September 11th, 2017

Modernizing a Veteran Benchrest Rig — “Old 87″ Gets Updates

James Mock BAT Action Terry Leonard Stock old 87

Updating a 20+ Year-Old Benchrest Rifle

by James Mock
After owning three different rifles with BAT actions, I have become a loyal fan of BAT Machine quality and customer service. Back in 2009, I traded my BAT/Scoville for the BAT/Leonard that I currently shoot. This rifle has a long history and Terry Leonard told me that “Old 87″ (as I have named it) was one of the earlier BATs that he stocked. He wrapped the stock in fiberglass and used 2-part epoxy back then. I must say that this rifle has held up remarkably well since it dates back to the 1990s. The action is a RB/LP/RE octagon Model B with .308 bolt-face.

With this gun, I have shot several barrels of different calibers (.22 PPC, .22 PPC-short .095, 6mm PPC, 6XC, 6mm Dasher, .30BR, and will soon have a 6 BR-AI). It has been an exceptionally accurate rifle in several disciplines. In the hands of previous owners, it earned several Hall-of-Fame (HOF) points, and a “middle-of-the-pack” shooter (me) even received a HOF point with this rifle.

James Mock BAT Action Terry Leonard Stock old 87

For most of its life, Old 87 served as a short range benchrest rifle, but I have used it for the last few years as a 600-yard rifle with the 6mm Dasher barrel. I was lucky enough to earn the Shooter of the Year award at the Prince Memorial Range in Louisiana for 2016.

After shooting my two Dasher barrels for last eight years, I have noticed a drop-off in accuracy at 600 yards. A decision had to be made — get a new barrel or sell the rifle and retire from competition. I will be 74 years old in six months and my competition days are limited due mainly to a chronic neck problem. After mulling over the decision to retire or not, I decided to give Old 87 one more year. Here is the story of how we upgraded the old war-horse.

Old 87 REBORN — Upgrading with New Components

I prefer cut-rifled barrels with four lands and grooves and have had success with .236 bore diameters and 1:8″ twist in long range rifles. I searched for barrels meeting those parameters and found a suitable BRUX at Bugholes.com (Southern Precision Rifles).

The 6BR-AI Option — Easy Fire Forming
I thought about having Billy Stevens chamber it for the Dasher, but decided to try something new. There seems to be a lot of interest in the 6BR-AI and I said, “Why not?” Well, I bought a shortened Dasher die from Harrell’s and will use my Wilson Dasher seating die. Bart Sauter was kind enough to let me use his reamer for chambering.

Fitting a New Roller-Type Cocking Piece on Older BAT Action
Since I was into the project this deep, I called Mike Ezell and ordered one of his Tungsten powder-dampened tuners. Since Old 87 had thousands of rounds since the firing pin spring has been replaced, I decided that it was probably needed. Well, I got to thinking (very dangerous) and asked Daryle Thom if it would be feasible to put a roller-type cocking piece and a new firing pin spring on such an old action.

The folks at BAT are very accommodating and they said that it would be no problem with such a conversion. While my bolt was in Idaho, the barrel with Ezell tuner arrived and I could not shoot it. However, my friend Jeff Turner loaned me his BAT bolt to see if it would work. Although the rifles differ in age by 15 or more years, the borrowed bolt worked perfectly in my rifle. This is a testimony to the great machine work performed at BAT Machine.

James Mock BAT Action Terry Leonard Stock old 87

New Bolt Roller Tail-Piece Makes a Big Difference in Cocking Effort
With the borrowed bolt I managed to fire-form 50 rounds and get them ready for our 600-yard match on September 16. The folks at BAT quickly fixed my bolt by replacing the mainspring and ejector spring, polishing the ejector, and replacing the tail-piece with their roller type. Pictured below is this tail piece that makes a remarkable difference in the force needed to cock the action. It is amazing what this little wheel can do… even when placed in a 20+ year old action.

James Mock BAT Action Terry Leonard Stock old 87

Working with the Ezell Barrel Tuner — Small Increments Work Best
Also, I would like to congratulate Mike Ezell on his new tuner which contains powdered Tungsten. It is easy to set up and Mike will help a buyer get maximum effectiveness from the unit. Just give him a call. Below is a picture of the tuner. I was lucky enough to have some time to “play” with it before the match.

Talking about the tuner, Mike writes: “Our new barrel tuners…
PDT stands for particle dampening technology. The science is there, we just applied it to a barrel tuner. The advantages are a wider tune window and more efficient control of barrel harmonics…in a tuner design that actually looks good.”

Mike advised me to set the tuner by turning it all the way into the shoulder and then come out to zero or the second time zero comes up if there is not at least half of a turn between the shoulder and the first zero. It is best to start with a proven load and adjust the tuner from that load. As unlikely as it seems, a rifle can go from a good tune to a very poor tune with only 5 marks (.005”) and vice versa.

James Mock BAT Action Terry Leonard Stock old 87

Mike cautions those who use his tuner to NOT make adjustments which are too large. As a matter of fact, he recommends adjustments of .001 inch at a time. Ezell’s tuners are screwed onto the barrel with .900” by 32 threads per inch and has 32 marks on the circumference of the tuner. Therefore, each mark moves the tuner in or out by .001 inch. There are three set screws with Teflon tips which provide friction for the tuner on the threads. Do not tighten the screws so tight as they damage the fine threads.

If you want the smoothest bolt possible for your BAT, call or e-mail Daryle or Bruce Thom at BAT Machine and discuss your needs with them. I am sure glad that I did. If you want a state-of-the-Art tuner for your barrel, give Mike Ezell a call or visit his Ezell Custom Rifles Facebook Page.
— Good shooting, James Mock

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August 31st, 2017

Vortex 15-60x52mm Golden Eagle Scope Review by James Mock

Vortex Optics Golden Eagle Scope 15-60x52mm review F-Class F-TR

Review by James Mock
If you were charged with building a scope for F-Class or long range Benchrest, what features would you want? Vortex asked that question, received feedback from many competitors, and then set out to build a new high-magnification, zoom comp scope that would set a new “performance for price” standard.

The new Vortex Golden Eagle has features that this shooter really appreciates. It has a power range of 15x to 60x with a 52mm objective lens. Vortex has attempted to keep the weight as low as possible and the cost reasonable. My initial impression is that Vortex spared no expense in developing this scope. The “street price” for this premium scope is a reasonable $1499.00. Plus it has Unconditional Lifetime Warranty. Given its features, performance, and price, I believe that this scope will sell very well.

Vortex Optics Golden Eagle Scope 15-60x52mm review F-Class F-TR

Here are the important features of the new 15-60x52mm Golden Eagle:

Quality Construction

Premium HD, extra-low dispersion glass
APO (apochromatic) objective lens system with index-matched lenses
XRP multi-coated lenses for max light transmission
ArmorTek extra-hard lens coating to protect lens from dust, dirt, and smudges
Fogproof and Waterproof (Argon gas purged)

Specifications

Field of View at 100 yards: 6.3 feet at 15X; 1.7 feet at 60X
Main Tube: One-piece 30mm
Length: 16.1 inches; Weight is 29.7 ounces
Objective Lens: 52mm
Eye Relief: 3.9 inches
Reticles: SCR-1 FCH; ECR-1 MOA

Testing the Golden Eagle

I recently tested a Golden Eagle with the ECR-1 reticle. On this model the Hash Marks subtend 1 MOA at 40X. There is also a fine crosshair reticle (SCR-1) available. Initial tests with the scope were done on June 28th and I was very impressed with what I saw. With a new scope I always shoot the square (box test) to test tracking and amount of movement. I shot the square today after shooting a 5-shot group at 250 yards (my longest available distance). Below is a picture of the box test target that I shot. Yes, shot #5 went through the exact same hole as shot #1.

Vortex Optics Golden Eagle Scope 15-60x52mm review F-Class F-TR

Below is the 250-yard target I shot before doing the box test. To get to the 100-yard target, I clicked down 14 clicks (1/8th MOA) and the scope was spot on. It is really a pleasure to use instruments that do exactly what they are supposed to do. With the Louisiana mirage, I shot this orange/white target at 40X instead of the maximum 60X. I did not have any problem seeing the 6mm bullet holes at 40X. The optics in this scope are to my old eyes are as good as any that I have used (regardless of price).

Vortex Optics Golden Eagle Scope 15-60x52mm review F-Class F-TR

Vortex Optics Golden Eagle Scope 15-60x52mm review F-Class F-TRCompetition Test Success — Golden Eagle Delivers a Win
My next use of this scope was at our monthly 600-yard match on July 15th. It was a typical mid-July day in north Louisiana — very hot and humid with light switching winds. The mirage was terrible, but I managed to squeak out a victory with a 188/5X score out of 200/20X possible. I shot the Golden Eagle at 40X all day and it performed perfectly. No one could see bullet holes today, even with the high powered premium spotting scopes. This is a quality scope and it may be a “lucky” scope in that I did not expect a win with a 6mm Dasher barrel with 2500 or more rounds through it.

Point of Aim Test with Hood Scope Checker
I also tested the Golden Eagle for holding Point of Aim (POA). For this procedure, I used the Hood scope checker (loaned to me by Bart Sauter). To use this, one mounts two scopes side by side. Ideally one scope has proven its ability to hold POA. Here I used a Valdada 36X BR model as my control scope. It has proven over an 8-year period of time to hold its point of aim. I mounted these scopes on my BAT/Leonard 6mm PPC and adjusted each to the same point on the target.

Vortex Optics Golden Eagle Scope 15-60x52mm review F-Class F-TR

As one can see in the above picture, these are big scopes. After the first shot, I noticed that the reticle dot on the Vortex seemed to be about 1/8th MOA to the right of its original position. I stopped to check for ring slippage (which I had experienced in prior tests). There was no apparent slippage, so I checked the parallax and found that there was some parallax correction needed. This was probably the source of the apparent shift in point of aim, but I cannot be sure of that. I fired three more shots (checking after each) and found no shift.

Vortex Optics Golden Eagle Scope 15-60x52mm review F-Class F-TR

After testing for POA shift, I fired the remaining rounds using different aiming points. I fired 5 rounds (upper left) using the Vortex and 3 rounds to the right of those using the Valdada scope.

CONCLUSION — A Very Fine Optic at a Reasonable Price
While testing this Vortex Golden Eagle scope, I developed a real fondness for it. I appreciate its great optics, eye relief and crispness of adjustments. If I thought that this scope did not hold POA, I would use my old Valdada in the 600-yard matches in which I participate. Further testing has shown no tendency to shift point of aim.

If I am allowed to keep this scope until the fall, I am sure that I will be able to see 6mm bullet holes in the white at 600 yards. Seeing those 6mm holes is very difficult, but that is my dream for a premium high-powered scope. During the summer months in north Louisiana, the air is much too “dirty” to spot small holes at 600 yards. By October, there should be some conditions in which one can use the premium optics to see bullet holes in the white at 600.

In summary, let me say that this scope has become one of my all-time favorites because of its bright, clear images and its great reliability. If you are looking for a great long-range scope that is reasonable in cost, try the Golden Eagle from Vortex.– James Mock

Permalink Gear Review, Optics 5 Comments »
May 6th, 2017

Optics Review: IOR Valdada 36x42mm Benchrest Scope

IOR Valdada Benchrest 36X 36x42mm optic scope James Mock

Note: In this review, James Mock talks about his experience with an IOR Valdada 36X fixed power scope. A newer, slightly-modified version of this optic is now available. The current IOR Valdada 36x42mm scope is just like the scope James reviews, except that the rear ocular lens is slightly smaller and the new version is about three ounces (3 oz.) lighter. All of Mock’s observations and comments otherwise apply to the current production model.

IOR Valdada 36x42mm Benchrest Riflescope

Review by James Mock
For the past eight years I have been using the IOR Valdada 36x42mm Benchrest scope on my 6mm Dasher/6PPC switch barrel rifle. It has performed flawlessly during this time. Perhaps this may be the best 600-yard fixed power scope in existence. With the 1 MOA reticle one can judge the distance from sighter to point of aim very accurately. With this knowledge, he/she can either adjust the reticle to the point of aim or may use the hash marks for a definite aiming point. The 1/8th-MOA adjustments are positive and repeatable. There is a provision to set a “zero” after adjustments.

The lens in this scope may be its outstanding feature. The glass comes from Schott Glass Werkes of Germany, and in my opinion it is as good as one can buy. Another great feature is the spring that is set against the erector tube (this is similar to the system used by the Nightforce BR model). The photo below shows the housing containing that spring.

IOR Valdada Benchrest 36X 36x42mm optic scope James Mock

Reticle Options — Fine Cross-Hair or MOA with Hash Marks
The IOR Valdada 36x42mm scope is offered with a fine cross-hair for those not wanting the MOA reticle. My choice is the MOA reticle with 1/8th-minute dot in the center.

Tested in Competition — This Scope’s a Winner
My first success using this scope was at the NBRSA Nationals at Desoto, Kansas in 2010. I won the 200-Yard Sporter Agg with a .1727. The scope performed flawlessly and I was lucky enough to pull the trigger at the right time. The following year I finished second behind Jeff Thompson III in the Sporter 200 at the NBRSA Nationals at Midland, Texas. Hall of Fame shooter Don Powell commented that my shooting had really improved since I switched to the Valdada. This scope is rock solid and it surely didn’t hurt my shooting.

IOR Valdada Benchrest 36X 36x42mm optic scope James Mock

I have not shot much short range Benchrest in the last few years, but I still use the Valdada in 300- and 600-Yard matches quite often. Its adjustments are crisp and accurate. The adjustments move the reticle 0.125 inches at 100 yards and therefore 0.75 inches at 600. Using the MOA reticle and the precise adjustments, one can determine the number of clicks needed by using the reticle to see how far off of the aiming point one is on the sighting gongs. If a person wants to “hold off” rather than adjust the scope, he/she can do so by using the hash marks for a definite aiming point.

Updates to IOR 36x42mm Scope — Slimmer and Trimmer
Since I got my IOR Valdada 36x42mm scope, there have been some changes made. My scope weighs about 25 ounces but the new one is about 3 ounces lighter. The folks at IOR (Valdada) got input from Bart Sauter and made the ocular (eyepiece) lens smaller and the scope lighter. Bart is now a distributor for Valdada and many in the Benchrest community are now using this fine scope. Billy Stevens won the Super Shoot and qualified for the World Team using the Valdada. If you are interested, please contact Val Leautu in Littleton, CO at 303-979-4578 or Bart Sauter at 270-879-4279.

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December 17th, 2016

How Brux Barrels Are Made — The Pursuit of Perfection

Brux Barrels, based in Lodi, Wisconsin, has earned a reputation for producing great-shooting tubes. Brux-made barrels have won their fair share of matches, and set some notable records in the process. A few years back, Rodney Wagner shot the smallest five-shot, 600-yard group (0.336″) in the history of rifle competition, using a Brux barrel chambered for the 6mm Dasher.

Folks often ask us why Brux barrels shoot so well. “What’s the secret?” they ask. We can only answer with what Brux explains on its own website: “To make a cut-rifled barrel you have to start off with the proper ingredients: the best steel available, skill, and experience. Since there are really only two main suppliers of barrel-quality steel, the skill and experience is what really makes a barrel maker stand out.” Here is how Brux’s co-owners, Norman Brux and Ken Liebetrau, explain all the procedures involved in making a Brux cut-rifled barrel:

Brux Barrel-Making Process, Start to Finish

We start out with either 4150 chrome-moly or 416R stainless steel double stress-relieved bar stock. The bar stock starts out at 1-9/32″ in diameter and 20-24 feet long so we cut it to length.

Step two is to rough-contour the outside of the barrel blank in a lathe.

Thirdly, the blank gets mounted into a Barnes gun drill. The cutter bit has holes through which oil or coolant is injected under pressure to allow the evacuation of chips formed during the cutting process. This is called “oil-through” or “coolant-through”. Without this, you wouldn’t want to even attempt drilling a hole 30” long and under ¼” in diameter. The combination of a 3600rpm and good flushing allows us to drill a beautifully straight and centered hole .005” under “land” diameter at a rate of 1” per minute.

Clean the barrel.

Next the blank is sent back to the lathe to machine the finished contour of the outside.

Clean the barrel again.

Now, the blank is sent on to the Pratt & Whitney reamer in which an “oil through” reaming tool is used to cut away the extra .005” left in the drilling process. The reamer makes an extremely accurate bore size and after it is finished the bore will have a better surface finish and will be at the proper “land” diameter.

Clean the barrel again.

In the sixth step we hand lap each barrel to remove any slight tool marks that may have been left by the reamer and inspect every one with a bore scope. If the barrel doesn’t meet our standards for surface finish and tolerance it doesn’t get any further.

Clean the barrel again.

The barrels then go onto the rifling machine which is responsible for cutting the all so familiar grooves in the bore. A caliber/land configuration-specific rifling head is used to progressively shave away small amounts of steel to form the rifling grooves. This is accomplished by simultaneously pulling the rifling head through the reamed blank as the blank is spun at a controlled rate. After each cut, the blank is rotated 90 degrees (for a four-land configuration) and after one full rotation (360 degrees) the rifling head is slightly raised to shave off the next bit of material. This process is repeated until we reach groove diameter.

Clean the barrel again.

Lastly, the barrel is hand-lapped again (to ensure a smooth bore), and a final inspection is performed with the bore scope.

The barrel is cleaned one last time, wrapped, packed, and shipped to [the customer].

Anyone reading this detailed description of the Brux barrel-making process will doubtless come away with a new appreciation for the time, effort, and dedication required to produce a premium match-grade cut-rifled barrel. Obviously, there are no easy shortcuts and great attention to detail is required each step of the way. As shooters we’re lucky that we have barrel-makers so dedicated to their craft.

Credit James Mock for steering us to this Barrel Making 101 feature on the Brux website.

Permalink Gunsmithing, Tech Tip 2 Comments »
September 19th, 2016

Sightron SIII 10-50x60mm Scope Review by James Mock

Sightron Scope 10-50x60mm SIII SS scope James Mock long range competition review MOA MOA-2 reticle

Sightron 10X-50x60mm Riflescope Field Test
Review by James Mock
Mr. Allen Orr of Sightron was kind enough to loan me one of their fine SIII riflescopes for testing. Since I shoot 600-yard score matches more than anything else, I requested the 10-50x60mm model with MOA-2 reticle. This is a premium scope in every way and it may be the very best buy for a long range scope today. Real world price for this scope is around $950-$1000 ($977.61 on Amazon.com). This represents a good value considering the scope’s build quality and features: 50X max magnification, 1/4-MOA adjustments with 10 MOA per revolution, ExactTrack windage and elevation system, Zack-7 lens coating, 60mm objective lens, target knobs with zero stop, and lifetime warranty. The MOA-2 reticle’s hash marks span 2 MOA at 24X and 1 MOA at 48X. Eye Relief is ample: 4.5″ at 10X and 3.8″ at 50X. Field of view at 100 yards is 9.6′ at 10X, 2.2′ at 50X.

Sightron MOA-2 Reticle Manual | Sightron Riflescope Manual

NOTE: Sightron also offers this scope with 1/8-MOA clicks with a Fine Cross-Hair Reticle, Target Dot Reticle, and Mil-Dot Reticle. There are also multiple Sightron SIII 10-50x60mm models with illuminated reticles.

Sightron SIII 10-50x60mm Shows Excellent Repeatability
After receiving the scope, I mounted it on my BAT 6mm Dasher and did my “standard tests”. I shot the “square” and the adjustments were spot on and the repeatability was faultless. I also shot a group at two powers (24X and 50X) and the point of impact was the same.

In our August 600-yard match, I used the scope and was favorably impressed. I did not have the opportunity to shoot 600 yards prior to the match but I do have a 100-meter range at my house. From past experience, after zeroing my Dasher at 100 I simply dial up 11 MOA to shoot at 600 yards. The weather in Louisiana has been something that I have never seen before and the August 20th match was moved to August 27th, but there was still standing water in front of the targets. Also, the fog was so heavy that the start of the match was delayed for 45 minutes.

Sightron Scope 10-50x60mm SIII SS scope James Mock long range competition review MOA MOA-2 reticle

Sightron Nails a 50 Score on First-ever Match Target
When the match started, the Sightron with 11 MOA dialed in was perfect for elevation and a little right. After a couple of clicks I was ready to shoot. My first target was a pleasant surprise — scoring a 50-1X. I was very impressed with this scope and I shot it at 48X all day in the heavy mirage. I ended up finishing third, two points behind the winner.

With its 60mm objective lens, this is a large scope. It is 16.9″ long and weighs 30.1 ounces. If you can tolerate that weight in the discipline you shoot this scope represents a great value for the long-range shooter. I am favorably impressed with it. For you varmint shooters, this scope with its wide range of power would make a superb addition to you favorite prairie dog rig. Do note, as we explained above, there are other versions of this scope with 1/8-MOA clicks if that is your preference.
Good shooting — James Mock

Sightron Scope 10-50x60mm SIII SS scope James Mock long range competition review MOA MOA-2 reticle

Permalink Gear Review, Optics 4 Comments »
May 31st, 2016

Nightforce 42x44mm Competition Scope Review by James Mock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Permalink Gear Review, Optics 3 Comments »
August 2nd, 2014

How Brux Barrels are Made — Precision Start to Finish

Brux Barrels, based in Lodi, Wisconsin, has earned a reputation for producing great-shooting tubes. Brux-made barrels have won their fair share of matches, and set some notable records in the process. Last year, Rodney Wagner shot the smallest five-shot, 600-yard group (.0349″) in the history of rifle competition, using a Brux barrel chambered for the 6mm Dasher.

Folks often ask us why Brux barrels shoot so well. “What’s the secret?” they ask. We can only answer with what Brux explains on its own website: “To make a cut-rifled barrel you have to start off with the proper ingredients: the best steel available, skill, and experience. Since there are really only two main suppliers of barrel-quality steel, the skill and experience is what really makes a barrel maker stand out.” Here is how Brux’s co-owners, Norman Brux and Ken Liebetrau, explain all the procedures involved in making a Brux cut-rifled barrel:

Brux Barrel-Making Process, Start to Finish

We start out with either 4150 chrome-moly or 416R stainless steel double stress-relieved bar stock. The bar stock starts out at 1-9/32″ in diameter and 20-24 feet long so we cut it to length.

Step two is to rough-contour the outside of the barrel blank in a lathe.

Thirdly, the blank gets mounted into a Barnes gun drill. The cutter bit has holes through which oil or coolant is injected under pressure to allow the evacuation of chips formed during the cutting process. This is called “oil-through” or “coolant-through”. Without this, you wouldn’t want to even attempt drilling a hole 30” long and under ¼” in diameter. The combination of a 3600rpm and good flushing allows us to drill a beautifully straight and centered hole .005” under “land” diameter at a rate of 1” per minute.

Clean the barrel.

Next the blank is sent back to the lathe to machine the finished contour of the outside.

Clean the barrel again.

Now, the blank is sent on to the Pratt & Whitney reamer in which an “oil through” reaming tool is used to cut away the extra .005” left in the drilling process. The reamer makes an extremely accurate bore size and after it is finished the bore will have a better surface finish and will be at the proper “land” diameter.

Clean the barrel again.

In the sixth step we hand lap each barrel to remove any slight tool marks that may have been left by the reamer and inspect every one with a bore scope. If the barrel doesn’t meet our standards for surface finish and tolerance it doesn’t get any further.

Clean the barrel again.

The barrels then go onto the rifling machine which is responsible for cutting the all so familiar grooves in the bore. A caliber/land configuration-specific rifling head is used to progressively shave away small amounts of steel to form the rifling grooves. This is accomplished by simultaneously pulling the rifling head through the reamed blank as the blank is spun at a controlled rate. After each cut, the blank is rotated 90 degrees (for a four-land configuration) and after one full rotation (360 degrees) the rifling head is slightly raised to shave off the next bit of material. This process is repeated until we reach groove diameter.

Clean the barrel again.

Lastly, the barrel is hand-lapped again (to ensure a smooth bore), and a final inspection is performed with the bore scope.

The barrel is cleaned one last time, wrapped, packed, and shipped to [the customer].

Anyone reading this detailed description of the Brux barrel-making process will doubtless come away with a new appreciation for the time, effort, and dedication required to produce a premium match-grade cut-rifled barrel. Obviously, there are no easy shortcuts and great attention to detail is required each step of the way. As shooters we’re lucky that we have barrel-makers so dedicated to their craft.

Credit James Mock for steering us to this Barrel Making 101 feature on the Brux website.

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January 4th, 2013

James Mock Tests “Match Burner” Bullets from Barnes

Review by James D. Mock
Around the first of November, I received a call from Boyd Allen. During one our conversations about all things Benchrest, he mentioned that Barnes made conventional match bullets. This I did not know. Most hunters are familiar with the excellent Barnes premium hunting bullets, but many like me did not know that they make match bullets also, marketed as “Match Burners”.

Barnes Match Burner Bullets VLDAfter contacting the good folks Barnes to request some Match Burners for a review in Precision Shooting Magazine, I received a box of 6mm 68gr match bullets and a box of 6mm 105gr VLDs. By the time I got these, I learned that Precision Shooting would no longer print a magazine.

These bullets sat around the house for quite some time, but I finally got around to testing them. First of all I weighed many of the bullets and found that the nominal 68gr bullets averaged 68.07 grains and the 105s averaged 105.08 grain. The 68gr bullets were .845 inches long and measured .2432 on the body and .2435 on the pressure ring of these flat-base bullets. The VLDs measured 1.192 inches long with a diameter of .2433 at the largest point and the boat tail measured .180 long with a diameter at the base of .210.

Flat-Base 68gr Match Burners Prove Very Accurate
Although I shot the 68gr bullets in some fairly “strong” conditions, they performed well as you can see below. I loaded the rounds with 28.4 grains of the new Accurate LT-32 powder (from Western Powders).

Barnes Match Burner Bullets VLD

Above is a target with three 3-shot groups shot with the 68-grainers. I chose the following seating depths: (from left to right) .020 off jam*; .010 off jam; and .005 off jam. Since then I have shot a few more groups, and have been pleasantly surprised.

Barnes Match Burner Bullets VLD

Barnes Match Burner 105gr VLDs Perform Well
For the 105 VLDs I chose my Dasher with a 26.5″ Bartlein gain twist (1:8.25″ to 1:7.75″). Like the 68gr bullets, these VLDs were a pleasant surprise. I plan to shoot these bullets again as soon as the weather improves.


*Editor’s Note: The term “Jam” (or “Jam Length”) is used to describe a maximum practical bullet seating dimension, typically measured from base to bullet ogive. As James uses the term, “Jam” means the maximum functional length to which he can seat a bullet in his brass, with his selected neck tension, before the bullet starts to move backwards in the case (in the direction of casehead) when he closes the bolt. Thus, if James specifies a load that is “.010 off Jam”, this means that James has seated the bullet ten-thousandths shorter than maximum functional length in his gun. His bullets are still engaged in the rifling at “.010 off Jam”, and probably still touching the rifling at “.020 off Jam”. The “Jam” length is specific to James’ barrel and brass. In different barrels, “Jam Length” can vary according to numerous factors — bore dimensions, land configuration, neck tension, bullet geometry et cetera.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Gear Review 1 Comment »
May 31st, 2012

Super Shoot — Deserving Two-Gun Champion and New Talent

2012 Super Shoot Kelbly's FISSForum member (and respected shooting journalist) James Mock has provided a follow-up report on the recently concluded Firearm Industry Super Shoot.

First, James wanted to give credit to this year’s overall winner, Jeff Summers. James writes: “Jeff Summers persevered through the four days and came away with a HV Grand and a two-gun win at Super Shoot XL. This was his second Super Shoot win. For those who do not know Jeff, he is from eastern Tennessee (Oak Ridge area). He shot a BAT action and Bartlein 1:14″-twist barrel. He is a bag squeezer and shoots homemade bullets. Also, he smiths his own rifles”.

Harpenau Wins Light Varmint Grand
James also wanted to spotlight some talented new shooters, including a schoolboy who represents the next generation of benchrest shooters. James reports: “Many think that the top shoots are the exclusive domain of the old grizzled shooters, but that is not always the case. In the Super Shoot this year, Mark Harpenau (left, below) won a yardage and the Light Varmint Grand Aggregate (10.5-lb Class). Mark has been shooting only three years. Also, young Wyatt Peinhardt (right, below) finished first in the youth group and in the top fifty among all 270 shooters! It is good to see new faces in Benchrest.”

2012 Super Shoot Kelbly's FISS

Photos by James Mock.
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July 30th, 2010

Optics: James Mock Tests New IOR Valdada 36X Benchrest Scope

IOR Valdada 36X ScopeValdada 36X Scope, First Report: Benchrest shooter and noted gun writer James Mock recently tested Valdada’s new 36X Benchrest scope on his PPC. Valdada scopes are made by IOR (Industry Optic Romania) in Bucharest, Romania. James was impressed with the scope — and it certainly didn’t hurt his performance any. With the Valdada on top of his PPC, James nailed a 0.150″ three-shot group at 200 yards during testing earlier this week. Below you’ll find Mock’s first impressions of the Valdada 36X, along with photos of the scope mounted on his rifle. James — Thanks for sharing this!

IOR Valdada 36X ScopeNEW Valdada 36X Benchrest Scope
by James Mock
Yesterday, I received one of Valdada’s new 36X BR scopes for testing. My initial tests proved that Valdada may have a winner. The scope has 7-layer coating on their German glass optics for a superb image. The 1/8th-minute clicks are positive and they repeat well. The reticle is a 1/8th MOA floating dot with 1 MOA hash marks for both windage and elevation. The scope has a very smooth worm gear parallax side adjustment that is marked in meters. Overall I am impressed with the initial testing. The suggested retail is around $1295.00, but I don’t know what the “street price” will be. Here are a couple pictures that show the scope mounted on My BAT-actioned rifle, currently fitted with a PPC barrel.

IOR Valdada 36X Scope

Permalink Gear Review, New Product, Optics 1 Comment »