Sunday, May 30, 2010

Competition vs. Duty Rifles

Accuracy is the name of the game. Accuracy is addictive. It doesn't matter if you are a weekend plinker, serious competitor or a professional sniper, accuracy is the goal. We always seek accuracy, but at what cost?

Very frequently I see guys searching for tight chambers and actions that are glass smooth. This may be fine if you only shoot from a bench in the sunshine. These "match" rifles often suffer when the skies turn gray, the temp goes sub-zero or the shooter has to crawl through the mud.

After the Oregon Sniper Challenge I was reminded of this fact. During most of the match I was either in my "bubble" or BS'ing with other shooters off the line. I didn't do a lot of spectating as to how other competitors were shooting. That's just not my style unless someone needs help or it's a personal friend on the line. The night after the Challenge wrapped up, my host and match director Steve Huisman asked me about the numbers of problems he had seen on the line. He recounted seeing quite a few shooters pounding on their bolt handles to open or close their actions. This was during one of numerous downpours that we experienced in the lovely Oregon outdoors.

I thought about it for a few minutes and then pondered the times that I was on the line and the shooters that I did watch. I realized that most of the shooters that I watched were either shooting factory rifles or were professional LE Snipers. None of those had any issues. That's not to say that duty guns don't have issues. At a recent seminar I attended we discussed the number of issues that duty rifles can experience when improperly maintained or modified. Factory sporting rifles generally have extra tolerances built in due to the mass production process. Fitting is done where fitting is required. It's left alone where it's not required. On some "match" rifles, fitting is done because the customer expects a tight fit. Tight equals accurate....right? On rifles intended for military or LE Snipers an experienced smith will allow tolerance for dirt, grit, water and ice. The action may feel a little "sloppy" but they still lock up tight. Now on to the core of our problem....

The issues that were really discussed were the hard bolt closing and hard bolt lift. Hard bolt closing can be indicative of improper case sizing or improper headspace. Hard lift can indicate excessive pressure. These are not absolute, and I am NOT a match gunsmith only a simple armorer. However the rifles that had the problems did not have them when we started shooting in the dry weather. It was only after a good soaking that they began to have issues.

I can speculate that hydraulic pressure was the main culprit. If you are running fire-formed brass in a tight chamber, you still have a little air gap due to the elastic properties of brass. When you sit in a pouring rain, even the most doting shooter will get water in the action. This water takes up space in the chamber. A cold chamber can't cook the water off. When you chamber the round it's like running a piston in a hydraulic cylinder. It's going to take more pressure to force what water you can out. Thus your hard bolt closing.

When you fire that round, the water is still there for a split second before it's burned off. By the time the water is burned off, the bullet is already out of the barrel. Since the water prevented some of the brass' radial stretch I can surmise that the case capacity was slightly decreased. This increases pressure in the chamber and causes the case head to exert more pressure on the bolt face. This results in the same hard bolt lift as an overpressure round.

Now a lot of this is speculation and there may be an engineer our there shaking his head, however it's my best SWAG at what was going on.

Now lets take a quick look at the rifles that did not experience any issues. The one I had the most experience was my own. It's the rifle pictured above. I run an almost stock Remington 700 .308 with a 26" barrel. I won't bore you with the details of the rest of the rifle except to say that the chamber is pretty sloppy and the action is well worn from lots of dry fire. For this competition I was running fire formed, neck sized Winchester brass, but I was running a moderate powder charge. I did nothing special to keep water out of my action and the only concession to the weather that I made was to lower my muzzle so that no water crept into the bore.

Another shooter next to me was running a factory 700P on the first day, but switched to an AW because the bipod stud ripped out of the bottom of his HS Precision stock. Two other LE shooters were running AI AE's and two of our northern neighbors were running custom 700's. All were shooting factory ammo. None experienced any failures. Of course all of these rifles had operated in the weather before.

The reason I enjoy tactical matches so much is that equipment is generally not the great equalizer. It's the shooter's ability to utilize his equipment to the maximum. When I was evaluating what rifle to take to the match I analyzed the courses of fire. I saw that there was a lot of sub-600 yard shooting with positions and time limits. I almost selected my AR10 to shoot the match. It's a custom rifle with a Noveske barrel. It is most certainly capable of the accuracy required. I could have installed my USO on it and shot it well. However since I only had 300 rounds on it, I am nowhere near as proficient with it as I am with my top-feeding 700. I have demonstrated time and time again that I can run the 700 "almost" as fast as the AR10. The speed difference is made up for by the familiarity of the system and the absolute reliability it has demonstrated for me. It is my duty rifle and I know it will function in the mud, grime and rain.

In the end it's the Indian, not the bow. If you are selecting a rifle for a tactical competition, I suggest you go with what you know. A $3000 rifle that you put $2000 worth of ammo down the tube will serve you better than a $5000 custom. If you do choose to go the custom route, then don't blindly chase "accuracy". Instead keep the end-use in mind. Tell your builder you want it to function in the rain, dirt and show. When you roll up your handloads, don't run the ragged edge of pressure. Back it down and hit that accuracy node that leaves room for the heat and rain.

When it's all said and done, get to the range. Because no level of equipment in this game can replace skill with the weapon. Lack of range time has bitten me in the ass before and it will again. No matter what you have done in the past, long range shooing is a perishable skill.

Photo courtesy of

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Oregon Sniper Challenge 2010

You may have noticed a lack of posting from me over the last couple of days. This is mainly due to the fact that I was on the left coast shooting the absolutely outstanding "Oregon Sniper Challenge". This was a two day event that combined long range, close range, supported and unsupported shooting. It tested almost every facet of the "tactical" shooting discipline. Then they threw an aerial platform in just for fun. That's right, a civilian competition that included shooting from a hovering helicopter. Not a "helicopter like" platform, but an actual Bell Jet Ranger in flight. Needless to say this alone left many shooters satisfied even if they zeroed the stage.

I managed to knock myself from fifth to tenth at the end of the first day, then clawed back up to a tenth place finish. This dismal placing was still good enough to take home a certificate for a Iron Ridge Arms matched receiver set ($1000 value).

The sponsors were many and the competition was extremely friendly. This is definitely THE tactical competition in the Northwest.

In the next couple of days I will be doing a detailed writeup for so keep checking back.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Read a good book lately?

Once in awhile I actually manage to finish a whole book. Yes, I can actually read! Now comprehending what I read is a totally different manner.
This time around I finished Stephen Hunter's new book "I, Sniper". For those of you who are Hunter fans, this is another of the Bob Lee Swagger series. I got hooked into Hunter's books after the movie "Shooter" came out. It was based on the book "Sudden Impact". Now anyone who has seen Shooter knows how many technical goofs there are. However I have my wonderful wife to ground me in the "real" world. She thoroughly enjoyed the movie and did not notice the technical inaccuracies.

Why mention that movie in a review of this book? Because as I read through "I, Sniper" I noticed a heap of technical errors. Most of the time I was able to just ignore them and drive on with the rather enjoyable plot. However the errors do have the unfavorable result of dropping you out of the story for a second while your brain attempts to reconcile reality with what you just read.

Now if you are looking for a believable tale, don't waste your money on this book. The plot is far from believable. However Hunter does a passable job of weaving a fictional tale with sniper skills. Hunter likes to explore some of the details associated with weapon craft an in those details he sometimes misses the target.

If you are looking for a way to zone out of the real world for awhile, join Bob Lee as he tromps across the US. If you are not a student of the gun you will probably not even notice the technical goofs. Then again, if you aren't a student of the gun.....why are you reading my blog?

"I, Sniper" on

Some of our Videos

I am attempting to get this Blog layout setup the way I like. I managed to find the nifty little "gadget" that allows me to link our YouTube Channel Videos here.

It seems to be a little twitchy though. Sometimes it previews our videos. Sometimes it shows someone else's. Hopefully I will get it worked out.

In the next couple of months I hope to be able to post some new videos and use them to answer some questions.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

I want to get into long range shooting.......................

That is how the post usually starts. Then it goes something like this:

"I want to get a Remington in .338LM because that's what the SEAL's use. My sister's boyfriend has a Counter Sniper scope on his SKS and it looks really cool. I think I am going to get one of those too. Does this sound like a good idea? I have shot some cans with my friend's AK before, but I haven't really shot rifles before."

The thread will usually progress to guys recommending a basic .308 bolt gun setup to get the kid started, but he just really wants some whiz-bang shit to impress the other guys at the range. Rarely do these kids seem interested in learning the "Art" of long range shooting. They are the same guys you will see banging away at 50 yards with a .300WM.

Now I have NOTHING against anyone wanting to own a certain firearm "just because". Lord knows I have several "just because" guns in my inventory. They are usually something that I got a crazy deal on or that hold some sentimental or intellectual value. They may get taken to the range on a rare occasion, but their main purpose is to fill the need to "own" that many of us overgrown kids have.

My concern is that once in a great while there are kids that truly do want to learn the art, but because they see all the other kids at the range with no idea how to use the pile of parts they loosely refer to as a rifle, they think they need to sink a boatload of cash into crap to keep up.

May of these guys did not have the advantage of growing up in the country or having parents who were shooters. Sometime in my youth my father gave me one of the greatest material gifts a man can ever give to a boy. He gave me a Remington bolt action .22LR. It was a "youth" rifle (Remington 581 with a short stock). He converted it to single shot and put the magazine away. I shot cans, junk, targets and the occasional trash bird and rabbit with it. I loved that rifle as much as a boy can love anything before he discovers girls. It was my ONLY rifle until I left for Parris Island and that world of the United States Marine Corps.

In short, don't get sucked into the equipment race. It won't get you to where you want to be.

My suggestion to the new shooter is to purchase a good .22LR bolt action rifle. A Savage or Reminton is a great start. Install some mid level glass ($200 is NOT mid level), a good bipod, a sling, and a couple bricks of match ammo (Wolf Match Target is my favorite). Start at 25 yards and learn how to punch holes wherever you want them. If you are one of those Alpha Males who has to have the BEST of everything, then get a custom Remington 40x in a McMillan Stock and slap a S&B Scope on it. You will drop several thousand dollars into that, but still have a TRAINER than will challenge your skill.

Once 25 yards gets boring, push it back to 50 yards. Then 100 Yards. At 100 with sub-sonic match .22LR loads you will begin to notice that if you don't pay attention to the wind you will start to miss. At 200 yards the wind will be playing with your little, slow moving .22LR the same as it would at 1000 yards for a 175gr .308 (about 9.9 MOA for a 10pmh full value). You will need to be just as exacting with your wind calls, but you will be spending FAR less than the $1.50 a shot that match ammo for a .308 typically runs.

Add into this the fact that 1000 yard ranges are a bit hard to come by in some areas of the US. There are scores of ranges where you can get to 200 yards and all I have seen will allow the .22LR.

With the.22LR you avoid the ammo costs, the recoil and the muzzle blast of the .308.

After a year of hard shooting with the .22LR you will develop some good skills with the rifle.

Sure you may go to the range and see other kids snicker when you break out your "little" .22. If you look closely though you will see some old guys with a gleam in their eye. You can walk away from the line at the end of the day snickering when they can't figure out why their pile of parts "won't shoot" and you were cleaning targets at 200 yards with the wind blowing.

If your ego tries to block you from getting a "little" .22LR, just remember that before a Marine Sniper gets behind a M40 at the Basic School he has to spend some time on the Remington .22 trainers.

Friday, May 14, 2010

LV Steel Targets

I recently got the chance to wring out a new Steel Target from LV Steel Targets. I selected one of their reduced size IDPA silhouettes (3/8" #7) and a drive in base. This allows me to stake this plate in on the side of a hill in my favorite shooting spot.

While shooting steel at 100 yards is a bit of a waste, it does give me an idea of durability. I originally had a plate made of 3/8" AR400 steel from a local shop. After getting a little too excited I holed it at 300 yards with 168gr Match Kings at 2600fps. Not a good thing. This AR500 plate from LV Steel Targets took five 175gr Match Kings at 100 yards and came up smiling. It also endured a pounding from my M4 shooting 55gr American Eagle. The only caveat was a small nick where a .55gr FMJ hit right on the edge. I have not contacted Kurt Stone at LV yet to find out his method of cutting, but it is a known issue that some cutting methods can remove the temper from the Armor Plate reducing it's hardness.

Look for the full review on soon.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tubb Carrier Weight System and Flatwire Spring

I had been hearing about these two items for awhile and some purported them to have almost mythical qualities. Others state they don't do a thing. Since I have a tendency to not believe internet hype unless seen with my own eyes, I logged into my Brownells account and summoned the Great Brown Truck to fetch my toys.

Hype or Hope? We shall see. I have about 100 rounds on the system right now. I will say it does show promise in the AR10 test pig. What?.... You didn't think we would put it in some dinky little AR15 did you?

 Keep an eye on the website. ( I will have some more info up after I clean off the dust from Oregon.

The Oregon Sniper Competition hosted by my good friend Steve is next week. All energies are going into prepping for that. Look for an after action report when I return no matter if I suck or not.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Welcome to my Blog. I really have no clue what I am going to do with this thing, but more than likely I will just ramble. I have some experience doing websites, but I generally try to keep those tidy looking. In doing so, I procrastinate a lot. Sometimes just laying crap out in no organized fashion gets the info out faster.

My intent here is to just generally post what I am up to in the shooting and professional world. Sometimes you may get a glimps into an article I am working on for the website, or you may just get to read about how I jacked something up. I am a former Marine so that happens quite often. This should also allow me to get some pics up from matches or schools quicker than posting them on the website.

And of course you will get to hear me whine about having to answer the same questions over and over again on the several web forums I frequent. More than likely I will use this Blog to comment on some of those questions so I can link back when they are asked again in a week.....or day.