoring ring centered on this hole. With this scoring reticle, the .308 ring around the 6mm hole clearly scores the 10 Ring, just as a 30-caliber bullet centered in the same spot would do. That is as fair as it can get.
The above image (two shots per frame) from a Hillsdale Michigan varmint target has two 6mm holes that scored a 16. Score values are 10 points for a shot in the white, 5 points for a shot in the orange, and 1 point for hitting the center dot. This was a match that had 30BRs shooting in it. The next photo shows how scoring this frame with the VFS reticle would have resulted in a 21 because the left side of the reticle’s .308 circle just extends into the 10-point white bulls-eye region. So, in effect, there were two (2) shots in the white for 2×10 points (based on the .308 equalizer effect of the reticle). This shows how the reticle will level the VFS playing field regardless of what target is being used.
VFS Scoring Reticle Features and Specifications
The 6mm circles have been placed in the center of the reticle because it is expected to be the most commonly-used caliber, and that makes it easier to see in the crystal. Any of the ring sets can be used for a .308. The sizes of the circles are guaranteed accurate to within .001″ on the outside edge of the circle by the reticle’s manufacturer. I have found the best magnifier crystal to use is a genuine Badash crystal that measures 3.25″ in diameter. They are available from several eBay sellers and are easily attached using a piece of packing tape about 3/4-inch wide around the edge of the reticle (visible on the crystal in the lower part of the photo). That makes the Plexiglas reticles easy to replace in the event they become scratched up from frequent use.
A number of Midwest rifle clubs have already purchased these scoring reticles. The Plexiglas reticles are available for $15.00 each plus $2.04 shipping from the author (does not include the crystal). Email him at LRGoodger [at] gmail dot com for more information.
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