Reloading Tech: Wiring up a 6.5 Grendel

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

I hope all spent time with family and friends, and most importantly realized that we all have so much to be grateful for!

I’ve had the PressureTrace™ II system for a few years now and I’ve found it handy in examining the pressure characteristics of my reloads.  It’s been particularly handy in determining the pressure differences between two projectiles of the same weight using the same powder charge.  I’ve only used the system on my bolt guns up to now. I finally wired up my new 6.5 Grendel AR pattern rifle build, the details of which I can share in another post.

In terms of published data there still isn’t that much out there compared to other cartridges, but new data is coming out all the time.  In my estimation Alexander Arms® produces the best factory ammunition for the 6.5 Grendel since it was Bill Alexander who spear headed the design of the round.

Factory 123 gr Lapua Scenar Load

I wanted to use the Alexander Arms factory loads to compare against my loadings for my Grendel.

Since I had some time off yesterday and it was raining, I decided that I would get some load testing done under cover with the range all to myself.

Conditions:
Temp: 42ºF
Baro. Pressure: 29.83
RH%: 97%
Equipment:
Pressure Trace II System
Magnetospeed Chronograph

***CAUTION The data presented below is by no means meant to represent data published via SAAMI approved testing or test methods, and may not reflect the true pressure; this pressure testing is only meant as a comparative tool***

If you are curious as to what a Pressure Trace system is, check out the vendor website at Shooting Software

The barrel I am currently running is a Shilen Stainless Match HBAR 20″ 1:9″ twist featuring a rifle length gas system.  Its worth noting that most bullets in the 123 gr weight aren’t optimal in a 1:9″ twist barrel due to marginal theoretical stability, with the exception of the Hornady 123 gr Match ELD projectiles.

On to the data:

SAAMI MAP (Max Average Pressure): 52,000 psi

Pressure readings I’ve collected from Factory Alexander Arms 123 gr Scenar rounds following an estimated offset of 13000 psi added to original pressure value measure by the pressure trace system.

I’ve chronographed these rounds in 75-80ºF outside temps and they are cruising at about 2510 fps ±10fps out of the 20″ bbl, which is a fair amount faster than at 42ºF as we see here, so I think my estimation on the offset was correct. My aim is to establish the summer time pressure readings of the factory loads as my working maximum pressures.

Pressure readings from IMR 8208 XBR with a 26.5 starting load (not shown here) in 0.5 gr charge increments out to 28.5 gr (also not shown because of pressure signs of previous loadings.

Its clear that I’ve reached high pressure characteristics and any increase in charge weight would unnecessarily strain the Grendel and could eventually approach an unsafe condition.  I now believe I’ve established a safe maximum of 26.0 gr of IMR 8208 XBR, at least in these low temps. Surprisingly the charge to pressure correlation peaked at a lower charge weight than I would have expected based on published data out there for a similar weight projectile.  Published IMR loads with the 123gr Sierra Match King peak at a maximum charge of 28.5 grains (compressed).  I may have to re-adjust the charge downward during the summertime temps to stay consistent with pressures if I decide to stay with this load.  This is another reason why it’s always smart to back off by 10% (I started 7% from max). That being said, this is an accurate powder with 3/4″ groups.  I’ll likely study other powders as well for comparisons sake, such as Hodgdon CFE223 and Accurate 2520, both known for velocity production.  There is little data on CFE223 use, this is where the PressureTrace™ II system will shine, now that I have a baseline.

26.5 gr 8208 XBR 123 gr Hornady ELD Match vs Factory Alexander Arms 123 gr Lapua Scenar

Based on the images above, the Alexander Arms rounds are close in appearance to when I’ve fired them in the summer time, so these marks may be more associated with chambering.  One thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes just chambering a round produces some ejector swipe marks.  I think the marks on the reload to the left suggests that I should back off to 26.0gr and call it a day.

If your range has a covered firing position and it’s raining out, get outside and work your craft and understand your gun/ammunition combination, you just might have the range all to yourself

Look out for a companion piece to this article, as I purchased a 24″ barrel made by Satern Barrels and sold by Brownells, testing will commence with this shortly using the pressure trace system.

Until next time….

See you at the range!

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved.

TargetVision Camera

Nearing the end of the competition season I became frustrated with the number of opportunities I had to practice a the 600 yard line.  One of the drawbacks to a 600 yard range in New England is the proximity to civilization.  Tracking your hits at such a long distance requires a spotter or someone to pull targets for you in the pits.  You HAVE to know you’re on the target.  This makes shooting/practicing by yourself a non-starter for safety reasons.  I wrote to the folks over at TargetVision and asked if I could do a review out of my own curiosity and for our readership.  They liked the idea and shipped a unit over for us to take a look at.

They sent over the LR-2 unit for us to review, which retails for $649 and is good for targets up to a mile away, wow!!  They do have other offerings for reduced distances, so take a look at the website to see what unit would better suit your needs.

When I opened the exterior cardboard box, I remarked to myself about the high quality of the carrying case for the camera system.  In the pic below, you can see that this case will protect your investment.  One of the little things that the folks over at TargetVision thought of is to ensure that the system doesn’t turn on in transit, so they taped the power switch in the off position.

From targetvisioncam.com Website:

The LR-2 is a fixed lens, portable, battery powered, wireless target camera system that can be viewed from a phone or tablet.  This target camera has a range of one mile and a run time of 12 + hours. TARGETVISION is the perfect companion for long range shooters, competitive shooters, and people who are looking for a more interactive and entertaining shooting experience.  This unit is able to clearly see .17 caliber bullet holes (and larger) at any distance up to a mile.  TARGETVISION consists of two pieces, the camera/transmitter and the receiver.  The camera sits down range about 10-15 feet from the target and can be moved within that range to adjust the field of view.  The receiver sits next to the shooter on the ground or shooting bench.

External antenna is not required to go one mile, but optional.

NO CELL OR WiFi SERVICE REQUIRED!

NO SKEW CORRECTION REQUIRED!

MADE IN TEXAS.  

Instructional Videos 

APP Video 

Hardware

Specifications

  • Resolution: 1280 X 960
  • Pivotable Camera
  • Batteries: Rechargeable Lithium Ion
  • Band: 2.4GHz
  • Weight: 13 lbs.
  • Hard Case Dimensions: 16.00″ x 13.00″ x 7″ (IP67 Rated)

In the Box

  • TARGETVISION Camera
  • TARGETVISION Receiver
  • Waterproof, Crush-proof, Dust-proof Custom Hard Case
  • 12V DC Charger
  • 2 Tripods

 

Serious protection for that hardware!

I was impressed with the quality so far and couldn’t wait to get it out to the range, but before I did, I inspected the system and made sure to charge both the Transmitter and Receiver. After the charge up, I was ready for some range action.  It was some time until I could find an opportunity to get out and take it for a spin, but I eventually got out to the 600 to use the system.  Set up was ridiculously easy!  You set up the camera/transmitter unit off to the side about 10 feet or so away, connect to the WiFi network and center the target in the camera view by making final adjustments to the ball/socket style camera lens.  After that, you head back to your equipment, confirm the image in your smartphone/tablet, and start shooting.  I had this gear up and running in 15 minutes.  See the TargetVision video below:

Below are the images from my set up at the Nashua Fish & Game Club.

Simple as 1, 2, 3!

Marking your shots is a breeze with this system.  So after set up and watching my rounds impact down range, I’m officially hooked. Guaranteed after I pick up one of these, that next season will show a marked improvement in my accuracy at distance.  The image below is from a photo I took and exported using the TargetVision app functionality on my iphone.  I am thoroughly impressed with this camera rig.  This gear gets a solid A in my book!

Not bad, but this isn’t an F-Class Target.

The bottom line is if long range shooting is on the menu, get your hands on a high quality target camera system like this one and as they say at TargetVision, “Never Lose Sight”!

See you at the range!

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved.

Savage 12 Palma in Mid Range Prone F T/R Match by Jason Hale

Since I’ve started long range competition, I’ve been exploring ways that our readers may enter the sport at a reasonable cost, of course you can select your hunting rifle in your safe, but if you become serious, the modifications will start.  Enter the Savage Precision Target Rifle Line.  We reached out to Savage and requested the 12 Palma due to it’s unique stock configuration and caliber choice.  Most of the Precision Target Actions (PTA) have a screw spacing of 4.41″, however the 12 Palma has a screw spacing of 3.44″, the reason for which I am not sure.

To learn about Palma Rifle competition Click Here!

All PTA’s accept large shank barrels from your favorite Savage pre-fit barrel supplier.  What I really liked about this configuration was the adjustable stock and 3-way adjustable butt-plate.  See below for some stats on the rifle.

Savage 12 Palma Match Rifle

One thing you’ll notice right away is the odd twist rate of 1:13″.  This twist rate is indicative of the intended bullet that was intended to be used, 155-156gr bullets.  As soon as I received the rifle, I quickly picked up a rail for it and mounted the 7-42X55mm Gold Ring Leupold Competition Scope & Shade we are testing (Outstanding Scope) and ordered some 155.5gr Fullbore bullets from Berger. I recognize that this was not the set up that the rifle was designed for, but the purpose of testing was to determine accuracy potential of the rifle. You can tell that this was really meant for iron sights as you can see the front sight cut near the muzzle of the rifle so that you can clamp-on front sight tubes.  In the pictures below, you’ll also see the 3-way adjustable butt-plate which is fantastic for customizing the fit of the rifle to a specific shooter.  It can be adjusted for length of pull, cant, and height.  I made some minor adjustments to the cant and height, and left it there.  I could have spent more time on tuning the stock, but didn’t.

Once the bullets came in, I took inventory of the powders that I had on hand and selected IMR 4166 which is supposed to be temperature insensitive much like Hodgdon Varget and got to putting some test loads together.

Following a break in process, the rifle immediately demonstrated it’s accuracy potential.  Being limited for time, I settled on a load of 45 gr of IMR-4166 with a COAL of 2.800″ which was limited by the Palma Chamber, which has a very short throat.  See the group shot below.  Not bad at all for an afternoons work.

In all fairness, if this was my rifle I would have spent more time tuning to reduce Standard Deviation and Extreme Spread of velocities, but given the limited distance (600 yards), vertical dispersion would not be as bad as longer distances.  Wind would be more of a challenge.

The day of the Mid-Range Prone match, I was excited to take the rifle out and see what it could do.  I knew that with good loads, it would likely out shoot me, which is a good thing.  The prone match included 3 strings of fire at 300, 500, and 600 yards, with 15 rounds for record with unlimited sighters at each distance.  The wind picked up during the day peaking with 10 mph switching winds during my 500 yard string after settling into a more predictable rhythm for my 600 yard string.  Overall I was pleased with the day, but was a bit frustrated during the 500 yard string being behind on some wind calls that cost me more points than I wanted.  I was only one of two F T/R shooters there, the other being a good friend and great shooter Barbara Lamb, she only dropped 3 out of a possible 450 points for the day, which is fantastic.

Barbara Lamb scoring for me, while Art Lamb (in line for saint-hood, in my mind) was graciously scoring for all on our target.

My scores were 143-0X (300), 131-0X (500), and 144-2X (600), with an aggregate of 418-2X.  The rifle shot great for the little time I put into load development.  I am sure that I could have done more tuning, but in the end I needed more time on the rifle to improve.

One thing I can say, is that if the other rifles in the Savage 12 PTA series shoot similarly, you can’t deny the value, considering the cost of most custom F-Class rigs being between $3000 and $5000, or more even.  Great bang for your buck.  If you’re interested in a quick and relatively inexpensive upgrade that can be further modified easily in the future, check out Savage’s M12 Precision Target Action line.  If you want to start from the ground up and build one, you can purchase an action from Northland Shooters Supply. I’ve done plenty of business with Jim; they’re awesome!

Shoot Straight and Shoot Often!

See you at the range!

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved.

 

 

F-Open Match Results 17-Jun-2017 with 6.5 Creedmoor by Jason Hale

I’m back to provide an update on the most recent 3×600 yard F-Open Match at Nashua Fish and Game.  This year I am doing a significant amount of testing, which doesn’t allow for getting truly comfortable with my set up, never the less, it was exciting.

To preface the discussion on results, I need to explain the challenges with the F-Open conversion to the Creedmoor barrel.  In preparation for the match and some practice time,  I changed out the barrel in my Savage 10 action to the Shilen 28″ stainless match 6.5 Creedmoor bull barrel.

Following the barrel swap, I installed the barreled action to my aluminum JPRifles AMCS chassis.  I was going to shooting in F-Class, Open, with the Nosler 140 gr 6.5mm/.264 Reduced Drag Factor ™ (RDF) bullets and due to the F-Class, open rules I could have a much heavier gun (22 lbs max).   That’s why I decided to move back to the heavier aluminum chassis.  The only downside was that when the rifle was mounted in the rest, I couldn’t use a rear bag that was a standard height.  I had to rig up a rear bag that was tall enough to be able to level the gun.  The PRS stock toe, is not as low as a true F-Open competition stock, but this isn’t a “built for competition” rig.  This is fun on a budget while learning to read the wind 🙂

I tuned my 6.5 loads easily with the Nosler RDF’s we are testing, getting 1/4 to 1/2″ groups while humming along comfortably at 2800 fps with 41.7gr of H4350.

RDF Bullet Banner

Very impressive, those RDF’s.  From my first experience with new gear, I was prepared with what to expect this time.  I was stayed focused and was pleasantly surprised, as the day went on I got better and better, despite the make shift gear.

As the day was not hot, I was able to keep the Leupold Gold Ring 7-42X55mm scope we are testing (seen above) dialed all the way to 42x and it was awesome to see the bull much more clearly and to use the target rings to aim for wind calls.

Here are my scores below for my first time in F-Open with new gear.

Match 1: 185-4

Match 2: 192-6

Match 3: 196-8

Final total: 573-18

The gun and Nosler 140 RDF’s were clearly shooting better than I in the beginning, but as I got the hang of the “free recoil” game, it all started to fall into place.  Free recoil is allowing the rifle to track rearward under recoil with some space in between you and the buttstock, very much like regular benchrest shooting.  I like F-Open, but for now, it’s just fun for me and a way to continue to learn the ways of the wind.  I think the only way to become more competitive in this class, you need first get better at wind reading and perhaps get a purpose built rifle/stock combination that was meant to be used in a rest.  I am more than happy with how this turned out.  I am super pleased with how the Nosler RDF’s were surprisingly easy to tune and shoot accurately!  I will be shooting this combination again July 8/9.

See you at the range!

© 2017

Lots of Learning: Match Results, Mystic Precision Bipod Review, and Leupolds Gold Ring VX-6 7-42 x 56mm Competition Scope with CDS

Testing new gear in a long range match.

I had an interesting match last Sunday (28-May 2017). In my previous article here I announced the intent to test some new gear in a match.  I learned a great deal about changing gear before a match, but the biggest takeaway is: If you change gear and don’t practice with that new gear at competition distance, you should be prepared to have a few accuracy surprises that happen once you start punching holes in paper.

First Impressions: Leupold Gold Ring VX-6 7-42x56mm Competition scope with CDS

First things first, the glass is just gorgeous to look through.  The morning of the match I had it dialed up, but as the day went on and the mirage started to intensify I had to back off a bit to 32X.  I also realized that I have some additional adjustments that are necessary for eye relief when in the prone position.

Learning about the impact of new gear: Leupold graciously supplied rings for our testing that would mount to any rifle for us to test as long as it had a picatinny rail.  The particular issue with my rifle is that I did not have a high enough comb nor adjustable comb to accommodate the ring height.  I knew this going into the match but honestly didn’t think that it would matter that much, but it definitely did.  The difference or variability  in cheek pressure on the comb had a huge impact elevation control and lead to uncomfortable body/head positions and a poor score.

First Impressions: Mystic Precision MPOD Bipod

While zeroing the rifle the bipod was like a rock, on the line at distance, however, my “squeeze bag” style rear rifle rest was not cutting it.  In order for the bags to work effectively you need to apply consistent downward force with your cheek and squeeze the back to it to remain stable.  If you can’t apply consistent pressure with your cheek, then having a repeatable position is difficult, and my score’s definitely reflected that; my worst for the day was below along with my typical score from last year.

Score last year with original set up.

Score with different set-up (Different SCOPE/BIPod).

I will note that at the time of the string of fire, a shot was marked as a miss, but following my string and talking to Art Lamb, who was scoring for me, he informed me that one of my rounds was subsonic at 600 yards and he later identified the impact in the white portion of the target, so not a miss, but perhaps a 5 or 6.  Not too happy about that; I did notice that my barrel was getting a bit hot from the quick string of fire, so I don’t know what happened here.  My next purchase is a good old kitchen timer to make sure I don’t go too fast and heat the barrel up too much.

On a humorous dad note, my wife called me and informed me that my mother in-law was at our house with the kids needing to put my youngest son down for a nap.  The only problem was that I locked all the doors and she did not have the key.  Rather than breaking into a fit of twitches after my horrible match, I calmly let it roll off my shoulders and trekked 4 miles down the road and let her back in.  It’s good to live close to the range. Looking back and doing some diagnostics on the poor match, I realized that I should have changed bags over to one of my fixed rear sand bags with the bipod.  The toe of my stock is angled so that elevation corrections can be as simple as moving the bag fore or aft of the buttstock.  We always learn.  I’ll be better acclimated to the new gear next time.  Next up; a barrel swap will take place to the new Shilen 6.5 Creedmoor Match Barrel and we’ll do some F-Open work with a front rest for a match on 17-June.  I love the Savage Barrel Nut!! It’s so easy to swap barrels!

Until next time…..

See you on the range!

© 2017

 

 

Memorial Day, the Mystic Precision MPOD Bipod, and the Leupold Gold Ring Competition Scope for F-T/R Match

First, a reminder for this Memorial Day weekend, which is likely to be full of barbecues, parades and perhaps a frosty beverage: Never forget!  Just a reminder dad, I will never forget.

Image courtesy of Associated Press

My kids and I are looking forward to the parade this Memorial Day weekend to honor our soldiers, but it means so much more than that.  I did not serve, but my father along with the rest of my family, has a rich history of putting on the uniform for this country since the American Revolution.  I take these holidays seriously, as that was how I was raised.  With my kids, I do my best to explain the meaning of remembering those that, when their country called on them, ran towards harm instead of away from it.  Some of whom made the ultimate sacrifice.  It’s because of them that I get to punch holes in paper for fun and nothing is headed back in my direction.  Thank you, thank you, thank you dad and those who have served this country.

Mystic Precision MPOD Bipod

Load testing will continue with the Nosler bullets, but in the mean time, I have a match coming up this weekend and will be using my current match load of the Sierra 175 TMK’s which I have to use up.  I started long range rifle competitions using my standard Harris S 6-9″ Bipod.  It worked well to start out, but one of the downsides to using this basic bipod was that you couldn’t track your shots and the bipod would often sink into the position (dirt/grass/sand) which lead to fighting elevation changes in the middle of a string of fire.

I decided that it was time for an upgrade for future competitions. 

After a lot of research on F-Class bipods, I settled on an economical lightweight design from Mystic Precision.

It’s a Canadian company, but the bipods are actually manufactured right here in the USA,  at Evolution Gun Works in Quakertown, PA.  I have my first match this weekend.  I will report back on what the differences are with this bi-pod.

From Mystic Precision’s website:

MPOD Design:  Make a super light bipod with the stability and tracking of a pedestal rest

A winning design: Winner of the 2013 Individual FTR World Championship used the MPOD.  Multiple NRA records in Team and Individual set.  Several Members of the US National FTR team currently shooting with the MPOD

Improved geometry to reduce the effects of torque during recoil for consistent tracking and follow through despite the chambering. Has been successfully used on larger caliber boomers including the 50BMG

Easy to operate with large range of movements to account for varied terrain.  The lowest height is 4 1/2 inches suitable for bench work and raised berms when shooting prone. At full elevation, you have 7 3/4 inches to the mounting lug.  This range is wider then the Harris 6-9 bipod.

Cant feature is now added for quick leveling on uneven ground.  And the Cant will not shift during recoil as is common with most other bipods.

Easy to install and remove – Solid with great repeatability and accuracy potential.

Stability increasing with increased pod height which is opposite to a number of designs.

Keep finished weight as low as possible – 12.8ozs installed, yet strong enough to support heavy rifles and big boomers.  Easily supported rifles weighing 50lbs.

I’ve also mounted and plumb leveled the Leupold Gold Ring VX-6 7-42 X 56mm scope with 34mm tube for it’s first test.

I am excited to have the target fill up more of my scope at the higher magnifications.

I’m used to no higher than 25X magnification and First Focal Plane reticles that obscure the target more than necessary, so this should be a real treat.

Having that much magnification can be a real benefit if mirage isn’t too bad.  Local range conditions for the match look good, mid 60’s and 2 mph winds from the south.  We’ll see if that holds; field conditions could be completely different.  I’m going to re-zero and confirm my come-ups for dialing to 600 yds the morning of the match.
I will post my scores for this weekend’s match, share a few thoughts, and post a few photo’s of the bi-pod and scope mounted at the range.

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!!

See you at the range.

© 2017