Today marked the third day of competition at the Berger Southwest Nationals. The superstitious types among the competitors viewed the day with some trepidation. There was actual bad luck for some folks, including Mid Tompkins, who broke his leg in a parking lot accident in the morning. But most shooters didn’t worry too much about the date — they were more concerned about calling the wind correctly. As Bryan Litz said: “I don’t believe in superstition. We make our own luck”. In the video below, you’ll see highlights of Day 3 at the SW Nationals from the break of dawn to the final shots on the 1000-yard line.
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Thursday at the Berger Southwest Nationals was Team Match day. Teams of sling shooters as well as F-TR and F-Open marksmen competed at 800, 900, and 1000 yards. Conditions on Thursday (Feb. 12) were much better than on Wednesday (Feb. 11) when strong, fish-tailing winds created big problems for the shooters. For the Thursday Team Match, the winds were variable, but generally the mirage was a good indicator of speed, and the flags were showing the angles. The wind coaches for the teams told us that the conditions “were quite readable”.
Here is AccurateShooter.com’s video wrap-up of the Team Match on Thursday. F-TR shooters should watch carefully — Ray Gross, captain of the F-TR USA Team. talks about the latest equipment used by the top shooters. In addition, Ray announced a Team Try-Out Session on Monday February 16, 2015.
In team competition, the shooter relies on his coach and spotter.
This could be the most beautiful F-Open rifle we’ve ever seen. Look at the figure in that wood.
Nancy Tompkins dials wind for Anette Wachter (aka “30 Cal Gal”).
Matt Schwartzkopf excels despite lacking two lower legs. He works as a range manager at Ben Avery.
Tube-gun chassis-maker Gary Eliseo shot in the Sling Division. His company, Competition Machine, is now based in Cottonwood, Arizona.
Dan Polabel’s F-TR Rifle with Flex Bipod.
Walt Berger enjoyed the Team Match. “Seems like the wind’s a bit better today” he joked.
It was just a warm, beautiful day at Ben Avery….
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While Varget and Reloder 15 remain in short supply, you can often find IMR 4320 powder back in the shelves of local gun stores. IMR describes IMR 4320 as follows: “Short granulation, easy metering, and perfect for the 223 Remington, 22-250 Remington, 250 Savage and other medium burn rate cartridges.” This older-generation powder is more temp sensitive than the Hodgdon Extreme propellants, but in the right application, it looks to be a viable alternative for folks who can’t source Varget, Reloder 15, and even H4895.
IMR 4320 Shoots Well in the .308 Winchester
A while back, German Salazar wrote an excellent Riflemans Journal article, IMR 4320 — the Forgotten Powder. German developed IMR 4320 loads for his .308 Win Palma rifle and competed with IMR 4320-powered ammo at long range matches. German concluded that: “[IMR 4320] appears to be a very useful alternative to some of the harder-to-get powders. The load is working extremely well at 1000 yards. In the  Arizona Palma State Championship, several high placing competitors were using the 4320 load. We got sub X-Ring elevation at 1000 yards from several rifles, and that’s all I’m looking for in a Palma load.”
IMR 4320 Works for Dasher Shooter
Forum member FalconPilot shoots a 6mm Dasher with Berger 105gr Hybrids. Looking for an alternative to Varget, he decided to give IMR 4320 a try. The results were good. FalconPilot reports: “I’ve been looking for other options (besides Reloder 15, which I love, but it’s really dirty). While at a gun shop in Ohio, I ran across 8 pounds of IMR 4320. I had never even heard of it, much less tried it. Getting ready for upcoming mid-range shoots, I loaded five rounds with IMR 4320 to the exact same specs as my winning Varget loads for the 6mm Dasher. This recipe was 32.7 grains of powder, Wolf SMR primer, Berger Hybrid 105 jumped fifty thousandths.” Falcon pilot tested his IMR 4320 load at 600 yards:
As you can see from the photo, FalconPilot had good results — a 1.5″ group at 600 yards. He reports: “This group was shoot during the middle of the day, mirage bad, scope set to 25X. It looks like IMR 4320 is a [very close] replacement for Varget… with a tad bit slower burn rate.” FalconPilot tell us the accuracy with IMR 4320 rivals the best he has gotten with Varget: “This gun has always shot under 2 inches [for 5 shots] at 600 yards, and most of time shoots 1.5 to 1.7 inches.”
For comparison purposes, here are Heat of Explosion and Burn Rate values from QuickLOAD for IMR 4320, and for the popular Reloder 15 and Varget powders. You can see that these powders have similar characteristics “by the numbers”:
Heat of Explosion
Burning Rate Factor
WARNING — When changing from one powder to another, always start with manufacturer’s stated load data. Start low and work up incrementally. Never assume that loads will be equivalent from one powder to another, even powders with similar burn rates.
What Other Forum Members Say:
I was using IMR 4320 in the mid 70s in my .222 Rem. Darned great powder and I never had a load that was not accurate from the .222 to .30-06 with that powder. — 5Spd
A fine powder overshadowed by the nouveau wave of “gotta have the newest — make me a better shot” powders. Try 4320 in a 22-250 — what a well-kept secret! IMR 4320 meters very well and is a flexible alternative to many of the hard-to-find powders so much in demand. — AreaOne
IMR 4320 was my “go to” powder in my .223 for many many years. This powder and Winchester 55gr soft point bulk bullets (the cheapest bullet I could buy at the time) accounted for thousands of prairie dogs, coyotes, and anything else that needed shooting. I still use IMR 4320 in some .223 loads and am very happy with it still. — pdog2062
I’ve been using it in a .308 Win for several years. I think it is very sensitive to temperature and always waited till the last minute to load my ammo with a close eye on the weekend forecast at the range. IMR 4320 Works pretty good for 155gr Palma and 168gr Hybrid [bullets] in my .308. — JayC
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Report by Kelly Bachand, for Kelly’s Gun Sales Blog.
Tuesday, August 5th, was the first day of the actual competition. The weather forecast was for rain with an 80% chance of thunderstorms. We somehow snuck through on that 20% and had great shooting weather all day. We shot 300 yards, 600 yards, and 800 yards on Tuesday with 15 shots at each. For the 300-yard line and part of the 600-yard line the wind came out of the west, as usual. Part way through the 600-yard line it started to switch and for the rest of the day it only came out of the north east or directly out of the east.
Int’l Fullbore Targets — More Challenging Than NRA Targets
The ICFRA (International Confederation of Fullbore Rifle Associations) targets are sometimes smaller than the NRA targets we are used to shooting in the USA. The 300-yard target has an especially small bullseye; it must be just 2.5″ across or something. Interestingly, these targets are also 5-V targets as opposed to our 10-X targets. This means the maximum points that can be scored with each shot is 5 points (instead of 10) and the tie-break ring is called the V-Ring (instead of the X-Ring). As a rehearsal for the 2015 World Long Range Championships, I think the match is off to a great start. There have been some logistical issues that have come up (and they only would have by running this match), so I’m very hopeful that the match directors will have all of their ducks in a row next year.
In a match like this, with the relatively calm wind conditions we had today, the top few shooters will likely go the whole day without dropping a single point and they’ll do it with a pretty high V-count. That means scores of 75 with 10+ Vs at every yard line are likely what it takes to find yourself towards the top (75-15V is the maximum score possible). I had a 75-9V at 300 and I was quite pleased with the group I shot, it must have been just a few inches tall. As one of the previous US Palma Team members, all of my shots in this match are being plotted and evaluated as part of the US Palma Team try-outs. It’s a very good incentive to break great shots.
Trigger Certification Rules
One of the fun things about shooting with ICFRA rules is that after someone shoots a possible (gets all the possible points, like 75 out of 75) they have to immediately get their trigger pull-weight tested. [That’s interesting] because you get to watch your friends come off the line and you immediately know how they did and can quickly give them a thumbs-up and rush over to congratulate them.
There is some really great shooting going on. I saw a lot of high scores shot at 800 yards. One under-25 lady from across the pond (Chloe Evans) spent most of today showing all the rest of us how it is done. It looks like she finished the day with a 225-36V. For the day, I had a 224-30V out of a possible 225-45V. I highly recommend following the scores online:
One of our readers, Joshua Targownik, is a very talented photographer. Last year he captured an evocative series of photos at the 2013 California State Palma Championships, hosted at the Coalinga range. Joshua reports: “I shot all these images on good old-fashioned medium format black and white film”. We like Joshua’s images — they have a classic “old school” look which seems to suit the Palma (Full-bore) discipline. The black and white photography seems appropriate to the world of iron sights, leather shooting coats, and “hard-holding” marksmen.
Images by Joshua Targownik. To see more of Joshua’s photos, visit TargoPhoto.com.
A large contingent of the Scottish rifle team came to Sacramento, California last week for the 23rd Annual American-Canadian and Long Range matches. A great time was had by all. Members of the U.S. Long Range Rifle team say: “Thank you for making the journey over and we hope to see you all again this fall at Camp Perry and/or Canada Nationals.”
Click Photo for Full-screen View
Congratulations to Scottish Team member Ian Shaw for winning the American-Canadian Full Bore Match! Here is Ian celebrating his victory with his winning mug. We met with Ian in February after the Berger Southwest Nationals. At the Phoenix airport, this Editor shared a quick meal with Ian and two of his Team London-Scottish comrades before the trio jetted home across the Atlantic.
As we chatted, I quickly learned how serious and dedicated these guys are. It’s no surprise to me that Ian took the top prize at the American-Canadian match. During our airport interview, Ian talked about target rifle shooting in the UK, and he invited American full-bore shooters to attend the Queen’s Prize Match held each year during the Imperial Meeting at the Bisley Range. Ian said, “Tell your American readers to come. This is a big match every year, with 900 competitors, about 700 of whom are from the UK.” Here’s a video explaining the history of the Queen’s Prize Match.
History of the Queen’s Prize Match (BBC, 1986)
H.M. The Queen’s Prize
The Queen’s Prize Match was first shot in 1860 when the Sovereign (Queen Victoria) gave a prize of £250 for the winner. This amount has remained unchanged to this day although in the original days, it was a considerable sum. The winner earns the right to have the initials ‘GM’ after his or her name. As detailed in the section below, there are three stages to the competition, the winners of the second stage earn the initials ‘SM’. The final stage is shot on the last Saturday of the NRA Imperial meeting held in July.
Online registration is officially open for the 2014 NRA National Matches. Each summer, at the NRA National Rifle & Pistol Championships, the nation’s finest civilian and military marksmen and women square off for weeks of rifle and handgun competition. From pistol, to smallbore rifle, high power rifle, and long range high power rifle (including F-Class), the national matches have something for just about every serious shooter.
As usual, the pistol, High Power, and High Power Long Range Championships will be held at Camp Perry, Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie. However, for 2014 and 2015, the NRA National Smallbore Position Championships and Smallbore Prone Championships will be held at the Chief Wa-Ke-De Range in Bristol, Indiana, this year and next. The smallbore championship venue is being shifted to accommodate the 2015 World Palma Rifle Championships at Camp Perry. (The World Palma teams will arrive this summer to do a practice run for next year.)
NRA Also Seeks Target Pullers for Nat’l Matches — $75/day plus housing
The NRA is seeking experienced persons to pull targets during the 2014 National Fullbore Championships, August 4 – 10, 2014, at Camp Perry, Ohio. Accepted applicants will receive a $75 per day pay rate and free housing. Candidates must have 2+ years of target pulling of high-power scoring experience to apply. Interested parties should apply before the May 1, 2014 deadline using the form linked below. For more information, email comphelp @ nrahq.org.
The Berger Southwest Nationals, one of the biggest shooting events west of the Mississippi, kicks off next week at the Ben Avery Range near Phoenix, Arizona. The event begins with a Shooting Clinic on Tuesday, February 4, and concludes with 1000-yard Matches on Sunday the 9th. The host Desert Sharpshooters Club, and the staff at Berger Bullets, are working very hard to make this the best SW Nationals ever. And if you are interested, there is still time to register. Berger tells us: “It’s not too late to sign up for the 2014 Southwest Nationals! The match runs from Feb. 4-9 at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility. We have a great schedule and prizes.” The weather will be good (it was 74° in Phoenix yesterday), and there will be thousands of dollars of gear on the Prize Table. If you want to join the fun, download the entry form below, and, as soon as you can, send an email to michelle.gallagher [at] bergerbullets.com.
The Berger Southwest Long Range Nationals are held every February at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility just north of Phoenix, Arizona. Berger has partnered with the Desert Sharpshooters Rifle Club and the Arizona Game and Fish Department, resulting in a “must attend” event for long range shooters around the world.
Ben Avery is a truly world-class facility, with 98 firing points, carefully maintained firing lines and plenty of wind flags. As the match sponsor, Berger provides the “extras” – ice chests full of drinks on the firing line, a banquet on Saturday night and awards to the winners, including over $3,500 in cash prizes and over 30,000 bullets in awards.
Profile by Kyle Jillson forNRABlog
In the December issue of Shooting Sports USA, Barb Baird of Women’s Outdoor News sits down with Nancy Tompkins, one of the most accomplished shooters out there. A past World and National Champion, Nancy likes to reach out and touch targets at 1,000 yards with accurate rifles. She’s been competing in Palma (.308 caliber at 800, 900, and 1000 yards), Long Range (1000 yards) and Smallbore prone for 41 years. Thanks to her father, Nancy began competing in the seventh grade and now shares the love of shooting with her daughters Michelle and Sherri Gallagher, her husband Mid Tompkins, and her goddaughter, Danielle Makucevich. Nancy has competed on numerous international Palma teams, traveling from her home base in Prescott, Arizona.
“There is nothing better than traveling, making new friends and competing with the best shooters in the world,” said Nancy. And she only shoots with the best equipment. Her Palma rifle features a McGee stock, Stolle Panda action, Krieger barrel, Anschütz trigger, Warner rear sight and a Right Sight (front sight). Her .22 LR Smallbore rifle sports an Anschütz action and trigger with a Hart barrel, McGee stock, Right Sight (front sight), and Warner rear sight.
As always, interviewer Barb Baird had a key question for Nancy: “What’s in your range bag, Nancy Tompkins?” Actually, Nancy stores stuff in her Creedmoor shooting stool for High Power matches and in a large plastic box from Home Depot for her Smallbore matches. Here’s what Nancy keeps at the range:
Allen wrenches, small screwdriver, and grease
SPF-15 lip balm
Creedmoor shooting glove
Decot shooting glasses
TLC Gunworks elbow pad
Champions Choice shooting visor
CeCe’s custom ear plugs
One More Item — Nancy’s Lucky Mouse
Nancy’s cat, Sierra, placed a toy mouse in one of her shooting stools a few years ago. Nancy now considers it her lucky charm. To learn more about Nancy’s recommended equipment, and glean great tips on Long Range marksmanship, get Nancy’s latest book, Prone & Long Range Rifle Shooting.
by Kelly Bachand
[Editor: If you have been watching the Top Shot All-Stars TV series this season you’ve noticed that our Buddy Kelly Bachand has been “kicking a** and taking names”. On last week’s episode Kelly was the only shooter to place multiple rimfire rounds through the center of a CD without touching the plastic. Most of the other Aall-stars in this challenge couldn’t send even one shot through the CD without breaking plastic. Shooting offhand, Kelly went three-for-three. That’s impressive. Though you know him best from Top Shot, Kelly is one of America’s leading young long-range prone shooters. Bachand has been a Top Five finisher in many major matches, and he has won the Canadian Open Target Rifle Championship, shooting his Barnard-actioned Palma Rifle.]
In this article, I’ll share what works for me in the prone shooting game. However, I recognize that every shooter/rifle combination is unique. So, the best way to find out what will really work best is by practicing and putting some rounds down range. But hopefully you’ll find some suggestions in this story that prove helpful.
The Rifle, Sling, Arms, and Hands
I keep my sling high on the pulse pad of my Creedmoor Sports shooting jacket which turns out to be at the top of my bicep muscle. The sling is tight enough that, with my forward hand against the hand stop and the stock firmly in my shoulder, the rifle is fully supported without any noticeable muscle use. As my coaches have recommended, placing my forward elbow as close to directly under the rifle as possible often yields a more stable position. My trigger hand does not support the rifle but rather grips it without disturbing its aim. If the rifle can be held level and stable with just the forward hand and sling, then one knows a good prone position has been found.
Head, Torso, Hips, and Legs
As with shooting off hand, when shooting prone, I find it best to keep my head as close to perfectly vertical as possible. While swaying is not a typical problem in the prone position, if a vertical head position grants me more stability, I will work to have one. My torso in particular bends in a way that may be uncomfortable for other prone shooters. My left hip and some of the left side of my stomach touch the ground but the majority of my chest and diaphragm are off the ground while I shoot prone. By minimizing the contact my stomach and chest have with the ground I can also minimize the effect my breathing has on my hold. (Also breathing is much easier when each breath isn’t lifting one’s torso weight). Below my waist my left leg extends almost perfectly straight out and sometimes falls asleep while shooting. My right leg is cocked and my right knee is brought up almost even with my right hip. This is what allows me to get so much of my torso off the ground.
The Finished Product
In the prone shooting game we shoot at distances from 300 to 1000 yards using iron sights (and sometimes scopes). When I have a good prone position, and my breathing is correct, there are a few seconds right before I take a shot when I feel as if my rifle is being supported on a bench. This sort of stability is only needed for the few seconds it takes to squeeze the trigger. It can, however, very consistently produce sub-minute groups with iron sights from the prone position at any range from 100-1000 yards.
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On his Facebook page, Hall-of-Fame shooter and ace gunsmith Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez unveiled an impressive new F-Open rifle built for Bret Solomon. The rifle features Speedy’s new low-profile F-Class stock.
Bret’s gun is chambered for his 300 Solomon wildcat, shooting heavy 210gr bullets, so it can can be a real shoulder-buster, without some kind of buffer. The stock is fitted with a Ken Rucker’s Bump Buster hydraulic recoil reduction system to tame the recoil. The Bump Buster was originally designed for shotguns and hard-hitting, big game rifles. It is interesting to see this hydraulic buffer adapted to an F-Open rig.
Here you can see Bret shooting the gun, coached by Nancy Tompkins and Michele Gallagher:
Bret’s gun features a stainless Viper (Stiller) action, barrel tuner, and an innovative Speedy-crafted wood stock. Speedy says this stock design is all-new: “It is a true, low Center-of-Gravity F-Class stock, not a morphed Palma stock merely cut out on the bottom”. See all the details in this short video:
Stock Features: Glue-in or Bolt-In and Optional Carbon Pillars and Cooling Ports
Speedy explained the features of the new stock design: “Terry Leonard and I started working on an F-Class version of his stocks last year during the F-Class Nationals and came up with what he and I consider the first true low-CG stock in the sport. As you can see by the videos, there is very little torqueing of the stock during recoil. I add the carbon fiber tunnel underneath the forearms to save Terry some time. This bonds very well to his carbon fiber skeleton within the stock adding addition stiffness to the forearm to support the heavy barrels found on the F-Class rigs. We are playing with both glue-ins like we benchresters use and bolt-ins as well. The rifles on the videos are glue-ins. Bret just took delivery today of his first bolt-in employing carbon fiber pillars and the first Leonard stock ever to have cooling ports.”
Need for Recoil Reduction Follows F-Class Trend to Bigger Calibers and Heavier Bullets
In recent years we have seen F-Open competitors move to bigger calibers and heavier bullets in pursuit of higher BC. There is no free lunch however. Shooting a 210gr .30-caliber bullet is going to produce much more recoil than a 140gr 6.5mm projectile (when they are shot at similar velocities). Does this mean that more F-Open shooters will add hydraulic buffers to their rigs? Will a recoil-reduction system become “de rigueur” on F-Open rifles shooting heavy bullets?
Our friend Boyd Allen observes: “You may imagine that shooting a short magnum, or even a .284 Win with heavy bullets, involves a fair amount of recoil, and in the prone position this can be more than a little wearing. It can in fact beat you up over the course of a match. Some time back, Lou Murdica told me about having a hydraulic recoil absorbing device installed on one of his F-Class rifles, chambered in .300 WSM. Lou is shooting heavy (210-215gr) bullets so the recoil is stout. According to Lou, the hydraulic recoil-reduction system made all the difference.”
Story tip from Boyd Allen. We welcome reader submissions.
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Editor’s Comment: All long-range competitive shooters should watch this excellent video — whether you shoot with a team or as an individual. Three cameras were used so you can watch the shooter, the range flags, and the target simultaneously. After a discussion of scoring, the actual shooting starts at the five-minute mark in the video. Under the guidance of wind coach Gary Rasmussen, U.S. F-Class Open Team Captain Shiraz Balolia shoots 100-7X for ten shots, following Gary’s wind calls.
Team Shooting with a Coach
Shiraz tells us: “We come across a lot of shooters who have never shot under a coach. This video was produced to give shooters a basic understanding of shooting with a coach and the importance of releasing a good shot. In a team setting, you basically leave all the decision-making to the coach and aim where you’re told to aim. I’ve worked with Gary many times and it shows in the comfort level we have with each other. The coach plots the shots or a plotter advises the coach of any grouping that is not centered.”
Watch Gary Call the Wind and Shiraz Shoot 100-7X for Ten Shots
For best viewing, click the YouTube settings button to watch in 720p or 1080p HD (high definition).
Shiraz was shooting a 7mm F-Open rig: “My .284 Shehane rifle takes about 10 to 12 shots to settle down and that is probably why we made several scope adjustments while shooting. It is a great caliber and a step up from a straight .284 Winchester. The wind was relatively calm, but sometimes that slow wind with subtle angle changes can be very deceiving.”
The video was shot the first week of May 2013 at a range in Custer, WA located about 20 miles from Bellingham, Washington. The production team included Shiraz Balolia, Gary Rasmussen, three cameramen, and a target puller. Big Thanks to Grizzly Industrial for providing the camera crew and post-production talent.
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