by Hap Rocketto
Photo: Hammerin' Hank Aaron
The cover is hand stitched together with 88 inches of waxed red thread. There is an apocryphal story that the number of stitches on a baseball corresponds to the number of beads on a Catholic Rosary. If this were true it would lend credence to the belief that God is a baseball fan because the first words in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, are, “In the big inning.”
Early baseballs were not very uniform but modern manufacturing techniques have created a high standard. Even with that the average life of a ball is only five to seven pitches.
In all competitive rifle shooting we use “ball” ammunition. The ubiquitous smallbore rimfire cartridge may not be longer than 1.1 inches and must be loaded with a lead or alloy bullet which may not exceed .23 inches in diameter or weigh more than 40 grains.
Just like the early baseballs, the 22 caliber ammunition of the first part of the 20th century was not consistent in quality but since then it has made great strides towards uniformity of high quality of manufacture. Unlike a ball, unfortunately, the average cartridge lasts only one shot.
As a result we can look at the shooting records from fifty years ago, from five years ago, or from five days ago and easily compare ourselves to the greats and not so greats of the game. In a historical sense we can shoot side by side with a rifleman who died before we were born, if he shot the same course of fire at the same range. For that reason the charm of the historical shooting narrative lies, not in watching a motion picture of a shooter past, but reading his match report and knowing that you have shot on the same range over the same distance, at the same target accomplishing, to a greater or lesser degree, the same feats.
I hope you enjoy seeing some advertising from 1905 and 1906. It's interesting to see how little we have changed in some respects, I think that most of these ads would be as effective today as they were over 100 years ago - if we were shooting Krags, that is. There are a few references to Harry Pope in the ads, that always warms my heart. - GAS -
Follow-Up Remington 40XL
by: Germán A. Salazar
Recently I wrote about my project rifle which I dubbed the 40XL (click here for the article). When I wrote the original article the rifle was just finished and I had shot it very little, although that brief bit of shooting seemed very promising. Here's an update on how it has been working.
I originally wrote that the 40XL was intended to show what Remington could produce today at about the same cost as their current 40X, but be a bit more in line with the needs of Highpower shooters. I also wanted to show how it could be done with a long action to properly house my old favorite, the .30-06. Although I liked the rifle, I didn't have an expectation that it would shoot at a super high level, the low, non-adjustable comb on the stock and the used, rechambered barrel kept my expectations low - I was wrong!
In the chronographing article (click here for article) I used the 40XL to search for a mild load for the 300 yard stage of our Mid-Range state championship. That match is fired at 600, 500 and 300 yards (in that order) and it occurred to me that after firing my usual fairly stout load with 190 gr. bullets at 600 and 500 yards, it might be nice to finish each day with something a bit milder. While I was going to shoot the match with the Eliseo tubegun in .30-06, the 40XL was used to check out some loads. The idea was to shoot a 155 gr. bullet with a mild charge of 4895, something around 2800 fps, after all, it was only for 300 yards.
That day, testing loads at the range, I found that the powder charges I selected were probably a bit hotter than I wanted, the mildest was 2830 fps, but it seemed to shoot well and the match was the following week, so I decided to use it. As things turned out, it was a good choice. On the first day of the state match, I shot a 150-4X at 300 yards with it under fairly windy conditions and on the second day a 150-10X which was the high score for that stage (both were fired, as always, with iron sights). Now, with our summer season upon us, I began to think about trying that mild 155 gr. load at 500 yards. During the summer we only shoot at 500 yards as it is the only distance at which our clubs have covered firing lines and in 110 degree heat, shade is not optional.
I loaded some Lake City 62 Match brass with the selected load and Berger 155.5 gr. Fullbore moly-coated bullets for the first summer match at the Phoenix Rod & Gun Club. During the first string I felt some creep in the second stage of the trigger and it was bothering me. I stood up about halfway through the string, adjusted the trigger and got back into position. Unfortunately, the wind had shifted more than I thought and the first shot after getting back down was an 8. A score of 197-11X for that string wasn't too bad, all things considered. During the next string, I still felt a bit of creep, but decided to shoot through it and finished with a 200-14X, that's better than I ever expected from this rifle. I finished with a 199-9X for the last string as the wind really got brisk, but the total 596-34X was a very promising start and I thought there was a higher score hiding in that rifle.
I have to say, that the 1:13" twist Krieger which previously had about 3,500 rounds fired through it as a .308, is doing just fine! I still haven't tried the 175 Berger which I still intend to shoot, but we can certainly say that the 155 with 4895 is a good load, although a bit mild for our longer and windier ranges.
The two matches brought out a few areas in need of attention. As I mentioned previously, the trigger's second stage kept developing a bit of creep (excessive sear engagement). I took the trigger apart after adjusting it once more and wicked the tiniest imaginable drop of Loctite onto the second stage sear adjustment screw. That tiny bit was enough to give the screw some resistance to movement and cured the creep problem. I have six of these triggers in use right now and this is the only one that I've had to do this with, so I don't think it's a design issue, just a fluke.
The next area that needed attention was the buttplate adjustment rod. The buttplate extends and is held in place by a set-screw through the side of the stock which bears against the main rod; I had the extension set at 3/4" over fully compressed. Under the recoil of the .30-06, the buttplate would sometimes slowly push back in, overcoming the resistance of the set-screw. I first filed a flat onto the rod, thinking that would give the set-screw a bit more area to bite, but that didn't help much. Next I decided that a fixed spacer would do the trick. A quick trip to the local hardware store turned up a couple of good candidates: a 3/4" ID x 1" long steel spacer and a 3/4" ID x 9/16" long shaft collar with a set screw to hold it in place. In the second match (598-39X), I used the 1" long spacer; it cured the compression problem, but I found that it extended the buttplate a bit more than I prefer for ease of loading. At the next match I'll try the 9/16" long collar. If that's too short, I'll see if I can get a friend to cut the 1" spacer down to 3/4" on a lathe.
The final item was to try to raise the comb just a bit. This morning I added a Cheek-Eze pad which is a simple, stick-on pad to raise it a bit. I actually added a small section of pad material right on the comb and then a larger piece over a broader section of the cheekpiece. Each piece is 1/16" thick, so the total height increase at the comb is 1/8". That should be a helpful increase.
That's about it for now, the rifle is working better than I expected and only reinforces my original concept, that Remington could be making something better for Highpower shooters and it wouldn't cost much more, if any more at all, than what they currently sell. Oh, and don't discount the .30-06, it still shoots!
The following article by Tom Alves describes a very practical approach to physical training for those of us who are not as young and spry as we once were. Tom shows us how to give our bodies at least some of the maintenance we give our rifles. While we all realize that our rifles will outlive us, let's see if we can't narrow the margin a bit with some personal maintenance that just might help the shooting too! - GAS -
A Suggested Training Approach for Older Shooters
By Tom Alves
Most articles and discussions regarding competitive shooting center around equipment. Now and then one will come across an article about training such as the recent one from the AMTU posted on http://www.6mmbr.com/. If you break the articles down they often discuss "core strength" and durability. The purpose of this paper is to elaborate on those points with a bit different perspective. Many of the articles you will read in books about position shooting and the one mentioned before are directed more toward the younger generation of shooters in their 20's. If you look down the line at a typical high power match these days you are likely to see quite a few folks who are in their middle 30's and up. Many people in that age range have had broken bones and wear and tear on their joints so a training program needs to take that into account. For instance, while jogging for an extended period for heart and lung conditioning - often called cardio exercises - may be the recommended approach for younger folks, it may be totally inappropriate for older people. The procedure to repair meniscus tears in knees is one of the most frequently performed operations in this country. Another approach one often sees in training to improve core strength is the use of weight machines which isolate certain muscle groups in their operation. I would like to suggest an alternative approach that not only does not require special equipment but uses the body's muscles in a coordinated fashion in the same way they are used in our natural movements. So, let’s set down some criteria:
1. The approach has to be low impact to conserve joints.
2. One goal is to improve the strength of the core muscles which are the muscles of our trunk that keep us erect and from where all movements initiate.
3. Along with core strength we need flexibility and full range of motion.
4. We want to improve our lung and heart function so we can have a good flow of oxygen going to our organs and muscles to reduce the rate at which we become fatigued during a competitive event.
Before I continue I believe it is appropriate for the reader to understand that I am a fellow shooter and this is a program I have designed for myself based on considerable reading and experience over a number of years. I am not a medical doctor, a formally trained exercise professional or any other type of specialist in the field. Consequently, this information is offered with the advice that you consult your medical advisor or similar authority before you embark on this or any similar regimen.
I will start with core strength and flexibility. Pilates exercises are resistance exercises that can incorporate the use of resistance bands, light weights and the weight of your body parts in order to strengthen the muscles in the abdomen, back, hips, chest and shoulders. The exercises can be performed alone but I recommend attending classes put on by a certified instructor who will ensure that you perform a balanced routine meaning you work on the front and back and both sides of your trunk. As to flexibility, yoga complements Pilates exercises and they are often taught together. In practical terms yoga strengthens through resistance using the weight of the body and increases flexibility by stretching the various muscle groups in a coordinated fashion. Some yoga exercises also work on balance which is helpful in position shooting and life in general. Again, I suggest attending formal yoga classes since an instructor can help you address such things as a joint misalignment. As an example, my right leg healed improperly after the femur was broken and my right foot splays out putting undue load on my left knee. There are a number of books available on Pilates and yoga and some of them get pretty involved; I leave that to the reader to explore. I will list some reference material at the end of the article that I have found useful.
Finally, heart and lung improvement. In order to exercise the heart and lungs while not abusing the joints, particularly the knees and hips, one has to resort to something other than jogging. Walking, bicycling, elliptical machines and swimming may be alternative methods you’d like to consider. Based on my reading, in order to get the most benefit it is important to exercise so that the pulse rate becomes elevated for periods of time rather than kept at a constant rate. The process I use, called PACE, is promoted by Al Sears, MD, http://www.alsearsmd.com/. It is interval training for the non-athlete. In simple terms one exercises, using whatever equipment one desires, to achieve a heart rate in which you are slightly above your ability to bring enough oxygen into your body to sustain the activity for an extended period. This is similar to wind sprints for a sprinter or a football player. After each episode you must rest until you have achieved recovery, meaning you can catch your breath easily. A series of three sets is recommended which covers a total time of about 20 minutes.
As a result of this training program I have experienced increased strength in my legs and trunk, less joint stiffness, lower blood pressure, and lower resting pulse rate. I will be 64 in June of this year. The Pilates/yoga classes are usually attended 2 to 3 times a week and the interval training performed twice a week.
Before I close I would like to touch briefly on two other related subjects: hydration and visual training. When one is exerting oneself, the body produces perspiration to keep the body’s temperature at an acceptable level. As one perspires the blood gets thicker and the ocular fluid in one’s eyes thickens as well. The heart has to work harder to supply oxygen and nutrients to the body so visual and cognitive functions degrade and fatigue sets in rapidly. Essential chemicals called electrolytes are also carried out of the body with the perspiration. As a result, it is necessary to replace moisture and electrolytes to maintain basic health and a competitive level of performance. If one goes on the Internet there is a multitude of articles on hydration. Due to the kindness of my lead Pilates/yoga instructor, Ms. Annette Garrison, I have a pretty comprehensive article on various aspects of hydration that I have included, http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/hyponatremia-other-side-hydration-story , for your information.
Last I want to mention visual performance training. The New Position Rifle Shooting, A Comprehensive Guide To Better Target Shooting by Bill Pullum and Frank Hanenkrat mentions sports vision training amongst other aspects of vision in competitive shooting. If one goes on the Internet you will find training programs directed at golfers, baseball and football players. There is one site that has a demo which, if one looks at it for long, it is obviously very similar to a shooting gallery video game. The training involves rapid recognition and hand-eye coordination. Another source of visual training exercises, along with a wealth of other information, is the book Prone And Long Range Rifle Shooting by Nancy Tompkins.
Hopefully, I have provided some information which will be helpful in improving shooting performance and extending the time you can participate at a competitive level. It is important that you proceed at your own pace. I have pushed myself too hard in the interval training and now have to back off a bit. In closing I would like to thank Annette Garrison and German A. Salazar for their help, considerable patience and encouragement.
Additional Reference Material
1. Framework by Nicholas A. DiNubile, MD
This is required reading for anybody who has suffered an injury like a torn meniscus or has muscular skeletal issues. This is the book that led me to Pilates/yoga
2 P. A. C. E., The Twelve Minute Fitness Revolution by Al Sears, MD
The approach I use to interval training. I am sure there are other sources.
3. Physical Conditioning For Highpower Shooting by SGT Walter E. Craig, USAMTU
4. Rifle, Steps To Success by Launi Meili
Ordering a Custom Match Rifle: Part 1 Metal Work
While a great deal of this is applicable to any custom rifle, our focus is principally directed to the Highpower Prone and F-Class shooter building a bolt-action rifle. Let's begin with the metal work and then move on to stocks.
Action Selection Checklist
- Two-lug, three-lug, four-lug,
- Stainless or chrome-moly,
- Long or short action,
- Standard or magnum bolt face,
- Bolt and port location,
- Cone bolt or flat face
- extractor options
- special serial number
- Recut barrel thread true to the centerline of the receiver,
- Special recoil lug,
- Recut locking lugs and seats,
- Lap locking lugs (simpler alternative to recutting),
- True the bolt face,
- Reduce firing pin diameter and bush firing pin hole,
- Bush bolt body for closer fit to receiver,
- Replace the bolt handle with an aftermarket unit,
- Relocate bolt handle to improve extraction camming,
- Replace the bolt with an aftermarket unit (alternate to 7 through 11),
- Cut cocking piece to properly time hand-off to your trigger,
- Sleeve the action for increased rigidity and bedding surface,
- Drill and tap scope base holes to larger size and correct alignment,
- Refinish the exterior - blue (matte or polished) , parkerize, hard chrome, polymer coating. other finish.
I'll assume that you've already selected the cartridge that you intend to fire, if not, go back to square 1 and get that figured out. But knowing the cartridge is not the whole problem; the range of bullet weights that you intend to shoot will determine what twist rate (and throating) you will need. If you are in doubt as how heavy you might want to go with your bullet choices, err on the side of the faster twist; it won't hurt your shooting with the lighter bullets and will preserve the option of the heavier ones. For instance, with a 6XC, a 1:7.5" twist will handle the Berger 115, whereas a 1:8" twist won't, so if there is any chance you might want to shoot a 115, go with the faster twist. Don't forget to consider the bore and groove dimensions, most makers offer some deviation from standard if specified. Make sure you understand what you expect to gain by doing so, those standard dimensions are pretty darn good for almost all applications.
Barrel contour and length also require a decision. Although 30" barrels seem to have become the norm over these past 15 years or so, in many cases a slightly shorter barrel will serve as well, or better. Weight and balance are important considerations for a prone shooter and a long barrel doesn't make either of those better. If your shooting style involves removing the rifle from your shoulder for each shot, this might not be terribly important, but if you keep the rifle in your shoulder, then less weight and better balance become very important. If you can't answer that question yet, lighter is probably better than heavier.
Many professional gunsmiths keep an inventory of barrels on hand. Ask what he has, it might be just what you're looking for and can save a great deal of time on your project. Currently, some of the barrel makers are quoting up to a year in delivery time, so a barrel on hand is a real plus. Some dealers such as Bruno's and Sinclair stock barrels from the big makers, it's worth checking with them also. If time is tight, ask the dealers about straight contour blanks and ask your gunsmith if he's willing to contour a straight blank. That will add some real expense to the project, but it might be a solution in some situations.
- Customer supplied or gunsmith supplied,
- Cut-rifled or button-rifled,
- Caliber and twist rate,
- Bore and groove dimensions,
- Stainless or chrome-moly,
- Finish length,
- Fluted or plain,
- Cartridge designation engraved or stamped on barrel, tight neck or other special information,
- Finish: high polish, bead blast, special
From the neck back to the base, you should avoid making the chamber any smaller than normal. There is no accuracy advantage to a "tight" chamber but it can sure cause you a lot of grief with hard extraction due to inadequate sizing by the die. The chamber and the die have to be a good match for everything to work properly and die makers work to a reasonably standard set of specifications. I have found that chambers cut with PTG reamers are a good match for Redding dies and that's probably no coincidence.
- Cartridge choice,
- Freebore/throat length,
- Chamber neck diameter,
- Additional custom specifications,
- Customer supplied reamer or gunsmith supplied,
- Customer or gunsmith supplied,
Case Head Separations
by: Germán A. Salazar
by: Germán A. Salazar
First, we need to understand the basic mechanism that will eventually cause a separation. When you fire a cartridge, the case expands radially to fit the chamber; 55,000 psi has a way of causing a ductile vessel, like a cartridge case, to conform to the more rigid material surrounding it! In short, the case will expand to match the chamber under pressure. As the pressure decreases, the case will spring back from the chamber walls to a certain extent. That springiness is one of the principal reasons that we use brass to make cartridge cases. A material with less springiness (such as steel) can be used for case making, but it is inferior; it often causes hard extraction and it is almost impossible to resize for reloading purposes. You'll note that most steel-cased cartridge cases have a lacquer coating, that is to aid extraction, a feature not required with brass cases since they spring back to create clearance.
Once the brass case has been fired, although it isn't as large as the chamber (due to spring-back) it remains larger than before it was fired. That's why we resize the case, of course. Now, as we resize it, we're reducing the diameter of the case along its entire length, but the molecules aren't going back into the original tight lattice, they can't. Instead, the excess material is forced upward along the taper of the case. You'll notice that longer and more tapered cases grow more with each resizing than shorter, less tapered cases. For instance, a 6BR might only need trimming every ten firings, whereas a .30-06 will need trimming every second firing.
As the case grows lengthwise in the sizing process, it begins to thin and weaken just above the solid head. The first picture shows exactly where it thins, since that's where it split. Now let's think about the rate of case stretching and thinning. Part of what we do in full-length resizing is to push the shoulder back to create some longitudinal clearance in the chamber. While it isn't technically correct, we often refer to this as headspace and we'll stick to that usage of the term for simplicity here. I prefer to set the shoulder back 0.001" to 0.002", creating minimal but sufficient headspace (click here for August 2009 headspace article). That doesn't sound like a lot, but it's plenty and will ensure easy bolt operation. That headspace, however, also gives the case a place to stretch longitudinally on firing, that's why we keep it to a minimum as every thousandth of an inch of additional headspace will accelerate the thinning of the web of the case and bring case head separation along that much sooner.
You might wonder if it might make more sense to simply neck-size the brass and thus avoid all of this stretching, thinning and separating. In my opinion, no. Full length sizing keeps the bolt operating smoothly both on closing and on opening and that's important to me in a match as I don't want to be struggling to close or open the bolt while in position. A second consideration is that hard bolt closing will wipe the grease right off of the bolt's locking lugs and they will begin to gall against their seat. In short order you will have a bolt that's almost impossible to operate and an expensive repair bill from your gunsmith. Full-length resizing makes sense to me from a competitive standpoint as well as from a rifle care standpoint.
Prepping Military Brass for Highpower Matches
by: Germán A. Salazar
by: Germán A. Salazar
When I began shooting Highpower, most competitors used military brass for their ammo. If you were lucky, you scrounged enough Lake City Match brass to keep you going; if you were less fortunate you used surplus brass from regular ball ammo. Although commercial brass was the norm for bolt-action rifles, it saw very little use in M1 and M14 service rifles ("Who on earth would shoot an M16?" we thought...). Today, I don't see too much use of military brass outside of the AR15 shooters who still scrounge Lake City brass (and it is good brass). A lot of it has to do with all the oddball calibers we see on the firing line these days; but some of it, I think, is that we're pushed into commercial brass by what we read. The popular shooting magazines have advertisers' expectations to satisfy and military brass isn't on their inventory list. As a result, a lot of newer shooters don't have a good appreciation for the real quality and engineering built into every piece of U.S. made military brass and how to properly prepare it for match use.