June 28th, 2020

Sunday GunDay: Trio of Tack-Driving Thumbhole Varmint Rifles

gunday sunday varmint rifles Richard Franklin Custom rifles virginia thumbhole

Mr. Smith’s Tack-Driving Thumbhole Trio
What is it they say? “Can’t have too much of a good thing?” We’ll in the case of Sam Smith of Wisconsin, that goes for beautiful wood-stocked thumbhole rifles that shoot like the blazes. This week we feature a troika of thumbholes, all smithed and stocked by Richard Franklin of Richard’s Custom Rifles (Richard is now retired but still offers DVDs). Not content with a single caliber or twist, Sam commissioned three different chamberings and barrel twist rates.

First, in Fiddleback Walnut — a 6PPC Walking Varminter
thumbhole varmint rigThe most elegant of the three thumbholes is this handsome .261″-neck 6PPC. The blue-printed Rem 700 action is pillar-bedded in a highly-figured stock of laminated Curley Fiddleback Walnut, in Richard’s #004 pattern. Richard uses three sections of wood bonded together so the outside looks like a single piece of Walnut.

The lead photo at top, and the image at right show more details of this rifle. The grain really takes on a rich color in sunlight, with the Tiger-stripe figure showing brilliantly through the clearcoat. Believe it or not, Sam doesn’t even consider this one of his best-looking rifles. Sam tells us, “these three thumbhole stocks are not even close to the prettiest guns Richard has built for me–you should see the Maple ones he did for me–they are unbelievable.”

Sam tells us the gun’s 1:14″-twist Krieger barrel is a hummer — it regularly shoots one-holers at 100 yards. Sam has even logged some groups in the Zeros with the gun–awesome accuracy for a varmint rifle/Sam tells us that, using VV N133 and 58gr V-max bullets, this gun is absolutely deadly on prairie dogs out to 500 yards. (SEE: One-hole Sample Target.)

Rifle #2 — Cherry and Walnut Together in a 6mm Rem Improved

gunday sunday varmint rifles Richard Franklin Custom rifles virginia thumbhole

When more knock-down power or more distant targets are in order, Sam pulls out his 6mm Rem Improved 1:12″-twist thumbhole Varminter. Like the other two guns, this features a pillar-bedded Remington 700 action and Krieger barrel. While the 6mm AI’s #004 stock shares the same shape and form as the 6PPC above, it is much more colorful, employing a seven-layer laminate in Cherry and Walnut, covered with multiple coats of automotive clear-coat. One of Sam’s favorite varminters, this rifle sees more range use than his 6PPC because “the PPC is so accurate I want to keep the round count down.” That’s not to say the 6mm Improved is any slouch in the accuracy department. Using VV N160 and 75gr V-max bullets, the gun averages in the 2s and 3s. The best group to date was .189″ with the 87gr V-Max (See V-Max Target below). Chalk that up to another superbly accurate Krieger barrel combined with outstanding chambering work by Richard.

6mm Rem Improved with 87gr V-Max at 100 Yards
6mm Rem improved target

Rifle #3 — Fast-Twist 6.5-284 with Benchrest Forearm

6.5-284 with Benchrest Forearm

Last but not least is Sam’s handsome 6.5-284 (below), also in a laminated Walnut and Cherry stock. The Krieger barrel is a Heavy Varmint contour, with an 8-twist and .290″ neck. This gun hasn’t been shot much yet, but during initial testing it grouped in the mid-threes with 53gr of H4831 and 142gr Sierra MKs. You’ll note the stock is a bit different than the other two guns–this is the #005 stock pattern, which boasts a 3″-wide, flat forearm. It is identical to the #004 from the recoil lug rearward. Sam tells us that the #005 tracks better than the #004, though he prefers the rounded forearm of the #004 for a walking varminter.

Sam’s all-time favorite stock pattern in Richard’s #007, a roll-over comb design with conventional wrist and Cooper-style Beavertail forearm. Sam has a similar Maple #007 that he says is “even nicer than the gun in the picture.”

Nice Wood? You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet!
After this trio of thumbhole rifles, Sam commissioned two more rifles — a matched pair in 6mm BR Norma and 6PPC, done up in absolutely amazing 500 year-old Turkish Walnut, sourced from a one-of-a-kind 48″ diameter Burl. What does a piece of wood like this cost? Trust us, if you have to ask, you couldn’t possibly afford it. Let us just say these are some of the most spectacularly figured blanks ever shipped from Turkey and they are priced accordingly. Here’s a preview, taken right before Richard bonded the first stock together. The lower two pieces look lighter because of the flash angle but the upper section more accurately shows how all three pieces appear in natural light. “Wow” is right!

gunday sunday varmint rifles Richard Franklin Custom rifles virginia thumbhole

Richard Franklin is Now Retired in Montana
The last we heard, gunsmith Richard Franklin was enjoying his retirement years up in Montana. On RichardsCustomRifles.com Richard posted: “I built fine custom rifles and for many years. I was the first stock maker to laminate woods such high-grade walnut, fiddleback maple and other fancy woods. I designed my own ideas into my patterns and carved, finished, pillar bedded thousands of stocks on the rifles I built. My most popular stock pattern was my Model 11 thumbhole.

I love building rifles but my health has forced me to retire and to take time to smell the roses. I made many great videos on how to build rifles and have been selling them for many years. They are still in great demand.” CLICK HERE to check out Richard’s DVDs about rifle building and varmint hunting.

gunday sunday varmint rifles Richard Franklin Custom rifles virginia thumbhole

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May 7th, 2020

The 22 BR — A Great Ultra-Accurate Varmint Cartridge

6mmBR 22BR 22 BR BRA varmint cartridge

22 BR Dasher 22BRAThe 6mmBR Norma cartridge has spawned many great variants in multiple calibers: 6mm Dasher, 6BRA, 22 BR, 22 Dasher, 30 BR and others. This article is about a handsome 22 BR Rem-action varmint rig.

Richard Franklin (who operated Richard’s Custom Rifles prior to his retirement), has built scores of varmint rifles, in many different calibers. One of Richard’s all-time favorite varmint rifles is a 1:14″-twist, 22 BR built on his Model 11 stock in laminated Black Walnut and fiddleback maple. Richard says the rifle is versatile and deadly accurate out to 400 yards. Richard uses a Leupold 8.5-25x50mm LRT with varmint reticle.

Richard’s 22 BR Varmint Rifle with Lilja Barrel
Richard tells us: “[Shown above] is my light walking varminter. It’s built on a blue-printed Stainless Steel Remington 700 short action and chambered as a no-turn 22 BR for Lapua brass. The bolt handle is a Dave Kiff replacement and I’ve fitted a Jewel BR trigger with bottom safety. The barrel is a Lilja, 1:14″ #6 contour with a muzzle diameter of .750″. I shoot the 40gr V-Max bullets in the rifle at 4000 FPS. It’s tough on hogs if you don’t try them too far. 400 yards is about the max with it.

Accuracy is outstanding and with Roy, Mike, my grandson and myself shooting this rifle I don’t believe it has missed more than three hogs out of over 100 we shot at one summer. This rifle is carried in a ceiling rack in the truck where it’s handy and is used by the first person that grabs it when a hog is sighted if we are moving between setups. The Varmint reticle on the Leupold (shown below) is nice for quick hold-overs as you change distances.”

At right is a another Franklin Model 11 stock in Birdseye maple. That photo shows the details of the thumbhole stock.

Editor’s Note: We have shot a 1:8″-twist 22 BR in varmint matches and it was very accurate with 80gr bullets. It actually shot flatter out to 500 yards than our 6mmBR running 105-grainers. If we were to build a new long-range, bolt-action varmint rifle it would probably be a 22 BRA, essentially a 22 BR with 40° shoulder. That gives you a very stable cartridge with a bit more capacity. The 22 BRA retains a longer neck compare to the 22 Dasher, which is also an excellent cartridge — versatile and accurate.

22 BR Rivals 22-250 Performance
With bullets in the 40gr to 60gr weight range, the 22 BR gives up very little in velocity to a 22-250, despite burning quite a bit less powder (30-32 grains for the 22 BR vs. 35-38 grains for the 22-250). With a match-quality chamber, the 22 BR will probably have an edge in accuracy over a 22-250, and you should experience longer barrel life. Here are some recommended 22 BR loads for 40-60gr bullets:

For more info on the 22 BR for varminting, read our 22BR Cartridge Guide

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March 3rd, 2018

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

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

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

30BR Hunter Class Rifle

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

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

30BR Hunter Class Rifle

BACKGROUND — The 30 BR for Score Competition

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

30 BR cartridge

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

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

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

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

Case Forming, Case Prep, and Reloading Methods

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

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

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

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

READ FULL Story on AccurateShooter.com Main Site »

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July 9th, 2017

The 22BR as General-Purpose Varmint Cartridge

Richard Franklin (who operated Richard’s Custom Rifles prior to his retirement), has built scores of varmint rifles, in many different calibers. One of Richard’s all-time favorite varmint rifles is a 14-twist, 22BR built on his model 11 stock in laminated Black Walnut and fiddleback maple. Richard says the rifle is versatile and deadly accurate out to 400 yards. Richard uses a Leupold 8.5-25x50mm LRT with varmint reticle.

“This is my light walking varminter. It’s built on a blueprinted SS Remington 700 short action and chambered as a no-turn 22 BR for Lapua brass. The bolt handle is a Dave Kiff replacement and I’ve fitted a Jewel BR trigger with bottom safety. Barrel is a Lilja, 1:14″ # 6 contour with a muzzle diameter of .750″. I shoot the 40gr V-Max in the rifle at 4000 FPS. Its tough on hogs if you don’t try them too far. 400 yards is about the max with it. Accuracy is outstanding and with Roy, Mike, my grandson and myself shooting this rifle I don’t believe it has missed more than 3 hogs out of over 100 shot at this summer. This rifle is carried in a ceiling rack in the truck where its handy and is used by the first person that grabs it when a hog is sighted if we are moving between setups. The Varmint reticle on the Leupold is nice for quick hold-overs as you change distances.”

Detail of Model 11 Stock (Different Rifle in Birdseye Maple)

22BR Rivals 22-250 Performance
With bullets in the 40gr to 60gr weight range, the 22BR gives up very little in velocity to a 22-250, despite burning quite a bit less powder (30-32 grains for the 22BR vs. 35-38 grains for the 22-250). With a match-quality chamber, the 22BR will probably have an edge in accuracy over a 22-250, and you should experience longer barrel life. Here are some recommended 22BR loads for 40-60gr bullets:

For more info on the 22BR for varminting, read our 22BR Cartridge Guide

Permalink Hunting/Varminting 2 Comments »
May 4th, 2016

Get Smart: Read Top TECH Articles on AccurateShooter.com

AccurateShooter.com technical articles Case Prep Stock Bedding Savage Tuning Painting

AccurateShooter.comReaders who have just recently discovered the Daily Bulletin may not realize that AccurateShooter.com has hundreds of reference articles in our archives. These authoritative articles are divided into mutiple categories, so you can easily view stories by topic (such as competition, tactical, rimfire, optics, shooting skills etc.). One of the most popular categories is our Technical Articles Collection. On a handy index page (with thumbnails for every story), you’ll find over 100 articles covering technical and gunsmithing topics. These articles can help you with major projects (such as stock painting), and they can also help you build more accurate ammo. Here are five popular selections from our Technical Articles archive.

Precision Case Prep for Reloading

Complete Precision Case Prep. Jake Gottfredson covers the complete case prep process, including brass weight sorting, case trimming, primer pocket uniforming, neck-sizing, and, case-neck turning.

pillar Bedding

Stress-Free Pillar Bedding. Richard Franklin explains how to do a top-quality bedding job, start to finish.

On Target Software Review

OnTarget Software Review. Our Editors test free software that measures shot groups with great precision. We explain how to use the program and configure advanced features.

Savage Action Tuning Torque Settings

Savage Action Tuning. Top F-TR shooter Stan Pate explains how to enhance the performance of your Savage rifle by optimizing the torque settings of the action screws.

rifle stock painting and spraying

Stock Painting Instructions. Step-by-step guide for stock painting by expert Mike Ricklefs. Mike shows both simple coverage and fancy effects.

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March 21st, 2014

Richard Franklin — He’s Alive and Well

DVDOur readers have asked, “What’s happened to Richard Franklin? Is he still making rifles?” Well, we’re pleased to tell you that Richard is doing fine. He is up in Montana, building a new house, doing most of the construction himself. The good news is that the new house will have a big workshop, and Richard hopes to start building a few rifles near the end of this year. He won’t be taking orders for quite a while. But in the meantime, Richard is still sharing his knowledge about stock-making, gunsmithing, and varmint hunting via DVDs that can be purchased online.


Groundhog Hunting with Richard Franklin

A few seasons back, gunsmith Richard Franklin and his shooting partner Roy both achieved a varmint hunter’s dream — nailing a groundhog at 1000+ yards. The guns that did it were two of Richard’s 300 Varminters. These are 300 WSMs that push a 125gr bullet through 32″, 15-twist barrels to achieve velocities approaching 4000 fps. Here is Richard’s report, condensed for the Daily Bulletin.

Richard's Custom Rifles

The 1005-Yard Groundhog Adventure, by Richard Franklin
September 20th found Roy and I on our last groundhog hunt of the year. Bow season for Deer begins Oct. 4th and we wanted time to ready ourselves. Roy had killed 99 hogs so far this year and I had killed 97. In the morning, we headed over to the Overstreet farm leased by our good friend Richard Ruff. We set up the shooting trailer on top of a hill where we had a good view of several brush piles around the pasture. In the first ten minutes Roy put a hog in the air about four feet at 497 yards with his 300 Varminter, giving Roy an even 100 hogs for the year. I shot hogs at 180 yards, 506 yards, and 456 yards. That gave me a total of 100 for the year.

Richard's Custom RiflesThen we decided to go up to Danny’s and Bill’s hard rock dairy farm. We set up on the top of a high hill and shoot over the farm buildings to another mountain where there is a huge pasture with large rock piles. We scanned this pasture for about an hour and a half. Roy has a pair of Ziess 8-power binocs and I use a pair of the Leica 10-power Geovids with built-in laser rangefinder. I also have a “Big Eyes” set-up — two 22-power Kowa spotting scopes mounted on a bracket and used on a sturdy tripod. After some time searching the field for hogs and seeing none, we decided to pack up and go to a farm owned by Donnie Campbell. Over the years we have shot many a hog here. Roy once shot one here at 905 yards and my longest shot on this farm was 714 yards. Most kills here are made at over 400 yards. There’s a perfect place to shoot hogs from a single firing position. At the back property line was a big hill about 400 feet higher than the surrounding pastures and we could see and shoot about 200 degrees around us all the way out to 1,200 yards.

Setting Up the 1005-yard Shot
I had the first shot and nailed an easy one at about 140 yards. He was thinking he was hidden from view. Wrong! BLAM…POOF. Roy nailed a hog at 469 yards under an old pear tree. Roy nailed another hog at 522 yards by a big log pile where we had killed about ten hogs this summer. Roy was looking through the Big Eyes and called out, “Hey Rich…I got you one way over there on the next farm by the edge of the woods.” I ranged the hog with the Geovids four times, registering 1003, 1007, 1006 and 1005 yards. I decided on the 1005 as the distance. Checking my chart, I clicked up to 18 and 1/4 minutes. We had a very stiff wind blowing left to right. I have a Nightforce 8-32 power scope with the MLR reticle. I held the fourth windage dot and touched one off. I see the bullet strike nearly in line with the hog but low. I click up another minute and a half making a total of 19 3/4 minutes. Roy is watching all this through the Big Eyes and can see better than I can. He confirms where the first bullet strike was. I hold the same windage and touch off another round in my Bat-actioned, 32″, 15-twist Bartlein-barreled 300 Varminter. The hog was standing up for this shot. Through the scope I see the bullet’s vapor trail going straight for the hog. I lost the vapor trail before the bullet got there but I saw the hog flip over.

Hot damn, what a shot! After Roy shakes my hand and slaps me on the back, I walk over to the Big Eyes for a better look. “Roy, there’s another hog trying to fight that dead one,” I say. This hog (evidently both are males) is biting and dragging the dead hog. He is really going at it. Both hogs were evidently eating fallen acorns from the huge White Oak tree at the edge of the woods.

Richard's Custom Rifles

Roy Gets His Chance
I tell Roy, “Get up there on your bench and try that hog, I’ll spot for you.” Roy clicks up to 19 1/2 minutes and holds three feet for windage. Roy lets it go and I see the vapor trail going in on the hog. It hits a foot to the right and low. “Hey Roy”, I say, “click up two more minutes and hold one more foot of wind.” The hog ran in under the tree at the bullet’s impact but was back within 30 seconds. Roy is now clicked up and lets the second round go. I see the vapor trail dropping in on the hog but the bullet impacts dead in line, but still a bit low. “Roy — give it another minute and a half and hold the same wind”. I can hear Roy furiously working the bolt and chambering another round, then POW, and I see the vapor trail again. It looks like it’s gonna be in the middle of the hog but it drops right in under his neck, nearly hitting him. The hog vacates back under the tree for an instant but decides he is winning the fight against the dead hog and comes right back. Roy lets the fourth round go with the same hold as the last shot. I see the vapor trail of the 125 grain Ballistic Tip dropping right in on the hog, catching him perfectly in the shoulder. The live hog flips up and falls on top of the dead hog, his tail coming up stiff as a poker as he flags us that he is instantly dead.

Two 1000+ Yard Hits. A Record for Roy, Near-Record for Richard.
This was Roy’s longest shot ever. His previous record was 905 yards. This was my second longest shot, as I had killed a hog at 1018 yards seven years ago about 40 miles from this spot. I tell Roy that I’m putting up my hog rifle for the year. I’ll let this long shot register in my memory as the last Groundhog kill of 2008. Roy says “That’s fine, I’m gonna do the same.” Hog hunting is officially over for 2008. Now it’s time for Deer.

CLICK HERE to Visit Richard Franklin’s website and learn more about this ‘Hog hunt.

[Editor’s Note: Richard’s rifle has a BAT action and is able to drive the 125 Nosler at about 3975 fps. Roy has a Remington action on his 300 Varminter. The Rem doesn’t take high pressures as well as the BAT, so Roy’s load is down-loaded to about 3825 fps. Roy also uses a “boosted” Leupold rather than a Nightforce. Because of the difference in scopes, and the lower velocity, Roy needed more elevation clicks to reach the 1005-yard distance.]

Permalink Hunting/Varminting, News 1 Comment »
April 24th, 2011

1005-yard Groundhogs. Rich and Roy’s Amazing Adventure.

A couple seasons back, Gunsmith Richard Franklin and his shooting partner Roy both achieved a varmint hunter’s dream — nailing a groundhog at 1000+ yards. The guns that did it were two of Richard’s 300 Varminters. These are 300 WSMs that push a 125gr bullet through 32″, 15-twist barrels to achieve velocities approaching 4000 fps. Here is Richard’s report, condensed for the Bulletin.

Richard's Custom Rifles

The 1005-Yard Groundhog Adventure, by Richard Franklin
September 20th found Roy and I on our last groundhog hunt of the year. Bow season for Deer begins Oct. 4th and we wanted time to ready ourselves. Roy had killed 99 hogs so far this year and I had killed 97. In the morning, we headed over to the Overstreet farm leased by our good friend Richard Ruff. We set up the shooting trailer on top of a hill where we had a good view of several brush piles around the pasture. In the first ten minutes Roy put a hog in the air about four feet at 497 yards with his 300 Varminter, giving Roy an even 100 hogs for the year. I shot hogs at 180 yards, 506 yards, and 456 yards. That gave me a total of 100 for the year.

Richard's Custom RiflesThen we decided to go up to Danny’s and Bill’s hard rock dairy farm. We set up on the top of a high hill and shoot over the farm buildings to another mountain where there is a huge pasture with large rock piles. We scanned this pasture for about an hour and a half. Roy has a pair of Ziess 8-power binocs and I use a pair of the Leica 10-power Geovids with built-in laser rangefinder. I also have a “Big Eyes” set-up — two 22-power Kowa spotting scopes mounted on a bracket and used on a sturdy tripod. After some time searching the field for hogs and seeing none, we decided to pack up and go to a farm owned by Donnie Campbell. Over the years we have shot many a hog here. Roy once shot one here at 905 yards and my longest shot on this farm was 714 yards. Most kills here are made at over 400 yards. There’s a perfect place to shoot hogs from a single firing position. At the back property line was a big hill about 400 feet higher than the surrounding pastures and we could see and shoot about 200 degrees around us all the way out to 1,200 yards.

Setting Up the 1005-yard Shot
I had the first shot and nailed an easy one at about 140 yards. He was thinking he was hidden from view. Wrong! BLAM…POOF. Roy nailed a hog at 469 yards under an old pear tree. Roy nailed another hog at 522 yards by a big log pile where we had killed about ten hogs this summer. Roy was looking through the Big Eyes and called out, “Hey Rich…I got you one way over there on the next farm by the edge of the woods.” I ranged the hog with the Geovids four times, registering 1003, 1007, 1006 and 1005 yards. I decided on the 1005 as the distance. Checking my chart, I clicked up to 18 and 1/4 minutes. We had a very stiff wind blowing left to right. I have a Nightforce 8-32 power scope with the MLR reticle. I held the fourth windage dot and touched one off. I see the bullet strike nearly in line with the hog but low. I click up another minute and a half making a total of 19 3/4 minutes. Roy is watching all this through the Big Eyes and can see better than I can. He confirms where the first bullet strike was. I hold the same windage and touch off another round in my Bat-actioned, 32″, 15-twist Bartlein-barreled 300 Varminter. The hog was standing up for this shot. Through the scope I see the bullet’s vapor trail going straight for the hog. I lost the vapor trail before the bullet got there but I saw the hog flip over.

Hot damn, what a shot! After Roy shakes my hand and slaps me on the back, I walk over to the Big Eyes for a better look. “Roy, there’s another hog trying to fight that dead one,” I say. This hog (evidently both are males) is biting and dragging the dead hog. He is really going at it. Both hogs were evidently eating fallen acorns from the huge White Oak tree at the edge of the woods.

Richard's Custom Rifles

Roy Gets His Chance
I tell Roy, “Get up there on your bench and try that hog, I’ll spot for you.” Roy clicks up to 19 1/2 minutes and holds three feet for windage. Roy lets it go and I see the vapor trail going in on the hog. It hits a foot to the right and low. “Hey Roy”, I say, “click up two more minutes and hold one more foot of wind.” The hog ran in under the tree at the bullet’s impact but was back within 30 seconds. Roy is now clicked up and lets the second round go. I see the vapor trail dropping in on the hog but the bullet impacts dead in line, but still a bit low. “Roy — give it another minute and a half and hold the same wind”. I can hear Roy furiously working the bolt and chambering another round, then POW, and I see the vapor trail again. It looks like it’s gonna be in the middle of the hog but it drops right in under his neck, nearly hitting him. The hog vacates back under the tree for an instant but decides he is winning the fight against the dead hog and comes right back. Roy lets the fourth round go with the same hold as the last shot. I see the vapor trail of the 125 grain Ballistic Tip dropping right in on the hog, catching him perfectly in the shoulder. The live hog flips up and falls on top of the dead hog, his tail coming up stiff as a poker as he flags us that he is instantly dead.

Two 1000+ Yard Hits. A Record for Roy, Near-Record for Richard.
This was Roy’s longest shot ever. His previous record was 905 yards. This was my second longest shot, as I had killed a hog at 1018 yards seven years ago about 40 miles from this spot. I tell Roy that I’m putting up my hog rifle for the year. I’ll let this long shot register in my memory as the last Groundhog kill of 2008. Roy says “That’s fine, I’m gonna do the same.” Hog hunting is officially over for 2008. Now it’s time for Deer.

CLICK HERE to Visit Richard Franklin’s website and learn more about this ‘Hog hunt.

[Editor’s Note: Richard’s rifle has a BAT action and is able to drive the 125 Nosler at about 3975 fps. Roy has a Remington action on his 300 Varminter. The Rem doesn’t take high pressures as well as the BAT, so Roy’s load is down-loaded to about 3825 fps. Roy also uses a “boosted” Leupold rather than a Nightforce. Because of the difference in scopes, and the lower velocity, Roy needed more elevation clicks to reach the 1005-yard distance.]

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