Range Tools – Don’t Get Caught without Them

By Mark V. Lonsdale, STTU

As with many of you, I’ve been on public rifle ranges where some new shooter turns up with a new rifle and scope but has no tools to mount it. Or the scope is mounted incorrectly and they don’t have the tools to correct it. Or someone has a squib load but has no cleaning rod to knock the bullet back out of the bore.

M6 2018

Various Allen and Torx screws and bolts requiring the correct tools. Rifle is a 300 WinMag in a McMillan A6 stock

In the same vain, any time I run a precision rifle class participants are instructed, well ahead of time, to turn up with their rifles and scopes zeroed at 100 yards. Unfortunately many are not.

Reasons participants have given for not having a zeroed rifle:

  • I signed up at the last minute and no one told me
  • I just bought a new rifle this week
  • I changed ammunition and haven’t re-zeroed
  • The gun shop just installed a new scope for me
  • My friend gave me some reloaded ammo for the class
  • I think it’s zeroed but not sure

So needless to say, the precision rifle class turns into Rifle 101 and the first morning on the range is dedicated to zeroing rifles. But when it comes time to zero out the scope dials, invariably, all but one or two will not have the correct Allen wrenches to zero their dials. Even a gunsmith in one class had no tools.

On left, small tool with all the necessary Allen and Torx wrenches in a small Pelican case. Right is a Leupold 65 in-lb T wrench and a conventional variable torque wrench (top)

Scopes come with the Allen wrench sized for that scope dial, but most scopes use one of three basic Allens so I carry all three. So shooters should have a small pouch that carries all the tools needed to tighten any bolt or screw on their rifles. This is primarily the action bolts, the scope ring screws and nuts, and Allens for the scope dials and trigger adjustment (if running an adjustable trigger such as Timney or Jewel).

Back to the participants in precision rifle classes, often times they not only do not have the right tools, they don’t know the required torque values for their actions and scopes. An experienced shooter or gunsmith can often button up the bolts by “feel” but rookie shooters can only learn the correct feel by using torque wrenches set to the correct values. This also prevents stripping out small screws such as the scope ring-halves screws that only require 15-18 in-lbs (depending on manufacturer recommendations).

20191016_154359

Compact set of Deluxe Fix it Sticks complete with pre-set torque wrench heads and T handle

Basic tools include:

  • Allen for action/stock bolts (or screwdriver for slot screws)
  • Allen for scope base
  • Allen for scope ring-half screws
  • 1/2” socket for the ring side nuts
  • Allen for trigger adjustments
  • Torque wrench
  • Allen for stock butt plate adjustments
  • Lens cleaning brush and soft cloth
  • Tools for additional accessories such as light mounts, lasers, or bipods

Tool kit sniper

Sniper tool kit complete with notebook and Kestrel wind/weather meter and spare batteries 

To conclude, save the instructions that come with your rifle, scopes, scope rings, mounts, and triggers. Most of these of these have specific torque values. Next, save any tools that come with these as well. Put them in a small pouch or Pelican box, or add them to your Fix it Sticks, and keep them with the rifle or in your range bag. Lastly, since we all have several rifles, maintain a small notebook or log book for each rifle so that you have a notation of required torque values and the ammunition you used when you last zeroed the rifle.

Fix it Sticks in action on scope mounting screws and nuts

 

END

Posted in Designated Marksman, Fit it Sticks, Mark Lonsdale, Precision Rifle Shooting, PRS, Remington 700, Rifle Shooting, Sniper, STTU, Tactical Rifle Shooters, Team McMillan, Tools | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

EXTREME LONG RANGE (ELR) SHOOTING – SKILL OR LUCK?

By Mark V. Lonsdale

ELR shooting can be both addictive and expensive, even though hit probabilities are often low. With a match like Ko2M in Raton, New Mexico, a competitor could drive a thousand miles to shoot just six shots and be eliminated. If a shooter does not hit the first target, he or she does not advance. In other forms of competition a competitor gets to shoot 80 to 250 rounds before the day is done.

So what’s the attraction when the rifles and ammo are so expensive? ELR is like hitting that one golf ball 300 yards on a driving range, shooters choose to remember that one impact on steel at a mile (1,760 yards), while failing to attach a percentage or hit probability factor. In ELR competitions, it is not unusual to see the hit count drop to below 10% at longer distances.

One of the reasons rookie shooters enjoy ELR shooting is that, unlike other shooting disciplines, everyone misses long range targets – even national and international champions. So when the rookie goes zero for five shots at 2,500 yards, he or she does not feel so bad, because a former champion probably also went zero for five.

If that same rookie shooter was to enter an F Class F-TR competition, where all the top shooters are shooting near perfect scores (200 out of 200 at 1,000 yards), his or her lowly score would be a little disheartening. However, the serious rookie shooter will take a low score as motivation to improve next time, and by having a quantifiable score to aim for, it is easier to track progress.

Targets f-class

1,000 yard F Class range complete with wind flags

But with ELR shooting, it is almost impossible to have a quantifiable score to build on since  chance plays such a big part of ELR shooting. Why is this? Simple answer – Wind.  On a calm day, most top ELR shooters can go 5 for 5 at 2,500 yards, but on a windy day the scores drop dramatically. Unlike formal long range shooting disciplines, that are shot on a flat range with range flags to assist in reading wind, ELR matches have no down-range wind flags. ELR matches are also shot over irregular terrain replete with canyons, valleys, ridge-lines, draws and spurs. All of which contribute to unpredictable and often unseen wind changes in both velocity and direction.

As an example, at the 2019 FCSA ELR Record Challenge at the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, not one shooter was able to hit the 2,300 yard target because of tough weather and wind conditions, and an inability to spot misses. This harkened back to the first Applied Ballistics ELR Central World Record attempt in Pahrump, NV, January 2018. Only one shooter, Nate Stallter with Team Tubb, was able to go 3 for 3 at 2,011 yards on a 36”x36” target, and no one hit 2,500 yards. Again, why? The single biggest reason was a strong, variable cross-wind and no wind indicators down-range.

This is what makes ELR shooting both exciting and frustrating. Just like watching a high-roller gambling on the roulette wheel, spectators all want to see him or her win, but the gambler has no control on where the wheel will stop. It is nerve racking, but it is still all chance. With ELR shooting, everyone wants to hit the extreme long range targets, but the wind becomes the element of chance. Thanks to Applied Ballistics and Kestrel Ballistics, many of the variables such as bullet drop, spin drift, and Coriolis have become predictable, but down-range wind is still an art, not a science.

While serious ELR competitors invest heavily in rifles, optics, ammunition, and accessories, they are still at the mercy of the elements. Even the best shooters in the world cannot guarantee hits at 2,500+ yards when the winds are strong and changeable.

At best, if the shooter or spotter can spot a miss impact in the dirt or on a rock face, he or she can adjust aim and shoot quickly before the wind changes. But when the bullet’s flight time is several seconds, there is a high probability that the wind will have changed again, leaving the shooter chasing the wind for an elusive impact on steel. As little as a 1 mile per hour wind change can put the bullet off the target, but reading the difference between an 8 mph wind and a 10 mph wind at 1.5 miles (2,640 yards) is all but impossible. As an example, a 1 mph 3 or 9 o’clock wind moves my .375 CheyTac 0.55 MOA laterally at 1,000 yards, but 2 MOA at 2,500 yards. That’s 53 inches and a complete miss with a flight time of 4.6 seconds.

20180619_121409

Hill Country Rifles .375 CheyTac built on a Stiller’s TAC408 action and McMillan A5 SuperMagnum stock. 

As an example of just how changeable winds can be in a mountain environment, at the 2019 FCSA 1.5 Mile Challenge, the 2,268-yard target was on a rock face up on the side of a ridgeline. My first shot was a hit so I reloaded and fired a second shot as quickly as possible. The second shot impacted about 20 feet to the right of the target, so obviously a strong left to right wind, from 9 o’clock, had picked up, even though wind at the shooting position was right to left (from 3 o’clock). My spotter called the miss, I made sight adjustments and fired again. The third shot was an impact, so again, I fired again quickly. The forth shot impacted the rock about 8-10 feet above the target, indicating a tail wind coming straight up the valley and then up the rock face.

FCSA Targets

Target locations for the 2019 FCSA ELR Match at Raton, NM

The lesson here is that none of these wind changes were visible or predictable because of the uneven mountainous terrain. I was just fortunate to get some hits. Another shooter could shoot ten minutes later and have no wind at all. This is the nature of long range shooting and the fact that some shooters may have little to no wind early in the morning, but those slotted to shoot later in the day may have hellacious winds. The only thing predictable about Raton is that the wind picks up later in the morning so everyone hopes for an early morning luck of the draw.

Mark-Lonsdale 3rd

Struggling with Raton’s tough conditions at the 2019 FCSA ELR Record Attempts. Rifle is a .416 Barrett built on a BAT EXS action, Bartlein barrel, and McMillan Beast-2 stock, topped with a NightForce ATACR 7-35x56mm

Now don’t get me wrong – there is still a lot of skill required to be a successful ELR shooter, but even world-class wind coaches, who have proven themselves in 1,000-yard F-TR competition, nationally and internationally, struggle with the fickle winds of ELR mountain shooting. But the stats show that we are getting better. In earlier Ko2M competitions, 50% of the shooters were eliminated after the second target at only 1,556 yards. In 2018, only 21% of shooters hit Target #3 in the qualifying rounds, and only 9.7% hit Target #1 in the Finals. But this year, 2019, 82% of the shooters hit Target #1 at 1,692 yards, and 50% hit Target #2 at 1,891 yards. But in the finals, no one managed to hit the 2-mile target (3,525 yards).

Team McMillan

Team McMillan at the 2018 King of 2 Miles match. Targets ranged from 1 to 2 miles.  

As for fundamental marksmanship, one still needs to be a highly competent competitive shooter to be successful in ELR. The rookie shooter should keep in mind that the ELR Central targets are 36”x36” which is only 1 MOA at 3,500 yards. So if you can’t hold 1 MOA at 300, 400, and 500 yards, you will definitely not be doing it at 2,200, 3,200, or 3,500 yards. The Ko2M 2-mile target is 48”x60” which is still only 1.3×1.63 MOA. So even with no wind, a competitor needs to have good combination of rifle, optics, ammo, shooter, and spotter – with bullet BC, stability, and wind-bucking characteristics being extremely important.

To wrap this up, just like on the driving range in golf, everyone remembers that perfect 300 yard drive straight down the fairway, but chooses not to remember all the slices and hacks that went out-of-bounds. It is the same in ELR shooting. Everyone remembers the one hit they got at 2,000 yards, but don’t mention the ten or twelve shots it took to walk the bullets in. Similarly, hitting a 3,500 yard plate once, under ideal conditions, does not necessarily make one a Ko2M contender. It may fire up his or her enthusiasm for ELR shooting, but on match day, under less than ideal terrain and wind conditions, only a small percentage of shooters make it to the finals.

2019 Mark Lonsdale

.416 Barrett ELR rifle

Final recommendation – take every opportunity to shoot in variable windy conditions over uneven terrain. And you don’t have to burn out the barrels on your ELR rifles. 1,000-yard shooting with a .308 Win or 6.5 Creedmoor is more economical and still excellent practice and experience.

Parting shot – ELR shooting is a low probability game requiring a lot of skill and more than a little luck.

END

CEB Ko2M

A winning combination with Cutting Edge Bullets 

Posted in 375 CheyTac, 416 Barrett, Barrett Firearms, Cutting Edge Bullets, ELR, Extreme Long Range Shooting, F-Class, F-TR, Mark Lonsdale, Peterson brass, Rifle Shooting, STTU, Tactical Rifle Shooters, Team McMillan | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bullets & Barrels – Making the Right Choice

By Mark V. Lonsdale

Premise: What’s more important – the bullet or the barrel twist?

I see more than a few rookie shooters on Facebook asking about the best load for a specific bullet but without knowing their barrel twist. Conversely, several asked about running a particular bullet in a barrel twist that is completely unsuited to that bullet weight.

To simplify this dilemma when getting into precision long range shooting, if you already own the rifle and know the barrel twist, then select a bullet that is best matched to that twist rate, either target or hunting bullet. And if you don’t know the twist, then mark a cleaning rod and measure how many inches it takes to make one full rotation as it is pushed into the bore.

As a practical example, in .308 Winchester most factory rifles are manufactured in 1:12” twist or 1:10” twist. The 1:12” barrels were intended for the 150, 165, and 168 grain bullets, target or hunting. The 1:10” were more suited to the heavier 180, 185, and 190 grain bullets. When the Marines requested a 175 grain SMK, it was thought that a better barrel twist would be 1:11.5” Since I own several rifles in all three barrel twists, and shoot them more than any other caliber, it is safe to state that the 168 SMKs shoot great in all three twist rates, but I have opted to running Bartlein 1:11.5” barrels in my newer .308s. This works great with both 168 and 175 SMKs. The 185 Juggernauts, 190 SMKs, 200 Hybrids, and 215 Berger Hybrids, definitely shoot better in the 1:10” twist that I have in my F-TR rifles and 300 WinMags. As with many long range shooters, I prefer 200 grain Hybrid bullets for 1,000 yard shooting, and 215 Hybrid or 210-220 SMKs out to 1,500 yards, in .30 caliber.  After that we are into .338 or .375 country.

20181205_153553

Robar .308 Win built on a Rem 700 action, Bartlein 1:11.5″ barrel, and McMillan A3-5 stock. 

168SMK 0.5 

168 grain Sierra Matchkings from a 1:11.5″ barrel. Handloads on left, factory Federal Gold Medal Match on right

In the lighter calibers such as 6.5 Creedmoor, I’m running medium and heavy Palma 1:8” twist barrels but have found a significant difference in precision accuracy with various bullet weights. After considerable testing with 130, 140, 142, and 147 grain bullets, hands down my rifles prefer the 140 grain bullets. Consistent 0.5” groups don’t lie. So this was a case of barrel first and then find the right bullet.

20181209_165518

PRS 6.5 Creedmoor with a 1:8″ Bartlein medium Palma barrel in a McMillan A6 stock, topped with a Leupold Mark 5HD 5-25x scope

Hornady 140 ELD-M (left) 142 SMK (right)

If you are planning on buying or building a custom rifle, you first select the bullet you wish to shoot and then match the barrel twist to that bullet. For example, for ELR shooting, the 400 grain Lazer Cutting Edge bullets in .357 CheyTac and the 550 grain Lazers in .416 Barrett have proven to be winners. For .338 Lapua Magnum, the choice may be the 300 Sierra Matchking or the Cutting Edge 275 Lazer – one jacked and one solid.

CEB Ko2M

Running Cutting Edge 550 Lazers at the 2019 Ko2M

The general rule is that heavier bullets prefer faster twist barrels; and you can run even faster twist barrels with solid bullets as opposed to jacketed bullets. For example, in .338 Lapua, you can run a 1:9” or 1:10” with 300 grain SMKs, but a faster 1:8” with the solid 275 Lazer. The danger of pushing a jacked bullet too fast through a super-fast twist barrel is it may strip the jacket and the bullet may come apart.

This project .338 Lapua Magnum, built on a Stiller’s TAC338 action, will have a Bartlein 1:9″ twist barrel to optimize the Sierra 300 SMKs. But will also run tests with Cutting Edge .275 Lazers for comparison and ELR shooting. 

Another reason for fast twist barrels and bullets in ELR shooting is retained RPM at extended ranges. RPM is one of the components of bullet stability so it makes sense that if the bullet starts out at a higher spin rate, it will retain more RPM as it passes from super-sonic into trans-sonic and subsonic.  Thus the reason that solid bullets such as Cutting Edge dominate in ELR matches.

The final option, whatever barrel twist you may have on your factory or custom rifle, you can always re-barrel the rifle to the optimum twist for your chosen bullet and application. Serious competitive shooters consider match barrels as consumable, just like tires on your car. Just as you can change tires to best suit the conditions, you can change barrels to best suit your shooting needs. Similarly, when the barrel becomes worn and loses accuracy, just spend the $350 and get a new one. I have blue-printed actions and McMillan stocks that are 30 years old, but all it takes is a new match-grade barrel to have a new match-grade rifle.

Peterson CE

.308 Winchester (left) .375 CheyTac (right) running Cutting Edge 352 MTACs and 400 Lazers 

END

Posted in 375 CheyTac, 416 Barrett, Cutting Edge Bullets, ELR, Extreme Long Range Shooting, F-TR, Mark Lonsdale, Peterson brass, Precision Rifle Shooting, PRS, Reloading, Remington 700, Rifle Shooting, Sniper, STTU, Tactical Rifle Shooters | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Causes Fliers? – The Curse of the Precision Shooter

By Mark V. Lonsdale

We’ve all had that four-shot one-hole group only to throw the fifth shot out of the group – what we ubiquitously call “a flier.” The same can happen in any form of bullseye target shooting or running a string of steel plates. There is periodically that one errant shot that ruins a perfect series, but what causes these pesky fliers? Is it the rifle, the ammunition, the environment, or the shooter?

Two examples of  fliers where a nice 0.5″ group was forming and then #5 was out of the group 

Let’s start with the rifle. Can a rifle cause shots to go astray? Here’s a couple of possibilities that you will hear from other shooters on the range. First, as the barrel heats up it comes in contact with the fore-end and throws shots astray. Second, the action bolts were loose and the action moved. Third, the action is not bedded into the stock allowing the action to move. Solution: If it is a precision rifle with a medium to heavy match-grade barrel, floated in the fore-end and correctly bedded in the stock, the rifle will not throw fliers.

20181205_153553

Example of a custom built .308 Win precision rifle with a Bartlein 1:11.5″ Heavy Palma barrel in a McMillan A3-5 adjustable stock. A rifle like this does not throw fliers ( but the shooter can). 

168SMK 0.5 

Example of groups shot with the above rifle. Hand loads with 168 SMK on the left and Federal Gold Medal Match 168 grain SMK on the right 

Now the scope. One of the recurring problems I see on the range with inexperienced shooters is the scope mounted incorrectly. I also see thousand dollar rifles with thousand dollar scopes but mated with cheap $20 rings and bases. But the most common problem is loose ring screws or loose ring bolts allowing the rings to move in the base. Only in one case was the wire reticle actually broken in the scope causing it to move under recoil. Solution: Most precision long range shooters have learned the importance of investing as much in the scope as they do in the rifle with the NightForce ATACRs and Leupold Mark 5HDs leading the pack.

20190621 AX-AICS

NightForce ATACR 5-25x56mm mounted on a MK13 Mod7 clone built on a Stiller’s MK13 action (similar to the TAC300 action)

20181209_165518

Leupold Mark 5HD 5-25×56 mounted on a 6.5 Creedmoor PRS rifle built on an Atlas action, Bartlein Medium Palma barrel, and McMillan A6 stock. 

Can we attribute the flier to the ammunition? The simple test here is if the flier is always the fifth shot, it is probably not the ammo. If it is randomly number one through five then it could be the ammo. If you are shooting the cheapest ammo available, or military surplus, then you cannot expect consistent pinpoint accuracy. The same is true for most hunting grade ammo – it is simply not manufactured to the same tolerances of match-grade ammo. But can match-grade ammo throw a flier? Sure. As with anything made on a machine, and where quality control may depend on a human being, there is the chance that a round could slip through with a low powder charge, contaminated powder, a bad primer, deformed bullet, or a loose case neck. Solution: Diligent hand loading of precision match ammo, with proven components such as Peterson brass and Cutting Edge or Berger Bullets, and weighing individual components. But even with hand loads, the individual can have a moment of inattention or get a bad batch of primers. But the bad round will never always be the fifth shot in the group.

Next, it’s worth looking at environmentals. The obvious one, in longer range shooting, is the wind suddenly picked up pushing that one round laterally. At any distance, on a flat range, if the flier goes high or low it is not the wind. Apart from mountain and canyon shooting, wind errors will always be directly to the left or right if everything else is working correctly. One environmental that can cause shots to go high or low is mirage effect. The mirage is a heat shimmer that optically moves the target in relation to the reticle. This could be compared to putting a pencil in a bowl of water and watching the pencil bend. Solution: Do your rifle and load testing in ideal conditions at 100 yards – usually early mornings or evenings with no wind or mirage effect. Then reconfirm results at 300-500 yards.

The shooter’s position can cause shots to go wild, or more accurately, changes in shooting position. If you watch a rookie rifle shooter shooting from the bench over a rifle rest, there is a high probability that the contact point between the rifle and the rest will change or move back after each recoil. This issue becomes a real problem when the fore-end drops off the rest and now the barrel is in direct contact with the rest, changing the harmonics of the barrel. The same can be seen when using bipods in that the bipod moves back after each shot. A bipod will perform differently if it is on concrete, wood, or in the dirt. Solution: The rifle contact point with the rest, and the surface, must remain consistent when shooting.

20180701_093639

Precision shooting requires a consistent natural position, which can be unique t each individual shooter. National and world champion, Derek Rodgers, preparing for the Ko2M match which he won in 2017

Now we get to the big one – the shooter. Obviously, if the shooter has not mastered the fundamentals of rifle marksmanship, a natural shooting position and smooth, inline trigger control then groups will be erratic. Similarly, if there are even subtle changes in shooter’s position or contact pressure with the stock, then groups can migrate. This is why you will see F-Open and benchrest shooters “free recoil” their rifles, minimizing contact with the stock. But one of the most common causes of fliers is mental. For example, the shooter is shooting an awesome group, and is watch each consecutive shot go into the same ragged hole. But as he or she approaches the fifth or last shot, the shooter is praying that the last shot will not ruin the group. But then that fifth shot takes the group from a respectable 0.4” to an ugly 1.2”

What has happened here is the shooter has gone from confidently shooting the  group to stressing over the last shot. In the process of “trying harder” the shooter has lost focus on repeated, consistent fundamentals. Remember, “accuracy is the product of uniformity.”

To shoot well, a shooter must trust in his or her ability, have a degree of confidence, shoot smoothly, and stay true to fundamentals. It is only through practice, repetition, and experience that a shooter develops this neuro-muscle memory to shoot consistently. But as with many elite athletes who all have equal levels of ability, winning or losing comes down to the mental aspects of competing and winning. Even when alone and just shooting groups, the shooter is mentally competing with him or herself, and it is not difficult to psych oneself out. Or to simply have a moment of inattention or loss in concentration.

Conclusion, if the flier is always the fifth or last shot in a sting, and the shooter was watching the group come together, it was probably the shooter and not the rifle, scope, ammo, or environment. Solution: Only use accurate precision rifles with proven high-end scopes and quality ammunition; and then develop the confidence to shoot without over analyzing your performance mid-group.

Flier Mk13 Mod7

A cold shot is not the same as a flier 

END

Posted in Cutting Edge Bullets, Designated Marksman, ELR, Extreme Long Range Shooting, F-TR, Mark Lonsdale, Peterson brass, Precision Rifle Shooting, Reloading, Rifle Shooting, STTU, Tactical Rifle Shooters | Tagged | 1 Comment

Precision Rifle Training – Do Your Homework

By Mark V. Lonsdale

“Prior Preparation and Planning is Everything”

For the novice, becoming a proficient precision long range rifle shooter is a process that takes considerable time and commitment. It is not learned or mastered in one day or one week. It takes time to assemble and tune a precision rifle system, including rifle, scope, mounts, bipod, rear bag, etc. It takes time to find an ammunition or load that provides optimal results in that particular rifle, caliber, and barrel twist. It takes time to master the fundamentals of prone precision shooting. It takes time to understand long range environmentals, particularly wind, and to become comfortable with ballistics solvers such as Applied Ballistics and the Kestrel 5700 Elite.

So, to this end, as a trainer, I prefer to schedule at least a couple of weeks between each range session to give the students time to upgrade rifles, scopes, mounts, ammunition, and accessories. If the class was run in a contiguous 3-4 day block of instruction, a student turning up with an inferior rifle or scope and cheap ammunition is going to be frustrated for the entire course. For example, I recently had an inexperienced student, who had a factory .338 Lapua Magnum that he had not fired since buying it, and turned up with the least expensive hunting grade ammo. As a result, his groups averaged 3”-5” at 100 yards – definitely not in the realm of precision shooting.

My standard format for a basic precision rifle class, if time and location allow, is as follows:

  • Classroom Session #1: 3-hour orientation with 2 to 4 weeks before the first range session
  • Range Session #1: 1 day range session with the goal of reviewing rifle set-up, zeroing rifles at 100 yards, logging rifle and ammo data, working on prone shooting fundamentals, becoming familiar with scope functions, working on communication between spotter and shooter, then hitting steel at 200 and 300 yards.
  • Classroom Session #2: A one hour classroom session to review lessons learned from the range session and suggested equipment and ammo changes.
  • Range Session #2: (2 weeks later) 1 day range session to review equipment changes, re-confirm zero at 100 yards, work on communication between spotter and shooter, run a box drill and tall target test to evaluate scopes and mounting, confirm muzzle velocities with a chronograph, hit steel at 200 and 300 yards, shoot for groups on paper at 300 yards.
  • Range Session #3: (2 weeks later) 1 day range session working from 100 to 600 yards
  • Range Session #4: 1 day range session working from 300 to 1,000 yards

However I recently ran a precision rifle class where not one shooter came prepared for the range session, even though the joining instructions were quite clear. The student requirements in the joining instruction and flier stated the following.

Each shooter requires:

  • A rifle capable of sub-MOA accuracy (sub 1 inch groups at 100 yards)
  • A quality scope with positive repeatable click adjustments and target turrets
  • Match-grade ammunition or similar quality reloads (capable of sub-MOA accuracy)
  • Bipod and rear bag
  • Data log book or note book and pen/pencil

20181205_153553

.308 Win rifle suitable for precision rifle shooting. Robar blueprinted Rem 700 action, Bartlein Heavy Palma barrel with muzzle brake, McMillan A3-5 adjustable stock, Badger bottom metal, Leupold Mark 4 M5 6.5-20x scope, Kestrel 5700 Elite with AB ballistics  

A month before the first range session we had run a 3-hour classroom session on the basics of precision rifle shooting where we covered the importance and features of an accurate rifle,  quality scope, and match-grade ammunition. I distributed a list of recommended items such as a shooting mat, spotting scope, rangefinder, ballistics solver (Kestrel), and also recommended that the class familiarize themselves with a ballistics app such as Applied Ballistics. But these were not mandatory for the first range session. The key items were an accurate rifle and match-grade ammunition.

With all this information, we had the following issues at the first range session:

  • Brand new stock rifles and scopes that had never been fired or zeroed
  • Factory rifles with lightweight hunting grade barrels, not match barrels
  • Factory hunting ammunition shooting 3” at 100 yards, instead of match ammo
  • Reloads of unknown age and quality given to the shooter by a friend
  • Unfamiliarity with scopes or scope adjustments
  • No tools or Allen wenches to zero scope turrets
  • Old scopes that had been in storage for decades with minimal elevation range
  • Cheap bipods with no tilt capability
  • Tall bipods too tall for prone shooting
  • Half the class bought large Caldwell shooting bags and no bipods
  • Rear bags that did not worked well with their front rest or bipod
  • Cheap flat scope bases instead of quality 20 MOA bases
  • No one had generated a ballistics chart or dope card for their rifle
  • Most did not know the BC of their bullet or MV of their rifles

All this points to a lack of commitment and attention to detail, and be assured, precision shooting is all about sweating the details.

So what should have been a precision long range rifle class became “rifle shooting 101” with several students becoming frustrated with the poor performance of their rifles, scopes, and ammunition. In addition, any of the data or dope collected with that rifle/scope/ammunition combination was of little to no value since they will need to upgrade their gear before the next class. The only benefit for the hunter using his hunting rifle and ammunition, is he or she will better learn the limitations of that rig – probably 300 yards. Keep in mind that a 5” group at 100 yards will open up to over 15” at 300 yards. But this was not a hunter rifle class – it was precision rifle.

20181209_165518

6.5 Creedmoor PRS rifle with Atlas Tactical action, Bartlein Medium Palma barrel, McMillan A6 adjustable stock, topped with a Leupold Mark 5HD 5-25x scope.   

One thing that I have learned over the decades is that shooters who shoot well enjoy the classes, but shooters who shoot poorly do not enjoy the experience. In most cases poor shooting can be traced back to poor equipment, substandard ammo, and lack of preparation. This makes shooter evaluation difficult. When the rookie shooter shoots a 3”-4” group at 100 yards with a factory rifle and factory hunting ammunition, it is hard to tell if the rifle or ammo is inaccurate or if the student is just a poor shooter. When the same student is shooting a match-grade rifle with match-grade ammunition, then any errors can be attributed to the shooter. This is why the foundation of precision rifle training is a precision rifle and ammo.

One of the contributing problems is gun shop salesmen who know nothing about precision rifle shooting, apart from what they have read in magazines, but keen to sell the unsuspecting buyer whatever they have in stock, as opposed to what is best suited to precision shooting. For the hunter, a lightweight rifle that shoots a 3”-5” group at 100 yards may be acceptable since this is still within the vital area of a deer. But it won’t work for long range small varmint shooting or precision shooting. The same is true for ammunition and bipods.

If a gun shop doesn’t cater to precision shooters, evidenced by stocking precision rifles, high end scopes and mounts, match-grade ammunition, and a range of quality accessories, then the buyer should not depend on that salesman for advice on precision rifle shooting. This requires that the novice precision shooter do some research and talk to experienced precision shooters before investing in a new rig.

Another issue is the comparative cost of an accurate precision rifle versus a stock hunting rifle. There are several factory rifles in the $1,000 to $1,500 range that may work for the rookie, but most serious precision shooters invest around $2,500+ in their rifles and another $2,000+ in the scope. Now this may seem a lot to a shooter new to precision shooting, but compare it to other activities such as motorcycling, snowmobiling, jet-skiing, off-roading, and it is a lot less than you would spend on a $14K Harley that you only ride one day a week in summer.

Keep in mind that the rifle is not the most expensive part of precision shooting. It is the time commitment to reloading and training and the cost of ammunition and travel to out-of-state matches. And if you get into ELR shooting, then the costs increase considerably with .338 LM at $5 per round, .375 CT at $7, and .416 Barrett at $10 (less when you begin reloading the brass).

Mark Lonsdale .416 Barrett

.416 Barrett ELR rifle built on a BAT EXS action, Bartlein custom barrel, in a McMillan Beast 2 stock, topped with a NightForce ATACR 7-35x56mm scope

Conclusion

To really benefit from a precision rifle course, and to enjoy the process, invest in a precision rifle, a high end scope, and quality ammunition. On the latter, handloading for your particular rifle is the preferred option. Also attend some classroom lectures or observe at precision shooting matches before investing heavily in a new rifle and scope.  You will find that other precision shooters – FTR, PRS, or ELR – are friendly and welcoming of new shooters.

See you on the range.

END

20180525_140459

.375 CheyTac built by Hill Country Rifles on a Stiller’s TAC408 action, McMillan A5 SuperMagnum stock, topped with a NightForce ATACR 7-35x56mm scope  

Posted in 375 CheyTac, 416 Barrett, Barrett Firearms, Cutting Edge Bullets, ELR, F-TR, Mark Lonsdale, Peterson brass, Precision Rifle Shooting, PRS, Rifle Shooting, STTU, Tactical Rifle Shooters | 2 Comments

Developing Shooting Habits for Success

By Mark V. Lonsdale, STTU

The premise for this paper is that no matter how much you shoot or how many competitions you win, the basic fundamentals of marksmanship remain the same. You never graduate from reinforcing the fundamentals, or as we say, “Being brilliant at the basics.” The only difference between a rookie who has been correctly taught the fundamentals and the championship shooter, is that the fundamentals have become second nature for the pros, ingrained by thousands of repetitions.

So let’s take a look at some useful tips:

  1. Invest in quality equipment – Remember, “Accuracy is the product of uniformity,” or what some shooters call consistency; so if you don’t have an accurate rifle and good ammunition, you can never achieve an acceptable level of success. Think of the rifle as a system made up of the rifle, the scope, the bipod, the ammunition. Then, within the rifle itself, it is a system made up of primarily of the action, barrel, stock, feed system (magazine) and trigger. All of these components affect accuracy and consistency, so the trick is to assemble a system that is a reliable tack driver. For the most part, custom built rifles with match-grade barrels will out shoot off the shelf factory rifles. But there are factory rifles that are sufficiently accurate to get started in most forms of competition or hunting. That said, it is critical that you have a rifle that shoots better than you so that you cannot blame misses or large groups on the rifle. The same is true for ammunition. While there are excellent factory match-grade ammunitions from Federal, Berger, Hornady and Black Hills, hand loads tailored to the rifle will invariably out shoot factory ammo.

20190402_112924

.300 WinMag with a Bartlein Heavy Palma barrel in a McMillan A6 stock, topped with a Leupold Mark 8 scope. Test ammo is Berger factory 185 grain Juggernauts and 215 grain Hybrids 

2. Focus on the fundamentals – These are body position behind the rifle, grip pressure, sight alignment, breathing, trigger control, and follow through (staying in the scope). For the most part, the ideal prone position is a relaxed natural position where the shooter is carrying minimal tension in his or her muscles. This may require seeking out professional coaching, since it is easier for a trained observer to spot flaws in your technique than for you to self-evaluate. However, once you have mastered the fundamentals of a natural shooting position and trigger control, your accuracy, grouping and targets will tell you when you have an issue with your shooting position or technique. One additional point, get away from shooting from the bench except for load development. First master the prone position, then a variety of field expedient supported positions.

Mark Lonsdale Guardian

PRS shooting requires a variety of hasty supported positions, in addition to prone stages

3. Be prepared to shoot a lot – This goes back to the old adage of, “You don’t need a $2,000 handgun – you need an $800 gun and $1,200 in ammunition for training.” When you budget for a rifle, you should also budget for match-grade ammunition or invest in a reloading setup. If you are not shooting hundreds of rounds a month to begin with, you are not developing the muscle memory needed to become a good shooter. Similarly, if you can’t afford to feed a .338 Lapua Magnum or .375 CheyTac, you may want to start with a more economical caliber. For the ELR shooters who do not want to burn out the barrels on their $6,000 rifles, or find the cost per round prohibitive ($6-$10 per round), then use a more economical match rifle for practice. 308 Win, 6.5 CM, and 300 Win Mag are all good training rifles. Many of the PRS shooters will also set up a rifle in .223 Rem to save burning up their 6mm and 6.5mm match rifles. But once you have mastered the fundamentals, then you do not need to shoot as much just to maintain skills. A final note on reloading – while hand loading ammunition is more economical than buying factory ammo, most top shooters reload for improved accuracy and precision and less for cost saving.

4. Frequency is more important than quantity – Understand that frequency and quality of shooting is more important than quantity. In other words, shooting 20 to 50 rounds every week in a discipline training program is more beneficial than shooting 200 rounds once every two or three months. The reason for this is that you are developing and reinforcing neuro-muscle memory and good shooting habits through repetition. You also need to ensure that you are not shooting so much that you become lax and develop bad habits. On the same note, there is not substitute for shooting in matches. A new shooter will learn more in one match than in ten informal range sessions. He or she will also find the other competitors in their squad friendly and helpful.

5. Dry fire – The value of dry firing practice is an inexpensive way to work on shooting positions that also allow the shooter to observe trigger release through the scope. This is similar to the “ball and dummy” drill used in pistol training. When looking through the scope, and holding the crosshairs on target, any movement off the X during trigger release is indicative of problems with trigger control. In addition, when working on different supported shooting positions, the crosshair dancing around on the target gives immediate feedback on how stable the shooter is in that position. (Safety Note: Always ensure the rifle is unloaded before dry firing – check and double check)

6. Be confident in your shooting ability – This is not the over-confidence of a chest beating big ego, but the knowledge that you can produce the required precision and accuracy on demand. If you are laying behind the rifle and “hoping” that you hit the target or shoot a good group, then you lack the confidence that comes with experience. If you have done the required amount of practice, and have the rifle and ammo squared away, then you should “know” what you can do before you even pull the trigger. When you allow doubt to creep into your thought process, then your mental game is shot (pun intended).

7. Be honest with yourself – If you throw a flier or shoot a group that is over 1 MOA, then log it accurately in your data book. Don’t make the mistake of focusing on your best shot or best group of the day. To many shooters crow about the half-MOA group they shot, when all the other groups were more like 2 MOA. Rather, spend time studying the worst groups and worst shots to identify the problem and see how you can improve in the future. Remember, the goal is not to just hit the X ring, but to figure out why you threw an 8 or worse. The same is true for cold bore shots. Many shooters may find that their first shot of the day is a miss or outside the expected group, but this may not be the rifle. It may be that the shooter is cold and not in a perfect position. Your data log book is a valuable tool, but only if it accurately reflects the performance of your rifle, ammunition, and your personal ability.

122618 Berger 185-215

Every group tells a story when testing different ammunition loads. All should be recorded and logged for future reference. 

8. Never stop learning – Part of being a serious shooter, and not just a plinker, is a ceaseless quest for improvement and innovation. A good example is the evolution in shooter friendly ballistic solvers and supporting peripherals in the last 10 years. Probably the three biggest advancements in these shooting tools are Applied Ballistics analytics, the Kestrel 5700 Elite with AB, and a selection of compact, reliable laser rangefinders. The Garmin Foretrex 701 GPS loaded with AB ballistics is another useful tool in the field, especially for the hunter or warfighter.

Mark Lonsdale Shooter 20190628

Tools of the trade for long range shooting – an accurate rifle, hand loaded ammunition, a reliable chronograph (Labradar), and a ballistics solver that tracks changes in the environment (Kestrel 5700 with AB solutions) 

9. Keep an open mind – With the recent developments in rifles, calibers, cartridges, and bullets, be open to superior systems and calibers. While the 308 Win., 300 Win Mag., and 338 Lapua Magnum are still relevant, it is worth investigating 6.5 Creedmoor, 300 PRC, 300 Norma Magnum, and 338 Norma Magnum to see if they better meet your long range needs. While it is not necessary to run out and buy every new caliber that comes down the pike, it is worth taking the time to do some online research, find an opportunity to shoot them, and then make comparisons. The same is true of optics. Leupold and Nightforce have both made advances in superior long range optics suited to competition, hunting, law enforcement and military applications.

20190621 AX-AICS

MK13 MOD7 clone, .300 WinMag, built on a Stiller’s action, topped with a Nightforce 5-25x56mm ATACR, similar to the current rifle used my Marine Corps snipers.  

10. Keep your training interesting – All too many shooters go to the range with no defined goals and shoot just for fun. Having fun is important, but working on issues from the previous range session is more important. Let’s say you were shooting great at 100 yards but struggling at 300 yards, then work on your 300 yard shooting. The same is true out to 600, 1,000, and 1,500 yards. A shooter with a new rifle or ammunition will also want to begin with a solid 100 yard zero and then begin collecting data at longer ranges. The goal is to validate the data from your ballistics solver (Kestrel with AB solution) and to establish the limitations of the rifle, caliber, scope, and shooter. Hitting steel plates at progressively longer distances is both satisfying and fun.

Team GPG Mark Lonsdale

Team Global Precision competing at an ELR match in Raton, New Mexico. We would not be able to score hits at 1,500 to 3,500 yards without Applied Ballistics analytics, Kestrel 5700s with AB, and Garmin 701 GPSs 

11. Be open to advice from informed professionals – If you’re on a public range or department range and look across at another shooter’s target and see that he or she is absolutely drilling it, maybe there is an opportunity to learn some. In most cases you will find that accomplished shooters are willing to share their knowledge and make suggestions on how you can improve your performance. It may be something as simple as a change in equipment or ammunition, to how to better run the ballistics in your Kestrel. More than once a shooter has asked me for advice on the range, usually because they are struggling to hit what they shoot at. All too often I will find that their scope is incorrectly mounted, they are using cheap bulk ammunition, they are resting the barrel on a hard surface, or they have no concept of squeezing the trigger as opposed to jerking the trigger. All rookie mistakes that are easily corrected with a little constructive advice.

For many of you, much of what has been covered here is old news, but there may be one or two points that gave you cause to think. But for many rookie shooters, much of this is new, so feel free to share it with your friends or shooting club.

HAVE FUN & BE SAFE

END

20181205_153553

.308 Win tactical rifle built by Robar on a 700 Rem action, Bartlein barrel and McMillan A3-5 stock. 

Posted in 375 CheyTac, 416 Barrett, Cutting Edge Bullets, Designated Marksman, ELR, Mark Lonsdale, Precision Rifle Shooting, PRS, Reloading, Remington 700, Rifle Shooting, Sniper, STTU, Tactical Rifle Shooters, Team Global Precision | Leave a comment

DON’T GO UNDER GUNNED

By Mark V. Lonsdale, STTU

So what does it mean to be under gunned?

Much of this discussion is situation dependent, but in short, under gunned means that the firearm that you are carrying or selected lacks either power, range, or capacity for the intended use.

For example, a defensive handgun is convenient for every day carry (EDC), but probably not what you would choose if you were knowingly entering a dangerous situation. One thing that is accurate in many western movies is that the sheriff grabs a shotgun or Winchester when about to confront the bad guys.

Marlin Guide 45-70

Marlin Guide Gun in 45-70 Govt. A truly hard hitting brush gun. 

There is an old expression, “never take a knife to a gunfight” but it is also true to not intentionally take a handgun to gunfight. If you have ever been on a shooting range (or in combat), when someone is shooting a handgun and everyone else is shooting rifles, the difference in power is dramatic. The handgun sounds like a pop-gun compared to the boom and crack of the rifle rounds. If you also look at the impacts on steel targets, 308 Win hits much harder than 9mm or even 45 ACP, and .300 Win Mag hits harder than .308 Win at long range.

So if you have the choice, and know you are going in harms way, then a 12 gauge or semi-auto rifle would be a better choice. The length of the shotgun or rifle would also be influenced by the environment or terrain. For close quarters urban fighting, a 10” to 14” barrel may be optimum, but for rural outdoor environments, a fully length 16” to 22” barrel would be a better choice.

On the topic of caliber, when SWAT teams and CT teams were embracing the H&K MP5 in the late 1970s and early 1980s, many traded in their M-16s for the handy, compact MP5s. But in doing this, they gave up their 100 to 400-yard capability of the 5.56mm (.223 Rem) for a 9mm pistol cartridge more suited to 25 to 50 yards. This became evident during a hostage rescue operation in the 1980s when the rescue team, armed with 9mm MP5s, began taking enemy rifle fire from 300 to 400 yards. This type of event resulted in almost every SWAT team going from the MP5 9mm to the M4 5.56mm and its numerous variations.

Load out

For the conventional military application, the M16 5.56mm became popular in the jungle environments of Vietnam where ranges were relatively short and the ability to carry more rounds was considered important. Precision engagement of individual enemy soldiers was replaced by squad and platoon-level mass fire into the jungle or night. Statistically, tens of thousands of rounds were being expended for each confirmed kill. But in embracing the 5.56mm, the deep thinkers in the Pentagon were neglecting the probability of future conflicts in more open terrain.

The open terrain of Afghanistan requiring effective engagements out passed 600 meters

Therefore, when our war fighters entered Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001 and 2003, it quickly became apparent that the 5.56mm round, in the hands of the average grunt, was not very effective out passed 400 yards. As a result, 7.62mm M14s were dusted off and refurbished as designated marksmen rifles (DMR), soon to be replaced by the M110 on the SR25 platform. Initially, designated marksmen were one for each platoon, but have now been pushed down to the squad level. There is also a range of more suitable rifles such as the Heckler & Koch HK417 (7.62x51mm) complete with optical sights by Leupold, Nightforce, and SIG.

HK SDM-R

H&K DMR rifle 

For the hunter, it would be considered unethical to hunt with a rifle that lacked the accuracy, range, or power to kill cleanly. While there are numerous stories of large game being taken with a .22 rimfire, these are the exception and still have a high potential for losing a wounded animal. Similarly, when hunting dangerous game, the hunter needs to know that the animal will be dropped in its tracks, and this requires a more powerful cartridge. There is a reason that the .375 H&H is one of the most popular calibers with hunting guides in Africa, and rapid second shot follow-up should be a smooth, practiced skill.

Rem 700 375 HH

Remington 700 .375 H&H 

This brings up one of the most common questions found on Facebook shooting pages – “what is the best caliber for hunting?” As you all know, there is no one answer since it depends on the type and size of game, the anticipated distances, and the ability of the shooter. Having talked to numerous hunting guides, and watched hundreds of would-be hunters zeroing their rifles for hunting season, it is fairly obvious that all too many hunters have little to no fundamental shooting skills. They probably had no formal instruction and don’t practice regularly so their accuracy sucks. So instead of asking, “what caliber” they should be asking, “how many rounds should I shoot in practice prior to hunting season?” or “where can I get good instruction prior to hunting season?”

Back to the topic of caliber, traditionally two calibers that have harvested almost any game in North America are 7mm Rem Mag and .300 Win Mag, but in more recent years, newer calibers such as 28 Nosler, 30 Nosler, 300 Norma Mag, and 300 PRC have gained popularity and acceptance.  In short, when you hit an animal, you want to see it physically shudder and drop, or stagger several yards and drop. This comes down to shot placement and energy dump, a result of bullet weight, construction, and velocity. Given the choice, the goal should be to be slightly over-gunned than under gunned, but whatever you choose, shot placement is everything, and this requires practice at the distances you plan to hunt. Therefore it would be unethical to only practice at 100 yards and then attempt shots at 600+ yards without a proven ability at long range shooting.

For long range competition shooting (800 to 1,000 yards), there are several light calibers, in the 6mm range, that are deadly accurate under ideal conditions, but when the wind is blowing, most top shooters opt for the 200, 210, 215 and 220 grain 30 caliber bullets. For decades I shot 190 grain Sierra Match Kings (SMK) with considerable success at 1,000 yards, but now my long range bullets of choice are the Berger 185 Juggernauts, 200 grain Hybrids, and 215 grain Hybrids – all worth checking out. The military has leaned the same lesson by now running the 220 grain SMKs in their .300 Win Mags, such as the Marines’ Mk13 Mod 7.

20171027_165721_resized

.308 Win long range rifle (600-1,000 yards) built on the McMillan A5 stock with a Heavy Palma Bartlein barrel.  

20190621 AX-AICS.jpg

Mk13 Mod7 clone built on a Stiller’s MK13 action and Bartlein barrel in .300 Win Mag, utilizing the Berger factory 185 Juggernauts and 215 Hybrids. The Federal Gold Medal 190 SMKs used as the standard by which other factory ammunition is evaluated. 

Extreme long range shooting (ELR), out passed 1,500 yards, has further illustrated the importance of heavy bullets with a high ballistic coefficient (BC), pushed at adequate velocity,  for effective target engagement. While many smaller bullets may go the distance, their loss in energy and velocity results in tumbling and erratic performance. The light bullets are also adversely affected by even light winds. There is a reason that .375 CheyTac and .416 Barrett are dominating ELR shooting. Their heavier bullets, such as Cutting Edge 400 and 550 grain Lazers respectively, not only hit hard at 2,500 to 3,500 yards, they maintain energy, stability, and wind bucking ability.

Mark Lonsdale Shooter 20190628

.416 Barrett ELR rifle built on a BAT action, Bartlein barrel, in a McMillan Beast-2 stock. Ammunition is the Cutting Edge 550 grain bullet loaded into Barrett/Ruag brass with VihtaVuori powder

To wrap this up, when you are expressing an opinion on Facebook about “the best caliber,” give some careful consideration to the type of competition, game, and distances involved. The choice for a small deer is not the same as the ideal caliber for a massive elk or grizzly bears. Similarly, hunting in North America is not the same as hunting dangerous game in Africa. For defensive purposes, a 9mm for EDC is convenient and better than nothing, but it is not the weapon or caliber of choice for intentionally going in harms way.

On a positive note, you now have a valid reason to purchase multiple handguns, rifles and shotguns for various applications such has defense, competition, or hunting.

BE SAFE OUT THERE

END

Posted in 375 CheyTac, 416 Barrett, Cutting Edge Bullets, Designated Marksman, ELR, F-TR, Mark Lonsdale, Precision Rifle Shooting, Remington 700, Rifle Shooting, Sniper, STTU, Tactical Rifle Shooters | Leave a comment

ELR Shooting & Half Value Adjustments

By Mark V. Lonsdale, STTU

Team Global Precision – Derek, Paul & Mark

One of the (many) potential mistakes made in ELR shooting is over compensating for a miss and then missing again but in the opposite direction. This can result from making a full-value adjustment instead of a half-value hold or adjustment

For the purpose of this discussion, we will be engaging a steel plate at 2,000 yards and making the the assumption that the shooter, rifle, and ammo are capable of at least MOA accuracy at that distance (approx 20″ group at 2,000 yards).

Target 2 Group

With a steel plate that is roughly 24″ x 40″ this is what a 20″ group would look like. Keep in mind that the shooter has no way of predicting where a shot will fall within that group. It could be on the very left side of the group or very right side of the group, or high or low.

Now the shooter’s first shot is off the right edge, possibly because of an unseen wind shift from 9 o’clock, and the spotter calls for an adjustment and says, “Aim left edge”

Target 3

Shooter aims center but first shot misses to the right — however, the shooter does not realize that the shot was already on the far right edge of the group. Had it been centered or left of center, the shot would have hit the plate. This is the random nature of large groups at longer ranges. 

Target 4

Shooter makes a full-value adjustment to the left edge of the target

The problem with this full-value adjustment is that the shooter is thinking of the shot as a single point of aim rather than the center of a 20″ group.

Target 5

By using a full-value adjustment, the shooter risks missing off the left edge since over half the group could be left of the point of aim.

The solution is to use a half-value adjustment to the sights or hold. The goal being to keep the entire random nature of the grouping within the steel target.

Target 6

By making a half-value adjustment, the shooter has increased the probability of a second round impact on the steel target. 

Try this the next time you are hunting steel at extreme long ranges, and remember, carry a mental image of the size of your group at the target distance.  The other important requirement is a good spotting scope and spotter. If he or she can’t see your misses, there is no way of knowing how to adjust sights or point of aim.

END

Mark Lonsdale .416 Barrett

.416 Barrett built on a BAT action and Bartlein barrel in a McMillan Beast-2 stock. 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in 375 CheyTac, 416 Barrett, Barrett Firearms, Cutting Edge Bullets, ELR, Extreme Long Range Shooting, Mark Lonsdale, Peterson brass, Precision Rifle Shooting, Reloading, Rifle Shooting, STTU, Tactical Rifle Shooters, Team Global Precision | 4 Comments

FCSA ELR Matches in Raton, NM

This week was the first major competition for Team Global Precision competing as a team. Paul and Derek have been competing together in both FTR and ELR matches for years, making Mark the new addition to the team.

Team GPG Mark Lonsdale

Team Global Precision – Derek Rodgers, Paul Phillips, Mark Lonsdale

The first match was the 2019 Fifty Caliber Shooters’ Assn (FCSA) ELR Record Match at the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, NM. For those who have never been to the Whittington Center, it is well worth the visit and annual membership is very affordable.

FCSA Raton

Site of the FCSA ELR Record Match at the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, NM

The ELR record match was shot on the south range with targets at 2,300, 2,585, and 2,725 yards. Weather was cold and clear but wind was brutal. The 40F temp was sufficient to slow my muzzle velocity from 3,000 fps to 2,950 fps with my .416 Barrett.

Mark Lonsdale .416 Barrett

Mark Lonsdale’s .416 Barrett with a BAT action and Bartlein barrel, bedded into a McMillan Beast-2 stock by Alex Sitman, and topped with a Nightforce ATACR 7-35x scope. Ammunition is Cutting Edge 550 grain Lazers loaded into Barrett/Ruag brass and pushed by VihtaVouri powder.

Proof that the wind conditions were tough, no one scored hits on all three targets in round one, and only four shooters scored hits at 2,725 years. Being one of this successful shooters earned me 3rd place, but it was definitely a team effort with Derek spotting and Paul calling wind. In round two later in the day, only one shooter scored a hit on the record attempt target at 2,300 yards.

Mark-Lonsdale 3rd

Team Global Precision’s Mark Lonsdale taking 3rd place in the FCSA ELR World Record Attempt Match, Raton, NM

The next day, Team Global Precision shot in the FCSA 1.5 Mile ELR Match. Round 1 targets in the morning were at 1,040 yds, 1,080 yds, 1,380 yds, and 1,801 yds. Round 2 were at 1,040 yds, 1,991 yds, 2,267 yds, and 2,650 yds – all with strong, gusting and rapidly changing winds.

FCSA Targets

The 1,040 yard target was the 10” cold bore gong, and all three members of Team Global Precision successfully hit this with their morning cold bore shots. That is pretty good considering the gong is smaller than 1 MOA at over 1,000 yards.

As part of the preparation for both matches, on the first day team members chronographed their loads early in the morning at 40F temps, and then again in the afternoon at 60F temps. There was a 25 fps difference in muzzle velocity. For my rifle it was 2,950 in the morning and 2,975 fps later in the day as things warmed up. An accurate MV is critical to long range shooting and needed for input into the Kestrel 5700 or Applied Ballistics analytics.

GPG Kestrel Garmin

Team Global Precision, Derek Rodgers, Paul Phillips, and Mark Lonsdale, all utilizing the Kestrel 5700 and Garmin 701 Foretrex loaded with Applied Ballistics solvers. 

After the first day of the FCSA 1.5 Mile ELR match, Derek was in 2nd place, Mark in 3rd, and Paul in 5th, however some excellent shooters on Day 2 knocked us down the score sheet with Steve Ream taking top honors. The conditions were warmer but the wind was not cooperating. We had winds gusting well over 15 mph from 6 o’clock (behind), but as they hit the base of the mountains, the winds created an up slope updraft that caused shots out passed 2,000 yards to go high. But just when you thought you had that wind doped, it would switch to a gusting 9 o’clock (left to right) pushing bullets 20 feet to the right. A very challenging day but good practice for Ko2M next month.

Lonsdale Mark Day 2

Team Global Precision preparing to shoot the FCSA 1.5 Mile ELR Match. Mark Lonsdale shooting, Derek Rodgers spotting, and Paul Phillips calling wind. 

Special thanks to FCSA, Randy Powell, Walt Wiltinson, and Shane Saavedra for making this match a great success.

END

Posted in 416 Barrett, Barrett Firearms, Cutting Edge Bullets, ELR, Extreme Long Range Shooting, Mark Lonsdale, Rifle Shooting, STTU, Tactical Rifle Shooters, Team Global Precision | Leave a comment

Reloading for Long Range and ELR Shooting (Simplified)

By Mark V. Lonsdale

Your reloading process should begin by clearing the bench of any powders or primers from the previous caliber being loaded. More than a few shooters have had nasty accidents by loading the wrong powder and blowing up their guns.

20190112_141145

The powder keg behind the hopper serves as a reminder of which powder is in the measure. This bench is set up left to right – case prep, priming, powder measure and scales, bullet seating

The next step is to inspect all the components, beginning with the brass, paying particular attention to the neck and primer flash hole. With virgin brass I will use a mandrel to clean up the roundness of the neck and then de-bur inside and outside. Serious shooters may also sort their cases and bullets by weight prior to beginning reloading.

20190112_141146

Powered de-burring tool used to clean up the case necks before priming 

After priming, I set the measure to throw two or three tenths of a grain less than the targeted load. For example, if my load is 135 grains for 375 CT, I will be throwing 134.7 or 134.8 grains and then making up the final 0.2 with the trickler to exactly 135 grains. Slow, but simple and accurate. There are more expensive options but this seems to work for me.

20190112_141153

Manually trickling up to exactly 135.0 grains 

After adding the powder, visually verify that there is powder in each cartridge before seating the bullet. The last thing you need is to jam a bullet in the barrel with just the primer when there is no powder in the case. The cartridge overall length (COAL) may be driven by the magazine dimensions, if shooting a magazine fed rifle. But if shooting single shot, then 0.020″ off the lands is a good starting point for OAL development.

20190112_141248

Using Whidden dies in an RCBS Rock-chucker Supreme to seat Cutting Edge 400 grain Lazers into virgin Peterson brass. 

20190112_141259

The finished product. 50 rounds of 375 CheyTac running Cutting Edge 400 Lazers in Peterson Cartridge Co. brass

20190113_092558

The press to the right is a Lee Precision (90998) 50BMG to load .416 Barrett. Saves time by having a press for each caliber and only $106 for the press on Amazon. 

A note on safety. Reloading, like skydiving, is not an activity that should be approached casually or absentmindedly. A lapse in judgement can be fatal.

  1. Before getting into reloading, do your homework and background reading.
  2. Have a competent reloader teach you how to reload safely. There are also several good videos on YouTube.
  3. Organize your reloading bench and work with a calm, organized approach.
  4. Keep a log and detailed notes on each caliber, to include case length, type of primer, powder charge, lot numbers of powder and bullets, and seating depth (COAL). Then log any changes in accuracy seen with each load.
  5. Do not push the limits when starting out. Begin with a load that is well below the recommended maximum; then work your way up to the required velocity and accuracy.
  6. Don’t be in a rush to develop a load. Take your time and do it right.
  7. Use a quality chronograph in conjunction with your load development. This will give you a direct readout of Extreme Spread (ES) and Standard Deviation (SD). Low ES and SDs equates to low vertical spread on the target at longer ranges.
  8. You cannot develop accurate loads with an inaccurate rifle. Have a realistic expectation as to the accuracy you can expect from a lightweight factory hunting rifle versus a custom heavy barrel target rifle.
  9. You cannot develop accurate loads if your foundational shooting skills are poor. If you are a novice shooter, take a class and get some coaching from a competent shooter.
  10. If you are getting into ELR shooting, you will find the other shooters very helpful, but before you post rookie questions on facebook, do your own research. Google is an incredible tool for ballistics research, as are the books from Applied Ballistics

Finally, loading your own ammunition can be very satisfying, especially when you see the improved accuracy over factory ammunition. There are cost savings too, but most reloaders are loading for accuracy not cost.

END

 

 

Posted in 375 CheyTac, 416 Barrett, Barrett Firearms, Cutting Edge Bullets, ELR, Extreme Long Range Shooting, F-TR, Lee, Mark Lonsdale, Peterson brass, Precision Rifle Shooting, PRS, RCBS, Reloading, Rifle Shooting, Sniper, STTU, Tactical Rifle Shooters | 6 Comments