September 27th, 2020

Sunday GunDay: Shelley Davidson’s Amazing “Tinker Toy” 30 BR

Shelly Davidson Tinker Toy 30 BR

Editor’s NOTE: Shelley Davidson passed away in 2008 after a courageous battle with cancer. He was one of the great innovators in benchrest rifle design. This article, written before Shelley died, showcases Shelley’s creative talents at their best. His “Tinker Toy” design will always be a tribute to Shelley’s fabricating skills and imagination.


Shelley Davidson — a brilliant innovator. R.I.P. Shelley — you will not be forgotten.

Shelley Davidson’s peers called his radical rifle the “Tinker Toy” gun. We call it revolutionary. Even now, 14 years after its creation, there’s nothing quite like it. This innovative, skeleton design threw conventional wisdom to the winds. Shelley readily concedes he “broke the rules” of benchrest rifle building. But this was inspired rule-breaking, because Davidson’s rifle shot like a house on fire. The Tinker Toy gun won its first matches, both for Score AND for Group. And this rifle also delivered many “zero groups” in Gene Begg’s Texas Tunnel. Hats off to Shelley for conceiving and building a truly radical rifle that was also wicked accurate and successful in competition.

tinker toy davidson 20 BR benchrest rifle

Tinker Toy 30 BR — Radical As It Gets

Report by Shelley Davidson
Although I’m not big on naming rifles, my shooting buddies have christened the gun “Tinker Toy.” I can live with that as it does kind of look as if it was made with a Tinker Toy set.

Origins of the Project
This project began with some wild ideas I had in the fall of 2006 about using magnets to tune a barrel. My idea was to use one magnet on the barrel and another on the stock so they pushed against each other to counter gravity-induced barrel sag (and possibly) tame barrel vibration in a beneficial manner. The only way to test these ideas was to build the device and mount it on a gun. That meant I had to build a new rifle because there was no place to mount a magnet on the stock of a conventional benchrest rig. I had a Kelbly-stocked heavy varmint stock with a Michael Kavanaugh paint job on it. I didn’t think Kav would ever forgive me if I started drilling holes in one of his works of art. My light varmint was in a carbon fiber Scoville stock that costs about a grand. Drilling into the Scoville for an experiment just smacked of bad judgment. So, the magnet thing was my first motivation for designing a new stock. As long as I was building from scratch I decided to offset the barrel and action 0.75″ to the right to counteract the spin/torque from the bullet.

Although there’s nothing new here, my second motivation was to build a 30BR that could shoot in the 10.5 lb light varmint class in NBRSA. The magnetic tuner will automatically make this gun illegal in the IBS. The IBS has declared all barrel attachments un-safe and have outlawed them. I personally feel that the IBS really outlawed all barrel attachments to prevent experimentation and innovation. But at least we have NBRSA matches.

Designing the New Gun — Thinking “Outside the Box”
Once I’d decided to build a lightweight stock that could support experimental devices out near the muzzle, I started drawing up some rough plans. I also took a trip to Jerry Stiller’s shop in Wylie, Texas for a brainstorming session with Jerry, the maker of Viper and other Benchrest actions. Jerry is a school-trained mechanical engineer and thinks differently than I do. I came away from Stiller’s shop with my design roughed out and sketched on paper. The design violated several covenants of conventional wisdom for building competition BR rifles. For instance, two-piece stocks stress the action. Stress reduction is why most BR rifles are glued into the stock. Another myth is that metal stocks vibrate too much so wood or foam-filled fiberglass or carbon fiber are used.

Tinker Toy Rifle DESIGN FEATURES

Shelly Davidson’s Rifle was so innovative, that almost every feature, except the bare action, is very different than you’ll find on most Benchrest rigs. Accordingly we felt it would be useful to isolate and describe the key design features, from stem to stern. Click thumbnails to view FULL-SIZE PHOTOS.

Front Bracket with Magnetic Tuner
The tuner consists of one rare earth magnet attached to the stock and another attached to a barrel sleeve with the magnets oriented so as to make the magnetic force repel each other. The purpose is to counter “barrel droop” and, hopefully, dampen barrel vibration. The lower magnet is carried on a threaded shaft (with lock ring), allowing the magnet to be raised up and down to adjust the “up push” on the barrel.

Tubular Fore-Arm Supported by Brackets
Three brackets support two tubes, one on either side of the barrel. The rear-most bracket is sandwiched between the barrel and the action. Four inches forward (max distance allowed for barrel blocks) a second bracket grips the barrel. Near the muzzle a third bracket secures the ends of the tubes and holds the magnetic tuner. To allow barrel offset, the left tube is 1″ diameter tube while the right tube is 5/8″ diameter.

Offset Barrel
The rifle rests on a 3″ wide plate attached to the underside of the two fore-end tubes. With the plate centered in the front sandbag, the barreled action is actually offset 0.75″ to the right (looking forward from the breech). The purpose of this offset is to keep more weight on the right side to counter the tendency of the rifle to torque counter-clockwise. Two different diameter tubes allow for the built-in offset.

Floating Action without Sub-Support or Bedding
On the Tinker Toy gun, the action serves as a load-bearing assembly, holding the barrel in the front, and the skeleton buttstock (or “keel”) in the rear. Shelley was told that accuracy would suffer if you stressed a benchrest action in this manner but that proved untrue. It is a very simple solution to building a rifle, and it eliminates the need to bed the action. The forearm attaches to the action via a bracket installed like a recoil lug.

Skeleton Rear “Keel” Affixed Directly to Action
Davidson’s Tinker Toy does not have a conventional rear buttstock. Instead there is low-profile, v-shaped metal “keel”, as Davidson calls it, that rides the rear bag. The keel is supported by a tubular backbone that attaches at the rear of the Diamondback action. At the butt end is an aluminum plate covered with bubble wrap that serves as a butt pad. The skeletonized rear section helps the rifle maintain a very low center of gravity.

Locked Scope with External Windage and Elevation Adjustment
Shelley ran an older Leupold 36X Benchrest Scope with front-adjusting objective. To eliminate slop or loose tolerances in the erector mechanism that could cause changes in point of impact, the internals have been locked up by Jackie Schmidt. To move the cross-hairs relative to the bore axis, Shelley has a special Jewell/Foster rear ring that allows a limited amount of lateral and vertical movement of the entire scope body.

TINKER TOY SPECIFICATIONS

Action: Stiller SS Diamondback Drop-Port (1/2″ short), with .308 Bolt Face.
Barrel: Shilen .308 caliber, 17-twist, HV.
Chambering: 30BR, .330″ neck, Pacific Tool & Gauge Robinett Reamer.
Stock: Davidson Custom Tubular Stock with 0.75″ Offset Barreled Action.
Tube Construction: 6061 Aluminum, 1″ diameter (left), 5/8″ diameter (right).
Load: H4198 powder and 118gr Ronnie Cheek bullets. Loaded to 2980 fps.
Trigger: Jewell, 2 ounce BR.
Tuner: Custom, Adjustable with Opposing Magnets.
Optics: Leupold 36X (locked by J. Schmidt).
Rings: Jewell Foster External Adjusting Rings.

Stiller Diamondback Action and Shilen 17-Twist Barrel
I had wanted to use an aluminum Stiller Cobra drop port with a 6mmBR bolt face but Jerry had none in stock and he estimated it would be a year before one was available. Although I’ve waited for up to a year for an action in the past, I wanted to build this rifle during the fall of 2006 while the weather was pleasant enough to work in my unheated and un-air-conditioned garage shop. Jerry did have a 1/2″ short stainless steel Diamondback in stock so I purchased it even though it would add 3 ounces to the gun compared to the aluminum Cobra. Three ounces is a lot of weight when you’re working with a 10.5-lb limit. I had a heavy varmint contour Shilen 17-twist barrel that would work nicely and I had a Jewell trigger on a rifle that I wasn’t using at the time. I also decided to use my Leupold 36X (locked-up by Jackie Schmidt) with the Jewell/Foster adjustable rings.

Building the Tube Fore-Arm and Brackets
I took a wild guess as to tubing thickness and settled on .035″ for the 1″ left fore-arm tube and .058″ for the 5/8″ right fore-arm tube. All of the flat stock and tubes are 6061 Aluminum. I did the lathe work and the mill work and every evening I’d put the parts together and think about the proper way to proceed.

tube benchrest rifle

When the parts were mostly made, I started thinking that this was a truly ugly rifle. I thought about painting it but that wasn’t a good option as many of the parts are designed to slide over others and glue together. Anodizing was the best answer so while looking on the Internet for local anodizing shops I Googled “Home Anodizing”. Sure enough there were a few sites that told about how to anodize at home. I picked up some battery acid from NAPA Auto Supply, some Rit Clothes Dye from Wal-Mart, and a bunch of distilled water from the grocery store. Using an old battery charger as my dc power supply I started anodizing and dying the eighteen parts that went into the stock. Although I had to strip and re-anodize some of the parts, the work turned out acceptable.

Putting it All Together–Lug-Mounting the Fore-Arm and Lots of Epoxy
The barrel contour had to be modified to work with the stock which attaches by way of a rear plate which mounts like a recoil lug and a plate that ties the barrel and the stock tubes together 4″ forward of the bolt face. The four-inch maximum distance is a NBRSA rule concerning barrel blocks.

Davidson Benchrest 30BR

Davidson 30BR group targetThe recoil lug-style stock mount is probably the only truly innovative thing I did other than the opposing-magnet tuner. Basically, the rear bracket is sandwiched between the receiver face and the barrel shoulder–positioned where a conventional recoil lug would go. I also added a brass ring (visible in photo) between the anodized bracket and the barrel. This was done to distribute loads over a wider surface area. (I was concerned that the bracket material was fairly soft and I didn’t want to crush it as I torqued the barrel in place.) After fitting the barrel and plates I glued the entire gun together using epoxy and various LocTite adhesives. The rest of the parts were assembled but I did not Loctite the scope bases since I thought I’d be disassembling the rifle for re-work after the first trials. That came back to bite me during later testing when the gun started shooting erratically and I went down a couple of blind alleys before finding the loose bases.

Range Testing–Results Are Very Positive
The first range session was a real shocker. Even though the wind was up to 10mph and twitchy, the rifle showed promise from the very first shot. I really didn’t expect that kind of performance without, at least, some rework. After sighting in, I shot five, 5-shot groups that, when averaged together, measured .223″. That’s good enough to win some benchrest group matches. But I wasn’t finished with the gun yet–I still wanted to try out my magnetic tuner concept.

Magnetic Benchrest Tuner Davidson

The Magnetic Tuner
Next, I built the magnetic tuner. The tuner consists of one rare earth magnet attached to the stock and another attached to a barrel sleeve with the magnets oriented so the magnetic forces repel each other. In order to test the magnets and to determine if the rifle really shot as well as it seemed to, I took it to Gene Beggs’s shooting tunnel in Odessa, Texas. I spent two days at the tunnel testing loads and then installed the magnetic tuner. The gun shoots well with the magnets and shoots well without them. I suppose I can’t make any claims as to how much, if any, improvement the magnets make. Gene said that my gun was the most accurate rifle to be tested at his one-year-old shooting facility: “Shelley Davidson brought one of the most unusual rifles I had ever seen; he called it his ‘Tube Gun.’ And boy, did it ever shoot! It still holds the record in the tunnel as the rifle that shot more zeros than any other to date.” I definitely recommend Gene’s facility for testing and refining shooting techniques and loads.

Competition — Tinker Toy Won Both Score and Group Matches

Finally the big day arrived when I’d shoot the first match with my new gun. The North Texas Shooters Association was holding its first club match of the 2007 season. At the Denton, Texas matches we shoot a Score Match in the morning and a Group Match in the afternoon. The March event was at 100 yards and the April match will be at 200 yards and so on alternating throughout the benchrest season.

Davidson tube BR rifle Score MatchMatch One–Tinker Toy Wins Score with a 250 – 17X
Since the gun is chambered in 30BR and that chambering is almost immune to tuning woes, I preloaded 130 rounds with H4198 powder and 118gr Cheek bullets. I used my SEB front rest and rear bag which are made by Sebastian Lambang in Indonesia. Everything came together, and Tinker Toy demonstrated that the accuracy it showed in the tunnel was no fluke. The gun shot great and I won the morning match with a 250, 17X. The day was quite windy and the next best shooter scored a 250, 15X. So I’d chalked up my first win.

Match Two–Tinker Toy Wins Group with a .2282″ Agg
Tinker Toy won the afternoon group match I entered with a five-group Aggregate of .2282″. (The second place score was .2568″.) My groups were .149″, .197″, .243″, .302″ (oops), and .250″. You know how some folks say a 30BR can’t be competitive with a PPC? Well that .2282″ Agg won’t break any records, but it is good enough to win some regional registered BR matches. So this rifle has demonstrated an ability to win in both Score and Group matches. Obviously I have a very good Shilen barrel, great Cheek bullets and the rest of the components are doing their jobs as well. But, the stock is also working well.

Score Shooting vs. Group Shooting–The Rules
In a score match, the shooter shoots one bullet at each of five record targets, which are clustered on one target sheet. The Aggregate score of five of these targets determines the winner. If the shooter touches the 10 ring on all of his 25 targets he can score a “clean” 250 score. Usually there will be more than one shooter who scores a 250 so the winner is determined by the X-count. The 1/2″ 10-point ring has a 1/16″ dot in its center. Touching the X dot adds to the shooters X count. In short-range group matches, the shooter must try to put five bullets through the same hole. At each distance (100 or 200), five, 5-shot matches are scored, the group sizes are added together (MOA equivalent at 200) and the total is divided by five to arrive at an Aggregate score.

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March 15th, 2020

Sunday GunDay: Twin 30 BR Score Rigs — Thunder Down-Under

30BR Hunter Class Rifle
This story, from our Gun of the Week Archives, offers a good intro to the 30 BR cartridge, which is still the leading chambering for short-range Score Benchrest.

What’s better than one custom-built 30 BR with gorgeous wood and top-shelf components? A matching pair of course. Just ask Australian shooter Greg Roche (“Caduceus” in our Forum). A decade ago, Greg spent two years living and working in the USA. While in America, he commissioned two matched custom rifles to bring back to Australia for Hunter Class BR matches. Though the look-alike rigs are both chambered in 30 BR, one is designed for the Australian “Traditional” centerfire Hunter Class (10-lb limit), while the other is purpose-built for the “Custom” centerfire Hunter Class (14-lb limit). The 10-lb Traditional rifle features a fully-functioning two-round magazine and a 6-power scope. In contrast the Custom Class rifle is a single-shot action, with a 45X Leupold scope. The Custom weighs 13.5 pounds so it can also be used in traditional Heavy Varmint Benchrest matches if desired.

30BR Hunter Class Rifle

Tale of Two Rifles
Story and Photos by Greg Roche (“Caduceus”)

The USA boasts some of the finest precision rifle-builders and Benchrest parts suppliers in the world. Before returning to Australia after two years in the States, I decided to have two special BR rifles built using American components and skilled labor. I wanted a matched pair — twin guns that would be as handsome as they were accurate. The heavier gun of the pair, the 13.5-lb Custom Class rifle, features top-of-the-line (but well-proven) technologies and components. With the 10.5-lb Traditional Class rifle, we had to develop new solutions to allow the 30 BR cartridge to feed from a functional two-round magazine. Here is my saga of how my twin 30 BRs were conceived and built, and how they have performed in competition.

30BR Hunter Class Rifle

BACKGROUND — The 30 BR for Score Competition

The 30 BR is a wildcat cartridge based on a necked-up version of the 6mmBR Norma case. It originated in U.S. Benchrest circles where it found its niche in Varmint For Score (VFS) matches. Unlike traditional Benchrest, where group size determines the winner, VFS matches are shot on a target with multiple, concentric-ringed bullseyes. Point total is based on “best edge” shot location (one shot per bull). In score competition, the 30 BR’s “supersized” .308-diameter hole offers an advantage over the 6mm hole created by a 6 PPC, the dominant group BR chambering.

30 BR cartridge

The starting point for loading the 30 BR wildcat is Lapua 6mmBR brass. These are necked up as a single-step operation using a .30 caliber tapered expander ball (or dedicated expander mandrel). This will leave a bulge in the neck, so the expanded case neck is normally turned to bring the thickness down to the correct dimension for the chamber. I turned these necks down to .010″ wall thickness using a Stiller neck-turning tool. It features an eccentric mandrel similar to the Nielson “Pumpkin”. Loaded rounds measure .328″ neck diameter. This gives minimum clearance in my .330″ neck chamber, so very little neck resizing is needed after firing. Cases are trimmed to 1.500″ prior to turning to ensure consistency since the Stiller tool indexes the length of cut off the case mouth. Other than that, cases are just chamfered, loaded and made ready to shoot. No special fire-forming is required.

17-Twist Barrels for Both Rifles
Texan gunsmith Mike Bryant chambered both barrels. Mike also polished both barrels to a high-gloss to match the receivers. In this game, barrels are consumables, much like powder and primers, so most owners wouldn’t bother to polish their barrels. However a 30 BR barrel can provide up to 5000 rounds of accurate life (unlike a 6PPC barrel which might be tossed after 800-1000 rounds.) So, these barrels are likely to be on the rifles for many seasons. Given the high-gloss finish of the Grizzly actions and the beauty of the Red Cedar stocks, it would have been an injustice to leave a dull finish on the barrels.

The chambers were both cut with the same reamer supplied by Dave Kiff of Pacific Tool and Gauge. Randy Robinett, one of the originators of the 30 BR wildcat, specified the reamer dimensions. Randy’s 118gr, 10-ogive custom BIB bullets and the 30 BR cartridge enjoy a winning track record in the USA. The 30 BR Robinette reamer has zero free-bore and a .330″ neck, and is optimized for the BIB 118s. The bullets perform best when seated far enough out to jam firmly into the rifling as the bolt is closed. The long ogive means the bullet’s bearing surface is very short.

Slow Twists for Maximum Accuracy
You may note the unusually slow twist rate of both barrels. In most .30-caliber chamberings, the barrel twist rate is 1:11 or 1:12 to stabilize 150gr to 200gr bullets. The 30 BR is optimized for 115gr to 118gr flat-base bullets and 1:17 provides sufficient stability at muzzle velocities around 2900-3000 fps. In competitive Benchrest, where every thousandth of an inch counts, over-stabilization of projectiles can hurt accuracy, so “just stable enough” is the goal; hence the 1:17 twist.

Case Forming, Case Prep, and Reloading Methods

Sinclair Neck Micrometer, 30 BR Neck Turning
A Sinclair case neck micrometer indicates neck thickness of 0.010″ after neck turning.

Sinclair Neck Micrometer, 30 BR Neck Turning30 BR dies are readily available from a number of manufacturers. I personally use Wilson neck and seating dies with a Sinclair Arbor press, but Redding and Forster both supply high-quality threaded dies for use in a conventional press. For under $100.00 US, custom full-length dies can be obtained from Hornady and CH Tool & Die by sending them reamer prints or a couple of fired cases. Harrell’s Precision offers “semi-custom” dies. Just send them some fired cases and they select a pre-made CNC-cut die that ideally fits your chamber. You can ask the Harrell brothers for a die that’s tighter at the shoulder or base, or otherwise customized to your preferences.

Load Development and Accuracy Testing
With cases formed and bullets selected, load development is simply a matter of choosing the right primer, powder and charge weight, and loading the most consistent ammunition possible. The Lapua BR cases use a small rifle primer. The choice here was Federal 205 Match primers vs. CCI BR4 Benchrest primers. Some shooters have also had success using CCI 450 Magnum primers but it is very unlikely the small case needs this much spark to light off regular extruded powders. In my case, I selected Federal primers because availability tends to be better in Australia.

The relatively large bore-to-capacity ratio of the 30 BR case means that fast burning powders are the order of the day. Once again, US experience suggests H4198 (the Hodgdon equivalent of ADI AR2207) is the choice of match winners. The fact that H4198/AR2207 is an Australian-made product is an added bonus. So, I loaded up test rounds with AR2207 from 32.5 grains to 35.0 grains in approximately 0.3 grain increments. All bullets were seated to jam +0.010″ into the lands. This places the bullet base about two-thirds of the way down the neck and well short of the neck-shoulder junction.

READ FULL Story on AccurateShooter.com Main Site »

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July 19th, 2016

Powder Valley Has Varget One-Pounders in Stock

Varget Hodgdon powder from Powder ValleyToday, July 19th, as of 10:00 am Central Time, Powder Valley has one-pound containers of Hodgdon Varget powder in stock. Price is $23.75 per pound (not including haz-mat fees or shipping).

NOTE: Powder Valley’s current Varget inventory consists of one-pounders only. No 8-pound jugs are available. To order, go to powdervalleyinc.com, then click the Powders link (near the top of page), and then select the Hodgdon link in the row that appears. Scroll down until you see:

“HODVARG-01 *, HODGDON VARGET – 1LB.”

Given the high demand for the most popular Hodgdon Extreme powders, Powder Valley’s inventory of Varget could sell out. If you are in dire need of this powder, act quickly.

More Hodgdon Extreme Powders in Stock:
Powder Valley does not have any H4350 at this time but it DOES have ALL these other Hodgdon Extreme powders in both 1-pound and 8-pound containers:

H4198 (YES 1-lb and 8-lb)
H322 (YES 1-lb and 8-lb)
Benchmark (YES 1-lb and 8-lb)
H4895 (YES 1-lb and 8-lb)

H4831 (YES 1-lb and 8-lb)
H4831SC (YES 1-lb and 8-lb)
H1000 (YES 1-lb and 8-lb)
Retumbo (YES 1-lb and 8-lb)
H50BMG (YES 1-lb and 8-lb)

Hodgdon Extreme powders

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December 8th, 2015

Point-Blank Powders in Stock — PVI Has Jugs of the Good Stuff

Vihtavuori N133 powder valley

Here’s good news for short-range benchrest shooters. The two most popular powders for the 6PPC, Vihtavuori N133 and Accurate LT-32, are now in-stock at Powder Valley Inc. (PVI). In fact, Powder Valley even has the hard-to-find 8-lb jugs of N133 and LT-32.

For you 30BR score shooters, PVI has both Hodgdon H4198 and Accurate LT-30 in stock, the two most popular powders for the 30BR. A slightly faster-burning version of LT-32, LT-30 is a very promising powder for the 30 BR, while H4198 has traditionally been the “go-to” choice for the 100/200-yard score shooting game. PVI has 1-lb and 8-lb containers of both these ultra-accurate powders in stock now. Visit PowderValleyinc.com, and click on the “Powders” link in the Menu.

6PPC Powders 30 BR Powders

– PVI has 1-pound LT-32 for $27.10
— PVI has 8-pound LT-32 for $204.30
— PVI has 1-pound N133 for $31.25
— PVI has 8-pound N133 for $202.00

– PVI has 1-lb LT-30 for $27.10
— PVI has 8-pound LT-32 for $204.30
— PVI has 1-pound H4198 for $23.25
— PVI has 8-pound H4198 for $165.00

Lapua Vihtavuori burn rate charts

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January 15th, 2015

Load Data for Accurate LT-30 and LT-32 Powders

Western Powders LT-32 LT-30 accurate powder

Is that target good enough? Yes that’s really five (5) shots. This amazing group was shot, in competition, with 6 PPC cartridges loaded with Accurate LT-32 powder. If you’d like to try out this powder in your rifle, Western Powders has released loading data for the LT series of powders. LT-32 is a good choice if you’re currently using propellants with burn rates similar to Vihtavuori N133 or Hodgdon Benchmark powders. (Caution: NEVER simply substitute loads powder for powder. Always start low and work up when trying a new powder). The other powder in Accurate’s LT series, LT-30, has a burn rate similar to Hodgdon H4198. LT-30 is a superb performer in the 30 BR cartridge. LT-30 also is a good choice for small varmint cartridges such as the 17 Rem Fireball.

Western Powders LT-32 LT-30 accurate powder

benchrest 30 BR rem remington lt-32 powder Western

Download FREE Reloading Guide for Accurate and Ramshot Powders
You can also download the complete Western Powders Reloading Guide in PDF format. This covers Accurate and Ramshot propellants.

Western Powders LT-32 LT-30 accurate powder

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November 12th, 2014

New LT-30 Powder — Accuracy Rivals H4198, with More Speed

Accurate Western Powder LT-32 PPC MurdicaOur friend (and ace benchrest shooter) Lou Murdica recently tested some prototype Accurate LT-30 powder from Western Powders. This is a new formulation similar to LT-32, but with a slightly faster burn rate. That makes LT-30 ideal for the 30 BR and other cartridges that presently work well with Hodgdon H4198. Lou tells us: “At a 100/200-yard group benchrest match in Phoenix this weekend, I shot the new LT-30 powder in a 30BR. I used Berger 115gr bullets in a rifle with a Shilen barrel. This powder is just like the LT-32 powder… just a little faster.”

Lou added that, in the 30 BR, this powder delivers accuracy similar to Hodgdon H4198, but 30 BR loads with match bullets can be pushed up to 200 FPS faster without apparent pressure issues. That’s significant. Lou posted some targets which do indicate that LT-30 offers excellent accuracy. Here are 5-shot groups shot with Berger 115s and LT-30 powder:

Accurate Western Powder LT-32 PPC Murdica

Western Powders has not yet announced an “arrival date” for LT-30, so we can’t tell you when you will see LT-30 at retail powder vendors. It appears this new propellant will go into production in the near future, though LT-30 is not yet listed on the Accurate Powders website.

Accurate Western Powder LT-32 PPC MurdicaAccurate’s New LT-30 Powder Is Like LT-32 but a Little Bit Faster…
LT-32 is a fine-grained extruded powder that was developed for 6mm PPC benchrest competitors. Already a proven match winner, LT-32′s excellent shot-to-shot consistency and low standard deviation (SD) make this a very good choice for competitive benchrest shooting. Due to its small grain size, LT-32 flows like a spherical powder and allows for very precise hand-loading. It also offers impressive accuracy in varmint and tactical cartridges, including the .223 Rem, and 20 Tactical. If you haven’t tried LT-32 in your PPC or varmint cartridges yet, you should give it a try. LT-32 is one of the most accurate powders on the market, when used with appropriate bullet/cartridge combos.

Permalink New Product, Reloading 2 Comments »
September 5th, 2013

IBS Match Report: 2013 Score Nationals at Weikert, PA

IBS Report and photographs by Dick Grosbier
Over Labor Day weekend the Union County Sportsmans Club (Weikert, PA) hosted the 43rd annual IBS 100/200 Score Nationals. This club has a reputation for hosting fine events, and this match certainly lived up to that reputation. With 63 guns on the line, this year’s Score Nationals was well-attended. All in all this was as good a Score Nationals as I have attended in quite a while. I tip my hat to the Union County crew for running an excellent match. Weather was warm and a little muggy both days. I do not believe we ever had a drop of rain (despite a 30% chance of rain forecast). Mirage was very minimal as it was overcast both days. Winds started out very calm and slowly increased all day long both days.

2013 IBS Score Nationals Results (PDF) | 2013 IBS Score Nationals Results (XLS)

View IBS Score Nationals Full Photo Gallery (100 pictures)

IBS Score Nationals IBS Score 2-Gun Winner Dean Breeden  Varmint For Score grand agg. winner Herb Llewellyn Hunter class Grand aggregate winner Gary Long
Left to Right: IBS Score 2-Gun Winner Dean Breeden, Varmint For Score Grand Agg Winner Herb Llewellyn, Hunter Class Grand Agg Winner Gary Long.

IBS Score Nationals Weikert PA 2013 30BR Hunter Varmint

IBS Score Nationals Weikert PA 2013 30BR Hunter Varmint

On Saturday, Herb Llewellyn started out on a tear in Varmint For Score (VFS) class and stayed hot, finishing the 100-yard event with a 250-25X score. We witnessed some really fine shooting in less-than-perfect conditions. Junior Shooter Kevin Donalds Jr. (photo below) laid down a fine 250-24X to finish second. Kevin, who turns a ripe old 13 years of age in a few days, shot a remarkable 250-25X Aggregate a few months back. To the best of my memory those are the only two 250-25X scores in IBS this year. A.R. Edwards was third with 23X.

IBS Score Nationals Weikert PA 2013 30BR Hunter Varmint

In Hunter Class Dean Breeden shot 250-17X beating more than 50% of the VFS shooters, and for those of you who do not fully understand Hunter Class, the big thing to remember is they shoot 6-power scopes. Peter Hills from Maine also shot a 250 in HTR with 9X.

IBS Score Nationals Hal Drake Weikert PA 2013 30BR Hunter Varmint

Sunday the shooters lined up for the 200-yard event. Shooting his 6 PPC, Hal Drake shot a 250-14X, proving that a PPC can still win in a Score match (at least at the longer ranges). Second place (as at 100 yards) went to a Kevin Donalds, but this time it was Kevin Donalds Senior who was the runner-up, posting a 250-13X. Third place honors went to Dean Breeden also with 250-13X. In Hunter Class, veteran shooter Gary Long shot 248-5X to beat K.L. Miller under Creedmoor tie-breaker rules. Dave Thomas was third with 247-7X.

You may have noticed that nobody in the top three on Saturday was in the top three on Sunday. This led to some interesting results in the VFS Grand Aggregate. Top Man was Herb Llewellyn, with a 500-36X. Herb’s victory at the Nationals pretty much puts the last nail in the coffin of anybody trying to catch Herb in the Score Shooter Of the Year race.

Second in the Grand was Herb’s lovely wife Kim with a 500-34X. Third place went to Randy Jarvais who learned the hard way to not drop the first X! Randy tied with Kim for total score all weekend but Kim shot a 5X on the first target and Randy got a 4X. Fourth in the Grand went to 200-yard winner Hal Drake with 500-33X, and Ricky Read rounded out the Top Five with 500-32X.

Gary Long won the Hunter Grand division with 497-22X, Dean Breeden was second with 496-20X, and third was Dave Thomas with 496-14X. It was great to see Dave back shooting again. Dean Breeden put in a repeat performance as IBS Score 2-Gun winner with a 996-51X score, Larry Feusse was second with 990-46X and Dudley Pierce was third with 987-44X.

IBS 43rd Annual 100 / 200 Yard Score Nationals
Union County Sportsman’s Club — August 31st to September 1st, 2013

IBS Score Nationals Weikert PA 2013 30BR Hunter Varmint

IBS Score Nationals Weikert PA 2013 30BR Hunter Varmint

IBS Score Nationals Weikert PA 2013 30BR Hunter Varmint

IBS Score Nationals Weikert PA 2013 30BR Hunter Varmint

IBS Score Nationals Weikert PA 2013 30BR Hunter Varmint

CLICK Equipment Lists Below to See LARGE Versions

IBS Score Nationals Weikert PA 2013 30BR Hunter Varmint
IBS Score Nationals Weikert PA 2013 30BR Hunter Varmint

IBS Score Nationals Weikert PA 2013 30BR Hunter Varmint

Praise for the Match Crew and Kitchen Crew
I cannot say enough good things about the target crew and range officer Mark Trutt. They ran a very efficient match. I do not recall a single delay all weekend from loose- or erroneously-hung targets. We started promptly at 9:00 am and finished around 2:00 pm both days. Range officer Mark Trutt did an outstanding job when confronted with a tricky situation regarding IBS Score 2-Gun shooters. The range has 40 benches and we had a very nice turnout of 63 guns on the line but it simply was not justified to run a third relay so Mark judiciously added around 10 minutes between each relay to allow 2-gun shooters some time to reload. I don’t think the time would even have been noticed but the target crew was speedy and efficient, so we ended up with a little extra time on the line. I personally felt it made for a very nice, laid-back pace for competitors shooting only one gun. Scoring was fast and efficient for the most part.

The Kitchen crew deserves praise for the fine breakfasts and lunches. In good Weikert tradition, we were treated to “Mama Trutt’s” fresh-baked cookies each afternoon. — Dick Grosbier

Permalink Competition, News No Comments »
June 2nd, 2012

Stan Ware’s Radical Short-Necked Wolfpup for Hunter Benchrest

Stan Ware SGR Custom RiflesStan Ware of SGR Custom Rifles, is one of the finest gunsmiths with whom we’ve worked. He’s also a talented shooter and an innovative wildcatter who’s not afraid to think “outside the box”. Stan competes in both Hunter Benchrest (HBR) and Varmint for Score (VFS) disciplines. In his quest to build the ultimate Hunter Benchrest cartridge, Stan created the radical “Wolfpup” wildcat, based on a 6mmBR parent case. Noting the dominance of 30 BRs in VFS matches, Stan wondered if a stretched 30 BR could work in HBR competition. The challenge was case capacity. Under HBR rules the cartridge must hold at least 45.0 grains of water, equal to the capacity of the classic 30/30 case.

To get the requisite HBR case capacity, Stan figured he needed to boost the volume of a 30 BR case significantly, so he would have to move the shoulder forward — a lot. He did this by running a 30 BR reamer deeper and deeper, test-firing brass along the way. After three reamer passes, he ended up with the capacity he needed (the Wolfpup holds 45.3 grains of water). But then he looked at the finished product — a case with almost no neck, and he wondered “how could this possibly work?”.

Stan Ware Wolfpup SGR Custom Rifles

Stan Ware SGR Custom RiflesFrom Trashbin to Winner’s Circle
Ware’s prototype Wolfpup ended up so short-necked, so unlike any “normal” cartridge, that Stan figured it was “dead on arrival”. Stan told us: “I said ‘this ain’t going to work’ and I threw the brass in the trash can. Honest. But later I thought I better shoot it and see what it does.” There was one problem — Stan didn’t have a seating die. He noticed the short neck provided a bit of tension after fire-forming, so he literally seated some bullets, BIB 118s and 125s, with his fingers. For powder he used H4198 and started with 35 grains, one grain more than a 30 BR load. Stan then did a pressure work-up: “I actually went up to 41.0 grains and didn’t have a sticky bolt. I ended up at 37.9 grains of Hodgdon 4198 — that gave 3150 fps, where the sweet spot is.” (Later testing revealed a second accuracy node at about 3020 fps, using 36.4 grains of H4198).

Stan’s radical short-necked Wolfpup shot great from the get-go. Once he found the right velocity node, the gun shot in the ones and zeros with both 7-ogive and 10-ogive bullets, both 118s and 125s. The Wolfpup proved easy to tune — it’s not finicky at all. And it’s a winner. Stan began shooting the Wolfpup in 2006 in both VFS and HBR matches and the ‘Pup’ started winning matches right away. In 2007, Stan won the Wisconsin State VFS Championship shooting the Wolfpup. Most recently, in June 2010 at a Webster City, Iowa VFS match, Stan won the Grand Agg and posted high X-Count for the match, while placing first at 100 yards and second at 200 yards. How’s that for a cartridge that almost ended up in the trash bin?

Does Stan deserve an award for “most innovative benchrest cartridge design”? Stan chuckles at that notion: “I’m not a hero, not a genius. I really didn’t do anything. The fun part is thinking outside the box — for me anyway. Shooting is an age-old process of experimentation. You never learn it all.”

Stan Ware Wolfpup HBR SGR Custom Rifles

Stan Ware Wolfpup HBR SGR Custom RiflesWhy Does It Work?
How can such a radical case design perform so well? “That’s a good question,” Stan admitted. He then explained: “The 30 BR is inherently accurate, so I figured something based on the 30 BR should be accurate too. My personal belief is that the short neck doesn’t hurt you. Plus if the throat in the barrel is straight, the bullet can self-align. If the chamber is good, the bullet will self-center in the throat. In a regular case there’s not much room to do that, so a bullet can start off-center, and you don’t get the same results every time. A bullet in a conventional case is stopped from self-centering by the stiffer neck, particularly in a tight-clearance BR gun.”

Reloading the .30 Wolfpup
Stan’s Wolfpup chamber has a neck dimension of 0.330″. He turns his necks for a 0.327″ loaded round. Bullets are jammed .020″ forward of first contact with the lands. When he closes the bolt it pushes the bullet back in the case — almost a soft seat. Stan notes: “To start with I normally bump the shoulder .0005-.001″ so they go in easy. Just by doing that I get a little neck tension. I also use a bushing. Right now I’m running a .322, but it’s not particularly sensitive. I’ve tried one-thousandths increments up to a .325 bushing and couldn’t tell a lot of difference.”

Currently there are no production sizing dies for the Wolfpup. Stan uses two dies to size his fired brass: “I use a 30 BR bushing full-length die after each firing, but that doesn’t size the bottom half of the case. But I can shoot the brass four or five times with no problems.” After four to five firings Stan hits the bottom of the brass with a modified 6mmBR body die. Stan hogged out the top half of the body die so it doesn’t contact the top of the brass. For bullet seating, Stan uses a Wilson 30 BR seater die into which he ran the chamber reamer. This gives perfect case fit during seating operations.

If You Want a Wolfpup Rifle
Stan has received a number of requests to chamber Wolfpups for Hunter Benchrest shooters, and he will be building some for next season. Stan charges $300.00 for chambering, crowning, and headspacing a barrel. He also sells Wilson micrometer-top seater dies, customized for the Wolfpup, for about $110.00. If there is sufficient demand, he may start producing “one-pass” full-length sizing dies for the cartridge. Stan can also build complete benchrest, hunting, and long-range rifles in your choice of calibers. Visit SGRCustomRifles.com, or call (507) 274-5649.

Stan Ware Wolfpup SGR Custom Rifles

About the Illustrated Gunstock
You’ll notice Stan’s stock contains scenes from Vietnam and a quotation. Here’s the story. A Vietnam combat veteran, Stan served “in-country” with the Army’s 509th Non-Divisional Combat Unit (out of Fort Riley) from 1965-1966. Shortly before he left Vietnam, Stan went to a shop to have a souvenir lighter engraved. He asked the vendor for an appropriate inscription. The shop’s metal-worker engraved: “War is a tragedy. It takes mans’ best to do mans’ worst.” That message, along with the combat scenes, were hand-painted on Stan’s rifle by his wife Susan, a talented artist. She spent more than 20 hours painting the rifle stock.

Photos courtesy Ryan Ware and Stan Ware, SGR Custom Rifles.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Gunsmithing, New Product 4 Comments »