May 13th, 2015

Using Barrel With 100,000+ Rounds, Joe Sets New ARA Record

.22 LR Eley Rimfire benchrest joe friedrich ARA target
Click to zoom image.

Some folks think you need a new (or nearly-new) barrel to win a benchrest match. That may be true in the centerfire game, but in the world of rimfire benchrest, things are different. Good barrels can remain accurate for a long, long time. That was demonstrated by our friend Joe Friedrich who recently set a new ARA 4-target Aggregate record. Joe was shooting his trusty old “Sweet Pea” rifle with a very well-worn barrel. In fact, Joe’s record-setting Benchmark barrel has logged well over 100,000 rounds. That’s right, a barrel with over 100K rounds shot the best 4-target ARA Agg ever. Will wonders never cease…

.22 LR Eley Rimfire benchrest joe friedrich ARA target

In this video, Joe talks about his rifle, the amazing longevity of his Benchmark barrel, and the ELEY ammo he used to shoot two 2500s on the same day (with a 2475 average for four targets):

Here is Joe’s Report on his Rifle and the New ARA Record:

Recently, I managed to shoot a record 4-target Aggregate of 2475. Two out of four 25-shot cards had perfect scores of 2500, and two had scores of 2450, for an Aggregate average of 2475. Out of 100 total shots, just two fell outside the center 100 ring. For American Rimfire Association (ARA) matches, we have “worst edge” scoring — to score 100 points, the bullet hole must be completely contained by the inner-most ring, including the blue line. Here are the two 2500-score targets:

.22 LR Eley Rimfire benchrest joe friedrich ARA target

Why does Sweet Pea still shoot so well? Joe says: “I feel the big difference is the combination of how it is now maintained, a new muzzle device (tuner), and of course a good lot of ELEY red box .22 LR ammunition.”

Old Rifle is Still Amazingly Accurate
My rifle, “Sweet Pea”, was built for me eight years ago by one of the top smallbore benchrest gunsmiths in the country, Bill Meyers, who has since passed on to that great machine shop in the sky. The dyed laminated birch stock was made, I believe, by Bruce Baer. Bill finished it, bedding the Turbo action with his own private material and method (that unfortunately passed with him). The original barrel, which shot this record, is a button-rifled Benchmark two-groove, crowned at 24″ and fitted with a muzzle device. A side note: this chamber is a little different than what I’ve seen from other top smiths.

.22 LR Eley Rimfire benchrest joe friedrich ARA target

The rifle is not as forgiving as it once was, but obviously I am pleased with its current performance. The original trigger was a Jewell, but it is currently fitted with a Bix ‘N Andy trigger that is set at 1.25 ounces. Sweet Pea sports the original Benchmark barrel now fitted with a customized tuner, a modified RVA device with multiple rings that is threaded for a .575″ I.D. bloop tube. The barrel has been re-crowned. The firing pin and bolt ID have been lightly polished to reduce any inconsistency that could be produced by roughness on those surfaces. I also made the switch from Leupold to a older March 40X and moved it forward a tad so I’m able to put myself more comfortably into the rifle.

.22 LR Eley Rimfire benchrest joe friedrich ARA target

A James Pappas one-piece rest is used with round pads in the front. The rear section is the sandbag setup James designed for his one-piece rest. This particular rifle is finicky where it sits in the rest, and it is also sensitive to front side pressure. Accordingly, this rifle needs to be gripped lightly when shooting. It is not a pure free recoil rig.

Two years ago when this barrel became inconsistent, I had two new rifles built and fitted with numerous barrels. Although both new rigs shot well, achieving 2500 targets in registered matches, the new rifles could be inconsistent from match to match. They seem to have good days and bad days. Accordingly, I decided to return to the old rifle, Sweet Pea, and its first barrel, (which by this time had well over 100,000 rounds on it) to see if I could revive its previous performance.

While the new rifles were being built, I had Sweet Pea’s barrel re-crowned, and the firing pin reworked by Jim Herrick. Since the old bedding was looking a bit tired, I had Sweet Pea re-bedded by Tom Meredith. All this was done in addition to the trigger change mentioned above. (Right before I got the rifle back from Tom, we spoke on the phone, and he asked if this rifle ever shot well. I asked him “Why do you say that”? He stated that the action was bedded on a slight angle, and mentioned a couple of other technicalities. I told Tom the rifle has shot unreal for the last five years, setting records. He did not know what to say and we both laughed.)

Sweet Pea Is “All Wrong” According to the Experts
Joe joked that his record-breaking rifle is “all wrong” according to some of the rimfire benchrest “experts” who pontificate on the internet. Sweet Pea lacks key features that some folks claim are absolutely essential to rimfire accuracy. Joe’s rifle has an old-fashioned 12 o’clock firing pin, and the bolt-to-action fit is relatively sloppy. The stock does not have the modern straight-line profile advocated for optimal tracking. The chamber is original, and is not the smoothest looking by today’s standards. And of course, the barrel should have given up the ghost long ago. But Sweet Pea is a shooter, for sure. This just proves that there are no “absolutes” in the rimfire game.

Cleaning Methods Helped Restore Accuracy
Joes tells us: “I managed to revive the well-worn barrel by changing how I clean and maintain it. With so many rounds through it, even with careful care, it has become somewhat ‘interesting’ inside, and the changes that that I have made to my procedures and materials have been done to try to deal with the ‘aged’ bore condition.”

.22 LR Eley Rimfire benchrest joe friedrich ARA target

Joe’s current cleaning regimen consists of Ballistol, Bore-Tech Carbon Remover (used only in the chamber throat area with a nylon brush). Joe explains: “I clean after two or three cards, depending on how many shots were fired. I have found that the Bore-Tech removes the carbon quickly, as confirmed with a bore scope. I do not use bronze brushes. The Muzzle Device is always removed when it’s time to clean. I do not allow the rod and jag to go any further past the crown than needed to remove the patch. The bore guide was custom made by a fellow shooter for this action. Myers cleaning rods are used.”

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