March 12th, 2019

Transformer — Stunning F-TR Rig Built from Factory Varmint Rifle

Brandon .223 Rem F-TR Pac-Nor PacNor Varmint Remington VSSF John Pierce Hydro-dip Hydrographics
This rifle started life as a factory Remington VSSF in .204 Ruger. With new stock, new barrel, and other upgrades it is now an ultra-accurate .223 Rem competition rifle.

Flames in the Snow…

Forum Member Brandon Schlund (aka “Bois Blanc Boy”), photographed this handsome flame-themed F-TR rifle against the snowy background of Michigan’s Bois Blanc Island. Brandon posted this to our long-running Pride and Joy Rifle Forum thread. He notes: “This is my first F-TR build, which started out as a stock Remington .204 Ruger. I had the action blue-printed, firing pin was bushed by Speedy, and I had a new bolt handle and knob installed by John Pierce.” This rifle is now fitted with a 3-groove Pac-Nor 1:6.5″-twist barrel chambered in .223 Remington to shoot the 90gr Bergers. Other components are: Kelbly KTS stock, Phoenix bipod, and Sightron 8-32x56mm SIII scope. Brandon says: “It took a long time to get this gun where it is now but I’m truly happy with it!” Here’s the “before” photo:

Brandon .223 Rem F-TR Pac-Nor PacNor Varmint Remington VSSF John Pierce Hydro-dip Hydrographics

The Transformation — F-TR Comp Rig Made from Rem .204 Ruger Varminter
This rifle started out as a “plain Jane”, factory Remington VSSF II. I shot it on varmint hunts in factory configuration. Then I decided to transform the rifle into a .223 Rem F-TR gun. As the .204 has the same bolt face as a .223 made sense to go in that direction since I would be able to use the gun for varmint hunting as well as F-TR.

While I had shot some F-Class matches with my dad (Joe Schlund aka Bench on AccurateShooter) it wasnt much. When we did a PD hunt in Wyoming I primarily shot my .204 but I decided I wanted a cartridge that could reach out a little further and also do double duty — competition and varminting.

Brandon .223 Rem F-TR Pac-Nor PacNor Varmint Remington VSSF John Pierce Hydro-dip Hydrographics
CLICK HERE for full-screen photo.

The first step in transforming this rifle was selecting a barrel. We ordered a Pac-Nor, 1:6.5″-twist, 3 groove, 30.5″ heavy Palma contour. This was then chambered with a PTG .223 ISSF reamer with 0.169″ freebore to run the .224 caliber heavies. I went with Pac-Nor because both my father and my brother Mark (aka Labrador2 on AccurateShooter) owned Kelbly-built F-TR rifles with the same barrels. Mark and my father couldn’t be happier with the results. Pac-Nor has great customer service along with a short wait time.

I sent the barrel and the factory Remington 700 action down to Kelbly’s where they did the chambering and cut the threads. While Kelbly’s had my action I had them blueprint it. A Kelbly KTS stock with the three-way buttplate and adjustable cheek piece came next. After getting behind Dad’s rifle and Mark’s gun there was no reason to look any further. With all its adjustments, the KTS stock fits very comfortably.

Loading for the .223 Rem with H4895 and 90gr Bergers
As a .223 Rem, this rifle has proven very accurate — it’s a bullet-hole cutter at 100 yards (low twos easy). Our best load is with Hodgdon H4895, 90gr Berger VLDs, CCI BR4 primers. This load is running at about 2835 FPS but YMMV (remember this is a LONG 30.5″ barrel). The Bergers are loaded .008″ into the lands with base-to-ogive of 2.035″.

Our loading technique may be tedious — with lots of sorting and measuring. But brother Mark, father Joe, and I all enjoy the steps. Our three .223 Rem match guns all love the same load which makes loading much easier. Believe it or not we use a Hornady Lock-N-Load progressive ammo plant, which is great when loading for three guns. Our consistency is fantastic with run-out a mere .001-.0015.

We also turn necks and weigh our primers. Does neck-turning and primer weighing really make a difference? Who knows but we try to eliminate more variables since we have to the time to do it, and we actually enjoy the procedures.

Pierce Engineering Installed Action and Modified Bolt
Being from Michigan, Pierce Engineering has done a lot of work for my family’s guns. For this project the Pierce team bedded the action and glued in a single-shot follower. The stock bolt handle/knob was too short for comfort in the KTS stock. Pierce added a longer handle and tactical knob to the bolt. I then installed a .223 Rem Lapua case base into the knob.

Brandon .223 Rem F-TR Pac-Nor PacNor Varmint Remington VSSF John Pierce Hydro-dip Hydrographics
The complete .223 Rem rifle ready to shoot F-TR, as fitted with 8-32X56mm Sightron and Phoenix Bipod, weighs 17 pounds, 15 ounces.

Brandon .223 Rem F-TR Pac-Nor PacNor Varmint Remington VSSF John Pierce Hydro-dip HydrographicsFlame Graphics by Camo Creek Hydrographics
After the action was bedded by Pierce, the stock was sent to Camo Creek Hydrographics in Fenton, Michigan. I selected a flame-style design which Camo Creek applied through hydro-dipping. The stock went back to Pierce’s shop, which applied three coats of clear over the entire stock. The clear-coating really enhanced the flame graphics.

Firing Pin Bushed by Speedy
I sent the bolt to Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez to have the firing pin hole bushed as otherwise the load could crater the primers pretty bad. Knowing I’d be shooting heavy-weight .22-Cal bullets with a stout load this was a good idea. Speedy also cut his trademark grooves into the bolt shroud which looks amazing. His work is top notch! There is zero cratering now, even with the hottest of loads.

Competition Components — 8-32x56mm Sightron and Phoenix Bipod
For an F-TR rig you need a quality high-magnification optic and a premium, wide-base bipod. I installed a 8-32x56mm SIII Sightron. This was another easy choice because of the attractive price and because my family has four other Sightrons that work great.

I installed a fore-end Picatinny rail to attach a Phoenix Bipod. I extended the Mariners wheel handles by adding short sections from an aluminum arrow shaft. This lets me adjust elevation without stretching forward. I also installed a Calvin Elite Timney Trigger set at 6 ounces.

How much did this all cost? Brandon tells us “I have roughly $2500 into the rebuild of the gun from a .204 Ruger to the .223 Rem.”

Bois Blanc Island in Michigan
Here on Bois Blanc Island we don’t have many amenities, but we do have the ability to shoot 550 yards at our local gravel pit on state land. It’s snow-bound right now as you can see. But later in the year this will be our close-to-home training center.

Brandon .223 Rem F-TR Pac-Nor PacNor Varmint Remington VSSF John Pierce Hydro-dip Hydrographics

Winter at Bois Blanc Island, Michigan — Here’s the gravel pit where we can load test during
warmer weather. When I took this photo, it was a “balmy” 10-degree day.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Competition, Gunsmithing 4 Comments »
January 9th, 2018

Affordable and Reliable — Sightron SIII 10-50x60mm Comp Scope

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

Many of our Forum members who shoot F-Class and Long Range Benchrest have asked: “Is there a reliable high-magnification (at least 45X) zoom scope under $1100?” The answer is yes — the Sightron SIII 10-50x60mm scope will do the job, and you can buy one now for under $1000.00. In fact, at the 2017 IBS 600-yard Nationals, 4 of the Top 10 shooters (including the 2nd-place finisher) used Sightron 10-50X scopes. Though reasonably priced, this 10-50x60mm optic is definitely good enough to win long-range benchrest and F-Class matches. Here is a review by James Mock. Note James tested a version with 1/4-MOA clicks. Sightron also offers versions of this scope with 1/8-MOA clicks.

Sightron 10-50x60mm 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 $1000 ($999.97 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

[Addendum: When we first published this review, a couple readers who owned the scope had one complaint. They both said that the side parallax control (side focus), was hard to manipulate — it required a lot of effort to rotate. One fix is to attach something to provide more leverage. However, if you send the scope back, Sightron will modify the side focus to make it easier to rotate.]

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

Permalink Gear Review, Optics 4 Comments »