By Dennis Santiago
Competition teaches you things. Compared to loading for benchrest bolt guns, producing ultra-reliable and accurate ammo for tight-chambered, semi-auto .308 target rifles requires a different approach to case prep. Smoothness of operation is much more important in a field course gun. Reliability trumps everything (even case life) for these types of guns.
In the photo below, there’s a Redding small base body die for bumping the shoulder and making sure the case body is at SAAMI minimum. This body die is not just nice to have. It is vital. There are also a full-length sizing die and a Lee Collet neck-sizer in that turret holder. One or the other gets used after the body size die depending on what rifle the ammo will be used in. The semi-auto rounds always go through the full-length sizing die. After that comes trimming and finally cleaning — then loading can begin. The cases are trimmed using a Gracey trimmer so everything’s the same each and every time. I use an RCBS Competition Seater Die to seat the bullets. One nice feature of this RCBS die is the open side slot that allows you to place bullets easily.
It’s a long path methodology but uniformity is accuracy. More important for safety, controlling “stack-up” errors in the system solution is how one achieves reliability. The chamber-hugging philosophies of benchrest bolt guns do not apply well to AR-10s. Like most things, the right answer is context-dependent. Success is about accepting and adapting.
Dennis Talks About Using a Semi-Auto in Tactical Competitions
I have succumbed to the Dark Side — deciding to put an AR-10 together. For tactical competitions you want a bolt gun most of the time but there are times the course of fire favors the use of a semi-auto. I was using an M1A that gives me 0.75 MOA performance but I heard people were getting almost bolt-gun-level, half-MOA accuracy out of their AR-10s — so I wanted to see if that was really achievable. A quarter-MOA difference in accuracy potential may seem tiny in practical terms but it will make a difference in competition. In a match, the difference between 3/4-MOA and 1/2-MOA can alter your hit probability on a small target by 20-30%.
The AR platform also lets you tinker with triggers, stock ergonomics and muzzle brakes that help in managing the dynamics of a long distance shot better. Well I found out you can get the incremental accuracy but there’s more work to do to get the same reliability. Being a curious sort, it’s worth it to me to explore it. It’s a far cry from as-issued M-1 shooting with whatever HXP is handy. This is definitely swimming in the deep end of the pool.
Guest Article By Michelle Gallagher, Berger Bullets
Let’s face it. In the world of firearms, there is something for everyone. Do you like to compete? Are you a hunter? Are you more of a shotgun shooter or rifle shooter? Do you enjoy running around between stages of a timed course, or does the thought of shooting one-hole groups appeal to you more? Even though many of us shoot several different firearms and disciplines, chances are very good that we all have a favorite. Are we spreading ourselves too thin by shooting different disciplines, or is it actually beneficial? I have found that participating in multiple disciplines can actually improve your performance. Every style of shooting is different; therefore, they each develop different skills that benefit each other.
How can cross-training in other disciplines help you? For example, I am most familiar with long-range prone shooting, so let’s start there. To be a successful long-range shooter, you must have a stable position, accurate ammunition, and good wind-reading skills. You can improve all of these areas through time and effort, but there are other ways to improve more efficiently. Spend some time practicing smallbore. Smallbore rifles and targets are much less forgiving when it comes to position and shot execution. Long-range targets are very large, so you can get away with accepting less than perfect shots. Shooting smallbore will make you focus more on shooting perfectly center shots every time. Another way to do this with your High Power rifle is to shoot on reduced targets at long ranges. This will also force you to accept nothing less than perfect. Shoot at an F-Class target with your iron sights. At 1000 yards, the X-Ring on a long range target is 10 inches; it is 5 inches on an F-Class target. Because of this, you will have to focus harder on sight alignment to hit a center shot. When you go back to the conventional target, you will be amazed at how large the ten ring looks.
Also, most prone rifles can be fitted with a bipod. Put a bipod and scope on your rifle, and shoot F-TR. Shooting with a scope and bipod eliminates position and eyesight factors, and will allow you to concentrate on learning how to more accurately read the wind. The smaller target will force you to be more aggressive on your wind calls. It will also help encourage you to use better loading techniques. Nothing is more frustrating than making a correct wind call on that tiny target, only to lose the point out the top or bottom due to inferior ammunition. If you put in the effort to shoot good scores on the F-Class target, you will be amazed how much easier the long-range target looks when you return to your sling and iron sights. By the same token, F-Class shooters sometimes prefer to shoot fast and chase the spotter. Shooting prone can help teach patience in choosing a wind condition to shoot in, and waiting for that condition to return if it changes.
Benchrest shooters are arguably among the most knowledgeable about reloading. If you want to learn better techniques about loading ammunition, you might want to spend some time at benchrest matches. You might not be in contention to win, but you will certainly learn a lot about reloading and gun handling. Shooting F-Open can also teach you these skills, as it is closely related to benchrest. Benchrest shooters may learn new wind-reading techniques by shooting mid- or long-range F-Class matches.
Position shooters can also improve their skills by shooting different disciplines. High Power Across-the-Course shooters benefit from shooting smallbore and air rifle. Again, these targets are very small, which will encourage competitors to be more critical of their shot placement. Hunters may benefit from shooting silhouette matches, which will give them practice when shooting standing with a scoped rifle. Tactical matches may also be good, as tactical matches involve improvising shots from various positions and distances. [Editor: Many tactical matches also involve hiking or moving from position to position -- this can motivate a shooter to maintain a good level of general fitness.]
These are just a few ways that you can benefit from branching out into other shooting disciplines. Talk to the other shooters. There is a wealth of knowledge in every discipline, and the other shooters will be more than happy to share what they have learned. Try something new. You may be surprised what you get out of it. You will certainly learn new skills and improve the ones you already have. You might develop a deeper appreciation for the discipline you started off with, or you may just discover a new passion.
This article originally appeared in the Berger Bulletin. The Berger Bulletin blog contains the latest info on Berger products, along with informative articles on target shooting and hunting.
Some times nice guys do finish first. Our buddy Vu Pham, co-founder of the NorCal Practical Precision Rifle Club (NCPPRC) took top honors in the NCPPRC monthly tactical long range match on the 1000 yard range at the Sacramento Valley Shooting Center. Shooting his .260 Remington in a McMillan A5 stock, built by Spartan Rifles, topped with a Bushnell 4-30x50mm from CS Tactical, Vu beat a competitive field on a breezy day that saw the top 6 shooters separated by only 15 points. The Course of Fire had 27 of the 50 rounds shot from 800 to 1000 yards, where the fast-switching winds at 1000 yards were the deciding factor in the outcome. Vu tells us: “This LR Match win has eluded me for seven years now with these guys. I’ve been in the top five quite a few times, but never took home the win. Our matches are so close these days that it usually comes down to one or two bad trigger presses or ‘blown’ wind calls to separate the Top 10 shooters.”
NCPPRC long range tactical matches are held the first Sunday of each month, and are open to anyone 18 or older. No membership in any organization is required. Registration is at Range 12 of the Sacramento Valley Shooting Center from 07:30 to 08:30 in the morning. Cost is $25. To learn more about the match visit the NCPPRC Long Range Match webpage.
New Bushnell 4.5-30x50mm Tactical Scope
Vu Pham was running an all-new Bushnell front focal plane 4.5-30x50mm XRS scope with an amazing 6.7 times zoom range. This 34mm-tube scope features Bushnell’s G2 DMR Reticle. For a scope offering 30X magnification, is it compact at 14″ OAL (only 3/4″ longer than the HDMR). The elevation turret provides 10 mils per revolution with a zero stop. The scope sells for $2149.00 at CS Tactical.
Vu liked the new Bushnell scope and, obviously, it performed well for him. Vu tells us: “I believe this optic just hit the market… and is still pretty new. After having a few days behind the Bushnell XRS 4.5-30, I believe this optic will be a very viable option for the tactical precision rifle game. One of my favorite features of this scope is the mil-based G2DMR reticle. It makes holding over (and holding for windage) fast and easy. I will be doing a full test and evaluation in the next week or two after I get more time behind the optic.” Mike Cecil with CS Tactical provided the scope for this T&E.” Mike notes: “This is not the 4-30 tactical that’s listed as an XRS in the Bushnell online catalog — that’s a 30mm in the 6500 series line. This 34mm-tube XRS is a whole new animal!”
Mirage shields really do help you hit your targets more reliably. Novice shooters may wonder “Why does that guy have a venetian blind attached to his barrel?” Here’s why. As the barrel gets hot, the heat from the barrel rises up, cooking and distorting the air directly in front of the scope’s front lens. In essense, the rifle creates its own nasty visual mirage, right in the worst possible place. You can have a $4000.00 custom rifle and a $2500.00 scope but if the air in front of your scope is distorted, it can literally move your apparent point of aim on the target relative to your cross-hairs, causing you to miss the shot.
As our friend Boyd Allen observed: “Varminters should use mirage shields. Think about it. You’ve invested thousands of dollars in a fancy varmint rifle and quality scope. You may have spent hundreds of dollars traveling to the varmint fields and spent dozens of hours loading up your ammo. Without a mirage shield on your barrel, once that barrel gets hot, you WILL get mirage effects that can make you miss a shot.”
So, we’ve established you need a mirage shield to shoot your best when the barrel gets hot. You can make your own shield from a scrap blind, or purchase a ready-made plastic or aluminum shield. Sinclair Int’l offers 2″-wide, white mirage shields in 18″ (#06-7200) or 24″ (#06-7300) lengths for $4.95. Shotmaster 10X offers a variety of Patterned Mirage Shields, starting at $6.00. These include a Patriotic theme and even Tiger Stripes:
Camo Mirage Shields for Tactical Shooters and Hunters
Though tactical shooters should use mirage shields for long-distance, slow-fire stages, for the most part, tactical shooters don’t bother. One reason is that mirage shields CAN detach if you’re crawling around in the bush. However, for many tactical shooting situations, a mirage shield IS both practical and recommended. And now, for the first time, tactical shooters can get mirage shields in camo patterns to match their rifles. These camo shields should also be popular with varminters and long-range hunters.
At the request of AccurateShooter.com, Shotmaster 10X created a line of camo-pattern mirage shields (see above). Made of 2″-wide aluminum strips, these are available in 18″, 20″, and 24″ lengths. The camo-pattern shields come complete with Velcro attachments, and start at $8.50 for the 18″ length. The 20″ models are $9.50, while 24″ shields are $11.00.
Forum member Cody H. (aka “Willys46″) provided this report on his new Russo-stocked 6-6.5×47 Rifle.
Joel Russo out of Harrisburg, PA is taking modern technology and new stock designs and mating them with Old World materials and craftsmanship. The result: rifles that shoot true and look seriously sharp. Russo got his start making laminated wood stocks for budget-minded tactical rifle shooters with his popular A5-L design. Motivated by his passion for woodworking and a mindset for detail, Russo has shifted his focus from the run-of-the-mill laminates to create shootable works of art in some of the most highly figured, beautiful, exotic and domestic woods. Russo has come to feel that if he as a craftsman is going to spend precious time creating something out of wood, it should be for something worthy of his personal investment.
Take, for example, a recent Russo stock that started its life as a highly figured piece of Curly Maple harvested in the Pacific Northwest. After CNC inletting, profiling, pillar- and glass-bedding, the stock was meticulously finished to showcase the wood’s beauty. This stunning stock was commissioned for my new 6-6.5×47 Precision Field Rifle [Editor: it's just too pretty to be labeled 'tactical']. Have a look….
Rifle Specifications: Remington 700 short action with R&D Precision bottom metal. Bartlein Barrel (Sendero Contour). Joel Russo Stock in A3-5 pattern (A5 buttstock with A3 fore-end). Barrel chambering/fitting (6-6.5X47 Lapua) by Steve Kostanich.
How does it shoot? Cody reports: “I’ve had the rifle two weeks, and sent about 200 rounds down range so far. I could not be happier with the performance of the whole package. The 6-6.5×47 Lapua chambering really makes it a pleasure to shoot with its low recoil and accuracy potential. With the fitted muzzle brake, recoil is minimal. The ballistics of 105gr Berger hybrids at 3100 fps make the wind at 600 yards very manageable. As for the stock, the slimmer fore-end holds the bipod much nicer than my old A5L. The lighter weight also makes it more maneuverable in different shooting positions.”
NOTE: Hi-Rez Gallery images may take some time to load. Be patient — it’s worth the wait.
Cody Talks About His Rifle and Joel Russo’s Work
Click “Play” to Hear Audio
Like any artist, Russo carefully considers where to begin. Deciding where the stock will be cut out of the wood blank can take days. He must determine where the forend and pistol grip will lay to be sure the true beauty of the wood will transfer to the stock design. After Russo cuts the rough pattern out of the blank, it’s off to the CNC mill for barrel and action inletting. The stock is almost completely inletted but still in the rough; enough material remains for Russo to hand-blend the wood and metal for that all-important fit and finish. Then it’s off to the duplicator, which cuts out the stock in the specified pattern.
With inletting completed, the action is pillar- and glass-bedded, then readied for final shaping. The tang/pistol grip area demands careful work for a perfect look and feel. It takes hours with files and rasps to get everything just right. Once material is removed it’s a done deal so patience with the tools is a must. Russo is a very painstaking woodworker, and as an artisan and champion shooter himself, he wants the tang to melt into the pistol grip for the perfect look and feel.
Once the major wood removal is complete, Russo begins surface sanding. To make the finish come out smooth and flat, a sanding block is a must. With the density change in figured wood, some sections will be softer and so material is removed more quickly, making for a very wavy finish. When Russo is satisfied with the final sanding he starts the finishing process.
Russo generally does a hand-rubbed TUNG Oil finish. Since this stock is for a tactical competition rifle, and I wanted to preserve the natural blond color of the Maple, a clear coat finish was in order. In all fairness the maple would look even better with a darker oil finish, which allows the deep grain and figure to come out, creating an almost 3-D effect. A hand rubbed oil finish can take months to be applied properly. The shorter application time was another advantage for this particular build.
Clear coat maintains the original color of the wood while being comparatively easy to apply with basic paint-spraying tools. If you scratch the surface, it’s a simple matter to buff it out just like you would a car door ding. After a numerous coats are applied then it is wet-sanded just like the finish on a classic hot rod. The finer the sandpaper grit, the shiner the finish. For the maple stock project, a higher-than-typical gloss finish was selected because the wood kept looking better the shiner it got. Want it shinier? All you have to do is invest a little more time in sanding and polishing. Sometimes Russo works his way to 6000 grit sandpaper.
Walk-Around Video Showing Beautiful Wood
After final wet-sanding of the clear-coat, the finished stock is one even a millionaire would be proud to shoot. With the advent of fiberglass composite materials and assembly-line production methods, there are fewer true craftsmen like Joel who can start with a block of wood and some metal and create a complete rifle. So it’s refreshing that wood artisans like Russo are keeping alive the craftsman tradition. To see more examples of Joel Russo’s work, visit www.RussoRifleStocks.com.
We’ve always liked the capacious, durable range boxes from MTM-Casegard. And now there’s a special “Tactical” version for AR shooters. This detachable-lid Tactical Range Box features a magwell-filling “action block insert” to support your AR securely during cleaning. Magwell posts like this have been used for years by AR gunsmiths. It’s a fast and convenient way to secure an AR.
The Tactical Range Box also comes with two adjustable cradles that will support most conventional bolt-action rifles and lever guns. These plastic cradles are gentle on fancy stocks, and they can be removed and stowed in the bottom of the box during transport.
The Tactical Range Box uses a two-piece design. The removable top storage compartment holds oils, solvents, brushes, patches, and small accessories. Unlatch the top box to reveal a large, deep storage area that will hold tools, earmuffs, ammo boxes and other larger items. MTM Range Boxes are big enough to hold pretty much everything you need at the range, except your front rest and rear sandbag. Midsouth Shooters Supply offers the MTM Tactical Range Box (item 008-TRB40) for just $39.95. Like MTM’s standard Shooting Range Box, the Tactical Range Box is well-built and much less flexy than generic plastic tool-boxes. Check out the features of this range box in the video below.
For more info, contact MTM® Molded Products at (937) 890-7461 or visit MTMCase-gard.com.
SHOT Show 2013 kicks off in two weeks in Las Vegas. One of our top priorities is to talk with the bullet makers from Berger, Hornady, Lapua, and Nosler.
At SHOT Show 2012 we chatted with Berger Ballistician Bryan Litz about Berger’s popular line of Hybrid bullets. Berger now offers a wide range of Hybrids in multiple calibers and weights. In fact, for .30-Caliber shooters, Berger now offers six different Hybrid match bullets, with weights from 155 grains up to 230 grains. New .338 Cal Tactical Hybrids were released in 2012 and big .375 Cal, and .408 Cal Hybrids are in the works (read more below).
Bryan tells us: “The hybrid design is Berger’s solution to the age old problem of precision vs. ease of use. This design is making life easier for handloaders as well as providing opportunities for commercial ammo loaders who need to offer a high performance round that also shoots precisely in many rifles with various chamber/throat configurations.”
For those not familiar with Hybrid bullets, the Hybrid design blends two common bullet nose shapes on the front section of the bullet (from the tip to the start of the bearing surface). Most of the curved section of the bullet has a Secant (VLD-style) ogive for low drag. This then blends in a Tangent-style ogive curve further back, where the bullet first contacts the rifling. The Tangent section makes seating depth less critical to accuracy, so the Hybrid bullet can shoot well through a range of seating depths, even though it has a very high Ballistic Coefficient (BC).
In the video we asked Bryan for recommended seating depths for 7mm and .30-Caliber Hybrid bullets. Bryan advises that, as a starting point, Hybrid bullets be seated .015″ (fifteen thousandths) off the lands in most barrels. Watch the video for more tips how to optimize your loads with Hybrid bullets.
Berger is Developing New Large-Caliber and Hunting Hybrids
In related news, Berger announced that it will be offering a series of .338-caliber Hybrids. First Berger is reintroducing the Gen 1 .338 Cal, 300gr Hybrid bullet in Berger’s Hunting line. Berger will also be making a 250gr Hybrid Hunting bullet using the same type of jacket as the original Gen 1 300gr Hybrid bullet. In addition, Berger has released a .338 Cal 250gr Match Hybrid OTM Tactical bullet, along with a 300gr Match Hybrid OTM Tactical projectile.
More big bullets are on the drawing board. Our source says “.375 Caliber and then .408 Caliber are the next new calibers to be made at Berger”. These are in the design phase, and Berger needs to build a new machine, so the .375s and .408s will not be available until 2013 at the earliest.
In the 1980s, Glen Eberle was an Olympic Biathlete with Team USA. Recognizing the benefits of a lighter, more durable rifle stock, Glen invented a radical new biathlon stock that literally “changed the game”. Glen’s lighter stock allowed biathletes to ski faster. His stock was also more rugged than conventional designs, so it could better survive the inevitable tumbles that occur in competition.
Since retiring from Biathlon competition, Eberle has built a successful Idaho-based company that supplies tough field packs and accessories for hunters and the military. But Glen never lost interest in stock design, and over the past few years he has developed an innovative new tactical chassis that is quite different than anything on the market today.
Eberlestock Model 11 Stealth Rifle Chassis system Fits Rem 700s
The Eberlestock Model 11 Stealth Rifle Chassis system is compact, light-weight and strong. Designed to fit Remington 700 actions, the Eberlestock model 11 chassis offers a drop-in, no-gunsmithing solution for tactical shooters. For the Rem 700 and Rem-clone actions, the Model 11 Chassis employs Accuracy Int’l Classic detachable box magazines (DBMs). The folding-stock version of the new Eberle chassis is very compact. Eberle claims it is “the shortest [folding-stock] sniper system in the world”.
The Model 11 Stealth Chassis is in Production Now
The basic Model 11 Stealth Rifle Chassis weighs 4 pounds and costs $1895.00. First availability will be for the Remington Model 700 short action. Next offerings will be for Rem Model 700 long actions, followed by stocks to fit models from other manufacturers. A variety of configuration options are offered, including folding butt-stock and a fore-stock with mounting rails. For more info, visit www.Eberlestock.com, or call Eberlestock USA in Idaho at 877-866-3047 or 208-424-5081.
FNH USA has released a new .45 ACP handgun with a 15-round capacity — the FNX-45. This hammer-fired, DA/SA pistol is a commercial version of the gun FNH developed for the Joint Combat Pistol Program. The new FNX-45 features ambidextrous controls. The standard FNX-45 is offered with a matte black frame and stainless slide, or a khaki frame with blackened stainless slide. For better hand fit, FNX-45s ship with four interchangeable grip backstraps. MSRP for the standard model is $809.00.
FNH will also offer a Tactical version of the FNX-45. This features high-profile night sights and two mounting bases to accept multiple styles of optional red-dot electronic sights. The Tactical model, shown below, has a longer barrel, which is threaded to accept sound suppressors and compensators. The magazines for the FNX-45 Tactical model also have jumbo baseplates for faster mag swaps.
“We are pleased to announce the release of the FNX-45″, said Ken Pfau, Senior Vice President of Commercial and Law Enforcement Sales for FNH USA. “This handgun was modeled after the FNP-45 service pistol originally introduced in 2007 under the U.S. Joint Combat Pistol Program.”
Both standard and Tactical models come with a 15-round magazine and a MIL-STD 1913 mounting rail on the underside for lights and lasers. For more information about the FNX-45 or other FN products, visit www.FNHusa.com or the FNH USA Facebook Page.
Webyshops.com just let us know about a very special deal — FFP Mildot Spotting Scopes priced way below the original U.S. Army contract price. This is an excellent deal for guys looking for a spotter with mildot ranging ability. Webyshops’ buyer tells us: “We picked up a limited number of Leupold spotting scopes (it was originally a military order and they decided not to take all or did not get the budget approved for all). It has a First Focal Plane Duplex Mil Dot Reticle. Normal retail price is $2800.00. We have them available on a first come, first serve basis for $999.” CLICK HERE for more info.
The rugged, waterproof Leupold Mark 4 Tactical spotting scope is currently in service with several branches of the U.S. military. The LEUPOLD Mark-4 12-40×60 Tactical Spotting Scope, Duplex Mil-Dot Reticle (67180) utilizes a front focal Duplex Mil-Dot Reticle. With the reticle located in the front focal plane, the reticle magnifies with the image, so you can calculate range at any power setting.
Remington Arms Company, LLC (Remington), part of the Freedom Group Family of Companies, has acquired The American Parts Company Inc. (TAPCO). In business for more than 25 years, Georgia-based TAPCO is a designer and marketer of American-made aftermarket accessories and replacement parts for handguns, rifles, shotguns, and tactical firearms. It is best known as the supplier of accessory products for AR15s, AK and SKS rifles and Remington 870 and Mossberg 500 shotguns. In recent years, TAPCO has modernized its production through computer-aided design, and rapid prototyping technologies.
“This acquisition will enhance our positioning in the accessories market and allow us to further our research and development capabilities” said George Kollitides, Chairman and CEO of Freedom Group. TAPCO will continue day-to-day operations at its Kennesaw, Georgia, facility.
“With the acquisition of TAPCO, Remington continues to demonstrate its commitment to the firearm parts and accessories business,” said Scott Blackwell, President of Freedom Group. “TAPCO is well-known as a leader in delivering innovative and dependable products[.] We are excited about the breadth of the products they bring to our portfolio, and we look forward to utilizing our resources to ensure our consumers and OEM partners benefit from this important acquisition. We welcome TAPCO and its employees into our family of companies.”
Here’s an interesting new product, just released by Creedmoor Sports. The new MOA Tactical Shooting Bag (MOA TSB) combines plastic pellets with an inflatable, inner air chamber to provide a very lightweight (and adjustable) rear support for your rifle, when shooting prone. Designed for “tactical” shooters, we think the MOA bag would work equally well for hunters and varminters. Costing $59.95, the MOA inflatable bag is priced competitively with basic rear sandbags, but it weighs much, much less than a leather or cordura bag filled with sand.
These MOA bags are built tough, with a durable inner air bladder, surgical-quality tubing, and rugged outer fabric. To help stabilize the bag, lightweight polymer (plastic) pellets are used inside. The air pump then inflates the air bladder to the degree of hardness/softness you prefer. An air valve allows you to deflate the MOA bag for more compact transport and storage.
We haven’t used one of these bags yet, but the patent-pending MOA Tactical Bag seems to be a cleverly-designed product that can shave many pounds off your load-out weight.
Though this is marketed toward “tactical” marksmen, we think the MOA Tactical Shooting Bag would also be handy for hunters who walk long distances in the field. Hunters need to be concerned about weight as well. The air+pellet-filled MOA bag offers a lightweight alternative to a bunny-ear bag or a heavy sand sock.