The Toughness of Military Optics

This really is very true. For many of us buying the cheap optic is – at best – a false economy as it will wear out sooner and require another purchase. For some users a cheap optic that fails at an essential time is literally a life or death issue.

The Everyday Marksman

Buy Once, Cry Once.

It’s a motto often repeated, and one many struggle to learn. In the firearms world, the comment that product x is “just as good as” product y (that costs twice as much) is repeated too often to count. This is especially true when it comes to optics, and particularly those designed for hard use.

By hard use, I mean the optic can pretty much deal with anything that is thrown at it and continue to function. The optic is essentially as tough as the rifle that it’s sitting on. A great example is the ACOG. Many people recoil at the idea of spending a thousand dollars or more on a relatively low powered fixed magnification rifle scope. There are hundreds of optics on the market that have decent quality glass and reticles, and are fixed at 4x or thereabouts. For most people, these types of optics are…

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Care Feeding and Maintenance of Precision Rifles – Part 2 ‘More About Feeding’

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When I penned an article about the care feeding and maintenance of precision rifles the other day it was intended as a stand-alone piece of advice for the newer shooter but what surprised me was the number of hits this article received and the number of favorable comments that appeared about it on other websites.

Figuring that there must be some appetite for this kind of information, I decided to expand upon the feeding of precision rifles but again this article is geared for the newer shooter and so the information will be fairly basic.  In my first article I advised against putting cheap ammo though your new rifle and that advice is worth repeating.  I have several cases of surplus .308  but not a round will see the inside of a decent barrel unless the Zombies come.  What I advise is either the purchase of quality match-grade ammo or the making of your own.

While there are many good arguments in favor of feeding your new precision rifle a steady diet of match-grade factory ammo there are, to my mind, three basic arguments against it.  First, quality ammo is expensive – if we think of .308 as an example, there isn’t much change out of $40 when you buy a box of Federal Gold Medal Match in my part of Canada.  Secondly, there is the issue of availability – if you live outside of an urban area you are pretty limited in what you can buy and, lastly, buying factory ammo means you miss out on the great learning experience of reloading – the subject of this short article.

Getting Started in Reloading

Usually, the new shooter is already a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of reloading and at the rifle range he or she will run into two types of ‘purveyors of reloading advice’ – Max the Moose H unter and Billy the Bench King.  Max the Moose Hunter only reloads for one calibre and has only one recipe.  His ‘thurty thurty or his ‘ought six’ uses only one type of bullet and takes either one or one and one half tea spoons of IMR xyz5 and, as far as he knows, no moose that he has ever taken in nigh on sixty years has ever seen the need for anything different !  He uses Remchester brass that them young fellas leave lying around at the range and, while on the subject, he sees no need for them autoloaders and big scopes.  For Max, perfection in rifles and glass was achieved sometime around 1957 and anything since then is just plain bull crap.

Next, our new shooter meets Billy the Bench King who would love to explain handloading (not, reloading) after taking half an hour to explain the merits of his “Barn Yard, Krieton topped with Something Und Something from Germany that was hand-crafted by Swiss Gnomes and which is, of course, chambered in a wildcat of Billy’s own design – something called a 6.7-288 phantom with bumped back shoulder and small base that was rear annealed”  at least that’s what New Shooter thinks Billy said.   The problem with meeting Billy is this – Billy knows enough to tell Brian Litz a thing or two and is a certifiable genius but Billy is also a perfectionist and the thought of not annealing a case or deburring a primer pocket or not measuring runout is simply unthinkable.  Our new shooter got lost somewhere along a sentence about the absolute necessity of neck turning and he walks away thinking that this reloading thing  is much too complicated and likely too dangerous to attempt with anything less than PhD level knowledge of chemistry, metallurgy, physics and ballistics.

In my opinion, new shooters can make some very fine (and safe) ammo very early on in their shooting hobby and can build upon the basics as time and interest permits.  While there is much to commend the Billy the Bench King approach let me say this:  I’ve entered matches and performed well with ammo made at home using the most basic of techniques and not knowing what my ES, SD or even my BC was !

But I don’t have a reloading room ?  For many years I made ammo in a small apartment in a big city and even now that we live in a big farmhouse in the country my reloading is done is a small space.  I like to be away from the main part of the house and to have a bit of natural light but a small space works real fine.  Chickens in background are optional.

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So let’s get started with what to buy.  I recommend a simple kit to start with that has all the basics covered and the kit I recommend is something like a RCBS Rockchucker kit that will contain a press, a powder measure, a beam scale, a pad for lubing cases. a brush for lubing the inside of case necks and a shell holder.  Such a kit will also come with a manual and one or two other goodies.  With this you can start making cartridges.

The press that comes with a kit

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Manuals – the manual that comes with a kit should, ideally, be supplemented with one or two more to cover off the various bullet makes and powder combos but whether you buy one or several PLEASE READ THE HOW TO SECTION OF THE MANUAL.  The manuals will show you in step by easy step exactly how to complete the process – please read and understand.

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Dies – I usually recommend that new shooters start off with Full Length Resizing and while I prefer Redding Dies there is nothing wrong with RCBS.  With experience, a shooter may wish to graduate to more expensive dies (for example I use Redding Competition Bushing Die Sets ) but there is nothing at all wrong with Full Length resizing and I still use them for my non-match rifles.

Full Length Dies

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More Expensive Competition Dies

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Bullet Puller -we all make mistakes and at least in my view, a bullet puller is essential.  There are two types – one looks like a green hammer and the other looks like a die.  Buy the latter not the former.

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Case Trimming – there are many different ways to accomplish this and some are quite pricey.  I found an American company that makes a product called The World’s Finest Trimmer and (aside from the cheesy name) this is a great product.  Fast and efficient and available through Brownells.

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Case Chamfering – The kit will likely come with a tool.  If not you can buy a simple de-burring and chamfering one.  Not expensive and quite useful.

Powder Dispensers ( Thrown Charges ) – pictured below in the foreground, dispensers like the ones that come with the kit  are still OK to use but you may want to be careful here as they do tend to be a bit erratic depending upon the powder used.  I still use one when I want to make a whole bunch of ammo up for rifles which I’ll be using for making hits on steel etc but for precise work you will want to avoid thrown charges.

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Powder Measuring ( Weighing Each Charge ) – for a long time I used a balance beam scale but then I discovered the RCBC Chargemaster and didn’t look back. Yes, there are better ( ie more accurate ) scales / dispensers out there but trust me you will likely never need them.

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Priming Tool – I still use the one that came with my RCBC kit.  I like to hand prime and over time you will develop a real feel for what you are doing.

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Calipers – essential to own.  I prefer a digital readout but analog will work fine.  No need to spend lots of money.  Most hardware stores will carry ones that you will never need to upgrade from.

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Case Lube – You won’t need anything fancy.  The pad that came with the kit will be just fine.

Over time you may well want to add some more bits of equipment such as a bullet comparator, an instrument for neck turning, a bullet comparator, a device for measuring overall cartridge length…. the list goes on and there are endless do-dads and geegaws that one can buy and some will claim are essential.

Some of the other tools you can and likely will buy or make.

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Components – I like to buy quality components and the following is a list of what I usually use:

  • Brass – Lapua and Norma top my list but I’ve also used Federal and Winchester with success.  I don’t like Remington brass and LC Match is hard to come buy up here
  • Bullets – I like Berger for my F-Open match rifle in 6mmBR and Lapua for my .260 and 6.5-284 rifles.  I used to be a fan of Sierra Match Kings for my other rifles but they are hard to get where I live so I’ve switched over to using Hornaday which are perfectly fine for my needs
  • Primers – I use CCI for my 6mmBR but FGMM for everything else.  I use Winchester primers for my M14 as they are harder and I think a harder primer best for an autoloader like the M14
  • Powder – whenever possible I will use Varget unless it is clearly unsuited for a particular calibre.  Varget meters well ( pours well out of a dispenser ) and is stable across a range of temperatures.

Powder

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Brass

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Bullets

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What ammo to make ?  Using .308 as an example,  I see a lot of people really hotrod their loads because they are seeking the best 1000 yard cartridge possible and what is funny about this effort is that the person making such a load heads out every Saturday to their club where the maximum available distance is 200 yards.  Honestly, if you are going to be shooting at 100-600 yards a moderate load will work just as well as a hot one – and your barrel will thank you for it.

Internet loads – if you are a new shooter please approach anything you see on the internet about good loads with caution. A 185 Berger over 43 grains of Varget that is kissing the lands may work really well in someones rifle on the internet but in yours it may be too hot with too much pressure and simply be a disaster waiting to happen.  Start off looking at loads in the manual and work up to a load that for you – at the distance you shoot – prints nice little groups.  Honestly, for most new shooters a load that works best will likely be somewhat pedestrian but, really, the target won’t care, your barrel will last longer and you will be safe and comfortable.

Record keeping – invest in a notebook and keep good accurate records of your loads and how they perform in your rifle.  Review your notes often and they will teach you how to constantly improve.

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Anything else ?  Well, yes, there is tons more to say but this will be good to be getting on with.

Care, Feeding and Maintenance of Precison Rifles – Advice for Newer Shooters

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When reading a website the other day it struck me how often the same questions are asked over and over again and so, rather than add to my FAQ post, I thought I’d pen an idea or two about how to set up and look after your new precision rifle.  My advice remains the same whether your rifle is traditional, tactical or competition as the same basic rules apply.

In my mind there are six or so elements to a good shooting system: the rifle, the scope, mounts and rings, ammo, accessories and shooter so let’s go through them in some order.  Selection of a rifle will be usually determined by a mix of budget or personal preference and may well vary from an entry level Savage or Remington to something much more expensive but no matter what you have purchased the first step will be to attach a scope to your rifle.  Here I see a lot of mistakes being made.

The bases and rings you choose to attach your scope to your rifle ought not be where you seek to save money.  Invest in a quality rail or other base – think names like NIghtforce, Talley or Badger Ordnance and not names like NcStar or UTG.

Bases Come in a Variety of Styles

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The rings you choose vary in price from almost free to several hundred dollars – do not use rings that look like these:

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Use rings that look like these:

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I like TPS – I think they may be the best value out there – but there are other good makes; Leupold, Nightforce, Badger and (some) of the Vortex come to mind.  Don’t use anything that has words like ‘Sniper’ or ‘Rambo’ on it or anything that came free with someone’s scope.  QD (Quick Detach) rings are sometimes OK – but stick with quality makes.

The scope you choose will depend upon the application you have in mind.  The old adage ‘buy once cry once’ usually holds true with scopes and my recommendation is to buy the best you can afford.  Unless your application is similar to that of the military please remember that their needs are usually going to be different to yours and so don’t, necessarily, buy a scope because it is ‘what they use’.  Most target shooters are well served by a 8-32×56 scope with a second focal plane (SFP) and a easy to use reticule.

One of the Best Scopes in the World – S+B Pmii

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While I’ve no philosophical objection to buying a scope from any particular country, I do generally advise against scopes that are Made in China as the QC varies so very much.  Not all Chinese scopes are bad but one just has to take care to ensure that the maker warranties the product in case you get a dud.  Generally, I say buy Made in Germany/Japan/USA with Vortex PST (Made in Phillipines) as the lower end of what I recommend.

Once you have your scope of choice properly mounted to your rifle using quality bases and rings you are ready to go out and do some shooting which brings me to a couple of suggestions re accessories.  Use a good bipod – Harris, Accushot, LRA depending upon your chosen application but, again, buy quality – and, if you like attach a good, comfortable, cheekrest ( I like Blackhawk).  Use a sling if you are going to be positional shooting but, otherwise, you won’t need one other than for it to get in the way.

Suitably set up for shooting you will now need to feed your rifle.  As it is with rings and bases, trying to save money on cheap ammo is a false economy.  A rifle barrel will last somewhere between 1200-5000 rounds depending upon calibre and I see no point whatsoever in wasting that life on cheap, milsurp ammo which won’t even print well enough to tell you anything about how you or your rifle are performing.  Save the milsurp stuff for the Zombie Apocalypse and feed your precision rifle good quality ammo – I usually recommend that new shooters learn to reload as that will ( over time ) save money, allow you to tailor loads for your rifle and is, in and of itself, a worthwhile hobby.  If reloading isn’t an option then buy match grade ammo.

Ammo – Forget Surplus and Buy Quality

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Reloading – A Small Space Will Work Quite Nicely

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During the shooting of your new rifle I strongly recommend that you keep notes about the ammo you used and how it performed.  A simple notepad will work fine – just note the date, time, weather conditions and what ammo you used and over what distance and how everything worked – groupings etc.  As you get more advanced you will want to buy a chronograph to measure speed, Extreme Spread and Standard Deviation but for the moment you can keep it nice and simple.

After having been out to the range or your favorite shooting spot you will want to clean your rifle.  There is lots of misinformation out there about this important aspect of rifle ownership but I believe in keeping it pretty straightforward.  Ideally you will have a bit of space ( I have a small workshop in the basement but it can be done at the kitchen table * man-tip * – clean up after you have finished to avoid domestic terror )

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You will need to buy some cleaning supplies and a good quality cleaning rod – Please do not use the sectional rod and also I recommend you avoid using a Bore Snake or similar.  A good rod ( like Dewey ) will be a quality investment that will last a very long time.

Cleaning Products – There is a Wide Variety To Choose From

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Cleaning Rods – Buy Quality

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Clean the rifle from the breech end and take your time.  Most people recommend the use of a bore guide and while I agree that’s a good idea I have to confess that while I own them I don’t always use them. People say to clean until patches come out clear but I don’t say you have to be so scrupulous about it.  One of the things I advise against is the over-use of a bore brush; personally I like to use something like Wipe Out and then patches and avoid the brush.  Brushing usually isn’t necessary and can harm your barrel if done improperly. Be careful and make sure you clean the trigger properly – don’t go squirting CLP down there in the hope it will work some magic but clean grit and grime away with care following the instructions that came with your rifle or aftermarket trigger.

After you’ve cleaned your rifle you should apply lubrication.  With a bolt gun there isn’t a lot to do and grease (not oil) should be used sparingly.  In my opinion there is no need to buy expensive firearms grease – a simple tube of marine grease will work just fine and last for a long time.

Marine Grease – Works Just Fine

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Apply a small dab of grease – just a smidge as you really don’t want to use too much – on the lugs of the bolt.  Apply another small bit on the underside of the bolt and away you go.  Remember grease attracts dirt and too much grease will gum up the system.  There is a great article on this issue on an excellent blog that I follow here :

http://www.accuracy-tech.com/lubing-the-bolt-action-rifle/

Moving on to some accessories for your new rifle there are a few that I recommend:

  • Good ear protection – this is, in my mind, an essential.
  • Good quality glasses – you only have two eyes and it would suck to be down to one
  • a decent drag bag that you can also use as a mat – these are hugely useful and I have ones made by Condor and by Voodoo Tactical that have lasted really well.
  • a good spotting scope – many brands exist but the one that I like is the Pentax 80ED which is a super value at about $1200 or so
  • a range finder
  • a wind meter

Lastly, the one element we haven’t touched upon is you – the shooter .  Like with any sport there are going to be good days and bad ones.  Avoiding too much caffeine before a range session is helpful as is being generally quite fit for your age because the more limber you are the better you will be able to position yourself for the shots that you need to take.  Most importantly though is the mental attitude you have towards your practice sessions.  Approach sessions seriously and with a goal and you will certainly see improvement in your shooting.

Hope you enjoyed the read – please feel very free to leave comments and opinions.

Review of PGW Folding Stock Chassis for Coyote and Timberwolf

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While we all like the traditional look, there is no doubt that the chassis systems have made serious inroads into the world of precision shooting.  Here is an updated review I initially wrote a while back but has been updated to reflect about two years worth of ownership.

Like most of the people who progress beyond basic factory rifles I am a user of aftermarket stocks and have reviewed a number of them in previous reviews.

While the nature of F Class –with nearly all the competitive rifles being custom built – necessitates the use of an aftermarket stock, such stocks are also quite commonly seen both at tactical matches and the rifle range because, unless one is using a rifle like the very fine Sako TRG, one of the various offerings from Accuracy International or a similar high-end rifle, a shooter is most likely to have upgraded his or her rifle by replacement of the factory stock. This isn’t to say that factory stocks are all bad – some are indeed quite good – but it’s just a fact that getting rid of the stock the rifle left the factory in is one of the first upgrades people think of.

While I admit to having a bit of an obsession with stocks from McMillian – especially their A5 – I’ve always liked folding stocks. To my mind, folding stocks have two big things going for them: one is eye appeal as they are, quite simply, so darn ‘tactical’ looking that they really do epitomise that annoying expression ‘Tacti-cool’ and, secondly, the ability to neatly fold away the stock has two very sound practical advantages – with the butt portion of the stock out of the way they are easier to clean and when folded up they are much easier to transport.

The biggest drawback to folding stocks is mechanical – the very nature of the beast means you have a hinge and hinges can wobble. Now this doesn’t really matter at all on something like a CZ858 or AK or similar but when you get down to sub minute accuracy you simply can’t tolerate anything that will cause a flyer and a wobble will mess up a group as sure as anything – heck, even the thought of a wobbly stock will cause you to turn that .5 into a 1.5 ! Accuracy International have had a folder ( AICS 2.0 ) out for quite some time and they lock up so solidly that if I close my eyes I simply cannot tell the difference between them and the non-folding AICS 1.5

For the past few years one of my favorite rifles, the PGW DTI ‘Coyote’ had been available with an all-aluminum chassis complete with folding stock. The PGW really needs no further commentary from me – the fact is that they are a seriously top-tier rifle and all are (with proper ammo, glass and shooter) genuine half-minute or better rifles.For several years the Coyote’s I’d owned had been housed in the McMillian A5 but that changed just over two years or so ago when I took possession of a folding stock version and now having had a lot of time with this chassis I thought I’d share my observations with you.

Opening up the package upon my return from SHOT, I immediately appreciated that as far as the fit and finish department is concerned this particular Coyote was every bit as nicely put together as my other ones were and the chassis really accentuated the tactical look.

Over the period of time I’ve owned this rifle I’ve noticed the look of the rifle really garners a fair bit of attention so if you are shy about showing off your toys this may not be for you but, on a more serious note, let me say that despite countless openings and closings of the stock I am pleased to be able to say that the folder locks up perfectly and is as 100% rock solid today as it was on day one.

I do almost all my shooting from the prone and initially I had some trouble getting perfectly comfortable behind the rifle as I was so used to the McMillian A5 but after making some small positional changes I’m happy to say that I found the ergonomics of the Coyote folder to be quite acceptable from this position. When I use a tactical style rifle from the prone I use a bean bag and the folder worked perfectly on this but not so much when I switched to my F-Class ‘Protector’ bag so if you are a ‘bunny ear’ bag user you may find that it doesn’t fit the bag as nicely as the McMillian.

Over the two years I’ve had this rifle I’ve confirmed this to be an easy half-minute shooter and at my most common practice distance of 300m all but one group has fallen under 1.5” with a best measuring 0.856” which is in the .2’s. While initially I’d produced smaller average groups with the McMillian stocked version I determined that the difference was attributable to me as over time the averages evened out.

PGW advises that the folding stock chassis rifle is 6oz lighter than their McMillian-housed offering but this is still a heavy rifle. Nevertheless, I took some shots from the kneeling and standing positions and found I was able to make repeat hits on a dinner plate-sized gong at the 200m mark and it was from these offhand positions that I found the folding stock version to be superior to the one in the McMillian. I don’t think it was the weight difference but the ergonomics of the chassis folder worked better than the McMillian when shooting from kneeling and standing.

Criticisms? My only initial critical comment really came down to personal preference and that was to do with the fact that the Coyote folds to the right. AICS fold to the left and that’s the way I’d preferred but over time I’ve seen the light and now see the merit in a right hand fold.

PGW Right Fold

Overall, all that remains for me to say is that I really like what PGW did with their folding stock chassis and I found nothing to disappoint me after two years of use. Recently when replacing my Savage 110BA in .338 LM with a newer, better, 338LM it was the Coyote’s big brother the folding stock Timberwolf that I chose to upgrade to .

More Pics:

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Upcoming Reviews

I have a couple of projects in the hopper.

First up will be a review of a Cadex chassis system – specifically, the Field OT

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This will be my first review of a Cadex piece of equipment and I’m keen to get it into my hands.  The chassis will house a custom Rem 700 in .260

Another project underway is a review of the M14.ca scout handguard – I like the stuff from M14.ca and this new item should prove interesting.

Stay tuned…….

Review – Vietnam War USMC M40 (Reproduction)

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Sometimes the merest mention of the name or the designation of a certain firearm will ignite a keen interest and debate amongst gun owners. For some ‘students of the gun’ it will be one of the timeless creations of John Moses Browning or the eponymous brainchild of Canadian Jean Cantius Garand that stirs the blood. Amongst aficionados of the bolt gun the incomparable K98 or, that victor of two world wars, the SMLE usually comes to mind but in my opinion there are few post WWII bolt guns that carry the same cachet as the one attributed to the rifle first used in Vietnam by the United States Marine Corps Scout Snipers – the USMC M40.

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While the twin mercies of demographics and geography combined to ensure that my experience of what historians call the “Ten Thousand Day War” was limited to watching it unfold on the BBC evening news, I – like many of my generation – developed a fascination with that conflict and being a gun nut my interest naturally extended to the weapons used by the legendary snipers of that war – US Marines Hathcock, Mawhinney and England as well as the Army’s Adelbert Waldron who was, until surpassed by Chris Kyle, the US military’s record holder with 109 kills.

At commencement of hostilities the USMC outfitted marksmen with a number of different weapons and in those early days the Winchester Model 70 was the un-official USMC sniper rifle. The first rifles sent to Asia to be used as sniper weapons were actually from the third marine division rifle team that had been rebuilt for use for highpower competition at Camp Perry. (Hathcock, for example, used a Winchester Mod 70 in 30-06 during his first tour).

Hathcock

In 1964 Winchester made a fateful decision. In what was almost a case of corporate suicide, the arms maker changed the rifle to make it cheaper, easier and faster to produce. The changes Winchester made were enough to damage the company’s reputation for many years and was something some people never forgave. It also ended any chance the M70 had of becoming sniper standard in the years to come.

Winchester’s loss was Remington’s gain and in 1966 following upon the recommendations of a report prepared by the USMC MTU, Remington presented to the USMC a rifle – chambered in .308 – which was built in their custom shop on the Model 40XB target rifle action. Outfitted with a bull barrel and fitted into a walnut oil-finished stock, the final order was for 995 rifles each of which were designated the M40.

Warping of the stocks and fogging of the primitive Redfield scopes they carried bedevilled these rifles but in the hands of trained snipers they nevertheless proved accurate enough to allow for confirmed kills out past 800 yards and (with lots of upgrades through M40A1 A3 and A5 versions) similar rifles remain in service to this day.

Regrettably, the time is long gone for there to be any hope of someone like me being able to acquire a real 1960’s M40 (one went through a US auction last month for US$26,000 and change!) and while there are a number of excellent custom shops in the US that will make one a very fine M40A1, what excited me most was the project undertaken a few years back by Remington, Iron Brigade Armory and the USMC Scout Sniper Association to make a reasonably-priced replica (as opposed to mere ‘commemorative’ ) version of the original wood-stocked rifle that started it all. It is one of these Remington retro M40’s that has recently come into my hands and of which I am writing about here.

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There will always be some who say that purchasing anything other than an original is a waste of money but, were that the case few of us would own a M14-type rifle a semi-auto M4 or any other firearm that wasn’t, strictly speaking, an as-issued piece. My repro M40 was made by the same company (Remington) that made the original M40 and it is endorsed by Iron Brigade Armory and, more importantly to me, the United States Marine Corps Scout Sniper Association – if they say my rifle meets their standards of authenticity then that’s more than good enough for me.

M40 Cert

Weighing 7 1/2 pounds my M40 specs include a 1:12 ROT M40 pattern 24″ medium weight barrel with a flat crown, a “U.S.” roll marked and “clip-slotted” M40 pattern 40x receiver which is drilled and tapped for rear peep sights. The stock is a M40 pattern walnut stock without checkering which has 1 1/2 inch wide sling swivels designed for military style slings and it has the correct style heavy chequered aluminum buttplate.

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Interested readers may wonder why this rifle has a “clip slotted” receiver which can’t even be used with a scoped rifle. The answer to that question is simple – the 1960’s 40x action came with a receiver slot for the stripper clips which were used to reload the magazine when the rifle was used with target iron sights in high-power rifle matches such as those held at Camp Perry.

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This particular rifle is complete with a authentic copy of a Vietnam-era one-piece scope mount and rings set. These modern mounts were manufactured by Badger Ordnance to be a faithful reproduction of the 1960’s Redfield Junior rings and base that the original M40 would have worn.

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Obviously there will be differences between an original made in the 1960’s and a reproduction made some forty years later. Some differences that I’ve noted between the replica and the original appears to be in the parkerized finish, the safety looks to be the modern style and the trigger is the older Remington but not, I think, the one from the 1960’s. These differences ( and maybe others ) are OK with me since I know it is a modern reproduction that I bought and not an original. A neat touch with these replicas is the addition of a special SSA prefix to the serial number in honour of the USMC Scout Sniper Association and its’ members.

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While this rifle was used when I bought it, the condition was ‘near to new’ and I am very pleased with the fit, finish and function all of which compares most favourably to regular factory offerings.

To complete the ‘near to the 1960’s’ look I topped the rifle with a 1970’s Redfield ‘Royal’ which looks similar to the Redfield Accumark these rifles would have worn when fielded. Because my eyes need all the help they can get these days I swapped out the old Redfield for a new (now discontinued) 1″ diameter Bushnell Elite 4200 6-24×40 for the actual shooting part of this article. I’ve always liked the old 4200 series scopes, they have really very good glass and have excellent light transmission so when I saw this one advertised on Amazon for a good price I figured it would sort of look the part and work well. Finally before heading out to do some shooting I swapped out the US cloth sling for a quality 1907-pattern sling which, with the exception of modern tactical slings, remains the best sling there is for positional shooting.

Pictured with an all matching 1903 Springfield and a modern M14

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While the original rifle would have used the US M118 load that was topped with a 173g pill I made up some loads using readily on hand components and so I used 168g Hornaday Match over 43.5g of Varget and headed off to see how she performed.

For comparison purposes I took with me two other modern .308’s – one was a custom M40A1 clone built by Alberta Tactical Rifle Supply that sports a Rock Creek M40 profile barrel and which sits in a McMillian M40A1 HTG stock and the other was my PGW Coyote which, incidentally, sees service in some parts of the world as a modern SWS.

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What did I think ? Read on…

Comfort and Ergonomics

I’ll confess to having been spoiled a bit because most of my rifles sport either high quality stocks or chassis systems that are fully customizable for the end user so this old school stock wasn’t quite as comfortable as I’m used to. Having said that, it is clearly a quality stock and the M40 style with raised comb feels just natural – at least to my body proportions. The palm swell was fine but the wrist is a little narrow for me – small points that don’t really affect shooting. The rifle balanced well and recoil was fine though I did notice it whereas with the heavier, modern, rifles it is really tamed.

Action and Trigger

A smooth action with a nice tight lock up and a pretty good trigger – certainly better that the hateful XMP but not the best-tuned Remington trigger I’ve used.  A good comparison wold be to a 700P – nice enough but not a stand-out.

Accuracy

On a windy day the rifle was still capable of some sub minute accuracy. This was pretty much as expected and I suspect that playing around with some handloads will turn this rifle into a 3/4 or so minute rifle.

Conclusion

Well, there is no doubt that if one wants a heavy barreled accurate Remington rifle there are cheaper and better options than this one – any 700P or R5 is likely to be as accurate and will certainly come with a better stock and at a much cheaper price. If, however, like me you want a rifle that is as near as you can reasonably expect to a 1960’s M40 then this may well be for you. I’m very happy with this rifle and even though it is a modern replica I shall treasure it as though it is an original.

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Not about rifles but worthy of inclusion here ….. Para awarded the VC

Her Majesty The Queen has presented the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest order of gallantry, to Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey of the 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment for heroic action in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

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Only three Victoria Crosses have been awarded for the Afghan campaign and Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey, 27, from Hampshire, is the only living recipient, the others having been awarded posthumously.

Lance Corporal Leakey was the first of today’s recipients to receive his award from Her Majesty in the Waterloo Chamber. Music throughout the service was provided by the Countess of Wessex’s String Orchestra from the Corps of Army Music. The young soldier from Hampshire was accompanied at the investiture at Windsor Castle by his family.

Lance Corporal Josh Leakey said: “It’s such a great honour and massively humbling to be put among all those people who have received the VC in the past. My family are very proud and happy but the lads in the battalion know this isn’t something you seek out. You just do what you deem necessary on the day and anyone of them could be standing where I am today.”

Between May and December 2013, Lance Corporal Leakey was deployed in Afghanistan as a member of a Task Force conducting risky daylight operations to disrupt insurgent safe-havens and protect the main operating base in Helmand province. During what should have been a routine patrol on the 22nd August 2013 with joint UK/US forces, he single-handedly turned the tide of a vicious Taliban insurgent attack and prevented considerable loss of life by taking the initiative and repeatedly running through heavy fire to man machine guns.

After dismounting from their Chinook helicopters, the force had come under accurate machine gun and rocket propelled grenades’ fire resulting in the Command Group being pinned down on the exposed forward slope of a hill. The team attempted to extract from the killing zone for an hour, their efforts resulting in their officer, a US Marine Corps Captain, being shot and wounded, and their communications being put out of action. Lance Corporal Leakey, positioned on the lee of the hill, realised the seriousness of the situation and with complete disregard for his own safety, dashed across a large area of barren hillside which was now being raked with machine gun fire. As he crested the hill, the full severity of the situation became apparent: approximately twenty enemy had surrounded two friendly machine gun teams and a mortar section rendering their critical fire support ineffective.

Undeterred by the very clear and present danger, Lance Corporal Leakey moved down the forward slope of the hill, and gave first aid to the wounded officer. Despite being the most junior commander in the area, Lance Corporal Leakey took control of the situation and initiated the casualty evacuation. Realising that the initiative was still in the hands of the enemy, he set off back up the hill, still under enemy fire, to get one of the suppressed machine guns into action. On reaching it, and with rounds impacting on the frame of the gun itself, he moved it to another position and began engaging the enemy.

This courageous action spurred those around him back into the fight; nonetheless, the weight of enemy fire continued. For the third time and with full knowledge of the extant dangers, Lance Corporal Leakey exposed himself to enemy fire once more. Weighed down by over 60 lbs of equipment, he ran to the bottom of the hill, picked up the second machine gun and climbed back up the hill again: a round trip of more than 200 metres on steep terrain. Drawing the majority of the enemy fire, with rounds splashing around him, Lance Corporal Leakey overcame his fatigue to re-site the gun and return fire. This proved to be the turning point. Inspired by Lance Corporal Leakey’s actions, and with a heavy weight of fire now at their disposal, the force began to fight back with renewed ferocity.

Having regained the initiative, Lance Corporal Leakey handed over the machine gun and led the extraction of the wounded officer to a point from which he could be safely evacuated. During the assault 11 insurgents were killed and 4 wounded, but the weight of enemy fire had effectively pinned down the command team.

Displaying gritty leadership well above that expected of his rank, Lance Corporal Leakey’s actions single-handedly regained the initiative and prevented considerable loss of life, allowing a wounded US Marine officer to be evacuated. For this act of valour, Lance Corporal Leakey is highly deserving of significant national recognition.

A Year Later – An Owner’s Review of a LRB M25 Medium Match

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I’ve owned a few M14-type rifles – about 8 of the Chinese Norinco copies, a SAI ‘Loaded’ M1A and a SAI National Match M1A but for a very long time I’d dreamed of owning an absolutely top of the line civilian version of the famous American M14 rifle and on April 9th last year I took delivery of a rifle that I’d hoped would fit that bill – a LRB Arms M25 Medium Match.

LRB Arms – full name, LRB of Long Island Inc – can be found online at http://www.lrbarms.com and while I’ve never met anyone who works there, I’ve dealt with them via email and phone and found them to be absolutely fabulous to work with.  Even though I live in Canada the process for ordering my rifle from them was a breeze – place the order, when it is ready they ship to a US FFL whose details you have given to them.  The US FFL then ships to Canada using an importer you choose and when the rifle arrives in Canada you pay the customs and tax and the rifle is shipped to you.  Process from start to finish was : I ordered on Feb 13th 2014; rifle was built on Feb 27th; test fired on March 6th and in my hands on April 9th.

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For those readers who don’t know, the M25 Medium Match is available with a few different options but mine was made as follows:

A M25 Medium Match receiver – more about this later – a LRB bolt; a LRB/Saco-Lowel medium weight Chrome moly 1:12 twist barrel; a National Match (NM) Flash hider, NM Rear Sight; NM Spring Guide; NM Unitized Gas Cylinder (I chose Army way over USMC/Navy way ); a match trigger group and a Boyds walnut stock.

Tired of fighting with the age-old problem of mounting a scope and not wishing to loose my sights by using the CASM mount, I went with the M25 receiver as it has a mounting solution built in to the receiver.

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The rifle came with a regular length rail and recently – to allow for more flexibility – I bought the extended rail.

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When my rifle arrived a year ago I took it apart and carefully examined everything – not a flaw could be found; no tool marks and no suggestion of anything other than the very finest workmanship.

Comparing the rifle to the Chinese M14’s wouldn’t be fair given the price difference but I compared it to my Springfield Armory National Match M1A and it compared very favorably.  So much so that the SAI NM M1A was, subsequently, sold.

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No matter how pretty something looks it is in the shooting that real distinctions can be made and, yes, the LRB shoots.  I worked up a handload that this particular rifle liked as follows:

168 Hornaday BT, 41.0g of H4895, Winchester Primers and Winchester cases

While semi-autos will never ( in my opinion ) match the best of the bolt guns in accuracy this M25 is a consistent sub MOA rifle which is very, very acceptable for any M14 platform rifle. Below is a picture of a target shot last year after a load had been settled upon. Five rounds at 100 yards – just outside a half-inch.

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Throughout my time with this rifle it has always performed perfectly and I consider it to be an example of the art of making a rifle.  I was worried that I’d have to sell it a while back but fortunately that crisis passed and she is now out of danger.  I consider a rifle like this to be an ‘heirloom’ piece that hopefully can be passed down and enjoyed for generations to come.

Some more pictures of this very fine rifle:

With Coyote M1A Cheekpiece, SS 10-42 Scope and US Bayonet

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M14 Scope Mount By M14.CA – Reviewed

As readers of my stuff will notice, I write quite a lot of reviews.  For the most part, my reviews have been positive -which isn’t surprising since nearly everything I write about I’ve bought and I try not to make too many stupidly bad buying decisions – but usually I can find fault in some small area and, especially with the expensive stuff, I can get more than a bit picky at times.

Over the years I’ve been in and out of the M14 type of rifle having gone back and forth on whether these rifles are worth some of the problems they present to their owners – let me explain: I think the M14 platform to be a good (maybe it is a great) weapons system but it simply wasn’t a design priority to figure out an ideal way for the rifle to be fitted with optics. This challenge of mounting an optic shouldn’t come as a surprise as in the late 1940’s and the 1950’s attaching optics to every main battle rifle wasn’t considered viable or, perhaps, even desirable.

Scope mounting challenges usually give a reviewer an opportunity to be critical and over the years I have tried – with varying degrees of success – to put a scope on the M14 and, yes, I’ve fully taken advantage of the opportunity to be negative.  By way of recap, I’ve used: NcStar ( junk), Springfield Armory Inc Gen III (expensive junk), ARMS 18 ( good until you jam a piece of brass between op-rod and mount ), and Sadlak Aluminum ( overall this was very good but not cheap at all and I found it to be finiky to install properly).

In each case, even after beating out the stripper clip guide and wrestling with ( the sometimes) out of spec problems the problem of holding zero – or rather NOT holding zero – arises with most M14 scope mounts so, this time, I decided to forget the usual “stripper clip guide and hole in receiver wall” method and go with M14.ca’s CASM mount which I’d not seen but had read about.

The feature that sets CASM apart from other M14 mounts is that it uses the rear sight pocket and is affixed through the sight ears of the receiver which seems to me to be an inherently more stable way of going about things. The only problem as I see it though is that you will lose your rear sights – no big deal with a Norico but a consideration if you have nice USGI or NM sights on your M14 / M1A etc. The folks at M14.ca have thoughtfully provided a back up peep sight as part of the CASM which means if your scope fails on you all isn’t lost as a range day or hunt isn’t totally ruined.

This is how it attaches

All nice and snug

You have to remove these of course



While I’d never dealt with M14.ca before, I phoned up and placed an order and let me say this: Dealing with Frank is a model of how dealers ought to be with customers.  I’m only ordering a small item worth less than a couple of hundred bucks but the service was amongst the best ever ( and better than many places where I’ve been making a multi-thousand dollar purchase ! ). Frank talked about his product, took my details and emailed a follow-up re shipping – which, incidentally, was super fast – and two days later I had a little white box containing the CASM in my hands ready to mount.

To say that installing the CASM was easy would be an understatement – seriously, if you can mount a scope you can install this on your M1A/M305 etc receiver BUT please read the instructions ! Frank has included some very detailed and easy to understand instructions that really have to be followed – especially with respect to the tightening down on the front screw. Once instructions are followed to the letter this installation is child’s play. What a welcome relief from the other mounts I have tried.

“But it is aluminum” the purists cry. True, it is aluminum but it is 7075 series aluminum which I figure to be more than sufficient for my needs – but, for those that insist on something stouter, a steel version is available.

I mentioned how easy CASM is to install and the way it works but forgot to mention that, in total, there are eight screws that hold this thing in place and, as a bonus, a spare set found their way into my package just in case any of those eight screws went walkabout on my bench.

Establishing a zero and shooting through 40 rounds resulted in no problems and no loss of zero. Now I know this isn’t the same as shooting hundreds of rounds over repeat outings but it certainly gave me a sense that this mount was solid and wasn’t coming loose anytime soon.

All ready to test

Looks good too !



I have to say that over the past few months this mount has held up fabulously and I’m firmly of the view that other than the simply awesome M25 receiver offered by LRB, the CASM is the very best way to mount a scope on a M14 type rifle.


Thanks for reading.