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APRIL 2017 VOLUME 58, ISSUE 3

44 52 58 64 66 .22 Nosler With a velocity of 3,500 fps, this new round was created to be the fastest .22 centerfire cartridge possible for a standard AR-15. Joseph von Benedikt

2

SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017

Benelli Super Black Eagle 3 The updated Super Black Eagle 3 has inherited all of the design improvements of its predecessors and has a few new ones of its own. Layne Simpson

Hell’s Canyon X-Bolt Browning’s new Hell’s Canyon Speed X-Bolt is a serious hunting rifle made for comfortable carry over rough terrain. Steve Gash

Sierra’s Tipped Bullets Although the tipped BlitzKing and Tipped MatchKing bullets are designed for very different tasks, they share Sierra’s commitment to stellar accuracy. Layne Simpson

Quick Shot TriStar Hunter EX 16 Gauge The Hunter EX over-under shotgun has the right proportions and the right price to appeal to 16-gauge fans everywhere. J. Scott Rupp

Quick Shot Birchwood Casey .22 Rimfire Dueling Tree No type of shooting is more fun than steel plates, and the new .22 Rimfire Dueling Tree is also a good way to work on your reaction time. Joel J. Hutchcroft

Quick Shot Zeiss Victory V8 2.8-20X 56mm

67

The Victory V8 line represents the best that Zeiss has to offer, and the 2.8-20X 56mm is a great allaround riflescope. Jake Edmondson


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CONTENTS

APRIL 2017 VOLUME 58, ISSUE 3

SHOOTER’S UPDATE

An Outdoor Sportsman Group® Publication

PUBLISHER

8 Readers Speak Out

Chris Agnes

Intrigued by the .41 Magnum Henry Big Boy, the .35 Whelen is a favorite, rainy day reading, and more

EDITORIAL EDITOR IN CHIEF Joel J. Hutchcroft COPY EDITOR Michael Brecklin

12 New Guns & Gear Ruger SR1911 Target, SIG Electro-Optics KILO Rangefinder, Federal Fusion 6.5 Creedmoor Hunting Ammo, Lockdown Cordless Vault Lights, and more

16 Ask the Experts Handloading the .22 TCM, Hopkins & Allen Ranger No. 2, and Blackhawk Field Jacket

SHOOTER’S GALLERY

CONTRIBUTORS Jake Edmondson Steve Gash Allan Jones Lane Pearce Layne Simpson Bart Skelton Joseph von Benedikt Terry Wieland

ART ART DIRECTOR Luke M. Bouris GROUP ART DIRECTOR David A. Kleckner STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Michael Anschuetz

18 The Shootist Holland & Holland’s Magazine Rifle Joseph von Benedikt

24 The Ballistician Accuracy: The Key Is the Payload Allan Jones

PRODUCTION PRODUCTION MANAGER Terry Boyer PRODUCTION COORDINATOR Jenny Kaeb

ENDEMIC AD SALES NATIONAL ENDEMIC SALES Jim McConville (440) 791-7017

28 The Reloader Salvaging Military Surplus Ammo Lane Pearce

WESTERN REGION Hutch Looney (818) 990-9000 MIDWEST REGION Rob Walker (309) 679-5069

SHOOTER’S SHOWCASE

EAST REGION Pat Bentzel (717) 695-8095

CORPORATE AD SALES

68 Gunsmoke That Elusive and Maddening Quality Called Accuracy Terry Wieland

EAST COAST ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE Kathy Gross (678) 589-2065 MIDWEST ACCOUNT DIRECTOR Kevin Donley (248) 798-4458 MIDWEST & MOUNTAIN ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE Carl Benson (312) 955-0496

72 Hipshots Pride of a Nation Joel J. Hutchcroft

DIRECT RESPONSE ADVERTISING/NON-ENDEMIC Anthony Smyth (914) 693-8700 Shooting Times (ISSN 0038-8084) is published monthly with a bimonthly issue in Dec/Jan by Outdoor Sportsman Group®, 1040 6th Ave., 12th Floor, New York, NY 10018-3703. Periodicals Postage Paid at New York, NY and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to Shooting Times, P.O. Box 37539, Boone, IA 50037-0539. Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to 500 Rt 46 East, Clifton, NJ 07011. Canada Post International Publications Mail Product/Sales Agreement No. 41405030.

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Copyright 2017 by Outdoor Sportsman Group® All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission. Shooting Times® is a registered trademark of Outdoor Sportsman Group® in the United States. The Publisher and authors make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy, completeness, and timeliness of the information contained in this publication. Any reliance or use of the information is solely at your own risk, and the authors and publisher disclaim any and all liability relating thereto. Any prices given in this issue were suggested prices at the press time and are subject to change. Some advertisements in this magazine may concern products that are not legally for sale to California residents or residents in other jurisdictions. SUBSCRIPTIONS 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 Shooting Times, P.O. Box 37539, Boone, IA 50037-0539, or E-mail us at stmcustserv@cdsfulfillment.com, or call TOLL FREE 1-800-727-4353 or 1-800-494-2267. BE AWARE THAT SHOOTING TIMES 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 Shooting Times, please call 1-800-727-4353 to determine if the agent is authorized. For more information on subscription scams, please visit www.ftc.gov. Subscription rate for one year is $23.98 (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. CONTRIBUTIONS: Manuscripts, photographs and artwork must be submitted to the editorial department with a SASE. The Publisher assumes no responsibility for loss or damage to unsolicited material. Please send to: Shooting Times, Editor, 2 News Plaza, Peoria, IL 61614. PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.


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SHOOTER’S UPDATE READERS SPEAK OUT

NEW GUNS & GEAR

ASK THE EXPERTS

300 yards, just state that. Please no more minute of whatever. Thanks. J.D. Palmer Via e-mail

.35 Whelen Is a Fave I read Joseph von Benedkt’s article on one of my favorite calibers: the .35 Whelen. Well done! I did not see any loads for the Sierra 225-grain GameKing Boattail, which is the bullet I load for most purposes. I have been using IMR 4064 powder, and my charges are lighter than von Benedikt’s for the Nosler 225-grain bullets, but I seat my bullets about 0.015 inch from the forcing cone in the barrel and keep pressures down. My rifle is a Remington Model 700 Classic. Thank you for an enjoyable article. Karl E. Ebert Via e-mail

7mm STW Is Too Good to Fade Away I LIKED THE DEC./JAN. ISSUE OF SHOOTING TIMES, PARTICULARLY LAYNE

Simpson’s treatment of the .41 Magnum cartridge in his “Revolver Cartridges in Rifles” article. I own four .41 Magnum revolvers—two S&W DAs and two Ruger SAs. I bought my first one, a 4-inch-barreled S&W Model 57, and four boxes of ammo from a policeman who thought it was too much gun. I wanted a big-bore revolver to handload for, and at the time I couldn’t locate a .44 Magnum (remember the Dirty Harry craze?). Since then I’ve never looked back. I’ve used my .41s for target shooting (a lot of target shooting), as potent personal-defense guns, and as backups when hunting, particularly while bow hunting (it’s legal where I bow hunt). I was particularly intrigued by Simpson’s mention of the steelframed Henry Big Boy rifle and the Buffalo Bore .41 Magnum ammo with 265-grain hard-cast bullets. I’ve always liked, and used, the 240grain cast bullet in my revolvers, but the 265-grain hard-cast bullet in a handy, scoped carbine sounds promising as deer and bear medicine in woods where a 100-yard shot would be a long one. Thanks for a good-reading magazine. Fred Schindler Via e-mail

Accuracy Terms First, I must say Shooting Times magazine is top of the line. However, in some of your accuracy reviews the longer-range results are stated as “minute of deer,” “minute of bear,” etc. This terminology is well below what I expect from a magazine of ST’s quality. If you don’t fire for accuracy past 8

SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017

About 15 years ago I purchased a Remington Model 700 Sendero in 7mm STW. It has been an excellent gun that has taken many deer and feral hogs. The 7mm STW shoots flat and hits hard, and these characteristics have compensated many times for the shooter being a little off. I’d like to know why this cartridge seems to have almost disappeared. In my opinion, it is too good a caliber to just fade away. William Helms Coldspring, TX

Rainy Day Reading A lot of CCW and LE guys are spouting about their FBI-approved, barrier-penetrating, premium handgun loads and their extra-high-capacity magazines. They may need to reread some older studies, or better yet, maybe ST could republish some past articles. For instance, the April 2010 ballistics column by Allan Jones was one of my favorites. His “experienced” discussion of bullet path acrobatics, overpenetration, and lethality are very important to consider, especially for liability concerns. Keith Roehr Via e-mail


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Readers Speak Out

Colt Clarification In “Ask the Experts” for the February issue, Joel Hutchcroft wrote that the Model 1894 Colt revolver (and by extension the other revolvers in that series) should never be fired with .38 Special ammunition. That is not true, at least regarding standard-pressure .38 Special. The Colt New Army and New Navy revolvers, and their military counterparts, were originally chambered for .38 Long Colt; the chambers were straight, bored to 0.360 inch, while barrels were rifled with a groove diameter of 0.360 inch. However, with the adoption of the .38 caliber for military use in 1892, all ammunition manufactured by Frankford Arsenal (the usual source of military ammunition in that caliber prior to World War I) was loaded with a bullet of 0.357-inch diameter. As one might suspect, complaints about accuracy were common, but pressures were low. In 1904 Colt changed both the chamber and barrel dimensions to match the new S&W .38 Special measurements and cut the chambers with a shoulder. The military was astonished at the improvement of the troops’ marksmanship! From that point on, all Colt New Army and New Navy revolvers, whether for the civilian market or for military contract, were made and intended for use with .38 Special ammunition, as well as the issue .38 Long Colt. The military did not actually issue .38 Special ammunition until the World War II era. Note that the “danger” of firing standard .38 Special in any of those revolvers has been much exaggerated. While caution is advisable when firing any 100-year-old gun, it is a minimal concern in this case. Not only are the cylinders

the same diameter as the later Army Special, but also the chambers have no shoulders, and barrels, as noted, are not undersize, which would raise pressures, but oversize, which would eliminate any problems in that area. One concern must be noted. Since the older chambers have no shoulders, those guns will accept and fire some .357 Magnum ammunition, so caution is advised. Jim Keenan Middletown, MD

Useful and Enlightening I am writing to say thanks for Layne Simpson’s articles. Two recent ones prompted this message. “Sights, Red Dots, Riflescopes” in the July 2016 issue was very useful. I could have guessed that performance of these sights would turn out the way it did, but his well-thought-out testing with quantified data provides an excellent understanding of practical accuracy with each. Lord Kelvin’s


quote comes to mind. He said, “I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre [sic] and unsatisfactory kind.” Also, I found Simpson’s “Handloading for Autoloaders” article in the October 2016 issue to be most enlightening. Since I handload for semiautos, I pay close attention to the process, and I know a little about the potential for a slam-fire. Nevertheless, I also understand that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”; therefore, I truly appreciate Layne’s well-written, clearly expressed understanding of this very important subject. K.W. Via e-mail T H E

Thoughts on the 1851 Navy Terry Wieland’s “Gunsmoke” column on Wild Bill Hickok and his Colt Navy revolvers missed the mark. Clearly, the revolver used was not up to speed. It averaged 747 fps. Eight published independent velocities ranged from 870 to 1,097 fps and averaged 981 fps. Wieland reported that the caps he used malfunctioned, and that can affect velocity. Another problem could be the cylinder gap may have been overly large. The biggest suspect is the cylinder throats could be undersized relative to the groove diameter. Or maybe the ball used was too small. Then, too, the flash holes could be shot or rusted oversize. Wieland concluded that Hickok was shooting the equivalent of a .32 ACP. Consider that Elmer Keith thought the 1851 Navy was superior to the .38 Special as a man-stopper. Wound expert Ed Sanow reported a calculated 59 percent one-shot stop value for the 1851 Navy, equal to the .380 ACP with an 88-grain JHP at 1,000 fps. Perhaps Wild Bill was a bit better armed than the column suggested. Bob Hooper Montrose, CO

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SHOOTER’S UPDATE READERS SPEAK OUT

NEW GUNS & GEAR

ASK THE EXPERTS

Federal Fusion 6.5 Creedmoor Hunting Ammo

RUGER HAS A NEW FULL-SIZE TARGET

version of the SR1911. The stainless-steel SR1911 Target Model features an all-black BoMar-style, fully adjustable rear sight and a dovetailed, smooth, black front sight. It comes with an extended ambidextrous thumb safety, a lowered and flared ejection port, a titanium firing pin, and a 5.0-inch barrel and bushing that are match-machined from the same piece of bar stock. The pistol has a beavertail grip safety, an oversized magazine release button, a skeletonized hammer and trigger, and textured G10 grip panels. The trigger pull of our sample averaged 5.0 pounds. MSRP: $1,019 ruger.com

SIG Electro-Optics KILO Rangefinder SIG SAUER’s new KILO2200MR 7x25mm digital laser rangefinder has more range performance, tighter laser-beam collimation, and an upgraded milling reticle with a smaller aiming circle for more precise ranging at extreme distances. All KILO rangefinders feature the Lightwave DSP ranging engine with HyperScan that produces four range updates per second in scan mode. According to the company, that makes the KILO line the fastest, most accurate rangefinder available. Features of the KILO2200MR include a magnesium housing, binocularstyle eyecup and diopter adjustment, SpectraCoat antireflection coatings, LightWave DSP Technology for fast distance rangefinding, advanced OLED display, Line of Sight or Angle Modified Range readings, Lumatic Display, and a smartphone-operated wind meter and tripod adapter. Max ranges are: Reflective, >2 miles; Deer, 1,300 yards; Trees, 1,600 yards. MSRP: $599.99 sigoptics.com 12

SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017

Federal Premium Ammunition’s new Fusion deer-hunting loading of the 6.5 Creedmoor features a 140-grain bullet with a molecularly fused jacket and pressure-formed core. It provides deep penetration and excellent stopping power. The bullet’s skived bullet tip ensures expansion at long ranges, and its boattail design maximizes ballistic coefficient. Factory-rated muzzle velocity is 2,750 fps; muzzle energy is rated at 2,351 ft-lbs. MSRP: $32.95 federalpremium.com

Lockdown Cordless Vault Lights Battenfeld Technologies has two new Lockdown Cordless LED Vault Lights: the Cordless 75 LED Vault Light and the Automatic Cordless 25 LED Vault Light. Both lights attach to the inside of a gun vault via “ultra-strong” magnets or screws, and both lights are powered by three AAA batteries. The Cordless 75 LED Vault Light has 95 Lumens of output and a five-hour hour continuous runtime. The Automatic Cordless 25 LED Vault Light has an automatic sensor that turns it on when the vault is opened and turns it off when the vault is closed. The sensor has a range of 5 meters. Output is 70 Lumens, and continuous runtime is six hours. MSRP: $24.99 (75 LED Vault Light); $44.99 (Automatic 25 LED Vault Light) btibrands.com


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SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017

Tetra Gun Lubricant and Triple Action Spray FTI has added two new products to its gun-care chemical line: Tetra Gun Synthetic-Safe Triple Action Spray, which cleans, lubricates and protects, and Tetra Gun Dry Finish Lubricant. According to the company, the new Dry Finish Lubricant formula performs exceptionally well, especially for those shooting in dusty or sandy conditions. Unlike typical oil-based lubricants, Tetra Gun Dry Finish Lubricant is applied wet and then sets to a dry-like feel that is much less likely to attract buildup common to those gritty conditions. Similarly, the new Tetra Gun SyntheticSafe Triple Action Spray is an aerosol product that cleans and then evaporates, leaving a light lubricant coating on gun metals. The noninvasive formula is gentle and can be used safely on polymer frames. MSRP: $8.99 (Dry Finish Lubricant, 4 oz.); $9.99 (Synthetic-Safe Triple Action Spray, 12 oz.) tetraguncare.com


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SHOOTER’S UPDATE READERS SPEAK OUT

NEW GUNS & GEAR

ASK THE EXPERTS

Jacket in the Recent Photos?

Q: Q:

I HAVE A .22 TCM MGM T/C CONTENDER BARREL AND WISH TO

shoot either 40-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip or Hornady V-Max bullets. My measurement for overall length is 1.543 inches, which seems really long and looks funny. How far off the lands should I start with? John Via e-mail

A:

I have no experience with shooting the .22 TCM in a singleshot Contender, but because it was designed to be used in semiautomatic pistols, I have fired it in, and handloaded it for, Model 1911-style pistols. I loaded all those handloads to a cartridge overall length (COL) of 1.270 inches so that they would fit in the Model 1911 magazine. I also have handloaded several other cartridges for Contenders, and in any Contender, the only restraint on the COL is if it will fit in the chamber and the action will close. Since you intend to load conventional cup-and-core construction bullets (i.e., not copper or copper-alloy solids), you might get optimal accuracy with the ogive engraved in the rifling of your Contender or with a little or a lot of jump to the lands. It’s a try-a-few-and-see-howthey-work situation. The only thing to pay close attention to is maintaining enough bulletseating depth so your handloads don’t come apart when you handle them. I’ve fired .22 PPC handloads with the lightest bullets seated so far out the base was less than 80 thousandths of an inch into the case mouth with superb results. So much for enough bullet neck tension to ensure consistent ignition and accurate grouping. I hope this helps. Lane Pearce 16

SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017

I like the looks of the canvas jacket that was used in the photos for the recent article on Les Baer Custom’s new 10mm Premier II 1911. Who makes it? Robert Bigelow Via e-mail

A:

That jacket is made by Blackhawk, and it’s called the Field Jacket. It’s made of 100 percent cotton 10-ounce canvas, and the seams are bolstered by bartacks and triple stitching. It also has reinforced elbows, a YKK metal zipper, and a locker loop at the center back. You can get it in slate (as shown) or fatigue (tan) colors. MSRP: $149.99 to $159.99 Joel J. Hutchcroft

Hopkins & Allen Ranger No. 2?

Q:

I inherited a small, five-shot revolver from my father. It’s made by Hopkins & Allen Mfg. Co., and the top of its frame is marked “Ranger No. 2.” I’m not sure what caliber it is, but it is nickel plated and has what appears to be bone handles. What can the experts tell me about it? Erma James Via e-mail


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What a coincidence! I also have a Hopkins & Allen Ranger No. 2 that my dad gave to me several years ago. These little revolvers were chambered for .22, .32, and .38 rimfire. Mine is chambered for .32 rimfire, and it has a five-shot cylinder. Hopkins & Allen was an American firearms manufacturing firm that operated in Norwich, Connecticut, from 1868 until 1915. Many of the company’s guns bore trade names other than Hopkins & Allen. In about 1874, H&A started producing Merwin, Hulbert & Co. guns. The H&A Ranger revolvers were made in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s. They feature a solid frame, a single-action firing mechanism, a spur trigger, and fixed sights. They have a loading groove on the right-hand side of the frame, and a cylinder pin latch on the left-hand side. Most were nickel plated, but blued finish also was offered at extra cost. Several different materials were used for the grips, including hard rubber, rosewood, mother-of-pearl, and ivory. The most common barrel length was 2.75 inches, which is what my revolver has. Most barrels were round, but some octagon barrels were also used. In the late 1870s, H&A changed the Ranger’s rounded backstrap and bird’s head grip shape to a square contour. According to Flayderman’s Guide to Antique American Firearms and Blue Book of Gun Values, these revolvers can range in value from $50 to $400 depending on the condition. Joel J. Hutchcroft

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SHOOTER’S GALLERY THE SHOOTIST

THE BALLISTICIAN

ALTHOUGH IT’S KNOWN FOR SOME OF THE WORLD’S

Beautifully revitalized by gunsmith J.P. Smithson, this vintage Holland & Holland Magazine Rifle has many unique features, including a folding, locking hood on the front sight.

18

finest side-by-side double rifles and shotguns, and is one of only two gun companies to possess a British Royal Warrant, Holland & Holland’s influence in the bolt-action rifle world should never be underestimated. After all, the company designed and introduced the .375 H&H Magnum, a bolt-action cartridge considered by many to be the single best one-gun-for-everything round available. For several decades during the first half of the 20th century, Holland & Holland built its “magazine rifle” on German Mauser 98 actions. Some .375s were built on hard-to-find magnum-length versions, others on standard-length actions specially adapted to function with the .375 H&H. The rifle I’m reporting on here appears to be one of the latter and is without doubt the finest rifle to ever

SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017

THE RELOADER

pause in my studio and office before returning to its owner. Originally a Holland & Holland fitted with a rather plain stock with lovely lines, it was purchased by its present owner and sent to master gunsmith J.P. Smithson for renovation. Already it had been altered somewhat from original. The bolt had been forged into a more scope-friendly shape and checkered by Paul Roberts, a gunsmith who was at the time with Rigby of London, and he’d also fitted a three-position wingtype safety in place of the original. Plus, there were some finish and function issues with the trigger, trigger bow, and floorplate. Since it wasn’t all original anyway, the owner commissioned Smithson to fit the rifle with a new high-grade Turkish walnut stock and Smithson’s world-renowned square-bridge quick-detach bases and rings, to rebuild the trigger and bottom metal,


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Holland & Holland Magazine Rifle

Mechanicals

The rifle wears a beautiful high-grade Turkish walnut stock fitted by Smithson, and it also has Smithson’s square-bridge quick-detatch scope mounts and rings. Joseph thinks the scope mounts are the most significant custom improvement.

and to basically bring the rifle back to like-new condition. And lest you misunderstand the advisability of the restoration, Smithson is one of the few gunsmiths in the United States capable of honest “Best” quality Holland & Holland type of work.

©2017 Kel-Tec CNC Industries, Inc.

While the Holland & Holland magazine rifle’s action undoubtedly began life as a Mauser 98—stripper clip guide, thumb relief cut, and all—it is now no ordinary Mauser. In addition to making it suitable for use with the .375 H&H cartridge, it has the aforementioned wing-type three-position safety and—the most significant improvement—Smithson’s square-bridge quick-detach scope mounts and rings. The mounts themselves are now superbly and permanently soldered atop the action and blended seamlessly. To function, top load the four-round box magazine like any other bolt action. Closing the bolt cocks the firing pin, chambers a cartridge, and leaves the rifle ready to fire. The safety locks the bolt when fully


H&H MAGAZINE RIFLE MANUFACTURER TYPE CALIBER MAGAZINE CAPACITY BARREL OVERALL LENGTH WEIGHT, EMPTY

Holland & Holland Bolt-action repeater .375 H&H 4 rounds 24.5 in. 46 in. 8.63 lbs.

STOCK

High-grade walnut

FINISH

Polished blue barrel and action

LENGTH OF PULL

SIGHTS

TRIGGER SAFETY

14.4 in. Leaf on quarter rib rear, gold post with rotating hood front, J.P. Smithson quick-detach bases and rings 3.63-lb. pull (as tested) Three-position wing-type (not original)

engaged at the rear position; placing it in the center position allows the shooter to open the bolt to unload with the safety engaged. To empty the magazine without running each cartridge into the chamber, press the release at the inside front of the trigger bow. The hinged floorplate will open and drop the cartridges into your palm.

Interestingly, the rear sight is marked “50” on the left side of the square notch and “200” on the right side, presumably indicating that with the appropriate load the rifle could be zeroed at 50 yards and point of impact also would be on at 200 yards.

In addition to performing all the other metal work, Brett Smithson installed a new Blackburn trigger and custom trigger shoe. It is not only cosmetically perfect, but also amazingly crisp and clean, breaking at 3 pounds, 10 ounces with absolutely no creep or overtravel. As tested with my Lyman digital trigger gauge, it has less than 1 ounce of variation. Interestingly, the rifle’s rear sight is marked “50” on the left side of the square notch and “200” on the right side. I presume the marks indicate that with the appropriate load, the rifle could be zeroed at 50 yards and point of impact would also be on at 200 yards. A thin line of silver is inlaid into the face of the standing leaf as well as the folding leaf; the latter is marked “350.” The top of the island rib sight base is beautifully checkered, and the rear is stippled to prevent glare.

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S m t m ur ts th r ’s b t sh p w ch thr -p t s ty w s st

, s s.

The front sight is equally interesting. A goldinlaid post inserts into a dovetail from the front and is secured via a domed-head screw. A folding hood rotates forward off the end of the ramped sight base, exposing the blade for low-light use or rotates up to provide a crisp sight picture in high-glare conditions. A fire-blued push button locks it in both positions. To attach a carrying strap, a barrel band provides a large loop several inches forward of the fore-end tip, and a second loop is screwed into the toe of the stock. Sturdy leather thongs or carabineer-esque steel hooks were used to attach the strap to the rifle.

Provenance

Rimless Cartridge.” Additionally, on the left side of the barrel—upside down, oddly enough—are several proof marks and the rollmarked words “Cordite 56 300 max” and the numbers “375 2.85.” Presumably, the first row indicates the charge of cordite propellant and bullet weight the rifle was regulated for and the second row the diameter of the bullet and the length of the cartridge case. Apparently, British protocol dictates that firearms be proof tested (and marked) by an independent entity, which explains why the proof marks aren’t nearly as carefully applied as the original engraved cartridge designation. Aside from those postulations, I have no real information on the rifle. It was purchased some five or six years ago, sent to Smithson for renovation at that time, and has resided comfortably in a gun vault since.

Rangetime

The owner of the fine old .375 graciously consented Although I have no way to date this rifle, it’s certainly a pre-1960 gun. to allow me to write about it, so the Smithsons and I The barrel is marked “Holland & Holland 98 New Bond St. London,” repaired to a shooting range to accuracy test it with and the company moved to Bruton St. in 1960. From the fact that it was two factory loads and two mild handloads. built on a modified standard-length Mauser action and originally featured After firing at 50 yards to confirm the regulation of the iron sights, we attached a Schmidt & Bender 1.1-4X no provision for mounting an optic, it probably dates from sometime 24mm Zenith scope and shot a few groups at 100 yards. between the wars. Additionally, the word “cordite” in the proof marks Because one just doesn’t burn ammo through a classic on the barrel indicates that the rifle predates World War II. rifle such as this one, the accuracy shown in the accomIf any of ST ’s readers have expertise or knowledge that could throw any additional light on the precise era in which this rifle was built, please panying chart is for one three-shot group instead of an write in because I’d love to hear it. average of three, three-shot groups that I usually fire. My favorite markings are at the rear of the barrel, just ahead of Surprisingly, the rifle produced sub-MOA groups the front receiver ring. On top is engraved “Holland’s .375 Magnum with both factory loads tested. I write “surprisingly” because many fine old rifles shoot groups closer to 3 inches at 100 yards. This AGAZINE IFLE ACCU ACY VELOCITY rifle’s excellent accuracy is a significant 100-YD. accolade to the superb nature of HolPOWDER VEL. E.S. S.D. ACC. land & Holland’s firearms. BULLET (TYPE) (GRS.) (FPS) (FPS) (FPS) (IN.) Predictably, the rifle functioned like .375 H&H Rimless Magnum the marvelous precision instrument Barnes 250-gr. TTSX IMR 4350 75.0 2488 48 24 2.79 that it is, and it mounted and pointed Nosler 260-gr. Partition IMR 4350 75.0 2476 38 21 1.94 beautifully. Balance without the scope Federal 300-gr. Fusion Factory Load 2329 43 21 0.98 is centered directly at the front receiver Federal 300-gr. Sledgehammer Factory Load 2421 15 7 0.65 ring, giving the rifle a lovely betweenNOTES: Accur cy s r , thr -sh t r up r r m s b b chr st. V c ty s th v r thr r u s m sur 12 t r m th u ’s mu . the-hands feel. Drop and cheekpiece A t sh u b us w th c ut . A w ys st rt w th r uc s rst m k sur th y r height line my eye up perfectly with the s ch y ur u s b r pr c t th h h t st s st . S c Shooting Times h s c tr v r y ur ch c c mp ts, u s, r ctu s, th r Shooting Times r th v r us iron sights. I’ve never handled a livelierr rms c mp ts m u ctur rs ssum y r sp s b ty r th us th s t . feeling dangerous-game rifle. 22

SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017


SHOOTER’S GALLERY THE SHOOTIST

THE BALLISTICIAN

THE RELOADER

Bullet Jacket Axis of Rotation and

A

Center of Mass Coincide

Axis of Rotation

B

A

B Center of Mass Shifted Off-Axis

Bullet Core

Concentric Bullet

Non-Concentric Bullet

THOSE OF US WHO HAVE HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF

The key to superb accuracy is superb jacket concentricity. The stylized cross-section of two jacketed bullets shows why non-concentric jackets induce bullet wobble and inaccuracy. Concentricity is just as important for modern bullets without jackets.

24

working with bullet design and manufacture sometimes say: “The bullet is payload; everything else is launch vehicle.” Yes, it is a bit of engineering smugness, but when it comes to accuracy, the bullet leads the charge. Everything else—firearm, sighting equipment, loading technique, components, shooter skill—all support the bullet’s job, which is to deliver energy to a remote target and land as closely to its associates as possible. You can make a good bullet shoot poorly, but you cannot make a bad bullet shoot well. In past columns I’ve discussed the role in accuracy of twist rates, primers and powder, dealing with long chambers, and how to handle belted cases for best accuracy. I’ve also reviewed how to define “accuracy,”

SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017

the concept of an “inherently accurate cartridge,” and how to test for accuracy in a statistically valid manner. It’s now time to talk about my favorite component: bullets.

Concentricity Determines Accuracy Bullet concentricity is the overwhelming factor in accuracy. For our purposes, perfect concentricity means the center of mass of the bullet falls exactly on the bullet’s axis of rotation. Any spinning object must be concentric or it wob bles. The crankshaft in your car has to spin without wobbling at 5,000 rpm. A big turbofan engine used on airliners can have shaft speeds around 11,000 rpm to 12,000 rpm. An automotive turbocharger may experience shaft speeds in the 30,000-rpm range.


If those spin rates make your head spin, consider this: A .22 LR bullet at 1,200 fps from a barrel with a 1:16 twist will exit the muzzle spinning at 54,000 rpm. A .30-30 Winchester bullet at 2,300 fps (1:12 twist) will spin at 138,000 rpm. A 5.56mm NATO round at 3,050 fps (1:7 twist) will be doing nearly 314,000 rpm. Obviously, any serious lack of concentricity at these spin speeds will create an accuracy-robbing wobble. Bullet concentricity is a synthesis of tooling/process design and bullet manufacture. The most critical consideration in designing the accurate bullet is not figuring out what shape it will be but rather designing the tooling and the processes that will create it while ensuring concentricity. Tooling is the hardware, such as dies and punches, that make jackets and assemble finished bullets; processes are the manufacturing operations, including workflow, that result in a finished bullet. Tooling and processes are intimately locked in an elegant dance that can be frustratingly complex but, when done right, delivers supreme accuracy. Most rifle jackets start as cups that go through draw operations (processes) to lengthen them and adjust

the diameter. A long jacket for a rifle bullet may need three to five separate draws to achieve final shape. Changing the number of draws will affect tooling design and may call for adding a process, such as annealing or a wash operation. Something as simple as changing the type of manufacturing lubricant can cause a change in tooling or a process.

Safeguard Against Run-Out Job One when creating a traditional lead-core jacketed bullet is to get the jacket concentric. If the jacket is good, the lead core will be concentric within it after swaging. We judge jacket concentricity by measuring the jacket’s wall thickness at several places and comparing the readings. Any difference in wall thickness is called run-out. The goal is zero runout. In the illustration on page 24, the bullet on the left has a perfect jacket. The jacket at points A and B has equal thickness, therefore zero run-out. The non-concentric jacket on the right is thicker at point A than at point B, so A minus B is the amount of run-out. The resulting offset of the center of mass will cause a wobble. I worked with a bullet engineer who had an exceptional mentor in his early days of tooling design training. The mentor claimed that for every one-thousandth of an inch of jacket run-out (about 1/12 the thickness of a business card), you could add approximately one inch to a 100-yard group. It’s difficult to test, but we believed that concept was good to keep in mind when working with tooling and process design. APRIL 2017 • SHOOTING TIMES

25


Accuracy: The Key is the Payload

Achieving perfect jacket concentricity in the tooling/process design requires an understanding of how metals behave under stress and how much work-hardening may occur. The designer may have to change the number of process steps to reduce stress on the jacket metal or even change to a different copper alloy. With few exceptions, the tooling also must work in existing manufacturing equipment. It is virtually impossible to reliably test a finished bullet for jacket run-out in manufacturing. Years ago, Speer bought a piece of gear that advertised using inductance to measure run-out in completed bullets. Unfortunately, it did not pass muster with our Quality Assurance

Hornady Concentricity Tool WHILE BULLET JACKET CONCENTRICITY CAN’T BE MEASURED

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standards. The device’s results were not repeatable. It could not consistently identify the location of a suspected thick or thin spot on the jacket, even when we deliberately shaved some bullets to create a thin spot at a known location. Thus, concentricity must be checked at every step as the jackets are being made. If you induce run-out, it is hard to completely correct it in subsequent steps. Manufacturing personnel must use care as they set up the machinery for each new product or process and monitor critical dimensions along the way as the parts are produced. People have asked about concentricity in the “new” bullets, meaning the largely lead-free, all-copper bullets that are now common. They don’t have jackets, but an inattentive engineer or machine operator can make a non-concentric version. If the bullet has a nose cavity for a hollowpoint or a nose insert, it must be concentric with the rest of the bullet. Likewise, any grooving on the bearing surface or a boattail base must be held to close tolerances for concentricity. Considering all that goes into ensuring concentricity, today’s bullet buyers are getting a real bargain.


SHOOTER’S GALLERY THE SHOOTIST

THE BALLISTICIAN

IN A RECENT E-MAIL, READER DAN PETERSON

Military surplus ammo can be salvaged, but it’s a time-consuming job. It involves pulling the bullets, seeing if the original primers are still viable, neck-sizing the cases, recharging with powder, and seating the new bullets.

28

asked what he should do with the 800+ rounds of IMI 5.56mm M193 ball ammo that he has. He said he’d never been able to shoot tight groups with them, no matter which rifle he used, and he proposed to tear down and reload the whole batch with Accurate 2230 propellant and Hornady 35-grain NTX bullets. He asked several questions, including how to remove the old propellant; if the old primers could be used—and, if not, how to remove them. He asked for any advice about how to proceed safely. He said he’s been reloading for 50 years, so I’m assuming he’s retired like me—i.e., we both enjoy a more flexible daily schedule. My first impulse: “Don’t do it!”

SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017

THE RELOADER

Reworking 800+ rounds of military ball ammo is not an impossible task, but rest assured, it will be a daunting endeavor and unquestionably time-consuming. Pulling the bullets will take at least two or three days. For that, I recommend using a conventional bullet puller—not an inertia device. Hammering 800+ cartridges would wear me out, not to mention increasing the chances that one could accidentally go off. After the bullets are pulled, the powder should pour out easily, but if some sticks to the case walls or the charge is so compressed it won’t pour out, it’ll have to be scraped loose with a small plastic probe. Work slowly to avoid crushing any propellant grains. It’s not likely to accidentally ignite it, but the unexpected can occur when working with energetic compounds.


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Salvaging Military Surplus Ammo

If the primers are not still viable, they will have to be removed. To do that, Lane recommends “killing” them by soaking them in water and then using a decapping tool to remove them.

Each case should be carefully inspected with a penlight to ensure all of the propellant has been removed. The case shoulders need to be carefully looked at and felt as best they can.

Neck Size

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I wouldn’t be confident that the salvaged cases all retain consistent neck tension, so to obtain consistent bullet retention, the entire lot must be necksized. Remove the decapping pin from the neck sizer die so the crimped-in primers are not harmed. If the ammo has been stored properly (in a cool and dry environment) and an adequate sample size—a couple dozen rounds, at least—has been fired without a misfire, we can assume the primers are still okay. If that’s not so, the primers will have to be removed and replaced. That’s more work. Perhaps my initial suggestion makes more sense now. Dan, if you decide to proceed, you could remove the “live” primers with a Lee or Lyman universal decapping tool as I have done with one or two or three cases on occasion. However, you will have 800+ chances for one to go off, so you probably should “kill” them first. Soaking them in water for a few days should be adequate, as long as they are punched out while they’re still wet. (I have sprayed WD-40 into a few primed cases before decapping them without mishap. Of course, then the 800+ cases will have to be degreased—another time-consuming task.)

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SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017

At this point all 800+ primer pockets must be reconditioned before the cases can be safely primed. As I’ve written previously in this column, I haven’t had much luck using a swage tool to reform the primer pocket, i.e., remove the crimp. There are just too many that don’t get “swaged” enough, so when a fresh primer is seated, it can catch on the residual crimp and be damaged or even go off.


RCBS makes both a large and a small three-tooth cutting tool for its powered case prep unit. They work for me every time when I’m deburring large and small crimped primer pockets. Again, even using power equipment, this effort will be time-consuming and tiresome. Each case must be gripped firmly while forcing the cutter into the primer pocket. It’s a trial-and-error process. If too much material is cut away, the new primer won’t be retained, so expect some wastage. To achieve optimal bullet retention when seating the rather small NTX bullets, all 800+ cases should be trimmed to uniform length and the case mouths must be deburred. This step can be done before or after priming.

Charge the Cases & Seat the Bullets Now, finally, all that’s left to do are the rest of the “normal” reloading operations: charging each case with a safe amount of Accurate 2230 propellant and seating the Hornady NTX bullets. Don’t forget to inspect every round to ensure they’re ready for the range. After writing all that, I definitely recommend that you should “forget about

it!” Sell the surplus ammo to someone who just wants to hoard it or shoot it for fun. Then use the proceeds to buy new or once-fired commercial .223 Remington brass and reload it. Don’t forget that although we retirees do have more free time most days than working folks, we’re also operating on a shorter overall schedule. I’d rather be reloading and shooting while I could still enjoy my hobby.

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SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017


N

OSLER HAS INTRODUCED AN ALL-NEW CARTRIDGE

for the AR-15. Even the cartridge case is original. If you can imagine a case that looks something like a miniature 6.5-284, that’s about how the .22 Nosler case is dimensioned. It has a rebated rim, an aggressive shoulder, and a generous case body diameter. As for performance, Nosler’s engineers indicate that the .22 Nosler should nip at the heels of the .22-250 Remington. It’s designed to use a fast rifling twist rate that’s suitable for long, heavy projectiles, which offer significantly increased aerodynamics over the lighter-weight bullets that are typically loaded in the .22-250. That small detail should enable the .22 Nosler to outperform the .22-250 past 500 yards or so—unless the .22-250 it’s up against is fitted with a barrel rifled with an unusually fast twist rate and loaded with heavy bullets. Like the company’s new, hot-rod big-game cartridges, such as the .28 Nosler and the new .33 Nosler, the .22 Nosler isn’t burdened by any manufacturing restrictions. It’s not a proprietary round, and any and all manufacturers are welcome to make rifles and ammunition for it.

APRIL 2017 • SHOOTING TIMES

37


.22 NOSLER WATER CAPACITY

34.2 gr. filled to case mouth

OVERALL CASE LENGTH

1.760 in.

TRIM-TO CASE LENGTH

1.740 in.

CARTRIDGE OVERALL LENGTH

2.260 in.

PRIMER

Small Rifle

PRESSURE LIMIT

55,000 psi

Cartridge Specifics The .22 Nosler features a rebated rim that’s 0.378 inch in diameter, which means it’s designed to work with all standard 5.56/.223 AR-15 bolts. All that is required to convert an existing AR-15 to .22 Nosler is a new barrel and switching to 6.8 SPC magazines. It feeds best from 6.8 SPC magazines because its body is fatter than that of the 5.56/.223. The new cartridge’s body tapers from 0.420 at its broadest point just ahead of the rim to 0.400 at the body-shoulder transition. In contrast, the 5.56/.223 tapers from 0.380 at the rim to 0.330 at the shoulder. According to its specifications, the .22 Nosler has a water capacity of 31.2 grains with a 55-grain Ballistic Tip bullet seated to an overall cartridge length of 2.260 inches. Common .223 cases contain around 27.5 grains with the same bullet seated to the same overall length. That means the .22 Nosler has a capacity advantage of about 12 percent. To prevent shooters from accidentally chambering and firing 5.56 or .223 ammunition, Nosler engineers made the .22 Nosler baseto-shoulder distance a bit shorter than that of the 5.56/.223. Likewise, the .22 Nosler chamber will not accept .17 Remington, .204 Ruger,

Maximum overall cartridge length of the .22 Nosler is 2.260 inches. Its shoulder angle is 30 degrees. And its body tapers from 0.420 inch to 0.400 inch.

38

SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017

Because its case is fatter than the 5.56/.223’s case, the .22 Nosler feeds best from 6.8 SPC magazines.

or any of the other relatively common predator/varmint cartridges out there. The 5.45x39 won’t fit either, because of its slightly broader base. However, be aware that .222 Remington ammo does fit in the .22 Nosler chamber. With a shoulder angle of 30 degrees, Nosler engineers gave the .22 Nosler maximum capacity without pushing it so steep that it could potentially present feeding issues. The .22 Nosler uses Small Rifle primers. And maximum overall length is 2.260 inches.


The .22 Nosler’s rebated-rim case was designed to work with all standard AR-15 bolts.

Performance Advantages Two factory loads are launching with the .22 Nosler: a 55-grain Ballistic Tip rated at 3,500 fps and a 77-grain BTHP match bullet rated at 3,100 fps. These velocities are from a SAAMI-spec, 24-inch test barrel. According to Nosler’s Zach Waterman, in Nosler’s 18-inch-barreled Noveske Varmageddon rifle, the cartridge loses around 150 fps. Now, comparing those numbers to common velocities in the 5.56/.223 is difficult. There’s often a wide disparity among

:

ENTS

PRES

AR-15s of like barrel length—I’ve personally chronographed several different 16-inchbarreled carbines and found up to 200 fps difference with the same ammo. Plus, of course, the higher-pressure 5.56 NATO ammunition gives higher velocities than most factory .223 Rem. ammo. “Most” because certain specialty .223 loads, such as Hornady’s Superformance line, effectively narrow the gap. So generating an accurate comparison is complicated. But let’s give it a shot. For the most part, in the .223 Rem. 55-grain projectiles achieve about 3,240 fps from a 24-inch barrel, and 75- to 77-grain bullets reach about 2,775 fps. In contrast, the 5.56 NATO ups the game velocity-wise, achieving perhaps 100 fps more velocity from the same-length barrel. However, most 5.56 ammo is tested through 20-inch barrels rather than 24-inch barrels, so the velocity increase often isn’t immediately obvious on factory ballistic charts. Chopping the barrel to the far more common 16-inch length reduces velocity in wildly varying degrees, depending on specific

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.22 NOSLER

Nosler’s superbly accurate Varmageddon rifle—built by Noveske—is available in the .22 Nosler and produced 0.37-inch three-shot groups at 100 yards with factory ammo loaded with the Nosler 77-grain BTHP.

ammunition and barrel. I’ve tested carbines that push 55-grain bullets from 2,800 fps to 3,200 fps. Heavier bullets seem a bit more consistent: 69- to 77-grain bullets usually run around 2,600 fps, give or take 50 fps. To gain some semblance of order, let’s assign 25 fps of loss per inch of barrel and establish 5.56/.223 performance with a 55-grain bullet as 3,000 fps out of a 16- to 18-inch barrel and 2,600 fps with a 75- to 77-grain bullet. Nosler was smart enough to compare its new hot-rod .22 against the 5.56 NATO, opting to use an 18-inch barrel in comparison charts. I’ll do the same here, but rather than regurgitate the numbers shown on Nosler’s chart, I’ll plug in my numbers, which were generated by personal experience. And since the .22 Nosler is almost surely going to be most popular as a hunting cartridge (rather than for competition or personal protection, although it would excel at both), let’s look at the performance with a 24-inch barrel. I’ll also throw in the .22-250 loaded with a 55-grain bullet, and I’ll also include another column showing 40

SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017

how the .22 Nosler can outperform the .22-250 when loaded with 77-grain bullets. As you can see in the Velocity & Trajectory Comparison chart, with Nosler 55-grain Ballistic Tip (BT) bullets, the .22 Nosler leans closer to the .22-250 than to the 5.56 NATO. It’s impressive. Using my handload with the Sierra 77-grain Tipped MatchKing (TMK), which, because of its high BC, holds on to velocity better than the very accurate but less sleek Nosler 77-grain BTHP, the .22 Nosler starts to walk away from the .22-250 at the 500-yard mark. Note that I purposely did not use a 77-grain bullet in the .22-250 because the .22-250 is rarely loaded with bullets much heavier than 55 grains due to the typical slower twist rate of the barrels. As you can see, the greater aerodynamics of the heavier— although slower-starting—bullet perform far better at extended distances. At 1,000 yards the .22 Nosler with the handloaded 77-grain TMK is still supersonic, and it has 18 percent more velocity than the .22-250 and 12 percent less bullet drop. The same performance could be accomplished using Nosler’s new ultra-high-BC 70-grain RDF bullet. Of course, this is a biased chart. Put the same high-BC bullets into a .22-250 fitted with a fast-twist barrel and the .22-250 would regain the advantage. But the simple fact is most .22250s have relatively slow twist rates and won’t shoot the heavy long-range bullets accurately. Here’s another interesting way to look at the .22 Nosler: It provides better performance from an 18-inch barrel than the 5.56/.223 does from a 24-inch barrel.


VELOCITY & TRAJECTORY COMPARISON .224-caliber bullets capable of downing deer; and the 77-grain TMK is a fine long-range, Muzzle 3240 fps/-1.5 in. 3500/-1.5 3680/+1.5 3100/-1.5 magazine-compatible bullet in this caliber. 100 YDS. 2860/1.4 3096/1.1 3259/0.9 2862/+1.4 I usually test AR-15s with a series of three 200 YDS. 2510/0.0 2728/0.0 2877/0.0 2637/0.0 consecutive five-shot groups without allowing 300 YDS. 2186/6.9 2388/5.8 2526/5.1 2422/6.4 the barrel to cool because it gives me a good 500 YDS. 1617/45.3 1785/37.7 1901/33.6 2019/38.2 idea of accuracy and whether group size will 800 YDS. 1064/219 1140/181 1202/161 1468/156 wander or open up as the barrel heats—both 1,000 YDS. 913/477 952/401 981/356 1191/312 important considerations with high-capacity NOTES: These figures were calculated at standardized sea-level atmospheric conditions. semiauto rifles. However, as .22 Nosler ammo Wind is set at 10 mph full value. Calculations are based on velocities in a 24-inch barrel. was hard to come by, I compromised by firing three consecutive three-shot groups instead. Shooting Results To my great delight, the Varmageddon rifle produced very small groups with the preproduction 77-grain BTHP factory At the time of this writing, everything .22 Nosler was in high demand and scarce supply, but I managed to get my hands on a load, averaging a scant 0.37 inch at 100 yards. In addition, my couple boxes of preproduction .22 Nosler factory ammunition handload with the Sierra 77-grain TMK and CFE 223 powder and a set of Redding reloading dies, a bag of virgin brass, and a averaged 0.47 inch. The preproduction factory ammunition averaged 2,735 fps Noveske Varmageddon rifle with an 18-inch barrel. Picking some of my favorite 0.224-inch-diameter projectiles, over the nine-shot string. That’s 215 fps slower than advertised specs, and according to Waterman, that’s because some incuding the Barnes 55-grain TTSX, the Hornady 60-grain of the early .22 Nosler brass was a bit soft and primer pockV-Max, and the Sierra 77-grain TMK, I assembled handloads, ets didn’t hold up well, so they ran off a bunch of preliminary using Varget and CFE 223 propellants. Over the years that ammo using relatively light loads under the 77-grain bullets. I’ve been handloading, I’ve found that the flatbase V-Max offers easy, forgiving accuracy; the TTSX is one of the few I couldn’t care less. The accuracy potential of the cartridge DISTANCE

5.56 NATO 55-GR. BT

.22 NOSLER 55-GR. BT

.22-250 REM. 55-GR. BT

.22 NOSLER 77-GR. TMK


.22 NOSLER ACCURACY & VELOCITY POWDER (TYPE) (GRS.)

BULLET

VEL. (FPS)

E.S. (FPS)

S.D. (FPS)

100-YD. ACC. (IN.)

Noveske Varmageddon, 18-in. Barrel Barnes 55-gr. TTSX

Varget

31.0

3321

39

11

0.97

Hornady 60-gr. V-Max

CFE 223

33.0

3331

47

14

0.58

Hornady 75-gr. ELD-Match* Hornady 75-gr. ELD-Match*

CFE 223 Varget

31.0 29.0

3053 3028

40 31

17 13

0.45 0.63

Sierra 77-gr. TMK

CFE 223

29.5

3003

28

9

0.47

Sierra 80-gr. MatchKing*

CFE 223

31.0

2966

23

9

0.54

55 59 90

19 16 28

0.57 0.75 0.37

Sierra 80-gr. MatchKing* Nosler 55-gr. Ballistic Tip Nosler 77-gr. HPBT

Varget 29.0 2926 Factory Load 3293 Factory Load 2735 *Non-magazine-compatible bullet

NOTES: Accuracy is the average of three, three-shot groups fired from a bipod. Velocity is the average of nine rounds measured 10 feet from the gun’s muzzle. Ambient temperature: 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Elevation: 5,050 feet. All load data should be used with caution. Always start with reduced loads first and make sure they are safe in each of your guns before proceeding to the high test loads listed. Since Shooting Times has no control over your choice of components, guns, or actual loadings, neither Shooting Times nor the various firearms and components manufacturers assume any responsibility for the use of this data.

is clearly off the charts, and further factory load development will surely bring out its velocity potential. Conversely, my handloads with the Sierra 77-grain TMK hit 3,003 fps—out of the 18-inch barrel—and turned in low extreme spread and standard deviation. While Nosler’s 55-grain Ballistic Tip factory load wasn’t quite as accurate—averaging 0.75 inch—its velocity averaged 3,293 fps, which is closer to the advertised spec of 3,350 fps. That small discrepancy is likely due to the individual barrel or the temperature conditions in which I was testing. My two “hunting handloads” performed well, too, both averaging above 3,300 fps. The Hornady 60-grain V-Max load averaged 0.58 inch, and the Barnes 55-grain TTSX was slightly less than 1 inch. That’s pretty darned impressive for first-try handloads in an 18-inch barrel. I performed all the shooting with my SilencerCo Harvester suppressor attached to the Varmageddon rifle. As far as I could tell, there was no discernible difference in recoil or muzzle blast when compared to a typical 16-inch-barreled AR-15 carbine. Reliability was stellar with both the preproduction factory ammo and with my handloads. Semiautomatic designs often experience growing pains when you chamber a new cartridge in them, and sometimes it can take a while to work out the kinks. Nosler and Noveske appear to have done their homework. With testing completed, I loaded my remaining 10 rounds of the Nosler 55-grain Ballistic Tip factory ammo into the magazine and sallied forth for an attempt on Utah’s excessively wily predators. I’m no great coyote caller, but the FoxPro Fusion pulled in a mature The .22 Nosler (center) not only outclasses the coyote not a mile behind my house. The standard 5.56/.223 (left), but it also nips at the .22 Nosler flattened it without a twitch heels of the .22-250 Remington (right). at 170 yards. 42

SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017


For hunting predators, the .22 Nosler outclasses all the other common AR-15 cartridges, pushing into .22-250 territory.

Nosler is offering brand-new .22 Nosler brass in addition to factory ammunition, and reloading dies will be coming from Redding, RCBS, Lyman, and others. Handloaders initially may have to carefully work up loads without much data to guide them, but I suspect Nosler will have approved data up on its website by the time you are reading this report. At first blush, it appears that CFE 223 powder offers outstanding performance. I questioned whether Nosler will eventually produce a deer-appropriate factory load for the .22 Nosler, and Waterman indicated that both the 60-grain Partition and the 64-grain Bonded Solid Base are being considered, so one or both will likely be loaded in the future. Simply put, the .22 Nosler offers unprecedented .22-caliber performance in the AR-15 platform. A 16-inch-barreled carbine in .22 Nosler will significantly outperform a 24-inch-barreled AR-15 in .223, and a .22 Nosler AR-15 with a 22- or 24-inch varmint barrel will make your buddies armed with .22-250 bolt actions scramble to keep up on the prairie dog towns—and they’ll fail because you’ll have higher capacity and faster follow-up shots. Were I to guess, I’d say that the new cartridge will be most loved by predator hunters, where the extra reach and authority provide a significant edge. But if you’re like me, then you see that the new .22 Nosler is one of the coolest AR cartridge developments in some time, and you probably are telling yourself you need an AR-15 chambered for it regardless of what you’ll use it for. APRIL 2017 • SHOOTING TIMES

43

Model: CM9093 • 3.0” Barrel • 9 mm Shown with optional grip and magazine accessories

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44

SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017


B

ENELLI INTRODUCED THE RECOIL-OPERATED

Black Eagle in 1989. It went on to become one of the most popular shotguns not only in America, but also around the world. It inherited the rotating locking lug bolt with its inertia unlocking design from Benelli’s earlier Montefeltro Super 90 shotgun. The Black Eagle was originally chambered for the 3-inch shell, and when chamber length was increased to 3½ inches in 1991, the name was changed to Super Black Eagle. Benelli shotguns have a reputation for reliability under the worst field conditions Mother Nature can throw at them. This is largely due to the absence of propellant fouling buildup that has long plagued gas-operated shotguns. As a rule, recoil-operated shotguns kick harder than those operated by the push of propellant gas, and through the years, Benelli has come up with various ways to narrow the comfort gap between the two. This has not been an easy task because the absence of a gas-operating mechanism makes the Benelli lighter than the typical gas gun. While hunting ducks, geese, and cranes in Saskatchewan, Layne found the new Super Black Eagle 3 to shoot comfortably and function perfectly.

APRIL 2017 • SHOOTING TIMES

45


BENELLI SUPER BLACK EAGLE 3

A couple of years after the Super Black Eagle II was introduced in 2004, it became available with the ComforTech stock. A combination of a durable yet flexible synthetic stock and a dozen rubber chevrons positioned on both sides acts as a shock absorber to make the gun friendlier to the shoulder. All else, including gun weight, being equal, the Super Black Eagle II was not as comfortable to shoot as a gas gun, but it was closer than any other Benelli shotgun before it had been.

Super Black Eagle 3 Features The new Super Black Eagle 3 from Benelli inherited all of the design improvements of its predecessors and introduced a few of its own. I had the good fortune to hunt geese, ducks, and sandhill cranes at Habitat Flats in Saskatchewan with one and was surprised at how comfortable it was to shoot with heavy 3-inch loads. During three days of shooting, I became convinced that the new gun is as comfortable to shoot as most gas guns and more comfortable than some I have shot. This is quite remarkable considering its weight of only 7.2 pounds. Perceived recoil was reduced by additional improvements in the ComforTech Plus stock. An additional large rubber chevron extends over the top of the stock, and the shape of the other chevrons was modified for more efficient shock absorbance. These changes alone improve the efficiency of the stock in soaking up recoil before it reaches the shooter. But the good news does not end there. A roomier trigger guard, an oversized bolt handle, a larger safety button, and an improved shape of the shell drop lever make the new gun easier to operate when wearing gloves.

46

SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017

Redesigned rubber chevrons and comb in the stock make the Super Black Eagle 3 shoot as softly as many heavier gas-operated shotguns. The softness of the comb can be varied by switching out its internal spring.

Quite a bit of the discomfort we feel when shooting a shotgun is a blow delivered to the cheek, one of the more sensitive parts of the human body. Realizing that some of us are more sensitive to recoil than others, Benelli engineers came up with a clever way to vary the softness with what the company describes as a cheek protection pad. An internal cavity running the full length of the rubber comb insert contains a flat metal spring, which is removable when the comb is detached from the stock. The gun comes with a standardtension spring, and I found it to be, as most hunters probably will, easy on the cheek. But for those who do not, springs with heavier and lighter tension ratings are available at extra cost. The comb insert is easily removed for spring switching by popping off the recoil pad and pushing on an internal latch. Higher combs are also available.


Conventional polymer tips melt in flight! Hornady ® engineers, using Doppler radar, discovered that all commonly used polymer tips are affected by aerodynamic heating – they melt and deform in flight leading to both BC and accuracy loss. To counter this effect, Hornady ® identified a heat resistant polymer and developed the Heat Shield™ tip. This revolutionary new tip creates the PEFECT MEPLAT (tip) with exceptionally consistent results from bullet-to-bullet and lot-tolot – results that CAN’T BE MATCHED BY ANY BTHP. The Heat Shield™ tip combined with AMP® bullet jacket technology, streamlined secant ogive and optimum boattail design creates the most consistent match bullet on the market today – ELD™ Match.

ELD MATCH E X T R E M E LY L O W D R A G M AT C H B U L L E T S • Revolutionary Heat Shield™ Tip • Highest-in-class BCs (over entire trajectory) • Accurate, Doppler radar verified BCs (corrected back to standard atmosphere) • Highest degrees of accuracy and consistency (bullet-to-bullet/lot-to-lot) • Streamlined secant ogive and optimum boattail design • AMP® Bullet Jackets

THE PERFECT TIP The new Heat Shield ™ tip creates the perfect meplat and outperforms BTHP bullets. Available as component bullets or in factory-loaded Match ™ ammunition.

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BENELLI SUPER BLACK EAGLE 3

Perceived recoil is less when holding the butt of the stock firmly rather than loosely against the shoulder, and the more sharply curved grip of the Super Black Eagle 3 makes doing so easier than a shallow grip. The arms of shotgunners vary in length, and reach-length also varies depending on the amount of clothing worn. Regardless of whether the forearm is grasped up front, at its midpoint, or at the rear, it feels the same in the hand. Proper stock fit plays a big role in comfort, and an included shim kit allows 10 different cast and drop adjustments to be made specifically for the individual shooter. The stock’s 14-inch length of pull is easily shortened or lengthened by a half-inch by switching to a thinner or thicker recoil pad. Another improvement is described by Benelli as a rigid internal stock fixing system. It serves to eliminate rotational and lateral movement of the stock under stress while the stock remains free to compress under the force of recoil. Muzzle rise is reduced during firing, which results in quicker back-ontarget recovery between shots. A small feature for sure—one that many shooters will likely fail to notice—but it is indicative of the company’s attention to detail and its effort to make the Super Black Eagle 3 the best shotgun it can possibly be. The Stock and forearm have the hand-friendly AirTouch surface treatment, and finishes available are black synthetic (MSRP: $1,699) and Realtree Max-5 (MSRP: $1,799). While

An ergonomically shaped easy-off magazine tube makes field-stripping quick and easy.

the latter is a marsh grass, waterfowl pattern, turkey gobblers would also find it difficult to spot unless the gun or its hunter moves. That along with a receiver drilled and tapped for mounting a scope or electronic sight makes the gun useful during both spring and autumn. Barrel lengths are 26 and 28 inches, and to resist the ravages of steel shot, the vent-ribbed barrel undergoes Benelli’s Crio System treatment. Chamber length is 3½ inches. The barrel extension has been improved for increased rigidity. In the original Black Eagle design, the bolt could not be eased into battery; it had to be allowed to slam home at full speed in

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order to fully lock up. (The noise it made undoubtedly allowed more than one turkey gobbler to live to gobble another day.) The inertia-style bolt would also unlock on its own if the butt of the gun bumped against the ground or the floor of a duck blind and remain so. The Easy-Locking bolt, which appeared a few years back on the Super Black Eagle II, eliminates all of

that and was inherited by the new Super Black Eagle 3. The bolt can now be quietly eased into battery, and it stays there, even when the butt of the stock is bumped. Other changes include an oversized safety button and bolt handle and a more ergonomic shell drop lever and trigger guard shape. As I discovered on cold days in a goose blind, those

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BENELLI SUPER BLACK EAGLE 3

A stock shim kit, five choke tubes, and a combination choke wrench and barrel thread cleaner come in their own plastic box.

improvements make the gun easier to operate while wearing gloves. I also discovered firsthand that shells are more easily shoved into the magazine with great haste due to a loading track that begins with a channel molded into the front of the trigger and ends with a wider loading port in the bottom of the receiver. I found loading to be 100 percent fumble-free, even while wearing thick gloves. And at the end of a day, no more racking shells into the mud when unloading the gun. Reaching into the loading port and pressing the shell latch with a finger, releases each shell from the magazine, allowing it to drop into the hand. The Super Black Eagle has always been a low-maintenance shotgun, but if one should eventually start acting up after digesting a few thousand rounds, cleaning and lubing the recoil spring housed in the stock will just about always return it to action. A redesigned and more accessible recoil spring tube makes doing so easier than ever. The new easy-off magazine cap speeds up field-stripping the gun, and it wears a sling-swivel stud. The buttstock also has a slingswivel stud. The Super Black Eagle 3 comes in a hard case, and a second plastic box contains the stock shims, five CrioChokes, and a cleverly designed combination choke wrench and barrel thread cleaner. My special thanks to Benelli for including that second box. The Improved Cylinder and Modified chokes are the extended type, and those in Cylinder, Improved-Modified, and Full are flush-fitting. SUPER BLACK EAGLE 3 MANUFACTURER TYPE GAUGE MAGAZINE CAPACITY BARREL

Inertia-driven autoloader 12, 3½-in. chamber 2 rounds 28 in.

OVERALL LENGTH

49.6 in.

WEIGHT, EMPTY

7.2 lbs.

STOCK LENGTH OF PULL

Gen 3 ComforTech Plus 14 in.

FINISH

Realtree Max-5 Camo

SIGHTS

Fiber-optic front

TRIGGER SAFETY MSRP

50

Benelli benelliusa.com

5.0-lb. pull (as tested) Oversized crossbolt $1,799

SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017

The Super Black Eagle 3 in the Field I did not have an opportunity to check out the Super Black Eagle 3 at the pattern board, but its performance on waterfowl proved beyond doubt that it was shooting precisely to my hold point. My crowning achievement on the Saskatchewan hunt was a triple on passing mallards. Wintertime weather in Saskatchewan can be brutal, and while the temperature never got as cold as it can get there, I was prepared for the worst. We shot mostly from blinds set up in fields where corn had recently been harvested, and I wore VapRtrek LS waterproof boots with 800 grams of PermaLoft insulation along with the latest moisture-wicking and UltraDry technology from Irish Setter. I also used heated insoles from ThermaCell that are powered by a 3.5-volt rechargeable lithium-ion polymer battery. I wore Banded brand waterfowl hunting clothing, and my Squaw Creek 3n1 Parka and Squaw Creek Insulated Bibs feature a polyester twill outer shell and ripstop nylon inner shell, taped seams, water-resistant YKK zippers, and 100 grams of PrimaLoft Silver insulation. I also used an Agassiz Goose Down Vest that was lightweight and very warm. The clothing and the gun performed perfectly for me during the hunt, and I wasn’t the only hunter who had great success with the new Super Black Eagle 3. Everyone else was shooting at the top of their form with guns they had never before held. Actually, hunting with a new gun is much better than breaking a few clay targets at the gun club because it better reveals both good and bad design features. Despite the best of my efforts, I could not find a single thing wrong with the new Super Black Eagle 3.


ROWNING HAS SOME QUIRKY NAMES

for some of its rifles, and this one is no exception. I’m not sure exactly how the name “Hell’s Canyon Speed” came about, but this X-Bolt certainly looks like it’s built for action and ready to take on just about anything. The external surfaces of the metal parts are coated with Cerakote, the tougher-than-nails coating that outlasts other firearms finishes, and can be had in just about any color and/or pattern a manufacturer can imagine. Browning describes this finish as “Burnt Bronze,” and if you use your imagination a little, it does look a little burnt. It looks 52

SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017

more copper-colored to me, but that probably doesn’t have the right marketing cachet. No matter. The overall effect is quite attractive, and as Browning points out, the finish lends itself to concealment in a variety of environments. Also, it stands up well to wear and tear. The stock fits right into this plan, too. It is a sturdy synthetic and not a flimsy piece of cheap plastic. It is decked out with a finish called A-TACS AU. A-TACS stands for “Advanced Tactical Concealment System,” the company that makes the camo. A-TACS bills its camo as “theater specific,” so you should note that “AU” stands for “Arid/Urban.” The stock also has a Dura-Tough Armor coating, and instead of checkering, the Hell’s Canyon Speed has textured gripping LEAD PHOTO ©OUTDOORPHOTO // FOTOLIA.COM


HELLS CANYON Hells Canyon is a 10-milewide canyon located along the border of eastern Oregon, eastern Washington, and western Idaho, and it’s part of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. Carved by the waters of the Snake River, it is North America’s deepest river gorge. Much of the area is inaccessible by road.

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APR L 2017

53


HELL’S CANYON X-BOLT

The Hell’s Canyon Speed X-Bolt has four screw holes for each scope mount base instead of the traditional two. They provide a measure of extra strength when mounting a scope. The Hell’s Canyon Speed X-Bolt has a fluted, 22-inch, sporter-contour barrel. It and the action are finished in Burnt Bronze Cerakote. The removable muzzle brake was effective but loud. Not to worry, a thread protector is provided if you choose to not use the muzzle brake. The rifle’s recoil lug and round-bottom action are glass bedded into the sturdy synthetic stock. The setup contributed to the sample rifle’s consistent accuracy.

The rifle’s stiff, fluted barrel is 22 inches long in most calibers; it’s 23 or 26 inches in the various magnum cartridges. The twist is 1:10 inch for most cartridges, but it also varies and is optimal for the particular round. The outside diameter of the removable muzzle brake is 0.61 inch, the same as the barrel. The internal diameter of the exit hole is 0.334 inch and is marked “30 MAX,” so my supposition is that this brake is used on smaller calibers, too. Although efficient, the brake does increase the loudness quotient. A thread protector is provided if you prefer to not use the muzzle brake. Just be sure to check your zero after replacing the brake with the thread protector. 54

SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017

The recoil lug and round-bottom action are glass bedded, and the rifle’s two-position safety is located on top of the tang. The bolt release allows the bolt to be opened with the safety engaged. The new rifle is chambered for 11 popular cartridges, including the red-hot 6.5 Creedmoor, the immensely popular 7mm Remington and .300 Winchester Magnums, and a couple of WSMs. It is also offered in .26 Nosler, which is a real screamer if there ever was one. All in all, there is a cartridge for hunting just about any game. The rifle uses a detachable rotary magazine made of a tough but silent synthetic material.


BROWNING HELL’S CANYON SPEED X-BOLT ACCURACY & VELOCITY

BULLET

POWDER (TYPE) (GRS.)

CASE

PRIMER

COL (IN.)

VEL. (FPS)

S.D. (FPS)

M.E. (FT-LBS)

100-YD. ACC. (IN.)

.30-06 Hornady 150-gr. GMX

Reloder 16

57.0

Win.

Fed. 210

3.220

2805

24

2621

1.65

Nosler 165-gr. Ballistic Tip Sierra 180-gr. Spitzer

Reloder 16 Reloder 16

56.0 55.0

Win. Win.

Fed. 210 Fed. 210

3.275 3.250

2725 2604

8 12

2721 2711

1.97 1.22

IMR 7828

57.5

Win.

Fed. 210

3.210

2285

18

2551

1.20

Hornady 220-gr. RN InterLock Federal 150-gr. Fusion

Factory Load

3.180

2805

27

2621

0.82

Federal Lead Free 150-gr. Copper

Factory Load

3.164

2867

22

2738

1.15

Hornady Custom 150-gr. SST Hornady Superformance 150-gr. SST Winchester 150-gr. Power Max Bonded Federal 165-gr. Trophy Copper Hornady Custom 165-gr. InterBond Hornady Precision Hunter 178-gr. ELD-X Federal 180-gr. Trophy Bonded Tip Hornady Custom 180-gr. SST Hornady Superformance 180-gr. SST

Factory Load Factory Load Factory Load Factory Load Factory Load Factory Load Factory Load Factory Load Factory Load

3.222 3.216 3.178 3.211 3.220 3.254 3.189 3.215 3.212

2760 3010 2889 2746 2674 2641 2664 2657 2678

18 11 21 9 11 14 5 9 6

2538 3018 2781 2763 2620 2757 2837 2822 2867

1.89 1.39 1.85 2.05 1.97 1.48 1.97 1.56 1.52

Winchester 180-gr. Power Max Bonded Federal 200-gr. Trophy Bonded Bear Claw Remington 220-gr. Core-Lokt

Factory Load Factory Load Factory Load

3.182 3.153 3.245

2784 2564 2346

47 5 10

3099 2920 2689

1.73 0.74 1.72

NOTES: Accuracy is the average of three, five-shot groups fired from a Lead Sled DFT rest. Velocity is the average of 10 rounds measured 10 feet from the gun’s muzzle. Range temperatures were 78 to 89 degrees Fahrenheit. All load data should be used with caution. Always start with reduced loads first and make sure they are safe in each of your guns before proceeding to the high test loads listed. Since Shooting Times has no control over your choice of components, guns, or actual loadings, neither Shooting Times nor the various firearms and components manufacturers assume any responsibility for the use of this data.

Several loads performed well in the .30-06 Hell’s Canyon Speed X-Bolt, including Federal’s 200-grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw and Hornady’s Superformance 150-grain SST factory ammo.

Range Results The Hell’s Canyon Speed X-Bolt I evaluated for this report is chambered for the ever-popular .30-06, and one can hardly go wrong with the versatile .30-06. In keeping with the lightweight hunting rifle theme (with a scope, a sling, and a magazine full of cartridges, this svelte rifle weighs a bit less than 7.5 pounds), I mounted a new Leupold 3-9X 33mm Ultralight scope in Leupold mounts. And that leads me to how the X-Bolt got its name. Instead of the typical two holes for mounting each scope base, there are four in an “X” pattern. For testing, I gathered up an assortment of .30-06 ammo and headed to the shooting building at my range. The owner’s manual says that the rifle’s trigger is adjustable from 3 to 5 pounds and

is factory preset at 4 pounds. As it came from the box, my rifle’s trigger pull averaged a bit over 5 pounds and was nice and crisp. Truth be told, one could hunt with this rifle just like this and never have a problem, but the owner’s manual says the trigger is “user adjustable,” so I felt obligated to do just that. The owner’s manual has complete instructions for making adjustments, but briefly, a 4mm Allen wrench is required to remove the stock, and a 2mm Allen wrench is needed for the trigger adjustment screw. (I found the hardest part of this operation to be cleaning the red thread-locking compound out of the hex hole in the trigger screw!) I backed the adjustment screw out about a turn and a half and rechecked the pull weight. It was exactly 4 pounds and felt great, so I quit while I was ahead. APRIL 2017 • SHOOTING TIMES

55


HELL’S CANYON SPEED X-BOLT

HELL’S CANYON X-BOLT

MANUFACTURER

The Hell’s Canyon Speed X-Bolt shot a variety of factory ammo with results ranging from pretty good to downright excellent. The average of the 14 factory loads I fired was 1.54 inches. I also fired a few handloads, and their overall average was 1.51 inches. This rifle, like almost all rifles, shot some loads better than others. The average of the best seven loads was 1.24 inches, so it will behoove the X-Bolt owner to check out a variety of loads to determine which one his rifle likes the best. A couple of loads really stood out. One was Federal’s 200grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw. At 2,564 fps, it averaged 0.74 inch. Not far behind was the Federal 150-grain Fusion at 2,805 fps, which averaged 0.82 inch. At 3,010 fps, the fastest load was Hornady’s Superformance 150-grain SST—remember, this is a 22-inch barrel—and its accuracy was more than adequate at 1.39 inches. Interestingly, it was exactly 250 fps faster than the Hornady Custom load with the same bullet. The handloads I assembled and fired were loaded with four representative bullets. Two loads that fared well were loaded with the Sierra 180-grain Spitzer and the Hornady 220-grain RN InterLock. The high sectional density of the InterLock provides ample penetration, and the modest velocity keeps the bullet from coming apart at the seams. While the four

TYPE CALIBER MAGAZINE CAPACITY BARREL OVERALL LENGTH WEIGHT, EMPTY STOCK LENGTH OF PULL

Browning Arms Co. browning.com Bolt-action repeater .30-06 4 rounds 22 in. 42.75 in. 6.5 lbs. Composite 13.63 in.

FINISH

Burnt Bronze Cerakote barreled action; A-TACS AU camouflage stock

SIGHTS

None, drilled and tapped for scope mounts

TRIGGER SAFETY MSRP

5.0-lb. pull (as tested) Two position $1,199.99

handloads’ velocities didn’t quite match the velocities of the factory ammunition with the same bullet weights, overall accuracy was slightly better. All in all, I give the new Browning Hell’s Canyon Speed X-Bolt high marks. It is a lightweight, sturdy hunting rifle that is attractive, well made, and chambered for a slew of excellent cartridges. I’d take it hunting anywhere, for almost any game.

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58

SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017


ALTHOUGH THE TIPPED BLITZKING AND TIPPED MATCHKING BULLETS ARE DESIGNED FOR VERY DIFFERENT TASKS, THEY SHARE SIERRA’S COMMITMENT TO STELLAR ACCURACY.

S

IERRA BULLETS HAVE LONG BEEN ASSOCIATED

with stellar accuracy. And the company’s tipped bullets (the BlitzKing, introduced in 1999, and the new Tipped MatchKing, introduced a little over a year ago) carry on that tradition. During development of the all-new Tipped MatchKing, the company’s engineers went beyond simply adding a polycarbonate tip to the original MatchKing. Boattail length was increased, and whereas the original MatchKing has a tangent ogive shape, the new tipped bullet has the more streamlined secant ogive. In combination, those three differences improved ballistic coefficient (BC) for most calibers and weights. The BC for the 7mm 160-grain Tipped MatchKing is .615 compared to .488 for the 7mm 168-grain MatchKing. Respective BCs for the .30-caliber 168-grain Tipped MatchKing and MatchKing are .535 and .462. There is less difference in some of the others. During its development, the 125-grain MatchKing was given a secant ogive profile, and it has about the same BC as the 125-grain Tipped MatchKing. They are the only flatbase bullets in the entire line. Extensive shooting of those two bullets reveals that a change in shape contributes far more to BC improvement than the addition of a polycarbonate tip. There are a few other differences. The bearing surface of some Tipped MatchKing bullets is slightly

Excellent concentricity is a big reason why BlitzKing (bottom) and Tipped MatchKing (top) bullets are so accurate, and it is made possible by using jackets with almost no variation in thickness.

APRIL 2017 • SHOOTING TIMES

59


SIERRA’S TIPPED BULLETS Nine different weights of Tipped MatchKing bullets are available in .224, .243, .264, .284, and .308 calibers.

longer than MatchKings of the same weight. They are also longer overall, with the .30-caliber 168-grain Tipped MatchKing measuring a nominal 1.355 inches versus 1.205 inches for the 168-grain MatchKing. If both are loaded to the same overall cartridge length, the tipped bullet occupies a bit more space inside the case. And due to its secant ogive profile, freetravel prior to rifling engagement of the Tipped MatchKing would be greater. In magazines capable of handling the necessary increase in overall cartridge length, the tipped bullet can be seated for the same amount of freetravel as the MatchKing. Sierra’s other tipped bullet is the BlitzKing. It’s offered in .204, .224, .243, and .257 inch. Advantages for the varmint shooter over hollowpoint and softnose bullets are improved BC for a flatter trajectory, less wind deflection, and higher downrange impact velocity.

Stellar Accuracy BlitzKing, MatchKing, and Tipped MatchKing bullets are built to the same accuracy standard. Samples are randomly pulled from manufacturing lots and fired from a return-to-battery rest

at 200 yards in Sierra’s underground testing tunnel. To pass inspection, 10-shot groups at that distance cannot exceed 1.250 inches. I am told that most groups measure about half that, which converts to just over 0.300 inch at 100 yards. Keep in mind, this is for 10 shots rather than the three or five used by many shooters for accuracy testing. Longtime Sierra employee Carroll Pillant described some groups as “bug holes.” A three-gun competitor, Pillant also mentioned that all tipped bullets were designed to shoot accurately over a wide seating depth range and generally deliver about the same level of accuracy whether seated quite close to the rifling or allowed to freetravel a bit. The Sierra reloading manual contains data for all BlitzKing bullets with starting charge weights of various powders being

SIERRA TIPPED MATCHKING ACCURACY & VELOCITY POWDER BULLET

(TYPE)

(GRS.)

CASE

PRIMER

VEL. (FPS)

100-YD. ACC. (IN.)

3044 2789

0.41 0.39

2833

0.17

2710

0.20

2846

0.45

3015

0.39

3192

0.31

3019 2723 2572 2580

0.28 0.24 0.19 0.218

.223 Remington Les Baer Custom Super Varmint, 24-in. Barrel, 1:8 Twist Sierra 69-gr. TMK Sierra 77-gr. TMK Sierra 95-gr. TMK Sierra 130-gr. TMK Sierra 130-gr. TMK Sierra 130-gr. TMK Sierra 160-gr. TMK Sierra 125-gr. TMK Sierra 155-gr. TMK Sierra 168-gr. TMK Sierra 175-gr. TMK

CFE 223 25.3 Lapua Fed. 205M CFE 223 24.4 Lapua Fed. 205M 6mm Norma BR Hall Rail Gun, 24-in. Barrel, 1:8 Twist Varget 30.5 Lapua CCI BR4 6.5 Creedmoor Hall Rail Gun, 24-in. Barrel, 1:8 Twist H4350 43.0 Horn. Fed. 210M 6.5 Creedmoor Ruger Model 77 Hawkeye, 26-in. Barrel, 1:8 Twist IMR 4451 40.6 Horn. Fed. 210M 6.5-284 Norma Cooper Model 22 Custom Classic, 26-in. Barrel, 1:8 Twist IMR 4831 52.0 Horn. Fed. 210M 7mm STW Custom Remington Model 700, 26-in. Barrel, 1:9 Twist Reloder 25 78.0 Nosler Fed. 215M .308 Winchester Hall Rail Gun, 24-in. Barrel, 1:10 Twist W748 49.4 Lapua Fed. 210M IMR 4064 42.9 Lapua Fed. 210M IMR 4895 41.1 Lapua Fed. 210M VV N550 46.2 Lapua Fed. 210M

NOTES: Accuracy is the average of five, five-shot groups fired from a sandbag benchrest. Velocity is the average of 10 or more rounds measured 15 feet from the guns’ muzzles. All load data should be used with caution. Always start with reduced loads first and make sure they are safe in each of your guns before proceeding to the high test loads listed. Since Shooting Times has no control over your choice of components, guns, or actual loadings, neither Shooting Times nor the various firearms and components manufacturers assume any responsibility for the use of this data.

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SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017


the same as for other Sierra bullets of the same caliber and weight. The latest edition of the manual was published prior to the introduction of the Tipped MatchKing, so information for the new bullet is not included. Due to longer bearing surfaces than on the MatchKing, plus the fact that the magazines of some rifles will require deeper seating into the case, I had assumed that slightly lighter starting charge weights of powder would be recommended by Sierra. Prior to beginning my accuracy tests, I was informed by the company’s tech-support guys that starting charge weights shown in the manual for MatchKing bullets are safe to use with Tipped MatchKings of the same caliber and weight.

Testing the Bullets

Layne tested the accuracy of various Sierra tipped bullets in a number of different calibers by using his cache of interchangeable bolts and barrels for his return-to-battery rest.

with each bullet in the least possible time. I already knew which powders each rifle preferred, so after trying a couple and choosing the best performer for a particular bullet, I juggled bullet jump a bit. My work was made easier by the fact that all test rifles had previously proven to be capable of 0.5 MOA and better accuracy. The return-to-battery machine rest I used for testing some of the bullets was built by Bill Hall, and it had been used for several years by accuracy guru Kenny Jarrett, who won a number of benchrest matches with it. When I inherited the big gun, its

Through the years I have ventilated plenty of paper targets with MatchKing bullets, often when accuracy-testing new rifles. I had not gotten around to trying the Tipped MatchKing since its introduction, so all the accuracy data I have for it was shot specifically for this report. As I said earlier, the BlitzKing has been with us since 1999, so I had already tried it in quite a few rifles, the most recent being a Cooper Model 21 in .221 Remington FireBall used in a report on a new Hodgdon powder for that company’s 2017 Annual Manual. Handloading at the range enabled me to tweak each load in my search for best accuracy The weight variation of Tipped MatchKing and BlitzKing bullets is held to 0.2 grain, and some lots will beat that.

APRIL 2017 • SHOOTING TIMES

61


SIERRA’S TIPPED BULLETS Nine different weights of BlitzKing bullets are available in .204, .224, .243, and .257 calibers.

only bolt was for the 6mm PPC, but it now has bolts that handle the .223 Remington and .308 Winchester as well as other cartridges of those same rim diameters. It also has a collection of barrels chambered for various cartridges. All barrels have a non-tapered contour and measure 1.5 inches in diameter. The gun weighs 65 pounds. Other than the barrel in 6mm PPC, those for my rail gun do not have the tight-necked chambers preferred by benchrest competitors. This allows me to test factory ammunition in them. But because their custom chambers are tighter at the

neck than the SAAMI minimum, I can make case neck wall thickness uniform by outside turning without having a lot of space between the neck of a cartridge and the neck wall of the chamber. Starting with virgin cases, each is fireformed in the chamber prior to being used for accuracy testing. Cases are then

SIERRA BLITZKING ACCURACY & VELOCITY VEL. (FPS)

100-YD. ACC. (IN.)

4032 3766

0.31 0.34

2934

0.43

3183

0.39

3621

0.42

3722 3541 3334

0.21 0.16 0.18

3756 3528 3362

0.29 0.21 0.29

3522

0.25

4019

0.36

H322 28.0 Lapua* Fed. 205M .243 Winchester Prairie Gun Works M15Ti, 22-in. Barrel, 1:10 Twist Reloder 15 42.8 Horn. Fed. 210M .25-06 Cooper Model 52 Western Classic, 24-in. Barrel, 1:10 Twist H4831 60.0 Horn. Fed. 215M

3129

0.20

3516

0.35

3674

0.39

H4831 58.0 Horn. *Formed from Lapua .220 Russian case

3502

0.40

POWDER BULLET

Sierra 32-gr. BlitzKing Sierra 39-gr. BlitzKing Sierra 40-gr. BlitzKing Sierra 40-gr. BlitzKing Sierra 40-gr. BlitzKing Sierra 40-gr. BlitzKing Sierra 50-gr. BlitzKing Sierra 55-gr. BlitzKing Sierra 40-gr. BlitzKing Sierra 50-gr. BlitzKing Sierra 55-gr. BlitzKing Sierra 50-gr. BlitzKing Sierra 50-gr. BlitzKing Sierra 70-gr. BlitzKing Sierra 55-gr. BlitzKing Sierra 70-gr. BlitzKing

(TYPE)

(GRS.)

CASE

PRIMER

.204 Ruger Cooper Model 21 Montana Varminter, 24-in. Barrel, 1:12 Twist CFE 223 30.5 Horn. Fed. 205M VV N540 27.3 Horn. Fed. 205M .22 Hornet Kimber Model 82, 24-in. Barrel, 1:14 Twist Lil’Gun 12.8 Horn. Rem. 6½ .218 Bee Sako L46, 24-in. Barrel, 1:16 Twist Lil’Gun 14.0 Win. Rem. 6½ .221 Fireball Cooper Model 21 Montana Varminter, 24-in. Barrel 1:12 Twist CFE BLK 20.8 Rem. Rem. 7½ .223 Remington Hall Rail Gun, 24-in. Barrel, 1:14 Twist CFE 223 28.7 Lapua Fed. 205M CFE 223 28.2 Lapua Fed. 205M VV N133 24.6 Lapua Fed. 205M .223 Remington Custom Remington Model 700, 24-in. Barrel, 1:14 Twist CFE 223 28.5 Lapua Fed. 205M CFE 223 28.0 Lapua Fed. 205M VV N133 24.8 Lapua Fed. 205M .22 PPC Sako L461, 24-in. Barrel, 1:14 Twist Benchmark 27.5 Lapua* Fed. 205M .220 Swift Remington 40XKS, 26-in. Barrel, 1:14 Twist IMR 4064 38.4 Horn. Fed. 210M 6mm PPC Hall Rail Gun, 24-in. Barrel, 1:14 Twist

Sierra 90-gr. BlitzKing

Fed. 215M

NOTES: Accuracy is the average of five, five-shot groups fired from a sandbag benchrest. Velocity is the average of 10 or more rounds measured 15 feet from the guns’ muzzles. All load data should be used with caution. Always start with reduced loads first and make sure they are safe in each of your guns before proceeding to the high test loads listed. Since Shooting Times has no control over your choice of components, guns, or actual loadings, neither Shooting Times nor the various firearms and components manufacturers assume any responsibility for the use of this data.

62

SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017


The diameter variation of Tipped MatchKing and BlitzKing bullets is too small to detect with conventional tools.

neck-sized with a Hornady or Redding bushing-type die with a bushing 0.002 inch smaller than the outside neck diameter of a loaded round. Bullets are seated with Wilson hand dies from Sinclair International. Each group is shot in the same manner as during my benchrest shooting days. After observing a couple of Rick Graham wind flags long enough to pick out a prevailing condition, I rapid-fire five shots each time that condition comes around. If a condition holds for 15 seconds, I can usually get off five shots. Anytime the flags indicate a change in wind velocity

THE SIERRA BULLETS STORY BEGINS SHORTLY AFTER

the end of World War II when rifle bullets for handloading had become virtually impossible to find. Californians Frank Snow, Jim Spivey, and Loren Harbor had been making parts for military aircraft, and it was no secret that the end of their business was in sight. Snow, a competitive shooter, convinced his two business partners there was a bright future in making bullets. The .224-caliber, 53-grain Benchrest was first to be produced in 1947. It was given that name for a good reason. At the time a new shooting sport called

or direction in the middle of a string of shots, I immediately cease firing and wait until my condition returns before completing that group. Testing in that manner eats up time, but I find it to be the best way to accurately determine how good a bullet or rifle is. As illustrated in the accompanying accuracy results charts, both types of Sierra tipped bullets are capable of stellar accuracy when fired from accurate rifles. They are accurate because Sierra goes to great lengths in making them as concentric as is possible on a mass-production basis. Concentricity is primarily a result of uniformity in jacket wall thickness. Slice a page of this magazine into six layers and one of those layers will be thicker than the jacket wall thickness variation in BlitzKing, Tipped MatchKing, and MatchKing bullets. Maximum weight variation is held to 0.2 grain, but some lots will beat that. Diameter variation is too small to measure with conventional tools. According to a Sierra advertisement in a recent issue of Shooting Times, “MatchKing bullets are shot at more targets to win more matches than any other bullet in the world.” Since the Tipped MatchKing is a 21st-century chip off the old block, it too will surely win its share of matches in coming years. And since the BlitzKing is built to the same accuracy standards, it is best described as a match-accurate bullet that performs like a varmint bullet when striking groundhogs, prairie dogs, coyotes, and other critters. I say that pretty well sums up what Sierra’s tipped bullets are all about.

modern benchrest was off and running, and many competitors who shot rifles in various cartridges, such as the .22-250, .220 Arrow, and .219 Donaldson Wasp, won matches and established records with bullets made by this new outfit called Sierra. The first competition bullets in .30 caliber were introduced during the early 1950s—probably because match bullets made by Winchester and Remington for quite a few years had been full-metal-jacket boattail spitzers, those first Sierra bullets were the same. Around 1955 they were changed to boattail hollowpoint form with the 168-grain version called, back then, International. Those weighing 180 and 200 grains were the first to carry the MatchKing name. The International name was eventually dropped, and MatchKing bullets in other calibers up to .375 have since been added. —Layne Simpson

APRIL 2017 • SHOOTING TIMES

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QUICKSHOT

I GREW UP IN SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA FARM COUNTRY, AND IN

the early 1970s small-game season was a big deal. A lot, even most, of my family and friends headed afield with 16-gauge pumps and autoloaders from Remington, Winchester, Browning, and others. But despite the 16’s perfect (I think) blend of power and handling for upland hunting, it has been on life support for a long time, and spotting 16-gauge guns or ammo at gun stores these days is a fairly uncommon occurrence. Aside from a lack of R&D on the ammo side, the 16 gauge has been hampered by a lack not only of available gun models but also of guns that aren’t simply 12 gauges with 16-gauge barrels, negating the 16 gauge’s lightweight advantage. Enter the Hunter EX from TriStar, a 16-gauge overunder built on a 20-gauge frame that weighs around 6 pounds. (TriStar lists the gun at 6 pounds even, but my sample weighed 6.5 pounds.) TriStar is a 20-year-old, family-run company that specializes in entry-level firearms, most imported from Turkey. My Hunter EX sample is never going to be confused with a Perazzi. Wood-to-metal fit is fair, and the inletting around the tang is a little rough. Overall, though, it’s a handsome gun. The Turkish walnut stock is treated to a semigloss finish, and the left side of the buttstock on my sample shows a bit of figuring. The laser-cut checkering is executed in a bordered point pattern. It’s nicely done and provides a decent gripping surface at the wrist and the

64

SHOOTING TIMES


The Hunter EX 16-gauge over-under shotgun comes with a Turkish walnut stock and 28-inch barrels threaded for Beretta screw-in choke tubes. It’s a sensible, affordable 16-gauge gun that’s great in the field as well as on the sporting clays course.

forearm. The slim forearm flares ever so slightly at the tip. The butt is capped by a ventilated black rubber recoil pad. The alloy receiver is silver, and it’s dot-peened engraved in a Turkish floral design. Beneath you’ll find a gold-plated aluminum single-select trigger. The 28-inch, steel, monoblock barrels sport a ventilated mid-rib and ventilated top rib that includes a red fiber-optic front bead. The shotgun has extractors but not ejectors, which is fine for most 16-gauge fans because they want those hulls for reloading. The Hunter EX comes with five Beretta Mobile-style choke tubes: Skeet, Improved Cylinder, Modified, Improved-Modified, and Full. They’re housed in a snap-lid plastic case, and a wrench is included. So far I’ve only shot sporting clays with the gun, and I found it to be a joy to swing. The balance seems perfect, and the proportions suit me—despite a length of pull that, at 14.25 inches from center of pad to center of trigger face, is a touch long for me. I have medium-size hands, and I found both the wrist and the slender forearm to my liking. The safety functions as the barrel selector. With the gun on “Safe,” moving the selector left and right chooses the top and bottom barrel respectively. It operates with just the right amount of tension. The only thing I really don’t like about the gun is the trigger pull. It has a heavy pull at 8.75 pounds (by comparison, my wife’s Browning Citori comes in under 6 pounds), and the pull is extremely long with a 3/16-inch take-up and a total travel of a half-inch. The trigger didn’t stop me from breaking targets, though, and frankly, I’m not expecting the very best from an overunder retailing for less than $700. That said, it’s exactly what

I want: a sensible, affordable 16-gauge gun I can carry all day for pheasants, rabbits, and quail. And while there aren’t separate divisions for the 16 gauge in the sanctioned shotgun disciplines, which is what hurt the 16 early on in America, the Hunter EX is a fine companion for casual sporting clays, skeet, five-stand, or whatever. When it comes to upland hunting, anything you can do with a 12 or a 20—or a 28 for that matter—you can do with a 16. Kudos to TriStar for bringing us a 16 gauge with the right proportions and the right price to appeal to 16-gauge fans as well as anyone looking for a nice, lightweight over-under.

HUNTER EX IMPORTER TYPE GAUGE CARTRIDGE CAPACITY

TriStar tristararms.com Over-under 16 2 rounds

BARRELS

28 in.

OVERALL LENGTH

45 in.

WEIGHT, EMPTY STOCK LENGTH OF PULL

6.5 lbs. Turkish walnut with 1-in. recoil pad 14.25 in.

FINISH

Silver receiver, blued barrels, semigloss stock

SIGHTS

Ventilated rib with fiber-optic front bead

TRIGGER SAFETY MSRP

8.75-lb. pull (as tested) Sliding tang-mounted $640

APRIL 2017 • SHOOTING TIMES

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DEFEND

TRAIN

QUICKSHOT

IN MY OPINION, NO TYPE OF SHOOTING IS MORE FUN THAN SHOOTING

steel plates. Shooting steel plates also is a good way to work on your reaction time. I’ve been having loads of fun shooting Birchwood Casey’s Dueling Tree steel target. The Dueling Tree is made for .22 rimfire rifles and handguns and consists of four 0.25-inch-thick hinged steel targets that flip back and forth when hit. The target paddles are 3.63 inches in diameter, painted yellow, and surfaced with blaze orange Target Spots bullseyes. The steel paddles are spaced 1.88 inches apart. The .22 Rimfire Dueling Tree comes in a hard, molded-plastic, foam-lined case that makes transporting the target easy. The case measures 42x11x2 inches. Some assembly of the target is required, but it is very easy; requires no tools; and consists of simply crisscrossing the two base pieces, locking them together with a square collar, and setting the upright piece (which has the hinged target paddles already secured to it) into place. When it’s all set up, the Dueling Tree cants forward for stability and safety. The .22 Rimfire Dueling Tree is part of Birchwood Casey’s World of Targets Metal Targets line. The line also includes Ace of Diamonds AR500 Spinner, Jack of Diamonds Spinner, King of Diamonds Spinner, Shoot-N-Spinner, Sidewinder Spinner, Little Rattler Spinner, Double Mag and Super Double Mag Spinners, Duplex Spinner, Qualifier Spinner, Sharpshooter Spinner, 9.5-inch Boomslang Gong, Mule Kick AR500 Steel Target, Gallery Resetting Target, Gallery .44 Resetting Target, Gallery Expert Resetting Target, Gallery NRA Animal Resetting Target, and Olympus Resetting Target. There is even an airgun dueling tree target. When fully assembled, the .22 Rimfire Dueling Tree is 30.5 inches tall, 17.5 inches wide, and 14 inches deep. It weighs 13 pounds. MSRP: $186.70 birchwoodcasey.com

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SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017


SHOOT

HUNT

DEFEND

TRAIN

QUICKSHOT

IF YOU’RE SERIOUS ABOUT GUNS AND SHOOTING-RELATED EQUIPMENT,

you probably have a dream gun or two. I do. One of mine is a Krieghoff Classic double rifle in 7x57R. With a price in the neighborhood of $10,000, I’ll probably never be able to afford one, but if I could, I’d want to install a premium scope on it. The new Victory V8 2.8-20X 56mm from Zeiss would be perfect. Of course, the new scope would also be great on any prized hunting rifle. The new Victory V8 line represents the best that Zeiss offers. These scopes provide outstanding image quality and target resolution due to their Schott HT glass and fluorite lenses. They provide 92 percent light transmission, wide fields of view, and large magnification zoom ranges. They also boast the world’s finest illuminated dot. The Victory V8 2.8-20X 56mm (shown here) offers large exit pupil values of 2.8mm at 20X and 9.8mm at 2.8X and large field of views of 42 feet at 100 yards when set on 2.8X and 5.7 feet at 100 yards when set on 20X. The scope’s center tube has a diameter of 36mm, and there are 100 clicks of windage and elevation adjustment, each click providing 0.33 inch of adjustment. Eye relief is a generous 3.75 inches. Overall length is 13.75 inches; weight is 29 ounces. VICTORY V8 2.8-20X 56MM As I said earlier, according to Zeiss, the illuminated Zeiss dot is the finest in the world. The fiber optic is thinner MANUFACTURER zeiss.com than a human hair, resulting in 0.1188 inch subtension MAGNIFICATION 2.8-20X at 100 yards. It’s powered by a CR 2032 battery, and OBJECTIVE LENS 56mm interestingly, the illuminated dot automatically deacDIAMETER tivates as soon as the rifle is set down and instantly TUBE DIAMETER 36mm reactivates when the rifle is raised and aimed. The EYE RELIEF 3.75 in. dot’s illumination intensity is adjusted via a low-pro5.7 to 42 ft. FIELD OF VIEW file control wheel located on top of the eyepiece. @ 100 yds. Zeiss binoculars and riflescopes are famous for ADJUSTMENT CLICKS 0.33 in. being top-drawer optics, and you might think of the ELEVATION 100 clicks ADJUSTMENT RANGE Victory V8 as the top-of-the-line, top-drawer Zeiss WINDAGE riflescope. I realize not a lot of us can afford the Vic100 clicks ADJUSTMENT RANGE tory V8 2.8-20X 56mm, but for those who can, it’s a LENGTH 13.75 in. wise choice for an all-around scope, good for huntWEIGHT 29 oz. ing as well as precision long-range shooting. FINISH Graphite MSRP: $3,599.99 MSRP $3,599.99 zeiss.com APRIL 2017 • SHOOTING TIMES

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SHOOTER’S SHOWCASE GUNSMOKE

A no-holdsbarred, Al Biesen custom .270 Winchester, built on an FN Deluxe action, probably in the 1970s, was accuracy stateof-the-art then, and as a biggame rifle it can hold its own with any rifle of today.

68

HIPSHOTS

EVERYONE HAS HIS OWN DEFINITION OF ACCURACY,

A Case in Point

but on one thing we all agree: Every rifle is a law unto itself. What shoots well in one rifle may or may not shoot well in another. Although the average factory rifle today, paired with premium factory ammunition, is vastly more accurate than it was even 20 years ago, for the absolute, very best, giltedged accuracy in any rifle, you must develop an accurate handload. Undoubtedly, manufacturers today have the essential elements of accurate rifles down pat, to the point where they can produce some outstanding factory products at a low price. Ruger and Savage are good examples. Even so, they won’t all shoot well with every load, and all of them can be improved with handloads. Granted, sometimes the factory/factory combination is so good that handloading for improvement is hardly worthwhile, but that’s a personal judgment.

Having said all that, let me now share a tale of a rifle that proves the point. Last year, I lucked into a custom .270 Winchester built by the legendary Al Biesen on an FN Deluxe action, probably in the 1970s. It is beautifully inletted, with the action partly glass bedded. It has a tight chamber with almost no freebore. In fact, with the Nosler 130-grain Partition (one of my all-time favorite bullets), it has no freebore at all. Seated to the SAAMI maximum cartridge length of 3.34 inches, the bullet just brushes the rifling, and seated to that depth, the base of the bullet is exactly even with the base of the neck. These are all ballistic virtues that we know promote consistency and accuracy. I got the formula for a load from Tom Turpin, a .270 Win. lover of long standing, that he says delivers fine accuracy with any good 130-grain bullet. The

SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017


Although the Sierra 130-grain GameKing had the lowest velocity, and its overall group measured 1.40 inches, its 0.77inch four-shot cluster suggests that increasing the velocity a little might result in gilt-edged groups.

load is 59.5 grains of H4831, long known as one of the finest powders for the .270 Win. As an experiment, I put together some rounds loaded with the Partition, as well as some with the Swift Scirocco II and the Sierra GameKing Spitzer boattail. The latter two do not fit the chamber specs mentioned above quite as well as the Partition, but they’re close.

At the range, the Partition load was dreadful. Velocity wasn’t bad, at 3,020 fps, but its five-shot group was evenly spread out 3 full inches, side to side. The Scirocco II bullet won the velocity contest, at 3,060 fps, and also delivered the best accuracy overall with a 1.25-inch five-shot group. The Sierra bullet was the slowest at 2,998 fps but put four bullets into a tight cluster of 0.77 inch with one flyer expanding the group to 1.40 inches. Let me hasten to say that I love Partition bullets, firmly believe they are among the most accurate bullets made, and have shot some of my all-time best groups with them, in several different calibers. From my chamber measurements, it looked to me as if Biesen fashioned this rifle specifically for the Partition, but apparently not. At least not at that velocity. I will try different powder charges and different powders before I give up on them. There is no reason that they shouldn’t shoot like a house afire. Meanwhile, the other two are excellent hunting bullets, and a little variation up and down may tighten those groups even further. Group size aside, this old masterpiece of a custom rifle behaved to perfection, moving groups up and down like clockwork as the velocity varied, and putting them all in the same relative position on the target. There was not a hint of vertical stringing and no discernible changes as the barrel heated up. In other words, all perfect—except for that maddening 3-inch group! But that’s the accuracy game with hunting rifles. Each one is a law unto itself, and you can never take anything for granted.

APRIL 2017 • SHOOTING TIMES

69


Pride of a Nation // Continued From Page 72

She also became the first woman to win an open competition at the World Shooting Championships in 1970 and was the first woman to become a member of the U.S. Olympic Shooting Team in 1976. At those Summer Olympic games in Montreal, competing against the men, she won a silver medal in the small-bore, three-position rifle category. Actually, she and teammate Lanny Bassham, captain of the U.S Shooting Team, tied for first place, but judges determined Bassham’s shooting had been slightly better. Bassham, unhappy with the decision, asked for a shoot-off, but was denied. During the medal ceremony, Bassham pulled Margaret

Small-Bore Three-Position Rifle IN SMALL-BORE THREE-POSITION RIFLE COMPETITION,

shooters shoot at a stationary target consisting of 10 concentric rings, with the innermost having a diameter of 5mm. The targets are placed 50 meters away, and shooters fire from prone, standing, and kneeling positions. The rifles used are .22 Long Rifle in caliber and must weigh no more than 8kg for men and 6.5kg for women. Scopes are not permitted. Men shoot 40 shots in each stage, totaling 120 shots. Women shoot 20 rounds in each stage. The time limit for men’s matches is 3 hours, and it’s 2 hours, 15 minutes for women’s matches.

onto the gold medal position on the podium with him. By winning that medal, Margaret became the first woman to win an Olympic medal in shooting events. She also won the Olympic Spirit award for her sportsmanship during the 1976 Olympic games. While she was at the AMU, Margaret conducted numerous shooting clinics on college campuses around the country. She also was the chief instructor for Schiessportschule I and II and Olympic development rifle schools conducted by the U.S. Women’s International Rifle Organization. Margaret retired from competitive shooting at age 35 and became a registered nurse. Her shooting achievements and honors were numerous and included but were not limited to seven individual gold medals at the World Championships and five individual gold medals at the Pan American Games. She won 28 national championships and set 13 world records. And as I said earlier, she has been inducted into numerous national and international shooting halls of fame. Simply put, Margaret Thompson Murdock is one of the greatest competitive rifle shooters in history and is the pride of this nation.

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SHOOTER’S SHOWCASE GUNSMOKE

HIPSHOTS

MARGARET THOMPSON MURDOCK MAY NOT BE

Margaret Thompson Murdock started breaking down barriers when she shot on the men’s shooting team at Kansas State University in the 1960s. She went on to become one of the greatest competitive rifle shooters in history.

72

a household name, but she should be. First, she was a pioneer in women’s athletics. Second, she was a record setter and Olympic medal winner. Third, she opened the door to competition shooting opportunities that later many more female shooters could use. Some of Margaret’s accomplishments include silver medalist in small-bore rifle at the 1976 Summer Olympics; first woman to earn an athletic letter at Kansas State University; U.S. shooting national champion 28 times; and induction into at least five national and international athletic halls of fame, including the U.S. International Shooting Hall of Fame (now known as the U.S. Shooting Hall of Fame) and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame. One of the most amazing things about her shooting success is that when she started out competing in small-bore and high-power rifle events she shot in the same matches as the men. Born Margaret Thompson on August 25, 1942, in Topeka, Kansas, she learned to shoot by going to the

SHOOTING TIMES • APRIL 2017

rifle range with her father. She started competitive shooting at the age of 11 in a Junior Rifle program that her father had started at the Capital City Rifle & Pistol Club. After graduating from high school in 1960, Margaret attended and graduated from Kansas State University. While there, she shot on the men’s rifle team and won two Big Eight Conference championships. She became the university’s first female student to earn a varsity letter. The team practiced with the 5th Army Rifle Team at Fort Riley, and after her graduation in 1965, Margaret commissioned as a WAC. She was assigned as a shooting instructor at the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit in Fort Benning, Georgia. In 1966 she won the gold medal at the Women’s World Championship, and one year later she won gold in the 1967 Pan American Games, competing against the men in the small-bore rifle division. She set a world record with a score of 391, making her the first woman to break a men’s world record in any sport.

Continued on Page 70


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