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February 14th, 2021

Sunday GunDay: 5 lb. Titanium-Action Carbon-Stock Hunting Rifle

Tom Mousel 6mm 6.5mm Creedmoor deer hunting rifle Pierce Titanium Ti action Lilja Barrel Manners composite Carbon Fiber stock
Here is Tom Mousel with Whitetail taken with his ultra-light hunting rifle fitted with 6mm Creedmoor Lilja barrel. Friend Cody (right) actually took the shot. This gun has a second barrel in 6.5 Creedmoor.

“Light is Right” when it comes to carrying deer rifles long distances in the backcountry. A lighter rifle DOES make a difference when you’re hiking many miles and carrying other gear including binoculars, laser rangefinders, food/water, and packs. And then, if you are successful, you’ll be carrying out game meat, so a lighter rifle translates to a lighter overall load.

When Forum member Tom Mousel (a top 1000-yard competitor) considered a new hunting rifle, he wanted a very light-weight rig. What he got was a low mass masterpiece — an ultra-accurate, five-pound hunting rifle. Not only does this twin-barrel rifle, as built by Alex Wheeler, come in under five pounds (before optics), but it has produced some quarter-MOA 3-shot groups at 1000 yards. The 6mm Creedmoor version of this rifle has demonstrated truly stellar accuracy at long range. The 6.5 Creedmoor barrel also shoots well and packs more punch for hunting use.

Tom Mousel 6mm 6.5mm Creedmoor deer hunting rifle Pierce Titanium Ti action Lilja Barrel Manners composite Carbon Fiber stock

Ultra-Light Rifle Specifications:
Pierce Engineering 100% Titanium action — Titanium Receiver, Bolt, Lug
Manners Composite Stocks UC Carbon Fiber Stock
Barrel ONE: Lilja 6mm 21″ 1:7″-twist 3-groove, No. 1 Contour, Chambered 6mm Creedmoor
Barrel TWO: Rock Creek 6.5mm 21″ 1:8″-twist, No. 2 Contour, Chambered 6.5 Creedmoor
Leupold Mark AR 4-12x40mm scope in Talley Rings
Jewell Trigger

Tom Mousel 6mm 6.5mm Creedmoor deer hunting rifle Pierce Titanium Ti action Lilja Barrel Manners composite Carbon Fiber stock
CLICK HERE to view full-screen large version of photo.

Tom Mousel 6mm 6.5mm Creedmoor deer hunting rifle Pierce Titanium Ti action Lilja Barrel Manners composite Carbon Fiber stock

Here is Tom’s rifle weighing in at 4 pounds, 14 ounces with 21″ Lilja #1 contour 6mm barrel. Tom says: “Here’s the rifle with full Titanium action, bolt, and lug, in a Tom Manners 17 oz. carbon fiber stock. It’s exactly one pound heavier fitted with my Leupold Mark AR 4-12x40mm scope in Talley rings.”

Tom Mousel 6mm 6.5mm Creedmoor deer hunting rifle Pierce Titanium Ti action Lilja Barrel Manners composite Carbon Fiber stock

Tom has two barrels for the rifle, one chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor and the other for 6mm Creedmoor. Tom reports: “The 6.5mm is a bit lighter being fluted. But I won’t be switching back now that I’ve shot the 6mm version. Neither has too much recoil, but the 6mm CM just kills the 6.5mm at distance for groups.”

Tom tells us: “What I like about this rifle is there were no corners cut to make it light. On some other ultra-lights, the fore-end has no strength or they are cut down really short. This is a full-sized stock, pillar-bedded with aluminum-filled epoxy and free-floated barrel. The ignition is set up with a TON of firing pin fall to function in the coldest temps.”

Gunsmith Alex Wheeler of Wheeler Accuracy is pleased with how this project turned out: “Tom has shot a bunch of sub-5″ groups and a couple one-inchers back-to-back at 1K. He has the Berger 115gr VLD going about 3050 fps.” Tom noted the 6mm barrel picked up about 50-60 FPS after the first 50 rounds. He shoots 115gr Berger VLDs with CCI 450s and Reloder 16, with the Bergers about .005″-.008″ in the lands.

Groups at 1000 Yards with 6mm Creedmoor Barrel, 115gr Bergers

Tom Mousel 6mm 6.5mm Creedmoor deer hunting rifle Pierce Titanium Ti action Lilja Barrel Manners composite Carbon Fiber stock
Here are two of Tom’s 1000-yard targets. This is with the 6mm Creedmoor barrel shooting 115gr Berger VLDs pushed by Alliant Reloder 16 at about 3050 FPS. The average of the two groups is 0.246 MOA. Pretty amazing for an ultra-light rifle shot off a bipod. Tom acknowledges that he can’t do this every day. He says that “shooting 871 yards at my home range, the rifle typically shoots 4″ to 5″ 3-shot groups”.

Q & A with Tom Mousel About his Ultra-Light Hunting Rifle

Tom Mousel 6mm 6.5mm Creedmoor deer hunting rifle Pierce Titanium Ti action Lilja Barrel Manners composite Carbon Fiber stockQ: Why did you choose to build this rig?
Tom: I just wanted to do it to see how light we could build an accurate, good-shooting rifle.

Q: What are your favorite things about the rifle, and is there anything you would change?
Tom: Definitely the light weight, and the overall size — it has a pretty short barrel (21″), so it’s just handy. I wouldn’t change anything about the rifle, now that I have the Titanium bolt. When I bought the action originally it had the steel bolt.

Q: How does this rifle handle?
Tom: It points well considering it is a light rifle. The 6mm Creedmoor version has very little recoil. On a good bipod I can sight in at 1000 without a spotter.

Q: What are your favorite accessories?
I use a Solo Hntr Mtn Lite stretchy cover. You can see it in the photo at right showing me on a hunt. I like this because you can roll it up like a sock and and use it for a rear support.

Q: Why did you choose Alliant Reloder 16 powder?
Tom: Lonnie Anderson, a fellow Deep Creek shooter, did a 6mm Creedmoor and he said RL16 was absolutely the most accurate. We have also found that Reloder 16 is really consistent on velocities through the seasons — from 90 above to teens below zero.

Q: Could this ultra-light set-up work for a bigger caliber also?
Tom: I’ve tried bigger calibers, but I’ve never been satisfied with the consistency of the groups. There’s a cut-off — there’s too much torque and recoil. We see a limit — you don’t want “too much gun” for the platform. Even here, the 6.5 barrel just doesn’t shoot as well as the 6mm.

Q: What advice do you have for hunters considering ultra-light rifles?
Tom: Be careful about falling in love with ballistics and trying to build too much bang for too small a platform. If I built a 7mm WSM for example, I’d want to rifle to weigh at least two pounds more.

Full Titanium Action from Pierce Engineering
This photo shows the Pierce Engineering Titanium Featherweight short action featuring Titanium (Ti) receiver, Ti bolt, and Ti lug. This unit is a mere 15.90 ounces complete. (NOTE: with Titanium body and STEEL bolt the weight is 18.5 ounces). The long action version is 17.4 ounces for the complete Titanium action with Ti bolt and Ti lug.

Tom Mousel 6mm 6.5mm Creedmoor deer hunting rifle Pierce Titanium Ti action Lilja Barrel Manners composite Carbon Fiber stock

Jud at Pierce Engineering tells us: “Both the Ti action body and Ti bolt are DLC-coated. This action also has an anti-bind rail for added smoothness and ease of functioning. This really is one of the lightest actions on the market. If you’re looking into building an ultra-light rifle I would seriously check one out! We make these with the highest level of detail, pride, and machining tolerances. They’re just sweet actions… and our Ti Featherweight short action is roughly half the weight of a Remington Model 7. So there’s a significant weight savings with the Pierce Ti Featherweight over a Model 7.”

Tom Mousel 6mm 6.5mm Creedmoor deer hunting rifle Pierce engineering Titanium Ti action Lilja Barrel Manners composite Carbon Fiber stock

Owner Profile — Tom Mousel, Hunter AND Long-Range Benchrest Ace
Tom Mousel knows a few things about accurate rifles. He is a top 1000-yard competitor at IBS matches and at the Deep Creek range near Missoula, Montana. In 2016 Tom set a remarkable 6-match Light Gun Group World Record, with a 2.9540″ group size Aggregate for SIX matches. And a year later, in 2017, Mousel set a 10-Match Heavy Gun World Record with a 5.3376″ Aggregate. NOTE: that is for TEN-shot groups in Heavy Gun. That’s an average ten-shot group under 6 inches for 10 matches! Over the past decade, Tom has remained at the top of the 1000-yard game, with many match wins at Deep Creek and other ranges.

Tom Mousel 1000-yard
Tom Mousel 1000-yard

Permalink - Articles, Gear Review, Gunsmithing, Hunting/Varminting 2 Comments »
February 14th, 2021

Case Prep 101 — Primer Pockets and Flash Holes

USAMU Handloading hump day flash hole primer pocket uniforming case prep RCBS Lyman
Case Prep Xpress photo courtesy Lyman Products.

Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. One “Handloading Hump Day” article covered two basic case prep chores — uniforming primer pockets and deburring flash-holes. Visit the USAMU Facebook page for other tips.

USAMU Handloading hump day reloading tips

Primer Pocket & Flash-Hole Conditioning

This week, we’ll address a question that frequently arises: “Do you uniform primer pockets and deburr flash-holes?” As we tailor our handloading methods to the specific needs of each instance, the answer, not surprisingly, is “Sometimes!” However, don’t flip that dial just yet, as what determines our approach may be helpful in deciding how to address one’s own techniques. Moreover, we have a buried “Easter Egg” morsel that may bring a chuckle, as well as useful safety information!

Generally, the USAMU Handloading Shop does not uniform primer pockets (PP) or deburr flash holes (FH) of our rifle brass. We’re certainly not against it… Rather, this reflects the very high volume of ammunition we load, the fact that very few cases are ever re-loaded for a second firing, and the types of brass we use. However, as a need is perceived, we DO deburr flash holes. Of interest, we have fired many very small, 1000-yard test groups and aggregates using weight-selected, domestic brass that had not had PPs uniformed or FHs deburred.

USAMU Handloading hump day flash hole primer pocket uniforming case prep RCBS Lyman

Before and After — On the left is a fired, deprimed 7.62×51 case with primer residue intact. On the right the primer pocket has been uniformed to SAAMI specs. Note the shiny finish at the bottom of the pocket — evidence of the the removal of metal when uniforming the primer pocket.

As to the type cases we use, many thousands of our long-range 5.56mm cases come to us from the arsenal with the primer of our choice pre-installed and staked-in, per usual practice. Obviously, we cannot uniform either FHs or PPs on this live, primed brass. However, after careful sorting, inspection and preparation, we do obtain match-winning results with it.

Shooters who reload their brass several times may decide to uniform PPs and deburr FHs, especially on their “300-yard and beyond” brass. Here, they will use the cases many times, while the uniforming is performed only once. Also, most handloaders only process moderate amounts of brass, compared to our multi-thousand round lots.

Having high quality Long Range (LR) brass helps. Many of the better brass manufacturers [make] their flash holes so that no burrs are created. Still, it does pay to inspect even THESE manufacturer’s products, as occasional slips are inevitable. Very rarely, some of the best makers will have a significant burr in, say, 1 per 1000 or 2000 cases, and it’s worth catching those.

Exceptions can always be found. Recently, we began processing a large lot of match brass from a premier manufacturer. We were startled to find that every case had a significant burr in the FH — something we’d never before seen from this maker. We then broke out the FH deburring tools and went to work.

Some observers have noted that it can be difficult to truly verify the contribution to accuracy of these procedures — particularly when firing from the shoulder, in conditions. Members of this staff, as individual rifle competitors, do often perform these operations on their privately-owned LR rifle brass. One could ascribe this to the old High Power Rifle maxim that “if you think it helps, then it helps.”

However, a World Champion and Olympic Gold/Silver medalist here commented on his own handloading (for International competition, which demands VERY fine accuracy). He noted that he did seem to see a decline in accuracy whenever he did not uniform FHs, deburr FHs and clean primer pockets before each reloading. (One might be tempted to counter that only a truly World Class shooter could reliably detect the difference.) However, with the wisdom of decades experience, our Champion also remarked that “It could have been that I just wasn’t shooting as well that day.”

For those who do opt for these procedures, note that various tool models may have adjustable depth-stops; pay attention to the instructions. Some FH-deburring tools (which enter the case mouth, not the primer pocket) are dependent upon uniform case length for best results.

USAMU Handloading hump day flash hole primer pocket uniforming case prep RCBS Lyman

Above is a flash-hole deburring tool on an RCBS powered case-prep unit. These case prep machines can save a lot of pain and misery, helping one perform various functions quickly and efficiently.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading, Tech Tip No Comments »
February 14th, 2021

Cantastic Video — How a Suppressor is Constructed

SilencerCo suppressor manufacturing production video Assembly

Watch this video to see how a sound suppressor (aka “silencer”, “moderator”, or “can”) is constructed, start to finish. It’s more complicated than you might expect — there are quite a few stages in the process. The video below shows the fabrication of a SilencerCo Octane 45 suppressor:

SilencerCo writes: “What, exactly, goes into making a silencer? It may be more than you’d expect. From cutting metal to chemical baths, to extensive quality control every step of the way, our streamlined process is more than just a few steps. Watch our newest video, HOW IT’S MADE: Octane 45, to catch a glimpse behind SilencerCo’s doors.”

SilencerCo suppressor
Photo courtesy

suppressor fact and fiction moderator silencer

How Loud Are Unsuppressed Rifles?
Firearms Are Loud — 140 dB to 175 dB. ASHA explains: “Almost all firearms create noise that is over the 140-dB level. Exposure to noise greater than 140 dB can permanently damage hearing. A small .22-caliber rifle can produce noise around 140 dB, while big-bore rifles and pistols can produce sound over 175 dB. Firing guns in a place where sounds can reverberate, or bounce off walls and other structures, can make noises louder and increase the risk of hearing loss. Also, adding muzzle brakes or other modifications can make the firearm louder. People who do not wear hearing protection while shooting can suffer a severe hearing loss with as little as one shot[.]” Source: ASHA, Recreational Firearm Noise Exposure.

How Much Does a Good Suppressor Really Reduce Firearm Sound Levels?
That depends on the rifle, the cartridge, and the effectiveness of the suppressor. American Hunter explains: “Suppressors retard the speed of propellant gases from the cartridge that rapidly expand and rush out of the barrel. It’s these gases that produce the loud boom that’s heard for miles. A suppressor’s series of internal baffles slows these gases so they are not all released at once, thereby muffling the sound.” Many good commercial suppressors can achieve 30-35 dB sound suppression. However, Zak Smith of Thunder Beast Arms says: “There are a bunch of manufacturers who publish values that are not reproducible, or use an ad-hoc test instead of a mil-spec test. In many cases we’ve tested the exact same suppressors they’ve advertised with 30-40 dB reductions and found they are actually in the high 20s instead.”

Again, for this reason, we recommend that hunters use ear protection, such as electronic muffs, even when shooting suppressed.

Permalink - Videos, Tactical, Tech Tip 1 Comment »