February 2011 Cover Page

February 1940  
The Rifleman's Journal
A Collection of Articles Dealing with Rifle Accuracy Topics

Kay Woodring
Camp Perry - 1939

This Month:
Hap Rocketto - Hap's Corner
Ray Meketa - Origins of the .308 Winchester
Edward C. Crossman - Measuring the Stock
Germán Salazar - Reloading .308 for 1000 Yards

15 Cents 

History: Kay Woodring

Kay Woodring
by Hap Rocketto

Catherine P. “Kay” Woodring was the first woman to competed as a member of a United States shooting team in open UIT/ISSF competition .

She was the wife of William B. Woodring, one of the top USA smallbore rifle prone shooters, the only person to win three US National Prone Championships in a row, 1936, 37, and 38.

Woodring traveled with her husband to the 1937 Pershing Trophy match at Bisley, England. After the US lost to England the Woodrings, along with William P. Schweitzer, John B. Adams, and Dave Carlson traveled to Helsinki, Finland for the 1937 World Shooting Championships.

Entering the prone event, 40 shots at 50 meters, the team won and Kay Woodring, who had only been shooting for a year, posted a 392x400.

Bill Woodring was an employee of Winchester/ Western and used a 52 and Western ammunition. However, Mrs. Woodring shot a Ballard with, one might suspect, Western ammunition.

Mrs. Woodring’s accomplishment was recognized with the award of the United States Distinguished International Shooter Badge number 60. 

Equipment: CG X-Treme Trigger Troubleshooting

CG X-Treme Trigger Troubleshooting
by Germán A. Salazar

Before anyone gets the wrong idea, let me state two things:
1. I think the CG X-Treme trigger is the best trigger available for Highpower shooting, bar none.
2. The specific problem I'm referring to in this article is unique to the early Model 21 which has been superseded by the Model 22.

I have five CG X-Treme two-stage triggers in use on my rifles, all of them are the Model 21. Two of the five have not reliably held their adjustment, a bit of creep seeming to always develop. Another Model 21 on a friend's rifle displayed the same problem. In a recent match, the problem on my rifle reached the level that the trigger wouldn't hold the firing pin on cocking; a bit of adjustment got it to where it would hold the firing pin, but there was no first stage. My friend's trigger developed an intermittent tendency to not release when pulled but then suddenly release when pressure was released. Both of these are serious safety problems that need to be addressed and I am writing this piece because the fix is relatively simple, but it took some time to actually identify the source of the problem. Hopefully, if you are experiencing similar problems with a Model 21 this will get you back on track.

Here is the source of the problem: the upper part of the housing is held to the lower half with two hidden screws. Those screws can loosen, causing the two halves of the housing to separate, affecting the sear engagement as you will soon see. The currently manufactured Model 22 uses a one-piece housing.

Reference to parts by name or number is keyed to the instruction sheet available here. You may want to open that in a separate tab for reference. As you can see, the 3rd lever (#18) hangs down from the upper housing where it is held in place by the pin at the upper left. This lever engages the 2nd lever (#16) which is located in the lower housing. If the screws are loose and the housings begin to separate, even a few thousandths of an inch, sear engagement is affected negatively and you'll be chasing the adjustments constantly.

You do NOT need to do this to fix the problem and I really discourage you from disassembling the trigger to this degree unless you are already very familiar with trigger operation in general and this trigger in particular. Note the two attachment screws coming down from the upper housing - these are the ones in which we're interested.
By simply removing the trigger from the rifle, you can access the back screw by lifting the 4th lever (#3). Run it out, apply a very small amount of blue Loctite and re-install it. The front screw is not easy to remove, though it can be done with some patience. If you've disassembled this far, you can apply the Loctite to the threads. If you have not disassembled this far, just make sure the screws are tight and that will be fine.  

While I had the trigger apart, I decided to clean up the machining marks on the 2nd lever just a bit. This lever needs to have very free movement to ensure that the sear re-engages fully if you release the trigger without firing. I haven't had any problems in that area, but a bit of extra attention here doesn't hurt. I stoned both sides of the lever with three stones: 1. Norton Medium India Oilstone, 2. Medium Fine ceramic stone, and 3. Extra Fine ceramic stone. All of these are available from Brownell's. I did not stone the sear engagement surfaces on either lever because they are fine and I don't want to take any chances on altering the angles. This is a critical safety area, not one to enter into lightly.

The reassembled trigger. If you disassemble it all the way, make awfully sure you reassemble to the halves with no gap, that's not as easy on some units as on others. I've done three of them, two were easy, one was a real struggle.

This view shows the effect of the stoning on the 2nd lever. Please remember that this had nothing to do with the loose screw problem and is by no means necessary.

All that's left is a little clean-up and then readjusting the trigger. I hope this will be helpful to any of you experiencing a similar problem.

Cartridges: .30-06 Update

.30-06 Update
by Germán A. Salazar
I know that a lot of you share my passion for keeping the .30-06 alive as an accuracy cartridge; hopefully some of the things I've been doing recently will be of interest to you. As always, my application is NRA Highpower prone matches, iron sights, at 300, 500, 600 and 1000 yards and the loads and equipment at intended for that use.

One of the great virtues of the .30-06 is its flexibility; that is, the ability to accurately shoot a variety of bullet weights across a fairly broad range of muzzle velocities. In some situations - 1000 yard shooting for instance - the best choice is a heavy bullet at a relatively high muzzle velocity. Mid-range matches (300 to 600 yards) by contrast, can be effectively fired with a lighter load, something similar to the old Lake City M72 match load. And, of course, there's always the choice of having a single "do everything" load, which will necessarily be biased toward the heavier load in order to be effective at long-range.

For several years, my "do everything" load has been a moly-coated 190 Sierra Match King at approximately 2800 fps using H4350 in a 28" barrel. With most brass types, such as Winchester, Lapua or Lake City, this requires about 53.5 gr. of H4350 (less with bare bullets). The load performs very well at all distances, but is a bit heavier than you really need at the shorter distances and there might be some room for improvement for long-range. Accordingly, I've been working on two newer loads, one tailored to long-range and the other for the occasional 300 yard match and sometimes at 500 yards.

The Mid-Range Loads
The light load isn't anything very original. As I mentioned above, it is closely related to the M72 match load. As most of you know, M72 featured the military match 173 gr. FMJ bullet at a nominal muzzle velocity of 2640 fps in a 24" barrel although it tends to chrono right at 2800 in my 28" barrels. Part of the difference results from the military arsenals' protocol of measuring velocity 78 feet from the muzzle whereas most reloaders measure velocity 10 feet from the muzzle. If you're not very familiar with National Match ammunition, Ray Meketa's excellent article on the topic on its history is worth reading. The exact load for the NM ammo varied over the years, principally as powder lots varied, but was usually in the range of 47 to 48 grains of IMR 4895.

The first use for my version of the NM load was for the 2010 Arizona Mid-Range State Championship. That match is fired from 600, 500 and 300 yards, and I wanted a light load for the 300 yard stage at the end of the day. A day at the range with the chrono led me to a nice, mild load with the 155.5 gr. Berger at 2830 fps from a 28" barrel using 48.5 gr. of a surplus lot of 4895. The exact charge for loads with commercial 4895 will differ a bit, just look for an MV in the low 2800 fps range for a mild, accurate load. My load worked out very nicely, with 300 yard scores of 150-6X on the first day and 150-10X winning that stage on the second day of the event.

After that match, I was sufficiently satisfied with the new light load that a little further experimentation seemed worthwhile. When a 500 count box of Sierra 168 gr. Match King bullets came along at a good price from a fellow club member, it was the obvious next step. With no range availability for the chrono session, I cut the load down to 47.0 gr. in deference to the heavier 168 gr. bullet and its 0.370" bearing surface compared to the 155.5 Berger's 0.265" bearing surface. I estimate the MV of this load to be about 2750 fps but haven't checked it yet. A quick 10 shot test at 500 yards was promising, so I shot the load in two matches under relatively mild conditions.

The first match on Nov. 13, 2010 resulted in a score of 599-41X (199-12X, 200-14X, 200-15X). The second match with the load, on December 12, 2010 ended up at 598-44X (199-14X, 199-15X, 200-15X);not too shabby, and both scores were match winners. When I see the X count get over 40X, there's no doubt in my mind that the load is working. The only question was: how will perform in windier conditions?

On February 12, 2011, I shot the load again, this time with plenty of wind. I was ready to crank on the windage knob and I wasn't disappointed! During the course of the match I found myself working in a 4 moa range on the windage knob - at one point making a 3 moa change from one shot to the next to put those two shots in the same spot in the 10 ring! At the end of the day, my score of 597-34X (198-11X, 200-13X, 199-10X) was second to Mid Tompkins shooting a .243 (599-37X) - not disappointing at all. Nonetheless, the 168 is at its best at 300 yards or a calm day at 500 yards, especially with this light load. As I said, not a super original load, by any means, but once again proving the wisdom of those who came before us.

The Long-Range Loads
A specialized load for 1000 yard shooting with the .30-06 might seem a bit redundant in light of the good performance at that distance of my standard load. However, Berger's high BC 210 gr. bullets made this an interesting project. This project, in fact, is far from finalized, but I'll give you a bit of background on it and where it stands right now.

A couple of years ago, when Bob Jensen and I were pressure testing some .30-06 loads, we found that using H4831sc with the 200 and 210 grain bullets, we were unable to reach SAMMI maximum pressure. There simply wasn't enough case capacity in the Winchester, Lapua and Lake City brass we were using and we reached the point of noticeable powder crunching at about 8,000 psi below maximum allowable pressure. We switched to H4350, which is really more suited to the .30-06 case and had no problems reaching SAMMI maximum, then we worked down from there to find our accurate load. That is my usual method for developing a load when using the pressure testing equipment: find instrumented max pressure and work down - that avoids the problem of going past maximum.
Norma .30-06

That should have been the end of the load development project for the 200 gr. and 210 gr. bullets, but it wasn't. As it turns out, those mild H4831sc loads, just happened to shoot exceptionally well at mid-range and left me curious about the powder's potential for long-range. The MV of the full-charge yet reduced pressure load with the 210 Berger is 2600 fps, whereas the H4350 load achieved 2700 fps; that leaves a remaining velocity at 1000 yards of 1.299 mach and 1.366 mach respectively. Either will do fine at 1000 yards as they are safely above the 1.2 mach "magic number." My interest in increasing the charge has more to do with testing for accuracy than in increasing MV for its own sake.

Winchester .30-06
With the goal of modestly increasing the powder charge to get a bit closer to the pressure range at which I normally find good accuracy, I began a long project of weighing and checking the case capacity of just about every type of .30-06 brass I could get my hands on. The four that are shown here, Norma, Winchester, Lake City and Lapua, are the most easily found makes of good quality brass. I found some heavier types, such are Remington and Federal that were close to 200 gr., and many more in between the weights shown.

With all this data in hand, I decided to focus on the Norma brass for long-range load development with H4831sc and the 200 gr. and 210 gr. bullets.

The Norma brass, which weighs approximately 176 gr., allows the use of approximately 2 gr. more powder than I previously used before the powder crunching becomes excessive (by my subjective standards of "excessive"). Of course, because the case has more internal capacity, the effect of this additional powder is not as great as if two grains of powder were added to the previously used, lower capacity case. Nonetheless, I think this brass will be useful in my experimentation.
Lake City 62 Match

Despite having one of the country's great 1000 yard ranges within a few miles of home, my opportunities for 1000 yard shooting are actually quite limited. Our club has only a dozen or so days scheduled on that range and these are largely compressed into a three month time frame in the Fall. Accordingly, much of my testing and load development takes place at 500 yards and 600 yards as those matches are held with far greater frequency.

In November of 2010, I fired the Arizona Long Range State Championship matches (two days at 1000 yards) with my standard load of 53.5 gr. of H4350 and the Sierra 190 Match King at 2800 fps. This was before I had the Norma brass and those two matches provide a good baseline for further testing.  In the first match, I shot a 585-21X (196-06, 198-08, 191-07) followed by a rain shortened 388-13 the second day (198-07, 190-06) for a total of 973-34X. Conditions were cold and windy with rain increasing until the last stage of the match had to be cancelled. Although not ideal conditions for a baseline test, conditions are often unpredictable at 1000 yards and five strings of fire gives a good idea of the load's capabilities.

Lapua .30-06
The next 1000 yard match on the schedule was January 23; I loaded the Norma brass with 56.5 gr., 57.0 gr. and 57.5 gr. of H4831sc and the 210 Berger BT. The top load is 1.0 gr. above my previous load with the Lapua brass and I expected it to be about equal in pressure and velocity to that load. If the load performed well, with no signs of excessive pressure, I planned to increase incrementally from there at the next session

Unfortunately, the wind on the 23rd was so strong that the match was cancelled as it was impossible to manipulate the targets into the frames and dust storms were blowing down the range. A few hours later, when the wind was down to 25 mph or so, a handful of us managed to shoot a string for practice. With the 57.5 gr.load, I shot a 195-10X which left me very encouraged as the 210 Berger held good windage and the load showed minimal elevation dispersion.

With the 1000 yard matches almost done for the season, I next tried the combination at a 600 yard match. Owing to the limited supply of the 210 Bergers on hand, I loaded the Norma brass with 57.5 gr. of H4831sc and the 200 gr. Sierra Match King. The Sierra 200 has a bearing surface of approximately 0.480", essentially the same as the 0.481" bearing surface of the Berger 210 BT (see, Litz, Applied Ballistics for Long Range Shooting, 2009, p. 469). Bearing surface is an important determinant of pressure; drawing on the data from the earlier pressure tests, I was aware that the load would generate very similar pressure with either of these two bullets. The lower BC of the Sierra was not an important factor for a 600 yard match and I was principally interested in pressure and elevation dispersion.

Norma .30-06 Fired with 57.5 gr. H4831sc, moly-coated 200 gr. Sierra
The 600 yard match proved to be a good test of the load under relatively calm conditions. A total score of 597-37X (199-13, 199-14, 199-10) showed excellent performance and no signs of excessive pressure as shown in the photo of the fired cases. In each stage I managed to shoot one high shot when my follow-through was less than perfect, but overall I was very pleased with the load's performance.

I won't have another opportunity to shoot 1000 yards until late April when Phoenix's notorious spring winds will be in full force. I'm hopeful that the 210 Berger will be a good choice then. In the meantime, I plan to test a slight increase in the load at some of our mid-range matches. This is an interesting and promising project, but it's far from complete at this point.

Cartridges: Long Range Reloading Safety - .308 and Others

Long-Range Reloading Safety - .308 and Others
by Germán A. Salazar

This article is Part 5 of our series on reloading the .308 cartridge for the Palma course and other long-range matches. In Part 1, we discussed various bullet choices and the sometimes tedious process of real-life load testing with its inherent limitations. In Part 2 we introduced the basic problem with the .308 at 1000 yards - keeping it above 1.2 mach - and covered my thoughts on component selection and brass preparation for the .308. Part 3 of the series cautioned against simply copying another shooter's load, presented the techniques for determining the minimum MV necessary to remain above 1.2 mach, and showed range reloading as a useful method of reaching that MV safely. In Part 4 we focused on pressure factors by showing the dramatic range of case capacity in .308 brass of different makes and also demonstrating the capacity differences caused by changes in throat length and resultant seating depth variances. If you haven't read the first four articles in the series, I urge you to do so as they provide the background for this final installment. 

As we have seen, the .308's limited case capacity for its bore size presents some special problems for the handloader seeking safe, accurate, reliable ammunition for use at 1000 yards. Frankly, it's a poor choice for that application, but in many instances we are required to use it, so we must find a way to make it work - and work safely. Handloads with excessive pressure are an all too common danger on the range; not only do they present a danger to the shooter, but also to the shooter lying next to him and to the host club. We should all be a vigilant for and intolerant of shooters with loads that are constantly blowing primers, having to pound their bolts open, blowing up bullets and other indications of unsafe loads.  Their irresponsible practices could seriously injure you and cost your club its financial future. The information presented in this series, as well as some common sense, should keep you from those troubles when loading a marginal cartridge such as the long-range .308. Unsafe loading practices aren't limited to the .308, of course, and it is frustrating to see so much of it on the range these days - it is a senseless danger to our sport.

Incomplete Information
Take a good look at these two Remington bolts. The one on the right, from one of my rifles, has seen about 50,000 rounds, over a dozen barrels in various cartridges (most in .308) and has never been touched other than regular cleaning. The one on the left, from a friend's rifle, was fired about 3,000 rounds of .308, many of these loads excessive pressure; the final one wildly excessive, causing much of the damage shown. Note the burn marks from blown primers, the missing ejector plunger, the mangled case head recess, the torn extractor - think this couldn't happen to you?

How did this event occur?  Simple - the shooter heard another shooter say that his Palma load was XX grains of YY powder with a ZZ gr. bullet.  He didn't get much more in the way of details and decided to copy the load. Unfortunately, he used brass with a lower case capacity (Lapua instead of Winchester), bullets with a longer bearing surface (Sierra instead of Berger) and a chamber with a shorter throat.  All of these pressure factors worked against him (just as we reviewed in Part 4).  There were warnings, as the load blew primers right from the start, but he didn't heed them.

The shooter of the rifle in question is a very lucky fellow. He is lucky to have escaped injury when the rifle finally said "enough." A good deal of that luck comes from the fact that he was shooting a tubegun with the action glued-in to the center sleeve. The sleeved action was less likely to rupture, and the tubegun design kept his face was well above all the high-pressure gas that vented out not only on the final shot, but on many of the preceding ones that should have warned him to quit. I said lucky, not smart... And yet, this shooter really is a smart person in his personal and professional life - he simply failed to apply a bit more of that intelligence as well as some common sense to his reloading.
Pressure Signs
I've been very fortunate to have access to an Oehler 43 system to measure pressure in handloads and I have truly learned vast amounts from its use. The main thing I've learned is that up to about the SAAMI maximum pressure of 60,000 psi for most modern cartridges, including the .308, you usually won't see any pressure signs such as ejector marks on brass, hard bolt lift (assuming proper case resizing) or flattened primers. Once you begin to see those signs, it's really time to back the load down.

Look at these three case heads (click to enlarge). The one on the left shows a slight ejector mark and that's a good warning to back the load down a bit. The middle one has a heavier ejector mark and also an extractor mark from the Sako type extractor, this one really needs to go down. The third one is the remnant of the last case fired with the damaged bolt shown above; based on my pressure testing experience, I have to say that there is no way that load was under 100,000 psi - yes, he was lucky indeed. You might not be so lucky.

Careless Assumption
How do you like this one? This is what's left of the breech end of the barrel of that used to be on a fine custom action. Actually, the action's tremendous strength and good gas handling design saved this shooter from serious injury, but he was very shaken up. Although the manufacturer was able to remove the barrel (with extensive damage to the action threads), the bolt never opened again and the action had to be scrapped. Care to guess at the pressure? This happened to a very experienced reloader who had a moment of carelessness and used a mislabeled powder. It didn't look right, he told me, but the label was right so he assumed...

It's the Brass
What's especially instructive here is the very visible mode of failure - the cartridge case blew out at the extractor. Every action leaves some portion of the case unsupported, otherwise it would be impossible for an extractor to snap over the rim. The Remington 700 design is about as good as it gets as long as the original extractor is used; all others leave even more unsupported area. And this, you see, is ultimately the real problem with excessive pressure loads - it doesn't matter how thick your action is or how big the bolt is, it is that thin sliver of unsupported brass that will yield and put 60,000 psi, or more, of hot gas into your face. It's the brass, and you can't do anything about it! That's why the SAAMI limit is not dependent on the specific action - it's the brass.

I mentioned above that even a slight ejector mark is a warning that you are into an excessive pressure situation.  I hope that you now begin to understand why that is so. An ejector mark, or a sticky bolt lift, is a sign that the brass is deforming past its elastic limit; it is now approaching failure.

Beat On It Till It Breaks
Another shooter in our area recently had the whole firing pin assembly on his rifle exit the bolt rearward and smash into his face. That required hospitalization and I would not class the injury as minor. He was shooting a .223 bolt action rifle and frequently blowing primers. Each time a primer blows, the firing pin acts like a projectile driven rearward by the gas until it slams into the shroud or cocking piece with huge force. Eventually, the retaining mechanism yielded and the whole firing pin assembly became the projectile and our friend's face the target.

Do It Right
At left is a set of fired cases from my Palma rifle. They've been fired 10 times with a Berger 175 at an MV that retains 1.263 mach at the target from 1000 yards. Notice that there are no ejector marks, no extractor marks, the primers have a nice edge radius and there is no cratering on the primers. There's no magic to this, just careful reloading practices following the concepts presented in this series. I really enjoy match shooting, but I enjoy going home after the match instead of to the hospital even more.

If you read through the articles in this series and many of the others on this site, you'll also discover a very fundamental truth about ballistics: once you have selected the cartridge case and the bullet, there is really no practical gain in wind drift from a load with excessive pressure.  You are simply increasing both the danger level and the expected group size. That last point is worth dwelling on for a moment - once a load passes a certain point, reliable accuracy diminishes and that point is usually well below maximum pressure. I'm often asked how I get such high X counts from the .30-06 (usually 36X to 44X for a 60 shot iron sight mid-range match). The answer is that it takes a moderate load, a reliably accurate bullet and perfect wind reading and shot execution. Every time I try increasing the load a bit, I see the X count drop. The .308 is exactly the same, although we have to get a bit closer to maximum pressure when loading it for long-range shooting to make the magic number.

A Bit of Philosophy
Are you a Rifleman? I've been involved in competitive shooting for 40 years and all that time, as an NRA member, I've received the American Rifleman every month. The word "Rifleman" captured my imagination as a boy and it captures the essence of why I shoot: I want to be a master of the art, the craft, the science of rifle shooting. At long-range, being a Rifleman requires being a master wind-reader; that's precisely why I avoid the big barrel-burning cartridges. I measure my success or failure by how well I measure up to the challenge presented by the wind, not by how little wind drift I was able to build into a cartridge. That's also the reason I don't shoot with a scope in any-sight matches; as I see it, the scope eliminates one of the more significant challenges that Riflemen have historically faced. How interesting is a boxing match between a heavyweight and a welterweight? Not very interesting. I want a fair fight with the wind, I want to push myself physically and mentally, I want to see what I can accomplish as a Rifleman. The rifle and the load are simply the tools with which I test myself and I don't want them to mask my failure or to take the credit for my success.

History: Measuring Your Gun Stock

Ned Crossman was one of the great gun writers of the early 20th Century; his work appeared in many outdoor oriented publications. Most of you, of course, are familiar with his classic books The Book of the Springfield and Military and Sporting Rifle Shooting.  This article appeared in The Outing Magazine, a popular outdoors periodical just 100 years ago, in 1911.  Although not specifically a rifle accuracy article, we trust you'll enjoy this work by Crossman.  - GAS -

by Edward C. Crossman

If your rifle stock does not fit you, discomfort is about the only evil result. You'll have to crane up your shoulder and screw down your neck to get the sights aligned. Maybe you'll be kicked in the nose into the bargain, while steady holding is made difficult by your strained muscles. But as long as you get that ivory front in its proper position, both in the aperture of the rear and on the hide of the quarry, you'll land the meat.

If your shotgun stock does not fit you, birds will escape that you'd swear by the beard of your grandfather were in the center of the pattern. The butt will catch in your clothes as you bring it to your shoulder, or maybe the comb will try to tear off your cheek-bone or possibly upper-cut you in the jaw. Also a hard, unyielding thumb may endeavor to level off your face, starting in with your nose as the most prominent obstruction.

A rifleman is pretty certain of a hit when a front sight is there or thereabouts in its proper relation to target and rear sight. Also when he gets misses he usually knows the why and the wherefore.

The shotgun shooter has no front or rear sight. Likewise when he misses, the reason thereof and the striking point of the charge usually remain a dark mystery. Of all shooting experiences, the most discouraging is the inability of the shotgun user to find out why he isn't hitting those ever-condemned flying objects rising before him.

We are told that the average man can shoot well enough with the average gun. Maybe it is true, but the average man never existed, while even the standard guns of various makers are enough different to throw a shooter off his form should he change from one to another.

There is no reason why you should not shoot better with a stock made for you than with one made for a party six inches taller and of Flatiron instead of Capitol building architecture. The difficulty that blocks the way between the purchaser and a proper fit is that while a tailor, with his little tape and his politic "B. L." for bowlegs, can call off the proper figures for a well fitting suit for you, the gun-maker has no such easy time of it. Even at his factory he cannot take one glance at you and scribble down the figure for the gun that can't miss 'em. English gun-makers use try guns, affairs with adjustable stocks for all dimensions; running artificial rabbits, clay pigeons thrown across steel plates, and other devices for getting a line on your capers.

You can take it as a truth that if your style with the shotgun is fixed, the gum should be made to suit that style. Remaking the man himself is a rather difficult task. Therefore, watch yourself, learn your individual quirks and get that gun made accordingly.

When a gun-maker describes a stock he calls the rear end the butt. The upper end of this butt, as the gun is held at the shoulder, is the heel, or the bump as our English friends sometimes have it. The other end of the butt is the toe. The thin raised part of the wood, just to the rear of the portion gripped by the right hand, is the comb. The grip or hand is that part running from the comb to the frame of the gun.

In the distance these parts lie from one another and from the frame of the gun lies the difference between comfort and misery when using the weapon; between hitting 'em with pleasing regularity and regarding the gun with morose suspicion that stops just short of smoothing down a stump with it.

In ordering, or selecting from stock, a gun for field shooting, a common error is in getting too long a stock, basing the selection on the fact that the gun throws up pretty well at the store, when you are feeling fresh and not flustered by the sudden appearance of a winged bomb-shell from below your feet.

If you are a beginner and your style is not fixed, don't try to select a stock until you make up your mind where you are going to hold your left hand. Yes, that's right, your left hand. As long as you keep shifting the hold of this left hand, out on the barrels, you cannot hope to get a stock length that is right. To prove this, pick up a gun, run your left hand well out the barrels, almost to the full extent of the arm, then pitch the gun to the shoulder several times. Regrip the gun, this time with the left hand gripping the fore-end to the hinge. Again try pitching the gun to the shoulder and note the difference in the apparent stock-length.

The average man, that non-existent individual who must be called upon in an article addressed to more than one shooter, can shoot comfortably with the hand grasping the barrels so that the forward end of the fore-end just gets into the palm. Variations from this distance depend upon the build of the shooter. But whatever point you select, stick to it unless you have to shoot a strange gun. It is convenient to remember, if you are compelled to use a strange gun or lose some good shooting, that running the hand farther out the barrels partly neutralizes the evils of too short a stock, while too long a stock can apparently be shortened by moving the hand the other way.

Laying down fixed rules for stock measurements is impossible. Only hints as to the approximate stock for your build can be given.

A heavy gun feels longer in the stock than does a light one. You can shoot a six-pound twenty gauge with a stock a quarter of an inch longer than your standard, without feeling the difference. Conversely an ultra heavy twelve seems to add large fractions of an inch to the stock along with its increased weight. A heavy gun in the hands of a tired man will come up clumsily and feel yards too long in the stock, when in the morning it leaped to the shoulder like a twenty gauge featherweight.
It is well to keep this in mind. It is as deceiving as putting up a lunch for the trip, with your stomach satisfied with a hearty breakfast. You rarely put in enough under these circumstances; you cannot see ahead and realize how you'll feel five hours later. Nor do you when selecting a gun.

The man about five feet nine inches high, of normal build and arm length can usually shoot a fourteen-inch stock. Any change should usually be on the short side if the gun is for field shooting. Keep in mind the fact that the gun must leap to the shoulder without catching on the clothes and must strike its proper position the first instant it gets to the shoulder. A stock too long has a pleasant habit of sliding out on the arm in such circumstances. The resulting arm is not pretty the next day, nor does the shooter have to wait that long to discover his error.

Trap-shooters use longer stocks than the ordinary field hunters. Some of them tell you that guns for trap-shooting and for field shooting should not be the same in stock measurement. Others aver that changing guns is equivalent to throwing away all the advantage of the practice at the flying clays. It is safe to say that unless you contemplate going in unusually hard for the clay bird business, you had better get a stock to suit you for the field and stick to it, regardless of the targets on which it may later be trained.

Until our birds are gone; until we find something more pleasurable than pulverizing asphalt discs with leaden pellets, the question of proper stock drop will remain unsettled. There are two distinct schools of stock drop advocates. Both sets get their birds, and both sets marvel that the other fellows get enough meat on the wing to make a pan smell, attributing any luck on the part of the other school to the fact that the pattern of the shotgun makes up for many errors at its butt.

One set of cranks swear by the shade of Hip Li, who invented gunpowder, that the shotgun stock should be crooked enough to bring the rib before the eye without any movement on the part of the head. Then they go out and blow Bob-Whites into pan-fries to prove their point.

The gentlemen on the other side of the controversy aver firmly that the shotgun of the sane man should have the bend the wrong way—with the heel higher than the top rib. That the head should be about one inch below the collar button when the gun is held properly. You can find examples of the latter class at any trap shoot. Of the two schools the straight stock advocates have the best of it, although the truth lies between the battling forces, not on either side.

Three out of four birds, missed through vertical errors, are undershot. They are usually rising, while shot drops a little, even over forty or fifty yards. A common error on the part of the beginner is to think that the eye should be so held that the line of sight passes up the rib, close to and parallel with it, as in sighting a rifle. To get the eye down so this can be done would require considerable stock drop or considerable bending of the neck.

If the head is held so the line of sight starts from some distance above the rib and it and the barrels gradually converge, the effect is that of taking more elevation on the rear sight of a rifle. The bead may be put on an object, but the muzzles really point above it. Properly held, the muzzles rise to a point just under the target, while the shot line passes slightly above it. The breech end of die barrels should not intrude themselves into the field of vision, the thing to see is the bird.

A shotgun is not aimed, it is pointed with the two hands, as Mr. Askins truthfully says. You point the gun much as you "point" your fist in delivering a left jab or as you "point" the brick with which you knock that thrice-blessed cat off the alley fence. If you do this, and the stock fits you as regards drop, the gun points right without further effort and your misses come from lateral errors, not those of elevation.

Drop is measured at the comb and at the heel. The drop at the comb determines the place the stock will touch your face, whether high up on the cheek or low down on the jaw or between. Too much drop at the comb drops the wood too far down on the face and you sometimes "jaw" instead of cheek the gun. The effect is as though you stopped a series of snappy uppercuts with that portion of your face. Not enough drop here puts the comb high up on your face and at times pounds the cheekbone in extreme cases. An inch and a half is an ordinary drop at this point.

When it comes to the drop at the heel —the butt—of the gun, English and American sportsmen do not agree. The standard English stock has but two inches drop at the heel. A drop of half an inch more than this is still considered straight in the United States, while two and three-quarter inches is common enough.

Probably the stock to suit the great number of men would measure one and one-half inches at the comb and two and five-eighths inches at the heel. If an error is to creep in, better have it on the straight side. Before deciding, try all the guns you can get hold of, try them by actually firing them, not merely throwing them to the shoulder. If there is any error in the comb drop, it will show in a few shots.

It not infrequently happens that the man with a stock that fits properly as regards length, drop at comb, and drop at heel keeps making inexplicable misses, even on easy straightaways. Sooner or later the trouble will be explained when he sees his shot charge rip through a tree or bush to one side of the quarry.

If you throw your gun to your shoulder and barely touch the stock with your cheek, you will find that you are aiming from the left edge of the rib, down to the bead and then to the target. In actual shooting you don't see the rib, but this is where your line of sight passes nevertheless.

Now if you press the face tightly against the wood you can easily aim from the right side of the rib, over to the center and then to the target. In the first case you would miss the bird to the left, in the second the shot would go to the right of him. The effect is precisely as though you moved a rifle sight to one side or the other. The shotgun rear sight is the pressure of the cheek against the wood. If, in your favorite shooting position, the line of sight does not pass down the center of the rib, the gun must be changed until the line of sight does go right.

In England, the gun-makers have three distinct and important stock measurements. They are the length, the drop, and the cast-off. The third one of the measurements is rarely used in America, but is important nevertheless.

A broad-shouldered and full-faced man almost invariably shoots to one side of his birds, even though he scores a fair proportion of hits. His heavy cheeks and broad shoulders keep his eye from the center of the barrels and he kills his birds with the right edge of his pattern, if he hits them at all. Regardless of their build, most men need a cast-off— a bending of the stock away from the face, so that when the face is brought against the wood, the eye is opposite the center of the barrels.

The standard English measurement for castoff is one-quarter inch at the toe and one-eighth inch at the heel—always away from the shooter except in special cases. Supposing you put your cheek against the wood of the stock and find the line of sight passing to the left of the rib center; now, if you held it there and somebody bent the whole stock outward—away from your face—when you again cheeked the wood, the eye would have been moved slightly to the right— and in line with the center of the rib.

Rarely it happens that a very thin faced man who presses his face hard against the stock, gets his eye to the right of the rib. The remedy here is a cast-on—the stock bent over to the left— or a fuller comb to keep the face from getting so far over.

To try your own style of shooting, paint a picture of your favorite bird, life size, stick it up at forty yards and fire a dozen shots at it with white paper to show the pellet strike. If you shoot persistently to one side or the other, using your quick, snappy field style, and not a pose, a change is indicated. It may result in a little thinner stock, in a thicker one, in a cast-off or, improbably, in a cast-on.

The details of the stock make much difference in the pleasure with which it is used. In the grip particularly many makers are prone to err. It should be proportioned to your own hand as a glove is fitted. If you have a ham for a hand, you don't want a four and one eighth inch grip. If your hand is the envy of the ladies of your family, you'll be wise to pass up the five-inch variety. It should be oval in shape and checked with sharp diamond checking, not the flat-topped variety that does not assist in holding. The pistol grip, when all is said and done, is the most satisfactory for the field, aiding as it does the grip and control of the gun.

The butt plate may be of vulcanite composition, of horn, or a handsome skeleton steel affair, found on some high grade guns. A heavy set, full-chested man can use a butt plate more hollowed out between the heel and the toe than the flat-shouldered brother shoots. A long toe keeps the gun from sliding up too high on your shoulder when the gun is hurriedly pitched to place.

In general keep in mind the fact that a straight stock is more racy looking than the crooked variety and is safer in case you are not sure; that more guns are padded up to rectify errors in too great a drop than are bent more crooked; and that if you have changes made in your stock, make them very slight. Sawing off one-quarter inch from your stock makes more difference than you would believe a full inch would do.

For a lady the gun should have at least one-quarter inch cast off at the toe, should be shorter stocked, lighter in weight, and should have a grip rarely larger than four and one-eighth inches in circumference.

The rifle stock is not governed by the rules of the proper scattergun affair. The eye must be down to the line of sights, which are in turn in line with and close to the barrel. You cannot put any muscles on a strain and hold well, you must be comfortable and poised easily. Therefore more drop is called for, while usually a shorter stock is indicated. Don't forget, also, that you may use that rifle where it is cold and you are wearing several shirts and a sweater, which make a long stock almost unusable.

There should be a full pistol grip—a real one, not that wart of wood that sometimes masquerades under the name. It is to support the hand, to help the grip while the trigger finger is left free. Therefore, see that it is not more than four inches from grip point to center of trigger. The grip should be a trifle larger around as you have but one trigger to pull, and besides the rifle must take more grief at times.

The grip and fore-stock should be checked. A slip in the presence of game might cost you a shot for which you had come a thousand miles.

The butt should be of the shotgun shape, of steel and checked to prevent its slipping. Never take a rifle butt plate; it is an abortion and a relic of the days of the Kentucky rifle with its slight recoil. Avoid the rubber or vulcanite plates that go to pieces if you have to use the rifle as an alpenstock to head off an incipient slide.

Don't, if you can help it, take a gun with stock smeared over with varnish. It is a cheap and eminently unsatisfactory way to finish a stock. If you have to take this finish, get some varnish remover from a paint store and remove the factory finish. Get them to make up a little filler for you of putty, burnt sienna, and oil, fill the wood, and then apply linseed oil with constant rubbing after the filler dries. The oil finish does not show every scratch like varnish and improves with age in its dull lustre and richness of grain.

Get the gun to suit you if you can possibly afford it. Better one of them every ten years than a poor one every year or so. But when you write the maker of the gun of your choice, don't merely enclose the price and the information that you are thirty years old, a brunette, of good habits, a Methodist, a Democrat of thirty years standing, and a total abstainer. That isn't what he wants to know.

Good Stuff: 21st Century Neck Turner

21st Century Neck Turner
by Germán A. Salazar

A new neck turning tool with easy adjustments, super high quality of manufacturing and an ergonomic design sounds like a good thing to me. If you also like good tools and like to keep up with developments in the field, read on (all pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them).

I recently received the new neck turning tool made by John at 21st Century Shooting, Inc. I always enjoy seeing John's work because he really has a good grasp on how a tool should be designed to work effectively and this tool certainly fits that mold. The basic requirements of a good neck turner are: (i) accurate adjustments, (ii) good blade design, (iii) ergonomic design and (iv) a well thought-out system of ancillary items. Let's look at each of those areas and give the tool a test drive.

The tool has a unique dial adjustment for the depth of the cut which makes small adjustments simple and fast. Each full number represents 0.001" of cutter movement, and the fine lines in between  let you zero in on the exact neck wall thickness that you need. The dial is simply turned in until the desired neck thickness is reached. If you go too far, it's best to turn it out a full turn, then back in once again; this reduces the effect of  any backlash that might exist in the threads. I found the dial easy to use and had no trouble getting to my usual thickness setting of 0.0125".

At its core, a neck turner is a cutting tool and good blade design is what sets any good cutting tool apart from the competition. Here, John really shows his ability as a designer and manufacturer. The blade supplied on my tool is carbide and cuts brass effortlessly, however, that's not the real point of interest. Many neck turners have blades with less than ideal nose radius and create a "threading" effect on the neck unless the tool is fed over the brass at a very slow rate. The 21st Century blade has a good radius at the transition to the shoulder angle which allows for a smooth cut with a reasonable feed rate. 

The shoulder angle is another well thought-out feature as it is a very close match to the actual shoulder angle of the case.  This allows you to bring the cutter a bit further into the shoulder without weakening it and definitely avoid the subsequent occurrence of the donut of thick brass at the base of the neck. The photo of the case in the cutter shows the cutter making solid contact with the shoulder after a substantial cut on the neck, yet the shoulder was really just lightly touched. I backed the cutter off a bit from this setting for the final adjustment. If you tend to use heavy bullets which extend below the base of the neck, this feature alone makes John's tool worthwhile.
Turning necks is tedious, especially if you're turning a large number of cases as Highpower shooters generally do.  Accordingly, a design that takes ergonomics into consideration is highly appreciated. Note the slight hourglass shape of the tool, that really lets your hand take a grip that counters the natural tendency of the tool to turn with the rotation of the case, especially when turning with a power case driver. The size of the tool itself also helps; if you've used one of the smaller tools on the market, you know just how tired your hand can get from trying to hold on to it after a while! I turned 70 case necks in two sessions with the 21st Century tool and my hand and fingers remained comfortable throughout.

However good the turner may be, it doesn't work alone. Any neck turner needs a matching expander. The 21st Century expander is a nicely designed unit that allows you to change expander sizes with no tools by simply unscrewing the cap of the die body and dropping in the appropriate expander.

I've been using a K&M turner for some years now and have accumulated turning arbors in various sizes. John knows that's the case for many of us, so he makes bushings for his tool that allows the use of K&M turner arbors. That's a nice feature that will allow me to save the price of a few arbors and expanders. 

Although I use a cordless screwdriver to turn the case, I still like to have a manual option for case turning. Sometimes the cordless driver dies with just a few cases left to go in a session and I know that one day, when I most need it, it'll just quit altogether. John's case handle for manual case turning is another well-designed, ergonomic piece that shows his careful, thoughtful approach to tool design. Oh, he makes a version of it for the .50 BMG if your tastes in cartridges run on the large side!

History: Advertising 1911

Advertising 1911
by Germán A. Salazar


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