Nosler Competition Hollow Point 77 grain Heads Handloaded – Re-Test at 150 yards

I should have retested at 100 yards but I wanted to see how this bullet handles groups at 150 yards. I want to shoot competitively in F class at 600 yards. I expect that this .223 is not ideal but I am new to long range rifle competition but an inexpensive way to try it!

Earlier test show a best 100 yard group at 5/8 inch with 77 grain Nosler Competition hollow point bullets but the second group a few days back was much larger and I blamed myself and not the set-up. I thought the 77 grain deserved more attention as it can punch paper at 1000 yard targets and favored weight for the caliber.

I used the same powder and volume and Cartridge Overall Length at 2.256 inches to fit the clip length. It was a bit windy 5 to 10mph swirling but coming from behind at 160 degrees. But also added a Vortex bubble level to the scope and used it. Works great and I can see it as I aim. I used a plumb line to get the cross hairs straight at 50 yards and adjusted the bubble to match it. At long range it will pay big dividends.

a scope level

Groups below:

march 77 grain groups

I took 5 shots Group 1 with PMC 55g fmj to warm me and the rifle up and surprisingly at 150 yards the group was 2.5 inches “if I throw out the first shot.”  Not bad for off the shelf ammo.

Group 2 was 15/16inch for 3 shots at 150 yards. This is Sub MOA for sure. Wow!

Group 3 was 2 1/8 inch for 3 shot group but a bit more windy and gusting.

When I left the wind was 15 mph gusts but I was done by then..

So there you have it! A winning combination!

And I am better at my cheek weld too and that can explain a lot with a collapsable stock not really designed for Lon Range Shooting. The Colt upper barrel is very accurate, the Timney Trigger was essential to pull groups in as I have stated before, I loved the drop-in mode for the trigger, Scope, Bubble, Nosler Competition heads and Custom Brass made this Rifle “jump to light speed” for an off the shelf rifle.

I want to thank my friends at Nosler, Leupold and Timney for their products to be evaluated at New Hampshire Rifleman. Outstanding products all!! 

Bragging rights “perhaps” here at 100 yards 5/8 inch at 150 yards 15/16 inch for best shots and different days. I clean it every 100 to 200 shots and just feel it out. I run a dry snake through each session. No more tests to confirm what some data suggests is sub-MOA we need to shoot it at 600 yards and then we shall see.

Good Shooting!

© 2016




AR-15 Barrel Break-in and Bore Cleaning

After having tested several hunting rifle barrels from new, my observation is that, in general,  rifles improve in accuracy to some degree if not broken in at the factory already. But all new rifle barrels should be cleaned before you put bullets through them whether broken in or not.  I find residue in all cases for new barrels.

On new rifles and barrels I use a solvent laden bronze bore brush and then 1 soaked patch of your favorite bore cleaner that also addresses copper fouling and then around two or three dry patches. Web research on chrome lined barrels is that you should clean it like an unlined barrel just less frequently some say after 200 rounds. I bore snake my AR barrel after each outing as a practice but did not use any specific method to break it in, believing that I did not need a regimented plan. After a session of 20 or 30 rounds I have touched my chrome lined barrel for heat and find it just warm to the touch and never hot. My AR is new and has only 150 rounds through it. Some say the barrel is not broken in yet. I would strongly avoid any abrasives in a chrome lined barrel as it will surely wear the chrome away. And be very reserved in its use for break-in on steel barrels.  I scrubbed the barrel only once with a brush since new and wont scrub for another 100 or so rounds unless groups deteriorate.

On hunting rifles I have use JB Bore Bright, (an abrasive) very sparingly if groups seem out of  normal but in general it does not get used much at all.

I once tested a 300 Ruger RCM that shot 1 3/4 groups at 100 yards but later tightened after use and normal cleaning to sub-MOA. The truth is just the shooting alone may have cleaned the bore or as some say, shooting seasoned the barrel.

I think it is a best practice to at least run a bore cleaner soaked swab through a bore if your not sure of fouling. How the swap comes out is the tell all.

I avoid using soft copper bullets in my hunting rifles as cleaning can be a pain to get soft copper out of the lands and grooves. Some folks swear by them, I swear at them.

I prefer the harder gilding copper which is used on regular hunting bullets and on some brands of solid gilding copper bullets such as the Nosler eTip® that I just used on a whitetail buck this past fall. Don’t over do barrel cleaning and remember to take some fouling shots before shooting for group. At least one and perhaps 2 or 3 is better.

A hunting story of barrel cleaning and lack of it comes to light as a hunting friend of my father shot a Savage 300 in the deer woods. He shot that rifle one or two shots before the deer season then hunted with it. Never cleaned the barrel after many years and when others complained that he never cleaned his rifle the would put a hole in a coke can at 50 yards to shut them up. I am not sayin’ never but his rifle never had “solvent stink” and oil smell in the deer woods and he killed lots of deer.

On the target range is another story, there you don’t care about smell you want clean!

© 2016


AR-15 Nosler Experiments – Thoughts added

Using the same AR-15 now updated with Timney Trigger, Leupold scope and mounting system I shot in single shot mode with 77 grain Nosler Custom Competition bullets and 23 grains of Reloader 15. The cartridge overall length was 2.435 inches. I expected the rifle to shoot tighter groups at least 1 inch at 100 yards as the bullet was closer to the rifle lands. Best case was one group at just over 5/8 inch and two groups at around 1 1/4 inches. This is good but this rifle can do better, I think.

Back at the reloading bench today, I tried three different powders but I really did not want to shoot them in single shot mode so I shot them at just under the max cartridge overall length of 2.260 so they would fit in the clip. I shot 3 shot groups at 100 yards with wind under 5mph.

GROUP#         BULLET                                POWDER                SPREAD                                         

Group 1       69 grain Nosler CC Bullet with  23 grains Varget       1 3/4 inches

Group 2      69 grain Nosler CC Bullet with  23 grains Varget         1 3/16 inches

Group 3      69 grain Nosler CC Bullet with  23 grains Varget          1.0 inches


Group 4      69 grain Nosler CC Bullet with  22.5 grains IMR 4895  1.0 inches

Group 5      69 grain Nosler CC Bullet with 22.5 grains IMR 4895  1 1/4 inches


Group 6      77 grain Nosler CC Bullet with 23 grains RL-15           1 1/16 inches

Group 7      77 grain Nosler CC Bullet with 23 grains RL-15           1.0 inches

Group 8      77 grain Nosler CC Bullet with 23 grains RL-15 1.5 inches (two of the bullets are 1/2 inch apart, one looks like a flyer)


Each group had at least 1 group at 1.0 but the 77 grain Nosler CC has two groups (6 &7) basically at 1.0 or 1 MOA and the other 77 grain group may have a flyer. This preliminary data was expected that the heavier bullet will outperform. From a Mil-Spec Semi-Auto Carbine with a 16 inch barrel this is very good. Thus it translates to keeping 6 inch groups at 600 yards and 10 inch groups at 1000 yards if there were no wind. I need to repeat this test  with 77 grain bullets but at 150 yards, the farthest at my club before trying 600 yards.

After Thoughts

Group 1 was way out of line and it is likely that I was not warmed up and relaxed. Hitting the bench cold can sometimes do that.  Thus I think that the Varget Group 1,2,3 needs repeating after a warm up of a few practice shots. I used the scopes power at 12x to split an orange 1 inch square on each target into 1/4 inch quadrants as I squeezed the trigger.

© 2016

Long Range AR-15 – Putting It All Together by Ed Hale

I must admit that there was “much” needed for this AR-15 to be ready for real long distance and it may be that “more” is needed to accurize it. So what did I do to make it more suitable for long distance? Use a systematic approach that  makes sense without going overboard.  And use what you have as much as possible; improvise,adapt and overcome says the “gunny”. I keep saying that, for sure some of that will happen.

cropped-IMG_0909.jpgFirst was to change the mil-spec trigger. As you can see from a previous article I installed a 2 stage Timney Trigger.

Screenshot (6) copy

It has 2 pounds pull in the first stage as it is squeezed rearward and then 2 more pounds to break and release the internal hammer within the trigger. It is crisp once the first stage is complete. Next was to put a better scope on it. Leupold’s VX-6 is an outstanding scope  with a working range from 3x to 18x with a 44mm Objective lens.

a zero to 600 ad

The VX-6 is unique in all rifle scopes for its 6:1 Zoom capability, with unserpassed light transmission and optical clarity throughout the entire magnification range. This was the scope that helped me drop my whitetail deer at 300 yards this past fall. See this link.

The scope model includes the Illuminated Boone and Crockett Reticle with the option of creating a Custom Dial System (CDS) for dialing in your favorite bullet, (based on the ballistic coefficient) out to 600 yards. I have not  entertained creating the CDS dial as I keep moving it onto different rifles and calibers. It is such a rock solid scope that I use it to test rifles. Next, I mounted a Mark 2 Integral Mounting System. (See the article on it)

Ammunition: I am using Nosler Custom Competition ammo as you may have already seen in early articles. I will be testing 69, 77, and 80 grain bullets at longer ranges with different powders and cartridge overall lengths.



I am in training too.

Reloading: I found that Custom hollow point target bullets need special attention when seating them so I did some research and purchased a Redding Custom Competition seating die below. The design of this die and its capability of keeping the cartridge straight and in alignment with the bullet is not only well known but perhaps even legendary.


Powder: You will need to experiment. Right now I am using Reloader 15 powder.

Reloder 15

Behind the Rifle: I have visited Sniper Hide and found a piece on Breathing and Natural Point of Aim. There is a video there you can purchase. I chose to read and practice. They instruct to break the shot at your natural respiratory pause (meaning at the bottom of your exhale).

I never trained to shoot at the bottom of my exhale but somewhere in between. I have lots to unlearn it seems but some I did well on too. I need to play with cheek weld on my AR stock too, which will cause your shots to never fly well if you can’t weld your cheek consistently.  I am very unfamiliar with the collapsible stock settings too making it a real learning experience.


I found a number of sites you can google on shooting techniques for long range. They are too numerous to list but the word to the wise is practice each day if you want to win matches. Dry fire with snap caps can help but remember only perfect practice makes perfect. I must put lots of bullets down range too using the skills I have learned. You can do it too. I am looking forward to loading up some rounds and burning some powder.

Good Shooting!

© 2016


Leupold Scope – Integral Mounting System for Picatinny Rails by Ed Hale

Pictured on the front page of New Hampshire Rifleman is a new image of my AR-15 with Leupold’s one-piece cantilever integral mounting system for scoped  rifles such as my carbine with Picatinny rails. The model I am testing is the Mark 2 IMS for 30mm Scope bodies. It does the job and fast mounting! Great for tactical scenarios or just rapidly swapping over to other scopes or other aiming devices.

What makes this model so attractive is its easy attachment of the IMS system to the Picatinny rail. Just a few minutes and it is on and snug.

This is a great solution for an AR needing a long range scope such as my VX-6 . As you can see it is a beefy mount that can take punishment of an AR.

If I were shooting a magnum rifle I would likely use additional top ring screws to keep the scope in place during heavy recoil. See the upgraded Mark 4 IMS system below for 30mm.

Applying proper torque is critical and Leupold recommends the following maximums:

6-48 Base Screws – 22 in/lbs

8-40 Base Screws – 28 in/lbs

8-40 Ring Screws – 28 in/lbs

Ringmount Keeper Screws 45 in/lbs

The ring screws on mine are 8-40 and I did snug them with 28 in/lbs with my Wheeler fat torque wrench below.

.wheeler fat wrench

Back to the IMS mounting systems. If you want more IMS security for your scope the Mark 4 System base can be purchased.

and then you can purchase the Mark 4 IMS insert below.

It has been the practice of many shooters to place an indelible pen mark where the ring and scope mate. Over time you can verify with the mark that the scope did or did not move. I would do that here as part of my test which will last several weeks. Look for more feedback on the Mark 2 IMS system.

There are lots of scope mounting systems on the market but as I have said before, I trust Leupold products to deliver. You just have to choose the right product for your application.

Good Shooting!

© 2016





New Timney Trigger Install on My AR-15

Below is the red AR 2 stage short trigger I installed as a drop in unit. It was not difficult to do once I pulled the old trigger and the safe/fire switch. Also I had to remove the hand grip with an Allen wrench to reveal the spring and tension for the safe/fire switch for removal. All to get the trigger and its base out of the lower unit.

The AR Targa Image is from the Timney web site.


Screenshot (6) copy

Some folks have already made a You Tube video of a Timney Install on the AR-15 and it is a good one. I followed it easily. The great part is that if you can work with basic tools it is a drop in solution. No muss no fuss.

It took me 45 minutes to do the removal of the old trigger and install of the Timney with a You Tube video at my side to follow.  Since my lower unit is metal it did not have the little loose lock screws as the video shows.

The trigger allows in the first stage to pick up slack at 2lbs so you know you are pulling, then firms up and releases the hammer at an additional 2 pounds. I was not able to use a Trigger Pull gauge to determine the 2 pounds to break the sear it but is supposed to pull 2 pounds in the first stage as far as I can tell and then another 2 pounds to break the sear. It is smooth and breaks crisp. My groups have tightened with the tightest less than 3/4 inch at 100 yards by my 3 shot groups today 3/20/16 and my worst group at 1.5 inches.

Now there is no excuse for the trigger to provide poor groups and can work on powder, bullet choice,  Cartridge Overall Length (COL), Scope and Cheek weld to enhance the groups even further. At least that is the plan.

© 2016


Ruger Precision Rifle Test and Evaluation in June?

Screenshot (217) copy

I had hopes of testing this New Hampshire made rifle soon but sales at Ruger are so hot and heavy that I can’t get one to test till perhaps June.

After much research on the engineering of this rifle is that it is not just your drop in a barrel and a minor change here and there, this rifle was engineered from the ground up for long range shooting. I am very pleased with Ruger firearms as they are well built, designed and are cost effective for a broad range of the shooting public. We shall see if this rifle lives up to that reputation or even exceeds my expectations!


Why all the fuss for a little AR-15 in .223

Why all the fuss for a .223 like my AR -15 in the Header Photo?

I can tell you that my.223 is just plain fun to shoot and is capable for targets out to 1000 yards and further though I have yet to do that. It is a great coyote and varmint rifle. Some like it to deer hunt with it but I prefer larger calibers for that.

Below is a video of a shooter at 800 yards ringing 12 inch steel multiple times with his carbine with a standard 16 inch barrel and his trusty AR-15 in .223 Remington.  I would love to do that! Perhaps you would too! Shooting long range requires skill and coordination, and a great understanding of your rifle its ammo. Since I am reloading my own ammo  with Nosler Custom Competition bullets it requires attention to detail. I was going to write about the new Die I purchased but thought that this was better use of your thoughts. Having shooting fun is more my style!!


This kind of accuracy can be expected out of a good AR-15 and a skilled shooter.


My AR-15 at Range with Mil. Spec.Trigger by Ed Hale


Ed's face

Yesterday, 3/1/2016 was sunny and little wind (0 to 5 mph) at the range in Southern New Hampshire. This article is a continuation of discussion my Colt upper/ Bushmaster mil spec lower AR-15 and its Trigger.

First, let me say that if given this trigger was a permanent one and I could not change it, it does work “ok” if you work to learn it even at 8.5 lbs. Thankfully that is not the case. New Timney triggers are coming and thus we can see what kind of improvement we can get. Should be a fun exercise and we can hopefully learn a lot. Yes there are other manufacturers that also produce triggers but that is for another day.

So I went to the range today and shot 3 brands of 55 grain Full Metal Jacket FMJ ammo with cannelure crimp at 50 yards to see what grouped best with 5 shot groups.

What I found was groups tighter than expected and occasional fliers which can be attributed to 1) the trigger 2) the shooter, 3) the ammo itself, 4) new rifle.

The trigger pull experience on this rifle can be understood to be heavy and have slack. I found that I could pull up slack and find the barrier wall where the hammer is located. It helped me group better than I expected by pulling to the wall first and then a final squeeze.

I chose 50 yards to begin this grouping exercise because I could clearly see the “x” in the bullseye and focus on it. What I found was that each brand grouped well with this trigger with occasional flyers due perhaps to a combination of things including the trigger, shooter unfamiliarity etc. I am satisfied with this exercise of capability with each brand of ammo with ARMSCOR USA shooting the best 5 shot group with one flyer. It is about groups not where they hit the target bullseye you see. We can always adjust the scope! My goal is to do this kind of grouping at 100 yards not 50 yards with a better trigger like the drop in Timney’s that I will test. Note the “X” Ring circle is 1 inch across for your reference. Triggers are coming! The take away here is that the Colt barrel is excellent and, I believe, capable of better groups than we see here under ideal conditions.

DSC_0003 DSC_0004 DSC_0006

© 2016