Things I Learned From Just One Season of Long Range Competition that can be useful as a Hunter and Reloader by Ed Hale

Is LR competition easy? No! It is a fun challenge however and that makes it worth while for many. But it can be expensive the more you get into it. Most any rifle can be good starter but once bitten it is hard to stop. As a result, I know more about quality hand-loading bullets, powder, brass and primers. So it was a valuable experience of calculating my bullet’s Standard Deviation and Extreme spread. What I found was that my brain was becoming its own calculator of holdover in minutes, and how that translated to inches of crosshair movement. I deepened my wind knowledge to predict lateral bullet placement and when to let game pass by because I could not predict the proper bullet placement for a clean kill.

Most of all I was more confident in my rifle and how to dial up my scope…a key ingredient in long range hunting.  Also use of on line software to determine the ballistic profile based on bullet velocity via a chronograph and the BC of your bullet. So competing can be helpful as a hunter by deepening your knowledge. Truth is, to win you need to spend time shooting and money.  For those like me that are hunters, it is a great learning experience to have competed. I am better for it! Who knows you may get bitten by long range F Class Rifle Competition or use of Military 308 or .223 competition such as F-TR (target rifle). My son Jason is really into it as you can see from his writing.

The key to hunting is to become more of a woodsman knowing your quarry and how to read sign and food sources and ways that your game may react. Just don’t get cocky in the deer woods because you shoot well in the prone position at 600 yards.Eh!

There are trees and the animals move you see and don’t wait for you to breath and squeeze forever. If you can, get closer to your game animal? Do it! If you are strictly a competition type you will have much to learn to be a good hunter.

© 2017

 

 

 

Selection and Testing of .308 Match Grade Bullets for F-TR Competition By Jason Hale

F-TR Rifle Competition is F-Class Competition where the TR is Target Rifle in .223 or .308 Winchester. At many matches, F-TR competitors are restricted to bi-pod, ruck or sandbags, though at the Nationals a front rest was allowed.

For me and what I’ve studied, its high mass high Ballistic Coefficient (BC) bullets that are most go-to projectiles (bullets).  You still have some folks shooting the 1:12 twist .308 Barrels that shoot between 155 gr and 175 gr projectiles, but mostly the heavy stuff.  Now at this point only one thing matters;

How does it perform with your chosen bullets IN YOUR GUN?  

My recently purchased 28” SS Criterion match barrel doesn’t seem to prefer the heavy 185 gr Berger’s, but I’ve only tried them with Varget, IMR 4064 is another option to try.  I like sticking with Varget since it works so well AND is more forgiving in variable temperatures.

If you’re just getting into competition shooting, you can’t go wrong with the 175 gr Sierra Match Kings.  You can load it to mag length. My factory barrel would shoot ¼” groups all day long.  The only downside is that when the wind is involved, it can get blown around quite a bit more than some of the other more recent slick BC offerings.  I am currently using the Sierra TMK’s and their shooting ½” at 100 yards and have a superior BC to the SMK.  So far I like them, but because the bullet profile is more secant, seating depth may be a hassle during tuning, but it didn’t take too long for me to find a depth that worked well and didn’t compress powder too much.

One item to point out, there is good reason that as a rule of thumb you don’t just try a new projectile which may be the same weight because if you seated them to the same length the depth into the case may change how compressed your charge is.  In addition, there are many other factors that are coming into play.  Spontaneous disassembly (BOOM) of your rifle and perhaps YOU is NOT GOOD.  It is wise to back off by 10% and then work back up while watching for signs of pressure.

Now for the true purpose behind this article, testing your loads.  Finding recommended loads out of a reputable loading manual is your job.  Here I will explain what I see in the data I’ve put together here.

 

The chart below represents testing and data gathered of bullets tested and corresponding results you may find of use.

Bullet Ballistic Coefficient Bullet OAL Base to Ogive COAL Seated to Lands Depth  Seated Into Case Previous Data/Comments
Berger 185 Juggernaut .283 G7 (Litz Verified) 1.342 0.698 2.923 0.424 Tried 1MOA best with Varget IMR 4064 an option
Sierra 175 Match King 0.495 G1 (averaged Sierra BC)

0.475 G1(Litz Verified)

0.243 G7 (Litz Verified)

1.230 0.661 2.838 0.397 2.800 (~0.040” off Lands)
Berger 168 Hybrid Target .264 G7

0.266 G7 (Litz Verified)

1.279 0.583 2.956 0.328 In Testing
Nosler 175 RDF .270 G7 1.330 0.651 2.950 0.385 In Testing
Sierra 175 TMK 0.523 G1

(Sierra BC)

0.522 G1 (Litz Verified)

0.267 G7

1.353 0.658 2.940 0.418 Current COAL 2.920 (0.020” off Lands)

Good groups 0.5 gr less than SMK due to pressure

 

Nosler 175 Comments/My Approach:

Looking at the Nosler 175 RDF’s you can clearly see that the tip is almost completely closed, which is awesome.  With Nosler’s claimed G7 BC of .270 which beats all of the other 175 gr projectiles, I can’t wait to try this in my current match rig.

Examining previous loads for the 175’s:

My current load for the 175 TMK is 43.0 gr of Varget (0.5 grains less than the SMK) which gets me to approximately 2600 fps.  Surface bearing length differences between the two may be the reasons which pressure signs are reached earlier in the TMK as it has a longer surface bearing length which ads friction.

Comments/Observations the Nosler’s 175 RDF:

One item that catches my attention is the length of the nose profile; it’s very long, which makes sense for a high bc bullet.  This makes it a great option for F-TR type shooters who single load and aren’t bothered by long rounds.  On the flip side, It also makes it difficult to load for magazine length without sacrificing case volume.  I may end up gaining some case volume over some of the other projectiles when loaded to the same length.  If pressures are marginal, I could eek out some addition velocity if accuracy wasn’t sacrificed.  One item examined for overall consistency is measurement of a 10 sample group for Base to Ogive length which can be associated with BC consistency.

 

Noslers numbers were right with the competition, including Berger.  Overall great observations for noslers new RDF.  I will likely start with Varget 8-10% below 43.0 gr and work up from there.  Since my rig is wired up for pressure readings, I’ll have some pressure trends to talk about soon.  I’ll be able to compare them to previous loads that I use as reference (Federal 175 gr Gold Medal Match and Black Hills 175 gr Match).

Comments on the Berger 168 Hybrid Target

There isn’t much to say about Berger other than two words consistency and expensive, or should I perhaps say expensive consistency.  Looking at the data compiled I may be able to drive this bullet to a higher velocity than the heavier 175’s without having to sacrifice anything.  The long nose profile may leave me some extra case capacity and the short bearing length may end up reducing friction from less contact with the bore.  In the end it all comes down to testing; if it doesn’t group, it doesn’t group.  Doing a lot of testing can sometimes be frustrating; but if you enjoy it, don’t give up.  Just don’t waste too much in components trying to get something to shoot.  You’ll know it when you’ve found a forgiving bullet.  This is why the Sierra Match King is still heavily used.  It’s just that easy to tune.  Alas, I am a tinkerer at heart and love a good challenge. I have access to Nosler 175’s for testing so we shall see if my rifle likes them. More later…

Good Shooting!

Savage Upgrade and Barrel Swap for NRA Long Range Target by Jason Hale

jason

After some nagging from my dad and carving some time out away from work and family, I finally got around to writing this article…..

I’ve long since been bitten by the long range target and hunting bug and now own 2 savage 10/110 FCP rifles chambered in .308 Winchester and .300 Winchester Magnum cartridges.  Upon seeing the accuracy potential of the .308 at the Sig Sauer Academy “Reach for a thousand”  1000 yd course a while back, with bone stock, I decided to purchase some upgrades to convert it to a long range rig.

The initial upgrade was the JP rifles AMCS chassis system, and then mounted some new glass (Vortex Viper 6-24x FFP).  See photo below by author.

Jason article Pic 1

With the added weight it was not suitable for hunting, but if I wanted to lug it around the woods, I could always return it to the OEM HS Precision stock and head out into the woods.

 

Since the stock upgrade, I’ve been looking out for any precision rifle series matches in the northeast, and haven’t found one yet, so I’ve taken to NRA F class target shooting.  Following the stock upgrade I entered into my first F-TR match and didn’t do half bad.  So after that, I committed to myself to enter into every match I could.  I set out to research a bit more about barrel upgrades I could do to make it more suitable for F-TR.  I was drawn to the inherent versatility of the savage barrel nut system, and dreamed about match grade barrels, but never had the courage to pick up a new one until I skimmed through a favorite website (Northland Shooters Supplies (NSS) website: http://northlandshooterssupply.com/).  I looked over their offerings with respect to target barrels and gave them a call, 15 minutes later I purchased my first 28″ button rifled match grade barrel made by Criterion Barrels . http://www.criterionbarrels.com  Five days of ground shipping later, I had that handsome barrel in my itchy hands.  While I was waiting for its arrival, I decided to clean the original barrel, oil it and prepare for it’s removal.  I purchased all of the re-barreling tools some time ago anticipating this activity happening at some point.

 

Jason Article Pic 2

 

  1. Savage action wrench from NSS
  2. Savage barrel nut wrench from NSS
  3. Savage stainless barrel nut and recoil lug.
  4. Chamber GO/NO GO gauges from Pacific Tool and Gauge. (absolute must for setting headspace properly)
  5. 1/2″ Torque wrench (make sure you calculate torque correctly accounting for extensions from the torque wrench head that increase lever length.)
  6. Never-seize (not seen in picture)

With this kit, I can re-barrel my action with barrels chambered for  .243 Win, 308 Win, .358 Win, .260 Rem, 7mm-08, and the .338 Federal cartridges.  Not bad for versatility, I’d say!

After installing my action into the action wrench and putting the wrench into the vise, I slid on the barrel nut wrench and with deep breath and a breaker bar easily loosened the barrel nut.  I was surprised at the ease of barrel removal reading of all of the horror stories from the web forums.

Jason article Pic 3

The critical part of re-barreling is setting the headspace correctly.  As I learned while reading about this swap, and thankfully not by experience, it is imperative that you remove the ejector plunger before you insert the headspace gauge, unless you fancy large gouges in your pretty chamber; not me.  Step by step instructions recommending the same can be found throughout the net as well as the fine folks at NSS.  One point to note, you don’t want the barrel to rotate as you torque the barrel nut and jam the go gauge in the chamber, you may end up with something slightly shorter than SAAMI Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute specification, or at least a chamber that may not accept previously made loaded rounds due to headspace differences.  I had a rubber strap wrench hanging around and put it to good use to counter the twisting of the barrel.  One last torque and the rifle was re-assembled into the stock.

Overall the process was painless as well as exciting as long as you take it slow.  I took three shots below following zero and some break-in combined with some load work-ups.  Below is the 3 shot group of my current load.

Jason article Pic 4

The point of this article on swapping barrels on a Savage with a threaded barrel is that you don’t necessarily need a gunsmith to swap a barrel on Savage rifles. That makes Savage actions and rifles a versatile indeed!

Editor’s Note: This tight 0.28 inch 3 shot group that Jason shot is the result of experimentation with many variables such as the new barrel,  bullet, powder, cartridge case prep, primer, overall length and many other details. In addition we compute standard deviation and extreme spread to maximize long range potential.

© 2016 Jason Hale  for New Hampshire Rifleman Magazine

Savage Model 12 LRP 6.5 Creedmoor System Test Products Arriving updated 5/24

My heart quickens at the thought of testing each new rifle, scope and accessories here at New Hampshire Rifleman… Like Christmas in the summer.  As you are aware if you read articles here at New Hampshire Rifleman, we are going to test the Savage Model 12 Long Range Precision Rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor. I am told that this Rifle can really shoot and sports a 26 inch barrel/w 1-8 twist. It just arrived to my FFL. I drove over just minutes ago and filled out the background check as usual and the rifle is home in my office  Wow! We shall see. I used my Lyman Electronic Trigger pull gauge and the Target model accuTrigger weighed in at an  average of 2 lbs pull out of the box. The red target trigger is adjustable  as low as 6 oz and as high as 2.5 pounds.

DSC_0005

I ran a Hornady bullet OAL gauge in the bore to find lands at 2.868 inches w/ my Sierra bullets.

Max SAAMI COL is 2.825 but need one caliber worth of grip to hold bullet which will be closer to 2.80 inches for a safer COL for this bullet.

 

 

 

along with a “New” 2016 Leupold VX-3i/w aggressively redesigned power selector. Shipping to NH Rifleman soon…

a 20 MOA Picatinny rail add-on to reach out there and the famous RX 1200i DNA Laser rangefinder with TBR.

And the test bed Match grade 142 grain bullets from Sierra – The Bulletsmiths®

6.5 mm/.264 Caliber (.264) 142 gr. HPBT MatchKing (100 bullets)

and

Cartridges with the new Hornady® ELD-X™ Hunting bullets see earlier article. The Sierra bullets and cartridges have arrived but no rifle yet but it is on its way to my FFL dealer here in Plaistow, NH.

I will hand load the Sierra’s, one at a time… details to come.

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.http://www.nhrifleman.com/2015/11/02/savage-11111leupold-vx-6-and-nosler-e-tips-field-test-by-ed-hale/

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.

DSC_0001

 

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.

DSC_0002

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). https://snipershide.mycustomevent.com/ShoppingCart.aspx?com=detailview&iid=103&cid=247

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

 

Ruger M77 Hawkeye Predator System Test – 6.5 Creedmoor – Updated

Screenshot (129)

System Test: All components to make the shot.

Rifle – Ruger M77 Hawkeye Predator  6.5 Creedmoor

Scope: Leupold VX-6 3-18x44mm B&C Reticle

Brass – Hornady

Bullets – Sierra Pro- Hunter spitzer 120 grain flat base

Powder Hodgdon Hornady Superformance at 47.5 grains

Max Cartridge OAL is 2.825

Cartridge overall length used in this test is 2.53 inches due to my own flawed empirical tests. The longer reach to the rifling I used does not appear hurt hunting accuracy at all.

DSC_0036

A system test is one which integrates all factor into one. The shooter, rifle, brass, bullet, powder, scope,trigger pull etc. On 5/20/ 2015, I shot at my club range at 100 yards. I had to wait till late afternoon to shoot as the wind was blowing gusts past 20 mph for most of the day. In less than 10 mph wind I shot a 4 shot 1 inch group that I was just “ok”  at 100 yards See photo below.  That group  below is truly excellent for a hunter but if you are target shooting, then I expect sub-MOA groups such as 1/2 inch or tighter from this 6.5 Creedmoor since that its derivative, a supreme target rifle that a hunter can use as well. Trigger pull average of several pull sequences is 2 lb 2.6 oz and very consistent and very crisp. As a hunter this is too low, I think,  for the average shooter but in competent well practices hands is just fine for bean field hunting at long-range where there is a rest involved.

Ruger Hawkeye Pred 6.5 Creedmoor  1st 4s group 100 yds 1.0 in.

That night I chose to change only one of the factors. The cleaning of the barrel was the factor that was easiest to eliminate as a contributor to this mediocre performance. Accordingly, I scrubbed the barrel with a brush and Butches Bore Bright alternating to patch and back to the brush until it shined like a mirror. It is often the case that new barrels need some break-in rounds.

The next morning I went to shoot at 600 yards as pictured in the prone position above and found that my set up, rest and such was too low indeed as I struggled to relax. I shot just 5 shots and hit the target each time but I was not at an optimum position. Groupings reflected my suspicion as they were in the black but grouped greater than 12 inches with  no wind. With 1 inch groups at 100 yards translates to 6 inch groups, and that was just not happening. I stopped shooting at 600 yards and went back to my club and shot a 100 yard target to see where it fell. I had to reset the Leupold back to its zero point having adjusted it 12 minutes up for 600 yards. So I cranked the vertical adjustment back down to its 100 yard zero (48 clicks). This is a test point for the Leupold scope! It should be back where I left it at about 1 inch high above the bull.

Below is the 2nd 3 shot group at 100 yards. Yes, three shot group! The first two bullets went through the same hole at 100 yards and the third printed just 5/8 inch above.

Ruger Hawkeye Pred 6.5 Creedmoor 2nd 3s group 100 yds .625 in. aft bbl scrub

More alternate shooting and cleaning will aid to base line the accuracy of this load. Am I happy with the second group ever out of this rifle? You Bet. The weather was perfect with almost no wind, sunny and bright.

The only component of this system that gave me difficulty was the Hornady Brass. I found that the shoulders were too soft and any pressure to press the bullet into the case resulted in a slight bulge of the case where the shoulder meets the rest of the case body. Trial and error and lots of chamfering were successful however. I would try other manufacturers if I need more brass but as I recall there were no immediate choices, and preferred Nosler brass (none available).

Component Score (10 is the highest)                                               Score

Rifle – Ruger M77 Hawkeye Predator  6.5 Creedmoor                    10

Scope: Leupold VX-6 3-18x44mm B&C Reticle                               10

Brass – Hornady   Neck Too Soft                                                      6

Bullets – Sierra Pro- Hunter spitzer 120 grain flat base 2891 fps      10

Powder Hodgdon Hornady Superformance at 47.5 grains                10

System Score (without Brass)                                                        10

Overall Comments:

The rifle with this Leupold scope is just right for an adult hunter to carry afield and recoils so little that a young shooter with a rest could shoot it well. Cranking the Leupold scope up 48 clicks and down proved exact for where I created the scope elevation zero at 100 yards proving its accuracy in this case. On reloading the Brass; As I reload the brass it will stiffen so over time it will be less of an issue.

Bottom line I need to be better prepared to shoot Prone at 600 yards with a better adjustable rest or front bi-pod with rear bag support. The prone bi-pod is perhaps the best overall afield as my son suggested recently. Perhaps some target bullets too. I plan to purchase a roll out prone blanket, change the Prone Rest and test it before hand. As you can see, we all learn from our mistakes. If we make none, we learn little.

Happy Shooting! © 2015

 

Serious Long Range Hunting and Target Dope

In preparing to discuss Long Range Target and Game Shooting, NH Rifleman began to research what is out there for information.  On game hunting it is always a critical axiom that you are capable of a clean kill at the ranges that you shoot.

At all distances it is important to be aware of delivered energy to a game animal such as deer (empirical data estimates 1000 ft-lbs minimum for deer, 1500 ft-lbs for elk and 2500 ft lbs for Moose).

Other official sources suggest to include a minimum bullet speed as well upon contact due to the need for the bullet to mushroom(data on mushrooming debatably suggest to be in the vicinity of say 1800 to 2000 fps (2000 fps being ideal speed to fully mushroom a lead bullet).

A .243 Winchester 90 grain spitzer designed for deer hunting can ethically kill a deer at just over 300 yards. My M77 Hawkeye African in .375 Ruger with 260 grain heads can kill a Moose easily at 200 yards with the above criteria. A 30-06 can do it with a 180 grain at 100 yards though longer shots are regularly taken successfully. According to “The Target Book of North American Big Game”  Middleton and Moran”  the Cartridges you are commonly familiar with, limit deer and elk shots beyond 650 yards because of where the intersection of energy and bullet mushrooming occur best.  If you minimize the mushroom aspect then shots can be taken much farther- Campfire fodder. After that, target shooting takes over pretty much.

In target shooting it is all about the accuracy of the cartridge and bullet ballistic coefficient shape, diameter of the bullet, boat-tail style, ability to buck wind drift with the least recoil to shoot lots of bullets.

Long Range Ballistic Applications beyond 300 yards:

All that being said; There are many Apps for Long Range Ballistic solutions so you may want to do some independent investigation if the desire to learn about the effects of Coriolis Force, Spin Drift, Ballistic Coefficient calculations based on real time drop data, reloading considerations, Wind Drift, Atmospheric Conditions and Altitude on shooting well beyond 300 yards. Did you know that a bullet traveling west, you have to aim higher because of earth spin and lower if shooting east? Me either.

Below is a review already written for this BulletFlight App (M) for Military use that can be used on an IPhone, IPad and other hand held devices that you can take to the range. It is a very top of the line tool for long range application for $30 bucks. There are less expensive versions as well. See your I-tunes web for other brands as well.

http://www.shootingillustrated.com/index.php/22012/knights-armament-bulletflight-m-app/

another article

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2944/how-does-the-earths-rotation-affect-the-path-of-a-bullet

A great book many say! I have not yet read it but will soon.

http://store.appliedballisticsllc.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=ABFLRS2nd

Armed with skill and practice the target shooter or hunter can make shots on game and targets farther than he thought with the right tools, and practice.

Long Range Shooting excellence takes study, patience, a calm nerve, and lots of Practice.