March 15th, 2020

Sunday GunDay: Twin 30 BR Score Rigs — Thunder Down-Under

30BR Hunter Class Rifle
This story, from our Gun of the Week Archives, offers a good intro to the 30 BR cartridge, which is still the leading chambering for short-range Score Benchrest.

What’s better than one custom-built 30 BR with gorgeous wood and top-shelf components? A matching pair of course. Just ask Australian shooter Greg Roche (“Caduceus” in our Forum). A decade ago, Greg spent two years living and working in the USA. While in America, he commissioned two matched custom rifles to bring back to Australia for Hunter Class BR matches. Though the look-alike rigs are both chambered in 30 BR, one is designed for the Australian “Traditional” centerfire Hunter Class (10-lb limit), while the other is purpose-built for the “Custom” centerfire Hunter Class (14-lb limit). The 10-lb Traditional rifle features a fully-functioning two-round magazine and a 6-power scope. In contrast the Custom Class rifle is a single-shot action, with a 45X Leupold scope. The Custom weighs 13.5 pounds so it can also be used in traditional Heavy Varmint Benchrest matches if desired.

30BR Hunter Class Rifle

Tale of Two Rifles
Story and Photos by Greg Roche (“Caduceus”)

The USA boasts some of the finest precision rifle-builders and Benchrest parts suppliers in the world. Before returning to Australia after two years in the States, I decided to have two special BR rifles built using American components and skilled labor. I wanted a matched pair — twin guns that would be as handsome as they were accurate. The heavier gun of the pair, the 13.5-lb Custom Class rifle, features top-of-the-line (but well-proven) technologies and components. With the 10.5-lb Traditional Class rifle, we had to develop new solutions to allow the 30 BR cartridge to feed from a functional two-round magazine. Here is my saga of how my twin 30 BRs were conceived and built, and how they have performed in competition.

30BR Hunter Class Rifle

BACKGROUND — The 30 BR for Score Competition

The 30 BR is a wildcat cartridge based on a necked-up version of the 6mmBR Norma case. It originated in U.S. Benchrest circles where it found its niche in Varmint For Score (VFS) matches. Unlike traditional Benchrest, where group size determines the winner, VFS matches are shot on a target with multiple, concentric-ringed bullseyes. Point total is based on “best edge” shot location (one shot per bull). In score competition, the 30 BR’s “supersized” .308-diameter hole offers an advantage over the 6mm hole created by a 6 PPC, the dominant group BR chambering.

30 BR cartridge

The starting point for loading the 30 BR wildcat is Lapua 6mmBR brass. These are necked up as a single-step operation using a .30 caliber tapered expander ball (or dedicated expander mandrel). This will leave a bulge in the neck, so the expanded case neck is normally turned to bring the thickness down to the correct dimension for the chamber. I turned these necks down to .010″ wall thickness using a Stiller neck-turning tool. It features an eccentric mandrel similar to the Nielson “Pumpkin”. Loaded rounds measure .328″ neck diameter. This gives minimum clearance in my .330″ neck chamber, so very little neck resizing is needed after firing. Cases are trimmed to 1.500″ prior to turning to ensure consistency since the Stiller tool indexes the length of cut off the case mouth. Other than that, cases are just chamfered, loaded and made ready to shoot. No special fire-forming is required.

17-Twist Barrels for Both Rifles
Texan gunsmith Mike Bryant chambered both barrels. Mike also polished both barrels to a high-gloss to match the receivers. In this game, barrels are consumables, much like powder and primers, so most owners wouldn’t bother to polish their barrels. However a 30 BR barrel can provide up to 5000 rounds of accurate life (unlike a 6PPC barrel which might be tossed after 800-1000 rounds.) So, these barrels are likely to be on the rifles for many seasons. Given the high-gloss finish of the Grizzly actions and the beauty of the Red Cedar stocks, it would have been an injustice to leave a dull finish on the barrels.

The chambers were both cut with the same reamer supplied by Dave Kiff of Pacific Tool and Gauge. Randy Robinett, one of the originators of the 30 BR wildcat, specified the reamer dimensions. Randy’s 118gr, 10-ogive custom BIB bullets and the 30 BR cartridge enjoy a winning track record in the USA. The 30 BR Robinette reamer has zero free-bore and a .330″ neck, and is optimized for the BIB 118s. The bullets perform best when seated far enough out to jam firmly into the rifling as the bolt is closed. The long ogive means the bullet’s bearing surface is very short.

Slow Twists for Maximum Accuracy
You may note the unusually slow twist rate of both barrels. In most .30-caliber chamberings, the barrel twist rate is 1:11 or 1:12 to stabilize 150gr to 200gr bullets. The 30 BR is optimized for 115gr to 118gr flat-base bullets and 1:17 provides sufficient stability at muzzle velocities around 2900-3000 fps. In competitive Benchrest, where every thousandth of an inch counts, over-stabilization of projectiles can hurt accuracy, so “just stable enough” is the goal; hence the 1:17 twist.

Case Forming, Case Prep, and Reloading Methods

Sinclair Neck Micrometer, 30 BR Neck Turning
A Sinclair case neck micrometer indicates neck thickness of 0.010″ after neck turning.

Sinclair Neck Micrometer, 30 BR Neck Turning30 BR dies are readily available from a number of manufacturers. I personally use Wilson neck and seating dies with a Sinclair Arbor press, but Redding and Forster both supply high-quality threaded dies for use in a conventional press. For under $100.00 US, custom full-length dies can be obtained from Hornady and CH Tool & Die by sending them reamer prints or a couple of fired cases. Harrell’s Precision offers “semi-custom” dies. Just send them some fired cases and they select a pre-made CNC-cut die that ideally fits your chamber. You can ask the Harrell brothers for a die that’s tighter at the shoulder or base, or otherwise customized to your preferences.

Load Development and Accuracy Testing
With cases formed and bullets selected, load development is simply a matter of choosing the right primer, powder and charge weight, and loading the most consistent ammunition possible. The Lapua BR cases use a small rifle primer. The choice here was Federal 205 Match primers vs. CCI BR4 Benchrest primers. Some shooters have also had success using CCI 450 Magnum primers but it is very unlikely the small case needs this much spark to light off regular extruded powders. In my case, I selected Federal primers because availability tends to be better in Australia.

The relatively large bore-to-capacity ratio of the 30 BR case means that fast burning powders are the order of the day. Once again, US experience suggests H4198 (the Hodgdon equivalent of ADI AR2207) is the choice of match winners. The fact that H4198/AR2207 is an Australian-made product is an added bonus. So, I loaded up test rounds with AR2207 from 32.5 grains to 35.0 grains in approximately 0.3 grain increments. All bullets were seated to jam +0.010″ into the lands. This places the bullet base about two-thirds of the way down the neck and well short of the neck-shoulder junction.

READ FULL Story on AccurateShooter.com Main Site »

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March 3rd, 2018

Thunder for Down-Under — Twin 30 BR Score Benchrest Rigs

30BR Hunter Class Rifle
This story, from our Gun of the Week Archives, offers a good intro to the 30 BR cartridge, which is still the leading chambering for short-range Score Benchrest.

What’s better than one custom-built 30 BR with gorgeous wood and top-shelf components? A matching pair of course. Just ask Australian shooter Greg Roche (“Caduceus” in our Forum). A decade ago, Greg spent two years living and working in the USA. While in America, he commissioned two matched custom rifles to bring back to Australia for Hunter Class BR matches. Though the look-alike rigs are both chambered in 30 BR, one is designed for the Australian “Traditional” centerfire Hunter Class (10-lb limit), while the other is purpose-built for the “Custom” centerfire Hunter Class (14-lb limit). The 10-lb Traditional rifle features a fully-functioning two-round magazine and a 6-power scope. In contrast the Custom Class rifle is a single-shot action, with a 45X Leupold scope. The Custom weighs 13.5 pounds so it can also be used in traditional Heavy Varmint Benchrest matches if desired.

30BR Hunter Class Rifle

Tale of Two Rifles
Story and Photos by Greg Roche (“Caduceus”)

The USA boasts some of the finest precision rifle-builders and Benchrest parts suppliers in the world. Before returning to Australia after two years in the States, I decided to have two special BR rifles built using American components and skilled labor. I wanted a matched pair–twin guns that would be as handsome as they were accurate. The heavier gun of the pair, the 13.5-lb Custom Class rifle, features top-of-the-line (but well-proven) technologies and components. With the 10.5-lb Traditional Class rifle, we had to develop new solutions to allow the 30 BR cartridge to feed from a functional two-round magazine. Here is my saga of how my twin 30 BRs were conceived and built, and how they have performed in competition.

30BR Hunter Class Rifle

BACKGROUND — The 30 BR for Score Competition

The 30 BR is a wildcat cartridge based on a necked-up version of the 6mmBR Norma case. It originated in U.S. Benchrest circles where it found its niche in Varmint For Score (VFS) matches. Unlike traditional Benchrest, where group size determines the winner, VFS matches are shot on a target with multiple, concentric-ringed bullseyes. Point total is based on “best edge” shot location (one shot per bull). In score competition, the 30 BR’s “supersized” .308-diameter hole offers an advantage over the 6mm hole created by a 6 PPC, the dominant group BR chambering.

30 BR cartridge

The starting point for loading the 30 BR wildcat is Lapua 6mmBR brass. These are necked up as a single-step operation using a .30 caliber tapered expander ball (or dedicated expander mandrel). This will leave a bulge in the neck, so the expanded case neck is normally turned to bring the thickness down to the correct dimension for the chamber. I turned these necks down to .010″ wall thickness using a Stiller neck-turning tool. It features an eccentric mandrel similar to the Nielson “Pumpkin”. Loaded rounds measure .328″ neck diameter. This gives minimum clearance in my .330″ neck chamber, so very little neck resizing is needed after firing. Cases are trimmed to 1.500″ prior to turning to ensure consistency since the Stiller tool indexes the length of cut off the case mouth. Other than that, cases are just chamfered, loaded and made ready to shoot. No special fire-forming is required.

17-Twist Barrels for Both Rifles
Texan gunsmith Mike Bryant chambered both barrels. Mike also polished both barrels to a high-gloss to match the receivers. In this game, barrels are consumables, much like powder and primers, so most owners wouldn’t bother to polish their barrels. However a 30 BR barrel can provide up to 5000 rounds of accurate life (unlike a 6PPC barrel which might be tossed after 800-1000 rounds.) So, these barrels are likely to be on the rifles for many seasons. Given the high-gloss finish of the Grizzly actions and the beauty of the Red Cedar stocks, it would have been an injustice to leave a dull finish on the barrels.

The chambers were both cut with the same reamer supplied by Dave Kiff of Pacific Tool and Gauge. Randy Robinett, one of the originators of the 30 BR wildcat, specified the reamer dimensions. Randy’s 118gr, 10-ogive custom BIB bullets and the 30 BR cartridge enjoy a winning track record in the USA. The 30 BR Robinette reamer has zero free-bore and a .330″ neck, and is optimized for the BIB 118s. The bullets perform best when seated far enough out to jam firmly into the rifling as the bolt is closed. The long ogive means the bullet’s bearing surface is very short.

Slow Twists for Maximum Accuracy
You may note the unusually slow twist rate of both barrels. In most .30-caliber chamberings, the barrel twist rate is 1:11 or 1:12 to stabilize 150gr to 200gr bullets. The 30 BR is optimized for 115gr to 118gr flat-base bullets and 1:17 provides sufficient stability at muzzle velocities around 2900-3000 fps. In competitive Benchrest, where every thousandth of an inch counts, over-stabilization of projectiles can hurt accuracy, so “just stable enough” is the goal; hence the 1:17 twist.

Case Forming, Case Prep, and Reloading Methods

Sinclair Neck Micrometer, 30 BR Neck Turning
A Sinclair case neck micrometer indicates neck thickness of 0.010″ after neck turning.

Sinclair Neck Micrometer, 30 BR Neck Turning30 BR dies are readily available from a number of manufacturers. I personally use Wilson neck and seating dies with a Sinclair Arbor press, but Redding and Forster both supply high-quality threaded dies for use in a conventional press. For under $100.00 US, custom full-length dies can be obtained from Hornady and CH Tool & Die by sending them reamer prints or a couple of fired cases. Harrell’s Precision offers “semi-custom” dies. Just send them some fired cases and they select a pre-made CNC-cut die that ideally fits your chamber. You can ask the Harrell brothers for a die that’s tighter at the shoulder or base, or otherwise customized to your preferences.

Load Development and Accuracy Testing
With cases formed and bullets selected, load development is simply a matter of choosing the right primer, powder and charge weight, and loading the most consistent ammunition possible. The Lapua BR cases use a small rifle primer. The choice here was Federal 205 Match primers vs. CCI BR4 Benchrest primers. Some shooters have also had success using CCI 450 Magnum primers but it is very unlikely the small case needs this much spark to light off regular extruded powders. In my case, I selected Federal primers because availability tends to be better in Australia.

The relatively large bore-to-capacity ratio of the 30 BR case means that fast burning powders are the order of the day. Once again, US experience suggests H4198 (the Hodgdon equivalent of ADI AR2207) is the choice of match winners. The fact that H4198/AR2207 is an Australian-made product is an added bonus. So, I loaded up test rounds with AR2207 from 32.5 grains to 35.0 grains in approximately 0.3 grain increments. All bullets were seated to jam +0.010″ into the lands. This places the bullet base about two-thirds of the way down the neck and well short of the neck-shoulder junction.

READ FULL Story on AccurateShooter.com Main Site »

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September 18th, 2014

IBS Match Report: 100/200 Score Nationals in North Carolina

Report by Dick Grosbier for IBS
Over the weekend of September 13-14, 2014, the Ashe County Wildlife Club of Laurel Springs, North Carolina hosted the 44th annual IBS 100/200 Score Nationals. Sixty-two shooters were on the line for the event, including many record holders and major match winners.

Click Photo for full-screen version
Ashe Country NC IBS Score Nationals

CLICK HERE for Match Results Spreadsheet | CLICK HERE for Competitors’ Equipment List

The shooters traveled from as far away as Florida, Wisconsin, and Maine. Considering the miserable weather forecast for Saturday it was really a pretty nice day. We did have rain but thanks to the way the roof overhangs the firing line (photo below) the competitors stayed dry, only the target crew got wet. In spite of this they did an excellent job — they were fully prepared as the forecast was for a very high percentage chance of rain. Saturday got into the high 70s and actually got a little muggy. Sunday was overcast cooler and little if any rain fell.

Ashe Country NC IBS Score Nationals

This was my third visit to Ashe County this year and I must say it gets better each time. They have a great crew of people and a wonderful facility. There are 30 covered benches located next to a very large (40’x160’) reloading, scoring, dining, and clubhouse facility. The entire range is built on the side of a big hill. They have literally moved thousands of cubic yards of dirt (50,000+) to build this facility.


Breeden Busts Record — 1000-59X Two-Gun Total May Be Best Ever!
This year’s IBS Score Nationals saw a performance for the ages. Dean Breeden put together one of the most impressive feats of score shooting in history. Dean’s Two-Gun total score (for VFS and Hunter) was a stunning 1000-59X. This is a pending new Two-Gun IBS world record. Think about that — this means that Dean did not drop a single point through twenty (20) total matches (i.e. 20 targets), while alternating between two different rifles, one with a puny 6-power scope! That’s 100 “Tens” in a row on 100 Bullseyes, without fail. That’s really a remarkable achievement. As least Dean does not have to console the old record-holder, because the pre-existing record, 1000-52X, was set by (you guessed it), Mr. Dean Breeden. In besting his own record by seven Xs, Breeden won the Two-Gun award at this year’s IBS Score Nationals and earned a new entry in the record books. Congrats to Dean!

Ashe Country NC IBS Score Nationals

Bullet-maker Randy Robinett was amazed at Breeden’s 1000-59X performance. “Some years ago, I held the Two-Gun score record with a 999-52X. What Dean has accomplished with his 1000-59X is truly noteworthy — this really is a BIG deal. Let me tell you, getting 1000 points is really hard to do. You have to switch between two different rifles, and adjust from a high-power scope to a 6X scope, changing rests and equipment all the time. This is very tough.”


Looking at the Equipment List (Editor’s Comment)
The Equipment List from the 2014 IBS Score Nationals is quite revealing. As you’d expect, this match was very much a 30-caliber affair, but we were surprised to see such dominance by cut-rifled barrels, and Hodgdon H4198 powder.

1. All of the Top 15 VFS shooters ran cut-rifled barrels. There were mostly Bartleins and Kriegers, with two Brux barrels and one Rock Creek.

2. Hodgdon H4198 is definitely the powder of choice, used by 14 of the Top 20 VFS shooters. Federal 205M primers were used by at least 13 of the Top 20 shooters.

3. Randy Robinett’s BIB bullets were the most popular, used by four of the Top 10 shooters.

4. Every VFS shooter and every Hunter Class shooter was running a 30-caliber cartridge. Most VFS shooters ran 30BRs, but the 30×47 cartridge was favored by half the Hunter shooters.

5. Two gunsmiths smithed six of the Top 10 rifles. Three were by Mike Niblett and three were by Sid Goodling (who also smithed #11 and #12).

6. BAT Machine actions are still #1. BAT actions were used by 14 of the Top 20 shooters.

Ashe Country NC IBS Score Nationals

Mike Niblett (above) had a typical VFS rig: BAT action, Krieger cut-rifled barrel, with a Nightforce 12-42X scope. Mike used H4198 of course, but he shot Hill bullets in his 30BR, rather than BIBs.

Many 250s with 20 or more Xs Shot on Saturday
Saturday, at 100 yards, it was the Kevin and K.L. show. Kevin Donalds Sr. and K.L. Miller took the lead in Varmint For Score, and Hunter classes respectively all day long. Kevin turned in a fine score of 250-22X followed closely by Dean Breeden with 250-21X. Dean was just barely short of the win all weekend in both classes. Mike Niblett was third with 250-20X, ahead of five other 250-20X scores based on tie-breaker. There were four 19X and eight 18X scores. K.L. Miller turned in a fine 250-18x score in Hunter Class followed closely by Peter Hills and Frank McKee (both with 250-16Xs). It was moderately windy and switchy all day and since the Nationals involve shooting each record match from a different bench you essentially faced a new set of conditions each time you came to the line.

‘Top Guns’ at the Score Nationals: Kevin Donald Sr., K.L. Miller, and Dean Breeden.
Ashe Country NC IBS Score Nationals

Sunday it was overcast and cooler but not as rainy. Anthony Isner stepped up and took the lead in VFS class turning in a fine 250-16X score. Second place went to, you guessed it, Dean Breeden. Dean’s 250-15X was followed closely by Kevin Donalds Sr. also with 15X. In Hunter class it was Randy Jarvais’s turn to win an Aggregate. Randy’s 250-9X score beat out Dean’s 250-8X and Miller’s 250-7X scores.

In the VFS Grand Aggregate, Kevin Donalds Sr. topped the field with 500-37X, followed by Dean Breeden with 500-36X, and Anthony Isner with 500-34X. K.L. Miller won the Hunter Grand Agg handily — his 500-25X easily topped Dean’s 500-23X and Randy’s 500-20X totals. The IBS 2-Gun award went to Dean Breeden with a record score of 1000-59X. This is a potential new 2-Gun record as he bested his own record by seven Xs.

Ashe Country NC IBS Score Nationals

Ashe Country NC IBS Score Nationals

Praise for the Match Organizers and Staff
All in all it was a very well run match at a great new facility. This was the first Nationals event to be held there but it will not be the last. Hats off to E.T. Weaver and his helpers. The target crew deserves special mention. They were very good and very fast. A match with full bench rotation can be a nightmare for any target crew but these guys handled it like old pros even though it was their first-ever attempt. Well done guys and gals!

Ashe Country NC IBS Score Nationals

Ashe Country NC IBS Score Nationals

The Ashe County Wildlife Club put on a great event, complete with delicious country Barbecue.
Ashe Country NC IBS Score Nationals

Photos Courtesy Clint Johnson and Dick Grosbier.
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July 16th, 2012

Wilkinson Wins Hunter Class at .50 Cal World Championships

Walter WilkinsonUsing a “box-stock”, 30-lb Steyr HS.50 rifle, Walter Wilkinson of Edgewood, NM, bested a field of 31 competitors (most using heavier custom rifles) to take the Hunter Class Score title at the recent Fifty Caliber Shooters Association World Championships. This event was held July 1st and 2nd at the NRA Whittington Center outside Raton, NM. This is the second year in a row that a competitor with an off-the-shelf Steyr HS.50 won the Hunter Class title. (Eduardo Abril de Fontcuberta won Hunter Class with an HS.50 last year.)

Wilkinson, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces sergeant major and current Gunsite Academy instructor, ran up a two-day Aggregate score of 274-6X out of a possible 300, beating his next closest competitor, .50 Cal legend Lee Rasmussen, by two Xs. The Hunter Class is a 1,000-yard course of fire consisting of six, five-shot strings, with three strings shot on the first day, and three strings shot on the second day. Due to the wildly varying winds on this range, competitors who shot in the morning of the first day were required to shoot in the afternoon of the second day, and vice versa, to equal the playing field.

Slotted in the first afternoon’s fourth relay, Wilkinson’s consistency, solid wind-doping and holding skills paid off as the winds made an especially tricky display with a 180-degree shift as thunderheads came over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Heading into his morning relay on the second day, Wilkinson found himself in second place with nothing to do but hammer the 10-ring to work his way into the championship title.

Walter Wilkinson

Wilkinson’s .50 Delivered Quarter-MOA Groups During Load Testing
Wilkinson said the Steyr .50-Cal has shown outstanding accuracy: “As I was working up a load for the HS.50, I shot groups that amazed me. I was getting groups of .214 MOA at 220 yards, and I didn’t know what to think. All the bullets were going in the same hole, and it was like ‘Wow, I’ve really got a rifle that can shoot here’. They were the best groups that I have ever shot in my life — and they were with the .50 BMG!” That surprised Wilkinson: “With my [military] experience with the performance of the same cartridge overseas, I didn’t expect that kind of accuracy out of it.”

Walter Wilkinson

Wilkinson Was Also Member of Winning .50 Cal Team
Along with his individual Hunter Class Title, Wilkinson earned team honors as a Ten-X team member. The Ten-X team won the Team World Championship with an aggregate score of 1081-24X combined with an average group size of 14.549 inches. Each team had four shooters with one from each of the four classes represented at the .50 Caliber Championships: Light, Heavy, Unlimited, and Hunter.

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