We’ve chatted with Richard Franklin of Richard’s Custom Rifles, and he mentioned that one of his 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:
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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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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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.
We know that many readers, particularly target shooters and long-range varmint hunters, are looking for a fairly high-magnification optic that is also affordable. A common question in our Shooters Forum is: “I can’t afford a Nightforce. Is there a quality scope with more than 25X magnification that costs under $900.00.” Fitting that bill are two scopes that have been on the market for a while — the Bushnell Elite 6500 4.5-30x50mm, and Sightron SIII 8-32x56mm. Now there’s a new optic from MINOX to add to the list of quality, high-magnification scopes that can be purchased for well under $1000.00.
Great Glass in 6-30x56mm MINOX
There is a new 6-30 power scope from Minox that offers impressive features at an affordable under-$900.00 price point. The Minox ZA 5 6-30x56mm SF riflescope offers a wide 500% zoom range, 30mm main tube, and outstanding Schott glass from Germany. These scopes are engineered in Germany and assembled in the USA. The Minox 6-30×56 offers a handy side-focus parallax control. What’s more, the Minox has a European-style diopter eyepiece, with a -2 to +1.5 range. That’s great for shooters who would otherwise require corrective lenses. Leupold and Bushnell don’t provide a diopter eyepiece — that’s something you normally find on high-end European scopes (such as Schmidt & Bender).
The Minox 6-30x56mm riflescope is offered with three reticle choices: MinoPlex (Medium Plex), BDC (bullet drop compensating), and XR-BDC which has finer lines in the central zone, with both vertical and horizontal stadia (hash-marks). We favor the XR-BDC for target use.
Minox offers a strong “no-fault” lifetime warranty on its scopes. The MINOX Lifetime Total Coverage Warranty “provides protection against manufacturing defects, functional failures, or any accidental damages to the covered product, including breakage, water damage, or any accident”. Put simply, “MINOX will repair or replace any damaged MINOX Riflescope with no questions asked.”
Features of Minox ZA 5/30 6-30×56 SF Riflescopes:
Side Focus Parallax Adjustment
Ample 4″ plus Eye Relief
Premium lenses by SCHOTT AG of Germany
Zero resettable 1/4 MOA Windage and elevation knobs
Fast-focus European-style diopter eyepiece (-2 to +1.5)
Minox M* multi-coated lenses for improved contrast, detail, and brightness
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A while back, we featured the East Texas Benchrest Shoot-out in Huntsville, TX. That match was co-sponsored by S&S Precision Rifles of Argyle, Texas. In the video below, the folks at S&S put together some tack-drivers for their customers. There are some nice glimpses of bedding work, and barrel finishing. Watch carefully — at the 40-second mark you’ll see a sub-1/4″, 10-shot group that S&S co-owner “Stick” Starks shot at 200 yards with his 6.5×47 Lapua rifle. That’s serious accuracy. Half-way through the video, Stick offers advice for shooters looking for a super-accurate fun gun for club shoots: “If you want to shoot [at] 100 and 200 yards, I’d get me a 6BR or a 30 BR. It would be the most fun gun you ever had… and the barrel will probably last three or four thousand rounds.” If you want a gun to shoot at primarily 500-600 yards, Stick recommends the 6.5×47 Lapua chambering. He told us: “Run it with the Berger 130s and Hodgdon H4350 powder. That H4350 works great with the 130 Bergers.”
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Tikkashooters.com is now importing ergonomic field and tactical stocks crafted by GRS Rifle Stocks of Norway. These “Stratabond” Laminate wood stocks come in many colors — all with a gorgeous oiled finish. The GRS stocks come in three styles, plus a biathalon model, with an F-Class and Safari model to come. All styles are all drop-in inletted for most popular actions — not just Tikkas! GRS stocks feature Speedlock push-button adjustment for recoil pad position and comb height. All stocks come with a one-inch thick Limbsaver recoil pad.
Shown above is the Sporter/Varmint model, which comes in six colors. This design has a butt hook and the 6° grip angle for more comfortable hand positioning. As with other GRS stocks, the Sporter/Varmint model features quick, no-tools adjustability using a Speedlock system. Inlets are offered for Howa (SA, LA), Rem 700 (SA, LA), Sako (models 75, 85, L-579), and Tikka (models 55, 65, 595, 695, all T3 versions, including T3 RH, T3 LH, Varmint, Tactical).
Next, shown above, is the GRS Adjustable Hunting model which comes in four colors: Black, Brown, Green Mountain Camo, and Royal Jacaranda. The fore-end is comfortable when shooting without a rest and the grip angle is canted 6° to provide a more ergonomic hold. Inlets are offered for Howa 1500 (SA, LA), Rem 700 (SA, LA), Sako (models 75, 85, L-579), and Tikka (models 55, 65, 595, 695, all T3 versions, including T3 RH, T3 LH, Varmint, Tactical).
Last, but not least, is the GRS Long-Range Model, offered in six colors. This design is inspired by military sniper-type rifles. This stock is similar to the sporter/varmint model, but has a more pronounced butt hook with an integrated monopod with quick release and micro adjustment. The longer fore-end provides a better bipod platform and aids in balancing long, heavy barrels. Inlets are offered for Rem 700 (SA, LA, left/right), Rem 40X (single shot), Sako 75 (IV, V), Tikka T3 (Std, Varmint, Tactical).
Save $100 with Introductory Pricing This Month
For more information visit the GRS Stocks page on the TikkaShooters.com webstore. NOTE: Introductory pricing is available through May 31, 2012. The GRS Hunter and Sporter/Varmint stocks are currently priced at $697.00 fully inletted, including adjustable hardware. The Long-Range Model is currently priced at $897.00 fully inletted with adjustable hardware. Unless the intro pricing deal is extended, expect prices to increase $100.00 per model starting June 1, 2012.
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Following up on the success of its Zombie-Max ammunition, Hornady has introduced a new line of Z-Max Varmint Bullets fitted with “slime green”-colored plastic tips. What can we say — it’s a gimmick but it sells. P.T. Barnum would be proud. Hornady will initially offer seven (7) types of Z-Max bullets, in calibers .172 through 7.62 (.310), with weights from 20 grains to 123 grains.
17 Cal .172 20gr Z-MAX™
20 Cal .204 32gr Z-MAX™
22 Cal .224 40gr Z-MAX™
22 Cal .224 50gr Z-MAX™
22 Cal .224 55gr Z-MAX™
6mm .243 58gr Z-MAX™
7.62 Cal .310 123gr Z-MAX™
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Alexander Arms is now shipping production 17 HMR AR15 rifles and 17 HMR upper receiver kits. The complete rifles are the only semi-auto rifles specifically designed to reliably shoot the 17 HMR cartridge. Alexander Arm’s 17 HMR rifle does not employ a reworked .22LR rimfire action. Instead the gun features a new bolt assembly design purpose-built built to work with the 17 HMR cartridge. This is good news for varmint hunters who want semi-auto capability for fast follow-up shots in the varmint fields.
The complete rifle comes standard with a straight fluted 18″ stainless barrel, A1 flash-hider, free-floating composite hand guard and two molded-plastic 10-round magazines. Options include a spiral-fluted barrel and MK3 railed upper receiver. Alexander Arms’ 17 HMR ARs will be offered in both fixed stock and collapsible-stock versions. The upper receiver kit includes all the ancillary items needed to convert existing AR15 lowers to work with the 17 HMR cartridge.
17 HMR Basics
If you are not familiar with the 17 HMR, it is a popular varmint cartridge effective out to 200 yards or so. With typical muzzle velocities of 2550-2650 fps, the little 17 HMR packs much more punch than a .22LR, while bucking the wind much better. CLICK HERE for Varmint Al’s 17 HMR webpage, which provides a comprehensive analysis of 17 HMR ballistics, kinetic enegy, and effectiveness on small varmints.
Video Showing Alexander Arms 17HMR Bolt Cycling in Slo-Mo
On its website, Alexander Arms reports: “Our initial production run will be 500 units. We are extremely pleased with this [17 HMR] caliber. With help from Hornady, this unit has been extensively tested and has proven itself to be very capable in the field. At the recent Big 3 Event, we ran two rifles out to ranges of 400 yards and despite windy conditions… the guns performed well. While running guns at the Big 3 we had an opportunity to run one of the rifles with the excellent magnum rimfire silencer from Thunderbeast Arms Corp. The rifle exhibited a slight shift in zero and ran without a hitch for the two days of the event. This unscheduled test provided a quick insight into the flexibility of the rifle and everyone agreed that this combination would serve well for any varminting purposes.”
Eric Stecker of Berger Bullets was kind enough to supply some of Berger’s 80gr 6mm Varmint bullets for testing. These were formerly called the Berger MEF (“Maximum Expansion Factor”), but now the box says “Varmint — Match Grade.” Our initial testing, in a standard 6BR with 8-twist, 3-groove PacNor barrel demonstrated that “Match-grade” was no boast. These things shoot! At 100 yards, the first two shots went into the same hole. A nice 5-shot group formed up under 0.2″. And to keep things interesting, this was with a varmint-style stock and only one wind-flag about 30 yards out. By comparison, the best we could do with Hornady 75gr V-Maxs in this gun were groups in the mid-fives (half-MOA+). Reader ShCal of San Luis Obispo has also tested the 6mm Berger 80s and also got great results, shooting under 0.5″ at 200 yards.
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