Sunday, November 29, 2009

Swan song for a Colt 1-7 H-BAR barrel

Almost 20 years ago I bought a Colt Sporter H-BAR. This rifle hasn't been a closet queen. It's been my learning curve companion in the sport of high power rifle competition having been turned into a beautiful Frankenstein over the years with 1/4 x 1/4 sights, numerous better triggers, free float tubes and replacement barrels.

But the real heart of any gun is it's barrel. Everything else is just accessories hung around the tube. I took the original 5.56x45mm NATO chrome lined 1-7 barrel off several years ago dropping a DPMS 1-8 SST into the upper at the time. The original tube was at 4,500 rounds old at the time and it had been sitting in the spare parts box.

At the beginning of 2009, Daniel Defense came out with their Omega free floating forearms and I had a yen to build something approximating an Army SDM rifle so I took the old Colt 1-7 out and mounted it in an A3 upper. There was a good feeling taking the barrel that had accompanied me to the edge of NRA Expert classification and seeing it pushing pills downrange again. The assembly performed well with a 4X ACOG against tactical size targets. It still tries to shoot everything into the 10-ring which is about 2 MOA across.

And therein now is my woe. I decided to try shooting the next tactical match using this rifle. I'm learning more about it's quirks. The latest one is that one really probably should not clamp the optic base forward of the main action picatinny rail even though there are plenty of additional spots on the free floating forearm. But I'm still worried that the groups will stay opened up. While perfectly serviceable, if the barrel is worn out and no longer X-ring quality I'm going to have to retire the barrel again for good.

I'm up against my peers firing sub-MOA target rifles and I may need to swap to a new barrel that will print a pattern half the size of what this thing is doing now. Basically, all shots have to go into a Post-It note at 200 yards to be competitive. The issue is currently in doubt.

9 volt batteries: The chronograph is everyone's friend.

This is the year I really started to use my chronograph for more detailed load development. They work really well as one tries to replicate the ballistics of one good load using different propellants and primes. The shortage of components for most of 2009 makes you have to work a little more.

So the thing about my chronograph is that it eats 9 volt batteries. I also discovered that 9 bolt batteries are like communal food on a firing line because everyone else's chronograph also eats 9 volt batteries. I have yet to run one of my batteries all the way down. They all seem to get fed to my friend's machines before that happens.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tactical Matches

For those of us that didn't go to Camp Perry for the Nationals, we held a tactical match. It was a fun change of pace.

Herman and I teamed up and had lots of fun. This is us firing simultaneously on targets at 300 yards. Herman is shooting a Remington 700 with a Leupold scope and I'm shooting an M1A installed in a Sage Mk14 EBR stock with a Bushnell 3200 10X mil-dot scope.

The targets are a collection of little colored shapes around 6 to 8 inches in size on a frame 300 yards away. They come up out of the target pits. The range officer gives you a color or shape. And the two of you have 10 seconds to get your act together and fire on exactly the same shape before it's wifthrawn.
It'd still been more fun to have gone to Camp Perry.

CMP Games 2009 Preparation Notes

Gun Notes

Took the M-1 Garand, M1093A3 Springfield and Enfield No.4Mk1* to the range. Got them dialed in with good zeros at 200 yards.

The Springfield still makes the most amazingly small groups and my notes match the old notations about the tip of the front sight being slanted. Got a better picture for managing that in this pidgeon's little brain. LOL.

The Garand groups were bigger than I liked. It was making touching holes in the X for me when I tested it on the 100 yard range on Saturday but only 10 ring patterns on Sunday. Remembered on the way home that As-Issued Garands have aircraft carrier wide front sight blades. Need to line up on the center of the post. Found the old notes about making a pencil mark in my notes. Will do.

The Enfield rang around a 10 ring group. Was able to improve it by noticing that the rear aperture hole is bigger in the Enfield. Larger than the optically indifferent diameter of a target aperture. That means one has to put a little more attention to centering the front post in it to get it to shoot tighter. That should get me deeper into the 10 ring with this gun. It's pushing Sierra 174gr Match Kings over a moderate charge of H4895. Will have to run them over a chrono to make sure the SD's are happy.

More "to do's" with guns,

1. Need to take the M-1 Carbine out and shoot a refresher with it.

2. Need to decide if I want to work up a load for 80grs under either N540 or Varget instead of H4895 for the Creedmoor Cup.

Eyes notes (more precisely shooting eyeglass notes),

1. Move the glass frames so that the view is through the center vertical axis of the lens to take maximum advantage of the way the progressive lens is cut. Gets the best image clarity on the front sight.

2. It's critical to change the rotation of the lens slightly for CMP shooting. It's because of the shape of the stocks. Correct lens rotation is about 5-10 degrees further over in head position tilt versus where the lens should be for working with the AR-15. Plan to set it one way for the CMP phase AND MAKE SURE TO FIDDDLE WITH AND RESET IT AT 200 YARDS on Wednesday for the AR-15 before beginning the Creedmoor Cup phase.

3. When in doubt go for contrast. The yellow filter works best. No filter is very clear but more susceptible to light changes. The gray filter gets the eye more open but that seems to work against the objective of smallest apertures = sharpest views.

"If you can't see, you can't win."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

CMP .22 Sporter Strategies

The 2009 CMP Western Games are coming. This year they are again holding a .22 Sporter match. This is a really fun event involving six stages of fire. Prone, sitting, offhand. Slow and Rapid for each. One must use a sporter type .22 LR rifle, no target guns allowed.

Last year I shot this match with a Ruger 10/22 equipped with a Tech-Sights aperture and post sight emulating the sights of an AR-15. It had a sling which helped immensely. However I made the mistake of using cheap Remington plinker ammunition and had a couple of misfires.

So this year I started searching for other ways to do this. The weakest part of the 10/22 solution was the trigger. Ruger factory triggers run around 8+ pounds with hard and gritty feelings. Yuck! The rules say 3 lb minimum weigth.

The other thing I noticed is that the guys with scopes had an advantage over my shooting in the same T-class. Scopes and aperture sights count as the same to the CMP. The maximum scope power allowed is 6X.

Option #1 presented itself at last years CMP Games in the form of surplus Mossberg M44US trainer rifles they were selling for mere $175 apiece. Naturally practically everyone there picked one up and yes they are great rifles. You did have to scrounge around for a new plastic trigger guard and a couple of magazines. They are old WWII era rifles and the old plastic had become brittle but there are vendors out there that specialize in parts for these old guns. I enjoy shooting mine immensely. This is defintely an improvement over the Ruger 10/22 for an aperture sights solution.

Next came exploring a scope solution. First came a BSA Platinum 6-24X target scope. This one had 1/8th MOA turrets and a mildot reticle. I initially mounted it on a Ruger 10/22. The trigger was still too harsh though so I put a better trigger in it. Alas, the improved trigger runs 2.75 lbs and I have no idea what one does to manage trigger pull weight on a 10/22. They have double spring sears similar to the FN/FAL. The 10/22 is a really nice gun now but doesn't make the grade for CMP competition. So abandon ship on that thought. I did put an email question in to Timney regarding their new 10/22 trigger asking if it can be adjusted to a 3 lb weight easily. Theirs, like most sporting triggers these days, is also factory set to 2.5 lbs.

Ok so third times the charm. Took a Marlin 25N bolt gun. Replaced the factory trigger with a Rifle Basix unit set to 3 lbs. Took the BSA scope off the Ruger and, after putting some Weaver bases on top of the dovetail to raise the scope so it's objective bell clears the barrel, put the 6-24X on the Marlin. Got sling swivels on it and off to the range.

50 yards. Bricks of Federal High Velocity Target ammo and Wolf Match Target. Both good ammo. Tested at 50 yards on the CMP Sporter target. Once sighted in it's clearly the slower and steadier Wolf ammo for this gun. Makes nice 1/4" groups at 50 yards.

Offhand test. 6X scope makes patterns bigger than I'd like at 50 yards shooting from the standing position. Wobble all over the place. Is it too much optical power or is it technigue?

Back to town. Midweek trip to the local indoor range. Offhand again. This time it's better. 50 foot offhand 50 shot group running about 1 1/2". That'll do. Need to practice to hone the technique. Fortunately it's indoor work and I love chewing out the center of a piece of paper with a smallbore gun.

I'm feeling more comfortable about Phoenix next month.

Remington 788: Another Evolving Story

Updated: 11/13/2014

Leatherwood A.R.T. scopes turn out to be pretty cool things. They are very fast to move for range adjustment and I do look forward to experimenting with the one I have more. But it does have some drawbacks.

Most important is that it's a single point solution. Setting the cam is specific to the rifle, cartridge, bullet, powder charge, optic, altitude combination. You can set it up well enough but you need to stay with that combination. Not so good if one wants to be able to switch more adeptly to say shoot different bullet weights.

Less important for hunting and tactical but critical for competition is that it's a 2-3 MOA rapid dialing solution. Just like tactical 1E/0.5W turrets, it's too gross for competing where precision and repeatability needs to be in the /18 to 1/4 MOA region.

So for my trusty Remington 788 the A.R.T. must come off. It'll be replaced by one of the best scopes I've found recently. A Bushnell 3200 Elite 10x40M. This is a 10 power mil-dot scope with 80 inches of elevation range and dead on repeatable 1/4 x 1/4 MOA turrets. They're rated for .375 H&H's and the image quality is excellent. The best part is they cost $200. They're an amazing deal.

Turns out modernizing Remington 788's is a quite popular. The guns been out of production for 0ver 20 years but there's a brisk business in Timney triggers for these guns and EGW makes 20 MOA Picatinny rails for them. How cool is that?

With a 20MOA mount and an 80MOA elevation range scope, reaching out to 1,000 yards will well within the dialing range of the system. Repeatable 1/4 MOA target knobs means one can change ammo, get a zero at any distance, and use the ballistics for that round to go back and forth from there. Optical range estimation is done the modern way using the mil-dot reticle. This will be much more very flexible. And so that's the direction this rifle will take next.

It does require more pencil pushing to stay ahead of the shot though and I still have to say the A.R.T. scope really is an elegant piece of firearms design.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

A.R.T. Camputer Scopes

Am pondering the pluses and minuses of the Leatherwood A.R.T. scope concept. Put one on a Remington 788 with a Timney 2lb trigger. That is one really good rifle. Shot it with a Leatherwood today going after small to medium targets at 200, 300, 600 and 650 yards. It's very fast to shift ranges and certainly well suited for it's original intended task of sniping against people sized targets. It's somewhat trickier against smaller targets.

Am learning that at least for now there is some offsetting involved. Zero at 200 and 300 is at 325 on the range ring but 600 is at 475 on the ring and 650 is at 550. Clearly I have got more to learn about correctly matching the eccentric cam to the round ballistics. I'll keep working with it.

This means that for smaller 1 to 2 MOA targets this type of scope is a compromise just like the 1E/0.5W fast turret scopes.

Right now I have a feeling the good old 10X fixed power Mildot scope with 1/4 MOA target turrets has the advantage for small target work.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Time for New Eyes

2008 was one of those watershed years. I turned 50. You feel it most in your eyes. It gets harder to see that front sight well enough despite all the tricks you'd been using up to that point. I dropped an average of 15 points and really had to reevaluate things. Fortunately, one quickly finds out while bantering in the pits that a lot of other people have the same issue.

So on the the shooting eyes makeover. The contact lenses to correct astigmatism plus Bob Jones lens inserts weren't cutting it anymore. My shooting position and technique have actually been getting better. My wind calling is getting better too but I do need to find more ranges to shoot at on a regular basis that have real cross winds at 600 yards. My offhand technique in particular is on the up and I'm very pleased, holding and breaking 10's is coming a lot easier. Even my sling technique has improved.

But the blink-to-blink movement of the contact lenses was still making it so my shot groups orbited the X-ring instead of going into it. The guns and ammo were capable. The tiny movement as the soft lenses move was just making it so that it looks the same but the physical alignment is different. I didn't make my goals at the CMP Western and Creedmoor Cup in 2008. Got my share of medals? Yes. Shot to my competitive potential? No way. But I learned enough to know what had to come next.

So back to California and a phone call to my optometrist to set up an extended visit to talk about my eyes options. We talked all the options ranging from glasses to laser surgery. We talked about the need to have a system flexible enough to work with both As-Issued rifles like the M-1 Garand, Springfield and Carbine as well as the AR-15 Service Rifles, each gun has a different sight radius. Turned out that laser work would correct astigmatism but the optimization of focus would still require a lens. The decision was better to put off eye surgery and go with a solution that puts everthing into an eyeglass lens. And the technology for that was pretty neat. It's a progressive lens cut with an arc that allows for image quality retention with some tilting. The lens is mounted in a specialized Jaggi shooting glass frame which allows it to be repositioned at will on the firing line including locating the lens at the correct position in the progressive cut for the specific rifle's sight radius being used. And by tilting down a smidge still be able to clearly confirm the number board. (I do so hate cross firing.)

Experiments so far have been good. I got the glasses just in time to shot the regional matches at Twentynine Palms a month later and the 15 points lost in 2008 came back right off the bat. I'm back to shooting my averages. Continued experimentation practicing with a .22LR indoors shows I can focus even more on the front sight in offhand and that's good stuff. Have only had one chance to practice with an As-Issued M-1 using the lens in prone; but a significantly increased number of holes are definitely happening inside the X-ring.

So we'll see what the 2009 season brings. I'm looking forward to getting back on track woking on cleaning my rapid fire stages.