Will you be heading to the varmint fields this summer? Proper planning is key to a safe, satisfying, and productive varmint holiday. Of course you’ll be busy reloading, but you should make a check-list of all the gear and supplies you need. Bring a variety of rifles if possible — you’ll need to switch off as one barrel gets hot, and the chambering that works best for your close shots may not be ideal for those longer shots out past 400 yards. Here are some tips from our Forum members that can help you shoot more effectively, and avoid problems on your varmint hunt. Here’s one key tip: at your shooting station, put a strip of surveyor’s tape on a tall stake to show the wind direction. Then shoot in the direction the wind blows. This will minimize the effect of cross-winds.
From PatchHound: “The gear you bring will make or break a trip out to Prairie Dog land. A lot has to do with where you going and how far you are from [civilization]. For starters, bring lots of water. It will be hot in Wyoming in a few more weeks but it don’t hurt to bring warm clothes in case it snows. It’s best to wear leather boots unless you’re real good at dodging cactus while walking around. Good sunsceen will save the day too. [What you need to bring] really depends on whether you’re shooting on some friendly ranch or 100 miles in the middle of [a wilderness area]. Good survival gear is a good thing to have for the latter!”
From Stoner25mkiv: “I’d suggest an adjustable bipod if you are going to do any walking. A laser rangefinder is a huge asset. Have a fanny pack or backpack for extra ammo, water, bore-snake, etc. when you go on your walkabouts. We also take a couple pivoting benches, heavy movers’ pad/blanket, sandbags (Uncle Bud’s Bulls Bag) for shooting from near the vehicle. Boonie hat for blocking the sun, sun glasses, sunscreen. High leather boots.
Anyway, on to the rifles…consider bringing a 17 HMR, .223 Ackley bolt gun, .223 Ackley AR, and a 243 WSSM. Some years the 17 HMR isn’t removed from its case. We had a couple windless days and the 17 was lots of fun. I’d walk into the dogtown and then lay down and wait. After five minutes or so I’d have dogs within easy rimfire range, and out to as far as I’d care to stretch the rimfire. 275 yards was about it.”
From CTShooter: “The .204 [Ruger] is a laser beam and good to 400 yards easy. Forget the rimfire! Do you have a portable bench that pivots? Bring bipod, binocs. Bring a LOT of water. I have a milspec sniper shooter’s mat/drag bag with shoulder straps. It is good to carry everything when you want to wander off and shoot prone with bipod. Here’s a view through my 6BR in ND.”
From RJinTexas: “In most of the locations that we’ll be shooting we’ll usually set up a minimum of 200 yards from the edge of a major dog town. We’ll start by working over the close-in dogs and shooting our way out, some of these towns may run in excess of 500/600 yards deep. I believe that a rimfire will put you at a distinct disadvantage. The only rimfire that will somewhat work is the 17 HMR and you can reload for your 204s for close to the cost of HMR ammo and you’ll be less apt to be under-gunned. Your 204 will work well out to 300/400 yards unless the wind is blowing hard. We classify a 10-mph crosswind as a very calm day and what makes it a little more challenging is that it is usually also gusting. I only took my 17 HMR once, I’ve since even quit taking my 17 Mach IV because when the wind blows hard it range is limited to around 200 yards. Gusting wind will play havoc with 25gr pills.”
From Wes (P1ZombieKiller): “[For my first PD trip] there are so many things I was not ready for. The one thing that I did bring (that no one told me about) was a canopy. I’m glad I did. Even though the weather was [near perfect], I know that sun can humble you real fast. With my pop-up canopy, I could shoot all day without getting killed by the sun. You had to tie the canopy down real well or the wind would blow it across the pasture.
We sat on shooting benches that pivot 360°, and are fast and easy to set up. Most all shots were 175-250 yards. I just felt comfortable at that range. It was more fun for me to be able to film the hits, and the camcorder I was using just did not get good video past 350 yards. The digital zoom distorted the image too much. I knew I would only get this one chance to film my first P-dog outing, and I wanted to get it on film for [posterity].” To learn more about P1’s first Prairie Dog Trip, visit his Website.
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No doubt you’ve heard the term “reticle” before, but it probably brings to mind the cross-hair you see through a rifle-scope. This term “reticle” can also describe an optical aid used to score targets. This story discusses a new scoring reticle with precisely-defined circles etched on clear plexiglass. This scoring reticle (as attached to a magnifying crystal) is used to determine whether bullet holes fall inside or outside the scoring circles on targets. This unique new scoring reticle allows match scorers to “equalize” the shot placements of all popular calibers from .204 up to .308. This way, there’s a “level playing field” for all calibers, and any caliber rifle can compete on an equal basis with the 30s.
New ‘Equalizer’ VFS Scoring Reticle
by Ron Goodger
The ubiquitous controversy over the advantage of larger caliber bullets in VFS (Varmint for Score) matches still rages, but there is a simple solution that is being embraced by all to whom I have shown it. The concept is simple, and it accomplishes the same thing the UBR (Ultimate Benchrest) targets do with the advantage that it can be used on any target a club happens to have on hand.
I had heard shooters complain about the advantage that larger calibers have many times and wish there was a fair way to score targets that would level the playing field for all calibers. The UBR concept came along and I read up on it. When a match was held close enough that I could enter, I did so and observed first hand what it was all about. The UBR targets essentially make the distance from the bullet hole center to the scoring ring edge the same for each caliber by using different-sized rings on the caliber-specific targets. After seeing the accompanying disadvantages of using this method (the chief one being the large number of targets required by UBR rules and the resulting increased time required to hold a match), I began searching for a simpler way to accomplish the same thing. I was aware of a number of mid-West clubs wanting to make scoring fair but unwilling to use the UBR method because of the disadvantages.
I came up with an idea late in 2015 and designed a scoring reticle that would do the job. The following diagrams graphically explain how UBR and my scoring reticle accomplish the same thing. The illustration above shows how different caliber bullets hitting the same center point of impact will each just score the 10 ring edge on the different-sized, caliber-specific UBR 10 Rings . It is clear that it is the distance from the center of the bullet to the scoring ring that is made uniform by the different 10 Ring sizes.
The illustration below shows how my VFS scoring reticle accomplishes the same thing by scoring every shot with an .308-equivalent ring that circumscribes the inner caliber-specific ring. The dotted line shows that the center of each bullet hits the same distance from the edge of the scoring ring. It is clear that, using current VFS scoring techniques, the .224, .243, and .257 bullets would score misses. However, scoring each bullet with the .308 ring around the hole illustrates that all calibers would be scored the same.
Scoring Reticle Converts Any Caliber Shot to a .308-Equivalent Hole
The above photo of an IBS 100-yard target has a 6mm hole that is clearly a nine (9), using current scoring methods. But consider that, if a .308 bullet from a 30 BR hit in the very same location, that .30-caliber shot would score in the Ten Ring. Why should the 6mm bullet, whose center was just as close to the middle of the target, be penalized because of the bullet diameter? The image on the right shows the scoring reticle with the 6mm scoring ring centered on this hole. With this scoring reticle, the .308 ring around the 6mm hole clearly scores the 10 Ring, just as a 30-caliber bullet centered in the same spot would do. That is as fair as it can get.
The above image (two shots per frame) from a Hillsdale Michigan varmint target has two 6mm holes that scored a 16. Score values are 10 points for a shot in the white, 5 points for a shot in the orange, and 1 point for hitting the center dot. This was a match that had 30BRs shooting in it. The next photo shows how scoring this frame with the VFS reticle would have resulted in a 21 because the left side of the reticle’s .308 circle just extends into the 10-point white bulls-eye region. So, in effect, there were two (2) shots in the white for 2×10 points (based on the .308 equalizer effect of the reticle). This shows how the reticle will level the VFS playing field regardless of what target is being used.
VFS Scoring Reticle Features and Specifications
The 6mm circles have been placed in the center of the reticle because it is expected to be the most commonly-used caliber, and that makes it easier to see in the crystal. Any of the ring sets can be used for a .308. The sizes of the circles are guaranteed accurate to within .001″ on the outside edge of the circle by the reticle’s manufacturer. I have found the best magnifier crystal to use is a genuine Badash crystal that measures 3.25″ in diameter. They are available from several eBay sellers and are easily attached using a piece of packing tape about 3/4-inch wide around the edge of the reticle (visible on the crystal in the lower part of the photo). That makes the Plexiglas reticles easy to replace in the event they become scratched up from frequent use.
A number of Midwest rifle clubs have already purchased these scoring reticles. The Plexiglas reticles are available for $15.00 each plus $2.04 shipping from the author (does not include the crystal). Email him at LRGoodger [at] gmail dot com for more information.
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Want something more interesting than black-on-white bullseye targets? Champion Targets recently released a new series of game-theme targets. You can blast aerial drones, hunt dinosaurs, play a game of “H-O-R-S-E”, or shoot ducks in a Carnival Shooting Gallery. These new targets, which cost $7.49 per 12-pack, make great Christmas Gifts for the younger shooters in your family. What kid wouldn’t like a Dinosaur Target? And “kids of all ages” can enjoy the Shooting Gallery and Junkyard Plinker targets. The Know Your Limits target is good for tactical practice. These targets are available now from major retailers such as Amazon.com and OpticsPlanet.com.
Top Shot Champion Dustin Ellermann has been busy up in Wyoming slaying varmints. On his Facebook Page, Dustin wrote: “I’ve been helping some ranchers out with their prairie dog infestation in Wyoming. The 17 HMR Volquartsen Custom is amazing! The Meopta Sports Optics R1r is super nice as well. Can you guess how many prairie dogs I eliminated in two days?” (Facebook users post guesses HERE.)
Dustin says the effective range of the 17 HMR is farther than one might expect: “I made hits out to 300 yards. 200 yards was easy as long as the wind wasn’t too bad.”
Dustin was very impressed with the 17 HMR cartridge: “Never paid it much attention before now because the ammo is five times more expensive than .22 LR and I mostly target shoot. However, for prairie dogs, the 17 HMR is amazing!” Dustin is now a fan of the speedy rimfire round. Consider this — Hornady’s 17 HMR ammo pushes a 17gr V-Max bullet at 2550 fps, twice as fast as typical .22 LR rounds.
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Never had a chance to hunt prairie dogs in the American west? Then check out this video. Dan Eigen (aka “Walleye Dan”), host of the We Love It Outdoors Television series, head to South Dakota for some varmint hunting. Dan teams up with Varmint Hunter Association President Jeff Rheborg to patrol some South Dakota Dogtowns where things get serious. In the video, you’ll see p-dog hits at distances from 70 yards to roughly 450 yards. The hunters were shooting from portable, wood-topped swivel rests, using AR-platform rifles on X-type sandbag rest. (Rifle zeroing session is shown at the 5:30+ mark.)
Multiple cameras were employed so you can see both the shooter’s POV and close-ups of the prairie dogs downrange. Watch the shooters having fun with a prairie dog cut-out and some Tannerite at the 9:00-minute mark. This guys are having a grand old time sending critters to Prairie Dog Heaven — we think you’ll enjoy the video.
In our Shooters’ Forum, there is an interesting thread showcasing a number of new varmint rifles built for the 2015 season. Here are six of the noteworthy builds highlighted in the thread. See more rifles in this Forum thread: Let’s See Your New For 2015 Rigs.
From member Greg T
6mm AI on RBLP Bat Three-Lug Action
Krieger 1:14″-Twist, 28″ Tube
.274 Neck throated for 75 gr V-Max
Blue / Black Shurley Brothers Lowrider Stock
Comment: I think I have found my favorite caliber as now I basically have twins – one for 87 grainers and one for 75 grainers. Yes this is overkill (and financially not the best decision) but it’s fun, so what the heck. With such a slow twist rate, I think I can push the 75s to 3850 fps or so.
The Hickory Groundhog and Egg Shoot, the richest varmint shoot East of the Mississippi, is just days away. Now in its 35th year, the hugely popular Hickory Shoot will be held this upcoming Saturday, April 4, 2015 starting at 8:00 am. If you have any questions call Larry Willis of Bull’s Eye Sporting Goods, (704) 462-1948.
In years past over $7,000 worth of prizes and cash has been awarded. The normal course of fire is three sets of paper groundhog targets at 100, 300, and 500 yards, and NO Sighters. Shooters can also compete in an Egg Shoot for cash and other prizes. The basic entry fee is just $25.00 per gun. That’s cheap for a chance to win a bundle of cash, plus valuable prizes such as Shehane stocks and Nightforce optics. So get your best rifle, load up some ammo and head to the Hickory range located at 8216 Will Hudson Road, Lawndale NC 28090. The practice range will be open until 6:00 pm Tuesday-Thursday, but will close at 1:00 pm on Friday.
How to Get to the Hickory Shoot
Anatomy of a Hickory-Winning Rig — Brady’s Record-Setting 6BR
If you wonder what kind of rifle can win the big money at the Hickory Shoot, have a look at Terry Brady’s 42-lb 6BR. In 2010, Terry Brady won the Custom Class in the Hickory Shoot, setting an all-time record with a 99 score*. Terry was shooting a straight 6mmBR with 105gr Berger VLD bullets. His rifle looks “normal”, but it was actually purpose-built for Groundhog shoots, which have no weight limit in Custom Class. The fiberglass Shehane Tracker stock was stuffed with lead shot from stem to stern, so that the gun weighs nearly 42 pounds with optics. The Hickory winner, smithed by Mike Davis of Zionville, NC, featured a BAT DS action with a straight-contour, gain-twist Krieger barrel. The twist rate starts at 1:8.7″ and increases to 1:8.3″ at the muzzle. Terry was shooting a relatively moderate load of 30.5 grains Varget with Danzac-coated bullets. This load absolutely hammered, but Terry thinks the gun might shoot even better if the load was “hotted up a little.”
Minimal Recoil and Insane Accuracy at 500 yards
In the picture above you see the Hickory winner fitted with a 5″-wide front plate. This was crafted from aluminum by Gordy Gritters, and Terry said “it only adds a few ounces” to the gun. Mike Davis installed threaded anchors in the fore-end so the plate can be removed for events where forearm width is restricted to 3″. The plate is symmetrical, adding 1″ extra width on either side of the Shehane Tracker stock. Gordy can also craft a 5″ plate that offsets the rifle to one side or the other. Terry hasn’t experimented with an offset front bag-rider, but he thinks it might work well with a heavier-recoiling caliber. Terry actually shot most of the Hickory match without the front plate so he could use his regular 3″-wide front bag. Even with the plate removed, Terry’s Hickory-winning 6BR barely moves on the bags during recoil, according to Terry: “You just pull the trigger and with a little push you’re right back on target.” With this gun, Terry, his son Chris, Chris’s girlfriend Jessica, and Terry’s friend Ben Yarborough nailed an egg at 500 yards four times in a row. That’s impressive accuracy.
*The Hickory employs “worst-edge” scoring, meaning if you cut a scoring line you get the next lower score. One of Terry’s shots was right on the edge of the white and another was centered right between white and black at 3 o’clock. Accordingly he only received 27 points for each of the 300 and 500-yard stages. Under “best-edge” scoring, Terry would have scored even higher.
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They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case a video is way more illuminating than anything we can write. The video below, produced by Savage, demonstrates how the new 17 HMR Savage A17 rifle works. The video includes nicely-done 3D Graphics that illustrate the function of the A17’s delayed-blowback action with “interrupter lug”. Using “X-Ray View” animation, the video shows what happens INSIDE the chamber as rounds are fired. The video also explains how the 17 HMR presents a tougher engineering challenge than the lower-pressure .22 LR cartridge.
Watch this Video — You’ll Learn Something about Semi-Auto Rimfires
NOTE to Readers: Watch the video! If you have any interest in how guns work, check this out (full-screen if possible). For some reason (maybe slow connections), most readers skip over the videos we embed in our stories. In this case, take 3 minutes to watch. Click arrows button to view Full-Screen.
Savage officially launched the A17 this month, after previewing the new 17 HMR rifle at SHOT Show in January. We tested the gun on Media Day and came away very impressed. The A17 fed and functioned flawlessly. It is fun to shoot, and it will be affordable. MSRP is $469.00 so street price should be about $425.00. READ AccurateShooter A17 Report.
We plan to test one of these very soon. If the field test goes as well as I expect, your Editor will probably buy one of these rifles. The A17 has a barrel nut system just like centerfire Savage rifles. This means it will be easy to fit an aftermarket custom barrel to the A17. We already have some ideas for a suppressed A17 project gun with upgraded stock and barrel(s). Stay tuned….
The Magic Chicklet
Look below at the A17 bolt. The little black hardened metal piece (called a “chicklet” by the Savage engineers) is the secret ingredient. This “Interrupter Lug” retracts, allowing the A17 to operate in delayed blow-back mode. That permits the A17 to function flawlessly with the 17 HMR cartridge.
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Shooting reactive targets is fun, especially when you get to use ultra-accurate benchrest rifles. To see how the “Varmint Silhouette” game is played, tune in to Shooting USA tonight on the Outdoor Channel. Tonight’s episode features a long-range varmint benchrest silhouette match at the Ridgway Rifle Club in Pennsylvania. This is silhouette like you’ve never seen it, with targets placed from 850 to 1,000 yards, and shooters using precision rifles, high-end optics, and advanced rests. This new sport combines the knock-down fun of silhouette with the high-tech precision of benchrest shooting. At Ridgway’s first Bench Rest Silhouette match 28 shooters participated. Five years later, nearly 120 shooters attend regular monthly matches. CLICK HERE for Match Info.
Varmint Benchrest Silhouette Basics
In 2010, the Ridgway Rifle Club combined Metallic Silhouette and 1000-yard Bench Rest into one exciting new discipline. Steel targets are arrayed in banks of five at four distances. The targets are set up as follows: Crows at 850 yards, Ground Hogs at 900 yards, Bobcats at 950 yards, and Coyotes at 1000 yards. Just dinging a target is not enough — to count as a “hit”, the target must fall down.
Ridgeway allows two classes of guns, Heavy Class with a maximum weight of 17 pounds, and Standard Class with a maximum weight of 12 pounts. Both classes must otherwise conform to the Light Gun rules for the Original 1000-Yard Bench Rest Club in Williamsport, PA.
Varmint Silhouette West of the Mississipi
Clubs in other states also host Varmint Silhouette matches (or some variant thereof). One of the longest-running and most popular Varmint Silhouette matches is held the first weekend of every month at the Pala Range, in San Diego County, California. At Pala, competitors shoot at “critter” targets placed at five yardages: 200 Meters – Field Mice (“pikas”); 300 meters – Crows; 385 meters – Ground Squirrels; 500 meters – Jack Rabbits; 600 yards – Prairie Dogs
Fun Weekend for the Whole Family
At Pala, there’s a deluxe Indian Casino/Spa nearby. So don’t hesitate to bring the wife. If she’s not a shooter, she can enjoy a fancy brunch or spa treatment while you’re having fun mowing down metal critters. Pala is a 30 minutes from the Pacific Ocean and beautiful beaches, so you can make this a weekend holiday for the whole family — kids love sand and surf.
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Semi-auto 17 HMR — could this be the perfect light-recoiling fun gun and squirrel slayer? With its new A17, Savage has created a gun that should be hugely popular. If you like the Ruger 10/22, you’ll love the A17. It shoots a more powerful cartridge, and has a stronger action and a better trigger. With a beefy steel action that looks like it belongs on a centerfire, this gun is strong. With quality barrels (fitted, as you’d expect, with a barrel nut), the A17 is accurate. And with the capability to launch 17 HMR rounds as fast as you can pull the trigger this gun is a hoot to shoot. The ability to get a quick second shot (without disturbing the rifle by working the bolt) will be a game-changer in the varmint fields.
Watch Us Shoot the New A17 (Rapid-Fire at 1:50):
Star of the Show
Jason and I both felt that the star of this 2015 Industry Range Day was this modestly-priced little Savage A17 in 17 HMR. MSRP is $469.00 we were told. No one knows the “street price” yet but we expect that to be about $370.00. Both of us wanted to own one of these compact new rifles (Jason tried to buy one on the spot) — what does that tell you? With a strong steel action, the A17 is accurate, fun, and ultra-reliable.
Jason put the gun through three rapid fire drills — firing as fast as he could pull the trigger. We could not get the A17 to malfunction in any way. It just ripped through magazines like a sewing machine. Flawless operation. Bill Dermody of ATK says “this is one of the most thoroughly tested Savage rifles ever. We put over half a million test rounds through the rifle during development. That’s why it’s so reliable.”
The Magic Chicklet
Look below at the A17 bolt. The little black hardened metal piece (called a “chicklet” by the Savage engineers) is the secret ingredient. It works like a retracting lug, allowing the A17 to operate in delayed blow-back mode. That permits the A17 to function flawlessly with the energetic 17 HMR cartridge.
Optimized 17 HMR Ammo That’s 100 FPS Faster
CCI has developed new, higher-velocity 17 HMR ammo for the A17. Because Savage is now part of the ATK conglomerate, CCI is now Savage’s sister company. So, CCI and Savage cooperated during the development of the A17. CCI found a way to get more speed from the 17 HMR and Savage engineered an action and bolt that are strong enough to handle the new 17 HMR ammo, which runs 100 fps faster than other 17 HMR ammo on the market.
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Richard Franklin (who operated Richard’s Custom Rifles prior to his retirement), has built scores of varmint rifles, in many different calibers. One of Richard’s all-time favorite varmint rifles is a 14-twist, 22BR built on his model 11 stock in laminated Black Walnut and fiddleback maple. Richard says the rifle is versatile and deadly accurate out to 400 yards. Richard uses a Leupold 8.5-25x50mm LRT with varmint reticle.
“This is my light walking varminter. It’s built on a blueprinted SS Remington 700 short action and chambered as a no-turn 22 BR for Lapua brass. The bolt handle is a Dave Kiff replacement and I’ve fitted a Jewel BR trigger with bottom safety. Barrel is a Lilja, 1:14″ # 6 contour with a muzzle diameter of .750″. I shoot the 40gr V-Max in the rifle at 4000 FPS. Its tough on hogs if you don’t try them too far. 400 yards is about the max with it. Accuracy is outstanding and with Roy, Mike, my grandson and myself shooting this rifle I don’t believe it has missed more than 3 hogs out of over 100 shot at this summer. This rifle is carried in a ceiling rack in the truck where its handy and is used by the first person that grabs it when a hog is sighted if we are moving between setups. The Varmint reticle on the Leupold is nice for quick hold-overs as you change distances.”
Detail of Model 11 Stock (Different Rifle in Birdseye Maple)
22BR Rivals 22-250 Performance
With bullets in the 40gr to 60gr weight range, the 22BR gives up very little in velocity to a 22-250, despite burning quite a bit less powder (30-32 grains for the 22BR vs. 35-38 grains for the 22-250). With a match-quality chamber, the 22BR will probably have an edge in accuracy over a 22-250, and you should experience longer barrel life. Here are some recommended 22BR loads for 40-60gr bullets:
It is with great sadness we announce the passing of John Adams of Fallbrook, Calfornia. One of our very first Forum members, John has been a stalwart supporter of this site for nearly a decade. He generously donated funds, reloading components, and equipment to our site, year after year, asking nothing in return. A modest man, John was also an innovator, who developed his own wildcat cartridges, designed reloading tools, and put together some great-shooting rifles.
On Saturday, November 15, Johnny Adams (John’s son) sent out this message to John’s friends and acquaintances in the shooting community: “I have to inform everyone of the sad news that my father, John Adams, died unexpectedly this Saturday Morning. He has been battling cancer for a number of years and has finally succumbed to the disease. He has asked me to include this photo of him and asked that his friends remember him in this way.”
John was a very active benchrest shooter in Southern California, and one of the dedicated organizers of the monthly Varmint Silhouette Match in Pala, California. Shooting that match with John as my mentor was one of the most enjoyable highlights of my shooting career.
Those of us who knew John would tell you he was a generous, good-hearted man who had a real love for shooting. I am honored to say John was my friend, and I will forever be grateful for the things he did to help this site get off the ground, and to help many new shooters get started. When I had a chance to shoot at the Pala Varmint Silhouette match, John took the time to help practice with me, and he even provided the rifle (a wickedly accurate 22 Dasher) and the ammunition!
Many years ago, John was involved as an owner of the SAECO company that made presses and other reloading equipment. He had a vast knowledge of shooting hardware, and he never gave up his avid interest in shooting-related product design and engineering. He remained interested in new products and new techniques until his last days. Just a few weeks ago he called me to chat about new developments in spotting scopes.
John, Rest in Peace old friend. We’ll miss your presence at our matches in California. You were a generous soul and a true friend of the shooting sports. The shooting community is much diminished by your passing….
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Forum Member Chuck L. (aka “Ridgeway”) has created a handsome duo of 6mm Dashers for competitive benchrest and varmint matches in Pennsylvania. Both guns are built on Kelbly Panda RBLP actions, with Bartlein 8-twist barrels, and Shehane Laminated Tracker Stocks. However, the two rifles are not exact twins, as you can see. One, which we’ll call the Big Dasher, is built on a Shehane ST1000 Tracker stock. The other gun, the Small Dasher, sports Shehane’s “Baby Tracker” stock — a design used with great success by Richard Schatz. The Big Dasher, optimized for 1000-yard competition, also has a slightly longer freebore — 0.136″ vs. 0.104″ for the Small Dasher.
Chuck tells us: “I don’t get out shooting competition as much as I want due to time and family, but when I do compete, I shoot a Groundhog match at Southfork Rifle Club in Beaverdale, PA. Info on Southfork Club events can be found at Southforkrifleclub.com. The Southfork match is basically a 100-, 300- and 500-yard match with one sighter the entire match and 5 shots at each yardage for score. The Small Dasher, with the shorter ‘Baby Tracker’ stock, was set up for the Southfork Rifle Club’s ‘Light Unlimited’ class which has a 13.5-lb max weight.” (Editor: ‘unlimited’ is a misnomer for a weight-limited category.)
Chuck adds: “The Big Dasher with the heavy ST-1000 stock is set up for 1000-yard benchrest matches in Light Gun class. I hope to shoot a couple 1K matches with it at Reade Range in southwest Pennsylvania. I am still in load development for this rifle since it was just finished in January. One ironic thing is, it shoots the same load I’m shooting out of the lighter gun rather well. The only difference between the two chambers is the freebore is roughly thirty thousandths longer on the 1K gun (Large Dasher). I will also shoot this at Southfork in the ‘Heavy Unlimited’ class.”
Specifications for the Dasher Duo:
Small Dasher (13.5-pounder): Chambered for 6mm Dasher with approximately .104 freebore and a .264 NK. (No way of knowing exactly since it freebore was done in a separate operation by Kelbly.) Components are: Shehane Baby Tracker stock, Kelbly Panda RPLB action, Bartlein 1:8″ LV barrel at 26 ¾”, Kelbly Rings, Weaver T36, Jewell trigger. The barrel was chambered by Kelblys and the stock was bedded, glued and balanced by a shooting buddy (Forum Member johara1). I clear-coated the stock with auto urethane. Total weight is 13 lbs., 4 ounces.
Big Dasher (1K Light Gun, 17-pounder): Chambered for 6mm Dasher with a .136 freebore and .264 neck (PTG Reamer). Components are: Shehane ST-1000 stock, Kelbly Panda RPLB action, Bartlein 1:8″ HV 5R barrel at 28″, Shehane +20-MOA rings, Nightforce NXS 12-42x56mm, Jewell trigger. The barrel work, pillar installation, and bedding was done by Dave Bruno. The stock was clear-coated by Chuck with auto urethane. Chuck also made the rear butt plate and balanced the rifle. Total weight: 16 lbs., 13 ounces.
Dasher Case-Forming: Neck-Turn then Fire-form with Bullets Hard in Lands
To fireform, I turn my cases down to fit the chamber and stop where the false shoulder makes snug contact with the chamber. Fire-forming rounds are loaded up with a 29-grain charge of H4895 or Varget and a 108gr Berger bullet seated hard into the lands about 0.020″ past initial contact with the rifling. It takes about three firings to make a nice clean Dasher case with a sharp shoulder. I anneal about every 3-4 firings. I have many cases that have about 10+ firings on them and they are still shooting well. The primer pockets are a little looser, but still hold a primer.
Both Dashers Group in the Ones at 100 Yards
My main bullet for both rifles is the 107gr Sierra MK, loaded with Reloder 15 powder, Lapua cases and CCI 450 primers. My main load for the Small Dasher is 33.0 grains of Reloder 15. This load shoots in the ones at 100 yards. For the Big Dasher, I’m still working on a load, although the same 33.0 grain load shoots in the ones in the heavier gun as well. I’m still looking for more velocity and my ‘max’ node. So far, I’ve gone well above 33.0 grains of RL 15 without pressure signs, but that load produces vertical at 100 yards, so I’m going to tinker with the load until I see pressure or it starts to shoot.
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Hornady has just announced its new-for-2015 products — new ammo, new reloading equipment, new brass, and new shooting accessories. This is a big roll-out, with a slew of new products, including some very interesting reloading tools. CLICK HERE to See ALL NEW 2015 Hornady Products.
VIDEO PREVIEW: Hornady 2015 New Products Overview
New Hornady Rifle Ammunition
New rifle ammo to be introduced in 2015 includes: 17 Win Super Mag Rimfire (with 20gr VMax), Full Boar series with GMX bullets, .243 Win Superformance with 75gr V-Max, and .338 Lapua Magnum with 285gr A-Max. It appears that Hornady may also be expanding its Custom Int’l line of hunting ammo.
New Hornady Reloading Products
For 2015, Hornady is releasing a host of new reloading tools and accessories. Among the new reloading items this year are: Multi-Purpose Lock-N-Load® Quick Change Hand Tool (photo below), Lock-N-Load® Neck Turn Tool with power adapter (photo below), Lock-N-Load® Sonic Cleaner 7L, and Lock-N-Load® AP™ Primer Pocket Swage Tool (for Hornady L-N-L progressive press):
New Hornady Cartridge Brass — 15 New Varieties
This should make hand-loaders happy. Hornady will release 15 new types of Hornady-brand cartridge brass. Varminters should be happy with the new 22 Hornet, 220 Swift, and 6mm Rem offerings.
22 Hornet SKU 8602
220 Swift SKU 8615
6mm Rem SKU 8622
7mm-08 Rem SKU 8646
7x65R SKU 8641
300 Rem Ultra Mag SKU 87624
30-378 Weatherby SKU 8658
8×57 JRS SKU 8644
500-416 Nitro Express SKU 86877
Ernie Bishop, USA dealer for SEB Coaxial, offered this story about teaching a young boy how to shoot — passing on the heritage of marksmanship to the next generation. Ernie was working with an 8-year-old novice. With Ernie showing him the ropes, the young man was able to make hits at 1440 yards!
Teaching a Young Man about Long-Range Shooting, by Ernie Bishop
I was able to do some coaching with an eight-year-old boy shooting distance with a Savage 6.5-284 rifle (factory 1:9″-twist barrel), 3-12X Huskemaw scope, and MAC brake. Chuck McIntosh was helping as well. I can’t wait to see how this young man develops as a shooter. It was a real pleasure coaching him.
Click for Full-screen Photo
We ended the day’s shooting session with the young man making multiple connections at 1440 yards with the Savage rifle (top photo). We were very proud of this young man. During our session, the young shooter also fired a suppressed 300 Remington Ultra Magnum. The boy made managed a first-shot connection at 500 yards on a 5″ square target.
Click for Full-screen Photo
The next day I brought a couple of Specialty Pistols for our young marksman to play with. The photo shows a rear grip XP-100 with McRee chassis, chambered in .284 Winchester for 168gr SMKs. The young man went out to 850 yards with this after he got bored with 10″ targets at 400 and 500 yards (he never missed at 400 and 500!).
Click for Full-screen Photo
We ended up having switchy winds, which made things more difficult, but still fun. We also shot at 750 yards with the 6.5-284 bench pistol.
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Here’s good news for varmint hunters. Hornady just announced that it is ramping up production of the 17 Hornet: “For those of you who love the 17 Hornet, we are manufacturing ammunition right now and you should see it back in stores soon!” The 17 Hornet is a fun, fast cartridge that is ideal for ground squirrels and other small varmints. It has light recoil similar to a 22 WMR, but with the ability to reach out to 300 yards and beyond. Since the 17 Hornet is a centerfire cartridge with reloadable brass, it can actually be more economical to shoot than the 17 HMR, provided you “roll your own”.
Speed Kills — 3650 FPS
Based on the 22 Hornet cartridge case, the 17 Hornet can drive a 20-grain V-MAX bullet at 3,650 fps. At this velocity, the 17 Hornet can match the trajectory of a 55-grain .223 Remington load, but with much less noise and recoil. Take a look at the chart below. You can see that the 17 Hornet’s trajectory (blue line) is almost an identical match for the larger .223 Rem (red line) all the way out to 400 yards or so. The 17 Hornet is an economical, fun .17 caliber centerfire cartridge with way more “reach” than a 17 HRM or 22 WMR.
17 Hornet — Trajectory Comparison
3,650 fps muzzle velocity with a 20 grain V-MAX bullet.
Same C.O.L. as the 22 Hornet – uses the existing action.
Trajectory comparable to a 55 grain 223 Rem, but the felt recoil of a 22 WMR.
Lower cost and comparable quality to the 17 Fireball and .223 Remington.
Video Explains 17 Hornet Features and Performance
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About 24 miles east of Oceanside, California (near the Camp Pendleton Marine base) is the Pala Reservation. On that Native American land you’ll find a Casino Resort, plus an excellent shooting range. Each month, shooters come to Pala for the Varmint Silhouette Match hosted by the North County Shootist Association. Normally the match is held on the first Sunday of the month. But this October, the match will be held Sunday, October 20th. Matches start around 9:00 am and finish around noon.
Course of Fire: Five Yardages, 50 Critters
At five different yardages, ten steel “critter” targets are set as follows: 200 Meters – Field Mice (“pikas”); 300 meters – Crows; 385 meters – Ground Squirrels; 500 meters – Jack Rabbits; 600 yards – Prairie Dogs. The folks at Pala run a tight ship, cycling multiple relays efficiently, so everybody gets to shoot 50 targets (10 each at five different yardages), and the show is usually completed by 1:00 pm. A one-hour sight-in period starts at 8:00 am, and the match starts at 9:00 am sharp. Newcomers should definitely arrive no later than 7:45 am, because you may need the full sight-in period to get good zeros at all five yardages. CLICK HERE for full match INFO.
What to bring to Pala
You’ll need an accurate rifle, plus at least 80 rounds of ammo (bring 100 rounds if you have no idea about your come-ups at these distances). You can shoot either rested prone (F-Class style), from bipod, or from a portable bench with front pedestal and rear bag. Most guys shoot from benches. Any rifle 6.5 caliber or under is allowed (max bullet weight is 107 grains). With no weight restrictions, any good varmint rifle, bench gun, or F-Class rifle can be competitive. Muzzle brakes are permitted. Spotter assistants are allowed, so bring a friend along — he/she can shoot in a different relay. Bring cleaning gear if your rifle can’t run 80+ rounds without losing accuracy. Pastry snacks are often provided, but bring water, and a lunch. You’ll spend some time in the sun helping to set targets, so bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
Fun Weekend for the Whole Family
There is a deluxe Indian Casino/Spa a half-mile from the range. So don’t hesitate to bring the wife. If she’s not a shooter, she can enjoy a fancy brunch or spa treatment while you’re having fun mowing down metal critters. Pala is a 30 minutes from the Pacific Ocean and beautiful beaches, so you can make this a weekend holiday for the whole family — kids love sand and surf.
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ISSC will soon be shipping its new SPA 22/17 series of rimfire rifles. These rifles all feature a fast, biathlon-style, Straight-Pull Action (SPA). This allows for rapid cycling without having to lift your head off the stock. Watch the video below and you can see how you can easily work the toggle action with thumb and two fingers. ISSC offers the SPA 22/17 in three popular rimfire chamberings: .22 LR, .22 WMR, and 17 HMR. We think the 17 HMR version of this little rifle would be a great “carry-around” varmint rig. And the “Target” model, as chambered in .22 LR, seems ideal for the popular “Rimfire Tactical” game.
The Austrian-made SPA 22/17 is offered in three (3) different stock versions: Wood stock (with raised comb), Polymer sporter stock (with Snabel-style fore-end), and a “Target” model (with a folding, Accuracy International-style thumbhole stock). All variants come with 10-round magazines. The rifles are currently offered in three popular rimfire chamberings: .22 LR, .22 WMR, and .17 HMR. The ISSC SPA 22/17 series of rifles is distributed in the USA through Legacy Sports International.
We’re told that the first shipments of ISSC Spa 22/17 rifles should be arriving by mid-May, with larger shipments scheduled for June, 2013. We expect these rifles to be pretty popular, so you may want to get in line. Here’s a video from Legacy Sports showing how the straight-pull actions work:
ISSC is located in Ried, Austria. The company’s design and engineering work is accomplished at the company’s ESC subsidiary, located in Ulm, Germany.
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Thanksgiving is coming up soon. After partaking in the traditional Turkey Day feast, we know many of our readers will find time during the holiday to head to the range. A Thanksgiving Day shoot is a fun excursion, and a great way for young and old family members to share time together. For all you T-Day marksmen, we offer a special turkey target. This was created by our friend and Forum member Pascal (aka “DesertFrog”).
We’ve packaged the turkey target along with five (5) other varmint/animal-themed targets for your shooting pleasure. These are all offered in .pdf (Adobe Acrobat) format for easy printing.
Program Promotes Family Hunting Opportunities
Speaking of turkeys and families going shooting together, we’d like to give a plug for the “Families Afield” program. A joint effort of the Nat’l Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA), and National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), the “Families Afield” program works to expand the opportunities for young hunters with adult mentors. The goal of the program is to increase the number of young people getting involved in hunting. For every 100 adult hunters today, only 69 youth hunters are coming up to take their place. “Families Afield” works to reverse that trend. Several states that were restrictive to youth hunting have signed into law “Families Afield” legislation. These new laws make it possible for young hunters and their families to enjoy hunting traditions together. CLICK HERE to learn more.
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In our articles collection, you’ll find a story of interest to varminters and game hunters. Choosing And Using Modern Reticles, by author John Barsness, reviews the many “hold-over” reticle options currently available for hunting scopes. The latest “hunting hold-over” reticles, such as Leupold’s Varmint Hunter Reticle, offer both vertical marks (for hold-over) and horizontal bars or dots (for wind compensation). The idea is to allow the shooter to move quickly from one target distance to another, without having to dial elevation changes with his scope turrets. Likewise, the horizontal wind-hold markings give the shooter reference points for winds of specific velocities. That makes the process of “holding-off” for wind much more predictable.
In the Barsness article, which originally appeared in Varmint Hunter Magazine, the author traces the history of ranging/hold-over reticles starting with the Mildot reticle. Barsness explains how to use the mildot reticle, noting how it is best used with a First Focal Plane scope design.
First Focal Plane vs. Second Focal Plane Designs
If nothing else, you’ll want to read this article just to improve your understanding of First Focal Plane (FFP) vs. Second Focal Plane (SFP) optics operation. If you want to use the markings on a reticle to range at various magnification levels, then you want the FFP design, preferred by the military. If, on the other hand, you prefer the viewed appearance of your reticle to stay constant at all power levels, then you’ll probably prefer the SFP design.
Barsness explains how the modern “Christmas Tree” design reticles, such as the Zeiss Rapid Z, evolved, and he explains how to use these reticles to adjust your point of aim for different target distances. These hold-over reticles can be very handy, but you must remember that the yardages which correspond to the stepped vertical markings are determined by the ballistics of your cartridge. Thus, if you change your cartridge, or even change your load significantly, your hold-over yardage values will change. You will then need to field-test to find the actual value of the reticle’s hold-over points.
Even if you are not a hunter, you can benefit from reading the Barsness article. For anyone shopping for a varmint scope, the article is a “must-read”. And Barness clears up some common misconceptions about FFP vs. SFP optics. Barsness also offers good, common-sense advice. We agree with Barsness when he says that some reticle designs have become too complicated. Barsness writes:
These days there are reticles with everything from a few extra dots along the vertical cross hair to reticles that cover the bottom third of the scope’s field of view, providing an aiming point for every blade of grass in North Dakota. Here we run into the basic fact that simpler reticles are easier to use, if not quite so versatile.
Personally, I particularly like simple reticles in shorter-range varmint rifles, whether rimfires or small centerfires such as the 22 Hornet. These aren’t likely to be used at extended ranges, or in any significant amount of wind. Hence, something like the Burris Ballistic Plex reticle provides about all the information we can realistically use — the reason there are Burris Ballistic Plex scopes on most of my rimfire or small centerfire varmint rifles.