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>> 2017 VARMINT HUNTER BUYER’S GUIDE <<

SAVAGE MSR AN OLD-LINE GUN MAKER DIVES INTO THE AR GAME

.22 NOSLER A HOT NEW ALTERNATIVE TO THE .223

GOING STRAIGHT WHY OLD STRAIGHT-WALL ROUNDS ARE COMING BACK

BOLT BASICS PUSH OR CONTROLLED FEED—SHOULD YOU REALLY CARE?

RIFLE REPORT BROWNING AB3 HUNTER


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INSIDE

VOLUME 19 - ISSUE 3

May/June 2017

RIFLESHOOTERMAG.COM

FEATURES 20 Savage’s AR Play Can a maker of respected if plain bolt actions build an AR that will stand out in a crowded market? We think yes. by Patrick Sweeney

28 Straight Wall Resurgence

46 Beyond the .223

36 Nuts and Bolts There’s long been a debate on controlled-round-feed versus pushfeed bolt actions. Can Craig settle it? by Craig Boddington

42 Above Average

Changes in some states’ hunting regs bring renewed attention to old-school rifle rounds and pistol cartridges. by Brad Fitzpatrick

Nosler’s hot new .22 centerfire hopes to take the AR platform to new heights for hunters and long-range shooters. by David M. Fortier

54 Varmint Buyer’s Guide 2017 Guns, scopes, ammo and accessories just right for making this your best varmint season ever. by J. Scott Rupp

Savage has taken the design that first solved the .17 HMR semiauto and adapted it to other calibers. by Layne Simpson

42 ON THE COVER

Savage MSR-15 Michael Anschuetz photo

20

46

36

28

DEPARTMENTS 6 Mailroom Find out what’s on the minds of your fellow readers.

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Lands & Grooves • Crimson Trace Linq • .221 Fireball vs .222 Rem. • Great new gear

14 All That Brass

18 Tactical Technology

54

Colt trots out a pair of new ARs—one a nod to the rifle’s past and the other a look at its future. David M. Fortier

RIFLE REPORTS

64 The Last Word Is it the hunt itself or the rifle you’re using more important? Craig Boddington

Nosler enters the long-range bullet market with the Reduced Drag Factor in .224, 6mm, 6.5mm and .308. Joseph von Benedikt

60 Browning AB3 Hunter by Stan Trzoniec MAY/JUNE 2017

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Scope Package Models Also Available with Vortex ® Crossfire II ® 4-12 x 44 Riflescope

The 100% American-made Ruger American Rifle ® that set a new standard of excellence among full-featured, bolt-action rifles is available in Predator models. These rifles include all the features of the original Ruger American Rifle ®, plus a heavier tapered, threaded barrel and a factory-installed one-piece aluminum scope rail. The Ruger American Rifle ® Predator is another engineering innovation from America’s leading firearms manufacturer.

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RIFLESHOOTERMAG.COM PUBLISHER Chris AGNES

EDITORIAL STAFF EDITOR IN CHIEF J. Scott Rupp ART DIRECTOR Heather Ferro STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Michael Anschuetz GROUP ART DIRECTOR David Kleckner COPY EDITOR Michael Brecklin CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Craig Boddington, Brad Fitzpatrick, David M. Fortier, Rick Hacker, Layne Simpson, Jon R. Sundra, Patrick Sweeney, James Tarr, Stan Trzoniec Kathryn McGlothlen, Production Manager Al Ziegler, Production Coordinator ENDEMIC AD SALES NATIONAL ENDEMIC SALES Jim McCONVILLE (440) 327-3610 WESTERN REGION Hutch Looney hutch@hlooney.com MIDWEST/SOUTHEAST REGION Rob Walker (309) 679-5069 EAST COAST REGION Pat Bentzel (717) 695-8095 WESTERN REGION Tom Perrier (605) 348-4652 MIDWEST REGION Michael Garrison (309) 679-5054

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SUBSCRIPTION INQUIRIES Should you wish to change your address, order new subscriptions, or report a problem with your current subscription, you can do so by writing RifleShooter, P.O. Box 37539, Boone, IA 50037-0539, or e-mail us at rflcustserv@cdsfulfillment.com, or call TOLL FREE 1 (800) 627-7975. BE AWARE THAT PETERSEN’S RIFLESHOOTER ONLY ACCEPTS SUBSCRIPTION REQUESTS FROM AUTHORIZED AGENTS! WE MAY NOT HONOR REQUESTS FROM UNAUTHORIZED AGENTS, AND YOU THEREFORE MAY LOSE YOUR MONEY IF YOU BUY FROM AN UNAUTHORIZED AGENT. If you are offered a subscription to Petersen’s Rifleshooter , please call 1-800-627-7975 to determine if the agent is authorized. For more information on subscription scams, please visit www.ftc.gov. Subscription rate for one year is $19.94 (U.S., APO, FPO, and U.S. possessions). Canada add $13.00 (U.S. funds) per year, includes sales tax and GST. Foreign add $15.00 (U.S. funds) per year. Occasionally, our subscriber list is made available to reputable firms offering goods and services that we believe would be of interest to our readers. If you prefer to be excluded, please send your current address label and a note requesting to be excluded from these promotions to: OUTDOOR SPORTSMAN GROUP® 1040 6th Ave., 12th Floor New York, NY 10018-3703 Attn: Privacy Coordinator, or email your label information and note to privacycoordinator@outdoorsg.com FOR REPRINTS: For Reprints/Eprints or Licensing/Permissions, please contact: Wright’s Media – TOLL FREE 1 (877) 652-5295. Printed in the U.S.A.

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CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER Jeff Paro EVP, GROUP PUBLISHER, HUNTING & SHOOTING Mike Carney SENIOR VP, TV OPERATIONS GROUP PUBLISHER, FISHING Steve Hoffman VP, FINANCE & OPERATIONS Derek Sevcik VP, CONSUMER MARKETING Peter Watt VP, MANUFACTURING Deb Daniels VP, CONTENT DEVELOPMENT Todd Smith VP, DIGITAL SALES David Plante DIRECTOR, MARKETING Kim Shay SENIOR DIRECTOR, PRODUCTION Connie Mendoza PUBLISHING TECHNOLOGY DIRECTOR Kyle Morgan

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MAILROOM

What a Great Idea Enjoyed J. Scott Rupp’s “A Savage Appreciation” (“Lands & Grooves,” March/April), having acquired a saddle-weary 99C some years ago at a very nominal cost. I was faced with the question of what to do with it when a gunsmith and journeyman machinist friend of mine prevailed upon me to restore the stock and re-barrel it to .338 Federal. After numerous starts and stops, two years later the project was complete, and I could not have been more pleased. The rifle balances and handles well and shoots quite adequately for a firearm of this type. It has proved to be more than adequate on hogs, deer and black bear, and I’m pleased we were able to breathe new life into this icon of sporting rifles. Nicholas White Gadsden, AL

but the trigger mechanism was quite heavy because the trigger doubled as a bolt stop.” That is incorrect, as the 98 has a very good bolt stop on the left side of the rear receiver ring. It has had this from the first 98 ever built. William Brockman Gordonsville, VA

Keith’s Whelen I wished to correct the facts in the Layne Simpson’s article on the .35 Whelen. My friend and neighbor Elmer Keith didn’t trade in his .400 Whelen for a .35 as written. Elmer sold his .35 Whelen to a doctor in Ohio in the 1930s when he began experimenting with the .333 OKH cartridge. Keith’s .400 Whelen was a gift from James Howe in 1925, and he kept it until his passing. Robin Phillips Salmon, ID

Ain’t So

Missed Opportunity

I just finished reading the article on the Magnum Mauser by Brad Fitzpatrick (March/April). I would like to point out a major mistake in the history part of the article. He writes, “The original Mauser 98 was a great design,

I had been looking forward to the day when Mr. Fitzpatrick would put his ruler on the big .33s, and now that he has (“Lands & Grooves,” March/April),I am disappointed he didn’t look at the full spectrum. Granted the .338 Win.

CONTACT US E-mail is rifles@OutdOOrsG.cOm or drop us a line at RifleShooter, P.O. Box 271245, Fort Collins, CO 80527. Please include your name and your city and state of residence. Letters may be edited for publication. For changes of address or subscription questions, email RFLcustserve@CDSfulfillment.com or call 800-627-7975. MAY/JUNE 2017

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RIFLESHOOTERMAG.COM

Mag. doesn’t fit in the power band of the bigger rounds, but there is one .338 that should have been included in this comparison: the .340 Wby. Granted, the .340 is only offered by one maker, Weatherby, but that is one more than the .338 Rem. Ultra Mag. Comparing the ballistics of the three rifles, the maximum loadings yield velocities within 100 to 150 fps of each other, and depending on the source of the data, either the Lapua or the Weatherby comes out on top. Brian Hebbard Castle Pines Village, CO Understand where you’re coming from Mr. Hebbard, but we compare only two cartridges at a time in “Cartridge Clash” due to space constraints. And the call to compare the Ultra Mag to the Winchester cartridge was mine. We’d gotten a few questions regarding these two, so I thought we’d address them.—Scott

‘Old’ Favorite I am surprised more old guys like myself have not written in about the 6.5-300. I built one about 30 years ago and used .300 Wby. brass necked down in two steps. I got speeds between 3,450 fps and 3,590 fps depending on the load. I’ve shot rock chucks out to 900 yards and prairie dogs out to 1,100 yards with this rifle. Take it from me, this round will not disappoint you if you do your part. Jerry W. Lee Murtaugh, ID

No Mil Dot? Just read Brad Fitzpatrick’s  “Into The Great Unknown” about old-school range estimation. Got to say I’m really surprised that he left out any mention of the mil-dot reticle as a range estimation tool.  Fred Fawcett Lafayette, OR Mil-dot range estimation is certainly a valuable skill, and understanding how to use your scope’s reticle to estimate range is beneficial. But the Discover Courage course focuses on alternate methods of range estimation: using the landscape, a compass and other tools that are separate from the laser rangefinder and the scope.—Brad


TV Airing on the Sportsman Channel Mondays @ 8 p.m. ET and Tuesdays @ 5 p.m. ET

APRIL

3rd 2017

<<< Classic firearms designs will never lose a place in the shooting sports, and we check out a few of them this week with a review of a lever-action rifle and single-action revolver and also look at the advancement of the Springfield XD Family.

APRIL

10th 2017

<<< A potpourri of new products highlights the show this week, starting with Rugerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s new American pistol and SIG offering an expanded lineup of centerfire rifle ammo, to include loads built for hunting everything from varmints to big game.

APRIL

17th 2017

MAY/JUNE 2017

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<<< Without new ammo introductions, our world would be pretty boring. Hornady makes certain boredom doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t enter the picture with its Black ammo lineup that includes more than a dozen new offerings. We also check out 2 totally different Taurus Pistols.

RIFLESHOOTERMAG.COM


LANDS & GROOVES

Linking Up Your AR CRIMSON TRACE SOLVES THE PUZZLE OF HOW TO RUN A LASER ON AN AR WITHOUT WIRES.

by J. Scott Rupp

’m not a huge AR guy. I’ve shot a lot of them and appreciate them for what they are, but they’re just not my thing. So when Crimson Trace invited me to its Wilsonville, Oregon, facility to see some hot new AR-centric product introduction, I can’t say I was overly excited. But I’m glad I went. The new product, the Linq ($649), is a first-of-

I

its-kind, practical accessory for an AR. Basically, Crimson Trace’s rocket scientists figured out how to take the product for which the company is most famous—the Lasergrip—and adapt it to rifles. But with a critical twist. Light/laser units for ARs are nothing new, but the downside has been they typically require a cable running from the unit to an activation switch accessible to the shooter’s firing hand. The Linq does away with this and offers tether-free operation. Operation is via “instinctive activation,” a Crimson Trace hallmark. It involves a pressure pad located in the gun’s grip; when the hand is firmly in firing position, the light and/or laser comes on. The problem Crimson Trace had to solve was how to make this work without a tether, and it developed a wireless interface. Think Bluetooth, although this is a different technology. Sounds simple enough, but the real

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challenge was to get this interface to work flawlessly. How many times has your Bluetooth headset, keyboard, TV, whatever, hiccuped? Of course it has— just a blip here or there, no big deal. However, that simply won’t do if you’re in a defensive situation. That’s why Crimson Trace spent about a decade developing this product—consulting with numerous Silicon Forest types to come up with a wireless interface that works 100 percent of the time and is invulnerable to interference from all the wireless signals bouncing around our planet. My AR is strictly a defensive tool, and this new Linq—in conjunction with the 1.5-4X Leupold that lives on the rifle—makes it hugely more effective in more dicier situations. Like in the dark. The Linq comes fairly ready to roll. Both the activation unit in the grip and the actual light/laser are “paired” at


LANDS & GROOVES

The unit itself is a green laser paired with a 300-lumen white light. It’s activated via a pressure pad in the grip (at r.) and is the first such setup that doesn’t require a tether between activation point and light/laser unit. the factory. But you do have to make sure your AR is up to snuff. My Smith & Wesson M&P 15 Sport has a plain M4 fore-end and no capability of adding accessories. So I replaced it with Magpul’s MOE SL handguard, which features the M-Lok attachment system. To that I added a five-slot M-Lok rail section at the six o’clock position for the light/laser unit. Most people won’t have to go through this because they already have railed or rail-capable guns. What you will have to do, though, is replace your stock pistol grip with the Crimson Trace grip because it has the pressure pad and communication technology necessary to make things go. It’s an

easy thing to do, and Crimson Trace even supplies the wrench you need to remove and replace it. (If you haven’t done this before, be aware there’s a tiny spring in the grip, the safety selector detent spring. Be careful not to lose it, and be sure to reinstall it correctly.) As I mentioned, the grip and the laser unit have already been paired, so you don’t have to do a darned thing except install the supplied batteries and make sure the master switch on the grip is in the On position before trying to operate it. The setup is programmable either through the grip or the light/laser: light only, laser only, light/laser, strobe light/laser. The light is 300 lumens, and

it’s powerful enough to illuminate a target at any reasonable distance. The green laser is adjustable for windage and elevation via two tiny screws in the body of the unit. The dot is easy to pick up in low light, and while I couldn’t see it in bright sunshine beyond a couple of feet, why would I care? At that point I’m shooting my primary optic. I shot a Linq-equipped rifle at the Crimson Trace event and did a little war gaming around the house at night with my unloaded rig, and I have to say that if you haven’t already gone the light/laser route—or want to upgrade what you alreay have—the Linq is definitely worth looking into.

BOOKENDS Two new books from Safari Press are begging to be part of your library. The first is by our very own Craig Boddington. His The Accurate Rifle... And Rifleman covers rifles and shooting from A to Z. You’re probably already familiar with the topics Craig covers—the nuts and bolts of guns from rifling to bedding; ammunition; sights and optics; field shooting— but in this book he isn’t constrained by word counts and page space like he is in RifleShooter, so he’s able to delve into his subjects more fully. And unlike many shooting books, this one is fully illustrated with quality color photos. Price: $30 Ammo & Ballistics by Bob Forker is one of my most frequently used resources. Now in its sixth edition, this hefty 520-page softcover provides ballistics on factory ammunition for more than 190 calibers— more than 2,600 loads in all. All of the data have been updated, and new additions include .17 Rem. Fireball, .17 WSM, 5.45x39, .26 Nosler, .338 Federal, 9.3x62 and .450 Rigby Rimless. Price: $27—JSR

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LANDS & GROOVES CARTRIDGE CLASH

» Brad Fitzpatrick

.222 Rem. vs .221 Fireball he modern selection of .22 caliber varmint/predator rounds extends from the .22 WMR up to the much hotter and much flattershooting .220 Swift and .22-250 Rem., with the latter cartridge and the ubiquitous .223 Rem. devouring the lion’s share of the market. But you don’t always need such a hot .22 for varmint and predator hunting, and there are some mild mid-range .22s that work quite well. Two of those mild-mannered .22s—the .222 Rem. and the .221 Fireball—may not have the following of the .223, but they both offer shooters pretty good performance and a dose of nostalgia. When Mike Walker developed the .222 Rem. in 1950, it was a unique cartridge design: the first rimless .22. It soon found favor with benchrest shooters and small game hunters in the U.S. and abroad who appreciated the cartridge’s accuracy potential, scant recoil and minimal noise and muzzle blast. Domestically, it made its debut in the Remington 722 bolt-action rifle, but as the cartridge gained a footing in Europe, manufacturers like Sako began offering their bolt-action rifles in the same caliber. This new cartridge didn’t have the range of the .220 Swift, but it also wasn’t nearly as hard on barrels or as powder-hungry. In the 1960s Remington looked to develop a compact .22 centerfire cartridge that would work in pistol form, and the .222 Rem. was its choice for a parent cartridge. The shortened version was known as the .221 Fireball, and it was chambered in the wild-looking XP-100 bolt-action pistol. Maximum cartridge overall length was just 1.83 inches, but despite the fact that the Fireball was .030 inch shorter than its parent case, it could reach velocities nearly equal to the .222 Rem. because the Fireball could be loaded

T

to higher pressures. Plus, with average loads using just 17 to 20 grains of powder, a pound of propellant went a long way—400 or so rounds. In terms of practical use, both cartridges are similar. For varmints and predators up to coyotes, maximum effective range is around 250 yards, and the difference in recoil and muzzle blast isn’t readily noticeable. The .222 Rem. is capable of slightly improved performance over its offspring while consuming a pinch more powder. The real dividing factor here comes down to personal choice and the availability of firearms and factory ammunition. If you’re limiting yourself to bolt-action varmint or benchresttype rifles, you’ll have an easier time finding a .222 on the used-gun market since manufacturers like Sako, Remington, Blaser, Tikka, CZ and others have offered bolt guns chambered in this caliber over the years. Ruger also offered it in its No. 1 Light Sporter as well, a light and handy ambidextrous single-shot that’s a good choice for the walking varminter. The .221 offers fewer used rifle options, but CZ and Cooper Firearms currently or recently offered models. Plus, there is also the option to pick up a vintage XP-100 if you prefer to hunt with a bolt-action handgun. Twist rates vary somewhat, but most .222s were offered with 1:14 barrels while .221s offer 1:12 bar-

.222 REM. HITS • More rifle options on the used market • Outperforms the .221 by 100 to 200 fps • Factory ammo more widely available MISSES • Consumes more powder • Slightly more recoil and muzzle blast • Lower pressure limit

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rels, generally speaking. That being said, these rifles were both designed to shoot bullets in the 35- to 55-grain range, and bullets on the heavier end may result in poor performance. But there are plenty of good varmint and predator bullets in that range. If you are a reloader, then you’ll find components for both are available, though neither will be on shelves of every store. If you buy factory ammo, you’ll be better served with the .222 Rem. since there are about three times as many factory loads for that round. If you handload, however, the sweet little .221 is very likeable because you can achieve darn near equal performance while using less powder.

.221 FIREBALL HITS • Panache, a cool name, and exclusivity • Nears .222 performance with less powder • The XP-100 handgun option MISSES • Factory ammo is scarce • .221 guns carry a cost premium • Less general interest=harder to resell


DDM4V7

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The new DDM4V7 in Daniel Defense Tornado Cerakote is making a big return with one of the most innovative and sought-after attachment methods on the market: M-LOK. The Daniel Defense V7 adorns the newly-designed MFR XS 15.0 rail system, which attaches to the upper receiver with our patented Bolt-up System; making it more durable than its predecessor while allowing the barrel to remain free-floating. Built around a Cold Hammer Forged 16" barrel and a mid-length gas system that reduces recoil and wear on moving parts, the V7 is deadly accurate and provides smooth operation under any condition. Built for long-lasting reliability, and backed by our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee, the V7 by Daniel Defense is built to perform.


LANDS & GROOVES NEW GEAR

» J. Scott Rupp

Ruger Precision in 6mm Creedmoor The Precision was a success right out of the gate, giving shooters an accurate and affordable rifle for long-range competitions. The gun is now chambered to the new 6mm Creedmoor, which provides good ballistics with low recoil—enabling shooters to spot their own shots. The 24-inch barrel features a 1:7.7 twist and 5R rifling. >>$1,599, ruger.cOm

Hornady .25-35 Hornady puts a little extra zip in this old favorite. Featuring a 110-grain FTX bullet that boasts a flexible tip, it delivers spitzer performance in a load safe for tubular magazines. Muzzle velocity is 2,425 fps, and energy at 100 yards is 1,162 ft.-lbs.; at 200 yards it’s a respectable 930 ft.-lbs. Zeroed at 100 yards the bullet drops about six inches at 200. >>$42, hOrnady.cOm

SIG Sauer Match Grade Elite .223 This new addition to the line features a 77-grain Sierra MatchKing bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2,750 fps. It’s optimized for use in ARs and employs a temperature-stable propellant and premium primers. Special attention is paid to case metallurgy to ensure bullet tension is consistent from cartridge to cartridge. >>$24, sigammO.cOm

Burris RT-6 A 1-6x24mm optic designed for 3-Gun competition, the RT-6 is built for speed with a true 1X low end and an integral throw lever that allows competitors to quickly dial up to 6X. It’s built on a 30mm tube and features the Ballistic AR reticle that gives trajectory compensation out to 600 yards. It’s also available as a kit with a FastFire 3 red dot and PEPR mount. >>$231 (scope only), $374 (kit); BurrisOptics.cOm

Otis Patriot All the essentials you need for pull-through cleaning in one kit, which Otis is known for, but I think this new package is handier. Kits are caliber specific, and also new is a nifty tool that doubles as a T handle and a driver (four bits included). Rifle options include .17, .22, .223, .30 calibers. >>$20–$25, Otistec.cOm

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ALL THAT BRASS by Joseph von Benedikt

The Long Ranger NOSLER’S RDF BULLET GIVES LONG-DISTANCE COMPETITION SHOOTERS A NEW OPTION.

N

osler has entered the long-range match-bullet fray. Named the RDF for Reduced Drag Factor, the company’s new bullet features refinements engineered to combat air friction. Yes, Nosler already makes match bullets, but building an accurate match bullet and building an accurate long-range match bullet are two entirely different things because aerodynamic-enhancing features are often at odds with accuracyenhancing features. Long, sleek boattails exacerbate muzzle crown inconsistencies. Secant ogives provide low drag but are picky about seating depth. Long bullets with high ballistic coefficients are harder to stabilize. In short, building an accurate, forgiving long-range bullet is challenging, but the burgeoning popularity of Precision Rifle Series and sniper-style competitions is pushing bullet companies to get into the game. Driven by the slogan “The Point is The Point,” the RDF claims to have the highest BC of any hollowpoint match bullet currently available, courtesy of a tightly closed point and tiny meplat. A long, aggressive boattail and a hybrid ogive contribute to the RDF’s high advertised BC.

Nosler’s RDF bullet is initially available in four versions. From left: 70-grain .224, 105-grain 6mm, 140-grain 6.5mm, 175-grain .308.

To promote optimum accuracy, the RDF employs a marriage of both tangent and secant ogives at the point where the bullet takes the rifling. The short, secant-like portion takes the rifling leade willingly and provides seating-depth forgiveness, and the long tangent portion of the ogive provides the needed aerodynamics. Nosler’s initial offerings will include .224, 6mm, 6.5mm and .308. Time was too short to test fire all four, so I chose the 6mm and 6.5mm. What with Hornady’s legitimization of the popular, competitive 6mm Creedmoor wildcat—a favorite among obsessive PRS shooters—bullet companies are vying to produce the best heavy, sleek 6mm

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RIFLESHOOTERMAG.COM

bullet available. Nosler’s 105-grain 6mm RDF projectile offers a higher BC (.571) than Berger’s 105-grain Target Hybrid (.536 BC)—a bullet it’s almost certainly designed to compete with. I don’t have a 6mm rifle capable of getting the best out of the 105-grain RDF, so I asked good friend and competitive shooting partner Paul Dallin to test it in his custom 6mm Creedmoor. With no load development at all, the bullets averaged 0.56 inch for three three-shot groups. Average velocity was 3,047 fps, with a standard deviation of 12. Paul thought that with a little work, the RDF would shoot right with the Bergers he uses in the rifle, a load that shoots 0.3-inch groups.


ALL THAT BRASS As for the 140-grain, 6.5mm version, its .658 advertised G1 BC is one of the best around. As far as I’m aware, only Hornady’s tipped 147-grain ELD Match bullet has a higher BC (.697 G1) among 6.5mm bullets, and it can’t be driven quite as fast. To test the 140-grain 6.5mm RDF, I loaded two test batches of 6.5 Creedmoor handloads for my Ruger Precision Rifle—a half-m.o.a. gun with ammo it likes. One test batch featured Reloder 17 powder, the other H4350, both in neck-turned Hornady cases. Because the Ruger rifle uses either AR-10 Magpul or Accuracy International-type magazines, I typically limit cartridge overall length to 2.825 inches so my ammo will function either magazine. However, the Nosler RDF touched the rifling at 2.910 inches. Clearly, unless I was willing to single load, the RDF bullets would have quite a jump—0.085 inch—to the rifling. Since the rifle is a workingman’s practical precision tool, and singleloading it doesn’t make much sense, I decided to seat the bullets in the RL-17 load to a 2.820-inch OAL and the H4350 load to a 2.885-inch OAL. The RL-17 handload provided much the best velocity (2,753 fps average over nine shots in subzero temps) and averaged an acceptable 0.83 inch over three three-shot groups. The standard deviation was only 10 fps. The H4350 load halved the group size, turning in an honest 0.38-inch average group. At 2,653 fps, muzzle velocity was 100 fps slower than the RL-17 load, but standard deviation was tight at eight fps. It’s worth noting that this was the load with the bullets seated long, to 2.885 O.A.L. As for the new .224 RDF, Nosler’s

Zach Waterman suggests shooters use the Nosler manual’s data and OAL spec for the company’s 69-grain HPBT Custom Competition bullet. In other words, it’s a .416-BC bullet that can be pushed as fast as common 69-grainers and is compatible in AR-15 magazines. Presuming it actually does have the ballistic coefficient Nosler claims, the zippy little 70-grainer will edge out every other high-BC magazinecompatible bullet currently available. Every other mag-compatible projectile with a BC over 0.400 is much heavier. Pair the Nosler RDF’s .416 BC with an additional 100 fps in velocity and you’ve got a winner. While the .308 version of the RDF is good, it doesn’t stand out from the crowd like the other three do. Its decent BC of .536 (G1) just doesn’t raise eyebrows. That aerodynamic spec is equaled or exceeded by a crowd of similar-weight .308 bullets. However, it’s superb in one critical way. I weighed 20 bullets of each RDF version and noted the extreme spread and standard deviation of the 20 weight measurements. I also measured the base to ogive length and ran the same calculations. As diameter increased, discrepancies decreased. The 105-grain 6mm version was consistent enough to suggest good performance, but the 140-grain 6.5mm version was better. The 20 different .308 RDF bullets varied only 0.1 grain, and as for length, there wasn’t even 0.001 inch of measureable difference in the base-toogive length across all 20. I think Nosler’s new RDF bullet is going to be a serious player on the long-range scene, and I’m anxiously awaiting the potential addition of a 7mm to the lineup.

S P E C I F I C AT I O N S

NOSLER RDF CALIBER

Weight (grs.)

G1 BC

G7 BC

.224

70

.416

.211

6mm

105

.571

.280

6.5mm

140

.658

.330

.308

175

.536

.270

SOURCE: Nosler

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TACTICAL TECHNOLOGY by David Fortier

Colt Doubles Down THE COMPANY DROPS TWO NEW AR-15s INTO THE MARKET—ONE RETRO AND ONE MODERN.

F

ielded during difficult times, Colt’s M16A1 became forever entwined with the war in Vietnam. Adopted as a replacement for Army Ordnance’s darling M14, it was a rifle well ahead of its time. Built with space-age materials and blessed with an eye-catching Buck Rogers appearance, it was light and quickhandling with little felt recoil. It was accurate, and its high-velocity 5.56mm cartridge proved effective while allowing the soldier to carry more ammo for the same weight compared to the 7.62. The M16A1 would soldier on through the war in Vietnam and then the Cold War before finally being officially replaced in the 1980s with the M16A2. Today many shooters and collectors are fascinated by the rifles of this period. Colt recognized this and in early 2016 announced it would be doing a small run of semiautomatic M16A1 rifles for the shooter and collector. Late last year I had the chance to handle and fire what Colt has designated the M16A1 Reissue during an event at Gunsite Academy. It was a real blast from the past. The M16A1 Reissue carefully replicates the look, feel and features of the original Vietnam classic. Picking one up you suddenly remember just how light

The Combat Unit Carbine (top) is a modern take on the AR-15 with a mid-length gas system, while the M16A1 Reissue harkens back to the original rifle.

and handy this model was. Weighing in at just 6.6 pounds, the M16A1 Reissue is lightning fast to the shoulder and easy to carry. The buttstock is shorter and more comfortable than the M16A2’s. The pistol grip lacks that annoying nub, and I like it better than the A2’s. Plus, the handguards have that classic triangular shape and distinctive feel. They may not be as robust as the later A2 units, but they sure do look cool. Barrel length is the traditional 20 inches and features the early 1:12-inch twist, which is a perfect match for the 55-grain M193 ball load issued along-

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side the original. The barrel features the original lightweight “pencil” profile and is chrome-lined. It’s tipped with a classic three-prong flash suppressor. The Reissue is fitted with the early round front sight post, which is adjustable for elevation but uses a different tool than the later M16A2; a bullet tip will suffice. The L-shape rear sight is integral to the carry handle. Windage can be adjusted with a bullet tip, and flipping the sight provides battle-sight and long-range options. The carry handle is designed to accept the early Colt 3X and 4X scopes.


The rifle is period-correct from the teardrop forward assist to the sling swivels, and Colt even applied original markings, including â&#x20AC;&#x153;Property of the US Governmentâ&#x20AC;? as well as â&#x20AC;&#x153;Safe,â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;Semiâ&#x20AC;? and â&#x20AC;&#x153;Autoâ&#x20AC;? selector markings. The M16A1 Reissue not only looks good, it shoots well, too. Cartridges loaded easily into the 20-round magazines. The magazine inserted neatly with an upward push and a tug to verify it was properly seated. Run the charging handle and cartridges loaded smoothly into the chamber. The rifle has a distinctive feel in the hand due to its light weight and triangular handguard. I shot it offhand, kneeling, sitting and prone on steel silhouettes and found it enjoyable to shoot. The sights are good, the trigger is acceptable and recoil is mild. Unfortunately, production will be small and the suggested retail is high at $2,499. While Coltâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s M16A1 Reissue looks to its past, the new Combat Unit Carbine looks toward the future. Dveloped with input from well-respected trainers such as Mike Pannone, Ken Hackathorn and Daryl Holland, this model finally introduces a mid-length gas system into the Colt rifle line. Many shooters, myself included, prefer a mid-length gas system over a traditional carbine length because it creates a softer-shooting gun. The Combat Unit Carbine features a Centurion Arms M-LOK free-floating handguard. No old-school 1913 â&#x20AC;&#x153;cheese graterâ&#x20AC;? here, but rather a good-looking, comfortable and useful lightweight design. It also comes nicely equipped with a Magpul MOE SL stock and pistol grip as well as a Magpul MOE trigger guard. The SL stock is fairly light, adjusts easily and doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t yank your beard or stubble like many other designs. The butt is nicely contoured and doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t slide around as do lessor designs. The SL pistol grip is a favorite of mine due to its contour and aggressive texturing. Neither piece has bells or whistles, but they feel great and are very functional. The Centurion Arms handguard is also practical. Its light, has a small diameter and the ability to add accessoriesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;either via dedicated M-LOK accessories or through the addition of

COLT SPEC COMPARISON M16A1 REISSUE

COMBAT UNIT CARBINE

5.56

5.56

SUPPLIED MAG

20 rounds

30 rounds

BARREL LENGTH

20 in.

16 in.

BARREL PROFILE

pencil

medium

TWIST RATE

1:12

1:7

OVERALL LENGTH

38.8 in.

33-36.5 in.

WEIGHT

6.6 lb.

6.47 lb.

SIGHTS

A1

none

STOCK

A1

Magpul MOE SL

PISTOL GRIP

A1

Magpul MOE SL

$2,499

$1,299

CALIBER

PRICE

1913 rail section. Riding inside the free-floating handguard is a chrome-lined, medium weight barrel chambered in 5.56 NATO. It features a 1:7 twist, so it will shoot a diverse range of heavy and light bullets well. Overall, the gun is lightweight, quick

handling and well suited for sport, recreation or personal protection. Suggested retail price is $1,299. I am happy to see Colt finally listening to customers and moving in the direction people are asking. The Combat Unit Carbine exudes the sense of quality a Colt rifle should, and Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m glad itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s here.

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SURVIVE MAY/JUNE 2017

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SAVAGEâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S AR PLAY A COMPANY KNOWN FOR AFFORDABLE BOLT ACTIONS GETS INTO THE AR GAME WITH THE MSR-15.

by Patrick Sweeney

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like an M4 they possibly can. Savage went another route. The upper and lower are machined from 7075-T6 aluminum forgings. But they are not machined to be clones of a standard-issue rifle or carbine. The lower is machined from a forging, but Savage left extra aluminum on the forging. That way it can machine in sculpting cues to give it a non-milspec look and also add reinforcements around the magazine well, the magazine button and on the front where there are non-slip grip grooves. Savage also beefed up the reinforc-

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ing shoulder around the extension ring and the two collars that the front pivot pin passes through as well. Small details, but they add up, and they improve on the base mil-spec starting point. We all want a rifle with no rattles or wobbles. Upper-to-lower fit is always a point of contention in AR circles, and Savage addressed it in an easy way. Designers installed a nylontipped screw in the lower. This screw bears against the rear lug of the upper and is hand-adjusted upon assembly so the receivers fit snugly and don’t

Art Direction by Heather Ferro

Michael Anschuetz photo

S

avage has always been a value-for-money rifle maker that isn’t afraid to use design and technology to make a quality, accurate rifle that won’t break the bank. Its latest rifle is the MSR-15. It’s available in a couple different configurations (and there’s an MSR10 as well), and I got the Recon model for review. One look tells you Savage isn’t after the “mil-spec” crowd. There is already a horde of AR makers who are focused on making your AR the most


SAVAGE’S AR PLAY wobble but you don’t need a hammer to break them apart for cleaning. Savage opted for new furniture and fire-control parts. The Knoxx pistol grip is from Blackhawk, one of Savage’s sister companies. It offers a non-slip grip, an improved angle for your hand and a filler at the rear, where the web of your hand comes to the receiver. Inside, the fire-control set also comes from Blackhawk in the form of its AR Blaze trigger. This is a single-stage trigger with a better surface prep on the engagement surfaces and a Boron thermo-molecular surface coating, resulting in a much better trigger pull

than the typical, gritty mil-spec setup. On the receiver extension, Savage has installed the new Blackhawk Axiom carbine stock, which is lightweight and comes with a number of features. It has multiple sling attachment options, a rubber recoil pad that actually works (not that the .223 kicks hard enough to matter, but still…) and an easy-adjust locking lever. The lever is integrated into the design and is at the front of the triangle that the stock forms. The stock rides on a mil-spec diameter extension tube, so if you find you simply have to change the stock (I can’t see why, but this is something you

are free to do), then you have the full panoply of mil-spec-diameter stocks to choose from. Some details of mil-spec are important, and the stock assembly is the first clue Savage knows what it’s doing. It is imperative that the castle nut—the ring that locks the stock to the receiver—be staked into one of the notches facing the receiver plate. A lot of supposed milspec builds skip this step and depend instead on thread-locking compound. That is so wrong it isn’t funny, and Savage does it properly by staking the nut. The upper receiver is a forged flattop with a slotted rail on top. It includes a forward assist, brass ejector pyramid, spring-hinged dust cover door and charging handle. The top rail is level with, and aligned with, the rail on top of the handguard on the Recon. Savage has installed folding back-up iron sights from Blackhawk. The rear sight is a simple lollipop, one with a low profile that will stay out of the way of most—but not all—optics. However, I’ve yet to find a back-up rear sight that clears every optic, so I don’t fault Savage or Blackhawk here. It is spring loaded to

S P E C I F I C AT I O N S

SAVAGE MSR-15 RECON The Savage MSR-15 Recon improves on mil-spec in design and materials. The lower receiver, for example, incorporates reinforcing ribs. Folding iron sights come standard.

The M-Lok free-float handguard clamps down tight on the barrel nut and has anti-tilt tabs to keep it centered and secure.

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TYPE

AR-15

CALIBER

.223 Wylde (handles both .223 Rem. and 5.56 NATO ammo)

CAPACITY

30-round Magpul (where legal)

BARREL

16.13 in.

OVERALL LENGTH

33.5 in.

WEIGHT

7 lb.

FINISH

anodized aluminum, phosphate steel

STOCK

Blackhawk Axiom w/ Blackhawk Knoxx grip

SIGHTS

optics rail; Blackhawk back-up folding iron sights

TRIGGER

single-stage Blackhawk AR Blaze; 4 lb. pull (measured)

PRICE

$999

MANUFACTURER

Savage Arms, SavagearmS.com


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QUICK MAGNIFICATION ADJUSTMENT integrated dial fin allows easy rotation through magnifications


SAVAGE’S AR PLAY stay up and has latches to hold it down when you don’t need it. The front uses a button to unlock, and it springs up when you press the button. Instead of a 4150 steel alloy barrel

BUSHNELL THROW DOWN PCL 1-4X

G

iven that the MSR is a shortto medium-range rifle, many shooters have too much optic on top. The 1-4X is a popular and useful range because it can be wicked fast in close, while the 4X gives you a good image at the usual AR distances. Built on a 30mm one-piece tube, this Bushnell is a first-focal-plane scope with both an illuminated and range-adjustment reticle. The first focal plane design means the reticle changes apparent size as you zoom, but does not change relative size to the target as you zoom. The center of the reticle is a horseshoe with a ladder in it. Bracket a target with the horseshoe and you’ll get centered hits out past 150 yards. The top of the ladder has a one m.o.a. center “pip” that lets your eye focus on center. There are crossbars for trajectory drop at 100-yard intervals, out to 500 yards, and the turrets are resettable. Illumination is activated via the knob on the left. The scope also incorporates folding lever called the Power Change Lever. It lets you quickly and easily zoom up or down, and it folds out of the way when you aren’t zooming. The combination of the illuminated reticle and the PCL makes it easy to adapt to whatever lighting or cover conditions you’re faced with.That’s a lot of performance for a scope that can be found in your local gunshop for right around $200.—PS

with a chrome lining, Savage went with a Melonite-treated 4140 alloy barrel. The 16.125-inch barrel is drilled, reamed and button-rifled in a 5R pattern. It has a 1:8 twist, which is fast enough to stabilize heavy bullets yet slow enough that you will be able to use varmint-weight bullets as well. The Recon version I tested does not have the short gas system found on most carbines. The short gas system was designed to fit carbines with barrels down to 10.5 inches and is more suited to the mil-spec M4 and its 14.5-inch barrel. Here, the gas block is located forward of where it is on mil-spec carbines, and the gas tube lengthened by a like amount, so the gas is tapped off at a lower pressure and also later in the operating cycle of the carbine. This is referred to in the parlance as a mid-length gas system, and by going with this design on the Recon (and also the Patrol), Savage accomplished a couple of things. First, felt recoil is reduced because the gas system doesn’t hammer the operating parts so hard. Second, the mid-length system reduces stress on the bolt because the peak gas pressure is reduced in the carrier and its arrival time at the carrier is delayed, let-

The front of the lower receiver has non-slip grooves for those who grab the receiver in their shooting stance, and the shoulders around the front pin are beefier than standard.

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ting chamber pressure drop more. The result is the bolt does not have to unlock while under load. The mid-length gas system also means Savage can use a standardweight buffer. Typically, in an overgassed carbine, which is many of them, you have to handle recoil and early unlocking by installing a heavierthan-usual buffer. The lower carrier pressure—and later unlocking—of the mid-length gas system means you don’t have to us a patchwork fix of those problems with a heavier buffer. Good going, Savage! Savage opted to go with the direct impingement system rather than a piston design. Piston systems solve some problems, but they don’t solve all of them, and they bring other problems along for the ride. By going with the traditional DI system, Savage kept it simple and lightweight. At seven pounds, out of the box, the MSR-15 is lighter than many, and a piston system would have added a few more ounces at least. The chamber is also improved. Savage went with a .223 Wylde chamber. The customary .223 chamber is reamed with the throat dimension (that portion forward of the case neck) held to a tight diameter and the leade (distance to the onset of the rifling) relatively short. This setup is conducive to better accuracy. A mil-spec 5.56 chamber, on the other hand, has a larger-diameter throat to better handle the dust, crud, rust and powder residue that a military

The castle nut securing the stock on the receiver extension is properly staked, a step some manufacturers skip—but shouldn’t.


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SAVAGE’S AR PLAY rifle might have to deal with. Also, to deal with the extra performance that 5.56-loaded ammunition is loaded to deliver, the leade is much longer in a 5.56 chamber. The .223 Wylde is a design that tries

to take the best of both. While the headspace on the .223 Wylde is identical to the .223 Rem. and 5.56, the Wylde has a throat diameter close to the Remington chamber, with a leade length close to the 5.56 chamber. This combination is

A C C U R A C Y R E S U LT S

SAVAGE MSR-15 RECON Bullet Weight (gr.)

Muzzle Velocity (fps)

Standard Deviation

Avg. Group (in.)

FEDERAL PREMIUM BTHP

77

2,459

30.4

1.15

SPEER GOLD DOT SP

64

2,714

39.4

1.48

BLACK HILLS BTHP

69

2,696

8.9

1.64

ASYM OTM

75

2,523

31.4

1.75

FEDERAL HI-SHOK SP

64

2,732

125

1.87

FEDERAL FUSION SP

62

2,696

36.6

2.46

85

2,531

10.0

1.63

CARTRIDGE .223 REM.

5.56 NATO BARNES OTM

NOTES: Accuracy results are averages of five five-shot groups at 100 yards off a Champion shooting rest. Velocities are averages of five shots measured on a LabRadar chronograph set to read 15 feet from the muzzle. Abbreviations: BTHP, boattail hollowpoint; OTM, open-tip match; SP, softpoint

supposed to deliver accuracy and pressure control. The handguard is long enough that the caliber and twist markings have to be placed almost to the muzzle, where Savage has installed a bone-stock A2 flash hider. If you want something else instead, flash hiders are easy to change. Behind this is a black-oxidefinished bolt and carrier. The Savage MSR-15 carrier keys are well staked, an important detail. The proof-tested bolt has a standard extractor spring, a black spring insert and a rubber Oring spring booster. This ensures your extractor isn’t going to slip off a case rim if you let your rifle chamber get too grubby. The handguard on the Recon is a standout. A lightweight aluminum shell, it is stout enough to stand up to hard use but light enough you won’t feel like you’re packing an anvil. Gone are the bulky and sharp-edge-covered quad-rail free-float handguards of yesteryear, and in their place we have,

THERE’S A BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE OLD WAY AND THE SMART WAY.

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SAVAGE’S AR PLAY in the Recon, a handguard machined for M-Lok accessories. The best way to wring all the potential accuracy out of a barrel is to start with it free-floated, and the M-Lok slots on the handguard allow you to attach whatever accessories you care to without adding extra weight and or bulk. The handguard is lightweight in part because it clamps down on the barrel nut. It maintains alignment with a pair of tabs that index on the upper receiver. No extra bulk or weight here. All this comes in a box with a manual, lock and spare Magpul magazine. You have everything you need to get started right there—except for the ammo and a place to shoot. To test, I mounted a Bushnell 1-4x24mm Throw Down PCL (see sidebar). I used a standard set of rings simply because they were what I had handy; they worked just fine. The more tactically oriented amongst us would insist on a QD mount, but a lot of shooters will simply mount a scope—even if it

means taking off one or both iron sights. The rifle worked without fail through the chronograph work, accuracy testing and gong-slapping—hot or cold, clean or dirty. The Blackhawk trigger was a joy. It’s not sniper grade, but it’s leaps and bounds better than your regular mil-spec trigger pull. It was clean enough, with a bit of grit feel at the beginning of shooting, grit that went away or wore off before I was even done with the chrono work. After that, it was just a nice, clean, trigger pull that never gave me any trouble or regrets at not having a “better” trigger. I tested the MSR-15 Recon with tactical, hunting and match ammo, from medium to heavyweights, to see how it would perform. Shooters are going to have questions about how well it shoots with hunting-grade and barrier-blind ammunition, and the 1:8 twist rate will cause some to wonder about how well it handles heavy bullets. Fear not, even the Barnes 85-grain bullets were accurate and the holes

in the targets not at all oblong. I also selected the Barnes in part because it is a 5.56-pressure loading, and I wanted to see how the Savage responded. No problem; the brass showed no signs of extra pressure, and empties were tossed in the same direction and distance as the .223 brass was. Some believe it’s their birthright as Americans that every AR-15 should be a sub-m.o.a. rifle. Nonsense. Not all ammo is capable of sub-m.o.a. performance in a particular rifle. I was using a 4X scope, and the center dot of the BTR reticle subtends one m.o.a., which means all the groups had the holes under or adjacent to the center dot. On a warmer day, or by using a scope with more magnification, the groups would be tighter still. Savage has a winner on its hands. The company has improved on milspec where it matters, and it has kept it where it counts. The result is a reliable, accurate and not-expensive Modern Sporting Rifle.

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STRAIGHT-WALL

RESURGENCE NEW REGULATIONS ALLOWING THE USE OF STRAIGHT-WALLED CARTRIDGES FOR DEER HUNTING IN SOME STATES ARE GIVING HUNTERS GREAT NEW OPTIONS.

by Brad Fitzpatrick

D

uring the recent uptick in the popularity and sales of ARs for hunting, there has been another revolution in hunting rifles, albeit a quieter one. In many states—my native Ohio included—deer hunters have traditionally been limited to shotguns, muzzleloaders and handguns during the firearms season. The theory was that a flat landscape, a lot of deer hunters and a burgeoning human population could spell trouble if every hunter was carrying a magnum centerfire rifle capable of launching a projectile several miles. But the Buckeye State’s banishing of all centerfire rifles for deer hunting came to a halt in 2014 when the Ohio Division of Natural Resources announced that a limited number of straight-walled centerfire cartridges would be legal during firearms deer season. And Ohio was not alone in this. Southern Michigan hunters were allowed to use straight-walled cartridges as well, and some other traditional shotgun states including Indiana have looked to loosen regulations surrounding center-

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fire rifles. This has created a new interest in a platform that was long in the tooth, but it doesn’t mean straight-wall cartridges are ineffective. On the contrary, they present a fantastic option that works well for a variety of deer and big game hunting applications. Furthermore, new(er) straight-wall cartridges like the .460 S&W Mag. and .500 S&W Mag. offer more power and flatter trajectories than many older choices and take pistol-caliber rifles into previously uncharted territory. To be fair, slug gun technology has improved dramatically as well, and today’s rifled-barrel shotguns and ammo are a considerable step above what was available a few decades ago, but there are some real benefits to straight-wall cartridges. Here’s a look at the different pistol- and rifle-caliber cartridges that can open up a world of opportunity for former slug gun hunters. Pistol Cartridges There are a number of rifles chambered in traditional pistol cartridges that are now legal for hunting deer in eastern states. Ohio allows the use of rifles in .38

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STRAIGHT-WALL RESURGENCE Special, .357 Mag., .357 Maximum, .41 Mag., .44 Special, .44 Mag., .45 Colt, .454 Casull, .460 S&W Mag., .475 Linebaugh and .500 S&W Mag., among others, and most of these cartridges overlap with the new allowance for the Lower Michigan units. Many of these handgun cartridges are effective deer killers, but the boost in

velocity and energy offered by a longer barrel and an increased sight radius further enhances the potential of these rounds. Take, for instance, the .357 Mag., legal now for use in Ohio and parts of Michigan. Hornady’s 158-grain XTP bullet, when fired from an eight-inch barrel, has a muzzle velocity of 1,250 fps—ideal for personal-defense applications. The

The .500 S&W Mag. is a powerful straight-wall handgun cartridge available in lever guns like the Big Horn Model 90 and single-shots like the Thompson/Center Encore shown here (although this particular stock was a custom job and not commercially available).

Guns like the Uberti High Wall are available in a number of traditional cartridges, including the popular .45-70 as well as lesser-known chamberings like the .45-90 and .45-120. Guns like these with steel buttplates will kick, although gun weight helps keep it manageable.

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brand’s 140-grain .357 Magnum LeverEvolution load, by contrast, leaves an 18-inch rifle barrel at 1,850 fps. Perhaps more importantly, the LeverEvolution load produces better than 1,000 ft.-lbs. of energy at the muzzle and 660 ft.-lbs. at 100 yards, significantly more than the XTP’s 548 ft.-lbs. of muzzle energy. The same is true for the list of straight-wall pistol cartridges, including the .44 Mag., .454 Casull and .460 S&W Mag.. The .460 S&W Hornady FTX load has a listed muzzle velocity of 2,200 fps from a 8.375-inch barrel, but when I tested it in a Big Horn Model 90 with a 22-inch pipe, average velocity was 2,883 fps. Winchester’s Partition Gold 260-grain load is listed at 2,000 fps, and the average velocity from the Model 90 rifle was 2,452 fps. In short, these new laws allow for calibers like the .357 Mag. to become more efficient deer-killing rounds to be used at greater distances, and brutes like the .460 S&W Mag. increase effective range to hundreds of yards. There are several advantages to the use of short single-shot or lever-action carbines for deer, and the primary one is weight and dimensions. The Winchester Model 92—which is chambered in .44 Mag., .357 Mag. and .45 Colt—has an overall length of just 37.5 inches and weighs a mere six pounds, the perfect gun for hunting in thick cover at moderate ranges. The Marlin 1894 in .44 Mag. weighs just a half pound more and has the exact same overall length. As an added bonus, says Ohio game warden Trent Weaver, these guns offer very little felt recoil, especially compared to a light 12- or 20-gauge slug gun. “There’s very little kick,” says Weaver. “The .44 Mag. and .45 Colt rifles are great guns for kids.” Weaver says that since the law was passed in 2014 allowing these centerfire cartridges for deer hunting he’s seen an uptick in the number of people carrying rifles for deer, and many of them are new shooters who are less intimidated by the moderate recoil. This, in turn, allows them to make better shots and that accounts for less wounded game. The average-weight .357 Mag. rifle


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STRAIGHT-WALL RESURGENCE pushes back with about five pounds of recoil—less recoil than a .243 Win. The .44 Mag. is still under 10 pounds, and depending upon gun weight, a .454 Casull will likely recoil with less energy than a typical .270 Win. As an added bonus, laws allowing the use of pistol-caliber carbines make it appealing to own a handgun and a rifle since the chambering is the same. Now those who own a .44 Mag. handgun can purchase a centerfire rifle that extends their effective range without purchasing new ammunition. Accordingly, those who purchase a pistol-caliber carbine for deer hunting can opt to buy a handgun in a matching caliber later if they want to dip their toe into the world of big-game hunting with a handgun. In terms of trajectory, these pistolcaliber carbines can’t touch modern centerfire magnums, but they are perfectly functional to 100 yards or more. With a 140-grain bullet and a ballistic coefficient of .169, the Hornady .357 Mag. FTX, when sighted in at 50 yards with an 18-inch-barreled rifle, will be 1.7 inches low at 100 yards and 7.6 inches low at 150, where it retains 522 ft.-lbs. of energy. The 225-grain .44 Mag. FTX load leaving a 20-inch barrel at 1,870 will be 1.8 inches low at 100 yards when zeroed at 50 yards and will be eight inches low at 150 yards. That’s a reasonable distance for hunting whitetails with these type of rifles, but if you want to extend the potential of your pistol-caliber carbine, you can up your game with a gun like the Big Horn Model 90 I mentioned. It can launch a 200-grain bullet at a muzzle velocity of

2,883 fps, and when zeroed at 100 yards, a bullet falls just 5.2 inches at 200 yards and 21.7 inches at 300 yards. So whether you’re looking for a light, short, lowrecoiling rifle for moderate ranges or a thumper that will take game out past 250 paces, there is a pistol-caliber rifle that will suit your needs. Calibers like the .38-55 Win., .444 Marlin and .45-70 Gov’t have taken a

backseat in popularity to hotter modern centerfire loads in many states, but by allowing hunters to use rifles chambered in these calibers, there is a whole new generation of hunters who are learning to love these cartridges. Likewise, they’re learning that the potential of these calibers far exceeds what many would believe. There’s a reason cartridges like the .45-70 were so

Light, handy pistol-caliber carbines like the Uberti 1873 in .44 Mag. are a great option as long as ranges are moderate. These rifles produce little recoil, offer fast follow-up shots, and are short enough for hunting in heavy cover.

STRAIGHT-WALL OPTIONS Bullet Weight (gr.), Type

Barrel Length (in.)

Muzzle Velocity (fps)

Muzzle Energy (ft.-lbs.)

100-Yd. Velocity (fps)

100-Yd. Energy (ft.-lbs.)

.357 MAG.

140 FTX

18

1,850

1,064

1,458

660

.44 MAG.

225 FTX

20

1,870

1,747

1,416

1,002

.460 S&W MAG.

255 SP

22

2,883

3,691

2,298

2,344

.38-55 WIN.

265 FTX

N/A

1,320

987

1,190

802

.444 MARLIN

265 FTX

24

2,325

3,180

1,971

2,285

.45-70 GOV’T

325 FTX

24

2,050

3,032

1,729

2,158

CALIBER

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STRAIGHT-WALL RESURGENCE

The .460 S&W Mag. has developed a decent following among handgun and rifle hunters. There are a number of good hunting loads available, including (from l.) Federal 275-grain Barnes Expander, Hornady 200-grain FTX and Winchester 260-grain Partition Gold.

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effective as military and hunting rounds in the black powder era, and their potential as hunting rounds has only increased with the advent of advanced powders and bullets. On a deer hunt in Texas a few years ago, I was carrying a Uberti 1885 High Wall chambered in .45-70. In the scrub thorn and ocotillo flats, shots were commonly within 200 yards, and a Burris scope with stadia lines in the reticle was a perfectly reasonable range for the Uberti. My opportunity at a deer came in the last moments of the hunt when a big, mature 10-point stepped into view with less than 20 minutes left before we had to pack our bags and travel to the airport. The deer appeared at just over 300 yards and came to a grunt call, but at about 150 yards he promptly hung up and seemed to lose interest. That was my only opportunity for a shot, and when the trigger broke, the buck arched into the air and made it


STRAIGHT-WALL RESURGENCE less than 20 yards before piling-up, the bullet hitting just behind the shoulder. The 325-grain Hornady Flex Tip passed through both sides, leaving an exit hole that was only a bit larger than the entry wound. No magnum could have accomplished more. The .45-70 cartridge isn’t the only round from that era that’s seeing new life in the deer woods. Ohio is allowing the use of other historic black powder cartridges as well, including the .45-90, .45-110, .50-70, .50-90, .50-100 and .50-110. These older cartridges are available in a number of classic rifles and are currently available in Sharps replica guns, the very same hammer rifles that were the peach of late 19th-century longrange shooters and buffalo hunters. Needless to say, they offer more than enough oomph to put down a whitetail, but the ability to hunt with these rifles makes them more appealing. And for the collector who’s been dying to own

one, there’s now a very legitimate and practical reason to do so. Cartridges like the .444 Marlin, .450 Marlin (not currently listed as legal in Ohio) and .45-70 also offer plenty of potential for game other than deer, and in fact, there are few animals in North America that, when engaged at reasonable ranges and with properly constructed hunting bullets, won’t succumb to the power of these rounds. They will work well for deer-sized game and even elk and moose, and hog hunters will appreciate the solid hit that these rounds administer to even the largest, toughest boars. They work perfectly for black bears over bait. A pass-through with a .45 caliber bullet leaves a prodigious blood trail that’s easy to follow, and since the velocities are so mild, there’s very little chance of bullet blow-up and excessive meat damage. Plus, if you are hunting in black bear country, both of these calibers have the capabilities to stop

the rare but not unheard of black bear attack. In terms of trajectory these cartridges vary from strictly short-range rifles to 200-yard and even 300-yard guns. For instance, the Winchester 255-grain softpoint .38-55 load will be 2.3 inches high at 50 yards when sighted in dead-on at 100 yards, and by 200 paces the bullet has dropped almost two feet. The faster .40s can do better if you want to extend range and don’t mind the recoil. Hornady says both the 265-grain .444 Marlin and 325-grain .45-70 FTX loads will be zeroed at 200 yards when sighted in three inches high at 100, making longer shots simpler. Straight-wall rifle cartridges have been around for more than a century, and they’re seeing renewed buzz. And with better bullets, better powder, modern machining and the addition of newer, hotter straight-wall offerings, it might just be worth taking a look at these older cartridges.

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NUTS AND BOLTS by Craig Boddington

DESIGN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BOLT STYLES ARE SIGNIFICANT, BUT DO THEY MATTER IN ACTUAL USE?

T

he bolt-action rifle emerged in the 1890s in a variety of forms. There were rear-locking actions like the Mannlicher and straight-pulls like the Lee. Peter Paul Mauser’s design—revised almost annually through the decade until 1898—seemed complete and, to much of the world, nearly perfect. There were some holdouts among the major powers—Russia stuck with its Mosin-Nagant, the Brits with their Enfield—but an awful lot of the world went to the Mauser or a Mauser clone. The hallmarks of this Mauser’s action were its dual-opposing forward locking lugs; controlled-round-feed, in

which the cartridge feeds up out of the magazine against the bolt face, where it is trapped or held in place by the extractor and carried or “controlled” into the chamber; a long extractor with a wide surface grabbing the cartridge rim; and a fixed-blade ejector in the rear action ring, operating through a slot in the bolt face. Widely copied, the Mauser-type action remained the dominant bolt action until well after World War II. America’s beloved Springfield was almost a Mauser, but it featured an exposed and manually operable cocking piece, a superfluous third rear locking lug and a totally silly magazine cutoff. It was so much of a Mauser clone that

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the U.S. government paid Mauser a royalty until World War I. The Pattern 14/1917 U.S. Enfield was also a Mauser clone, as were key civilian bolt actions that followed the Great War. Remington’s Model 30 series was essentially a 1917 U.S. Enfield. Winchester’s Model 54 actually returned to a more “pure” Mauser design, culminating in the Model 70 in 1936. The Winchester Model 70 would be the world’s most famous bolt-action sporting rifle for nearly 30 years. In the post-war era things began to change. Remington’s M721/722/725 series retained the dual-opposing locking lugs, but the bolt fully enclosed the case head—requiring the cartridge


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NUTS AND BOLTS or rebarrel to different cartridges. It’s amazing how often you can get away with this and not lose smooth feeding, but it’s important to remember that any bolt action has a feed ramp and rails or magazine designed to feed with a specific cartridge. If you change cartridge dimensions it may take extensive work to regain reliable feeding. Most experienced rifle shooters believe controlled-round-feed actions feed with more consistent reliability than push-feeds. Today I have a few controlled-round-feed left-hand actions, but for most of my career the

only left-hand options were pushfeed actions. Given that the rails were properly timed in the first place, I have never had one fail to feed. I would imagine something over three million Remington 700 owners would say the same thing. An old argument is that the Mauser was designed as a battle rifle, and it will feed upside down and sideways. Yes, it will, but have you actually tried this with a push-feed? The Model 700 will, and I just tried it with a Weatherby Mark V. It also feeds upside down and sideways. Over the years I’ve done a lot

L. to r.: Mauser (by Montana Rifles, left hand), pre-’64 M70 (right hand), recent M70 (left hand) and Ruger Hawkeye (left hand). The placement of the ejector slot varies, but all have bolt face slots for a blade ejector, and all have the bottom of the bolt face open to receive the case rim.

Controlled-round-feed is just that: The bolt’s extractor grabs hold of the cartridge and guides it into the chamber. This design dates to the late 1800s and is still favored by many rifle shooters today.

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of dangerous game hunting, and I have no qualms about using push-feeds. There is, however, one clear feeding advantage to controlled-round-feed. The push-feed relies on forward motion, which is why, even though the cartridge is actually loose, it will still feed upside down or sideways. If you stop or stutter the motion, the cartridge can fall out of position. With controlled-round-feed, since the cartridge is held in position by the extractor, you can work the bolt as slowly and quietly as you wish and the round will still be carried into the chamber. When it comes to extraction, I think there is little magic to the long Mauser extractor. When push-feeds were new, pundits argued that the larger purchase area of the wider Mauser extractor offered more leverage than the narrower “hook-type” extractor commonly seen on push-feed actions. This is undoubtedly true and was probably truer a century ago when brass was often of poorer quality. However, I have never seen a hook-type extractor fail when ignition was normal. The only extractor failure I have ever seen under normal use was when the long Mauser extractor on an FN Mauser action separated from the bolt sleeve. This occurred during a buffalo charge, so one might surmise the bolt was worked with a superhuman jerk. Nobody got hurt, but the rifle was hopelessly jammed. This is the only time I’ve heard of this, but it happened. There are compromise positions. One is the Ed Brown-designed M704 action, now manufactured by Legendary Arms Works. It’s a controlledround-feed, but instead of the long Mauser extractor, it has a huge extractor claw as part of the bolt face rim. The old Sako two-lug action is not a Mauser clone. What appears to be the long Mauser-type extractor alongside the bolt sleeve is actually an anti-bind device. However, the spring-loaded Sako extractor is considerably wider than the average push-feed extractor. It thus grabs more of the case rim and obviously offers more purchase— pretty much the same as a long Mauser extractor.


NUTS AND BOLTS I have owned a couple of Model 700 actions modified with Sako extractors, so this can be done, but I’ve used a lot of factory actions with “normal” narrow extractors—many times under tough conditions and often on dangerous game. I have yet to see one fail to extract, so despite the Mauser legend, I have to call this one a draw. In terms of ejection, the fixed-blade Mauser ejector is fairly bulletproof, while the bolt-face ejector can become clogged with gunk or the spring can break. Not too long ago, I had to have a bolt-face ejector repaired when it stopped working, but I also once had a rifle with a Mauser action that stopped

ejecting because the ejector was worn. So I’ve seen an ejector of each type fail. Despite my long and happy experience with push-feed actions and bolt-face ejectors, I tend to like the power when rearward movement of the bolt brings the blade ejector against the case head. Even so, this one is probably another draw. In the end, the choice is yours. Push-feeds dominated for many years in the post-1964 Model 70 era because they were cheaper to manufacture and theoretically stronger and more accurate. But controlled-round-feed has been making a comeback. Witness the current Model 70,

At left is a three-lug Browning AB3 bolt; at right is a Weatherby Mark V bolt with three rows of three lugs. Both show the fairly narrow bolt face extractor common to almost all pushfeed actions. The hugely popular Remington 700 employs a push-feed bolt, a feature the company emphasized through its “three rings of steel” slogan—the bolt head encircling the case being the first ring.

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which has returned to this design, and the Ruger Model 77, which was a push-feed from its inception even though visually it looked like it was a controlled-round-feed—and today the Hawkeye version of that rifle truly is. Besides the Ruger Hawkeye and current Winchester M70, there are Mausers and Mauser clones from CZ, Dakota, Kimber and Legendary Arms Works (which retain most Mauser essentials). I think the basic CZ 550, a pure Mauser except for the side-mounted safety, and the Ruger M77 Hawkeye are the least costly controlled-round-feed rifles on the market. From there the costs go up… and up. Push-feeds are responsible for more sales in new rifles, especially on the inexpensive side of the market: Browning AB3, CZ 570, Mossberg, Remington 783, Ruger American, Sako A7, Savage, Thompson/Center Compass, Weatherby Vanguard and more. These can be had for a few hundred bucks. They are reliable and tend to be accurate. Several of these companies offer higher-priced rifles that are push-feeds as well—the Remington 700 and Sako 85 being just two notable examples. So which way should you go? You want reliability, of course, and an acceptable level of accuracy. And as we’ve seen, you really can’t go wrong with either design. But confidence and pride of ownership matter, too, and some people just feel better owning and using one or the other. Most of my life I’ve been perfectly confident in and happy with push-feed actions. I have no qualms about them. However, with so many more left-hand actions available today, I have more controlled-round-feed actions than push-feeds. This is not a matter of conscious intent. Perhaps, as a child of the Mauser/Springfield/Model 70 era, I have a subconscious preference. Perhaps you do as well, and you should follow it, because to do otherwise robs all-important confidence. But if you don’t have any preconceived notions, don’t worry about it. The bolt action works—in all its forms.


22Nosler.com

800.285.3701

easy as 1, 2,

3,350 FPS TWO STEPS TO TRANSFORM YOUR AR. Swap your upper and change out your mag to turn your standard AR into a 22 Nosler. Delivering 30 percent more energy and 300 more fps than a 5.56 NATO at 500 yards, it’s your fastest way to faster. Flat out. Lights out.


ABOVE AVERAGE THE NEW B SERIES RIMFIRES FROM SAVAGE DELIVER FUNCTIONALITY AND ACCURACY AT A GREAT PRICE.

by Layne Simpson ____________________________________________________________________ MAY/JUNE 2017

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T

hrough the years, Savage has produced numerous bolt-action rifles chambered for standard and magnum rimfire cartridges. The new B Series is the latest. It is available in .17 HMR (B17), .22 Long Rifle (B22) and .22 WMR (B22 Magnum). Each of those is offered in four variations: synthetic stock (F), synthetic stock with a varmint-weight blued steel barrel (FV), the same configuration except with a stainless steel barrel (FVSS) and a threaded version (FV-SR) with a blue varmint-weight barrel. The B Series rifle is not to be confused with the Savage B-Mag in .17 WSM. The bolt of the B-Mag has a couple of rear-located locking lugs, but since the .17 HMR and .22 WMR deliver considerably less back thrust against the bolt during firing, on the B Series the engagement of the root of the bolt handle with a slot in the

receiver is enough to contain them. While not as strong or as rigid as a luglocking action, this type of system has been used successfully on millions of rimfire rifles for well over 100 years. The front, non-rotating section of the bolt contains dual-opposed extractors. And while the face of the bolt is deeply counterbored, the bottom section of its wall is machined away to allow the rim of a cartridge to slip beneath the extractor claws during feeding. Other interruptions in the counterbored wall are for passage of the firing pin and the extractors. You can tell if the gun is cocked by checking to see if the firing pin is protruding through the rear cap of the bolt. The position of the cocking cam protruding through the side of the bolt can serve the same purpose. The bolt handle is angled to prevent interference by a low-mounted scope, and fine-cut knurling on its knob offers comfortable, no-slip grasping.

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To install the bolt in the receiver, first make sure the firing pin is positioned topside and slide it in while fully depressing the trigger with the safety disengaged. The receiver consists of a steel tube with a synthetic housing containing the various safety and trigger components bolted to its bottom. After the shank of the 20.75-inch barrel is threaded and turned into the receiver, it is held firmly in the proper headspace position by the barrel nut for which Savage centerfire rifles are known. Measuring 0.805 inch at the receiver and the muzzle, the nontapered barrel is fairly heavy for a rimfire-size rifle. The rifling twist rate is 1:9, and a target-style crown should do a good job of protecting the rifling when accidentally banging the muzzle against a rock in the field. The body of the rotary magazine is made of a synthetic material, and it holds 10 rounds. A lug on its backside


ABOVE AVERAGE

The gun is drilled and tapped for Weaver scope bases, which are provided with the rifle. The roomy trigger guard accommodates gloved fingers, and the rifle features Savage’s excellent AccuTrigger.

BUSHNELL 6-18x40mm RIMFIRE

A

Bushnell 6-18x40mm Rimfire scope proved to be a perfect match for the new Savage rifle. It has a matte-finished, one-inch tube, weighs a hair over 21 ounces and is 13.75 inches long. Hundred-yard field of view ranges from 18 inches at 6X to 5.5 inches at 18X. A five-inch tube length offers plenty of ring spacing latitude for most rimfire-size receivers. It has multi-coated lenses, binocular-style focusing and side-mounted parallax adjustment ranging from 10 yards to infinity. Windage and elevation adjustment range for the second focal plane-located Multi-X reticle is 80 inches at 100 yards in quarter-minute clicks. Eye relief in some variable-power scopes varies as magnification is changed, but in the Bushnell, it remains a constant five inches over its entire adjustment range. In addition to standard windage and elevation adjustment dials with quarter-minute graduations, Bullet Drop Compensating dials for the .22 Long Rifle and .17 HMR cartridges are included. Here’s how they work. After the rifle has been zeroed deadon at 25 yards with the standard elevation dial installed, it is replaced by the .17 HMR dial while making sure its 25-yard mark is aligned with the index mark on the body of

the scope. Primary markings on that dial are in 25-yard increments out to 300 yards. In other words, if your trusty laser rangefinder indicates 175 yards to that unsuspecting flickertail, simply spin the dial to 175, hold the crosshairs dead-on, squeeze the trigger and watch the little varmint bite the dust. For a rifle in .22 LR, the rifle is first zeroed at 75 yards with the standard dial. The standard dial is then replaced with the .22 LR dial with its 75-yard mark in alignment with the index mark on the scope. Its primary range markings are also in 25yard increments but only out to 150 yards. Smaller marks between the primary markings of the .22 LR and .17 HMR dials allow fine-tuning for in-between distances and for differences in the trajectories of various loads. The BDC system proved to be quite accurate. After using the standard dial to zero the CCI A17 load dead-on at 25 yards, I switched to the .17 HMR dial and fired groups at 100, 150, 200 and 250 yards with the dial adjusted for those distances. Points of impact of all groups would have been inside the dimensions of a prairie dog, although I don’t consider the .17 HMR a consistently reliable killer on those critters at much over 200 yards.—LS

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rests hard against a spring at the front of the trigger housing. The front of the magazine is held in place by the engagement of a flexible tab with a mount that is bolted to the bottom of the receiver. Pressing on the tab releases the magazine, allowing the spring to push it down far enough for to be grasped by the shooter’s fingers. A fully loaded magazine is quite easy to insert to latch engagement on an open bolt, but it does require quite a bit of pressure when the bolt is closed. It becomes much easier when downloaded to nine rounds. The magazine is not easy to load. A profane word or two along with shoving each cartridge down and to the side against the spring tension of the rotating follower works best for me. Even then, the fumble factor remains quite high. One of the great things about Savage’s fully adjustable AccuTrigger is that it’s not expensive to produce and therefore can be used on an inexpensive rimfire rifle like the B Series. It is also one of the safest designs to come down the pike. Should the trigger be accidentally pulled without the AccuRelease lever of the finger piece being depressed, the lever physically blocks movement

S P E C I F I C AT I O N S

SAVAGE MODEL B17 FV Type

bolt-action rimfire

Caliber

.17 HMR (models also available in .22, .22 Mag.)

Capacity

10+1

Barrel

20.75 in., heavy contour, 1:9 twist

Overall Length

39 in.

Weight

6.2 lb.

Stock

black synthetic

Finish

matte blue

Trigger

fully adjustable AccuTrigger

Sights

none; drilled and tapped for included Weaver base

Price

$329

Manufacturer

Savage Arms, SavagearmS.com


ABOVE AVERAGE of the sear and holds it there. If at that point the lever and the trigger are pulled, the rifle still won’t fire; the lever has to be reset by opening and closing the bolt. Once that’s done the rifle can be fired by simultaneously pulling both the trigger and the lever. Trigger pull weight on the test rifle averaged 33 ounces with a variation of only three ounces. It was quite smooth with no take-up and only a slight trace of overtravel. The two-position tang safety worked as well. As with most black synthetic stocks, the one on the Savage rifle won’t win a beauty contest, but it is quite rigid, and I like the way it feels when shouldered. It has posts for quick-detach sling swivels, and the trigger guard is plenty roomy for a gloved finger. At about its midpoint, the receiver rests atop an integral pillar in the stock, which is hollowed for passage of the rear action bolt. The front action bolt turns into a receptacle that also secures the front magazine mount to the receiver. This makes for extremely rigid attachment of the barreled action to the stock. The barrel free-floats, and interchangeable barrel channel inserts allow the same stock to be used with both standard and heavy barrel contours. The B17 FV rifle I shot weighed six pounds, three ounces with its included two-piece Weaver Grand Slam scope mounting base installed. The addition of a 6-18x40mm Bushnell Rimfire scope in steel Grand Slam rings increased its heft to seven pounds, 13 ounces. Its weight makes the rifle steady atop sandbags, and yet it is not excessively heavy for a day of carrying over hill and dale. I fired close to 300 rounds during testing and didn’t encounter a single issue with function. Cartridge feeding from magazine to chamber was flawless, and operating the bolt smartly piled spent cases about five feet away and slightly behind me. The .17 HMR does not generate a lot of heat, and that along with an average ambient range temperature of 54 degrees eliminated the need for any barrel cool-downs. I cleaned the bore at about the

150-round mark and then again at the very end of the test session. My Lyman Borecam won’t squeeze into a .17 caliber bore, but the absence of dissolved copper fouling on cotton patches wet with Barnes CR10 indicated extremely smooth button rifling. The .17 HMR does not foul as badly as faster car-

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tridges, but it will leave a lot of copper behind in a rough bore. That night I had a dream. Before me were thousands of flickertails just begging to be shot. Resting atop a couple of sandbags was the Savage B17 FV. And behind me, a long conveyor ran all the way to the CCI ammo factory.

Yfififififinfifiefifififihefigfin’sfififinfiifiifinfibyfifififikingfifififi eifiherfifihefirefirfififipfififfifihefibfififififirfifihefipfisifiifinfi fiffifihefifififikingfififimfifiThefiBfiSeriesfifefififiresfififi sensibfiefisfiifiingfififingfisfifefiyfi

Infifirfierfifififififififimmfifififiefifihefifiifferenfifi bfirrefifififinfififirsfiinfifihefiBfiSeries,fiSfivfigefi fiesignefifififirepfififiefibfiefiinserfifisysfiemfisfifi fihefisfimefisfififikfififinfifififiepfifififihefivyfifirfi sfifinfifirfifibfirrefifi A C C U R A C Y R E S U LT S

SAVAGE MODEL B17 FV Bfififiefi Weighfifi(grfi)

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CCI A17 V-TIP

17

2,688

14

1.16

CCI TNT GREEN HP

16

2,531

12

1.19

HORNADY V-MAX

17

2,569

12

1.22

CCI FMJ

20

2,415

17

1.28

CCI GAMEPOINT HP

20

2,407

11

1.55

HORNADY XTP HP

20

2,440

9

1.78

.17 HMR

NOTES: Accuracy results are averages of five five-shot groups at 100 yards. Velocities are averages of 10 rounds clocked 12 feet from the muzzle by an Oehler Model 33 chronograph. Abbreviation: HP, hollowpoint

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BEYOND THE

.223 by David M. Fortier

Photography by Laura A. Fortier_____________

THE NEW .22 NOSLER OFFERS AR SHOOTERS A SUPERIOR .22 CALIBER ALTERNATIVE TO THE .223 REM.


T

hey call it flyover country, that great swath of heartland between the Northeastern Megalopolis and Southern California. The men and women who live here make up an important part of the fabric of our great nation. They are a hardy people with strong beliefs and admirable traits. Perhaps I am a bit biased, though, living as I do in rural Kansas. Over the years I’ve found it interesting at just how widely embraced the AR rifle has become here in the heartland. It has become the rifle of choice of the blue-collar worker. Oh, sure, they likely have a traditional bolt gun or two kicking around, but their working gun or truck rifle tends to be some flavor of AR. There are few rifles, with all its calibers,

configurations and options that are as versatile or scream ’Murica like Stoner’s black rifle does. There are indeed some great factory cartridges developed specifically for use in the AR platform beyond the standard .223/5.56. These include the 6.5mm Grendel, 6.8 Rem SPC, .300 BLK, .30 Rem. AR, .450 Bushmaster, .458 SOCOM and, of course, the .50 Beowulf. Some of these are more popular and useful than others, but they all add to the versatility of this rifle family. Unfortunately, there has been no factory offering in .22 caliber that has offered a real step up in performance compared to the .223/5.56. Hunters, recreational shooters and competitive riflemen looking for a bit more out of this bore size either had to switch to a wildcat

or a different platform. Nosler is looking to change this dynamic with the development and introduction of an entirely new cartridge: the .22 Nosler. The .22 Nosler joins the .26 Nosler (2014), .28 Nosler (2015), .30 Nosler (2016) and the recently introduced, hard-hitting .33 Nosler (2016) cartridges. Since introducing its first cartridge in 2014, Nosler has been on a bit of a roll. Starting with the .26 Nosler, this relative newcomer to ammunition has set a high bar. Nosler didn’t just want its name on the headstamp of just any cartridge. It wanted to introduce new cartridges that would grab people’s attention the oldfashioned way—with blistering performance. The .26 Nosler is a great example of this, driving a 129-grain bullet at a scorching 3,400 fps. In doing so, it kicks sand in the face of the .260 Rem., 6.5 Creedmoor, .264 Win. Mag. and even the 6.5-284 Norma (although it was slightly eclipsed by Weatherby’s 6.5-300, introduced last year). The Nosler headstamped cartridges that followed have all been equally attention getting when it comes to brute performance. The .22 Nosler is a different animal. For one thing, it wasn’t designed around the .404 Jeffery case like all the others. Nor was it developed with traditional bolt-action rifles in mind. No, the .22 Nosler was designed for one specific purpose: to be the fastest .22 caliber cartridge that is able to be easily chambered in a standard AR-15 type rifle. Its goal is to provide rifle shooters with a practical step up in performance over the hugely popular .223 Rem. and even the 5.56 NATO. By “practical” I mean the designers at Nosler wanted their new cartridge to be an easy drop-in caliber change for any standard AR-15 rifle. Rather than being an expensive custom conversion requiring hard to-find and expensive parts and pieces, the .22 Nosler was designed with the everyday shooter in mind. When conceptualizing the cartridge, the engineers had to consider the existing AR-15 magazine well dimensions and operating pressures. The magazine well dimensions dictate the maximum overall length and optimum cartridge case


BEYOND THE .223 diameter for reliable feeding. It becomes more difficult to design a reliable and robust magazine as the diameter of the cartridge case increases due to the internal dimensions of the magazine well. The existing magazine well dimensions dictate everything from how thick the magazines can be to the optimum case taper. For example, as you increase case diameter it becomes impossible to produce a sufficiently robust polymer magazine, so metal magazines are required. Basically, everything becomes a balancing act. Nosler’s engineering team also had to

consider the pressures this design could safely handle. The SAAMI maximum average pressure for the .223 Rem. is 55,000 psi, and that’s what the pressure standard for the .22 Nosler is as well. However, designers also had to consider case head diameter in relation to bolt thrust. Going to a larger diameter case would provide additional capacity, but it would also reduce the amount of material on the bolt and require a proprietary part. Bolt face choices included the larger .422-inch face for the 6.8mm Rem. SPC, the .440-incher utilized by the 6.5mm Grendel and 7.62x39, and the

The initial offerings will be a 55-grain Ballistic Tip Varmint for hunters and a 77-grain Custom Competition round for competition and long-range shooters.

Save for rebarreling, building a .22 Nosler from standard AR-15 components is a piece of cake. While .223/5.56 magazines won’t work, those designed for the 6.8mm Rem. SPC will.

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standard .223/5.56 .378-inch bolt face. Nosler chose the latter. The .22 Nosler is a good-looking cartridge, a bit fatter than the traditional .223 Rem. but similar in length. The bottleneck case sports a 30-degree shoulder and a distinctive rebated rim. Putting my calipers to some virgin cases showed the case to have an overall length of 1.75 inches, tapering from 0.415 inch to 0.395 inch. It has a neck diameter of 0.252 inch, and as mentioned above, the rim is rebated to fit a standard 0.378-inch .223 Rem. bolt. It utilizes a Small Rifle primer. How does Nosler’s case volume compare with the .223 Rem.? Well, the .22 Nosler case holds 34.2 grains of water at overflow while a .223 Rem. case holds approximately 31 grains. With a 55-grain Ballistic Tip seated to a provide an overall length of 2.260 inches, the .22 Nosler holds 31.2 grains of water. A .223 Rem. with the same bullet seated to the same overall length holds 27.4 grains of water. So Nosler’s new case does offer a useful increase in case volume. Nosler claims the .22 Nosler case is “its own animal.” I would say it is similar to a 6.8mm Rem. SPC case that has been lengthened, rebated, had the shoulder angle changed to 30 degrees and necked down to .22 caliber. So I guess you could call it “its own animal.” By designing it in this manner, the engineers have created a cartridge not only perfectly suited to the AR-15 rifle but also to the market as well. The .22 Nosler requires no weird or expensive proprietary parts. And that .223 Rem. rim diameter means you can use standard mil-spec AR-15 bolts. These are both readily available and economical. Except for the barrel, all other parts are standard, off-the-shelf components. So building an AR rifle in .22 Nosler is both straightforward and easy—it’s no different than building a .223 Rem.—although Nosler does recommend an adjustable gas block to achieve maximum performance. So Nosler got the first part—build components—right. But for the AR platform, the ready availability of affordable and reliable high-capacity magazines can make or break a new introduction. AR shooters have become relatively spoiled


1112 12 M MA MAGNUM A GNUM T TA TARGET, A RGET T, 338 3 LAPUA fififififififiCfifififififififififififififififififififififififififififififififififififififififififififififi fifififififi Cfi fififififififififififififififififififififififififififi fififi PfifififififiBfiddfidfiWfifidfiLfifififififififififififik PfifififififiBfiddfidfiWfifid fidfiL

110 BA STEALTH, .338 LAPUA FfififififiyfiBfififipfififififidfififivfifififififififififififififififififififififififififififififififiCfifissfisfifififififififidfiFfifififi BfififififififififiLOKfiFfifififidfifiOfififiPfififififiPfififififififiyfifififipfifiRfifififififidjfisfifibfifififififififififififififififi FfibfiDfiffifisfifiGLRfi16fiBfififisfififikfifi24”fiBfififififififififizzfififiBfifikfi

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111 LONG RANGE HUNTER, .338 LAPUA LfififififififiWfifififififiHfififififififiCfififififififififififififiOfififiPfifififififififipfifiRfififi

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BEYOND THE .223 by the proliferation of quality magazines in the last decade, and the one downside to the .22 Nosler is that it requires special magazines. The .22 Nosler will not feed properly from standard .223/5.56 magazines, but on the positive side, it will feed from 6.8mm Rem. SPC magazines. These are readily available from a number of manu-

facturers in a variety of capacities. This magazine design has been refined and improved since the cartridge was first introduced in 2004. I was able to obtain a limited amount of .22 Nosler factory ammo and a Noveske .22 Nosler upper, and the rig fed flawlessly using a 10-shot 6.8mm SPC magazine. (Ed note: Fortier reports

P E R F O R M A N C E C O M PA R I S O N

.22 NOSLER vs .223 REM. Velocity (fps) .22 Nosler | .223 Rem.

Energy (ft.-lbs.) .22 Nosler | .223 Rem.

Trajectory (in.) .22 Nosler | .223 Rem.

Muzzle

2,950 | 2,650

1,488 | 1,201

-1.5 | -1.5

100 yds.

2,671 | 2,389

1,220 | 976

0 | 0

200 yds.

2,409 | 2,143

993 | 786

-3.4 | -4.6

300 yds.

2,162 | 1,913

800 | 626

-12.8 | -16.8

400 yds.

1,930 | 1,698

637 | 493

-29.7 | -38.6

500 yds.

1,715 | 1,504

503 | 387

-55.9 | -72.5

600 yds.

1,519 | 1,334

395 | 304

-94 | -121.7

SOURCE: Nosler. Data derived from a 77-grain open-tip match bullet fired from an 18-inch barrel.

accuracy was good, with the rifle averaging 0.6 inch for three five-shot groups at 100 yards, but unfortunately the ammo Nosler sent was not the final spec—it was loaded to a lower level than the company actually plans to produce—so he did not conduct RifleShooter’s standard accuracy test. That’s why there’s no accompanying accuracy chart.) On the performance side of the ledger, Nosler is claiming its new cartridge will push a 55-grain Ballistic Tip at 3,500 fps from a 24-inch barrel. If you like heavier bullets, the company says the cartridge will drive a 77-grain Custom Competition open-tip match at 3,100 fps from a 24-inch barrel. Sound exciting? Yes. But keep in mind these are SAAMI test barrel velocities, and who runs a 24-inch tube in the field? For a more realistic look at what the .22 Nosler is capable of, Nosler also furnished data for an 18-inch barrel. The 55-grain Ballistic Tip load averaged 3,350 fps in its testing while the heavier

Varmint hunters in particular will find the .22 Nosler to be a very capable round—one featuring more velocity, more energy and less drop and wind drift across any practical field distance.

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BEYOND THE .223 77-grain Custom Competition load averaged 2,900 fps. I wanted to compare the 77-grain .22 Nosler load apples to apples with a .223 Rem. load, so I consulted my records. When fired from an 18-inch Mk12 Mod 1 AR-15, the Black Hills .223 Rem. 77-grain MatchKing load averaged 2,615 fps. So in this particular instance, the .22 Nosler has an impressive 285 fps advantage over this specific .223 Rem load. Stepping up to a 5.56 NATO pressure, my records showed the Black Hills 77-grain AMU Military Match load averaged a noticeably quicker 2,776 fps from the Mk12 18-inch barrel. However, the difference between this hot military 5.56 load and the .22 Nosler is still 124 fps.

I think the new .22 Nosler does offer a noticeable advantage over the .223 Rem., with an increase in velocity and energy and less drop and wind drift across the board. Basically, the 77-grain .22 Nosler load

retains the same energy at 500 yards as a 77-grain .223 Rem. load retains at 400 yards. This increase in performance will be of interest to hunters and competitive shooters, and for the latter I’ll be interested to see what type of velocities

The .22 Nosler (r.) has a 25 percent greater case capacity than the .223 Rem. (opposite page). Significantly, both rounds share the same .378 bolt face diameter, so if you build a rifle based on the Nosler you can use the standard mil-spec .223 bolt.

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BEYOND THE .223 you could get out of a long 80-grain VLD for slow-fire competition from a “space gun” AR-15. I think the .22 Nosler will really appeal to hunters. The 55-grain Ballistic Tip load will make an effective coyote

round. It will hit harder than a .223 Rem., and it will also make connecting at distance a bit easier because of its slightly flatter trajectory and less wind drift. This will make long field shots a bit easier.

Hunting and competition are the most obvious and natural roles for Nosler’s new cartridge. I’m sure these activities are what the company likely has envisioned for it. However, I have to say I’m also very excited about the potential of this new cartridge in really short barrels as well—12.5-, 10.5- and even ultrashort 7.5-inch barrels. Improving the terminal performance and extending the practical range of these short-barreled rifles would be useful, and if the .22 Nosler cartridge performs well in these short barrel lengths it might bring something useful to the table here as well. Nosler is currently supporting its new cartridge with two initial factory loads along with brass, dies and loading information. Load data can be found on Nosler’s website. Firearms will be available initially from Noveske, Radian, Colt Competition and Nosler. Where it progresses from here is anyone’s guess.

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RIFLESHOOTER’S

VARMINT GUIDE GUNS, AMMO AND MORE FOR YOUR VARMINTING PLEASURE. by J. Scott Rupp

2017

Spring and early summer are great times to get out and stretch your legs—and your shooting irons. Groundhogs, prairie dogs and similar critters will start making their first appearances, and it won’t be long before coyote hunting starts getting good. Here’s a roundup of some varmint-specific gear worth checking out.

[1]

[ 1 ] MOSSBERG MVP VARMINT & PREDATOR The MVP allows the use of standard AR-15 or M1A/M14 magazines (depending on caliber) in a bolt gun, and now some models are available with threaded barrels: .204 Ruger and 7.62 NATO in the Varmint, and 6.5 Creedmoor and 7.62 in the Predator. The Creedmoor (shown) is all-new in the Predator. A number of these models can be had as scoped combos topped with Vortex Crossfire II riflescopes with BDC Dead-Hold reticles. >>$732–$935, mossberg.com

[ 2 ] MOSSBERG PATRIOT PREDATOR The Patriot is a well-built, affordable and, judging by the guns we’ve tested, accurate rifle, and this traditional bolt-action platform now includes a Predator version in .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win. All feature the adjustable LBA trigger, and the fluted 22-inch barrels are threaded. The guns come optics ready, courtesy of a topmounted Picatinny rail. >>$441, mossberg.com

MAY/JUNE 2017

54

[ 3 ] SAVAGE A22 Savage was the first to figure out how to get the .17 HMR to work in a semiauto rifle with the A17, and now the company has taken that same design and chambered it in .22 Long Rifle. The A22 features the firm’s now-legendary AccuTrigger, and it feeds from a 10-round rotary magazine. It’s lightweight thanks to an aluminum-billet machined receiver, and the barrel is button-rifled. Adjustable sights, drilled and tapped for scope. >>$281, SavageArms.com

[ 4 ] KIMBER OPEN COUNTRY Here’s a true double-duty rifle for coyotes or deer-size game—meaning you can get really good with a single rifle, as well as develop some killer loads. Built on the 84M action, it has a 24-inch stainless steel barrel, but thanks to the heavy fluting, it weighs in at just under seven pounds. The carbon-fiber stock features pillar bedding, and the match-grade trigger promises a break between three and 3.5 pounds. >>$2,269, KimberAmerica.com

RIFLESHOOTERMAG.COM


[2]

[3]

[4]

[5]

[6]

[ 5 ] RUGER AMERICAN RIMFIRE TARGET Chambered for .22 Long Rifle, .22 Mag. and .17 HMR, the rifle sports an 18-inch hammer-forged, threaded barrel. The .22 LR version accepts 10/22 magazines, and the .22 Mag. and .17 HMR models feed via a proprietary nine-rounder. It’s got the Ruger Marksman adjustable trigger—with a possible pull weight range between three and five pounds—and the rifle comes with an aluminum Picatinny optics rail installed. In an unexpected aesthetic flourish, the black laminate stock has a Henry cut in the fore-end tip. >>$499, ruger.com

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55

[ 6 ] RUGER AMERICAN PREDATOR The Predator is not new, but two aspects of it are. The gun is now chambered to the sexy new 6mm Creedmoor, and several chamberings are available as scoped combo packages featuring a Vortex Crossfire II scope: .204 Ruger, .223, 6.5 Creedmoor and .308. American Predators have a green synthetic stock, Ruger Marksman adjustable trigger and threaded barrels (5/824 in the 6mm, 1/2-28 for the new scoped combos). >>$529 (6mm Creedmoor), $699 (combos); ruger.com

RIFLESHOOTERMAG.COM


RIFLESHOOTER’S 2017 VARMINT GUIDE

[ 10 ]

[ 11 ]

[ 7 ] LEUPOLD VX3I LRP While its primary mission is precision rifle competition, it’s got all the features perfect for long-range sniping for prairie dogs, groundhogs and other critters. It boasts the company’s Twilight Max light management system, and it’s available in either front or rear focal plane models and in either mil-dot or m.o.a. styles. There are too many reticle options to delve into here. Powers include 4.5-14X, 6.520X and 8.5-25X, all with 50mm objectives. >>$1,105–$1,235, leupold.com

[7 ]

[ 8 ] SIG WHISKEY 5 This scope now features a LevelPlex feature to control cant, which can wreak havoc on long-range accuracy. It’s user-selectable for cant detection in 0.5- or 1.0-degree sensitivities. The Whiskey 5 also has the new TH100 turret, with 100 clicks per rotation, and the new MOA Milling Hunter reticle—in addition to several reticle styles currently in the SIG lineup. The riflescope has ED glass and motion-activated illumination. Models include 1-5x20mm, 2-10x42mm, 2.4-12x56mm, 3-15x44mm, 3-15x52mm and 5-25x52mm. >>$1,080–$2,160, SigOptics.com

[8]

[ 9 ] GPO PASSION 6X You probably haven’t heard of this company yet (GPO stands for German Precision Optics), but it’s run by a veteran optics guy who’s also a serious hunter. The Passion 6X—available in 1-6x24mm, 2.5-15x50mm (shown) and 2.5-15x56mm—is built on a 30mm tube. The smallest model is fixed-parallax, but the other two are side-adjustable. They all feature a German 4 illuminated reticle with auto shutoff and battery life warning. >>$1,278–$1,444, gpo-usa.com

[9]

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RIFLESHOOTER’S 2017 VARMINT GUIDE

[ 10 ] NOSLER MODEL 48 The Model 48 Liberty (shown), wood-stocked Heritage and highend Custom are now available in the.22 Nosler, which is profiled elsewhere in this issue. It’s a cartridge primarily developed for the AR-15 platform but a great choice for a bolt gun as well. And if you weren’t aware of it, the Liberty is also available in a quick-twist 1:9 barrel for the .22-250 Rem. As Model 48s go, the Liberty is the most affordable of the bunch, and you get a lot for your money: lightweight synthetic stock (glassed and pillar bedded), excellent trigger, Cerakote finish and m.o.a. guarantee. >>$1,795 (Liberty), $1,895 (Heritage), $2,495 and up (Custom); nosler.com [ 11 ] ROCK RIVER ARMS LAR-15 FRED EICHLER PREDATOR 2 The biggest change to this rifle over the previous version is the addition of Rock River Arms’ Fred Eichler muzzle brake, but the gun also gets a better-looking free-float handguard courtesy of a tan or gun metal gray RocKote finish. Available with Operator CAR or Operator A2 stock, the Predator 2 has a .223 Wylde chamber, so it will handle both .223 and 5.56 rounds, and it features a mid-length gas system. >>$1,735–$1,760, RockRiverArms. com

[ 12 ] HORNADY .218 BEE Fans of this timeless cartridge will be happy to learn there’s a new load for their pet rifles. The load’s 45-grain hollowpoint has a G1 ballistic coefficient of .108 and a sectional density of .128. External ballistics weren’t yet available, although I would expect velocity to be in the neighborhood of 2,800 fps. >>hornady.com [ 13 ] WINCHESTER VARMINT X LEAD FREE In answer to the demand across the country for lead-free ammo, Winchester offers a new lineup for varmint hunters. It features an alloy-jacketed, zinc-core hollowpoint and will be available in .17 WSM (15-grain bullet at 3,300 fps), .223 Rem. (30 grains at 3,800 fps), .22-250 (38 grains at 4,090 fps) and .243 Win. (55 grains at 3,910 fps). >>winchester.com

[ 12 ]

[ 14 ] HORNADY ELD MATCH 6MM CREEDMOOR, 73-GRAIN .223 Hornady’s initial load for its latest cartridge creation features the ELD Match bullet—a good choice for varminting. With a whopping .536 BC, it launches at 2,960 fps and is still zipping along at 2,148 fps at 500 yards with 1,106 ft.-lbs. of energy. The new 73-grain ELD Match for the .223 is another top choice for distance varminting, and it’s the largest tipped bullet Hornady is able to stuff in a load that will still fit an AR magazine. It has a BC of .398, and when pushed out the muzzle at 2,790 fps, it’s still moving at 1,764 fps at 500 yards, carrying 504 ft.-lbs. of energy. >>hornady.com

[ 13 ]

[ 14 ]

[ 15 ] FEDERAL HUNTER MATCH .22 LR Serious rimfire hunters now have a load optimized for long-range accuracy and terminal performance, as evidenced by the expanded bullet shown here. It’s tuned for 100-yard work and features a 40-grain lead hollowpoint. Muzzle velocity is 1,200 fps. Cases are nickel-plated for reliable extraction and corrosion protection. >>FederalPremium.com

[ 15 ]

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RIFLESHOOTERâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S 2017 VARMINT GUIDE

[ 16 ] HORNADY SUPERFORMANCE .260 Coyote hunters who want to reach out with authority will want to look at the new 129-grain SST offering from Hornady. Boasting a BC of .485 and leaving the muzzle at a smoking 2,930 fps, it drops only 6.9 inches at 300 yards (200-yard zero) and 20 inches at 400 yards. Energy is still in excess of 1,600 ft.-lbs. at 300 yards and nearly 1,400 ft.-lbs. at 400 yards. >>hornady.com

[ 16 ]

[ 17 ]

[ 17 ] BROWNING BXV Browning is deadly serious about its ammo business, and this year itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s expanding into the predator and varmint fields with the BXV. Designed for rapid expansion courtesy of a polymer-tipped bullet, BXV features nickel-plated cases for smooth feeding and corrosion resistance. Offerings include .22 Hornet (25-grain bullet at 3,100 fps), .223 Rem. (50 grains at 3,400 fps), .22-250 (50 grains at 3,800 fps) and .243 Win. (65 grains at 3,400 fps). >>BrowningAmmo.com

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RIFLESHOOTER’S 2017 VARMINT GUIDE

[ 18 ] LYMAN BAG JACK Adapt to any terrain or shooting angle with this cool new device. It works just like a scissor jack. Simply turn the adjustment screw to raise or lower the platform from 2.75 inches to 12.75 inches. The jack is made of aluminum and steel components, and it measures 10x10 inches, so it’s easy to pack and transport. The top is non-slip and will accommodate most any shooting bag. It wasn’t on Lyman’s website at press time, but I saw it advertised elsewhere for around $60. [ 18 ] [ 19 ] BROWNING SOUND SHIELD With these, if you have your shooting glasses you also have your hearing protection, thanks to earplugs that retract inside the frame temples. Just open the end of each earpiece and pull out the corded plugs. The Indoor/Outdoor model (shown) features a noise-reduction rating of 25 dB, and the lenses exceed ANSI impact standards. Rubberized temples keep the glasses from slipping. >>$30, browning.com

MAY/JUNE 2017

[ 19 ]

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RIFLE REPORT by Stan Trzoniec

S P E C I F I C AT I O N S

Browning AB3 Hunter

T

he A-Bolt, introduced in 1984, has been largely supplanted by the XBolt, but with everyone now making “value” rifles, Browning introduced the A-Bolt 3 (AB3) a couple of years ago. It was first available only with a synthetic stock, but last year the company brought out a woodstocked Hunter version chambered in nine cartridges from .243 Win. to .300 Win. Mag. At a penny under $670, this rifle is going to appeal to many. It has clean, classic lines, and while the wood is select grade, I would put it slightly above that level. In addition to my test gun, I looked at nine samples in one of the major sporting retailers in my area, and there was not a bad piece of wood in the bunch. Sure, you will find a few pin knots, but the grain runs true. The finish is smooth as silk and evenly applied. There is more than ample checkering, with two panels

on the fore-end and one on each side of the pistol grip. Executed in a point pattern, the diamonds are nicely pointed; there is a border around each panel; and for right-handed shooters there’s a comfy Wundhammer swell on the pistol grip. Neither the fore-end nor the pistol grip features a cap. Browning’s Inflex recoil pad comes standard on all calibers. Stock inletting is well executed, and you will find glass bedding forward of the magazine in two places, each roughly an inch square. The rear stock screw is also bedded to help stabilize the action. Removing the twin stock screws allows the action to be removed from the stock—but with a twist. The trigger guard is held in the gun with the rear stock screw, but use caution when removing it. While the rear screw holds it in place, at the rear of the trigger guard is a small nub that fits into a recess within the stock. Remove the guard by lifting the front of

MAY/JUNE 2017

60

RIFLESHOOTERMAG.COM

BROWNING AB3 HUNTER TYPE

bolt-action centerfire

CALIBER

.243 (tested), 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Win., .270 WSM, 7mm-08, 7mm Rem. Mag., .308, .30-06, .300 WSM, .300 Win. Mag.

CAPACITY

5+1 (as tested)

BARREL

22 in. (as tested)

OVERALL LENGTH

42–46.75 in.

WEIGHT

6 lb., 13 oz. (as tested)

STOCK

oil-finished select American walnut

FINISH

matte blue

TRIGGER

5.0 lb. (measured)

SIGHTS

none; drilled and tapped

PRICE:

$670

MANUFACTURER

Browning, browning.com

it up slightly and moving it forward. Most AB3 models come with a 22inch barrel. Exceptions would be the 23-inch barrel on the .270 WSM and .300 WSM; the 7mm Rem. Mag. and .300 Win. Mag. rate a 26-inch tube. No sights are included, but the receiver is drilled and tapped. However, be aware that previous A-Bolt mounts will not fit on this gun. I used Browning’s new AB3 Integrated Scope


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RIFLE REPORT Mounting System, which matched both the gun and the Bushnell 3-9x40mm scope perfectly. Like the rest of the action, the barrel is finished in a matte blue, and it’s button-rifled, tripled checked for uniformity, interior finish and straightness. Barrels are free-floated, hand chambered and finished with a target crown. Browning kept the distinctive “A” look for the receiver. The bolt is machined from solid steel bar stock and is .878 inch in diameter. It locks up via three lugs and, as is the case with the A-Bolt and X-Bolt, features a 60-degree throw for fast, easy operation. The chrome-plated bolt has an angled knob and glides through the receiver with ease. It has a blade extractor and a plunger ejector. Bolt removal is accomplished by pushing in on the bolt release on the left side of the receiver. The gun features a tang safety. When the gun is on Safe, pushing down on a bolt lock override button, located just behind the bolt handle, allows you to operate the bolt to load or unload the rifle. When the gun is cocked, there is a cocking indicator located under the shroud that shows red. This is duplicated on the tang safety with a red dot showing when the safety is off. The trigger has a polymer finger lever, and while crisp it broke a little heavy at five pounds. The detachable magazine is the trend in hunting rifles these days. It’s a good way to have extra rounds in your pocket, and depending upon your choice of cartridge, the polymer magazine will hold three, four or five cartridges. When the magazine is in place, the bolt just kisses the top of the follower, adding to the overall smoothness of the rifle’s operation. At the range with factory .243 Win. ammunition, I found the gun a pleasure to shoot once I got used to the rather heavy trigger pull. The stock fit me in all the right places, and with Browning’s proprietary recoil pad, the push-back was soft. Since my primary hunting deals

with varmints—read woodchucks— this rifle with a pocketful of Hornady’s Superformance 58-grain V-Max bullets could easily keep me occupied on a long, balmy summer afternoon. For larger game, both the Remington and Winchester heavier

bullets would fill out deer hunting duties with aplomb. While this AB3 only occupies only two pages in the catalog, to me sales of this particular version will be significant. It’s a winner for nimrods and veterans alike.

Browning went the extra mile by adding bedding pads in the receiver and rear-barrel areas, and there’s bedding around the rear action screw as well.

Unlike the bolt unlock button on the X-Bolt, which is on the bolt itself, the AB3’s button is on the receiver forward of the bolt. The rifle sports loaded-chamber and cocking indicators and a flattened bolt handle.

The AB3 sports a fat bolt with three locking lugs. The bolt glides smoothly in the receiver tube and provides a short 60-degree lift.

AC CU R AC Y R E S U LT S

BROWNING AB3 HUNTER Bullet Weight (gr.)

Muzzle Velocity (fps)

Hornady Superformance Varmint

58

3,719

41

1.15

Winchester Deer Season

95

2,967

14

1.30

Remington Power-Lokt HP

80

3,082

17

1.75

.243 Win.

Standard Avg. Deviation (fps) Group (in.)

Notes: Accuracy results are averages of three three-shot groups at 100 yards from a sandbag rest. Velocities are five-shot averages recorded on an Oehler Model 35P chronograph. Abbreviation: HP, hollowpoint

MAY/JUNE 2017

62

RIFLESHOOTERMAG.COM


THE LAST WORD Continued from page 64

even if the cover allowed. But, hey, I’d made my choice. Fortunately I wasn’t married to it. With gratitude I borrowed my partner’s .300 Win. Mag., and I’m glad he had it. Sometimes the thought process is more complex. In late November I was sitting Nebraska with Neal Emery, one of the great Hornady guys. We had an awesome whitetail in occasional view on the edge of a CRP field. Although just an eight-pointer, he had tall tines and incredible beams—a really fine buck. The grass and weeds were tall, but occasionally enough of the body was in view for a shot. The range was a bit over 400 yards. Neal, who had already taken his buck, had a super-accurate, dialed-in, .280 Ackley Improved in the blind. I could’ve grabbed it, dialed the scope and taken the shot. Except it was his rifle. On this hunt I had my rifle, a Dakota Model 10 in .275 Rigby (7x57). Having never hunted or even seen this part of the country, so I guessed wrong about the topography and likely range. But this was my first hunt with this gorgeous rifle, and in that context the rifle was more important than the hunt, and I wasn’t going to use Neal’s rifle and forego the opportunity to use my own. And I was also not going to attempt a shot beyond my confidence in the rifle and scope. So we didn’t shoot that deer. Now, let’s not be crazy. If it had been a Boone & Crockett whitetail the hunter in me would have taken over, and I would’ve grabbed Neal’s rifle. But it wasn’t. So I passed. On the same morning I passed a couple of other nice bucks I probably should have shot, but in those instances Hunter Craig was in command. They looked good, but maybe I’d see better, and I had time. Until I didn’t. At the tail end I shot a much smaller buck than the ones I’d seen, but I shot him with the .275 Rigby, and that made it just fine. On that day at least, the rifle was more important than the hunt.

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THE LAST WORD by Craig Boddington

A QUESTION OF PRIORITIES

W

riters and editors always have somewhat of a love/ hate relationship. It’s just part of the business. But sometimes we’re friends (or think we are). One of my editors I actually like and respect the heck out of is the editor of this magazine, Scott Rupp. We irregularly correspond, and just the other day he commented that he was going home to Pennsylvania for deer season with a vintage Savage 99 in .300 Savage with an aperture sight. Trust me, Scott Rupp can make an aperture sight work. Many folks in our business shoot better with their laptops than their rifles, but this guy can shoot, and I readily admit he’s better than I am. That said, Rupp certainly has access to more versatile platforms and cartridges than a Savage 99 in .300 Savage. Sure, but who cares? Depending on your mindset and interests, using such a rifle is both cool and fun. I fired back, “Sometimes the rifle is more important than the hunt.” If you’re a serious rifle freak you will understand that comment; if you’re a dedicated hunter you may not. It’s that simple. I am a dedicated hunter, but I’m also a rifle freak, perhaps not all that common a combination. I have colleagues who are primarily hunting writers. To them a rifle is as interesting as a shovel. And I have colleagues who are gun writers. The hardware is almost everything, and hunting is just one venue for utilizing a firearm, not a passion. For me it’s both. As an occupational hazard I often am obligated to

go hunting with rifles that might not be my first choice, whether for a TV episode or on an editor’s assignment. Let me give you a hint: I am totally left-handed. So, whether on TV or in the pages of a magazine, if you ever see me using a right-handed rifle you can correctly assume it was not a rifle I would have chosen. Mind you, the rifle may be wonderful, but my rifles are either left-handed or ambidextrous. So, recognizing that Rupp’s .300 Savage might prevent him from filling

ing a well-worn Model 1894 .25-35 saddle ring carbine made in 1906, when Teddy Roosevelt was president. Honestly, I didn’t care about the year or the barrel length. I would have preferred a tang sight, but I lost those bids. This rifle has a vintage Lyman receiver sight, essential because I can no longer see the standard buckhorn open sights. I don’t purchase rifles just so I can write a story that pays less than the cost of the rifle. I’m not a collector, but I thought a new load for the .25-35 was

MY MOST CLASSIC BLUNDER WAS TAKING A .35 WHELEN ON A LATE-SEASON SITKA BLACKTAIL HUNT. his freezer, I was extremely jealous. After all, the Savage 99 action is ambidextrous, and both the rifle and the .300 Savage cartridge are deer-harvesting classics—just exactly the sort of rig a guy who is both a hunter and a classic rifle freak might choose. Over the years I’ve used Savage 99s in .243 Win., .250 Savage, .308 Win. and .358 Win. But I’ve never closed the action on a .300 Savage cartridge. Which makes me even more jealous. On the other hand, I can probably one-up Rupp with this one. In August we were at a writers’ gathering at Brownell’s in Iowa. One of the new products showcased was a Hornady LeverEvolution 110-grain FTX load for the .25-35. Scott and I both shot a vintage Winchester 1894 with tang aperture sight and a recent ’94, part of a small run of .25-35s made a few years ago. I was intrigued, so I went shopping on gunbroker.com—acquir-

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cool. It is certainly not a cartridge for all seasons or reasons, but in this deer season just past I’ve taken two whitetails with it, and loved both shots. There is value in discussing the dilemma that sometimes occurs in choosing between the rifle and the hunt. Ideally they match, but sometimes they don’t. This can result from imperfect planning, lack of knowledge of conditions, unusual situations or just plain stupidity. For the latter, my most classic blunder was taking a .35 Whelen on a late-season Sitka blacktail hunt on Kodiak Island. My thinking was that the cartridge was fine for deer but would get me out of trouble with a brown bear if needed. I didn’t know the cover would be beaten down and shots would be long, or that there were so many freakin’ deer there was no way to stalk close Continued on page 63


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