October 29th, 2017

Rise of the Railguns — Potential Records Set at IBS Match

Visalia Heavy Benchrest Unlimited Railgun record Visalia CA California
Gary Ocock let the event’s youngest competitor, 12-year-old Gavin Lichtenwalter, shoot Gary’s new Railgun for the last three matches on Sunday afternoon. The day before Gary shot what should be a new IBS 100-yard, five-shot HB group record. Photo credit: Ben Zentner

Heavy Benchrest (Unlimited) rifles, also known as “Railguns”, are the most accurate competition firearms ever invented. And these amazing examples of shooting technology showed their capability recently, with potentially four (4) new records being set at an IBS Heavy Benchrest Invitational match in Visalia, California. If you are curious about the most accurate rifles on the planet, then read on…

2017 Visalia Invitational — IBS Heavy Benchrest Match

Report by Boyd Allen, IBS Exec. Vice President
There was some amazing shooting at a recent Invitational Heavy Benchrest match* held in Visalia, California on October 21-22, 2017. No less than FOUR new Heavy Benchrest (HB) records may have been set. Three individual targets were submitted for the 100-yard HB five-shot group record, a .039 by Gary Ocock (photo below), along with two targets by Jim Nicolas, a .040 and .041.

Visalia Heavy Benchrest Unlimited Railgun record Visalia CA California

Multiple Aggregate records (at both 100 and 200 yards) may also have been set. Larry Boers shot a 100-yard, five-target 0.1232 Aggregate that will be submitted for the IBS HB 100-yard, five-shot group Agg record. And Gary Ocock may have set two additional HB Agg records. Gary’s five-target 200-yard Agg (0.1310) is a potential new five-shot-per-target record, as is his ten-target Grand Agg (0.1480) (that covers 100 AND 200 yards, five targets per yardage, ten targets total).

CLICK HERE for Complete Match Results (PDF) »

Visalia Heavy Benchrest Unlimited Railgun record Visalia CA California

Top Guns Come to IBS Match in California
This California match attracted some of the best Railgun pilots in the game today. On the firing line were three current NBRSA Unlimited record holders: Larry Boers (one record), Steve Kostanich (two records), and Gary Ocock (three current NBRSA UNL records, plus one HV). All three shot well enough in this match that their targets are being submitted to the IBS for consideration as Group, Aggregate, or Grand Aggregate records. NOTE: The “Heavy Benchrest” IBS category is equivalent to “Unlimited” under NBRSA rules. CLICK HERE for Complete Match Results.

Top Shooters for the Match included: Larry Boers (Two Gun, HB GrAgg1, HB 100-yd); Gary Ocock (HB 200-yd and HB GrAgg2); Francis Lee (HB 200-yd).

Two-Gun Overall Results
Visalia Heavy Benchrest Unlimited Railgun record Visalia CA California
Note: The computer software shows the results for one Grand Agg as “Heavy Varmint”. In fact the SAME HB Railguns were used for both Grand Aggs, so the “Two-Gun Agg” is actually a pair of HB Aggs.

Top Equipment List
Visalia Heavy Benchrest Unlimited Railgun record Visalia CA California

Visalia Heavy Benchrest Unlimited Railgun record Visalia CA California
Saturday Winners: George Lozano, Larry Boers, Lawrence Weisdorn, Gary Ocock, Joe Stanovich, and Jim Nicolas. Photo by: Dan Lutke.

Conditions: It rained on Friday, but Saturday and Sunday were sunny and slightly cool at first and perfect after that. Saturday at 10:00 am it was 62°, 64%, and the wind was light, increasing slightly later in the day. Sunday’s conditions were similar with a slightly higher wind speed, but still light. The wind was from the West at 3-10 mph, generally stronger closer to the firing line than down range. This normally is more of a picker’s range than a runner’s venue. However, there was some “running” of groups this weekend since rail guns are particularly suited for that style of shooting.

Hall of Famer Helps Young Novice
Along with the seasoned veterans, there was a new competitor, a 12-year-old shooting his very first match. As with life, there were highs and lows. Young Gavin started out with an equipment failure — the rifle he brought wasn’t working, so shooter Bob Hatley let Gavin borrow Bob’s bag gun. Then Gavin got some expert assistance from one of the world’s best — Hall of Famer Gary Ocock. Gary let Gavin shoot the last three 200-yard matches with Gary’s new integral block, Jay Young-built Railgun, one of the most accurate firearms on the planet. Gary shot this rig on relay #1 and let Gavin shoot it in relay #2. How many of us will ever get this kind of opportunity, much less a first time 12-year-old competitor? It’s like a school kid getting to drive an Indy-winning race car.

Visalia Heavy Benchrest Unlimited Railgun record Visalia CA California
This photo shows Gavin with family and friends: Grandmother Mary Oulrey, father Mark Lichtenwalter (second from left), grandfather Gary Oulrey (far right). Bob Hatley (extreme left) stepped up to share his bag rifle with Gavin, and Gary Ocock (right of Gavin) let Gavin shoot his Railgun. Note Gavin is wearing Gary’s Hall-of-Fame jacket.

The Facility at Visala — Dale Wimp Rifle and Pistol Range
The Visalia Range has a covered firing line with 28 fixed, monolithic steel-reinforced concrete benches. The direction of fire is north. The cover extends well past the front of the benches as does the concrete. There are covered loading areas both at the level of the benches, directly behind them, and one level up farther to the rear. The firing line and range are below the level of the surrounding land, having been excavated in flat ground with the material from the excavation surrounding the range on three sides, higher in the back, forming an impact berm. A major construction project is about to be finished that will extend the range to 300 yards, and provide a new 10-station, 25-yard pistol range.

Surrounded by fields, the Visalia Range is located in California’s Central Valley, a rich agricultural area.
visalia benchrest shooting range unlimited benchrest railgun heavy gun

Notables on the Visalia Firing Line

Three of the competitors at the match deserve special mention because of their recent accomplishments in the world of Benchrest shooting and the interesting equipment they had on display.

Visalia Heavy Benchrest Unlimited Railgun record Visalia CA California

Jim Nicholas was on fire on Saturday. During Saturday morning’s 100-yard Aggregate he shot a .040 in the fourth match, and a .041 in the fifth. Both targets and the .039 that Gary Ocock shot were sent in to be measured for a record. All are substantially smaller than the current record, Hap Zeiser’s .063. In the photo above, note the tuner. Jim adjusted a little less than 8 degrees just before he shot .040 in the fourth match and .041 in the fifth. That must have been the “sweet spot”. Jim’s blue Railgun, built by Craig Kinsler, features a barrel block that is integral with the rig top. This is like the new Jay Young Railgun Ocock shoots.

Visalia Heavy Benchrest Unlimited Railgun record Visalia CA California

Larry Boers owns the NBRSA Unlimited, 100-yard 10-shot group record (.097). This makes the fourth time that he has won the Two-Gun Overall for this match. Larry is not just a trigger-puller — he makes his own bullets and chambers his own barrels. This year he shot a bullet he still lists under his bullet-making mentor’s name (Del Bishop) a 65 grain, double radius 5/9 FB made from J4 .790 jackets, out of a Nemi point die. Del originally made the bullet and the story is that Nemi at first refused to make the die because he was sure that it wouldn’t shoot well. Later, after some cajoling by Del, he made it, tried a few and excitedly called Dell to tell him just how good the bullets shot. Larry set his record shooting a .750 jacket short BT (.040) bullet from the same die.

Visalia Heavy Benchrest Unlimited Railgun record Visalia CA California

Steve Kostanich, a long-time competitor and highly-respected gunsmith from Washington State, recently received official confirmation that he will go in the record books with a pair of 10-shot Unlimited NBRSA world records. The first record is a 10-shot 200-yard 0.1839 Aggregate, while the second is Steve’s 100-200 yard 0.1951 Grand Aggregate.

Parting Shot — This is what happens when you set your Wind Flag stand too high.

Visalia Heavy Benchrest Unlimited Railgun record Visalia CA California

* Course of Fire: This was a two-day Heavy Benchrest (aka HB or “Unlimited”) weekend match with targets at 100 and 200 yards, five shots per target. Saturday all shooting was at 100 yards. Sunday all shooting was at 200 yards. There were two (2) Grand Aggregates. One Grand Agg combined Saturday morning (100) with Sunday afternoon (200). The Second Grand Agg combined Saturday afternoon (100) and Sunday morning (200). The match had two HB Grand Aggs because only one class of gun (Heavy Benchrest or “Unlimited”) was shot. The computer software shows the results for one Grand Agg as “Heavy Varmint”, but all matches were for Heavy Benchrest (Unlimited) guns. NOTE: Some competitors did shoot bag guns as these are allowed under HB/Unlimited rules.

Permalink Competition, News 2 Comments »
August 14th, 2017

Gary Ocock Shoots Amazing 0.0840 Aggregate with Railgun

Gary Ocock Rail Gun Unlimited Target Visalia CA 6 PPC IBS NBRSA
Want to see the details? CLICK HERE to view full-screen photo.

Check out those five targets. The Aggregate (average) of all five targets is a tiny 0.0840 inches! These were shot by Gary Ocock at 100 yards in a California benchrest match on August 6, 2017. Though Gary’s 0.0840 Agg beats existing records, this was not a “sanctioned” match, so Gary’s killer Agg will NOT be submitted for IBS or NBRSA records. So, sadly, the Agg won’t appear in the record books, but this remains a spectacular, verified feat of rifle accuracy, accomplished in competition.

The argument can be made that this is the Most Accurate Gun Ever Built. As far as we can determine, no one has ever shot a smaller 5-target Agg anywhere, at any time.

The Unlimited Benchrest Record That Will Never Be (Official)

Report by Boyd Allen
Gary Ocock’s stunning unlimited Aggregate is beyond amazing. That’s an average of five, 5-shot groups of .0840. Shot under sanctioned match rules, but at an unsanctioned 100-yard fun match, this Aggregate is well under the current 100-yard official records of the IBS (.1386), and the NBRSA (.1242). The fourth of the five groups measured a minuscule .018, less than half the size of the existing NBRSA Unlimited record of .049 (also shot by Gary). Check it out:

Gary Ocock Rail Gun Unlimited Target Visalia CA 6 PPC IBS NBRSA

Gary Ocock Rail Gun Unlimited Target Visalia CA 6 PPC IBS NBRSA
When the top 15 shooters all post teen Aggs, conditions must be pretty favorable. However there were some light switchy winds — Gary said that he shot better in the left to right condition.

Ocock’s red Jay Young Unlimited Railgun features one major difference from Young’s typical Railgun designs. The bottom of the barrel block is integral with the top (moving part), of the gun. The barrel is Ocock’s usual 1:13.5″-twist Krieger chambered for the 6 PPC. The BAT Neuvo action* is unusual in that its lugs are horizontal at lock-up instead of the usual vertical. With horizontal lugs, both lugs maintain contact with their abutments when the action is cocked. In the more normal configuration when cocked the top lug is forced off of its seat by a combination of the angle of the trigger cocking piece interface, the pressure of the striker spring, and bolt clearance at the rear of the action.

Gary shot this remarkable Agg with well-used brass, Vihtavuori N133 powder, and self-made 66gr BT bullets** seated at “jam”. This amazing Agg was shot on the second day of a 2-day Unlimited Benchrest match. On Day 1 Gary had experimented with various loads using both surplus IMR 8208 and Vihtavuori N133, but was not satisfied with the results. For his first group on Day 2, Gary tried a light load of N133. After seeing the result, however, he decided to go to the other extreme — a super stout N133 load — with the same powder. As you can see, Gary’s willingness to experiment paid off.

Gary Ocock Rail Gun Unlimited Target Visalia CA 6 PPC IBS NBRSA

Notably, Gary used light neck tension. Ocock found that for these bullets and this barrel, light neck tension worked best (contrary to “normal” N133 benchrest practice). Ocock used a bushing that only produces .001″ difference between the diameters of sized and loaded case necks.

Comment on Ocock’s Achievement
Congratulations to Gary Ocock for superb shooting (and smart loading). Even though the match was not sanctioned (so the Agg will never be a record), Ocock has raised the bar very high, and given us a new standard of ultimate accuracy.

Though this 0.0840 Aggregate and 0.018 group will never go into the record group, they are still noteworthy. There’s virtually no doubt that they would have survived inspection by any record committee. Except for the lack of fixed backers, an IBS requirement (for detecting cross-fires), all other conditions were met for an officially-sanctioned match.

*The new BAT Neuvo actions are the result of a collaboration between Dwight Scott, and Bruce Thom, featuring Dwight’s ideas and BAT’s proven manufacturing expertise.

** Ocock shot his own, boat-tail match bullets, made with George Ulrich-crafted dies using Hood cores. Although he said that it had been a while since he had weighed any, his best guess was that they weigh something around 66.5 grains.

Permalink Competition, Reloading, Shooting Skills 1 Comment »
October 6th, 2014

Hail the Rail — Unrivaled Precision for Accuracy Junkies

NBRSA Unlimited Rail Guns Aggregate Benchrest Gary Ocock
NBRSA Unlimited Rail Guns Aggregate Benchrest Gary Ocock

You’ve heard of “Adrenalin Junkies”? Well many readers of this website could rightly be called “Accuracy Junkies”. And for true accuracy junkies nothing can beat the “rush” you get with a rail gun. These heavy Unlimited rigs are the most accurate benchtop shooting machines ever created. Campaigned by ace competitors in the 100/200-yard benchrest game, rail guns are capable of delivering the ultimate in rifle accuracy — multiple groups in the zeros one after another.

RAIL GUNS GALORE — Video shows many current Rail Guns (Ocock Rail at 0:35 Mark):

NBRSA Unlimited Rail Guns Aggregate Benchrest Gary OcockUltimate Benchrest Accuracy
How accurate can rail guns be? Hall-of-Fame shooter (and skilled gunsmith) Gary Ocock recently shot a terrific five-target Agg this past weekend in a match at Visalia, California. The range-measured Agg (average group size of all five targets) is an amazing 0.1088″, with four “zero” groups out of five. Though it won’t be submitted for a new record, this Agg is still a stunning demonstration of the accuracy these big rigs can deliver. The current NBRSA Unlimited 5-target, 100-yard Agg record is 0.1242 by Jerry Lahr. Congrats to Gary for a fine performance. The cartridge was a 6 PPC loaded with Gary’s own custom-made boat-tail bullets. The rifle is a modified Jay Young Rail, fitted with a 1:13.5″-twist Krieger barrel.

NBRSA Unlimited Rail Guns Aggregate Benchrest Gary Ocock

Gary’s rail gun features a round hole in the barrel block and a Delrin sleeve placed between block and barrel. The rail gun also has been modified to save weight for bench rotations. The lead photo (at top) is from an earlier match when Gary’s rail had a BAT action. Currently Gary is running a Marsh Saguaro action, shown in the photo below.

NBRSA Unlimited Rail Guns Aggregate Benchrest Gary Ocock

NOTE: Gary does not aim through two scopes at the same time, in binocular fashion. However, he does have a twin mount option so he can periodically check one scope against another, to ensure the scopes are holding point of aim. Gary tells us he normally just runs one scope. But at this match he wanted to ensure that his primary scope (the black Bausch & Lomb on left) was performing 100%. So he would cross-check it from time to time using the silver Weaver (on right). Gary notes that, unlike many rail gun shooters, he looks through his scope before each shot, and sometimes makes a very minor aiming correction using the rail controls. His scopes are boosted to very high power (55X), so even when the shots are falling in a tiny “bug-hole” cluster he can see if the last shot edged a bit left or right. He then adjusts aim accordingly.

Story and photos by Boyd Allen. We welcome reader submissions.
Permalink Competition 3 Comments »
August 12th, 2014

IBS Match Report: 2014 Group Nationals at Fairchance, PA

IBS Benchrest National Championship Fairchance PA Jeff Stover
Report by Jeff Stover, IBS President
Photos by Vera Carter
IBS Benchrest National Championship Fairchance PA Jeff StoverSmooth. Efficient. Well-run. Lots of small groups. Those words pretty much spell out the 45th annual IBS Group Nationals at Fairchance, PA. Match Director Bill Reahard and his crew put on a great show that consists of six days of competition from Monday through Saturday. Bill and his team spent days getting their southwestern Pennsylvania range ready for the nearly 80 shooters who attended. Fairchance is no stranger to big matches as the club has hosted previous Nationals and World Team qualifiers.

IBS 2014 Group Nat’l Championship RESULTS (web-page)
IBS 2014 Group Nat’l Championship RESULTS (XLS spreadsheet)

Six Days of Competition in Four Classes
Some say that the IBS Group Nationals is a marathon. Six days of competition at both 100 and 200 yards with four classes of rifles: Light Varmint (10.5 lb.); Sporter (10.5 lb. – 6mm min caliber); Heavy Varmint (13.5 lb.) and Heavy Bench (known as ‘Unlimited’ in NBRSA-land). The first three classes are simply known as the “bag guns”. Most competitors use a 10.5-lb. rifle in 6PPC and compete in all three classes. The Heavy Bench (HB) class requires 10-shot groups as opposed to 5-shot groups for the bag guns. There is no prohibition to shooting your 10.5 lb. rifle in HB, but bag guns are simply outclassed by the rail guns, especially for 10-shot groups.

All 100-yard targets were shot the first three days followed by three days at 200 yards. It is done in this sequence to require only one change of wind flags.

Natalie from the Target Crew during the Powder-Puff match.
IBS Benchrest National Championship Fairchance PA Jeff Stover

The week delivered pretty typical mid-Atlantic August weather: hazy sun with 80% humidity in the morning dropping to 50% as the temperature warmed. Fairchance is sometimes known to offer strong crosswinds that challenge the best of shooters. This week, however, the breezes were light to moderate and switchy. A shooter on his game with a well-tuned rifle could assemble a string of good groups. There were many ‘Teen Aggs’ (sub-.200 five target averages) shot this week.

Musical Chairs at the Group Nationals
IBS Nationals competition requires ‘full rotation’. That means that every time a shooter goes to the line for the next match target, he or she must move a requisite number of benches to the right. At the end of the day a shooter will shoot across the full width of the line. Some ranges offer unique properties that render some parts of the range harder or easier to shoot small groups. Bench rotation is important to even out those factors.

View looking down-range. This is a beautiful place to shoot.
IBS Benchrest National Championship Fairchance PA Jeff Stover

Monday morning saw the Heavy Bench (HB) shooters hauling the big rail guns to the line. Bill Symons led the way at 100 yards with the only ‘Teen Agg’ in HB, a fine .1972. The 200-yard stage for HB would not be held until Saturday morning.

On Tuesday the bag guns came out for Light Varmint (LV) and Sporter (SP). Conditions allowed for quite a few very good groups. When the top five are under .1900 you know two things — Nationals competitors brought their “A Game” and the conditions were manageable. Sporter was not too much different as the first four were in the ‘teens. Ohio’s Jeff Gaidos led the way in LV with a .1714. In SP, Wayne Campbell from Virginia won with a .1902.

Sporter 100 “Top Guns” (L to R): Charles Miller, Steve Lee, Al Auman, Wayne Campbell, Larry Costa.
IBS Benchrest National Championship Fairchance PA Jeff Stover

Wednesday was reserved for Heavy Varmint (HV) at 100 yards. Steve Lee worked his magic with a .1742. Reportedly, he was using some new Bart’s bullets on new Bart’s jackets. Steve shot well all week. Those new bullets certainly contributed to his success.

Wednesday afternoon saw the moving of flags for the 200-yard stage of the competition. The SP and LV 200 yard targets were Thursday’s course of fire. In LV, Hal Drake shot a .2045 Aggregate which edged Larry Costa’s .2076. At 200 yards the Aggregates are measure on MOA. Therefore, Hal’s .2045 Aggregate translates to an average 200 yard target measurement of .409”. The afternoon was reserved for SP targets. Wayne Campbell shot a .2250 to win the afternoon’s contest.

IBS Benchrest National Championship Fairchance PA Jeff Stover

On Friday, a single Aggregate of five record targets were shot for Heavy Varmint (HV) at 200 yards. Harley Baker had his mojo working with a tiny .1674 Aggregate — not far off from the IBS record. On Friday afternoon many of the awards for the bag guns were given out. Saturday was reserved for HB 200. Since some of the bag gun shooters do not shoot a rail gun a number of competitors left Friday afternoon. The rail guns came out to contest 200 yards on the last day of the Nationals. The winner was Jack Neary who shot a .2324 Aggregate to edge Steve Lee’s .2361.

IBS 2014 Group Shooting National Championships — Top Fives
IBS Benchrest National Championship Fairchance PA Jeff Stover

About the IBS Awards at the Group Nationals
The IBS recognizes winners as follows: Range Aggregates for each of the four classes of rifles; Grand (100 and 200) Aggregates in each of the four classes; 2-Gun (all HV and LV targets in 100 & 200); 3-gun (HV, LV, SP in 100 & 200) and 4-gun (HV, LV, SP and HB in 100 & 200). For the multi-gun competition, Florida’s Larry Costa won both the 2-Gun and 3-Gun titles. In the 4-gun, however, it was Michigander Bill Symons who took the 4-Gun title with an excellent .2332.

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January 29th, 2013

Robert Carnell’s Australian Benchrest Bulletin

Thanks to a dedicated ‘Down-Under’ benchrester, Australian shooters have an excellent web resource for their sport. Sydney’s Robert Carnell has created a content-rich website for Australian shooters, www.benchrestbulletin.net. Carnell’s Benchrest Bulletin provides match schedules and results, range info, recent news, record listings, shooting tips, and links to important Australian and Pacific Rim shooting organizations. You’ll also find gear reviews and a Shooter’s Forum.

Australia Benchrest Bulletin

Carnell, a past Australian Sporter Class champion, is an accomplished benchrest shooter with decades of experience. In 1993 he won a Silver Medal at the World Championships, and he has placed highly in events he’s attended in the United States. But Carnell is far more than an ace trigger puller. Robert is a skilled and creative “home gunsmith” who has crafted his own custom action and built his own railguns from scratch. You can learn about these and other Carnellian creations in the “Personal Projects” section of Robert’s website.

Home-Built Rail Gun — Aussie Innovation
Below are photos of one of Rob Carnell’s most amazing builds. This liquid-cooled, tension-barrel rail gun is a great example of self-reliant Aussie engineering. The barrel runs inside a coolent-filled, large-diameter sleeve, much like an old water-cooled machine gun. This is the fourth rail gun that Rob built, and the second fitted with a tensioned barrel.

Australia Benchrest Bulletin

Australia Benchrest Bulletin

Robert explains: “My railgun design has a 1.75″ barrel under tension inside an aluminium tube filled with radiator coolant. There is nearly a gallon of coolant, and the barrel stays cool no matter how many shots I seem to fire, or how quickly they are shot. The brass nut on the front rides on a nylon bearing and can be tightened to get the best accuracy. I am a believer in the ‘tuner’ idea and this seems to work for me. The main tube is thick-walled aluminium 600mm (24″) long. There is a flange at both ends. The flange at the back fits onto the barrel before the action is screwed on. The front flange is a press-fit into the tube, then there is a brass nut that fits over the barrel and screws against a nylon washer on the front flange. The Railgun’s base is aluminium and has the standard adjustments — windage, elevation and a sighter cam. In addition, there is a 1/10 thou dial indicator for windage. This allows me to zero the indicator and shoot my group. If I need to add a bit of windage for a condition, I can quickly get back to the original position if my condition comes back.”

Home-Built Action Uses Remington Bolt
Rob’s rail gun uses his own home-made stainless action, which features Panda-spec threads and a modified Remington 700 aftermarket bolt. Not bad for a do-it-yourself project we’d say! CLICK HERE to read how Rob designed and built the action.

Australia Benchrest Bulletin

Permalink Gunsmithing, News 5 Comments »
December 17th, 2009

Jackie Schmidt Tests New IMR 8208 XBR Powder — Results are Very Impressive

IMR 8208 XBR is a new powder to be released by Hodgdon in January, 2010. The powder is said to be extremely accurate, and Hodgdon believes it will set new standards for stability across a wide temperature range. We spoke to Chris Hodgdon last week and he confirmed that “the 8208 XBR is packaged and ready to go. We plan to start shipping in quantity starting January 4th”.

Schmidt Tests IMR 8208 XBR with 6 PPC Railgun
Is the new powder as good as early reports have suggested? Ace Benchrest shooter Jackie Schmidt recently tested IMR 8208 XBR with his 6PPC rail gun. The results were very impressive. (Test observer 333 Smitty said: “This was the best testing session I have ever witnessed — It looks like the new 8208 is a huge success!”)

IMR 8208 XBR test Schmidt

Shooting five, 5-shot groups, Jackie put together an .0976 Agg. His last two groups, both using weighed 8208 XBR loads, were in the zeros. (See target photo.) Jackie was shooting his Unlimited Rail with 65gr “Bartail” bullets, Fed 205 primers. The barrel was a 23.5″ straight-contour Kreiger with a 1:13.5″ twist. Conditions were “were really nice, just a gentle ebb and flow” with temps in the 50s and about 60% humidity.

Here is Jackie’s report, originally posted in the Benchrest Central Forum:

“I first started out with my ’08 Vihtavuori N133, just to see if the Rail was on its game. After a few 3-shot groups to find the window, I settled in on 30.4 grains with a 65gr Barts Boattail. I then nailed a nice 5-shot ‘zero’ that you can see on the far left, second row up. Average velocity was 3470 fps.

I then switched over to the 8208 XBR. I started with a load that Tom Libby recommended, 31.3 grains. While it did not nail a ‘zero’, you can see it shot pretty well. The average velocity for the five record shots was 3430 fps.

I then decided to drop the load down into another window, a flat 30.0 grains. The average velocity was 3320, and as you can see, the group opened up. I felt like I hit the condition just right on each shot. Maybe a little cool for this light of a load.

IMR 8208 XBR test Schmidt

We then decided to up the charge until it matched the velocity of the N133. This took 31.8 grains. With a slow trickle this was just about half-way up into the neck. The group was really nice, so I decided to try the load again, only weighing each charge. The results were the group you see on the far right. That is really probably about a .040″, pretty darned small. The average velocity on both groups was about 3470 fps.

I then decided to go back to the 31.3 grain charge, but weighing each charge this time. The results were another nice “zero”. The velocity was the same as before, but the total spread on this group was only 12 fps.”

IMR 8208 Also Shoots Well in Sporter Rifle
Jackie reports: “I then pulled out my Sporter, and put the 31.8 grain XBR load in. I shot a couple of 3-shot groups that were about .110, then shot a 5-shot group that was a ‘zero’ for the first four. But I missed the last condition, and opened it up to about a .180, straight to the right.”

IMR 8208 XBR test Schmidt

Observations and Conclusions
Jackie writes: “So, what did I find out? First, this stuff is more dense than N133. I can barely get the 30.4 grain N133 load in the case, but there is no problem at all getting the XBR in at darned near 32.0 grains. This shows that, by weight, XBR is slower than the ’08 N133.

The 8208 XBR also burned just as clean as N133. I could not tell the difference in the patches that came out after shooting N133 and the XBR. Also, this stuff meters VERY WELL. Much more consistant than N133. While I started weighing charges, I could count on the XBR out of my Hensler Measure to be within ± 0.1 grain. I simply cannot do this with N133.

An added note, the Rail Gun has a 23 1/2 inch barrel, the Sporter a 21 1/2. With the same load, I saw an average 70 to 80 fps slower velocity out of the shorter barrel. These two barrels are just about identical in the land and groove diameter, both .237 4-groove Kriegers[.] I guess this shows that some of the powder is still burning at 21 1/2 inches.

I showed that yes, at 52 degrees overcast and dreary, I made the stuff shoot pretty darned good. But, I do not have a clue what will happen when the weather changes. Only time will tell.

That about covers it. This new powder will shoot, and velocity is certainly not a problem. I had zero problems with any pressure signs, the handle on the Diamondback on the Rail and the Bat action on the Sporter lifted really easy on all loads, and the primers looked nice, with a generous radius still on the outside edge.”

General Comments — Can 8208 XBR Live Up to Expectations?

Jackie offered these general thoughts about IMR 8208 XBR and how it stacks up versus Vihtavuori N133:

“I have been shooting Benchrest since the mid ’90s, and I can’t think of a single product causing this much excitement, or generating this much hype. Just what are everyone’s expectations? Being able to arrive at a competitive tune, and have it stay there all day? Being able to shoot in the upper window without wrecking the brass? Being able to concentrate on the actual ‘shooting’ rather than worrying about the rifle going ‘vertical’ at any moment?

As of now, a few shooters have been able to test this new powder and found it to be capable of producing good velocity, and great groups. But, the realities of the ‘Competitive Arena’ can be very harsh. Nothing is more aggravating than trying to keep up with the pack when your rifle is locked into a .300 tune, and try as you do, nothing seems to work. We have all been there.

My expectations are that the new powder will be more stable in the perameters that govern that all important ‘Agging Capability’. By that I mean that if the rifle does get a little ragged, just a little tweek one way or another will get it back. Or even better, that the rifle will stay reasonably competitive over a day’s worth of aggregates without fear of getting so ragged that your entire day is ruined by two bullet holes worth of vertical.

This is a tough sell. But then, this is a tough game. I, for one, really hope that this new powder is more ‘user friendly’, so Benchrest can get back to being more about shooting, rather than chasing loads all day long.

N133 is probably the most used powder in 100-200 yard Benchrest today. It is also, at the same time, the biggest source of aggravation. If it is right, nothing can beat it. But, as we all know, if it isn’t quite right, the fun can go away real quick. One of the Holy Grails of Benchrest has always been how to make N133 shoot over an entire Aggregate.”

Photos Courtesy G.A. Villarreal, used with permission.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Gear Review, New Product 2 Comments »