By Mark V. Lonsdale, STTU
As you all know, 2020 was a bust for Ko2M ELR shooting so a quick look back at 2019
By Mark V. Lonsdale, STTU
As you all know, 2020 was a bust for Ko2M ELR shooting so a quick look back at 2019
Well worth reading from Cal at Precision Rifle Blog
By Mark V. Lonsdale
Can a big bore, belted magnum, dangerous game cartridge produce the same accuracy as a precision long range rifle? Absolutely, but the rifle must be built to the same demanding specs as a precision rifle. Where 2″ at 100 yards can be considered acceptable for an off-the-shelf factory hunting rifle, long range precision shooters are looking for not just sub-MOA but 0.5 MOA. In practical terms, 2″ at 100 is 4″ at 200 and 6″ at 300 yards, well within the heart and lung kill zone on a large animal. But once a shooter has been bitten by the precision shooting bug, only super accurate rifles are interesting.
For this project the rifle was built the same way I build my long range and ELR precision rifles. This begins with a Stiller’s Action, Bartlein barrel, McMillan stock, and Bix’N Andy trigger, topped with a Leupold Mark 5HD 5-25x scope.
Initial break-in with 32 rounds was done with an assortment of ammunition that I had on the shelf from previous .375 H&H rifles and plans to head to Africa. Some loads were over 20 years old and mostly Hornady 270 RN and Speer 270 Spitzer bullets in Remington brass, with Federal magnum primers, and loaded with IMR 4064. None of the components were match grade, the brass was virgin factory RP, the primers were 215s, and the cartridge overall length (COAL) was kept at SAAMI specs or less (<3.600″).
Needless to say, I was not expecting anything great out of the first range session. Groups ran 1.5″ to 2″ which is adequate for hunting at close to medium range, but definitely not in the class for precision long range shooting. However the goal was just to break in the barrel.
After giving the bore a good clean it was time to get serious. I had measured the chamber and knew that loading to SAAMI specs of <3.600″ left a jump of almost 0.200″ to the rifling, depending on bullet ogive. That is two hundred thou as a opposed to the general starting point of twenty thou (0.020″) off the lands. This prompted me to begin with a COAL of 3.650″ and 3.700″ since my magazine box could handle a COAL up to 3.825″
As for bullets, I loaded up Hornady 250 GMXs, Barnes 250 TTSXs, and Hornady 270 RN. I also tried Varget and IMR 4350 in addition to IMR 4064. This was still with virgin factory RP brass and Federal magnum 215 primers – and still not match components.
The 250 GMXs with 65 grains of Varget, loaded to 3.700″, had an average muzzle velocity of 2,616 fps and produced a 5-shot group of 0.7″
The Barnes 250 TTSXs with 65 grains of Varget, loaded to a COAL of 3.650″, had an average MV of 2,586 fps and produced a 5-shot group of 0.7″ with best 4 going 0.5″
The Hornady 270 Round Nose with 70 grains of IMR 4350, loaded to 3.600″, turned in an MV of 2,366 fps and a 5-shot group of 0.8″ with best 4 going 0.4″
All three of these loads are definitely in the acceptable range for precision shooting, and still without any brass preparation, bullet sorting by weight, or match-grade magnum primers. So stay tuned for Part 2 when I begin doing more brass prep and utilizing match-grade primers.
By Mark V. Lonsdale, STTU
One of the previous TRS blog posts discussed why cheap scopes simply don’t cut it when it comes to long range precision shooting, and especially extreme long range (ELR) shooting at multiple targets positioned at various distances. Similarly, cheap bipods can severely degrade accuracy and speed at longer ranges.
I’ve lost count of how many shooters have turned up to STTU precision rifle classes with cheap, wobbly bipods only to invest in a better unit before the end of the program. For decades, the Harris Bipod has been the standard for most recreational shooters, including military and law enforcement snipers, but unfortunately numerous companies produced cheap knock-offs, usually made in China, that were little more than junk. To this day, the Harris Bipod is still a good choice for hunting rifles and military snipers where weight and cost are an issue.
However, in recent years, just as rifle scopes have made huge advancements in quality and precision with models such as the Leupold Mark 5HD and Nightforce ATACR, bipod manufacturers have risen to the demands of precision shooters. Atlas and Accu-Tac are two such manufacturers.
The features that are desirable in a bipod include:
Other features may include:
The width of the bipod footprint is particularly important with calibers that generate considerable torque as the heavier bullets pass down the bore. Following the law of “equal and opposite reaction,” when the bullet slams into the rifling in a right-hand twist barrel, the rifling forces the bullet to spin to the right. Conversely, the bullet is trying to force the barrel and rifle to twist to the left. With a narrow bipod, this toque to the left can cause the rifle to rock onto one leg and the whole rifle to twist to the left. A wide bipod and an effective muzzle brake can go a long way to taming that torque. This is particularly important when engaging multiple targets with multiple shots at varying distances and angles, as found in PRS and ELR matches.
For calibers such as .308 Win and 6.5 Creedmoor, with 168-175 grain and 140-147 grain bullets respectively, do not generate much torque so a standard width bipod will do the job. But when a shooter begins running 250 to 350 grain bullets in .338 and .375 calibers, then the toque needs a little more taming. The Accu-Tac WD series of bipods are particularly effective at this.
So is the added cost worth it? You bet. Once you’ve shot a quality, stable bipod, it is hard to go back to anything less.
By Mark V. Lonsdale
The five month project rifle came to completion yesterday with the arrival of the UPS truck – a custom .375 H&H big game hunting rifle. This began back in June with the order of a Stiller’s Predator action, Bartlein #4 Bull Sporter barrel, a McMillan Tactical Hunter stock, and a Bix’N Andy Dakota trigger.
For anyone planning a custom build, it is recommend to order all the components at the same time since manufacture lead time and delivery can vary based on availability, demand, and time of year.
Break-in and testing will begin this week with an assortment of bullets, powders, and loads to include Hornady 270 grain Round Nose, Hornady 250 grain GMX, and Speer 270 grain BTSP, with Sierra and Barnes next week. Powders will include IMR 4064, Varget, IMR 4350, and H4350.
Most of the rounds are currently loaded to close to SAAMI COAL spec of 3.600″ but .375 H&H chamber throats are actually cut quite long, allowing for rounds to be loaded out to 3.750+” depending on the ogive of the bullet. Using a Hornady Lock N’ Load, some bullets were touching the lands at 3.787″-3.878″ and the Sierra 350 grain SMK was 4.000″. This will make for some interesting testing to see which bullets like a running start of 0.200″ and which perform better with less jump closer to 0.020″
Stay tuned for updates later this week….
Mark V. Lonsdale, STTU
By Mark V. Lonsdale, STTU
After over three decades of running training for law enforcement and military snipers, plus civilian long range precision rifle classes, one of the single most significant roadblocks has been inexpensive scopes and mounts. While poor fundamental marksmanship skills and sub-standard ammo (not match grade) are also issues, hunting-grade, cheap scopes are a recurring problem.
One problem is expecting inexpensive, hunting-grade scopes to do the same job as a quality, high-end sniper or long range scope. Where a hunting scope is designed to be zeroed and then not changed season after season, a long range target scope, and especially one being used for PRS or ELR shooting, is dialed up and down to its full range multiple times a day. This simply requires a more robust, more precise internal mechanism to do that consistently.
Taking a look back, the follow is a list of some of the issues trainees have had with their scopes:
In general, I recommend that aspiring long range shooters look at what the top competitors are using and follow their lead. Most or the top shooters are using either Leupold Mark 5HDs or NightForce ATACRs in 5-25x56mm or 7-35x56mm, either MOA or MILs. The following are some of the requirements for selecting a reliable long range rifle scope:
Keep in mind that a scope that has 80 MOA of elevation, will have only 40 up and 40 down from zero with a flat-top base. That will get you to 1,000 yards with a .308 Win. A 20 MOA base should improve this to 60 MOA up and 20 MOA down. This is the reason most PRS and ELR shooters select scopes with 100+ MOA or 30+ MILs or elevation, and then run 40-70 MOA bases to optimize their long range capability.
One of the problems we often see on the range is shooters with scopes that claim to have all of the above features, but at a fraction of the price of a true long range scope. While these lesser known scopes may look like their big brothers, they simply do not have the precise internal mechanisms or range of adjustment. A $400-$600 scope will simply not do what a $2,000 to $3,000 scope will do.
In a recent class, one of these cheaper scopes topped out at 25 MOA, so was not able to reach even 1,000 yards (requiring 30-40MOA depending on caliber). Another scope dialed up 2 MOA (20.94″ at 1,000 yards) but the bullet impact moved over 5 feet. And a third was not able to hold zero or run a box drill and return to zero.
A useful initial test for a new scope is to run a box drill. This can be done by securing the scope or rifle in a cradle and then watching the reticle move on a calibrated target, or by actually shooting it. To shoot a box drill at 100 yards, simply shoot a group on a 1″ target spot, then dial up 5 MOA (or 2 Mils) and shoot two rounds while still aiming at the target spot. Then dial right 5 MOA and shoot two more rounds; then down 5 MOA; and then left 5 MOA and shoot the final two rounds. If using MOA, this should produce a perfect 5.23″ box and the last two shots should be inside the original group. If using 2 Mils, the box will be 7.2″
Another test is a tall target test on a graduated target to ensure the scope is tracking accurately to its limits of elevation and the scope is mounted correctly.
By Mark V. Lonsdale, STTU
“No matter how long it takes, no matter where we have to look, our United States military will patiently and surely hunt down the murderers and killers and terrorists, and bring them, one by one, to justice.” President George W. Bush – Commander in Chief
Monday, September 10, 2001 had been a crisp, clear day at the USMC Mountain Warfare Training Center (MWTC). It was sunset as I watched 5th Platoon, 1st Force Recon Marines, their faces ominously obscured under layers of green camouflage paint, go through last minute equipment checks, preparing to be inserted into the mountains for a five-day recon-patrol exercise. MBITRs (multi-band inter/intra-team radios) frequencies had been set and tested; sat-com radios were safely stowed in already bulging rucksacks; PVS-17 night sights were clamped to M-4 carbines and SAWS (squad automatic weapons); and all loose straps were neatly taped and stowed.
Captain Fiscus and Gunny Blakey moved amongst the group checking equipment, quietly asking questions and giving encouragement. It was essential that every man understood the mission and knew his specific tasks.
The planned airborne parachute insertion had been aborted an hour earlier when the CH-53 troop-carrying helicopters could not make the pre-sunset time-line. With the flexibility typical of any spec-ops unit, the platoon commander opted for a vehicle insertion to the pre-planned DZ at 7,500 feet elevation.
As the Sierra Nevadas turned purple and faded into total darkness, and before the moon could break through, the Gunny signaled the teams to saddle up and silently move out. It was impressive to see and yet not hear twenty Marines, each burdened with a hundred pounds of weapons, radios and equipment, move off into the inky blackness without so much as a single sound.
So by midnight I found myself with two choices. The first was to link up with the “opposition force” and try to find these phantoms – but since they had already proven themselves adept at night movement and had the advantage of Gen III night vision devices, there was little to no hope of finding them that night. So I opted for the second choice – to drive back to Los Angeles with the plan of returning to MWTC for their extract in five days.
Arriving home at five-thirty in the morning, and after two days without sleep, I showered and hit the rack. Sleep came quickly but not for long. Sometime before zero seven the phone began an incessant ringing. It was my neighbor babbling something about watching my place while I was away. “While I’m a way?” I asked groggily, “I just got home!”
She then blurted out that terrorists had attacked New York and the Pentagon and I needed to turn on the television. Flipping to CNN I was just in time to see a passenger airliner hit the World Trade Center. Then there was footage from the Pentagon; then back to New York as the second tower was hit. Confused and half asleep I felt like I was watching a Schwarznegger movie. Was this really the news? I quickly flipped through the local morning news line up – ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox – but all coverage was focused on New York and the Pentagon.
By mid-morning I had a passing thought about the Marine Force Recon platoon that had just disappeared into the mountains the night before and would be emerging in five days to a very different United States. Having worked in counter terrorism and training for over 20 years, I knew that what we were seeing was a whole new level of terrorist violence and destruction. The news media was already speculating on the potential casualties in New York and it was in the thousands, many times more than Pearl Harbor.
But now the proverbial “gloves were coming off.” The US military was going to be given the teeth to hunt and kill those who meant us harm. Little did I know at that time, that I would be in and out of Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa a dozen times over the next 10 years.
Never Forget 9-11
There are no simple answers when it comes to selecting a firearm and accompanying ammunition. How accurately you shoot is far more important than the type of rifle, cartridge, and bullet you choose. Alaska has some very large game animals, including 1600-pound mature bull moose and 1500-pound coastal brown bears. Moose or brown bear hit in the gut with a large caliber magnum rifle such as the popular .338 Winchester® Magnum is wounded and just as likely to escape as if it had been hit with a small caliber rifle such as the .243 Winchester®. The bore size, bullet weight, and velocity are of secondary importance to precise bullet placement in the vital heart-lung area.
It is important for the hunter to have a good knowledge of game anatomy, the ability to correctly judge distance, the discipline to take only shots that can be made with certainty, and the ability to shoot accurately from sitting, kneeling, and standing positions. You should be able to reliably place a bullet in a circle the size of the game’s heart/lung zone from hunting positions at the distances you expect to be shooting. As long as the caliber is reasonable and a quality bullet is used, hunters kill game quickly and humanely with precise bullet placement.
If you presently own a rifle chambered for the .270 Winchester, 7mm-08, .308 Winchester or .30-06 and can place all of your shots in an 8-inch circle out to 200 yards from a sitting or kneeling position you can be a successful Alaska hunter. To be as effective as possible, these cartridges should be loaded with premium quality bullets that are designed to pass completely through a large game animal, if hit in the heart-lung area.
The rifle you bring hunting should be one with which you are comfortable. Because of the presence of brown and grizzly bears, many hunters have been convinced that a .300, .338, .375, or .416 magnum is needed for personal protection and to take large Alaska game. This is simply not true. The recoil and noise of these large cartridges is unpleasant at best and plainly painful to many shooters. It is very difficult to concentrate on shot placement when your brain and body remembers the unpleasant recoil and noise which occurs when you pull the trigger on one of the big magnums.
The two most common complaints of professional Alaska guides are hunters who are not in good physical condition and hunters who cannot accurately shoot their rifles. Because these hunters do not practice enough they cannot shoot accurately enough. They miss their best chance at taking their dream animal or worse yet, they wound and lose an animal. Most experienced guides prefer that a hunter come to camp with a .270 or .30-06 rifle they can shoot well rather than a shiny new magnum that has been fired just enough to get sighted-in. If you are going to hunt brown bear on the Alaska Peninsula or Kodiak Island, a .30-06 loaded with 200- or 220-grain Nosler® or similar premium bullet will do the job with good shot placement. Only consider using a .300, .338 or larger magnum if you can shoot it as well as you can the .30-06.
It is very popular now to purchase large magnum rifles equipped with a muzzle brake. Most muzzle brakes are very effective at reducing recoil. A .375 magnum with a muzzle brake recoils much like a .30-06. Before convincing yourself that you should use a muzzle-braked rifle, consider its disadvantages. A muzzle-brake increases the muzzle blast and noise to levels that quickly damage the ear. Even when just sighting in or practicing, everyone near you at the range will find the blast and noise bothersome. Anyone near the muzzle brake when the rifle is fired may suffer hearing loss or physical damage to the ear. An increasing number of guides will not allow a hunter to use a muzzle brake because of the danger of hearing loss.
Rather than rely on a muzzle-brake to reduce recoil, use a rifle heavy enough to reduce recoil. If you are planning on packing out moose meat, caribou meat, or a brown bear hide weighing hundreds of pounds, you can carry a 9- to 11-pound rifle including scope. A rifle of this weight in .300 or .338 magnum can be mastered with a lot of practice. You can also avoid using a muzzle-brake by selecting a cartridge that you can shoot comfortably and enjoy shooting enough to practice with frequently. For most hunters, the upper limit of recoil is the .30-06 or 7mm Remington Magnum®. A majority of hunters are more comfortable with a .308 or .270.
If you are choosing a rifle for hunting in Alaska, you should strongly consider a modern bolt action rifle made of stainless steel bedded in a synthetic stock. A bolt action is recommended because it is mechanically simple, can be partially disassembled in the field for cleaning, and is the most reliable action under poor weather conditions. Stainless steel is excellent for most Alaska hunting because it resists rust caused by rain or snow. However, stainless steel will rust with time so must be maintained after each day of field use.
Alaska big game varies from the relatively small (deer, goats) to the largest game on the continent (brown bears, moose). In general, hunters should select a larger caliber for the largest game. Cover type should also play a role in cartridge selection. Sheep and goats are almost always hunted in the mountains where long distance visibility is the rule. A smaller, flat-shooting cartridge may be best here. Deer in the coastal forests of Southeast Alaska are often shot at less than 20 yards. Moose in the Interior may be shot at intermediate distances. Select your cartridge based on the expected circumstances.
A high quality rifle bullet placed into the heart or lungs of a big game animal at approximately 2000 to 2800 feet per second will expand or “mushroom” and destroy the vital organs. The shape of the bullet has no direct effect on its function, its accuracy, or its ability to kill. A “round-nosed” bullet that penetrates and destroys a vital organ is just as effective as the most streamlined of bullets.
However, a pointed bullet does not lose velocity as quickly as a round-nosed bullet. For example, a .30-06 firing a 180-grain pointed bullet which leaves the barrel at 2700 feet per second, is travelling 2300 feet per second at 200 yards. In comparison, a round-nosed 180 grain bullet at the same speed will have slowed to 2000 feet per second at the same distance, because the pointed bullet can cut through the air with less resistance just like a sleek fighter jet. Under actual field conditions, this will make no difference between a good hit, bad hit, or miss. At distances beyond 200 yards, a pointed bullet will not drop as quickly as a round-nosed bullet. Most hunters should not shoot big game at distances further than 200 yards.
The bullet shape is not as important as the quality of the bullet and how well your rifle will shoot a particular bullet. Some rifles will shoot a pointed bullet more accurately and some will shoot a round-nosed bullet more accurately. You should try quality bullets of both shapes to find out which weight and shape produces greatest accuracy in your firearm.
A bullet must be “tough” enough to penetrate through skin, muscle, and even bone to reach the vital organs. It must also be “soft” enough to expand and disrupt the function of these vital organs. Throughout the history of bullet making, this has been the constant challenge—find the proper balance between “soft” and “tough.”
Modern bullets are typically constructed from a copper or copper alloy “jacket” that surrounds a lead or lead alloy core, except at the very tip or “nose” of the bullet. Most conventional bullets have jackets that are thin near the nose and taper to a thicker diameter near the base. This method of construction is designed to control the rate of expansion, as the bullet will open or “mushroom” quickly toward the thin “nose” but will not “mushroom” as quickly near the base. Examples of this type of bullet are the Hornaday Interlock®, Speer Grand-Slam®, and Remington Core-Lokt®.
The advantage of these bullets is that they are relatively inexpensive and work well on most game animals at ranges from 50 to 200 yards. At typical velocities, these are excellent bullets for almost any game. One can say with high confidence that a big game animal hit in the heart-lung vital zone with one of these bullets will die swiftly and certainly.
The next step in bullet construction and bullet complexity is the “partitioned” bullet. These include the Nosler Partition®, the Swift A-Frame®, and the Trophy Bonded Bear Claw®. These bullets share a common feature; all of them have a tapered jacket that is “H” shaped (see picture). The cross-bar of the “H” is a part of the jacket itself. Each end of the “H” is filled with lead, a lead alloy, or tungsten alloy. These bullets are designed to expand quickly at the front but never expand below the cross-bar of the “H.” In theory, this should be the best of both worlds: Excellent expansion to destroy tissue and a protected core that will ensure deep penetration.
The performance of partitioned bullets is excellent—they perform about as well in real life as in theory. If a moose, elk, caribou, or even brown bear is hit in the heart-lung vital area, these ultra-tough bullets often exit on the opposite side, leaving a better blood trail and ensuring a double-lung hit. The only negative of these premium bullets is cost. For example, a box of factory loads with Nosler®, Swift®, or Trophy Bonded® bullets typically costs at least twice as much as a box of conventional bullets.
To sum up on the subjects of firearm, cartridge, and ammunition selection: You can’t go wrong with a stainless steel bolt-action rifle chambered for a standard cartridge that you are comfortable with and can shoot accurately, loaded with a high quality bullet.
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