A Few Thoughts on Bullet Sorting and Preparation
This isn't a complete treatment of the subject, but merely a few thoughts in response to a friend's letter. I'll reproduce his question and my reply below, it might be useful to someone else as well. At some point I hope to cover this topic more thoroughly.
I just got one of Sinclair's messages about ammunition preparation and one of the articles concerns bullet inspection practices and I suspect it will also touch on meplat trimming and bullet pointing in a follow on article. I have not done any of that in the past. I thought if you bought a high quality bullet that should suffice but I also have not competed at your level where people are shooting for X count. What's your take on that? Are there sufficient production variations in brands like Berger, Nosler, Lapua, etc. that segregating into dimensional lots is worthwhile? If meplat trimming and bullet pointing yield significant results does Hornady have a better idea in its A-MAX series?
The reason I ask these questions is that Sinclair, Mr. Whidden and others are in the business to sell gadgets and I don't doubt their sincerity but when I read in Nancy Tompkins' book's section written by Middleton that he thinks primer pocket and flash hole uniforming are not worthwhile I have to wonder about some of the other things that are being promoted. I suppose a good analogy is that one can now buy a high efficiency gas fired furnace to heat your home that operates at 92-95% thermal efficiency for a pretty decent price. If you want to pay somewhere around 25-33% more you can buy a furnace the will operate at upwards of 98% but is the price difference really worth it? I completely subscribe to the idea that you want to eliminate as many of the variables in your ammunition as possible. But, what are the most significant? Thanks for your time. I'm sure you have better things to do than "listen" to my rants and I do appreciate your answers. I usually learn something from them. Learning more about the things you are interested in and expanding one's interests are some of the great joys of being alive. Take care.
Bullet preparation... there's something we could talk about for a long time. I agree with Mid, and we talk about that kind of thing fairly often. We both believe that buying quality components is the biggest single factor in loading good ammo. Sorting substandard components is a waste of time.
However.... (you can't get an answer from a lawyer without at least one "however") I point my bullets with the Whidden tool. The reason is simple - they get beat up in the moly-coating process and the pointing process takes them back to how they were. I'm not trying to improve BC or anything like that, simply trying to keep them all relatively uniform. I set the tool to just barely work the points, they don't look very different from new bullets when done, but the mushrooming that happens in the coating process is removed. Doing this has improved my elevation dispersion, but let's remember that my frame of reference is from bullets that were a bit damaged by tumbling in the moly-coating process.
Hornady definitely has a good idea with the polymer tips on their bullets; they get a very consistent BC from that. Manufacturing them in quantity with great precision is the key there and from what I've seen of Hornady's results lately, they seem to be getting it down to a well tuned process. The match bullet market is a very competitive one these days!
As to sorting bullets, all of the various length sorting processes I've seen miss the mark because they aren't measuring the critical dimension. That dimension is the distance from where the seating die contacts the bullet to the ogive. That is the dimension that will determine the consistency of the loaded ammo's jump or jam to the rifling. Measuring the base to ogive is useless when you think about it and that's what most people measure. To measure the dimension I speak of you would need a tool that somehow uses the actual seating stem frrom your seating die.
Now, if you could measure this dimension, would it be useful? Minimally. Of course there is some variability in this dimension - and in any other dimension of any manufactured product. But, with quality components, the variability is minimal and if you set your seating depth to either jump or jam by at least 0.010" then the small differences will be meaningless. The real problem is when you set up to "just touch" and in reality half of your rounds are jumping a few thousandths and half are jammed a few thousandths. By increasing your jump or jam dimension, you ensure that 100% are either jumping or jammed and that is more important than the fact that some are doing it by 0.012" and some by 0.009" to use an example.
The 40XL - What Remington Should Have Made!
by: Germán A. Salazar
Since the 40X is a target rifle built around a 700 action, the easy part of this project was the action - a left hand 700 long action was available and became the basis for the project. I considered making an exact replica of a 40X, copying the factory wood stock and barrel profile (which is essentially an MTU profile), but went down a slightly different path instead. While there are a lot of used 40X stocks available, they are all right-hand inlet, short action models and reinletting them and filling the cuts on the right side sounded like a lot of effort on a used stock. Having a new wood stock made is an expensive and slow proposition, so I scrubbed that idea as well. Earlier this year, I walked into Bruno's to idle away my lunch hour with Lester Bruno and the crew and I spotted a McMillan Marksman stock already inletted for a left-hand long action 700 with no magazine cutout! Lester was happy to see me interested in this tough to sell stock and we made a deal for it. That really gave the project a head of steam and since Remington has been making the 40X with a synthetic stock for many years now, it wouldn't take me too far from the goal of a factory-like rifle.
The barrel was the next big decision. My other .30-06 rifles have 1:10" or 1:11" twist barrels as is normal for that chambering. I have a 1:10" MTU profile Krieger on hand, but it's earmarked as a replacement for one of the Eliseo tubeguns when that time comes so I didn't want to use it. I also had a Krieger 1:13" twist medium Palma contour barrel with about 3000 rounds of .308 through it which was given to me by Bill Otten. A 1:13" twist .30-06 is not something I've ever shot, or even seen, but it seemed like a reasonable approach since the Berger 175 which I like so much will shoot perfectly well in a 1:13" twist and the price was right! Another plus to using that barrel was the profile; with the relatively light McMillan stock, the MTU profile which is about 1.5 lb. heavier would have made the rifle excessively muzzle heavy, the medium Palma was just right. The barrel profile is an area where Remington could really update their offering, for Highpower shooters today, the medium Palma is far more popular and sensible. My unorthodox choice of twist rate is simply a matter of convenience and economy, ideally I would have used a 1:11" twist.
Picking a trigger wasn't too hard; although the factory 40X trigger is good, I don't have one around and even if I did, I like the X-Treme Shooting trigger so much that the decision would go in that direction. The X-Treme (formerly known as CG-Jackson) was designed by Robert Chombart and is made right here in the US by Tom Myers, another long-time shooting friend. I've had the pleasure of corresponding with Robert for some time now and look forward to meeting him one day also. The X-Treme is a two-stage trigger which I strongly prefer for Highpower shooting with anything having more recoil than a 6BR. What does recoil have to do with triggers? The more a rifle recoils, the firmer my grip is and it's hard to develop a fine pull on a 4 oz. single-stage trigger (as I use on the 6BR) when you are holding the rifle tightly - the trigger finger is tensed from the tight grip and doesn't give me the same degree of feel for the light pull. Besides that important aspect, a two-stage trigger is simply safer as it has much more sear engagement. The X-Treme is the best made and best feeling two-stage trigger I've ever used; I wouldn't trade one for any other trigger made.
Caldwell, New Jersey 1919:
The First Smallbore National Championship
The First Smallbore National Championship
By: Hap Rocketto
The National Outdoor Smallbore Rifle Championship had its antecedents in 1845 when noted French gun maker Nicolas Flobert developed the 22-caliber rimfire cartridge. Flobert experimented with percussion caps to create a quiet, low-powered short-range cartridge. The Gallic inventor formed the soft copper caps to give them a rim and placed a lead ball in the recess as a projectile. The priming mixture in the cap was sufficient enough propellant to allow Parisians to shoot at targets indoors during soirées in the more fashionable upper class salons. The cartridges used in the predecessor of our modern day gallery shooting came to be known as Bulleted Breech Caps, or BB caps.
The next step in the development of the classic rimfire was combining four grains of black powder, in a longer case, with a 29-grain conical bullet. This, the 22-caliber short, created in 1857, has remained virtually the same to this day, only the type of powder has changed. The short has been in continuous commercial production for a century and a half, making it the oldest self-contained cartridge in existence.
By 1871 a larger cartridge, the 22-caliber Long, came into existence. This was followed in 1887 by the 22-caliber Long Rifle, the end of the evolutionary line of the most popular caliber cartridge in history. Flobert's rimfire cartridge has come a long way since it development and, likewise, smallbore, or miniature rifle shooting, as it was more commonly known, took a long time to develop a following in the competitive ranks. Through almost the first two decades of the Twentieth Century it was the poor cousin to military rifle competition. However, World War I would play a major role in promoting the rimfire sport.
Interest in marksmanship grew in direct proportion to the United States’ involvement in world affairs, particularly in the great buildup of the military that surrounded the entry of the United States in World War. The National Matches, which had been conducted in concert by the Federal Government and the National Rifle Association since 1903, had been cancelled while the boys were “over there” in 1917. With the fighting in Europe ended the National Matches resumed in 1918 at Camp Perry, Ohio with renewed interest and support.
As the armed forces expanded so did their need for training facilities. Lieutenant Colonel Charles Grant of the US Army Ordnance Corps scouted out range locations on the east coast and brought the possibilities of a rather swampy area in northern New Jersey near Caldwell, just 20 miles of so west of New York City to the attention of Colonel William “Bo” Harlee, USMC. Harlee, the Director of Naval Marksmanship, had directed the development of the first Marine Corps rifle range at Stump Neck near Quantico in 1910, and was one of the most experienced range constructors available. When the Navy was given the task of conducting the 1919 National Matches Harlee was in the thick of it. Under the direction of Captain William D. Leahy, USN, the Director of Gunnery Exercises, and the first of only four men to ever reach the rank of Fleet Admiral in the United States Navy, the Navy elected to use the new Caldwell Range at Great Piece Meadows and began to expand the drained swamp area to meet the anticipated need. Soldiers from Governor’s Island New York, sailors off of the USS New Mexico, and 200 marines all toiled away side by side.
The job seemed well in hand when it began to rain, a deluge that continued for seven straight days. The continuous rainstorm, just thirty-three days short of biblical proportions, refilled Great Piece Meadow. When the sky cleared the soldier, sailors, and Marines again drained the swamp, restored the butts, and began construction of firing points and walkways of sufficient height to clear another flood. As the troops beavered away the water from the storm ran off, filling a large nearby lake. The earthen dam that formed the lake was unable to contain the rush of additional water and it soon burst under the increased pressure. Water again swept through the range area, washing away anything within its reach not anchored. In the little time remaining after the second flood, the range crew was able to restore some semblance of order, just in time for the next series of rains storms that bedeviled the matches. Along with the constant damp the range staff and competitors had to put up with swarms of particularly hungry mosquitoes that bred in the uncounted pools of standing water that dotted the besotted camp.
The weather nearly ruined the matches and the matches nearly ruined Harllee. His supervisors certainly understood that he had struggled manfully against the elements and he did all he could to prepare the range, and for this he was praised. What was to be his darkest moment, and the brightest for the 1,000 or so competitors, was when the civilian riflemen learned that there were over 1,000,000 rounds of National Match ammunition stored, unguarded, at the range.
When the word got out, the ammunition stock nearly disappeared over night and the man that had signed for it, Lieutenant Colonel William Curry Harllee, now had to answer for its fate. The lucky lieutenant colonel narrowly escaped a court martial. While Harlee was putting the range together the National Rifle Association appointed United States Army Captain Edward Cathcart Crossman the Chief Range Officer and Assistant Executive Officer of the 1919 matches. He did not come to this position by chance. He was both an outstanding rifleman and arguably the most popular and widely read shooting sports writer of the time. Through the efforts of Colonel Smith W. Brookhart, the president of the National Rifle Association, Crossman was commissioned a captain in 1918 and sent directly to Camp Perry where he helped organize a small arms firing school to teach a cadre of small arms instructors the art and science of shooting so that they might go forth into the various Army camps to improve the shooting skills of the newly minted soldiers.
As a director of the National Rifle Association he had been campaigning to establish a smallbore shooting program as a feeder for the, as he saw it, more important service rifle competitions. As the probability of a smallbore match to coincide with the “big shoot” at Caldwell became more of a reality Crossman, now stationed at the Infantry School of Arms at Camp Benning, Georgia, took to the pages of Arms and the Man in March to both solicit ideas from the smallbore community about the form of a national smallbore match and raise the consciousness of the shooting community to the smallbore game. As it is often said, one should be careful of what one wishes for as it may be granted. On June 7, 1919 the National Rifle Association announced that Crossman had been selected to conduct a smallbore rifle tournament to coincide with the 1919 National Matches at Caldwell, just a matter the of a short month and a half away.
Faced with the daunting task of creating a tournament out of nothing Crossman immediately enlisted the aid of a fellow member of the Los Angeles Rifle Club, Captain Grosvenor L. Wotkyns who was detached from his post in California and sent east. He quickly added Captain W.H. “Cap” Richard of Winchester and Fred Kahrs of Remington. Both were well known smallbore shooters with Kahrs quite often contributing to various shooting publications under the nom de plume of Al Blanco. Crossman’s ace in the hole was Captain E.J.D. Nesbitt, a British citizen and an officer of that nation’s Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs. Nesbitt had extensive experience in mounting the British smallbore championships at Bisley and would lend his expertise to the fledgling efforts in the United States.
There was added impetus for Crossman to create a smooth and successful national tournament. On May 27, 1919 A.E. Codrington, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs posted a letter challenging the National Rifle Association of America to once again compete for the Sir Thomas Dewar Challenger Cup, last contested in 1914. Competition for the Dewar Cup was suspended during World War I and, with the end of hostilities, the British were anxious to reestablish the match. Although various courses of fire had been used indoors in the pre-war years the two shooting associations negotiated a set of rules acceptable to both. Teams of 20 competitors would fire 20 record shots at 50 and 100 yards with metallic sights with a time limit of one minute per shot, rues that have remained virtually unchanged to this day.
Working with great speed Crossman was able to publish the program and conditions for the first smallbore championship in the June 28, 1919 Arms and The Man. He announced that the course of fire would be divided between prone events at 50 and 100 yards, in the British style, some long range shooting at 200 yards to simulate the 30 caliber matches, some matches open only to boys or the ladies, and some novelty matches requiring the breaking of frangible discs at various distances. Some of the matches would be re-entry while other would be squadded. Crossman was making a conscious attempt to create a match that would have wide appeal to draw as many shooters as possible as he wanted to build up the pool from which he might draw for Dewar team members.
While Crossman and his minions were toiling away in New Jersey the prospect of a renaissance in smallbore prone shooting through the introduction of smallbore National Matches sparked a flurry of correspondence to and from the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in New Haven, Connecticut. The War Department had cancelled contracts for the 22-caliber old Winchester Model 1885 Musket and was not entertaining further purchases of this type of firearm. Future purchases, if any, would probably center about a bolt-action rifle to better simulate the service rifles of the time, the Springfield 1903 and the Enfield 1917. Sensing the sea change Henry Brewer, a Winchester vice president, directed product engineer Thomas Crosley Johnson and Frank F. Burton to move independently forward on the development of Experimental Design Number 111.
By the end of April an experimental rifle had been shown to Lieutenant Colonel Townsend Whelen, US Army General Staff, Director of Civilian Marksmanship Major Richard D. La Garde, General Fred Phillips, NRA President, and Arms and the Man Editor Kendrick Schofield, receiving rave reviews. Under the direction of Edwin Pugsley, Winchester then rushed ahead and prepared six rifles for use at Caldwell. Five rifles were built in 22 caliber long rifle and one in 22 caliber short and designated G22R.
Winchester’s chief representative at Caldwell, Albert F. Laudensack, wielded the new rifle with such success that he was named to the Dewar Team while “Cap” Richards won the won the 50 yard sweeps with a re-entry match with a perfect score. A.M. Morgan and Donald Price teamed up and used the new rifles to take both the Field and Stream and Smallbore Marine Corps Cup Matches. During the matches the Winchester rifle far surpassed the new Savage bolt action Model 19 NRA Match Rifle. On September 11, 1919 the G22R was officially designated the Model 52 and the rest, as they say, is history.
The rain was a bother but did not dampen the enthusiasm of the competitors, even though the 200-yard matches were cancelled because the smallbore long-range butts were washed away. With 20 firing points at both 50 and 100 yards there was plenty of room to accommodate those wishing to fir some smallbore shooting in between high power relays. All a competitor had to so was show up, purchase a gummed squadding ticket, saunter out to the line, have the range officer assign a firing point, and pick up a complimentary loading block-marked with an advertisement from the benefactor. While waiting for the previous relay to end, usually no more than a few minutes, the competitor would fill the block with the correct number of record shots-there were no sighters allowed, lick the gummed squadding tickets and affix to the target, set up when the firing point cleared, and then shoot the match upon command. The first match was a far cry from the more formal and tightly choreographed national matches of later years.
Starting on August 4th, the smallbore shooters potted away and the events proved popular enough to remind high power coaches of the New Testament parable of the shepherd and the ninety and nine sheep. It was not uncommon for coaches to have to stop by the smallbore range to gather up a missing team member or two for the center fire shooting. The prize schedule was pretty rich considering the short time in which Crossman had to arrange things. While 50% of the entry fees would be retuned to the winners in cash and the other half in medals and pennants from the NRA there were also merchandise prizes such as a BSA Number 12 Martini Rifle, a gold watch valued at $50.00, and various cups and trophies donated by vendors and munitions companies. The first National Smallbore Rifle Champion, contested over a single Dewar course of fire, turned out to be none other than Grosvenor L. Wotkyns who out shot “Cap” Richards 392 to 390. Wotkyns’ haul was a $50.00 gold watch, a gold medal, and $6.30 in cash. Richards pocketed a whopping $4.70 and a bronze medal.
With his eye on the Dewar Crossman was carefully watching all of the major players in the tournament. He selected the top 40 finishers in the Small Bore Individual Match, a Dewar, to participate in an elimination match over the same course of fire. When the scores from the two matches were totaled “Cap” Richard was on top by two with Wotkyns in second place, an exact reversal of their finish in the National Championship. Rounding out the first United States Dewar Trophy team of the modern era was A.E. Hart, A.F. Laudensack, W.C. Andrews, E.B. Rice, J.A, Wade, Commander W.W. Stewart, Lieutenant Colonel J.K. Bowles, J.E. Miller, Captain D.A. Preussner, J.L. Renew, Captain P.A. Raymond, Commander Willis Lee, Captain G.W. Chesley, J.G. Schnerring, Walter Stokes, D.W. Price, A.M. Morgan, and tied for 20th place Commander H.D. Denny and the Match Director’s wife, Mrs. Blanche Crossman.
A shoot-off was scheduled to see if Commander Denny or Mrs. Crossman would occupy the final place, but it was called of when it was realized that Price, a shooter of no mean skill, had but one arm and used a forked prosthesis when shooting. This was officially determined to be artificial support, barred under the rules, and Price withdrew, forestalling the showdown between the tied competitors. Thus Mrs. Crossman entered into the shooting history books as the first woman to shoot on a United States international team.
On Sunday morning, the 24th of August, the team assembled on the firing line and in three relays started shooting under almost ideal conditions that would stay with them all day. At their disposal were selected lots of ammunition from the various manufacturers and the new rifles from Winchester. The 20 shooters used the new Winchester rifles, one Savage bolt action Model 19 NRA Match Rifle, a Winchester 1885 Musket, two Stevens Model 414s, and a pair of rifles built on old Ballard actions mounting Andrews barrels. An hour after noon the match was over and the scores were announced the United States had posted a 7,617 to Great Britain’s 7,523. Newett, as the official representative of the British, was most effusive in his congratulatory comments.
With his mission seen to a successful conclusion Crossman could take great pleasure in both the team results and those of his wife. More importantly this international win would serve to fan the spark of the smoldering smallbore movement. Within days the National Rifle Association, at its annual meeting held a Caldwell at the end of the matches, named a blue ribbon committee of Whelen, Crossman, Wotkyns, La Garde, Captain Thomas Samworth, Marine Major J.J. Dooley, and K.K.V. Casey to standardize smallbore. What was just a dream in the early spring was now a growing reality in the late summer. Although the growing season for most agriculture crops was coming to an end it was just beginning for smallbore rifle shooting.
1919 National Matches at Caldwell, New Jersey
This article by Dr. Ken Oehler is a real classic as it presents useful concepts and very useful charts which help the amateur ballistician make decisions about the performance of various loads. It was written before personal computers were common and when chronographs were just beginning to reach their present level of sophistication. I searched for a copy for a long time and finally did the obvious, called Dr. Oehler and he kindly send me a copy. I had to re-type that copy to present it here, hopefully there are no errors; if there are, they are all mine as I am a poor typist, but I will keep proof-reading to make sure there are no errors. -GAS-
Reloading: Velocity Decisions
by: Dr. Ken Oehler
Wouldn't it be nice if all decisions involved in evaluating load performance were as clear-cut as distinguishing between black and white? The use of a few statistical techniques will not turn gray areas into black and white, but they can improve the odds of making a correct decision or point out to you that the data is too gray to make a positive decision.
The purpose of this paper is not to turn every shooter into a statistician. Statistics is an exact science, but not in the sense that an average velocity of 2964 fps observed on a few sample rounds means that the average velocity of the entire lot is 2964 fps. Statistics simply lets you know how close your estimate of 2964 fps is to the average velocity you would probably get if you could fire a few hundred more rounds of ammo from the same lot before the barrel wears out or other conditions change. If you fire the entire lot and find the exact average, of what use is it? You won't have any ammo left for its intended use!
Statistics is different from old-fashioned guessing and intuitive analysis in several respects. Statistics depends on very precise definitions, a very careful statement of the problem, and many assumptions which may be either stated or implied. A shooter feels comfortable asking the question "Is load A faster than load B?" By the time a statistician asks the same question in proper statistical jargon with the required restrictions, he's filled half a page of fine print. After he examines the data, his answer will be an expanded translation of "I'm not sure." The fact that the statistician cannot always provide a definite answer is not a black mark against the use of statistics - just learning that the data will not support a definite conclusion is also valuable.
The shooter testing the velocity of ammo is primarily interested in answering two questions:
1. What is the average velocity of the ammunition?
2. Is load A more uniform than load B?
While the eyeball can readily compare groups punched in targets, the eyeball is hardly the proper tool for comparing and evaluating long strings of numbers. The idea of average velocity is well understood. To compute the average, you just add all the velocities and divide the sum by the total number of rounds fired. The resulting average velocity is indeed the actual average velocity of the rounds you fired, but its only an estimate of the average velocity you would get if you chronograph the entire lot of ammunition. How good is the estimate? The more rounds you test and the more uniform the ammunition, the better your estimate is. Before you know how much confidence to place in the average velocity you have just measured, you must know how uniform the velocities are.
For many years the uniformity of ammunition has been described by the extreme spread in the velocities. The extreme spread is easy to compute; all you have to do is subtract the slowest velocity from the fastest velocity. While the extreme spread is an indicator of velocity uniformity, ballisticians will admit that it is a relatively poor indicator. It has been used all these years simply because it is easy to compute.
The "standard deviation" is commonly accepted as the best measure or indicator of uniformity. It has been seldom used by ballisticians because it is troublesome to compute. The newer Oehler chronographs compute the standard deviation automatically so that you have the advantage of having the best measure of uniformity immediately available. You don't have to know how to compute the standard deviation in order to use it; you can simply regard it as a measure of uniformity that is more reliable than the extreme spread. The extreme spread observed in a test is highly dependent on the number of rounds fired, while the standard deviation is less dependent on the number of rounds fired.
Assume now that you have the average velocity and the standard deviation from your velocity tests. Just how good is the test average for the purpose of predicting the average velocity of the remainder of the lot (or more rounds loaded and fired under the same conditions)? Assume that in the ten-round test you observed an average velocity of 2900 fps and a standard deviation of 10 fps. A statistician would say that with 90% confidence the true average of the entire lot will fall within 6 fps of the average you observed in the test. Loosely translated, it means that the statistician would give 9 to 1 odds that if you fired the balance of the lot, the final average would be between 2894 fps and 2906 fps. If you had obtained the same average and standard deviation from a three-round test, the statistician would have to widen his confidence interval to plus or minus 17 fps, and would then give the same odds that the average velocity would fall between 2883 fps and 2917 fps. If the same results had been obtained with a fifty-round test, the statistician would feel much more secure about the average and would give the same odds that the average would fall between 2897 fps and 2903 fps. If the observed standard deviation is increased, the confidence interval is increased by a proportional amount.
The 90% confidence numbers are listed in Table 1 for various values of standard deviation and number of rounds fired. When you fire a test and get the average velocity with the standard deviation, you can immediately establish the confidence interval for the average velocity. Just enter Table 1 at the standard deviation and go across until you are reading under the number of rounds in your test. The confidence interval number you read from the table tells you that you have 9 to 1 odds that the true average velocity of the entire lot will fall at least that close to the average velocity you measured. The true average can be either above or below the test average by the amount shown.
You can also use the values from Table 1 as an approximation to determine if the difference between two average velocities is significant. Each of the average velocities will have a confidence interval number determined by its standard deviation and its number of rounds. If the difference between the two average velocities exceeds the larger of the confidence intervals, then you are roughly 90% confident that the true average velocities of the two lots are different.
The shooter also wants to answer the question: "Is load A more uniform than load B?" While a few rounds are sufficient to establish a good estimate of the average velocity, more rounds are required to establish a valid measure of uniformity. Although standard deviation is a much better measure of uniformity than is extreme spread, computations indicate that three-round tests for uniformity are practically useless and five-round tests are marginal. From Table 2 you can see that if a three-round test showed Load A to have a standard deviation of 10 fps, a three round test of Load B would have to show a standard deviation of at least 44 fps before you could say with 90% confidence that Load A was the most uniform. If Load A showed the 10 fps standard deviation on a five-round test, Load B would have to show a standard deviation of only 25 fps on a five round test for you to say with 90% confidence that Load A was the most uniform. If the standard deviation of Load B is any higher than the standard deviation of Load A, you have a better than even money bet that Load A is the most uniform. However, if you have tested only a few rounds, you had better check before you give any long odds on a bet as to which load will prove the most uniform in the long run!
Table 2 shows the value of standard deviation for Load B that must be exceeded before you can say with 90% confidence that Load A is indeed more uniform than Load A. Enter the table on the row determined by the standard deviation of Load A and read the critical value for Load B standard deviation in the column under the number of rounds used to test each load.
Table 1. For the observed standard deviation you have a 90% confidence that the actual average will fall at least this close to the observed sample average.
Table 2. The standard deviation of Load B must exceed the value shown in the table for 90% confidence that Load A is the most uniform.
The Winchester Palma Rifles
by: Hap Rocketto
by: Hap Rocketto
The NRA selected the Model 70 Match Target Rifle to be issued to the Palma competitors in 1968. The bolt-action staggered-column box magazine rifle, chambered in .308 Winchester, was popular with the high power community. During this period of time the Model 70 was undergoing manufacturing changes. As a result of a corporate decision to improve profitability some basic changes were made in the rifle during the early 1960s. In particular was the replacement of many machined parts with stampings. A case in point was the action of a pre-64 rifle. It began as a 7 1/2 pound block of steel, but by the time the machine shop had finished with it only about 11/2 pounds of finely machined and polished metal was left. These were the days before automation took over many of the machinists’ labors and the creation of the action was labor intensive. Good machinists do not come cheap and the labor and material costs rose to a point where Winchester had to choose between red ink and rifles. It chose the latter and as a result earlier Model 70s are generally referred to as ‘pre -64’ and viewed as superior products. The post 64 rifles are looked at, somewhat unjustly, as inferior products.
The 1968 Palma rifle is a production line item that tips the scales at 12 pounds 8 ounces. It sports a marksman style high comb stock with a full pistol grip with a rubber serrated butt plate. An aluminum Freeland style handstop and a second sling swivel are attached via an inset four inch metal block that has six drilled and tapped holes to accept the handstop’s mounting screw. The semigloss finished stock has a 131/4 inches length of pull. The barrel, floorplate, and trigger guard are blued.
The barrel is rifled with a four-groove right hand twist, with one turn in 12 inches, and is marked “-Palma Trophy Match-” on the right hand side just forward of the front scope block. The action and barrel is glass bedded to 11/2 inches forward of the action. The barrel is free floating beyond the bedding while the newly designed bolt features a red cocking indicator that appears below the bolt cap when the rifle is cocked.
The rifles commissioned by the NRA were equipped with a Redfield International Match Receiver 1/4-minute sight with a fixed aperture and a Redfield International Match Big Bore front sight with a set of interchangeable inserts. The receiver sight is set on a mounting block that gives the competitor about one inch of adjustment for eye relief, allowing for a sight radius between 32 3/8 and 33 3/8 inches. The receiver is drilled and tapped for a scope mount base and a set of scope mounts is attached.
In all seventy-five rifles were manufactured for the match. At the conclusion of the match competitors were allowed to purchase the rifle they had been issued. Many took advantage of the opportunity to obtain either a souvenir of a great shooting event or, in the case of some of the United States’s shooters, a good barreled bolt action to form the basis of an ‘across the course’ rifle for shooting the National Match Course of fire. As a consequence of having such a limited number made, some going overseas, and others being modified, original 1968 Palma Match rifles are hard to find.
They must have been good rifles as the United States won the 1968 match with a record team score of 4414X4500 while US shooter Clint Fowler chalked up an individual record score, a perfect 225-31Vs. The 1969 Palma, held outside of Toronto at the Connaught Range, saw the United States win again. This match marked the only time during the eight-year span, 1968 to 1976, when the home team was not the victor. The British next hosted and won the match at Bisley in 1970. The match sponsors awarded the 1971 Palma to the United States, beginning a tradition that often places the match in a nation at the same time as the celebration of a notable anniversary. In this case 1971 marked the centennial of the establishment of the National Rifle Association of America.
The NRA again turned to Winchester for rifles that would both shoot well and commemorate the association’s 100th birthday. The Winchester custom shop produced 125 Model 70s that were styled as the ‘Winchester Palma Match Target Rifle’. They were much the same as the 1968 Palma rifle with a few exceptions. The Redfield front sight was replaced with a Champion front sight, which had a bubble level attached to the base. There are no fiducial marks on the level’s tube, which must have reduced its effectiveness. The receiver sight is equipped with an adjustable Merit Master Disc, which allowed the shooter to obtain the best possible sight picture, a critical aspect in Palma shooting. The barrel is not blued, but rather finished in a black matte, which is very reminiscent of the parkerized treatment given to military rifles. Under the scope block on the barrel’s right hand side is engraved two lines, centered above ‘NRA CENTENNIAL 1871-1971’ are the words ‘PALMA MATCH’. The team from the United States used the rifles well and won its tenth Palma Trophy.
The Palma would return to Camp Perry in 1973. This match would mark the last time a service rifle, in this case National Match M14s, would be issued for use in a Palma. South Africa hosted the 1974 Palma and, true to form as the host association, won. This South African match marked the first time that the Palma had been fired south of the Equator. The hectic pace of a Palma each year was beginning to take its toll and there was a welcome lay off during 1975. The NRA took advantage of the breather to prepare because they would host 1976 Palma and the event would coincide with both the centennial of the Palma and the bicentennial of the United States.
Part of the preparation was to again contact Winchester for rifles. Building on the Model 70 tradition Winchester’s custom shop hand selected 140 rifles that incorporated some small, but important, changes. While the rifle looked much as the two previous ones the 1976 edition, the last of the line, featured the traditional semi-beavertail fore-end that was now routed out and fitted with an accessory rail to accommodate a large Freeland style handstop. The rail allowed each shooter to adjust the handstop to fit rather than having to settle for the more limited adjustments available on the earlier models. The NRA issued brand new M1903 slings to each shooter who displayed great ingenuity in reducing the stiff cowhide to a pliable state in the short time between issue and sighting in and practice sessions.
Two readily accessible Allen screws, located behind the bolt, allowed the shooter to adjust the single stage trigger for both weight of pull and overtravel with out having to take the action from the stock. The rifle was also two ounces heavier and a quarter of an inch longer than its predecessors. All the exposed metal surfaces, with the exception of the floor plate and trigger guard, which is blued, are finished in black matte. The barrel of the ‘Winchester Model 70 Ultra Match Palma Centennial Target Rifle’ is engraved ‘PALMA MATCH 1876-1976’ six inches from the receiver on the right hand side.
The sights used were Redfield, an International Match 1/4-minute receiver sight with fixed aperture and a Redfield International Match Big Bore front sight accompanied by a plastic sleeve of apertures of various sizes. For some unfathomable reason the Winchester gunsmiths made a technical blunder that may, or may not, have had a real effect on the outcome of the match. The rifles were fitted with a two-step smallbore front sight base. This oversight certainly caused some upset and hard feelings among the guests. The two-step base is designed for prone shooters so that they can maintain the same head position shooting at both 50 and 100 yards. By moving the front sight from the high section of the base, used at 50 yards, to the lower one, used at 100 yards, the receiver sight is effectively moved up about seven or eight minutes. This works because, while point of impact moves in the same direction rear sight moves, the front sight is moved in the opposite direction to achieve the same results.
While the idea is eminently practical for the smallbore shooter the Palma Match presented a problem. Even at its lowest setting the base did not allow for sufficient elevation without extending the elevation staff of the receiver sight to the point where it became wobbly. It goes without saying what the movement of just .001 inch can do to the placement of a bullet at Palma distances. Within a very short period of time of discovering this weakness there were long lines at the various armorer’s vans behind the firing line of Viale Range as competitors queued up to seek a solution to this problem. Some teams simply wound rubber bands around the sight and pistol grip to reduce extraneous movement. To this day some members of Great Britain’s 1976 Palma team wear a rubber band in place of a tie bar on their team ties in remembrance. What has now has passed into Palma folklore was a much more serious public relations problem at the time.
Winchester also produced special ammunition for the 1976 matches to accompany the rifles. The head stamp was ‘PALMA 76’ in a semicircle on the top half of the base, two upper case Ws at the three and nine o’clock position standing for Winchester-Western, and ‘308 WIN’ as the bottom semicircle. The case was nickel-plated brass and a 190-grain hollow point boat tail match bullet topped it off. The bullet was chronographed at 2550 feet per second. The 25,000 rounds were packaged 20 to a red, white, and blue box that carried the Palma logo.
Only two more matches would be fired with sponsored provided rifles. After the 1982 Palma it was agreed that each competitor would be responsible for providing a suitable rifle for his or her own use. Palma veteran Mo Defina owns two sets of the three Winchester Palma rifles. It is his expert opinion that there can be no more than 30 complete sets in existence and probably less. He reports that the last set sold on the open market went for $5,000. The cost reflects more than the going rate for three post-64 Winchester Model 70s in .308 Winchester, which might run as much a $1,000 per rifle. Rather, it represents the value of the merger of two great traditions of shooting excellence, something for which a price really cannot be set.