Monday, June 27, 2016

Trying out for Rattle Battle 2016: Not Quite Good Enough


This was the kit I brought to team practice to try out for the Coalinga Rifle Club rattle battle team.  Two teams are picked to shoot the National Team Infantry Trophy (NTIT) match at the U.S. Nationals at Camp Perry, Ohio.  The teams must shoot in synchrony so that coaches can drive them like an orchestra in the wind.  "All guns left or right half-a-minute of angle" is the difference between winning and having a jolly walk.

Until this year, the gun of guns for this was the match modified M-16A2/AR-15 with 1/4x1/4 moa sights that clicked with the precision of a micrometer.  The arrival of scoped service rifles in 2016 changed the game.  Scopes offer several advantages.  My aimpoint with the scope was the head of the silhouettes with impacts offset into center mass offering the potential for very precise grouping, nice clusters.  

I brought one of these scoped guns with a Pride-Fowler 1.25-4X optic to team practice.  It's a very good scope that drives well.  It drove like a dream during zeroing exercises delivering said "nice clusters".  But the wind calls were off, as in left or right of the target off at times.   At the 100-yard tests I'd done prior to heading to Coalinga, the system drove well enough.  Elevation come up checks on steel were good too.  And the turrets dialed repeatably coming back to baseline zero again and again.   But at team practice, a call for two minutes of change at 600 had me zig-zagging to either side of the target.

The question was asked, "Is that thing tracking?"  So I took the thing to the 100 yard range and shot a box test starting with centering the scope into the bull then running a constant aimpoint box turning the knobs 12 clicks = 6 moa nominal between each shot to build up a pattern.  This is not your benchrester's test; this is how you test a scope for knuckle dragging.

Next, take the target and spend some time in the hotel room with a ruler graphing and measuring.  Data is data.  In this case, the data said this particular scope tracks well in elevation but exhibits a widening of windage per click as elevation rises.   It's a perfect 1/2 moa per click at 100 yards but progressively grows to 1 moa per click by the time you get to 600 yards.  I'd been observing this anecdotally and having the numbers in front of me confirmed the sinking feeling in my stomach about the scope.

You cannot have a scope in rattle battle that cannot follow the coach's wind calls and 1 moa per click is just not tight enough for NTIT at the nationals level when your gun up against guys with 1/4 moa A2's that track to perfection.

I verified it the next day by making independent clicks to translate a 2 moa move call into a 2 click turret dial.  The 1 moa per click on what should have been 1/2 moa turrets tracked right on to my calculations.  Perfect correction on paper, confirmation that the scope won't work for rattle battle.  It is what it is.  I chose poorly.  I'm coaching one of the NTIT teams this year.  Shooting member will have to wait until next year.

On the plus side, it frees up my gun to swap in one of the new NighForce SR 's that's supposed to be coming my way to test for Camp Perry so I'll be able to get some data with it before going into the 2400 Aggregate during NRA week.  The guys using NF's were getting good tracking at practice an I expect the NF will not disappoint.  The rest of CMP week is no biggie, I'm shooting my old reliable White Oak A2.  Still my king of the hill.

None of this is to say that there's anything wrong with the PFI.  It's still a well thought out optic.  The turrets are perfectly repeatable and the built in ranging reticle makes this scope head and shoulders better than an ACOG by a lot.  It's an ideal hunting scope and day combat optic concept.  It just didn't have the 1/2 moa tracking precision across the course that you have to have to shoot nationals.   I'm going to put this scope on an M-4 type carbine and use it for 200-yard CMP Modern Military Rifle matches.  It'll clean plenty good enough.

Some other things I learned,

1. You need at least a 2 pound "wall" on your trigger for rattle battle.  Less than that and it's hard to feel the second stage as you reset from holding the trigger back between shots.  I was wasting shots by discharging while resetting; you're just moving more roughly with the hyperventilating and tighter sling tension to lay into the gun.  The Geissele typically comes with less than that from the factory.  Use a trigger gauge and turn the second stage up.  It doesn't matter what the total weight is; all you'll feel is the reset click and second stage wall.

2. The adjustable butt stock is the coolest thing ever for service rifle.  I'd say even cooler than being able to use an optic.  Being able to match the length of pull to the position is the best.  It just gets your eye where it needs to be and your center of gravity in a better place.

3.  I'm not totally sold on the bolt hold open levers.  Most of the time they're fine.  Sometimes they're not and the bolt won't stay open particularly when you pull the prep mag out.  I find myself saving, "Might be better to just reach over the scope to close this sucker."


I did inform Pride-Fowler about the anomaly. The pulled several 1.25-4x scopes from their inventory antd tested them on a collimator.  They reported all of them tracked 1/2 moa per click over the elevation range and suspect this may be an issue specific to my scope.