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March 19th, 2013

Mike Walker, Remington Gun Designer, Passes at Age 101

Legendary firearms engineer Merle “Mike” Walker passed away on March 6, at the age of 101. Walker was one of the most important gun and cartridge designers of the 20th Century, and he also was a leading proponent of benchrest shooting. Mike worked for Remington Arms Company for 37 years, as a lead designer and engineer. While at Remington, Mike created many of Remington’s most popular bolt action rifles. For many years, Mike served as Director of Research and head of the Custom Shop at Remington’s, Ilion, NY facility.

Mike Walker Remington

Mike led the development of many important Remington rifle designs, including the Rem m700, Rem 40X, Rem m721, and Rem m722. Walker held numerous patents, mostly for trigger designs.

“Without a doubt, the Remington Model 700 is the most popular commerical, high-power, bolt-action rifle in the world. The Model 700 is actually a product-improved Model 721 and Model 722 bolt-action rifle, the brain-child of Merle ‘Mike’ Walker and his Remington design team in the 1940s.” — Roy C. Marcot, The History of Remington Firearms

Mike was a major pioneer in modern cartridge design — he was the originator of the .222 Remington and the 6mm Remington Int’l rounds. According to Guns & Ammo: “Long-time Remington employee and benchrest competitor Mike Walker, who headed up the M722 design team, is largely credited with the development of the .222 Rem”. The .222 Rem (aka “Triple Deuce”) dominated short-range Benchrest competition until the advent of the PPC cartridges.

Mike Walker

Walker also worked with Jim Steckl on the .30-cal wildcat that eventually evolved into the 6mm Bench Rest Remington. This cartridge demonstrated the accuracy and efficiency of the “short, fat” case design. When brass was eventually produced for the 6mmBR Rem, Mike convinced Remington to produce a run with a small primer pocket. Thanks to these pioneering efforts by Walker and Steckl, we now have the ultra-accurate 6mmBR Norma (with a small primer pocket), and the 30BR wildcat.

Mike was one of the “founding fathers” of the International Benchest Shooters (IBS), and he was in the early IBS leadership group. He was a talented (and dedicated) benchrest shooter. Remarkably, Mike shot in the 2010 IBS Nationals at age 99. Mike also played an key role in the creation of Precision Shooting Magazine. Still engaged in his passion for gun-building and firearm design, he worked in his shop even at the age of 101. He passed in a hospital on March 6, 2013 after hip replacement surgery.

Mike Walker

IBS President Jeff Stover tells us: “The term ‘living legend’ is used in many sports and endeavors. Rarely, though, is that term used as accurately as when referring to Mr. Merle ‘Mike’ Walker. He developed the Rem 700, he helped invent the button rifling process and many other firearms innovations. Probably the last time he shot in competition was at the 2010 IBS Group Nationals at Weikert, Pennsylvania. He got around quite well — even at 99 years of age! He shot an older rifle in a beat-up stock, but he was there on the line with the rest of us. During one match Mike was having some problems and it was close to cease fire time. Our range officer could see that everyone else had finished. Mike kept shooting, trying to get five on paper. The range was quiet except for the reports from Mike’s rifle. When it was clear that all five were on paper, ‘cease fire’ was finally called. There were no questions as to what happened — all of us on the line realized it was a tribute to probably the only real Living Legend that any of us would meet, let alone shoot with….”

Mike Walker will be missed. As James Mock has written: “We in the shooting community are truly diminished. Mike was an icon of the innovative spirit of America.” Mike Walker was a true pioneer who has left an enormous legacy to all those engaged in the “pursuit of accuracy”.

Rest in Peace, Mike Walker. Thank you for your contributions to our sport.

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March 19th, 2013

Colt Employees Attend Connecticut Gun Law Hearing in Hartford

On March 14, 2013, 550 employees of Colt’s Manufacturing Company traveled to the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Connecticut. They came in strength to show support for Connecticut-based firearms manufacturing, and their message was direct: “Save our Jobs.”

Last week workers from two Colt operating companies (successors to the famed Colt Armory), boarded buses bound for the Legislative Office Building, in Connecticut’s state Capitol complex. They came to participate in a General Assembly committee hearing on a large number of gun-control measures under consideration in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Michael Holmes, Colt United Auto Workers Shop Chairman, testified at the hearing, as did NSSF Director Government Relations, State Affairs Jake McGuigan, Joe Bartozzi from O.F. Mossberg, and Mark Malkowski of Stag Arms. Though not all the proposed additional gun-control legislation will move forward for eventual votes, action on some of the measures is expected within days.

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March 19th, 2013

Fulghum Belt-Drive Front Rest — Smooth Operator

In the benchrest game, a rock-solid front rest with precise, easy-use controls, is essential. The Farley and Sebastian rests provide a joystick that allows the shooter to adjust both horizontal and vertical position with a single move. However, many top shooters prefer more traditional rests. When you’re centered up horizontally and just want to make a very tiny vertical adjustment, a rest with a separate vertical control is hard to beat. Likewise, separate windage controls ensure that you can move left to right without altering your vertical point of aim one tad.

Among the premium non-joystick rests we’ve tried, the John Loh (JJ Industries) rest and the Randolph Machine (Fulghum) rest stand out for quality of workmanship and the smooth, precise functioning of the windage and elevation controls.

In this article we review the Fulgham Front Rest, produced by Ken Fulghum of Randolph Machine in North Carolina. It offers a unique, belt-driven elevation control. This rest has been very successful in IR 50-50, ARA Outdoor, and RBA Indoor rimfire disciplines. (Ken Fulgham himself is a highly successful rimfire benchrest shooter.) But, when fitted with a conventional front sandbag top, the rest also works great with centerfire rifles.

NOTE: The test unit shown in the photos is fitted with a Fudd Rest Top. Randolph Machine no longer sells Fudd tops. Instead Randolph produces a similiar adjustable front top with thin sand bag sections. This cost $150.00.

Fulghum Rest is Beefy and Stable
The Fulghum Front Rest is rock-solid and very stable on the bench. A large knob on the left controls the windage. The entire center section of the rest slides left and right on precision-machined cross-shafts riding in bronze, oil-impregnated bushings. The movement is super-smooth, with no grabbing or jumping. As we’ve seen with the John Loh rest, horizontal tracking is superb, and you can easily make very fine sideways adjustments with ZERO vertical shift.

Belt-Drive for Vertical Adjustment
What’s really special about the Fulghum Rest is the vertical adjustment system. This uses a synthetic toothed belt that connects a large knob in the center of the rest to the ram which supports the rest top. The belt drive runs over sprockets that provide plenty of mechanical advantage. This allows you to effortlessly raise/lower even very heavy rifles. The up/down movement is very smooth. However, there is a little slack in the belt and you can feel the belt’s teeth engage the sprockets one by one. Once you get used to the feel of the belt and how it engages the sprockets, however, you can make very precise adjustments.

Importantly, after you’ve adjusted the vertical, there is enough drag in the system that it holds vertical perfectly. There’s no “post-adjustment” vertical slippage at all. You can take your hand off the vertical knob and shoot with confidence that your aiming point won’t shift.

Overall, this is an excellent unit. Since you have to adjust windage and elevation separately, it’s not as fast as a joystick rest, but it has its advantages. There’s none of the vertical notchiness we’ve seen in some joystick units. Unless you are 100% certain you want a joystick-type rest, you should definitely “test-drive” a Fulghum Rest and see how it suits you.

Rest Retails for $750.00 without Top
The Fulghum Front Rest currently retails for $750.00 with no top. Randolph Machine offers two different tops for the unit: the $120.00 Randolph MK1 Top (User supplies owl-ear bag), or the $150.00 Adjustable MKII Top (see photo at right; similar to Fudd Top). Fulghum also offers a one-piece rest (front and rear support) for $750.00.

All Randolph Machine Rests are made one at a time, by hand, so you should call for availability. Normal delivery time is “about a month” once you place your order. Here’s the contact info:

Ken Fulghum
Randolph Machine, Inc.
P.O. Box 147, 1206 Uwharrie St.
Asheboro, NC 27204
Phone: (336) 625-0411
Fax: (336) 625-0410

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