August 20th, 2010

Team Savage Does Well in Can-Am Fullbore Matches

Savage’s Fullbore (Palma) rifle team performed well in recent competitions. The four-man team (Darrell Buell of Damascus, OR, John Weil of Welches, OR, Monte Milanuk of Wenatchee WA, and Stan Pate of Milwaukie, OR) wrapped up the season with two internationally-sanctioned matches. The first was the Canadian International Fullbore Championships in Chilliwack, B.C. and and the second was the Pacific International Fullbore Championships held just outside of Portland, OR. At both matches, elite shooters from around the world competed at 800, 900 and 1,000 yards. The two matches combined constitute a “Super Aggregate”, or Continental Title.

Team Savage Fullbore
Team members (L to R): John Weil, Darrell Buell, Monte Milanuk and Stan Pate. (File Photo 2009).

Team Savage loaded up on the hardware at both matches, winning multiple medals at the various distances. Savage’s four shooters captured the team gold at the Canadian match and Gold and Silver in the individual Super Aggregate.

Savage Palma Rifle

At the Pacific Int’l match in Oregon, local knowledge helped Team Savage rack up the medals. This competition was held on Weil and Pate’s home range at the Douglass Ridge Rifle Club. With John Weil leading the way, Team Savage put on a clinic: Weil won all seven gold medals available, while teammate Pate won six silvers. Milanuk added three bronzes. Weil also shot an impressive 148-4X at 1000 yards. In the video below, Team Captain Stan Pate demonstrates the accuracy of the Savage Palma (Fullbore) rifle, nailing a steel target at 1169 yards.

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February 7th, 2010

Palma Projectiles: 155s vs. the Heavier 30-Caliber Bullets

Rifle Palma bulletsIn December, we published the rules controlling choice of caliber and bullet weight for Palma competition. (CLICK HERE to Read.) In the USA, some events are still limited to 156gr or lighter bullets for .308-caliber shooters. But where such restrictions don’t exist, many shooters are using heavy 175-190gr bullets in their .308s. Is the heavier bullet always better? What considerations favor the lighter 155gr-class bullets in Palma competition? Top Palma shooter Kelly Bachand addresses these questions in today’s commentary.

Factors That Favor the 155s
by Kelly Bachand
It is clear that 155gr bullets are adequate. In the Palma game, more matches have been won and more 450 scores have been shot with 155gr bullets than with any other weight projectile. With the NRA allowing heavier bullets in Palma matches, many shooters prefer to shoot the longer, heavier bullets when possible. With their higher BCs, the longer bullets would seem to offer a ballistic advantage. There may be an edge, but in my opinion, it comes at a high cost.

Shooting a heavier bullet adds complications. You’ll probably need a different powder and new load development will have to be done. New zeroes must be calculated and confirmed on the range. An expensive new barrel with a faster twist rate may be needed to stabilize the heavier bullets. And unless you’re lucky, there’s a chance that the new barrel is less accurate than your existing barrel. (If you’ve got a “hummer” barrel for the 155s, what are the odds of getting another one as good for the 190s?) For a shooter who only competes domestically and who has plenty of time and money, this does not pose much of a problem, as he can work up multiple loads and acquire multiple barrels, or even build up a second complete rifle. But shooting BOTH the 155s and the heavy bullets (which may require a new barrel) certainly adds to the cost of competing, and the time required to work up loads. One who also competes internationally has much more to worry about, since you’ll likely be switching between the heavy bullets for most domestic matches and the 155s for most international matches.

Rifle Palma bullets

Consider the challenges you’ll encounter switching between a heavy-bullet domestic load and a 155gr international load. Will changing between two different loads (with very different recoil levels) alter your gun-handling and follow-through? Will having two loads (with different ballistics) create confusion when making wind calls? And if you DO shoot both 155s and 190s, should you have two different barrels, or should you stick to one barrel which is adequate for both bullet weights, but perhaps not optimal for either? The heavier bullets typically have a better BC which means they should be less bothered by the wind. At the same time the heavier bullets travel at a much slower velocity. Does this negate the ballistic advantage? You need to check the ballistic tables carefully, looking at BOTH BC and velocity.

As a person who prefers to keep things simple and stick with what works, it’s no surprise I continue to shoot 155gr bullets exclusively in Palma competitions. But I understand this is just one viewpoint. A Palma shooter reading this should survey competitors who are consistently putting themselves in the winner’s circle. Talk to top shooters and then make your own rational, informed decision about which bullets to use. Good luck and keep them in the center.

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December 30th, 2009

Palma Shooting — What Calibers Are Permitted?

There is, understandably, quite a bit of confusion concerning caliber limitations for Palma rifles and Palma competition. Some folks say you can shoot a .308 Winchester (or 7.62 NATO) with a bullet weight up to 156 grains. Others say you can shoot a .308 Win (or 7.62 NATO) with any bullet weight. Still others opine that you can shoot EITHER a .223 Rem (5.56×45) or a .308 Win (or 7.62 NATO).

So who is right? Well, all these viewpoints are correct in part. That’s because different rules apply in different venues. In most, but not all United States Palma competitions, you can shoot either a .223 Rem or .308 Win with no restriction on bullet weights. In some U.S. Matches, most notably the Spirit of America, certain prizes are limited to .308s with 156gr max bullet weights OR .223s with 81gr max bullet weights. What’s the bottom line? In most USA Palma competitions you can shoot either a .308 or a .223 with no limit on bullet weight. In International Palma competitions you can shoot either a .308 or a .223 but the max bullet weight is limited.

Applicable Rules for NRA Palma Competition
To help clarify the Palma rules, German Salazar has collected the applicable NRA and international rules which govern Palma and iron-sights fullbore competition. First, German explains: “The Palma Rifle is defined by NRA High Power Rule 3.3.3″ which states:

3.3.3 U.S. Palma Rifle:
(a) A rifle with metallic sights chambered for the unmodified .308/7.62 or
.223/5.56 NATO cartridge case. Rifles which also meet Rules 3.1 (.308 only)
or 3.1.1 (.308 only) are authorized.

(b) A rifle with metallic sights chambered for the unmodified .308/7.62 NATO
cartridge case. Rifles which also meet Rules 3.1 (.308 only) or 3.1.1 (.308
only or 3.1.2 (.223 only) are authorized.

German tells us: “The references to Rules 3.1, 3.1.1 and 3.1.2 apply to the M1, M14 and M16 rifles or civilian equivalents thereof. Accordingly, Palma Division ‘A’, which is how all matches other than the National Matches are fired, allows any rifle chambered in .308 or .223 with metallic sights. Palma, Division B, which is rarely seen outside the Nationals, is a separate award category for the service rifle in a Palma match.”

German notes that: “In all instances, there is no restriction on bullet weight, rifle weight or trigger weight of pull. All of these are unrestricted. The rules specify that the rifle must be chambered for the unmodified .308 or .223 “cartridge case” but if the chamber has, for instance, a longer than standard throat to accomodate a heavier bullet, that is acceptable.”

CLICK HERE to download NRA High Power Rules Book (PDF File)

MT Guns Palma Rifle

NEW NRA Fullbore Rules and International Rules
A few matches are run under the new NRA Fullbore Rules which are meant to align the USA with the rules observed in other nations competing in similar matches. The most notable of these is the annual Spirit of America Match which is also the Fullbore National Championship. The Grand Aggregate prize of the Fullbore National Championship is restricted to those competitors firing the International Target Rifle.

Under the Fullbore Rules, there are two categories of rifle, the Target Rifle, which is the same as the High Power Palma Rifle, and the International Target Rifle, which is compliant with the rules of most other nations. The International Target Rifle has restrictions on trigger weight of pull, but no restrictions on overall rifle weight. Additionally, there is an ammunition restriction which limits the weight of the bullet to 156 grains for the .308 and to 81 grains for the .223; this restriction applies to both Target Rifle and International Target Rifle categories. The applicable rules are listed below.

CLICK HERE to download NRA Fullbore Rule Book (PDF File)

3.3.5 Target Rifle:
(a) A rifle with metallic sights chambered for the unmodified .308/7.62mm
cartridge case. This rifle has no restrictions regarding weight of the rifle
or trigger, However, the trigger must be safe.

(b) A rifle with metallic sights chambered for the unmodified .223/5.56mm x
45 cartridge case. This rifle has no restrictions regarding weight of the
rifle or trigger. However, the trigger must be safe.

3.3.6 International Target Rifle:
(a) A rifle with metallic sights chambered for the unmodified .308/7.62mm
cartridge case with a minimum trigger weight of 0.5 kilograms (approximately
1.1 pounds and the total weight of the rifle is unlimited. OR…

(b) A rifle with metallic sights chambered for the unmodified .223/5.56mm
cartridge case with a minimum trigger weight of 0.5 kilograms (approximately
1.1 pounds) and the total weight of the rifle is unlimited.

3.17 Ammunition:
(a) Target Rifle / International Target Rifle — .308/7.62mm NATO with a
maximum permitted bullet weight of less than 156 grains or .223/5.56mm x 45 NATO with a maximum permitted bullet weight of less than 81 grains.

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September 8th, 2009

Young Yank Wins Honors at Canadian Fullbore Championships

Kelly Bachand Palma BarnardKelly Bachand, a 22-year-old electrical engineering student at the Univ. of Washington, recently ventured to the Canadian Fullbore Rifle Championships held August 13-22 at the Connaught Ranges in Ottawa. He arrived an unknown, relatively untested in international competition. By the end of the week, every shooter in Ottawa knew this young man’s name.

Kelly turned in a performance of historic proportions, out-shooting 300 other marksman to win many of the event’s most prestigious matches, including the Open Target Rifle Championship with a score of 1045-105V (the “V” is the Canadian equivalent of an “X” in the USA). Kelly also won the multi-day 21st Century Aggregate (1344-140V), the Harrison Aggregate, the MacDonald Stewart Aggregate (824-80V), the Polar Bear Aggregate, and he shot on the winning USA Young Eagles team in the Under 25 international team matches.

Among the various matches at the Canadian Championships, Kelly had eight (8) first place finishes, and twenty other Top 10 finishes. As you can see at right, Kelly harvested enough trophies to fill a truck. And to top that off, just after returning from Canada, Kelly won the 2009 Northwest Int’l Prone Championship. He did that all with his new Barnard-actioned .308 Palma rifle provided by MT Guns.

Years of Preparation Lead to Success
Though he’s only 22, Kelly has been shooting for over 16 years. He told us: “I began shooting when I got a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas when I was 6. I shot air rifle in high school and enjoyed it immensely. After graduating in 2005, I joined a Washington-based high power rifle team, the Bad Apples, which went on to win National Junior team titles. I began shooting long range with a Palma rifle towards the end of 2005 and was then the high junior at Camp Perry in the Leech Cup in 2006 and the Andrus in 2007 (both times shooting a borrowed Palma rifle). While I had been high junior and placed first in my classification a number of times, it was not until the weekend before the Canadian Championships that I earned my first overall match win — in a small local event with no more than 20 shooters. This match was, however, a huge success for me mentally; I did not crumble under pressure on my last string at 600 yards and ended the match with a perfect score, not dropping a single point.”

Kelly Bachand Palma Barnard

Special Challenge of Pair Shooting in Canada
Kelly reports: “The biggest differences about shooting in Canada are the 5-point V centered targets which are black and white (not buff) and the fact that shooting is done in pairs. I had been to the range in Connaught before in 2007 as a firing member of the World Champion Under 21 USA Young Eagles. The range there is beautiful and studded with flags between the firing line and the target bay. Unfortunately the flags were brand new this year and were unresponsive to wind for the first few days of shooting. It was sunny, cloudy, there was thunder, and there was rain so thick that the targets literally disappeared and shooting had to be paused. I had to be ready for anything.

After a few days of shooting I noticed my name was towards the top in a few Aggregates, but I focused my energy to avoid thinking about anything more than the next shot I needed to take. At one point I shot a perfect score but with a very low V count, and a friend asked me about it, I jokingly replied “it doesn’t matter how many Vs I shoot if I keep shooting cleans.” And that’s how I steadily moved up after each day of shooting. Beginning the final day in first place, I was paired with the second place Canadian shooter, who was just a point behind me, for the final 15 shots at 900m. I have never felt more pressure than when I was shooting side by side with my competition. Each shot I knew what I needed to do. Throughout the entire 15-shot string, that knowledge increased my heart rate but also my desire to win.”

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MT Guns Provides Winning Match Rifle
As a “starving student”, a new Palma rifle was out of reach financially for Kelly … until MT Guns came to the rescue. Kelly explains: “When I was no longer able to borrow the match rifle I had used as a junior, I needed a new gun. As a college student paying for school with a part-time job, I couldn’t afford a competitive Palma rifle. Seeking sponsorship, I contacted Mac Tilton of MT Guns and asked if he could help me out. Mac generously offered to provide me with a complete rifle, and his crew at MT Guns produced an absolute tack-driver. My new MT Guns .308 Palma rifle features a Barnard 3-lug action, 32” True-Flight barrel, a Mastin Anschütz-style stock, Warner rear sight, and Riles 22mm front sight. This rifle fits me well and is a pleasure to shoot. The gun groups better than any other rifle I have shot. My load is 46+ grains of Varget pushing Sierra 155gr #2156 MKs with CCI BR-2 primers in Lapua brass. I have shot this load exclusively in every competition whether it was a Palma match or an any/iron match.” Interestingly, Kellly shot the entire Canadian Championship without cleaning his New Zealand-made True-Flite barrel. According to Kelly, he put “nothing but bullets through the barrel in Canada — well over 300 rounds including sighters and team matches”.

Kelly Bachand Palma Barnard

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September 4th, 2009

Litz Dominates 2009 Spirit of America Match

Well I guess we’re all going to have to read Bryan’s book now…. Over the past few days in Raton (NM), Bryan Litz, author of Applied Ballistics for Long-Range Shooting, proved he has the trigger-pulling skills to match his technical knowledge. At the 2009 Spirit of America Nat’l Fullbore Prone Championship, Bryan put on a clinic, winning most of the individual fullbore matches, and leading his “Palma Red” Team to victory in the Cunico Team Match, Folsom Team Match, Sierra Team Match, and Galaxy Team Match. The “Palma Red” Team was ably coached by Steve Cunico. Bryan’s fellow “Palma Red” shooters on the team were David Crandall, Trudie Fay, and Noma Mayo, all of whom shot great. Congratulations to Coach Cunico, Bryan, and all the Palma Red team members.

Bryan Litz also lead the pack in all the individual Aggregate standings — Short Agg, Long Agg, and Grand Agg (1793-121X). Finishing second in Individual Grand Agg was Mitchell Maxberry (1788-108X), and Nancy Tompkins took third (1787-112X). Charles Ballard (2008 F-Class Nat’l Champ) was the overall top shooter in F-Class with a 1775-94X. Second-place finisher Danny Biggs (1770-83X) edged Larry Batholome (1769-103X) by one point, but Larry had the high X-count among F-Classers. Keep in mind that F-Class targets have smaller scoring rings than the full-bore targets.

There must be some good info in Bryan’s Ballistics book, because Bryan seemed to have an edge over all the other shooters at the SOA this year. Litz started strong and stayed strong throughout the week, winning three of four individual events. USAR Shooter Russel Theurer captured the Sinclair Int’l Individual Match with a strong 449-24X performance. Russ observed: “It’s interesting to see that every day’s Match was won with the Berger 155.5 bullet”. Complete results of the 2009 SOA can be found on the Bald Eagles Rifle Club website. Here are rankings from the individual events:

McGee Individual Match
Bryan Litz, 450-30X | Nancy Tompkins, 447-29X | Mitchell Maxberry, 446-27X

U.S. Air Force Individual Match
Bryan Litz, 449-31X | Trudie Fay, 449-25X | Michelle Gallagher, 448-28X

Sinclair Individual Match
Russel Theurer, 449-24X | David Crandall, 448-33X | Mitchell Maxberry, 448-26X

Sierra Bullets Individual Match
Bryan Litz, 448-30X | Michelle Gallager, 448-29X | Mark Andrew, 447-21X

SOA Grand Aggregate (Individual)
Bryan Litz, 1793-121X | Mitchell Maxberry, 1788-108X | Nancy Tompkins, 1787-112X

Praise for Bald Eagles Club
Bryan Litz had high praise for the folks who run the Spirit of America Match: “The Bald Eagles do a great job running a safe and efficient National Championship. There is an extraordinary amount of experience and common sense at work…. In my opinion, they’re a shining example of how things should be done. One example is squading the relays according to standings. I believe it makes for a more fair contest. If you enjoy midrange and long range shooting, then I highly recommend making the trip to Raton for the Spirit of America match next year. The range is beautiful, people are friendly, and you’ll get plenty of team and individual shooting in the 7 days.”

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