November 2010 Cover Page

  November 1932 
The Rifleman's Journal
A Collection of Articles Dealing with Rifle Accuracy Topics

Bertil Rönnmark - Sweden
Gold Medal - 50 Meter Prone
1932 Olympic Games - Los Angeles

This Month
Hap Rocketto - Mauser Biography
Germán Salazar - Long Range Preparation
Germán Salazar - Incremental Progress
More to come...

15 Cents 

The Desolate Wilderness and The Fair Land

On this Thanksgiving Day, we bring to you these two pieces, one from the 17th century, one written by the great Vermont Royster in 1961 as a companion to the first.  Mr. Royster won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing in 1953; his editorials in the Wall Street Journal influenced generations of freedom seeking people.  Having come to this country from another, as did the Pilgrims, these two pieces have always had a special significance for me.  The power of Mr. Royster's words remains undiminished by the passing of time and I suspect they will retain that power for as long as people seek a better life than the one they willingly, though painfully, leave behind.    
- GAS -

The Desolate Wilderness
Here beginneth the chronicle of those memorable circumstances of the year 1620, as recorded by Nathaniel Morton, keeper of the records of Plymouth Colony, based on the account of William Bradford, sometime governor thereof:

So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years, but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city (Heb. XI, 16), and therein quieted their spirits.

When they came to Delfs-Haven they found the ship and all things ready, and such of their friends as could not come with them followed after them, and sundry came from Amsterdam to see them shipt, and to take their leaves of them. One night was spent with little sleep with the most, but with friendly entertainment and Christian discourse, and other real expressions of true Christian love.

The next day they went on board, and their friends with them, where truly doleful was the sight of that sad and mournful parting, to hear what sighs and sobs and prayers did sound amongst them; what tears did gush from every eye, and pithy speeches pierced each other's heart, that sundry of the Dutch strangers that stood on the Key as spectators could not refrain from tears. But the tide (which stays for no man) calling them away, that were thus loath to depart, their Reverend Pastor, falling down on his knees, and they all with him, with watery cheeks commended them with the most fervent prayers unto the Lord and His blessing; and then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them.

Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succour; and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.

Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew.

If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.

And the Fair Land

Any one whose labors take him into the far reaches of the country, as ours lately have done, is bound to mark how the years have made the land grow fruitful.

This is indeed a big country, a rich country, in a way no array of figures can measure and so in a way past belief of those who have not seen it. Even those who journey through its Northeastern complex, into the Southern lands, across the central plains and to its Western slopes can only glimpse a measure of the bounty of America.

And a traveler cannot but be struck on his journey by the thought that this country, one day, can be even greater. America, though many know it not, is one of the great underdeveloped countries of the world; what it reaches for exceeds by far what it has grasped.

So the visitor returns thankful for much of what he has seen, and, in spite of everything, an optimist about what his country might be. Yet the visitor, if he is to make an honest report, must also note the air of unease that hangs everywhere.

For the traveler, as travelers have been always, is as much questioned as questioning. And for all the abundance he sees, he finds the questions put to him ask where men may repair for succor from the troubles that beset them.

His countrymen cannot forget the savage face of war. Too often they have been asked to fight in strange and distant places, for no clear purpose they could see and for no accomplishment they can measure. Their spirits are not quieted by the thought that the good and pleasant bounty that surrounds them can be destroyed in an instant by a single bomb. Yet they find no escape, for their survival and comfort now depend on unpredictable strangers in far-off corners of the globe.

How can they turn from melancholy when at home they see young arrayed against old, black against white, neighbor against neighbor, so that they stand in peril of social discord. Or not despair when they see that the cities and countryside are in need of repair, yet find themselves threatened by scarcities of the resources that sustain their way of life. Or when, in the face of these challenges, they turn for leadership to men in high places -- only to find those men as frail as any others.

So sometimes the traveler is asked whence will come their succor. What is to preserve their abundance, or even their civility? How can they pass on to their children a nation as strong and free as the one they inherited from their forefathers? How is their country to endure these cruel storms that beset it from without and from within?

Of course the stranger cannot quiet their spirits. For it is true that everywhere men turn their eyes today much of the world has a truly wild and savage hue. No man, if he be truthful, can say that the specter of war is banished. Nor can he say that when men or communities are put upon their own resources they are sure of solace; nor be sure that men of diverse kinds and diverse views can live peaceably together in a time of troubles.

But we can all remind ourselves that the richness of this country was not born in the resources of the earth, though they be plentiful, but in the men that took its measure. For that reminder is everywhere -- in the cities, towns, farms, roads, factories, homes, hospitals, schools that spread everywhere over that wilderness.

We can remind ourselves that for all our social discord we yet remain the longest enduring society of free men governing themselves without benefit of kings or dictators. Being so, we are the marvel and the mystery of the world, for that enduring liberty is no less a blessing than the abundance of the earth.

And we might remind ourselves also, that if those men setting out from Delftshaven had been daunted by the troubles they saw around them, then we could not this autumn be thankful for a fair land.

The 2010 Arizona Long-Range State Championship

The 2010 Arizona Long-Range State Championship
by Germán A. Salazar

 The .30-06 is alive and well as a competitive long-range cartridge. I didn't win the match, but a 6th place finish (973-34X), in tough conditions and a very competitive field wasn't bad and I'm reasonably satisfied with that. This isn't really a complete match report by any means, but I hope to give you my perspective on how things went after all the preparation and share a few photos from the match. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera on the first day, so most of the pictures are from the second day, with a few from the first day sent by friends.

The match program called for 60 record shots each day from 1000 yards; day 1 with iron sights, day 2 with any sights (scopes allowed).  As things worked out, we scrubbed the last stage of day 2 due to rain, so the aggregate was based on 1000 points. One day I'll write an article titled: "Everything I Like About Scopes," it will be very similar to the barrel break-in article. Along with most of my fellow members of the Phoenix Rod & Gun Club, I shot irons all the way through the match and I don't consider that to be any disadvantage.

The truly unfortunate part of this match was the weather. After a week of absolutely perfect conditions, temperature in the low 70's, light wind and clear sky, the weekend was overcast, cold and on Sunday, quite rainy. We got all three stages in on Saturday, but Sunday, after a couple of false starts, we cancelled the third stage with everyone and everything fairly well soaked.

All of the preparations that I detailed in the previous articles this month were worthwhile. The trigger felt great, the fixed aperture on the smoke colored acrylic made by Art Neergaard worked beautifully, even in very overcast conditions, and the tubegun stock and Borden action were flawless, as usual. I'll try to recount the match from my perspective, string by string, for no particular reason other than to give some finality to this series.

Saturday - Stage One
This stage had the best conditions of the match, it was cool but not cold, the wind was very low, no more than 2 or 3 moa and the sun was out nicely. I got a bit anxious and went for record after just three sighters, resulting in 9's for my first two shots. A little later in the string, I had two more 9's, both vertical as I was getting some pulse, still a bit of anxiety. In the end, my 196-6X was disappointing because the conditions were there for a better score. Only one 200 was fired, a 200-12X by Eddie Newman, captain of the US Veteran's Team. The missed opportunity weighed on me as I waited over two hours before my relay came up to shoot again.  Photo: Germán scoring John Lowther.

Saturday - Stage Two
By the time the targets rose from the pits for my second string, the wind was decidedly stronger than the first string, but well within manageable limits. The rifle held elevation well, I didn't feel the anxiety and pulse of the first stage, so I didn't cause any vertical shots either. Once again, my first shot was a 9, and there was another later in the string. I finished with a 198-8X, definitely a better performance and I was satisfied with it, although as with the first string, there were four or five scores ahead of mine.  Photo: Oliver Milanovic, John Lowther, Germán and Jim Hahn.

Saturday - Stage Three
By now, the wind was running hard. I took my first record shot with 12 minutes of windage on the rifle (another 9). As the string progressed, the wind was quickly dropping off, and by the 10th or 12th shot I was down to 6 moa of windage. Then, even more quickly, it picked back up to 12 moa and let off to about 9 moa by the time the string was done. My 191-7X doesn't sound like a great score, but I was very pleased with it. All the higher scores were on earlier relays and the match winner, who was on my relay, shot a 192-3X with a hot 6mm, so I was not unhappy with the result. The problem of different relays having sometimes very different conditions is just part of long-range shooting and I don't worry about it at all, that's just part of the game.

When the day's score were tallied, I was 5th High Master, Any-Rifle and 6th overall (Eddie Newman in the Palma rifle category was also ahead of me). Looking back on my performance that day, it was the first stage that really was the weak point because I didn't shoot the score that the conditions allowed. It was a bit disappointing and I felt that it would be difficult to improve the aggregate placement on Sunday. With high wind and rain forecast for Sunday, the scope shooters might indeed have an advantage. It gets tricky seeing a target clearly with iron sights through 1000 yards of rain. I crossed my fingers and got some rest after a long day that included the match, watching the Stanford - Cal football game and a night at the opera (Carmen) - sleep came easily.

Sunday - Stage Four
Rifles up and down the line sprouted scopes overnight. Oliver Milanovic, John Lowther, Darren Sucato, Jim Cobb, Mike Toliver, and I, all Phoenix regulars, stuck to iron sights. The rest of the High Masters had glass. We're stubborn and our club matches never include scope matches (and never will) so for us, there's no reason to shoot scope. The first stage went well for me, a 198-7X was a few X's behind the winner of the stage (a 6mm scope shooter) and I moved up a couple of spots in the aggregate. Things were going better than anticipated, but the clouds were low and heavy and you could see rain soaking the desert to the south and to the west and that's the direction from which the wind was coming.  Photo: Darren, Jim, Oliver shooting, John scoring - iron men.
Sunday - Stage 5
As on Saturday, I was squadded on the first relay, so I shot my second stage about two hours after the first stage. The relay shooting just before I did got a good dose of rain and shots were going high and low all up and down the line as water on the ammunition caused erratic pressure for many shooters.

As I took my position the rain had let up, but I could see it coming. I decided to shoot quickly and try to get through the twenty shots before the rain hit again as the next wave appeared to be very strong. The strategy was well considered, but my weather forecasting skills were a bit off. As it turned out, the rain didn't hit for about 30 minutes and I needlessly rushed through the stage of fire. That rushed pace cost me quite a few points as I had to shoot in a broader range of wind direction that I prefer and my score of 190-6X dropped me right back down to 5th High Master in the aggregate as shooters who were less rushed score higher than me. That was a tough one, but I developed a strategy based on what I saw and stuck to it. It didn't work out, but at least it was the result of some forethought; not every plan works out as we might like.  Photo: View through the spotting scope.
A Cold, Wet Ending
The rain hit hard and after a long delay and a couple of attempts to restart the match which were scrubbed as rain showers came back, the last stage of the match was cancelled and the aggregate completed at 1000 points. About ten of us made our way up to our usual post-match pizza place and warmed up with good food and companionship. Photo: Rain falling on Sunday morning

On the stages where I shot well, the .30-06 was at no disadvantage to the sub-caliber whiz-bang rifles. On the two stages (1 and 5) where my performance was flawed, it wouldn't have mattered what I was shooting, the problem was the shooter, not the rifle or the cartridge.

When I wrote the article Where Have the 30 Caliber Shooters Gone? in early 2009, I said that I was only shooting the .30-06 in local matches, not state championship matches and in The Logical .30-06, I mentioned that I was shooting the .30-06 in about 30% of my local matches. Neither of those statements is accurate anymore. I've been shooting the .30-06 in about 75% of local matches this past year and I shot it in the Mid-Range and Long-Range state championships this year. I will do the same in 2011. I get more satisfaction from a good score fired with the .30-06 than with any 6mm cartridge and since that's my reason for shooting, that's just what I'll keep doing.

A Few More Photos

Fred Filkins, our line officer at all state matches.  Fred is a Double Distinguished Marine and was a mainstay of the Marine Corp pistol team in the 1950's and 1960's.  If you ever want to be entertained at a match, just wake Fred up, remind him that the prep time should have ended a few minutes ago and then let him get rolling with a few sea stories.

Jim Cobb, a great Palma shooter who had a bit of hard luck during the rain, but he'll be one to watch at next month's Palma State Championship.  Jim's missing a few matches this season as he goes back and forth to Pennsylvania to see his son's college football games, but never count him out!

Darren Sucato who proves there's life after F-Class.  Darren was our club's top F-Open shooter for a couple of years and is now shooting from the sling.  Like most of us, Darren shoots an Eliseo tubegun although he was shooting John's rifle today, but that's another story!

John Lowther and Oliver Milanovic behind the firing line.  Oliver fired his final string today, drove across town to his volunteer job with a kid's organization, drove the kids to their event, met us for pizza and then went back for the kids.  He never slows down!  John provided dry and secure storage for some out-of-town shooters' equipment for the next couple of weeks.  They'll be back for the Palma championship and this will save them the hassle of flying it all back and forth.  John's checking out how to list things for sale online...  :^)

Ken Nelson, who for some unknown reason, after decades of great shooting, visited Bruno's a couple of weeks ago and came home with that thing on top of his rifle.  Well, he took High Canadian honors, but the competition was a bit thin, he could have done it with irons.  In all seriousness, Ken is a wonderful person, a friend to all and a great addition to our group in the winter season.

Mike Toliver who runs all the matches at the Rio Salado Sportsman's Club.  Mike shoots a .260 Rem. tubegun.  I think Mike's scores in this match will just push him into the High Master class - now the work really begins!

Jim Denovcheck from Tucson with a BIG Unertl 2" scope on his Winchester Model 70.  That's a lot of glass there!

It looks like a crime scene photo, but only the scores were murdered, the shooter survived.  Look at the outline of the shoe, was that one of Santa's elves on that mat?

What could be better than a weekend in the company of friends, shooting 1000 yards with a 104 year old cartridge and keeping up with the new stuff!  I had a great time and hopefully we'll inspire someone else to give it a try.

Score sheets - sling and F-Class.  Click to enlarge.

Incremental Progress - Evaluating the Risks

Incremental Progress - Evaluating the Risks
by Germán A. Salazar

Every shooter wants to get better - that's a fundamental tenet of competitive shooting.  Yet, there comes a time at which progress seems to slow despite great effort expended; when a series of seemingly good ideas result only in a series of disastrous scores.  This is frustrating at any level, but more so when the shooter considers himself well accomplished.  All too often I see people making changes just for the sake of change without a clear analysis of the expected gains, the potential risks and the expected outcome or even a basis for measuring gains and losses.  It all takes planning! I've seen quite a bit of this over the years and offer some thoughts here to those who are at that point.
Moving On Up
There are volumes written on how to develop the basic skills that move you up the ladder.  For the entry level to intermediate shooters, I always recommend the CMP's Service Rifle Guide and International Rifle Guide, a pair of well written basic manuals.  There are many more books, of course, as well as individual coaching and advice from your fellow club members.  My intention here is not to discuss those things at all, but rather to describe how someone already at the High Master level or trying to find the last few points to reach it might pursue further progress.  There is actually very little that is written about this, the target audience being somewhat narrow, but I hope that this illuminates a bit for those entering that classification.

The NRA classification system is very useful in measuring progress as one enters the sport.  Earning each successive classification level requires scores averaging above a specified percentage of the possible for a number of consecutive matches.  When that day arrives and the NRA send you the coveted High Master card the the American Highpower Rifleman certificate (do they still send those?) has the struggle ended?  In reality, it has just begun.  
The minimum percentage required to obtain a High Master classification is 98.5% for Mid-Range (591/600) and 97% for Long-Range (582/600).  I don't mean to minimize the effort required to initially get to those levels, but the cold, hard fact is that in a competitive club, those scores won't be near the top of the results bulletin.  Most High Masters have well developed physical and mental techniques and their focus tends to be on the technical (equipment) side.  That isn't to say that the physical and mental aspects can be ignored; in fact, many of the same analytical techniques described here apply to those areas.  To get to the upper level of the class, by which I mean someone who regularly shoots at or above 595/600 in Mid-Range matches and rarely shoots below 591/600 in Long-Range matches, serious effort is required of the new High Master.  My approach to dealing with the problems shooters encounter in reaching that level is the subject of this article. 
Keeping Track
The first task is tracking your scores effectively - there is no substitute for hard data.  We're very fortunate in Phoenix to have about 100 prone Highpower match days per year, spread among three locations.  Between work days and match conflicts, I usually fire about 75 of those each year.  There is also a good amount of Smallbore, but I'll leave that out for the moment.  I maintain a score-tracking spreadsheet, it is divided into three main sections: Mid-Range, Long-Range and Palma.  Each page is a chronological record of matches fired, broken down by date, location, cartridge used, stage score and X count, match aggregate, three match running aggregate and calendar year running aggregate.  This is the essential data that you will use to measure progress; without it you are simply guessing and most guesswork is optimistic.
Looking at my Mid-Range database (most of our matches are mid-range), I find that my average score in 2009 was a 596-34X and so far in 2010 it is a 596-33X.  A drop of one X in the average isn't too bad considering that 2010 has been a year of plenty of experimentation, not all good, and I count all scores in the average.  That consistency in the long-run data is actually the key to evaluating experiments.  If your scores fluctuate significantly, the value of a change will be much more difficult to ascertain.  Our matches are 100% iron sights; if your cub allows scopes (I shudder at the very word), those two types of scores should be separated for clearer analysis.

You can break the scores out in all sorts of ways once you have the data.  For instance, over the past two years, my average with a 6BR is 597-38, with the 6XC it's 597-36, with the .308 it's 597-36 and with the .30-06 it's 595-31.  The .30-06's average score is held down a bit by all the experimentation I do with it, but what really stands out to me is that I don't particularly do any better with the 6mm's than with the .30 caliber - that's good to know, it helps me make decisions.
To be clear, the average score is used for analytical purposes; raising the average score is not particularly the goal - winning significant matches is the goal.  Small club matches are where the experimentation takes place, where chances can be taken on unproven equipment or techniques.  The average may suffer a bit, but when the big match arrives, you'll be properly prepared.
The Awful Truth
If you don't already know it, you should: at this level, it's a lot easier to lose points from your score than to add them.  That bit of reality should guide your decision making process; think of it as Risk Management for Highpower.  Every potential change to your equipment or procedures should be analyzed in terms of potential damage it can do to your score far more than the potential gains it might produce - the downside risk is always larger! 

If you intend to win big matches, you simply can't afford to take big risks with your equipment.  Every high level competitor has top quality equipment and access to the same components and gunsmiths.  If you think there's a magic bullet, or cartridge, or anything that will make you a winner, think again.  Winning against equally good competition is a matter of having perfect equipment and refining every element of the equipment and of your entire shooting system to eliminate the possibility of total failure (rifle breakdown, bullet blow-up) that will take you out of contention and to minimize the possibility of small failures (missed windage adjustment, poor shot execution, hurried preparation) that will slowly erode your score until you're well away from the top of the list.

What's Your Problem?
When you consider making a modification to your system, whether it's the rifle, the ammunition, your position, or anything else, ask yourself four questions:

1.  What specific problem am I trying to solve?  Give a detailed description of your specific problem and the proposed change.
2.  What risks of failure (large and small) does this change present?
3.  What possible improvement does this change offer and how will I measure it?
4. Is there an alternative approach that entails less risk of failure?

I really recommend writing your answers down on paper and saving them.  Do this before you change anything.  That little exercise will do two things for you: it will force you to clearly develop your plan and it will keep you from changing your criteria of success to match the results obtained.  Write it down.

By the way, "I need more points" is not a specific problem.  You should be able to articulate the specific element of performance that from time to time is less than optimal and is the cause of lost points.
A Few Examples
Let's look at a few potential changes that I've evaluated over the past few years.  I'll give you my analysis based on the risk assessment and how I decided whether to test or not test a certain change.  I'm not picking the specific examples as especially good or bad, these are simply used to show the method of analysis.  In that same time frame I evaluated many small variations in loads, new bullets, new barrels and more, all with the average score database as the frame of reference.

1. Small primer .308 brass.  What's the downside?  Potential ignition trouble - hangfires, misfires and erratic ignition.  Any of these can cause you to lose a match in one shot.  What's the potential upside?  According to its promoters, reduced elevation dispersion at 1000 yards.  Do I have this problem?  No, my Palma ammo is just fine.  Worth testing?  Sure, it's a relatively low expense, testing is simple enough and if it's somehow amazing, we'll consider how to minimize the risks.  My testing showed no improvement over my regular brass at 1000 yards, at 500 I found a decrease in accuracy.  No gain and potential for failure in cool weather (our LR season in Arizona).  Decision?  Limited testing was enough, not worth pursuing further.  Alternatives?  Reasonable amount of primer testing with standard brass produces loads with excellent 1000 yard elevation dispersion and no ignition performance risk.

2.  Bloop Tubes for Highpower.  What's the downside?  Tube flies off in the middle of a match, no possibility of reattaching without loss of zero, the match is lost.  What's the potential upside?  Slight improvement in clarity of sight picture.  Do I have this problem?  Sure, anyone my age, with less than perfect vision can use a sharper sight picture.  Worth testing?  No.  Too complex to develop a system that is failure-proof, I've seen many of these fail in matches.  Highpower rifles simply have a lot of muzzle blast, recoil and vibration compared to a Smallbore rifle and the tube's coupling to the barrel is just not adequate.  Alternatives?  Work with front or rear lens arrangements, get good shooting glasses with your prescription custom ground and use as long a barrel as you can without compromising the integrity of your position.

3.  Driving 6mm bullets to 3300 fps.  What's the downside?  Bullet failure, zero score for the shot, lost match, very reduced barrel life.  What's the potential upside?  Reduction in wind drift of about 1 moa in a 10 mph wind at 1000 yards.  That boils down to 1/4 moa in a 2.5 mph change which is about the magnitude of a change you might miss while aiming.  Do I have this problem?  No, frankly, I read the wind well, that's what makes me competitive in big matches.  Is 1/4 moa worth risking a blown-up bullet?  Hell no!  The 10 ring is 2 moa wide, there's plenty of room in there to place the bullet in a safe spot if you know what you're doing.  When I tested RL17 powder, I was able to get that velocity from the 6XC.  However, other than the testing and one match on a relatively new barrel (safest bet for high MV) I never shot that again - it just isn't worth the risk.  Now, two years later I keep hearing people talk about various .243 based wildcats to shoot the 105 - 107 bullets at 3300 fps - crazy!  Alternative?  Put in the time to develop wind reading skills to a high degree, learn to understand the wind's tendencies and how to take safe shots.

4.  Switching to a two-stage trigger.  What's the downside?  Slight possibility of score reduction, but no potential for total loss of score.  What's the potential upside?  Greater degree of control, especially in cold weather, leading to increased scores in our big matches which are all in the winter months.  Do I have this problem?  Yes, in our winter matches, when the temperature is in the 40's or 50's and windy, I have had trouble with trigger control on single-stage triggers as my finger stiffens up under those conditions.  Worth testing?  Sure, the cost is relatively low and installation simple and reversible if needed.  Over the course of two years, I tested and ultimately adopted the X-Treme two-stage trigger as my standard; it helped solve my problem in the cold weather matches.  It took a while to really learn to adjust the trigger, but the result was worthwhile.

5.  Switching to Tubegun stocks.  What's the downside?  Total lack of initial familiarity, potential for reduction in score, but no potential for total loss of score, high cost of building complete new rifle to test concept.  What's the potential upside?  Better ergonomics leading to better scores after period of adjustment.  Faster delivery time than conventional stocks.  Do I have this problem?  Yes, I can no longer wait as long as conventional stock makers take and I'm always willing to seek out a more comfortable stock fit.  Despite the cost, I had one built a couple of years ago.  My only surprise was how quickly I adapted to it and saw an almost immediate improvement in consistency of my scores.  With more effort and familiarity, my scores began to climb.  In one six week period this fall, I shot mid-range scores of 600-42, 600-41 and 599-41 with the .308 tubegun and then a 599-41 with the .30-06 tubegun.  The effort and expense have paid off, scores above 598 were less frequent with conventional stocks in any caliber and definitely less frequent with the .30 caliber cartridges.
System Analysis
Apart from failing to analyze risk, another common mistake that many shooters make is failing to understand that we are working with a system, not with isolated components or techniques.  When part of one system is grafted onto another system, the results are often less than optimal.  I think we can all agree that attempting to chamber a .30-06 cartridge in a rifle with a barrel chambered for a .308 just won't work - that's easy enough.  However, there are many equally incompatible system elements that go be unperceived and the attempt to combine them leads to failure.

The combination of shooting technique and wind reading technique are good examples of the systems approach.  My good friend Doug Frerichs and I shoot virtually identical scores in mid-range matches, usually a point or a handful of X's is all that separates us and more than once we have tied right down to the last X.  However, Doug and I take completely different approaches to how we shoot and how we read the wind. 

Doug dismounts the rifle on every shot, carefully looks at all wind indicators, rebuilds his position, makes a sight adjustment, aims and fires; he is often the last person to finish a relay as his system is very slow (but effective).  On the other hand, I never take the rifle out of my shoulder, I quickly look at flags and mirage but mostly look at the last shot's placement, I make a quick decision, adjust the sight and shoot.  My face doesn't even come off the cheekpiece because I set the spotting scope up very close to my eye.  This works well for me at mid-range, I shoot very fast and am often the first person finished on a relay.  At that point, I'll wander over to see Doug on about his 7th shot of the string.    My system is based on the relative change in the wind from shot to shot, Doug's is based on the absolute value of the wind at any given moment - he is the master of his system and I of mine.

Now, if someone were to adopt Doug's wind reading technique, but leave the rifle in the shoulder like I do, he had better be built like Charles Atlas!  Chances are good he'd be physically worn out long before the 20th shot.  On the other hand, if a shooter who shoots slowly and dismounts the rifle tries to use my wind reading method, he will shoot a lot of 9's or worse, because my technique relies on the simple fact that in most mid-range matches, the wind changes in a relatively predictable fashion, and if you're quick, you can keep up with it with only a click or two between shots.  I rarely take a shot without clicking the windage knob, it scares me to leave it alone because the wind never rests.

The new shooter who runs around the clubhouse getting a bit of advice from each top shooter thinking he will turn this mélange into a successful system of his own is really kidding himself.  Each of those top shooters has a well-integrated system and picking bits of each one will not give a very satisfactory outcome.  Find a mentor who will put up with you and stick with him; buy him lunch now and then and try not to be a nuisance during the match.

Cartridge choice is another example of the systems approach.  If you want to shoot a 6.5-284 or 7mm Magnum for your long-range cartridge, you are committing to frequent barrel replacements.  There's no two ways about it if you expect to shoot competitive scores.  As the barrels on these cartridges approach 1000 rounds, you can expect not only a loss of accuracy, but relatively frequent bullet blow-ups from the damage done by the rough throat as the bullet engraves into the rifling.  That's an unacceptable risk to me, and the main reason why I prefer "low-risk" cartridges like the .308, .30-06 and 6XC - although the 6XC is higher risk than the .30 caliber cartridges.

If you talk to the top shooters who use the high-risk cartridges, you'll find that they either chamber their own barrels or have multiple barrels chambered at one time by their gunsmith.  Otherwise, the downtime required to have a gunsmith chamber a new barrel in the middle of the season will essentially end your season.  Don't get into a barrel burning cartridge if you aren't prepared to support that type of system.  My preference is to avoid those and really focus on wind reading skills instead; hence, my love of Palma shooting where everyone has to shoot the .308 and wind reading skills are at a premium.  Make sure your cartridge choice fits your skill set - now, if you happen to have well developed gunsmithing skills and wind reading skills, you'll be tough to beat!

I hope that this article gives you some food for thought.  As you consider changes to your system, ask and answer these four fundamental questions:

1. What specific problem am I trying to solve?
2. What risks of failure (large and small) does this change present?
3. What possible improvement does this change offer and how will I measure it?
4. Is there an alternative approach that entails less risk of failure?

Finally, consider each element's contribution to the success of the system as well as it's integration into your particular system.  Find those areas that can stand improvement and attack them relentlessly until they are as good as you can make them, then move on to the next area.  Constant attention to detail and refinement of each essential element in your system will help you to gain and maintain those last few points without an unacceptable risk of loss of the score level that has already been attained.

Equipment: Barrel Break-In

Barrel Break-In - A Detailed Description of My Process - Omitting No Steps
by Germán A. Salazar











...and that's all there is to it.

Related Article:
Breaking In the BAT

Arizona Long Range Championship 2010 - Part 3

Arizona Long Range Championship 2010 - Part 3
by Germán A. Salazar

Click here for Part 1
Click here for Part 2

It isn't my intention to create a diary of any sort with these articles, the focus of this series remains the technical preparations for a significant match with a relatively new rifle.  As the match draws closer, the level of refinement increases and the focus narrows to those few remaining areas that need special attention.  This rifle was built about one year ago, I covered some of the initial sorting out in this article which detailed the first few months of equipment sorting.  Between April and October, I didn't fire the rifle at all as I wanted to keep the barrel relatively fresh for the long-range championship; it now has a bit over 800 rounds fired.  During the summer I used my other .30-06 tubegun which has a Remington action and was detailed in an Accurate Shooter Gun of the Week article.  The two rifles are identical except for the action, the new one having the first Borden Tubegun Special action made, a project which resulted from my experiences with the first rifle.

In Part 2, we discussed some of my experimentation with the front sight filters at 1000 yards, performance of the load and the need for a bit more trigger tuning.  Those areas remained foremost in my thoughts as the following week went by and the 600 yard match that would serve as the next test day approached.

Trigger Adjustment
On Saturday morning, November 6, I was up well before dawn to do some work on the trigger.  Despite my best intentions I simply hadn't done it during the preceding evenings and now it was match day and I found myself tweaking screws.  The basic idea was to slightly reduce the travel of the first stage of the trigger.  I put the rifle in the cradle, removed the pistol grip and bottom metal to have unrestricted access to the trigger and began to work.  Although it isn't strictly necessary, I prefer to remove the side plate from the trigger to get a good view of all the levers when making any adjustment.  Having done that, I turned the first stage travel screw in about one full turn; that reduced the travel as desired and everything seemed to be working properly. 

After replacing the side plate, I found that the first stage would not always return and the trigger was not functioning reliably.  Removing the side plate brought everything back to normal.  I imagined that the side plate was somehow rubbing on one of the levers or creating some interference, but there were no visible rub marks anywhere.  I cut a couple of very small shims to raise the side plate up about 0.010" and reinstalled it.  No joy, the first stage would still not return 100% of the time.  I could see dawn breaking through the shop window and was keenly aware of the passing time and the need to get to the range.  Since the change that led to the erratic behavior was shortening the first stage travel, I backed the screw out about half a turn and re-tested.  All was now well and replacing the side plate (without shims) did not change anything - the trigger was ready to go.

A two-stage trigger is a delicately balanced mechanism.  Although with a bit more time I could have readjusted the various parts to yield the shorter movement, time was limited and I was able to reduce the movement somewhat.  As things turned out, I might have set it just perfectly; the trigger felt just right all day.

The Front Sight
Having arrived at the range, collected the entry fees, squadded the competitors and a few other administrative tasks, I went to the firing line to prepare my equipment.  The day's principal test was comprised of evaluating three different front sight aperture arrangements.  The first would be a 3.5 mm bronze colored fixed aperture; the second a 3.8 mm light smoke colored fixed aperture, and the last would be the Centra variable aperture set at 3.6 mm with the light smoke filter.  The equipment itself was reviewed in this earlier article.
Normally I use a 3.6 mm aperture for 600 yards; the purpose of evaluating the 3.5 mm and 3.8 mm was more to judge the usefulness of their respective filter colors as I didn't have a fixed 3.6 mm available.  The 3.5 felt too tight around the bull from the first shot; I was hesitant in breaking the shot.  Despite well-centered sighters, the first two record shots were 9's in calm conditions and within a few more shots I was ready to remove that thing!  However, in the interest of conducting a fair test, I left it on and did my best, but a 196-09X in good conditions was really terrible and I was glad when the string was over.  The bronze tint was too dark for my liking, forcing me to take extra time to ensure I was on my own target and the 3.5 mm aperture simply felt too small and created some elevation problems as a tight aperture always does for me.  I was glad to be done with that portion of the test.

When my relay was again called to the line some time later, I had the 3.8 mm light smoke aperture installed and the wind had begun its daily dance.  Although the 3.8 aperture was big enough to include the entire target frame within it's circumference, the sight picture was comfortable and the amount of light coming through the filter was just right.  This wasn't much of a surprise since I used this very same aperture successfully at a recent 500 yard match.  My 200-07X was a bit light on X count, but it was the only 200 fired for the second stage of the match.  That result once again validated for me the simple rule that an aperture larger than optimal is not much of a problem, but one smaller than optimal, even just a little smaller, is always a problem.

The sight setup for the last stage was simple enough: the variable aperture set at 3.6 mm with the light smoke filter in place.  A 198-09X in a switchy afternoon desert wind was a good score and only the first stage score with that 3.5 mm aperture kept me from winning the match.  The 3.6 was a bit more comfortable than the 3.8, but I wouldn't hesitate to shoot the 3.8 again if necessary.

With the trigger tuned, and confirmation that the light smoke color provides my preferred level of filtration, the rifle preparations were complete.  Ammunition is the remaining area of attention.

Ammunition Preparation
The load I'll be using for the Long Range Championship is set, it'll be the Berger 190 VLD, moly-coated, with 53.5 gr. of H4350, and Russian primers.  All I need is to finish preparing a second set of brass: one for each day of the match. 

After the 1000 yard match last week, I was prepared to use the set of Lapua brass for both days.  However, my better half recently reminded me that on the Saturday night of the championship match we have tickets to a performance of Carmen, so I will not be reloading that night.  Accordingly, the WCC 55 brass project is back on and I've been turning necks every evening.  I hope to have a complete set within a day or so and then will shoot that brass November 13 at a 500 yard match. 

I don't expect anything more to change prior to the Long Range Championship.  I'll get the WCC 55 brass finished and fired, I expect to use the variable aperture with the light smoke filter, the trigger is set perfectly and the rifle is shooting well.  At this point, the only element in need of additional refinement is the human element - as as we all know, that is the weakest link in this chain.

Update - November 14, 2010
Just a few notes here that didn't warrant a new article.  As you can see in the picture above of the brass as it was being turned, the necks on the WCC 55 brass were not cleaning up 100% with the cutter set at my usual 0.0125" thickness.  Despite some misgivings about leaving some neck thickness variance, I completed the set with that dimension as the maximum; the thin sides were mostly in the range of 0.0118" yielding leass than 0.001" variance - not much, but more than I prefer.  My plan was to shoot the brass in yesterday's 500 yard match and if the results weren't satisfactory, then re-evaluate whether to turn the necks further or set the brass aside for another project.

The 500 yard match was fired under calm conditions, the only detriment being the light on the south-facing range, but the ShootingSight smoke colored front aperture took care of that.  Scores of 199-12X, 200-14X and 200-15X for an aggregate of 599-41X left me satisfied that the WCC 55 brass will be fine for the 1000 yard championship match.

The .30-06 is never a mistake.

History: Remington 40X Discussion

Remington 40X Discussion

Dear German,

Back in the late'70's / early '80's I made several trips from Australia to Camp Perry to compete at the National Matches in small-bore and high-power events (came 15th in the Palma Individual in '81 - 150/149/146 using an M70 in .30-'06). On one of my US visits, I also did a road trip and competed in a couple of regional small-bore prone tournaments (Asheville, NC and Harrisburg, PA) and also the Iowa State Small-bore Championships in 3P but, only having an Anschutz 1411 prone rifle with me, I borrowed a 40XB free-rifle which was owned by the Rock Island Arsenal Rifle club. I think it had an Atkinson stainless barrel from memory.

I was very impressed with it as it felt much more solid and better balanced than the "tinny" Anschützes I was used to - more like a high-power rifle, so I decided to buy one if possible. I subsequently acquired a heavy barrelled 40X in .22LR, Dec '59 manufacture, and also a separate 40XR ISSF "standard rifle" style stock. It's a great thing, it'll shoot nice one-hole groups all day, off a bench at 50m with Eley or SK ammo.

I recently read in an article by you that only a small number of 40Xs were factory prepared as International target rifles - 120-odd small-bore and 600-odd centrefire - so I'm guessing that the rifle I borrowed in Iowa was one of these rarities. They must still be around, likely in private collections, and if I'd known then that they were so rare, I might've tried to buy the one I borrowed. I cannot find any photos of these rifles on the internet, so my request is a simple one - do you have any archive photos of these rifles from back in the days when they were used in competition?

I have asked the same question of USAMU and got a reply from John Writer, of all people (!), who said that he's never seen a "factory" 40X Int'l rifle, rather he thought all the Rem based rifles used in Int'l comp were custom built by their owners. He did say that the Unit used 40Xs for 300m competition for many years but that these were also custom built at Ft Benning, not by Remington themselves.

I did actually purchase a 40XB in '81 from Freeland's, it was a ..30-338 with one of Al's custom stocks which I intended to use for 1,000yds the following year but that plan didn't come to fruition. I sold it to my younger brother who converted it back to .308 and eventually shot it and a couple of other 40Xs as a 6BR at the 2002 Worlds' in Finland. He has since sold his Rems and now uses a Bleiker for 300m and 50m; funny how things pan out - I rather wish I'd bought the 22 I used in the Iowa shoot than the magnum from Freeland's that I never got to use!

Thanking you in advance for your consideration.

Best regards,

Good morning, Chris,

Thank you for writing, it's always nice to hear from someone who's reading and enjoying the articles.

Your trips to the US sound like a great adventure, I wish I could do something similar to Australia one day. Several of my friends just went to Brisbane with the US Veteran's Team for the fullbore matches, all reported a wonderful time despite some unseasonal weather.

The 40X International rifles were not the same as the slender barrel, "standard rifle" model that you have. They were a heavy barreled "free rifle" with unfinished Freeland thumbhole stocks, and the choice of the 2 oz. trigger or a 1/2 oz. set trigger.. The stocks were clearly meant to be reshaped and then finished by the shooter. The barreled action was standard as far as I know. It is possible that some were made with a stainless barrel or more likely rebarreled at a later date. I have a couple of articles and advertisements for them in period magazines, they show a blued barrel of the heavy contour. I included a bit of information (although no pictures) in this article. This article remains unfinished two years after I got as far as I did. Unfortunately, I got a new job then with hours that simply ended the extensive research it requires if I was to keep any time available for reloading and shooting too!

There's a photo and a bit of information on the 40X International in the September 1960 issue of Guns Magazine in the article beginning at page 24.  Worth reading.

The figures on 40X International production levels that you saw were not written or researched by me. That sidebar in my 40XL article was inserted by the Accurate Shooter editor and came from another source that I have not verified. I don't have any reason to doubt those number, mind you, just no independent verification of them.  I'll assume this is the article to which you made reference.

Clint Dahsltrom, a great Canadian shooter of that era is a Phoenix winter resident and remains reasonably active in shooting at 84 or 85 years of age. He shot in the 1962 World Championship in Cairo and just last spring sold the rifle he used. It wasn't a 40X, but a 722 in a free rifle stock, chambered in 6mm International (photo above). He has answered many of my questions about that rifle and the match. Clint is a great friend and source for information. He has 40X (rimfire) serial number 55, I thought that was really something. Yesterday, another Canadian friend who also winters here mentioned that he has number 39! Remington must have shipped an early batch to Canada. These are regular 40X rimfires, of course, not the International model. I'm just a serial number watcher so these things interest me for no good reason.

I can't promise to find the pictures of the 40X International, it might be hours of work. But if this Sunday I find myself with some free time, I'll give it a go.

Best regards,


Hi Germán,

Thank you for your prompt and comprehensive reply, and the pic attached looks great too. I'm guessing that the little rail section on the pistol grip for a hand support was fitted later as I don't think these things weren't invented yet at the time the stock was made. I look forward to any further info as it comes to hand but don't put yourself out doing so.

Yes, Brisbane and the whole of SE Queensland copped a caning recently, so it's a shame your friends didn't see the place in its best light but good that they enjoyed themselves anyway. I'm in Sydney, about 500 miles south of Brisbane and we got some heavy-ish weather at the time which was related to the Brisbane storms, though nowhere near as intense.

My rifle, being a Dec 59 model (#7457), is a 722 based item, and is an original heavy barrelled "Rangemaster" or similar with the straight Marksman-style stock. I had the barrelled action bedded into my custom prone stock which previously contained my Anschütz 1411. I got the 40XR stock separately from the guy who bedded my rifle - he also bedded the standard rifle stock for another guy with a custom prone stock and light barrelled action, and the standard rifle stock was left over - so I bought it to use in the "5 year plan"...

The rifle I borrowed in Iowa had the swept back bolt so I'm guessing it was an XB if the bolt matched the receiver - I've only learned recently that these US Property / CMP rifles didn't always end up with their original matching bolts/rcvrs. The rifle you showed in the pic looks suspiciously like the stock I used on the borrowed rifle so I'm guessing it was a Freeland item - and belonging to the Rock Island Arsenal Junior Club, Freeland's (being in Rock Island) might even have finished / bedded the stock for the Club.

Thanks again for getting back to me.

Yours in Shooting,


Chris, here's an advertisement for the 40X Free Rifle from the February 1961 American Rifleman (p. 57).  I'll get a better image in a couple of days, right now I'm light limited.  Click to enlarge!

Arizona Long Range Championship 2010 - Part 2

Arizona Long Range Championship 2010 - Part 2
by Germán A. Salazar

The weekend of October 30 and 31, the Desert Sharpshooters Rifle Club held a Palma match and a 1000 yard match to help members get back into practice in long-range shooting.  These matches were an essential part of my preparations for the two state championship matches coming up and I was able to try a few things and find some areas that needed work.

The Palma Match
The Palma rifle and loads have been well worked out over the summer as I detailed in an earlier article.  Accordingly, my efforts were principally geared towards establishing good elevation and windage zero settings for the rifle and ensuring the load's performance at 1000 yards.  The load consists of the Berger 175 gr. match boat tail bullet, WCC 60 cases, PMC primers and H4895 powder at 2830 fps.

The 800 yard stage went well, with almost no wind and a score of 150-12X.  I was satisfied with that and as we moved to 900 yards, I had a good feeling about the day.  At 900, the wind picked up a bit and just as I broke my first record shot, it let off, taking me into the 9 ring.  Other than that shot, I was able to keep up reasonably well with the changes, and a 149-8X wasn't a terrible result.  After a nearly two hour stint in the pits, we were back on the firing line and facing a very different set of conditions.  By the time my relay fired, there were dust storms blowing across the range, frequently obscuring the targets!  Calls for marks were common as shooters missed the 6 foot wide target altogether; I was fortunate to keep all my shots within the 7 ring.  The score of 133-4X was certainly not impressive, but I was gratified that the load held very good elevation dispersion despite the raging wind. 

The Centra sight with the donut filter was fine throughout the day and the rest of the tubegun (Borden action, X-Treme trigger, Eliseo stock) likewise performed flawlessly.  There won't be any more opportunities to shoot a Palma match before the Arizona Palma Championship in early December, so I'm glad it got one good test.

The 1000 Yard Match
Sunday, October 31 was the 1000 yard match and my first chance to try the Berger 190 VLD's from the .30-06.  Along with trying those higher BC bullets, I also made a change to the front sight.  Having previously installed the 30mm Centra Goliath on the .308 rifle in order to try the donut filters, I wanted to follow suit with the .30-06.  Scott Riles, who makes the 22mm sights I normally use also makes a 30 mm version.  What I found especially interesting is that the 30mm will fit the same base as the 22mm so all I needed to do was buy the upper portion.  I am very pleased with the Centra sight, but I also like Scott's work and am glad to have one of each now.  I think both of these sights are top quality and you will be pleased with either one.

I've said before that getting a rifle set up just exactly as you want it, as you feel it has to be, is a tedious process.  The early stages are simple, and simply expensive: buying an action, a barrel, a stock, a trigger, sights, and other small parts.  The later stages are less costly in monetary terms, but they will cost you dearly in time and effort if they are to be done right and when I say "right", I really mean "perfect" because there is no other standard for a rifle that is meant to win in the competitive arena.  And so it is with this rifle project.

The front sight was the first detail in need of some extra attention.  In light of the fact that this has been my recent focus, I really want to get it exactly right.  The prototype donut filter I've been using leaves a small ring of light around the adjustable iris.  Although it isn't particularly distracting, I felt it would be better if there was no such ring.  With a bit of time, Art Neergaard could make a filter with a smaller hole, but it was Sunday morning and I was sitting on the 1000 yard firing line in Phoenix and Art was about 2000 miles away.  It occurred to me that since I use a 3.1mm aperture size at 1000 yards, that the 3.8mm fixed aperture which is made from the same material as the donut filter might be a perfect filter, having a slightly smaller hole than the actual filter.  If this worked, I would have a ring-free filter.  I installed the adjustable iris in the rear of the sight and the 3.8mm aperture in the front just as we were called to the line for the three minute preparation period.

The idea almost worked perfectly, but not quite.  Although we usually don't think about it, we are actually looking through our front sight at a slight angle - that's why I prefer to avoid hoods and shades on my sights.  What this means, in terms of this experiment, is that the ring on the aperture in the front of the sight did not appear to be perfectly aligned with the adjustable iris in the rear of the sight.  This created the appearance of an eccentric ring around the aperture itself and was very distracting.  I struggled to break the trigger because my mind couldn't accept that eccentric view as a good, well centered sight picture, making my trigger finger hesitate.  After losing four points in the first seven shots while falling behing a quickly changing wind, I removed the 3.8mm aperture/filter and finished the string with just the adjustable iris in place without dropping any additional points.  Shooting the Sierra 190 gr. MatchKings in that string, the score was 196-7X with all of the X's coming after the seventh shot when I made the change.  The Sierra bullets shot well, however the "quick fix" of using the 3.8mm aperture as a filter was a failure.  I'll ask Art for a true filter with a slightly smaller hole.

The next string was to be fired with the Berger 190 gr. VLD as a comparison to the Sierra.  I left the filter off for that string just to keep the sighting system roughly equivalent to the first string.  The wind was a bit stronger and I lost a few points here and there through the string, ending with a 196-11X.  I was very impressed with how tight the elevation dispersion was with the Bergers, and have decided not to experiment further with the charge weight as I had earlier planned.  I think this load is about as good a load as I have shot in the .30-06 at 1000 yards and am not going to change it any more before the match.  For the record, I was shooting 53.5 gr. H4350, Lapua brass, PMC primers, moly-coated Berger 190 VLD seated 0.010" into the lands (jammed), the MV is right at 2800 fps.  The Berger 190 VLD trial was successful, with a higher X count and reduced elevation dispersion over the Sierra.

The last string was simply going back to the Sierra bullets with the donut filter in place.  That confirmed that the sight picture is better with the filter.  The wind was well up by then and my score of 194-8X reflected the worsening conditions.  That's all right with me, I was satisfied with the testing and learned a few useful things.

My friends know I'm a real stickler for trigger tuning.  To me, the trigger is the visceral connection between shooter and rifle and it really must be perfect.  Shooting the two rifles on consecutive days made me aware of the slight differences in them.  The trigger on the .308 has a slightly shorter first-stage travel and that seems a bit better.  It's not minimal travel by any means, just a touch shorter than the one on the .30-06 which is at the maximum possible amount of travel.  Both are breaking cleanly on the second stage and the weight of pull is as equal as I can make them, so only the first stage travel needs attention at this time.

Both barrels are at about 750 rounds fired right now and have shown great accuracy.  Over the next two weeks we'll have 600 and 500 yard matches, then the Arizona Long Range Championship on the 20th and 21st of this month.  I think the .308 is in perfect shape right now, so I'll leave it alone and shoot these next two matches with the .30-06 just to make sure everything is as close to perfection as I can make it.  Once the long-range championship is over, I'll have two weeks to get ready for the Palma championship and will get back to the .308 at that time.  Stay tuned!

Reloading: Indexing Cases

Indexing Cases
by Germán A. Salazar

In my earlier articles about checking cases for case wall thickness variance using the NECO/Audette tool, I've mentioned that the cases are marked to indicate their thin side.  When shooting a match, I do my best to load the cartridge with the index mark pointing up so that on closing the bolt, the thin side will be backed up by a locking lug, minimizing the barrel whip caused when the case bends.  When the thin side is at the 3:00 or 9:00 position, the shot will tend to go out in that direction.  That relationship was well established by Creighton Audette and I have duplicated those tests to my satisfaction.

The question remains, however, as to how accurately the case actually remains in the 12:00 index position as the bolt is closed and rotated shut.  When I began using the tool, I set up a dummy cartridge with some tape on the bullet nose, ran a thin wood dowel through the barrel from the muzzle end, attached the end of the dowel to the dummy round and watched the dowel for rotation as the bolt was closed.  The result of that test was that it appeared that the cartridge did not rotate as the bolt was closed. 

That was an important result because it meant I could loosen my acceptance standard for wall thickness variance a bit.  If the case rotated and thus ended up somewhat randomly, I would have kept the selection criteria very tight, no more than 0.002" variance.  Having seen that the cartridge didn't rotate, however, I was able to set 0.003" as the rejection criteria for mid-range brass, although I stick to 0.002" maximum variance for long-range brass.

The other possibility for error in this procedure is the accuracy with which I actually insert the cartridge into the rifle during a match.  As much as I might want to put them all in perfectly aligned to 12:00, the simple truth is that I can't guarantee that.  I keep the rifle in my shoulder during loading and consequently, I can't see the case at the last moment of insertion through the loading port.  There is inevitably some imprecision in the process.

Last week, after shooting a mid-range match with my Palma rifle, I examined the brass.  I found a slight ejector mark on the majority of the cases.  This was very interesting because the ejector is exactly at the 12:00 position when the bolt is closed, so the ejector mark should ideally be right on the index mark if I put the cartridge in properly and it didn't rotate.

To give you a good look at the results, I made a small red mark at my best estimate of the center of the ejector mark on each case where I could see an ejector mark.  There was a bit of judgment as the ejector mark was often not very prominent and in some cases there was no mark at all.  The picture of the case heads can be enlarged by clicking.  I think you'll agree with me that while the process isn't perfect, the results are better than random insertion. 

Only a handful of cases ended up with the index mark 90 degrees from the ejector mark which is the worst condition.  Most were pretty close to 12:00 and were well within the support area of the locking lug.  With this confirmation that the insertion process reliably keeps the index mark at 12:00, I feel even more confident in the whole process.

Related Article:

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