June 2012 Cover Page

 June 2012
The Rifleman's Journal
A Collection of Articles Dealing with Rifle Accuracy Topics

Voyeur's Guide to Chamber Throating
Savage Bolt Heads from PTG
Hap's Corner
and much more...
15 Cents 

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Hap's Corner: Shooting at a Mark: An American Tradition

Shooting at a Mark: An American Tradition

by Hap Rocketto

The study of United States history is one of my great pleasures and the more obscure and mysteriously obscure the greater my enjoyment. I revel in the trivial minutiae of our nation’s rich past.
For example do you know that the USS Merrimack and the CSS Virginia were the same ship?
How about that fact the first battle of the Civil War, Bull Run, took place on William McLean’s farm, the Yorkshire Plantation, in Manassas, Virginia. McLean then moved his family westward to avoid the war and bought a farm near Appomattox Court House. When General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant he did so in the parlor of McLean’s house.
What of the curious juxtaposition of Major Robert Rogers, Colonial American hero and commander of Rogers’ Rangers of French and Indian War fame-the precursor to our modern US Rangers, capturing Revolutionary War hero Captain Nathan Hale of Connecticut’s Knowlton Rangers.
Speaking of Rogers, did you know that competitive marksmanship, shooting at a mark, is almost as old as the nation and involved some rather colorful figures in our nation’s history?
Captain-Lieutenant Henry Pringle of the 27th Foot wrote that Rogers’ Rangers “shoot amazingly well, all Ball & mostly with riffled barrels. One of their officers the other day, at four shots with four balls, killed a brace of Deer, a Pheasant, and a pair of wild ducks-the latter he killed with one Shot”
Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr duel in Weehawken, New Jersey.
The Rangers often went out in small parties to hunt and sharpen their marksmanship skills, a habit of which their British commander, Colonel William Haviland, took a dim view. Of course he regularly looked down his long aristocratic nose at what he perceived were undisciplined provincial troops and, in his particularly parsimonious military administrative mind, their excessive use of scarce powder and ball. He forbade them from “shooting at marks” in their encampment. In response the Rangers simply went off a distance and practiced, but well within earshot of Haviland.
Dueling was a popular past time in the new republic and it was reported that politician and filibuster, not to mention third vice president of the United States, Aaron Burr “,…spent several hours a day for three months shooting at a mark” until “he could cut a ball every time the size of a dollar at ten paces” in his run up to his duel on Weehawken Heights with Alexander Hamilton, first Secretary of the Treasury, on July 11, 1804. It was a bad choice of venue by Hamilton as his son Philip had fallen in a duel on the same spot three years earlier. But, then again, who of has not returned to a range where we had a shooting disaster in hopes of bettering our performance?
Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, the Mormons, was a marksman of sorts. Wilford Woodruff, who would succeed Smith as a leader of the church, wrote, “I first met Joseph Smith in the streets of Kirtland. He had on an old hat, and a pistol in his hand. Said he, ‘Brother Woodruff, I’ve been out shooting at a mark, and I wanted to see if I could hit anything.’ And, said he, ‘Have you any objection to it?’ ‘Not at all,’ said I. ‘There is no law against a man shooting at a mark that I know of.
Gen. George Patton's Colt .45 Silver plated, Single Action Army Revolver with a
4-3/4 inch barrel and Ivory grip. Photo Credit: Gen. Patton Museum, Fort Knox, KY

Then there was the ‘enfant terrible of the US Army, George Smith Patton. Known for packing a pair of ivory handle pistols, a 45 caliber Model 1873 single action revolver, serial number 332088, equipped with a lanyard loop with the right hand ivory grip bearing an interlocked vertical “GSP” while the left displayed a rampant eagle. The 4.75 inch barrel and the frame were covered with scrollwork and filigree. The other was a Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum revolver, serial number 47022, with a 3.5 inch barrel, fitted with ivory handles and a lanyard loop to more-or-less match his Colt. The right hand grip carried the same style interlocking “GSP” monogram as the Colt but the metal had a simple blued finish with no engraving.
George S. Patton
Patton was one of the earliest shooters on record to fall out of medal contention because of a tight group. Patton placed fourth in Pentathlon at the Stockholm Olympic Games of 1912. Out of five events, he placed second in swimming; third in cross-country riding; first in fencing, but a dismal 27th in pistol shooting. A better showing in shooting might well have assured him an Olympic medal.
The probable reason for his poor score was that Patton bull headedly insisted on using an issue 38 caliber military revolver; after all it was the Military Pentathlon. There were no requirements as to what pistol had to be used and the other entrants chose to shoot 22 caliber pistols for a host of good reasons, chief among them being the reduced recoil. Patton’s ten bullets had torn out one ragged hole in his target and as a result only nine of his ten shots could be identified and scored. To his credit he took the loss with good grace.
The British would come up with the idea of a backer to locate shots in a tight group in the early 1920s, too late for Patton but, perhaps that delay was the cause Patton’s antipathy toward his British counterparts during World War II.

Equipment: The Voyeur's Guide to Chamber Throating

The Voyeur's Guide to Chamber Throating
by Germán A. Salazar and John Lowther

PTG Throating Reamer with PTG Micro Adjustable Reamer Stop attached

We're back in John Lowther's shop this month, looking over his shoulder as he uses a PTG throating reamer to extend the throat length on the chamber he cut for me last year. You can read all about the chambering job by clicking here. As with the chambering articles, the purpose of this piece isn't to teach a gunsmith how to do this; it's a primer for the customer that will help him understand the process he's paying for and perhaps to appreciate the gunsmith's work a bit more.

John Lowther putting barrel in the lathe
When John chambered the barrel on my F-TR rifle, we were in a real time crunch because the Arizona Long-Range State Championship was a couple of weeks away and we didn't have time to get the reamer I wanted, nor did we have time to ship the rifle to Clark Fay who normally does my barrels. Clark has the reamer that I prefer, which has a 0.114" freebore. Freebore is the throat length plus chamber to throat transition length. If you look at a chamber print, you'll see the two dimensions clearly.

That 0.114" freebore length allows me to seat any bullet from a 175 gr. Berger LRBT to a 190 gr. Sierra Match King with the base of the bullet shank above the case's neck-shoulder junction. I have a fairly firm belief that getting the shank below that point can deteriorate accuracy; and it certainly eats up powder space which I really need with the slow, bulky powders used with heavy bullets. More on that topic here.

We can wrap ourselves into knots worrying about seemingly insignificant details and this may, or may not be one of those situations. With the original 0.050" freebore chamber that John cut in November, I won the Arizona Long-Range Championship, the Arizona Palma Championship, the Arizona Mid-Range Championship and was one point out of first place in the Berger SW Nationals. Obviously, it wasn't too terrible a chamber. However, almost all of the shooting in those matches was done with the Berger 175 gr. LRBT because it could be seated above the neck-shoulder junction. I shot some of the 1000 yard stages with the Berger 185 gr. LRBT despite it being below the junction, and had a best score of 199-11X at 1000 yards with it; that's one X short of the F-TR national record. Was there anything really wrong with a 0.050" freebore?

PTG Throating Reamer 0.5 degree x 0.3084"
A throating reamer is simply a straight reamer of the diameter that is appropriate to the chamber in question and, most importantly, with a leade angle matching that of the original chamber. The chamber reamer used originally has a 0.5 degree leade angle, not the more common 1.5 degree angle. Accordingly,  John ordered a 0.5 degree leade angle throating reamer with a 0.3084" diameter to match the chamber.

The front end of the reamer accepts a bushing, just like the chambering reamer; that is very closely matched to the barrel's bore diameter. We'll get back to that in a moment.

Normally when I'm in John's shop, my job is to take pictures, take notes and keep my hands and finger away from the sharp, moving parts. For some inexplicable reason, the thought of a bleeding, screaming lawyer searching for a lost finger in his shop doesn't fill John's heart with mirthsome glee...

This time, I actually had a task to perform: check the seating depth for the five bullet samples we determined to be relevant. Before the barrel was put into the lathe, I used my Stoney Point tool to check each bullet (two samples of each) and made a record of the seating depth for each.

The bullets we were checking are:

1. 175 gr. Berger LRBT
2. 185 gr. Berger LRBT
3. 180 gr. Sierra MK, short boat tail
4. 180 gr. Sierra MK, long boat tail
5. 190 gr. Sierra MK

We recorded the base to ogive length for each bullet when touching the lands, and would check and compare frequently during the throating process.

Next, John slipped the barrel through the headstock and indicated it in to center just as he does when chambering a barrel. John is a careful and methodical practitioner of the metal cutting arts and I appreciate the extra time and effort he takes to make sure that there is no margin for error. Even though this step isn't absolutely necessary, I am confident that it leads to a better finished product.
Once the barrel was centered up properly, John tried a few bushings to find the best fit for this barrel. This involves installing the bushing on a range rod - that's a very straight section of rod made for this purpose - and slipping it into the barrel. He's looking for a slip-fit that just barely touches the bore all around, allowing no slop and no binding. The bushing rotates on the range ro as it will on the reamer, but a close fit is what will keep the reamer perfectly centered in the bore and in alignment with the chamber. This seemingly simple step that relies on the gunsmith's feel for the tightness of the fit is fairly critical to a good job.

Next, the PTG micro adjustable reamer stop is installed on the throating reamer (see top picture) and cutting lube is applied to the reamer. The reamer is slipped into the bore and turned backwards until it makes contact with the rifling. The reason it is turned backwards is to avoid cutting while the initial depth is located. The micrometer brought into contact with the and of the barrel, the setting is noted the cutting can begin.
The micrometer is dialed back the desired amount to create clearance between it and the back of the barrel. That will allow the cutting edges of the flutes to advance the same distance into the rifling, thus advancing the throat. Our objective was to move the throat forward 0.050", so as a conservative start, John dialed 0.010" on the micrometer, inserted it, applied gentle pressure with his hand while holding the back end on center with the tailstock, and rotated the headstock by hand to perform the actual cut.

Once that first cut was done, I re-measured the seating depth for the various bullets and we were surprised to see that the throat actually moved forward close to 0.030". We also noticed that not all of the bullets indicated the same amount of movement; that made me glad I'd decided to take a large selection of bullets, not just one type.

John dialed 0.010" more onto the micrometer and went at it again. This time, he said that rotating the headstock produced a distinct cutting feeling each of the four lands. That was something he didn't feel on the initial cut which he now described as feeling more like cutting charcoal. Another check of seating depths after this cut showed that it was actually 0.010". I should mention that the barrel had 1150 rounds fired through it at this point and looked great in the borescope. It definitely wasn't a worn out barrel, yet that first cut was not what we expected.

John then took two more cuts, each one at 0.005" and the bullets generally advanced that amount. At that point, almost all of the bullets showed an advance in their seating depth to the rifling of 0.050" total, and the 190 gr. Sierra finally had the shank past the neck-shoulder junction. We called it a day and retreated to the local diner for breakfast. The whole job took about two hours not including disassembling the rifle, which I did the previous evening.

I went home, reassembled the rifle, and loaded a set of ammunition for the next day's match. I used the Sierra 180 MK, moly-coated, pointed and jammed 0.015" into the rifling with IMR 4064 powder.

Sunday morning dawned warm but not too windy; we had a 500 yard match at the Phoenix Rod & Gun Club. I was pleasantly surprised when the first shot out of the barrel hit the 10 ring after all of the disassembly, throating and reassembly. It's a well built rifle, so perhaps I should have expected that, but I didn't.

The first string went well with a 200-13X and I was certainly pleased with that. I was a little nervous and hesitant on the trigger during the second string, resulting in a 200-8X; still good, but I knew my hesitation allowed the wind get me into the 10 ring too often. The third string brought a more decisive trigger break and resulted in a 200-15X under virtually the same conditions as the previous two strings. The total score, 600-36X, beat my previous high F-TR score by three points and was my 24th score of 600 points in a mid-range match. However, all the previous 600's were in the sling on the standard target, so this was really a noteworthy match for me - my first F-TR 600!

You would be safe to say that I'm very happy with the outcome. The rifle and load load shot very well, and held X-ring elevation for at least 50 of the 60 record shots. All 66 shots fired (six sighters and sixty for score) were in the 10 and X rings. I can't think of a better proof of the quality of the work done, and perhaps we did see that slight accuracy edge gained by getting the shank of the bullet away from the neck-shoulder junction. At a minimum, we did no harm.

Berger 185 gr. LRBT before (above) and after (below) throating. Seated to equal 0.020" jam in rifling.
Sierra 190 gr. Match King before (above) and after (below) throating. Seated to equal 0.020" jam in rifling.

Shooting Events: Club Practice Day

Club Practice Day
by Germán A. Salazar

When most of our friends from around the country and the world think about shooting in Phoenix, thoughts of cool and sunny winter days on the 1000 yard range with 100 to 200 competitors on the line spring to mind. Smallbore shooters might remember winter trips to the Western Wildcats 6400 match on our 100 point Smallbore range. We love those big matches too, and the time we spend with all those friends. But when summer rolls around in the Valley of the Sun, it seems we locals are all alone; no one wants to come shoot with us when its 110 degrees!

Actually, summertime shooting is different here, with the famous 1000 yard range laying idle all summer and matches retreating to the covered 500 yard firing lines of the Phoenix Rod & Gun Club and the Rio Salado Sportsman's Club. But we still go to Ben Avery for some club practice days on the covered 100 yard Smallbore range. Those days are filled with load testing, chronographing, pressure testing, coaching and even an informal match or two. Quite a bit can be accomplished on a 100 or 200 yard range, even if your interest is long-range shooting. Follow along on a typical club practice day on a recent Friday morning in Phoenix.

Here are a few guys who always have something going on: Bob Jensen, Chuck Gooding and Norm Darnell. Bob Jensen on the left needs no introduction in the world of accuracy shooting; his name is synonymous with Palma shooting and long-range load development. Now well into his 80's Bob remains a fairly active shooter and came out to work on loads for his .30-338 Magnum long-range rifle. Just as importantly, Bob was there to visit with friends and to continue to teach us what he's learned over a lifetime of competitive shooting and accuracy load development; our club wouldn't be the same without his contributions.

Every club needs someone like Jack Arnold, but few are that lucky. Jack is an essential and tireless worker at our large matches, keeping the pits running and organizing people and processes. At club matches he's as likely to spend the day pulling targets for our senior shooters and leave his rifle in the trunk as he is to actually shoot. When we get new shooters in the club, Jack is usually their first coach and does an unbeatable job of getting them into a workable position and properly equipped. That doesn't mean he doesn't like shooting - just the opposite is true.  Jack is a long time service rifle shooter with a good mix of prone bolt-gun shooting thrown in. Practice day was a good opportunity for Jack to break out his AR15 and work on his standing and sitting shooting. You don't need a full distance range to practice those things, and a shady 100 yard range is just about perfect for it.

Roberto Quinones has been shooting actively for about a year and is making steady progress. However, like a lot of shooters, there are times when scores seem to hit a plateau with no obvious (to the shooter) solution to keep the progress going. Taking this photo, I saw that Roberto's position was really too low and was causing a few related problems. We moved the handstop back a few inches, reconfigured and shortened his sling, got rid of the bulky glove, adjusted his angle to the firing line, moved the rear sight forward, put a bit of angle into the buttplate and had a talk about manipulating the position a bit. This is the kind of thing you just can't get done at a match and the distance to the target is irrelevant. Actually, with a newer shooter, having a short range for this type of activity can be beneficial as you can evaluate the results without wind becoming a factor. The wind was blowing at about 20 mph that morning, but at 100 yards, for these purposes, it really wasn't a big concern other than the dirt and grit getting into the rifles!

Norm Darnell is our resident wildcatter, gunsmith, experimenter, tinkerer, etc. On this Friday morning, Norm was testing the new Savage bolt heads from Pacific Tool & Gauge. Norm has a lot of industry connections and is always a great source of news and information on what's new in the world of precision shooting. Savage rifles have made huge inroads into competitive shooting, especially in F-Class and Norm has been there every step of the way working on action truing tools, triggers, and now the bolt heads - as well as being an active F-Class shooter.

Norm has a long list of wildcat cartridges to his name, most with the DDT suffix (i.e. 6mm DDT). Like any wildcatter worth the name, Norm is never too far from his chronograph. That's a great asset for everyone and Norm is only too happy to get anyone's rifle run through the screens to see what the load is doing. I was happy to check out my .30-06 NM duplicate load and saw that the latest lot of powder is still giving me the same 2720 fps as the last lot. My reference lot of LC 62 Match clocks at 2750 fps, so I'm pretty close to that and I like the accuracy I'm getting, so I'll leave it alone.

Who's this guy? They'll let anyone in, it seems... Yep, your truly was there, shooting the old 40XL project rifle. One of the things I work on most in any practice session is perfect shot execution and follow-through. There's almost no better tool for that than a light .30-06 rifle with a fairly non-adjustable stock. If you don't execute perfectly, you'll know it right away! You have to find and maintain a perfect position with little help from the stock itself as the comb is low, the grip slants a bit more than I like and the buttplate has limited adjustment. It's a great exercise and I do it as often as time permits, usually with my NM duplicate load with a Sierra 168 gr. Match King at 2720 fps.

Chuck Gooding took the plunge into F-TR this year after a few years of very successful F-Open shooting. He had Clark Fay build his rifle and it's a good one. At the previous week's 500 yard match, Chuck was having some frustrating accuracy problems and discovered a loose scope base once the shooting was over. Coming out to practice day let him confirm that the rifle was fundamentally sound and get his zero reset. Since we tend to shoot F-TR side by side or on the same point, we get a little competitive and we cooked up a fun match that morning.

With my F-TR rig at home, Chuck and I decided to compete with a slight handicap in my favor since I was shooting iron sights prone to his F-TR setup. Using the old 100 yard Mini-Palma target, we began with two five-shot matches; Chuck shot on the 1000 yard bulls on the left and I shot the 800 yard bulls on the right. His first score of 50-3X beat my 50-2X; the second round was a tie with both of us shooting 50-4X. We then moved in to the 900 yard bulls in the middle for three one-shot matches. We both shot an X for the first one, another tie. Chuck's second shot got away from him for a 9 to my X, finally a win for the .30-06! On the last shot we tied with a pair of X's again.
This kind of short distance match with just a few shots really concentrates the intensity and provides very useful mental training for long range shooting. We were doing a bit of wind doping as well, as the 20 mph left-to-right wind was having a real effect on that little target! Plenty of fun and a great way to wrap up the day's shooting.

With the shooting done and equipment packed away, we headed a few miles deeper into the desert to the nearly famous Wild Horse West. The burgers at the Wild Horse are always good but taste especially good after shooting, and the air conditioning there is really cold! With nothing else around for miles except a little airstrip, the Wild Horse's clientele tends to consist of shooters from Ben Avery, pilots and dirt bikers out riding the desert trails. Drop in next time you're in town, just follow Carefree Highway six miles west of the range and turn left at Lake Pleasant Road; you'll see the Wild Horse sitting there, waiting to show you a good time

When the wind stops blowing and the dust settles, when the rifles are cleaned and put away, when the brass is cleaned up and ready to reload, these are the days that I remember most fondly. A good time with friends, doing what we most enjoy and working together to get a little better at it.

Good Stuff: PTG Bolt Head for Savage

Good Stuff: PTG Bolt Head for Savage
by Norm Darnell

Pacific Tool & Gauge Replacement Bolt Head for Savage Rifles (ejector not installed)

Trued factory Savage .223 bolt head
The factory-made Savage bolt head is is perfectly satisfactory for the hunter and occasional shooter. However, for the target shooter who fires thousands of rounds per year, it has been my experience that the bolt heads deteriorate quite rapidly. The factory bolt heads are investment cast and then polished; the abrasive pellets round off all corners and create small dents on the bolt face around the firing pin hole. The area around the firing pin hole sometimes has an indentation deep enough to allow the primer to flow into this void. This makes an unsightly blemish on a fired primer and can lead to hard extraction or worse.  One rifle I inspected had a continuing problem with pierced primers despite reasonably mild loads; the problem was eventually corrected by extensive machining on replacement factory bolt heads.

PTG .223 Bolt Head
For a many years I corrected the indentations around the firing pin hole and the dishing of the bolt face by running the Pacific Tool and Gauge Carbide Bolt Face Truing Tool a few thousandths of an inch into the bolt face until all blemishes were removed and a flat surface achieved. However, after a few thousand rounds, this often needed to be done again as the bolt face would begin to develop a dished surface. Also, the firing pin hole seemed to wear excessively which was of some concern. Material strength of the investment cast bolt head appears to be the source of these recurring problems.

Left to Right: PTG .223 Bolt Head, factory Savage .308 Bolt Head, PTG .308 Bolt Head

Seeking a better solution while talking with Dave Kiff, head honcho at PTG, he offered make some direct replacements for the original Savage bolt heads. I then sent him a few bolt assemblies for reverse engineering. This would allow PTG to evaluate the manufacturing process through precision grinding of the appropriate steel in order to determine if they could be made at a low enough price to create a viable market.

Early this week the bolts with the PTG Bolt Heads arrived. In the shop the protrusions of both firing pins were found to be 0.060" within a few thousands and all machined surfaces were right on spec.

PTG Savage Bolt Head in .223 Size (without ejector)
The test firing of these bolts head proved to be acceptable and the cartridge case heads and primers indicated no case head rounding or primer damage. After doing a check on my wildcat 22-250 DARN Prairie Dog and the .223 DARN Short Range (names of the PTG Reamers that have been modified for accuracy) I called PTG to tell them that in my opinion this is an exceptional product and I wanted enough to put them on all three of my 308 bolts and one 223 with one spare bolt of each to act as direct replacement bolts in case a case splits and blows an extractor. 

PTG Savage Bolt Head

Norm Darnell


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