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.