February 3rd, 2020

Rear Sand Bag Tuning — Fill Levels, Sand Types, Bag Designs

With the Berger Southwest Nationals (SWN) taking place this week in Phoenix, we are reprising this discussing of rear bag designs and fill levels. By “tuning” your rear bag you can reduce hop on shot-firing and help your rifle track better. All that can translate to better scores, particularly with large-caliber rifles.

Tuning Your Rear Sand Bags

Over the years, noted gunsmith and a Benchrest Hall-of-Fame inductee Thomas ‘Speedy’ Gonzalez has learned a few things about “tuning” rear sandbags for best performance. On his Facebook page, Speedy recently discussed how sand bag fill levels (hard vs. soft) can affect accuracy. Speedy says you don’t want to have both your front and rear sandbags filled up ultra-hard. One or the other bag needs to have some “give” to provide a shock-absorbing function (and prevent stock jump). And you want to tune your fill arrangements to match your shooting style. Free recoil shooters may need a different fill levels than bag squeezers (who a softer bag but harder ears).

SAND BAGS & HOW TO FILL THEM by Speedy Gonzalez

I was asked several times by competitors at the S.O.A. Matches and F-Class Nationals as to how I fill my sand bags for benchrest competition. Here is a copy of a reply I gave several years ago:

Back in the old days, Pat McMillan told me: “You can not have two bags filled so hard that you gun bounces on them in the process of firing round at your target, especially if you have a rig with a very flexible stock. The bags must be set up in a manner for them to absorb the initial shock of the firing pin moving forward and igniting the primer.

Then [they must] maintain their shape and absorb the second shock wave as well the rearward thrust and torque of the rifle. What happens to the rifle when this is not done? Well let me tell you. The rifles have a very bad tendency to jump and roll in the bags. This causes many of those wild, lost shots that one can’t explain.”

Here’s some Good General Advice for Bag Set-up:

1. You should not have TWO hard bags [i.e. both front AND rear] in your set-up.

2. Heavy sand magnifies these phenomena.

3. If you are a bag squeezer, pack ears hard and leave bag pliable enough to squeeze for the movement required. You may pack front bag as hard as rules permit.

4. Free recoil shooters pack both bags firm, but not so hard as to allow stock jump. Especially if you have a stock with a very flexible forearm.

5. We use play-ground sand, also know as silica sand. I sift mine to get any large impurities out then mix it with 25% to 50% with Harts parakeet gravel to the desired hardness that I am looking for. The bird gravel keeps the sand from packing itself into that solid as a brick state.

Speaking of bricks — another thing that happens when shooters employ that heavy zircon sand is the ears form a low spot under them from recoil and then tend to rock back and forth with the rifle causing many low shots to crop up. Edgewood makes an Edgewood/Speedy rear bag specially reinforced under the ears to eliminate this scenario.

General Thoughts about Bag Construction and Ear Materials
I do not like the solid double-stitched leather bottoms. While this seems like a good idea, I see more shooters have problems because of them. They tend to slide around the bench and or slide with the rifle on recoil. The standard Protektor with Cordura rabbit ears and an Otto ring bag with a Cordura front would be what I would suggest to the new shooter or one of the Edgewood / Speedy rear bags, these mimic the “Donut” and feature a ring of leather around the bottom circumference that keep the bottom from rocking on the bench or ground[.]

One last note –If you use the Cordura bags, keep them sprayed with a good silicon spray or “Rain-Ex”. This keeps them from getting sticky. — Speedy

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January 17th, 2020

Barrels Can Yield More Velocity After 100-150 Rounds

Barrel Velocity Increase Sierra Bullets Blog Speedy Gonzalez Jim See

Editor: Many new barrels will deliver higher velocities with the same load after 100-150 rounds through the bore. The exact reasons for this speed-up are not 100% certain, and velocity increases (if any) will vary from one barrel to the next. But this “speeding up” phenomenon is common, so be prepared if this happens with your next barrel. If you do experience a significant velocity increase you should probably re-tune your load AFTER the velocity stabilizes at the higher level.

From the Sierra Bullets Blog
Article by Mark Walker, Sierra New Product Development Director
In a previous post, I discussed a couple of methods to tune a load to your barrel to help achieve the best accuracy possible. People most often work on load tuning if they get a new rifle or have a different barrel installed. In both instances, the barrel is new and has not been fired very much. According to most competitive shooters, this is the most accurate your barrel will ever be, so getting it tuned and shooting accurately is a priority.

The Speed Up Phenomenon After 100-150 Rounds
Even though after you work up a load and your new barrel is shooting great, a lot of shooters notice that at around 100 to 150 rounds their rifle may stop shooting as accurately. I had this happen to a rifle and I was confused as to why something that worked so well to begin with would all of a sudden quit shooting. I decided to break out the chronograph to do another load work up to see what was going on. To my surprise, the velocity had increased around 80 fps over the original velocity! After performing another ladder test and adjusting the seating depth, the rifle was once again shooting well.

There are several thoughts on why this may happen, however, you can rest assured that it does happen. One thought is that as the barrel breaks in, the tooling marks in the throat of the chamber smooth out and allow less resistance to the bullet as it exits the bore thereby increasing speed. Another idea is that the throat area starts to get a little rough which in turn causes more resistance which increases pressure and therefore more velocity. I’m sure there are some out there who have a better understanding as to why this happens, but it can definitely affect the accuracy of your rifle. So be aware and never be afraid to rework a load to keep your rifle in tune.

Experts Confirm That Barrel Speed-Up Is Common
Barrel Velocity Increase Sierra Bullets Blog Speedy Gonzalez Jim SeeTwo respected shooters have observed an increase in velocity with new barrels, typically after 100 rounds. Gunsmith and Hall-of-Fame benchrest shooter Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez has documented barrel speed-up with testing. Moreover, Speedy’s bore-scope barrel inspections revealed a smoothing of the barrel lands. Jim See, a top PRS competitor, has encountered barrel speed-up many times. Accordingly, he re-tunes his load at 150 rounds.

“Alex Lipworth and I documented this phenomenon about four years ago and I have told all my customers about this. My son Mikee would shoot 100 rounds through all new barrels we planned on shooting before we would begin to do load development. We had a shooting snail that caught all the bullets set up in front of an indoor bench. We called it a wear-in process because upon careful examination of the bore when the ‘Speed Up’ takes place the cut-rifled bore resembles that more of a button-rifled barrels with the lands taking on more the softer look of a buttoned bore.” — Speedy Gonzalez

“Seen it [barrel velocity increase] too many times to count. All my match barrels get a ‘generic round’ loaded for them, which has worked well in barrels historically. After I hit 150 rounds I fine-tune the load and never look back, until the tube starts to slow down at it’s life end.” — Jim See

Barrel Velocity Increase Sierra Bullets Blog Speedy Gonzalez Jim See

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December 22nd, 2019

Sunday GunDay: Speedy’s Stunning 6 PPC Benchrest Rifle

Speedy thomas gonzalez 6mm PPC 6PPC 6 PPC christmas red rifle stiller viper engraved
“Ultimate PPC” by Speedy with engraved Stiller Viper action. Titanium Rest by John Loh (R.I.P.).

Speedy thomas gonzalez 6mm PPC 6PPC 6 PPC christmas red rifle stiller viper engravedJust in time for Christmas, today we feature a beautiful red rifle built by West Texas gunsmith Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez many seasons back. With an eye-catching, one-of-a-kind engraved Stiller Viper action, and gorgeous red/black gelcoat finish, we think this rifle is one of the prettiest benchrest rigs ever made — and the color scheme fits the holiday season.

When Speedy set out to build the “ultimate PPC” for his own use, he wanted it to be as handsome as it was accurate. This stunning 6 PPC combines some very trick components with old-world detailing. When was the last time you saw an engraved receiver on a “race gun”? This rig combines modern high-tech components with classic good looks — the best of both worlds.

Speedy thomas gonzalez 6mm PPC 6PPC 6 PPC christmas red rifle stiller viper engraved

This competition benchrest rig features an engraved Stiller Viper action, with integral scope rail, SAKO Extractor and non-fluted bolt. The action sits in a new Millenium BR-X carbon-fiber stock built by Robertson Composites (now closed). The bold red-on-black marbled finish is how the gelcoat came from Ian Robertson’s factory — the stock has not been painted. The slick front rest is a titanium Ultra-Rest machined by the late, great John Loh with design input by Speedy. John built only two of these in titanium, one for himself and one for Speedy. We’re sad to say John recently passed. R.I.P. John. The Leupold Competition scope sits in quad-screw bedded rings from S.G.& Y. Precision Rifles.

Speedy picked a very special barrel for this project–a 1:14 twist, 20.5″, 6-groove barrel, the last original Pat McMillan-crafted barrel in Speedy’s inventory. Speedy runs a .263″ neck. Bushing size depends on the load and the condition of his brass. Speedy’s match load is about 29.2 grains of the IMR 8208 “ThunderBird” powder (he stockpiled this great propellant years ago). Speedy feels that T-Bird may be the most user-friendly BR powder ever made: “Once you have a good load worked up with T-Bird, you can shoot it at most any location in the country, and in almost any conditions. It’s not fussy about temperatures or humidity.”

A Very Unique Viper Action, Two Years in the Making
This is no ordinary Viper action. The full engraving attracts your attention, but there are some slick “performance mods” Jerry Stiller added at Speedy’s request.

Speedy thomas gonzalez 6mm PPC 6PPC 6 PPC christmas red rifle stiller viper engravedFirst, the action features a plain-Jane unfluted bolt, with a slight taper in the middle, a bit of a wasp-waist. Speedy prefers an unfluted design because it has superior wear characteristics. He’s found, when working with an aluminum action such as the Viper, the sharp flutes on the bolt will wear the inside of the action faster. In the interest of reduced wear, Speedy also requested a smaller-sized loading/ejection port. This provides for a larger front and rear receiver ring, which enhances bolt bearing surface. More bearing surface reduces point loading for less internal wear.

We were surprised that Speedy did not order a drop port for his Viper. He explained: “I’m a bag squeezer, so I keep my forearm right where the cases would exit the drop port. I’ve used the drop ports, but given my shooting style, I prefer a conventional port.” Speedy did decide to fit the bolt with a SAKO-style extractor. He believes this is easier to tune and can contribute to accuracy. Speedy told us: “With a conventional sliding plate extractor, like you find on the Stolle actions, there can be a bit of a side push as you chamber the round. I think this can affect the way the bullet enters the chamber. With the SAKO extractor there is no side-push so I can reduce the possibility of bullet misalignment.”

BR-X Stock — American Design, Canadian Craftsmanship
The BR-X carbon fiber stock represents a third-generation design. The original Millenium, built by Lee Six, was a hollow shell. This modern BR-X is carbon fiber over a foam core. In Light Varmint trim, it weighs just 1.5 pounds. Speedy tells us: “this BR-X has a low center of gravity, slight pistol grip, and the angles are really straight and true. It tracks well in the bags, and won’t lift out of the rear bag during recoil. That’s one of the purposes of the wedge-shaped rear section.”

Speedy thomas gonzalez 6mm PPC 6PPC 6 PPC christmas red rifle stiller viper engraved

Speedy looked at the various benchrest stocks, and, with input from Tony Boyer, he worked out a design that mirrored many of the better features of existing designs with some significant enhancements. The first thing you’ll notice is that the geometry is very uniform. The flats on the side of the fore-arm are perfectly parallel. The underside of the fore-arm is seamless and completely flat. Speedy explained “one problem we’ve seen with stocks that have a mold seam in the middle is that sometimes the two halves of the mold don’t mate perfectly. Sometimes the mold is mismatched so one side is on a different plane. That creates all kinds of handling issues. If the bottom of the stock is convex, even a little bit, you lose a lot of stability.”

Speedy thomas gonzalez 6mm PPC 6PPC 6 PPC christmas red rifle stiller viper engravedMuch thought went into the rear section of the stock. Speedy and Tony found that many stocks would start off tracking well, but by the end of the string they were pulling themselves out of alignment. Speedy noted that with some more conventional designs, they tended to ride up out of the rear bag after two or three shots. The BR-X works differently. It uses a wedge design, rather than a radius, so it tends to drive itself down into the bag on recoil. The BR-X is not the only stock to use a wedge in the rear, but it is different than other wedge designs. According to Speedy: “On most other wedge stocks, the wedge tapers towards the pistol grip, making the ‘V’ wider towards the end of the buttstock. This will change point of aim as the stock moves. The BR-X has a wedge that is a constant ‘V’, with no taper from the end to the pistol grip. This does make the gun track better and stay on target better.”

Competition Benchrest Terminology

Bughole: Very small group.
Mothball: The 10-ring on the standard Benchrest Target.
Tomato Stake: A worn out or otherwise inaccurate rifle barrel.
Screamer: A group measuring less than 0.100″ at 100 yards or less than 0.250” at 200 yards.
Weather Report: A Group “scattered” as a result of poor wind doping.
Wailing Wall: Place where targets that have been scored can be viewed by competitors.
Dope the Wind: Ccompensate for the effects of wind by shifting aiming points on the target.

Barrels–The Hunt for a ‘Hummer’
Top 6 PPC competitors often run through a number of barrels in the quest for a “hummer” that performs optimally. In addition to the Pat McMillen tube on this gun, Speedy uses barrels from Hart, Krieger, and Shilen. He’s tried a few from some other boutique barrel makers and they shot well, but he wasn’t satisfied with the barrel life. Some of them lost their competitive edge after just 500-600 rounds. He won’t name names in print, but you can call and ask. When choosing a barrel, Speedy recommends that you invest the time and call a few well-known smiths who regularly compete in high-level BR matches. Find out what’s working real well currently.

Speedy thomas gonzalez 6mm PPC 6PPC 6 PPC christmas red rifle stiller viper engravedSpeedy says, “you can read the equipment lists from the big shoots, but the printed results can be deceiving. That winning barrel might have been produced a couple of years ago. Barrel-makers do have good runs and not-so-good runs. Do your homework and find out what’s working best right now.” Speedy prefers 6-groove barrels: “I’ve shot em all one time or another. It seems that the 6-groove barrels are easier to get to shoot. It seems at 200 yards bullets from a 4-groove barrel move more than from a 6-groove barrel. Both windage and elevation. I think Tony Boyer feels the same way.” [Editor’s Note: Speedy’s groove observations were made many seasons ago. Today, many top shooters are using 4-groove and 5-groove barrels, and 3-grooves have been successful in score competition.]

We asked about Speedy’s signature “SpiderWeb finish”. While the web design has esthetic appeal, there is a functional side as well: “Tests have shown that a bead-blasted barrel will shed heat faster than a highly polished barrel. With the SpiderWeb, we leave most of the bead-blast finish on the barrel, but the web effect gives the tube some visual appeal.”

Speedy Speaks — How to Succeed in Benchrest Competition

Let me begin by saying that benchrest competition is the most difficult sport I’ve ever tried. For the newcomer, it can be daunting. From the very word “go” you are thrown to the wolves. Most new competitors have about a two and a half or three-year window. After that, if they are not meeting their expectations, they get fed up and leave the sport. Considering the time, effort, and money they may have expended in that time, that’s an unfortunate outcome.

Speedy thomas gonzalez 6mm PPC 6PPC 6 PPC christmas red rifle stiller viper engravedSo, how does one improve as a shooter and get to the point where you are meeting your goals? First you need to break down the shooting process into its parts–gun handling, loading technique, wind awareness, time management, bag set-up, and what I call ‘bench management’. Then you need a mentor. Benchrest is like golf–you can have the best equipment (best action, best stock, best rest) but you won’t get far without a knowledgeable veteran to monitor your progress and observe your technique. Without a mentor, benchrest is a rough game to play and you can reach a frustration point after a couple of years.

If you don’t have somebody who can sit and evaluate your loading style, bolt-working, follow-through, and wind-reading etc., you can develop bad habits that are hard to break. If there’s no one to monitor your shooting and see what you’re doing wrong, you’ll keep making the same mistakes. So how does one find a mentor? Well it’s not a bad idea to attend one of the shooting schools. But one-on-one training is best. Look for someone with a strong record in competition, but a person who is also patient. And when you find that person, show some loyalty. With most people who have been involved in the sport a while, if you show them allegiance, they will return that allegiance.

6mm PPC Basics — About the Cartridge

Speedy thomas gonzalez 6mm PPC 6PPC 6 PPC christmas red rifle stiller viper engravedDeveloped by Louis Palmisano and Ferris Pindell (left and right in photo), the 6 PPC is the “King of the Hill” in short-range benchrest competition, the most accurate cartridge ever invented. It still completely dominates 100- and 200-yard Group BR Shooting. If you want to win in that game, you pretty much have to shoot a 6 PPC, or some close variant of the 6 PPC cartridge design.

Easily made from Lapua 220 Russian brass, the 6mm PPC has a small primer and small flash hole. The small flash hole/primer accounts for much of the 6 PPC’s superior accuracy, though nobody really knows precisely how or why. The “short, fat” shape and nearly straight body contribute to efficient, consistent combustion and good “chamber behavior”.

While SAKO has created an official SAAMI 6mm PPC round, called the 6PPC USA, most American 6 PPC shooters run tight match chambers cut with custom reamers. There will be variations from one reamer to another, enough so that custom dies are generally recommended for match guns. Here is a PT&G reamer spec’d by Speedy a while back. He prefers a .263″ neck because that works better than .262″ when he needs to use his tightest bushings to get more neck tension.

Speedy thomas gonzalez 6mm PPC 6PPC 6 PPC christmas red rifle stiller viper engraved

The 6 PPC’s case capacity, case size to bore ratio, and combustion properties seem to be just about ideal for the short 6mm match bullets. A 6BR can come close, but when the goal is shooting “zero” groups at 100 and 200 yards, the 6 PPC is the clear winner. Currently most 6 PPC shooters form their cases from Lapua 220 Russian brass. Norma also makes factory-formed 6 PPC cases, but Norma brass is not commonly used as most shooters believe it is less “tough” than Lapua brass and accordingly won’t last as long with very stout match loads.

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May 5th, 2019

Sunday GunDay: Costello Battles Storm Hannah with .300 WSM

Gary Costello England UK F-Class .300 WSM Win Short Magnum Speedy BAT Action SG Rifles

Gary Costello recently won the Great Britain National League 600-yard Championship in F-Open class. Gary managed that impressive win despite Storm Hannah which caused torrential rain and 40 mph winds during the match, held at the Diggle ranges. Gary, a Forum member, reports that conditions were hellacious: “The weather was terrible, with horizontal rain and winds in excess of 40 mph. In fact, some shooters got blown clean off the target and many complete misses occurred.”

There’s a special story here, as Gary had been battling a life-threatening illness for many months. Gary told us: “This was my first National Competition since September 2018. I contracted a serious heart virus in October 2018. I was critically ill until January 2019. After undergoing treatment and 100% rest I recovered slowly, my focus was the 600-Yard Shoot in April. I am now 70% there and hopefully in another 4-6 months I hope to make a full recovery.” [Editor: Gary, we are glad you are on the road to recovery.]

In today’s Sunday GunDay story, we feature Gary’s American-crafted .300 WSM F-Open rifle. Note that Gary’s rifle has a Ezell barrel tuner and a recoil-reduction system in the buttstock. The .300 WSM does generate quite a kick with those big .30-caliber bullets.

Gary Costello’s .300 WSM F-Open Rifle

BAT M Action and Cerus Stock
This rifle was purchased from Jim Fowler (FalconPilot on the AccurateShooter Forum). This SG Rifles gun, crafted by smith Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez, is a .300 WSM with BAT ‘M’ action (with nitrided bolt) and Cerus riflestock. Gary owns two other Speedy-built rifles.

Gary Costello England UK F-Class .300 WSM Win Short Magnum Speedy BAT Action SG Rifles

Gary tells us: “My BAT ‘M’ action is a multi-port so I feed with my left and it ejects on the right. Speedy has worked on the firing control and timing, and I fitted the roller-cocking piece to aid smoothness and speed.” The fluted shroud is Speedy’s signature for fire control work.

Stunning Lenzi Co-Axial Front Rest
Gary tells us this impressive joy-stick rest “is a superb piece of engineering .. made by my good friend Alberto Lenzi.” Note the large stable base, and the deluxe counter-balance weight on the front end. Gary also uses a very nice leather rear sandbag crafted by Lenzi.

Gary Costello England UK F-Class .300 WSM Win Short Magnum Speedy BAT Action SG Rifles

Riflescope — Prototype March 10-60×56 High Master
Gary Costello’s company is the European distributor for March Scopes. Gary was testing this scope as it has a new temperature-tolerant lens system to be released later this year

Gary Costello England UK F-Class .300 WSM Win Short Magnum Speedy BAT Action SG Rifles

.300 WSM Load Details — H4350 with Berger 215gr Hybrids
Gary was shooting pointed Berger 215gr Hybrid bullets in Norma .300 WSM cartridge brass. The powder was Hodgdon H4350 with Muron KVB7 primers. Gary say his load runs around 2850 fps, and is very accurate. To demonstrate, here is a three-round, 100-yard test target, with a group measuring in the ones. Pretty impressive for a big bullet and a short magnum cartridge.

Gary Costello F-Class Great Britain UK .300 WSM Speedy

Gary Costello F-Class Great Britain UK .300 WSM Speedy

The UK has some wonderful places to shoot. This photo was taken at Blair Atholl in the Highlands of Scotland. Gary says “This is one of my favorite ranges and probably the hardest range to shoot in the UK. Due to the topography of the range you have to alter elevation as well as wind for pick-up and let-off. They say ‘Diggle Ranges Bark’ but Blair Atholl Bites!”

Blast from the Past — At Blair Atholl Ranges in Scotland

Gary Costello Blair Atholl Scotland Ranges

One of Europe’s very best F-Class competitors, Gary is no stranger to the winner’s circle. Here he is at the Blair Atholl Ranges in Scotland after a major victory a few seasons back. Gary says: “Blair Atholl, in the Estate of Blair Castle, is very scenic. The range is very tricky and is known as the hardest range in the UK to shoot due to the location of the targets cut into the hillside and valley. When the wind is at full value you often have to add one-half MOA elevation to every 1 MOA of wind. So thinking wind and elevation every shot is very difficult. I won this match some time ago and I do not recall the score. However it was a decisive win, and all matches in the competition were held at 1000 yards.” Gary was using a different rifle, but it also was a .300 WSM with a BAT action. His load was Hodgdon H4831 with Berger 215gr Hybrids, Murom primers, and Norma brass.

GB 600-Yard Championship — Gary’s Shot-by-Shot Report

The event was the first GB National League event of the year, our only short range (600-yard) match. This is actually one month later than usual in hope the weather would be better, sadly that wasn’t the case!

I won the Championship, five points clear of runner-up Ian Boxall. My final score was 241-18V out of a maximum of 250. The course of fire was reduced due to Storm Hannah on Saturday. It was decided by our committee that for safety we should shoot under cover (Diggle has a 600-yard covered firing point). The goal was to get at least one match to allow the competition to continue on the Sunday.

When I saw the condition and the flags I decided I needed to shoot as quick as possible as wind speed and direction were changing in seconds….

So I shot like stink only watching one flag and the other targets and my shot indication on the target screen. My first sighter was a score One left (a FIVE on the U.S F-Class target). But after adjusting, my second sighter was a One right — so there were pick-ups and let offs of about FIVE MOA!

I split the difference and went for score, my first shot was a Four (Nine on USA target) which I then adjusted on and held accordingly for the rest of the string using the other targets as indication and the one flag I had identified, it went pretty well.

Day Two (Sunday) weather was completely different, much better with no rain. We were first up at 0900 and the winds were light with subtle changes. This was a two sighters and 20-shot match, I started well with two V sighters which were converted, my partner Richard Sharman also had a good start and we proceeded through the string shooting Vs and Fives until Richard’s shots started to not register, this happened three times so it was decided I would continue and Richard would shoot again on another target. This caused a lot of delay and disruption. I had lost my path and wind, due to the delay I was allowed a non-convertible sighter which was a Three. It took two further shots to get back into the swing and I then recovered and ended the shoot with a 97-10V.

For the Final Match, the wind had picked up and was causing quite a few lost points and curses. I knew I was three points clear going into this Final Match so I had to play it real safe not to drop shots and lose critical points. I favored a left 4-5 Ring hold so not to get caught on the pick-ups. I use the March MTR-2 reticle, on 40X this reticle is subtended at exactly one-half MOA and brackets the F-class target perfectly. I was not concerned about the V bull at this time, the plan paid off and I dropped two points only.

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April 4th, 2019

Bump Buster Recoil Reduction System for F-Open Rifles

Bret Solomon Speedy Thomas Gonzalez hydraulic recoil reduction F-Class F-Open accurateshooter.com

Many of our Forum members have expressed interest in a recoil-reduction system for prone F-Open competition rifles shooting heavy bullets from powerful cartridges. A .300 WSM shooing 200+ grain bullets can definitely take its toll over the course of a match. One system that has been used with considerable success is the hydraulic “Bump Buster” recoil system. This definitely reduces the pounding your shoulder gets during a long match. To illustrate this system, we’ve reprised an article on Brett Soloman’s F-Open rifle from a couple years back. Watch the Videos to see the Bump Buster in action.

Bret Solomon Speedy Thomas Gonzalez hydraulic recoil reduction F-Class F-Open accurateshooter.comOn 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.
Permalink - Videos, Competition, Gunsmithing 3 Comments »
January 11th, 2019

Bed It Right! Bedding Compounds Compared by Speedy

Marine-Tex Pillar Bedding Marine-Tex Bedding Block Aluminum Actions

A customer of well-known gunsmith (and Hall-of-Fame shooter) Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez recently asked Speedy about bedding compounds. Speedy offered some interesting advice based on long-term testing of various materials. Speedy favors Marine-Tex because it is very stable over time, while other materials can shrink up to 6% dimensionally. A good bedding job should be a perfect fit to your barreled action. If the bedding material shrinks over time, that is NOT a good thing….

Speedy’s customer asked: “I know you’re not a Devcon man in regards to bedding compounds but I respect your input in such matters and my question is this in regard to aluminum actions. If Devcon was considered, for an aluminum action, would you prefer aluminum compound formula or steel formula? I personally prefer Devcon steel and Marine-Tex for steel receivers but my experience with aluminum is limited. Also do you have a release agent preference that works better with aluminum?”

Speedy answered: “My only preference of one epoxy over another is their stability over time. My buddy who works for the Texas State Weights and Measures Department had me cast several of the most common types of epoxies used for bedding into 1.000″ machined blocks. After one year of being kept in a controlled climate and measured for shrinkage monthly, the Marine Tex shrunk only 1/10th of 1% (i.e. 0.1%) whereas almost all the others (including Devcon Steel formula, Devcon Aluminum formula…) shrunk 3% to 6%. The only other compounds that matched the Marine Tex were Araldite 1253 and Araldite 2014, with the latter being quite expensive for daily use.”

Marine-Tex Pillar Bedding Marine-Tex Bedding Block Aluminum Actions

Speedy added: “The Marine Tex Grey has no atomized metal in its makeup even though it appears that it does. This can be proven by the use of a strong neodymium magnet. What is humorous to me is that people don’t like aluminum yet will bed their actions atop aluminum pillars that have twice the coefficient of expansion (COE) of steel. Like Devcon, it is what people have always done and used. Thus [they] perpetuate the same old stuff. That’s my two cents’ worth. But as I tell everyone, ‘I’ll tell you what I know or do, but it’s not my job to convince anyone to do it my way’.”

Release Agents — Try Shoe Polish
Regarding release agents, Speedy stated: “I use Kiwi Neutral or Tan shoe polish. This works great and you can find it anywhere. Do NOT use the black or brown as it will stick.”

Marine-Tex Pillar Bedding Marine-Tex Bedding Block Aluminum Actions

View More Photos of Speedy Inletting and Bedding Job
CLICK HERE to see an interesting bedding job done by Speedy using a custom titanium bedding block. Speedy notes, “The stock was a raw blank requiring full inletting for the action to fit properly plus the titanium block. All the loading ports, bolt handle cut, bolt stop, and trigger guard cuts were done with diamond tooling to eliminate fraying and/or delamination of the wood.” You’ll find more projects by Speedy on his Facebook Page. Speedy is in San Antonio, Texas now, and accepting new projects with his company S.G. Rifles LLC.

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November 21st, 2018

Handsome .284 Win F-Class Rig with Polished Borden Action

Speedy Thomas Gonzalez F-Open F-Class .284 Winchester 284 win custom rifle
Note the owner’s name, “S. Limbourne” was engraved on the bolt release (and trigger guard, see below).

Who doesn’t like a spectacular figured-wood stock, particularly when it is combined with a superb custom action and a tack-driving barrel. Here’s some eye candy for Wednesday before Thanksgiving. This is a custom .284 Winchester F-Class Open division rig created by gunsmith Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez for competitive shooter Scott Limbourne. The handsome Bacote wood figured stock comes from Cerus Rifleworks, while the action is a polished Borden RBRP BRMXD. Two Brux 1:9″ twist barrels were chambered for the project, both finished at 32″. The stock is also fitted with a R.A.D. Recoil System. This rig has top-of-the-line hardware all around.

Speedy Thomas Gonzalez F-Open F-Class .284 Winchester 284 win custom rifle

Speedy Thomas Gonzalez F-Open F-Class .284 Winchester 284 win custom rifle

Action: Borden BRMXD – Polished
Rail: 20 MOA Polished
Chambering: .284 Winchester
Trigger: Jewell BR – Blueprinted
Barrel: (2x) Brux 32″ 1:9″ Twist
Stock: Cerus F-Open in Exhibition Grade Bacote
Recoil System: R.A.D. System
Extras: Carbon Fiber Tunnel Plate, Custom Engraving Work on Action, Trigger Guard, and Bolt Release.

Speedy Thomas Gonzalez F-Open F-Class .284 Winchester 284 win custom rifle

Speedy Thomas Gonzalez F-Open F-Class .284 Winchester 284 win custom rifle

You’ll find more impressive rigs on Speedy’s Facebook Page. If you’d like a superb custom rifle like this, call Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez at 972-672-6630, or send email to: speedy.godzilla [at] msn.com.

SPEEDY GONZALEZ
9023 HUEBNER RD. STE 102
SAN ANTONIO, TX 78240

Permalink Gear Review, Gunsmithing 3 Comments »
November 1st, 2018

How to Tame Vertical Stringing — Tips from Speedy

Speedy Vertical Stringing Tech tip

At the request of Forum members, we are reproducing this helpful article by gunsmith and Hall-of-Fame benchrest shooter Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez

How to Reduce Vertical in Your Shot Groups

One of our Shooter’s Forum members recently built a new benchrest rifle. He was concerned because his groups were stringing vertically. This is a common problem that all precision shooters will face sooner or later. In addition to ammo inconsistencies, many other factors can cause vertical stringing. Accordingly, it’s important that you analyze your gun handling and bench set-up systematically.

READ Full ‘Cures for Vertical Stringing’ Article »

Hall of Fame benchrest Shooter Speedy Gonzalez has written a helpful article that explains how to eliminate mechanical and gun-handling problems that cause vertical spread in your groups. Speedy’s article addresses both the human and the hardware factors that cause vertical. CLICK HERE to read the full article. Here are a few of Speedy’s tips:

Front Bag Tension — Vertical can happen if the front sand bag grips the fore-arm too tightly. If…the fore-arm feels like it is stuck in the bag, then the front bag’s grip is too tight. Your rifle should move in evenly and smoothly in the sand bags, not jerk or chatter when you pull the gun back by hand.

Sandbag Fill — A front sandbag that is too hard can induce vertical. Personally, I’ve have never had a rifle that will shoot consistently with a rock-hard front sandbag. It always causes vertical or other unexplained shots.

Stock Recoil — Free-recoil-style shooters should be sure their rifle hits their shoulder squarely on recoil, not on the edge of their shoulder or the side of their arm. If you shoulder your gun, you need to be consistent. You can get vertical if your bench technique is not the same every shot. One common problem is putting your shoulder against the stock for one shot and not the next.

Front Rest Wobble — You will get vertical if the top section of the front rest is loose. Unfortunately, a lot of rests have movement even when you tighten them as much as you can. This can cause unexplained shots.

Stock Flex — Some stocks are very flexible. This can cause vertical. There are ways to stiffen stocks, but sometimes replacement is the best answer.

Rifle Angle — If the gun is not level, but rather angles down at muzzle end, the rifle will recoil up at butt-end, causing vertical. You may need to try different rear bags to get the set-up right.

Unbalanced Rifle — If the rifle is not balanced, it does not recoil straight, and it will jump in the bags. If the rifle is built properly this will not happen. Clay Spencer calls this “recoil balancing”, and he uses dual scales (front and rear) to ensure the rifle recoils properly.

Firing Pin — A number of firing-pin issues can cause vertical. First, a firing pin spring that is either too weak or too strong will induce vertical problems. If you think this is the problem change springs and see what happens. Second, a firing pin that is not seated correctly in the bolt (in the cocked position) will cause poor ignition. Take the bolt out of rifle and look in the firing pin hole. If you cannot see the entire end of firing pin it has come out of the hole. Lastly, a firing pin dragging in bolt or shroud can cause vertical. Listen to the sound when you dry fire. If you don’t hear the same sound each shot, something is wrong.

Be Consistent — You can get vertical if your bench technique is not the same every shot. One common problem is putting your shoulder against the stock for one shot and not the next.

Head Position — Learn to keep your head down and follow-through after each shot. Stay relaxed and hold your position after breaking the shot.

Last Shot Laziness — If the 5th shot is a regular problem, you may be guilty of what I call “wishing the last shot in”. This is a very common mistake. We just aim, pull the trigger, and do not worry about the wind flags. Note that in the photo below, the 5th shot was the highest in the group–probably because of fatigue or lack of concentration.

CLICK HERE for Speedy’s full article with more tips and advice.

Permalink Shooting Skills, Tech Tip No Comments »
June 28th, 2018

TECH TIP: Velocity Increase In New Gun Barrels

Barrel Velocity Increase Sierra Bullets Blog Speedy Gonzalez Jim See

Editor: Many new barrels will deliver higher velocities with the same load after 100-150 rounds through the bore. The exact reasons for this speed-up are not 100% certain, and velocity increases (if any) will vary from one barrel to the next. But this “speeding up” phenomenon is common, so be prepared if this happens with your next barrel. If you do experience a significant velocity increase you should probably re-tune your load AFTER the velocity stabilizes at the higher level.

From the Sierra Bullets Blog
Article by Mark Walker, Sierra New Product Development Director
In a previous post, I discussed a couple of methods to tune a load to your barrel to help achieve the best accuracy possible. People most often work on load tuning if they get a new rifle or have a different barrel installed. In both instances, the barrel is new and has not been fired very much. According to most competitive shooters, this is the most accurate your barrel will ever be, so getting it tuned and shooting accurately is a priority.

The Speed Up Phenomenon After 100-150 Rounds
Even though after you work up a load and your new barrel is shooting great, a lot of shooters notice that at around 100 to 150 rounds their rifle may stop shooting as accurately. I had this happen to a rifle and I was confused as to why something that worked so well to begin with would all of a sudden quit shooting. I decided to break out the chronograph to do another load work up to see what was going on. To my surprise, the velocity had increased around 80 fps over the original velocity! After performing another ladder test and adjusting the seating depth, the rifle was once again shooting well.

There are several thoughts on why this may happen, however, you can rest assured that it does happen. One thought is that as the barrel breaks in, the tooling marks in the throat of the chamber smooth out and allow less resistance to the bullet as it exits the bore thereby increasing speed. Another idea is that the throat area starts to get a little rough which in turn causes more resistance which increases pressure and therefore more velocity. I’m sure there are some out there who have a better understanding as to why this happens, but it can definitely affect the accuracy of your rifle. So be aware and never be afraid to rework a load to keep your rifle in tune.

Experts Confirm That Barrel Speed-Up Is Common
Barrel Velocity Increase Sierra Bullets Blog Speedy Gonzalez Jim SeeTwo respected shooters have observed an increase in velocity with new barrels, typically after 100 rounds. Gunsmith and Hall-of-Fame benchrest shooter Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez has documented barrel speed-up with testing. Moreover, Speedy’s bore-scope barrel inspections revealed a smoothing of the barrel lands. Jim See, a top PRS competitor, has encountered barrel speed-up many times. Accordingly, he re-tunes his load at 150 rounds.

“Alex Lipworth and I documented this phenomenon about four years ago and I have told all my customers about this. My son Mikee would shoot 100 rounds through all new barrels we planned on shooting before we would begin to do load development. We had a shooting snail that caught all the bullets set up in front of an indoor bench. We called it a wear-in process because upon careful examination of the bore when the ‘Speed Up’ takes place the cut-rifled bore resembles that more of a button-rifled barrels with the lands taking on more the softer look of a buttoned bore.” — Speedy Gonzalez

“Seen it [barrel velocity increase] too many times to count. All my match barrels get a ‘generic round’ loaded for them, which has worked well in barrels historically. After I hit 150 rounds I fine-tune the load and never look back, until the tube starts to slow down at it’s life end.” — Jim See

Barrel Velocity Increase Sierra Bullets Blog Speedy Gonzalez Jim See

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Gunsmithing, Tech Tip 6 Comments »
May 8th, 2018

New Mobile Apps for LabRadar to Be Released Soon

LabRadar chronograph doppler radar chrono mobile app iOS iphone smartphone android phone

LabRadar owners can celebrate. New mobile-friendly control software is coming soon. Gunsmith and Benchrest Hall of Famer Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez had some interesting news from the NRA Show in Dallas. He learned that the creators of the LabRadar chronograph systems will soon offer Mobile Apps that can run on your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet. This new software will make it much easier to control the LabRadar, and offer enhanced data editing functionality.

New LabRadar iOS and Android Mobile Apps Coming Soon…

LabRadar chronograph doppler radar chrono mobile app iOS iphone smartphone android phoneSpeedy says: “I just got back from the NRA show in Dallas, Texas. The coolest thing I personally saw at the show was at the LabRadar booth. They had the Beta versions of their new LabRadar Apps for the iPhone and Android phones. These Apps let you control all LabRadar functions from your phone as well as your tablet via Bluetooth connection. The new Apps will also allow the LabRadar owner to store and edit his or her data from a much larger and user friendly screen.”

That’s good news. We particularly like the ability to edit LabRadar data on a tablet. Speedy added: “This is going to revolutionize this great product and make it [much more] user-friendly.”

The new LabRadar Mobile Apps will be available free for LabRadar owners. If you own a LabRadar, be sure to register your LabRadar on the LabRadar Website. That will ensure you are notified via email as soon as the software is available. To register, look for the text link at the top right of the LabRadar homepage. It says “Register your LabRadar “. Click the link then fill out the data form.

LabRadar chronograph doppler radar chrono mobile app iOS iphone smartphone android phone

Permalink New Product, Tech Tip No Comments »
March 8th, 2018

How NOT to Headspace a Barrel — Speedy’s Disturbing Discovery

Locktite Red barrel shoulder headspace Thomas Speedy Gonzales
This barrel’s shoulder was 0.025″ off the action because Red Locktite had been used on the threads.

Gunsmith Thomas ‘Speedy’ Gonzales offered this interesting report about how NOT to headspace a barrel. Hopefully you never discover something like this…

“A good friend and customer sent this rig in for repair after FedEx damaged the rifle during inbound transport from another smith. After repairing the stock and rebedding it, I decided to re-polish the barrel to make the repair perfect. Well this just added insult to injury as the barrel did not want to come off. After a few choice words, the barrel finally broke free only to reveal something very disturbing. It seems the barrel had been ‘headspaced’ by using RED Loctite to hold it in place.” [Editor: That’s definitely NOT how barrels should be fitted.]

Speedy was not happy: “I hope the smith that did this sees the photos and realized what jeopardy he put my customer in or anyone who shot the rifle for that matter. When cleaned up, the shoulder on the barrel was over 0.0250″ (25 thousandths) away from the face of the receiver.” [Editor: That’s a lot in this business]. Check out the images below to see how much the barrel rotated further inward when cleaned up. The barrel spun in nearly another eighth-turn or more. Not good.

Locktite Red barrel shoulder headspace Thomas Speedy Gonzales

Locktite Red barrel shoulder headspace Thomas Speedy Gonzales

Permalink Gunsmithing, Tech Tip 11 Comments »
July 11th, 2017

“Little Red Devil” for the F-Class World Championships

Solomon little red devil f-open rifle

Solomon little red devil f-open rifle
That fancy front rest is a Farley with custom polished aluminum magnum base, John Loh top, and upgraded large-diameter “Speed Demon Wheel” elevation adjustment. The barrel is a 1:8.75″-twist Bartlein fitted with Ralph Stewart 3-Disk rotary tuner. The 32″-long tube tapers from 1.250″ to 1.0″ diameter. Speedy prefers to have a bit of taper in barrels even when weight is not a factor.

The F-Class World Championships take place next month at the Connaught Ranges in Ontario, Canada. Here’s something special gunsmith Speedy Gonzales put together for F-Open shooter Brett Solomon. Christened the “Little Red Devil” by Speedy, this ruby red, flame maple-stocked beauty is chambered in .284 Winchester. It features a Melonited BAT 3LL action with two bolts (regular and magnum bolt face). The stock is the Speedy “Spear of Destiny” design crafted by Will McCloskey. These handsome McCloskey stocks are milled with advanced CNC machines, allowing ultra-precise tolerances for improved tracking and perfect geometry.

Solomon little red devil f-open rifle

Speedy tell us: “Wish I could say the pictures do it justice. It is ten times nicer looking in real life. Bret will be rubbing on it for hours when it arrives…”

Torrefied Wood from Yamaha
This wood is very special — the flame maple was sourced from Yamaha which used a torrefaction process to stabilize the wood and prevent warping. Yamaha’s proprietary ARE process was developed by Yamaha for musical instruments. Speedy explained that Yamaha uses heat and pressure (we think) to stabilize the wood and dampen vibrations. During torrefaction, the sap in the wood actually crystallizes.

For this rifle build, the torrefied wood blank was CNC-milled by Will McCloskey to “best-in-industry” tolerances. Then Speedy did the inletting, fit the triggerguard, action pillars, butt-plate assembly, and other details. Then Speedy removed the metal parts and shipped the stock to Lee Garver, a noted guitar painter. Garver applied a special red-tone polyester finish. This is a very hard, yet glossy finish that makes the stock “pretty nearly scratch-proof” according to Speedy.

Solomon little red devil f-open rifle

The rifle sports one of Ken Rucker’s new F-Class Bump-Buster Gold recoil reducers. This new system is optimized for prone shooting and works with minimal touch/hold shooting styles.

Solomon little red devil f-open rifle

This video shows the CNC-Milling process with another Speedy stock, the adjustable-comb version of his “Spear of Destiny” design:

The BAT 3LL action comes with two (2) complete bolts, one with standard bolt face, the other with a magnum bolt face.

Solomon little red devil f-open rifle

When One Stunning Rifle Is Not Enough…
If you aren’t yet totally consumed with envy, consider this. Brett Solomon has invested in THREE more Speedy-built rifles like this red wonder. There’s a TAN (natural finish) rimfire training rig that’s complete, and Speedy’s now working on a GREEN .284 Win “spare”, plus a BLUE dedicated Magnum rig. The tan, green, and blue rigs for Brett will have similar stocks, with “all the bells and whistles” just like the “Little Red Devil”. Brett is currently using the tan-stocked rimfire rig for training — getting lots of “trigger time” without burning out his precious centerfire match barrels.

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March 11th, 2017

Extreme Long Range — .338 Lapua Magnum at 2160 Yards

2160 yards 1.3 miles long range ELR .338 Lapua Magnum Ed Connors Speeded Gonzales
Ed Connors placed three consecutive shots all on target at 2160 yards for a sub-3/8 MOA group. Wow.

Amazing shooting — that’s how we’d describe what Ed Connors accomplished recently with his Speedy-built .338 Lapua Magnum LR rifle. Ed nailed a 3-shot group at 2160 yards that would be great at 1000 yards. Check out the target above. Now consider that the shooter was a full mile PLUS 400 yards away. That is truly remarkable accuracy.

At this distance, 2160 yards, one MOA is 22.61″. This three-consecutive-shot group, measuring about 8 inches, works out to less than 3/8 MOA. Think about that — most guys would be elated to shoot 3/8 MOA at two hundred yards. Ed did that at over two thousand yards!

That takes a great rifle, as well as great ammo. Ed says: “I believe in loading like a benchrest shooter to achieve these ultra long-range shots”.

Ed Connors 2160 yards steel shooting .338 Lapua Magnum

Rifle Specifications:
– .338 LM Rifle built by SG Rifles, LLC
– Surgeon Rifles Action (blueprinted by Speedy)
– Jewell Trigger (blueprinted by Speedy)
– McMillan Fiberglass Stock
– Nightforce 5-25x56mm ATACR Scope
– Bartlein 1:9″-twist 32″ Barrel, Speedy contour
– Amer. Prec. Arms “Fat Bastard” Muzzle Brake

Ammunition Specifications:
– Lapua .338 LM Brass turned with Nielsen “Pumpkin” turner.
– Hodgdon H1000 Powder, 90.8 Grains
– Remington 9 1/2 Magnum Primers
– Berger .338 Cal 300 grain Hybrid OTM Tactical Bullets seated .005″ off lands.
– Velocity: 2875 fps / SD 5.0

Ed Connors 2160 yards steel shooting .338 Lapua Magnum

Gunsmith Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez writes: “Anytime you build a customer a rifle to work out beyond the 1000-yard mark you must work hand-in-hand with your customer and explain everything you are doing to ensure performance at distances most shooters never even contemplate (except in their dreams).

Ed was involved in all aspects of the projects from the reamer print to what we needed for both single-shot work and mag-fed function in timed competition. This was Ed’s very first work-out with his reborn Surgeon-actioned .338 Lapua Magnum. He did great to say the least!”

Pretty Darn Good at One Mile as Well…
While “tuning up” for his 2160-yard session. Ed also produced some very impressive results at one mile (1760 yards). Once he got “dialed in” he delivered three shots you can cover with the palm of your hand. That’s spectacular consistency at one mile.

2160 yards 1.3 miles long range ELR .338 Lapua Magnum Ed Connors Speeded Gonzales

Permalink Gear Review, Gunsmithing, News 6 Comments »
January 15th, 2017

What Are the Best Bedding Materials? Speedy Speaks

Marine-Tex Pillar Bedding Marine-Tex Bedding Block Aluminum Actions

A customer of well-known gunsmith (and Hall-of-Fame shooter) Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez recently asked Speedy about bedding compounds. Speedy offered some interesting advice based on long-term testing of various materials. Speedy favors Marine-Tex because it is very stable over time, while other materials can shrink up to 6% dimensionally. A good bedding job should be a perfect fit to your barreled action. If the bedding material shrinks over time, that is NOT a good thing….

Speedy’s customer asked: “I know you’re not a Devcon man in regards to bedding compounds but I respect your input in such matters and my question is this in regard to aluminum actions. If Devcon was considered, for an aluminum action, would you prefer aluminum compound formula or steel formula? I personally prefer Devcon steel and Marine-Tex for steel receivers but my experience with aluminum is limited. Also do you have a release agent preference that works better with aluminum?”

Speedy answered: “My only preference of one epoxy over another is their stability over time. My buddy who works for the Texas State Weights and Measures Department had me cast several of the most common types of epoxies used for bedding into 1.000″ machined blocks. After one year of being kept in a controlled climate and measured for shrinkage monthly, the Marine Tex shrunk only 1/10th of 1% (i.e. 0.1%) whereas almost all the others (including Devcon Steel formula, Devcon Aluminum formula…) shrunk 3% to 6%. The only other compounds that matched the Marine Tex were Araldite 1253 and Araldite 2014, with the latter being quite expensive for daily use.”

Marine-Tex Pillar Bedding Marine-Tex Bedding Block Aluminum Actions

Speedy added: “The Marine Tex Grey has no atomized metal in its makeup even though it appears that it does. This can be proven by the use of a strong neodymium magnet. What is humorous to me is that people don’t like aluminum yet will bed their actions atop aluminum pillars that have twice the coefficient of expansion (COE) of steel. Like Devcon, it is what people have always done and used. Thus [they] perpetuate the same old stuff. That’s my two cents’ worth. But as I tell everyone, ‘I’ll tell you what I know or do, but it’s not my job to convince anyone to do it my way’.”

Release Agents — Try Shoe Polish
Regarding release agents, Speedy stated: “I use Kiwi Neutral or Tan shoe polish. This works great and you can find it anywhere. Do NOT use the black or brown as it will stick.”

Marine-Tex Pillar Bedding Marine-Tex Bedding Block Aluminum Actions

View More Photos of Speedy Inletting and Bedding Job
CLICK HERE to see an interesting bedding job done by Speedy using a custom titanium bedding block. Speedy notes, “The stock was a raw blank requiring full inletting for the action to fit properly plus the titanium block. All the loading ports, bolt handle cut, bolt stop, and trigger guard cuts were done with diamond tooling to eliminate fraying and/or delamination of the wood.” You’ll find more projects by Speedy on his Facebook Page. Speedy is in San Antonio, Texas now, and accepting new projects with his company S.G. Rifles LLC.

Permalink Gunsmithing, Tech Tip 5 Comments »
April 9th, 2016

Tuning Your Sandbag Hardness — Tech Tip by Speedy

Over the years, noted gunsmith and a Benchrest Hall-of-Fame inductee Thomas ‘Speedy’ Gonzalez has learned a few things about “tuning” rear sandbags for best performance. On his Facebook page, Speedy recently discussed how sand bag fill levels (hard vs. soft) can affect accuracy. Speedy says you don’t want to have both your front and rear sandbags filled up ultra-hard. One or the other bag needs to have some “give” to provide a shock-absorbing function (and prevent stock jump).

SAND BAGS & HOW TO FILL THEM by Speedy Gonzalez

I was asked several times by competitors at the S.O.A. Matches and F-Class Nationals as to how I fill my sand bags for benchrest competition. Here is a copy of a reply I gave several years ago:

Back in the old days, about the time Fred Flintstone was still alive, I worked for Pat McMillan for free, from time to time to learn all his secrets. One day little Speedy was filling some new sand bags out behind Pat’s shop, stuffing them with more sand than Taco Bell put beans in their Burritos. When Pat stepped out the back door and inquired as to what in the hell was I doing packing them there bags the way I was.

I looked up at him with eyes like a kid with his hands in a cookie jar. My reply must have sounded like Homer Simpson “Doooh”. Finally I said “I don’t know, Boss. I just thought you were supposed to fill these babies up and go shoot. I got that ‘You dumb bastard look’ from Pat and I knew it was lecture time. This was what he told me:

You can not have two bags filled so hard that you gun bounces on them in the process of firing round at your target, especially if you have a rig with a very flexible stock. The bags must be set up in a manner for them to absorb the initial shock of the firing pin moving forward and igniting the primer. Then [they must] maintain their shape and absorb the second shock wave as well the rearward thrust and torque of the rifle. What happens to the rifle when this is not done? Well let me tell you. The rifles have a very bad tendency to jump and roll in the bags. This causes many of those wild, lost shots that one can’t explain.

Charles Huckaba, Ken Terrell, Larry Baggett, Ralph Stewart and some of us Texas shooters talk about this phenomena quite often. We have all agreed that:

  • 1: You can not have two hard bags [i.e. both front AND rear] in your set-up.
  • 2: Heavy sand magnifies these phenomena.
  • 3: If you are a bag squeezer, pack ears hard and leave bag pliable enough to squeeze for the movement required. You may pack front bag as hard as rules permit.
  • 4: Free recoil shooters pack both bags firm, but not so hard as to allow stock jump. Especially if you have a stock with a very flexible forearm.
  • 5: We use play-ground sand, also know as silica sand. I sift mine to get any large impurities out then mix it with 25% to 50% with Harts parakeet gravel to the desired hardness that I am looking for. The bird gravel keeps the sand from packing itself into that solid as a brick state.

Speaking of bricks — another thing that happens when shooters employ that heavy zircon sand is the ears form a low spot under them from recoil and then tend to rock back and forth with the rifle causing many low shots to crop up. Edgewood makes an Edgewood/Speedy rear bag specially reinforced under the ears to eliminate this scenario.

One last note –If you use the Cordura bags keep them sprayed with a good silicon spray or “Rain-Ex”. This keeps them from getting sticky. Hey guys, try that and see if it helps. — Speedy

P.S.: I do not like the solid double-stitched leather bottoms. While this seems like a good idea, I see more shooters have problems because of them. They tend to slide around the bench and or slide with the rifle on recoil. The standard Protektor with Cordura rabbit ears and an Otto ring bag with a Cordura front would be what I would suggest to the new shooter or one of the Edgewood / Speedy rear bags, these mimic the “Donut” and feature a ring of leather around the bottom circumference that keep the bottom from rocking on the bench or ground if that is where you reside these days…

Permalink New Product, Tech Tip 3 Comments »
November 6th, 2015

New Speedy-Designed Competition Stocks from Shurley Brothers

Shurley Brothers ARK Speedy Gonzalez stock competition F-Class Benchrest

Benchrest Hall-of-Famer Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez has teamed up with the Shurley Brothers on a new ARK series of wood laminate competition stocks. Speedy has combined the best features of various popular F-Class and Long-range Benchrest stocks into new designs to be produced by Shurley Brothers Custom in Austin, Texas. These stocks should be very straight and geometrically correct as they will be crafted on the Shurley Brothers’ new CNC mills. These stocks will be made with new-generation precision technology, not old school duplicating machines.

Initially two models will be offered: the “Hand of God” (HOG) and the “Spear of Destiny” (SOD). Both are designed for multiple shooting disciplines, so they should work well both for benchrest and for prone F-Open shooting. (FWIW, John Myers used a Speedy-crafted stock to win the 2015 Mid-Range National Championship). The forearm is 76mm (2.99″) to comply with F-Open limits. A wide variety of options will be available including adjustable Cheek Piece, adjustable length of pull, carbon fiber inserts, and exotic woods.

Shurley Brothers ARK Speedy Gonzalez stock competition F-Class Benchrest

We like many aspects of the new stocks. First, the front of the stock is low profile, placing the barrel close to the bags for better tracking (and less hop). However, a deeper (top to bottom) section extends forward of the action — this is important. We have seen some low-profile stocks that suffer from forearm flex/hinging because they don’t leave enough wood under the action area. Speedy’s design eliminates this problem. Another nice feature of this stock is the subtle curve from the back of the action to the buttpad mount. Speedy calls this the “scooped cheek”. This allows the “driver” to shoot without face contact if he prefers, but it also allows for a higher buttpad position — which is useful when shooting heavy recoiling chamberings such as the .300 WSM.

Note how the comb area has a curve to provide clearance. For those shooters who prefer to have face contact on the gun, an adjustable Cheek Piece is offered.
Shurley Brothers ARK Speedy Gonzalez stock competition F-Class Benchrest

Shurley Brothers Custom says these new ARK stocks are fully customizable for competition shooters with optional carbon fiber, adjustable R.A.D. systems, and many other features. The stocks, uninletted, will run $750.00. CNC-inletting (for action of your choice) is an additional $100.00. Here are some of the many available options:

— Pillar Bed and Inlet: $425.00
— Custom Wood Upgrade (Price Dependent On Wood): $100.00 – $500.00
— Full-length Carbon Fiber Stringers: $200.00
— Cheek Piece Addition: $100.00
— Cooling Ports (Buick Vents): $60.00
— R.A.D. System #2A: $335.00 (plus $100.00 to install)
— 3-Way Butt Plate: Call for Price
— Adjustable Neodymium Magnetic Cheek Piece: Call for Price
— Install Neodymium Magnetic Cheek Piece: $150.00
— Stock Finish & Clear Coat: $350.00
— Carbon Fiber Forearm Tunnel: $300.00

The underside of the forearm is relieved in the center, leaving twin outboard rails. This helps stabilize the rifle and aids tracking. (A conventional, flat forearm without rails tends to rock if there is any hump in the middle of the sandbag). Between the rails is a carbon-fiber stiffening insert.

Shurley Brothers ARK Speedy Gonzalez stock competition F-Class Benchrest

Permalink Gear Review, New Product 4 Comments »
August 20th, 2014

Tech Tip: Mirage Shields — They Aren’t All the Same

Is your mirage band really “the best it can be”? Or is it actually allowing warm air to flow in front of your scope, causing mirage? Here’s an interesting graphic that suggests that the size, shape, and curvature of a mirage shield can make a difference. We can’t say this diagram is based on exhaustive scientific testing (and we think the flow patterns are exaggerated for effect), but it does illustrate how airflow can be altered by shield shape.
Mirage shield band aluminum gonzalez fierce vinyl

This graphic comes from Fierce Vinyl a company that produces high-quality aluminum mirage shields for shooters. Fierce Vinyl is run by the daughter of ace gunsmith (and Hall of Fame shooter) Thomas ‘Speedy’ Gonzalez. Fierce Vinyl sells custom 26″ aluminum mirage shields (with graphic imprint) for $21.99 + shipping. That price includes printing the graphic on the shield, if you provide the artwork. Inquire about custom art designs or large orders.

Mirage shield band aluminum gonzalez fierce vinyl

Along with Mirage Bands, Fierce Vinyl produces a variety of graphic products, labels, and stickers. If you need a placard, graphic, or bumper sticker for your business or shooting range, Fierce Vinyl can help you out. See more product designs on the Fierce Vinyl Facebook Page.

Mirage shield band aluminum gonzalez fierce vinyl

Permalink New Product, Optics 7 Comments »
April 28th, 2014

De-Gunking a Jewell Trigger — Speedy Shows How

Gunsmiths often have to serve as gun “doctors” as well as gun builders. Gunsmith (and Hall-of-Fame shooter) Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez was recently asked to fix a trigger problem. A customer was complaining about a trigger that was erratic and “mushy”. Speedy quickly diagnosed the problem. The Jewell trigger was clogged with gunk and sludge — left-over solvents and lubricants had gummed up the mechanisms. Here’s how the cleaning process unfolded…

Speedy: “Gee why would I want to blueprint my Jewell trigger….it has just got a little mushy lately. It may just need some adjustment. Yeah right — take a look at this”:

Speedy Gonzalez Jewell Trigger Cleaning Iosso

Speedy: “Should I go get a tetanus shot now?”

Speedy Gonzalez Jewell Trigger Cleaning Iosso

Gunsmith Mike Bryant comments: “I’ve seen a lot of Remington 700 triggers that were gummed up like [that] Jewell was. Also have seen lots of 700 triggers that had the weight-of-pull screw adjusted [by the owner] to where it had no compression on the spring. I wonder how many of the Remington accidental discharges involved triggers with one or the other of these conditions.”

Speedy: “What?! Powder in trigger as well… hmmmmmm.”

Speedy Gonzalez Jewell Trigger Cleaning Iosso

Clean up done with Iosso Lubricant/Cleaner. Speedy says this is the “Best parts cleaner I have ever found if you don’t have an ultra sonic cleaning tank. I just melted that crud off with a Q-Tip”.

Speedy Gonzalez Jewell Trigger Cleaning Iosso

Same Jewell trigger all happy now — clean as a whistle.

Speedy Gonzalez Jewell Trigger Cleaning Iosso

Trigger ready for final re-assembly, looking better than new. Thanks Speedy!

Speedy Gonzalez Jewell Trigger Cleaning Iosso

Permalink Gunsmithing, Tech Tip 1 Comment »
October 3rd, 2013

Prototype ‘Big Wheel’ Farley Co-Axial Rest for F-Open Competition

farley coaxial f-class f-open raton speedy gonzalezAt the F-Class Nationals in Raton, we saw a wide variety of front rests being used by F-Open shooters. One that caught our eye was a new prototype Farley Coaxial rest brought to the match by our friend Speedy Gonzalez. This one-of-a-kind Farley features a big wheel on the side for gross elevation adjustment, plus an extended locking arm. These two upgrades make the rest easier to use from the prone position. Up front is a new L-shaped Delrin forearm stop (Speedy say this would be black in the production version). Special large-diameter feet with extended “anchor shafts” complete the package. (See bottom photo.) Speedy used this rest at the Nationals and did very well, finishing second in the Master division, and in the top 15 overall among all Open-class shooters.

CLICK Photos Below to See Full-Screen Version.

farley coaxial f-class f-open raton speedy gonzalez

Speedy says the folks at Farley hope to market the Big Wheel Coaxial with these F-Class upgrades by the end of 2013. Some of the items should be available for purchase separately, as upgrades to current Farley rests. Sorry, no pricing is available at this time.

farley coaxial f-class f-open raton speedy gonzalez

The rest also sported a new Edgewood front bag with the new light-colored, super-slick bag material. Along with the new bag fabric, Speedy explained that there are subtle changes to the bag design and construction so that it holds its shape better and doesn’t “plump up” in the middle.

farley coaxial f-class f-open raton speedy gonzalez

farley coaxial f-class f-open raton speedy gonzalez

Permalink Gear Review, New Product 3 Comments »
June 26th, 2013

Speedy Builds a Low-Profile F-Classer for Bret Solomon

Bret Solomon Speedy Thomas Gonzalez hydraulic recoil reduction F-Class F-Open accurateshooter.comOn 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.

Bret Solomon Speedy Thomas Gonzalez hydraulic recoil reduction F-Class F-Open accurateshooter.com

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.
Permalink - Videos, Competition, Gunsmithing 2 Comments »