April 21st, 2020

Action Timing — Process and Benefits Demonstrated

Alex Wheeler Accuracy gunsmith Panda Kelbly Stolle action timing receiver benchrest video

Kelbly makes outstanding actions, including the Stolle Pandas. In the past 20 years, Pandas have probably won more benchrest matches than any other action (though BATs and Bordens are increasingly in the winning circle). Recently gunsmith Alex Wheeler of Wheeler Accuracy worked his magic on an aluminum Panda, optimizing the “ignition timing” of the action. This involves many small mods to bolt, camming surfaces, trigger, and firing pin: “The whole cam helix and detent shelf is re-cut. The firing pin and cocking piece are modified as well.” When executed properly, Ignition Timing has a number of benefits, including a smoother bolt opening/closing, improved firing pin fall, and enhanced accuracy (though the accuracy improvements can be subtle).

BEFORE Action Timing — Stiff and Clunky

Alex reports: “Normally Panda actions have plenty of firing pin fall. For one reason or another this one was very low. Before timing, firing pin fall was .210 with a Bix’N Andy (BNA) trigger. After trigger timing firing pin fall is .244 with zero cock on close.” Here is how the action functioned before timing work:

CLICK Photo to start VIDEO

Alex notes: “As you can see, after the cocking piece rides out of the detent notch it then
falls to the trigger and is then re-cocked. This is normal on most un-timed actions.”

AFTER Action Timing — Smooth and Refined

Alex explains the modifications he made for this Panda action: “Moving the trigger back adds cock on close. The whole cam helix and detent shelf is re-cut. The firing pin and cocking piece are modified as well. I do love a timed Panda. In fact, I like aluminum actions, I think there is something to them. But yes, I also recommend Borden as my first choice.’

CLICK Photo to start VIDEO

Fix for Right-Bolt Actions Only
After seeing these videos on Facebook, one poster asked: “I do like my Panda but this is exactly why I bought a Borden action and I love it. It’s good to know you can make a Panda better. Alex, can you time a left bolt Panda?”

Alex replied: “No, the tooling I built is all for right hand actions sorry….”

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April 21st, 2020

All-Time High in FBI Firearms NICS Checks in March 2020

NICS Gun Sales March FBI MSN firearm background checks
CLICK HERE to view full-screen NICS Chart.

Story based on Report by Dean Weingarten
The NICS numbers for March 2020 established new, all-time records for both the number of projected guns sales as well as the numbers of NICS background checks done in one month. In March 2020, 3,740,688 NICS checks were done, according to official FBI statistics.

The previous one-month NICS record was set in December of 2015, when 3,314,594 NICS background checks were done. In March of 2020, the FBI recorded 3,740,688 NICS background checks, 12% higher than the previous record. The number of NICS checks always exceeds that actual number of gun sales, because some checks are done for other purposes. The estimated number of recorded long gun, handgun, and other gun sales totaled 2,373,193 in March 2020, 7% higher than the previous sales record in December of 2015.

Guns Sales Driven by Pandemic Fears
According to MSN News, “With most of the nation in isolation to halt the spread of coronavirus … the FBI has seen a 41% increase in background checks compared to this time last year.”

Click Image to Go to MSN to Watch Video (then Click Speaker icon for audio).
NICS Gun Sales March FBI MSN firearm background checks

Most Background Checks Were for Handguns
In March 2020, most of the purchases were for handguns instead of long guns. The numbers for March were: Handguns, 1,392,677 NICS checks, long guns, 758,073 NICS checks, other (mostly receivers, which could be made into either handguns or long guns) 79,129, and multiple 57,328. Multiple checks are multiplied by 2.5 to approximate the number of gun sales.
NICS Gun Sales March FBI MSN firearm background checks
Carry Permit NICS Checks Rising Faster
Notably, there has been significant growth in the number of NICS checks associated with CCW Carry Permit applications. NICS checks for carry permits and carry permit rechecks have been increasing much faster than checks for firearm sales. While states maintain their own databases for Carry Permits, NICS checks are done in connection with permit applications and renewals.

NICS Gun Sales March FBI MSN firearm background checks

Total Guns in USA Close to 450,000,000
Using the figures available, there were about 430 million private firearms in the United States at the end of 2018. About 18.6 million have been added since then, putting the USA close to 450 million at this point. According to Dean Weingarten, the United States is on track to reach 500 million privately owned firearms by the end of 2024.

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April 21st, 2020

Wind Wizardry for Varminters — Keep the Wind at Your Back

Varmint Hunting varmint safari wind war wagon trailer longmeadow game resort
This impressive war wagon hauls varmint hunters around the Longmeadow Game Resort in Colorado.

When you’re on a varmint expedition in the Western states you can bet, sooner or later, you’ll encounter serious winds. Here’s some advice on how to minimize the effects of cross-winds on your shooting, and easily improve your percentage of hits. In essence, you want to use your ability to change shooting positions and angles to put the wind behind you.

A benchrest or High Power shooter must operate from a designated shooting position. He must stay put and deal with the wind as it moves across the course, from whatever direction it blows. By contrast, a varmint hunter can move around and choose the spot that provides the most favorable wind direction. In most cases you’ll get the best results by moving your shooting position so the wind is at your back. This will minimize horizontal wind drift. Once you’re in position, use wind flags to direct your fire in line with the prevailing winds. A varminter who calls himself “Catshooter” explains:

The String of Death
I remember the first time I was on a dog town in the Conata Basin, in the Badlands area of southwestern South Dakota. Along with two other guys, I drove out for 21 days of shooting, and I never saw wind like that before. If all four tires of our vehicle were on the ground, the weather man said these were “mild wind conditions”.

After the first four or five days, we got smart. We would park the truck on the up-wind side of the town so the wind was at our back. Then we took a piece of string on a 3-foot stick, and set it in front of the shooters, and let the string point at the mounds that we were going to shoot.

For the rest of the trip, we didn’t have to deal with wind drift at all. We just shot the dogs that the string pointed to. We started calling our simple wind pointer the “String of Death”.

We were hitting dogs at distances that I would not repeat here (with benchrest grade rifles). After the first time out, I always took a wind rig like that.

Photos by Chris Long, taken during Chris’s Wyoming Varmint Hunt with Trophy Ridge Outfitters.

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