How Much Does Group Size Matter?

This is the kind of detailed analysis that Cal’s Precision Rifle Blog simply excels at. Really challenges our view of matters we considered to be truisms in our sport. An excellent read.

PrecisionRifleBlog.com

As long-range shooters, we tend to obsess over every little detail. We think everything is important! After all, we’re trying to hit relatively small targets that are so far you may not even be able to see them with the naked eye. While you can get away with a lot of minor mistakes and still ring steel at short and medium ranges, as you extend the range small mistakes or tiny inconsistencies are magnified. So, most things are important … but to differing degrees.

So if we have a limited amount of time and money, where would we get the biggest return on investment? In other words, there are lots of things I could focus on (more precise rifle, better scope, more consistent handloads, more practice, etc.), but where should I spend my time and money to get the biggest improvement in the probability of getting a hit at…

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Reviewed – THE CADEX FIELD OT CHASSIS SYSTEM

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Like many shooters of my vintage, I grew up shooting wooden stocked rifles and therefore I will always have an deep appreciation for the stockmakers art and a beautiful piece of fine walnut. While appreciating and respecting tradition, I recognize that wooden stocks have their limitations – heat, cold and moisture can all contribute to warp – and so it was with open arms that I embraced the quality composite rifle stocks when they first made an appearance in the mid 1980’s or so. Today – on military, law enforcement and civilian rifles – stocks from companies such as McMillian, Manners, HS Precision and Bell and Carlson and others perform fine service and prove quite impervious to the elements.

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While the majority of the tactical bolt guns are still housed in traditionally shaped, composite stocks their dominance is being challenged by a rifle support system known as the rifle chassis. These chassis systems – usually made out of aluminum and with or without some composite cladding or skins – offer a number of advantages over the traditional shape of a rifle stock. Without necessarily agreeing with them all, some of the ‘advantages of chassis systems that are usually cited include: modularity, the ability to attach any number of optical and lighting systems, an easy cross-over from the AR/M4 platform, the availability of a collapsible/folding buttstock, weight reduction and the idea that bedding isn’t required. Detractors of the chassis systems usually point to some ‘wobble’ between stock and chassis body found in some early models, the lack of a ‘tactile’ feel and that, at least on some systems, the optics need to be mounted a bit higher than they would be on a rifle housed in a more traditional stock.

While Canadians can get many of the chassis systems made by American and European companies, we are really fortunate to have a variety of high quality home-grown products available to us. While there may be others the three Canadian companies normally though of are: PGW from Manitoba, MDT from BC’s Lower Mainland and Quebec’s Cadex . Each of these companies make a well-regarded rifle chassis – either as a stand alone item or as part of a wider sniper weapons system (SWS) – and each has a justifiably strong following amongst the shooting community.

Readers of my reviews will know that I am the owner of several PGW rifles, that I’ve written a number of reviews about their products and at least one of those reviews focused on their folding stock chassis. People may also know that I was an early and enthusiastic supporter of Laslo’s MDT product and that I’ve owned and enjoyed a MDT Tac 21 for quite some time. What I wasn’t able to do until recently was examine and test any product from the third Canadian company – Cadex.

Since the time that I started writing reviews many companies and suppliers ( Wolverine, PGW, Hirsch Precision, Xtreme, Plainsight Solutions and M14.ca to name, and thank, just a few ) have been kind enough to loan me equipment to test and write about. Disappointingly, Cadex corporate policy meant I was unable to secure such an accommodation from them directly and a Cadex distributor I contacted simply refused to messages or emails. While a failure to borrow equipment was a bit of a setback it wasn’t an insurmountable obstacle; I really wanted to get my hands on one of their products for review and so I simply used the Cadex online store to buy one. I figured that the worst case would be that I wouldn’t like it and take a little but not a whole loss on resale. It is the chassis that I bought online from Cadex that is the subject of this review.

So what did I choose to buy ? I chose to buy the Field OT and my reason for doing so was because, having used AICS, PGW, Dolphin and MDT Tac 21, I’d decided that I prefer to mount my optics directly onto a rail wholly attached to the receiver rather than onto a rail that is part of a chassis or a mix of receiver and chassis . This is a purely personal preference and not meant as a criticism of systems ( including others by Cadex ) that offer chassis-mounted optics. Price was also a consideration and the Field OT – priced in my hands after tax at just under $1200 – was at a price point that worked well for me; especially as I was buying a product I’d not handled or even seen before. When I ordered this chassis I specified that I was going to be using a short action Remington but it is my understanding that other actions using the Remington footprint will also fit this particular chassis.

Buying From Cadex Online – the buying process from Cadex is very simple, they have an excellent website that is easy to navigate and therefore it is easy to select and order the product you wish to buy. While websites can be great I’m sure that there are others who, like me, are comforted knowing that if necessary you can speak to a real person about their order and, as it happened, I did have an opportunity to speak with a Cadex staff member. I’d decided to change my initial order, called Cadex to do and the staff member (Marie) I spoke with was most helpful and provided excellent customer service in faultless English (I make mention of language as not all readers may know that Quebec is a French-speaking Canadian province and that language can sometimes be an issue). If any senior Cadex staff should read this, please go to this persons work station and tell her what a great ambassador for your company she is.

Cadex advised that the product I wished to order had a 2-3 week wait time and I was again very pleased to find out that, unlike lots of other companies, Cadex do not charge credit cards until the item is available and ready to ship to a customer.

Shipping and Packaging -shipping took place within the 2-3 week time frame Cadex said it would take and they mailed the product in a very sturdy double-boxed package. As I’ve said when writing about other products, I do pay attention to how a company packages up their stuff as, invariably, it speaks to me about what a company thinks of its own products – I think of it as an issue of corporate pride in what they make. The Cadex shipping and packaging could not have been better and – especially when combined with the ease of ordering and excellent customer service – left me feeling very positive about the decision to buy something from Cadex.

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Readers may wish to note that at the time of ordering and throughout the process of getting the product to me, I made no mention of the fact that I was going to be writing a review or that I was the owner of a rifle blog so there is nothing to suggest that I was, in any way, getting preferential treatment.

Product Presentation and Instructions – there is an old adage that ‘you only get one chance to make a first impression’ and quite clearly someone at Cadex cares about what a customer will think when he or she opens the box. This is how things should arrive when you spend a thousand dollars or more. The instructions provided are simple and clear and written in correct, easily understandable English. In addition to the actual chassis product, one gets a set of Allen keys, a small tube of Loctite thread locker and the various screws necessary to put it all together.

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Fit and Finish – I am notoriously very picky about such things and often find fault where others would give a pass. In the case of the Cadex Field OT I examined every piece looking for blemishes and evidence of less than perfect manufacture and could find nothing to complain about. Perfect.

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Assembly – Assembly couldn’t be easier. If you can follow very simple instructions and use an Allen key, you can perform the simple assembly steps necessary to secure your rifle into the Field OT. All I needed to do was attach my brand new Talley 20 MOA rail and …….. wait a minute….. my rail won’t fit! Try a Weaver, ….. nope also too long. Measure other rails on other rifles…….. and….would you believe it ? Yep, not one of them will fit. Now this is odd since the exact wording of the Cadex website when speaking of this Field OT model is “Allows optic to be mounted directly on the action using traditional scope bases, picatinny rail or built-in action rail ” (bold type emphasis added)

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While staring stupidly around my workshop and wondering why all my rails had grown an extra inch or so – as, surely to goodness, no company would make a chassis that couldn’t work with standard length Picatinny rails – I recalled reading something online about this problem of a rail not fitting on a rifle housed in a Cadex Field OT but I figured the fellow writing about this issue must have had an exceptionally long rail or something but no, it appears to be the case that standard length Picatinny rails will not fit on the receiver of a short action Remington 700 that you intend to put in a Cadex Field OT.

When standard equipment won’t fit on a product one buys it is annoying and it is something that could be easily be addressed. Were I to be asked, I’d suggest that Cadex put a note on their website to the effect that while other scope mounting solutions may work fine with a Field OT, standard length scope rails won’t fit and, secondly, I would suggest that Cadex make a slightly shorter Picatinny rail which they can include as an optional $50-100 extra with the kit. Voila -problem solved and, perhaps, more sales made.

Lacking anything other than standard length rails I opted for the field-expedient solution of shortening my Talley rail with the judicious application of a Dremel tool and cutting wheel. Ten minutes later and a quick spray of black paint and I had a quite serviceable rail that would fit on my receiver and allow the use of the chassis system – a simple piece of work to do but, like I say, I think there is a learning opportunity here for Cadex.

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Notable Features – Before leaving the assembly of the chassis entirely, there are two particular features about Cadex chassis stocks in general that I think warrant a mention. Firstly, Cadex uses something that they call Roller Bedding Technology which means that the rifle action sits on four rollers that are designed to provide a stable platform and reduce vibration – now it sounds and looks like a good idea and I guess that time will tell whether or not this is a really useful feature or not. Secondly, users can remove the detachable base for trigger adjustment and maintenance without removing the rifle from the chassis – this is clearly a good idea ( though not so important with the particular model I bought ) and makes a lot of sense to me.

Fully assembled the Cadex Field OT feels very, very solid and all the pieces fit together perfectly. Like all Cadex products this chassis accepts AICS magazines which are, in my view, the finest aftermarket mags available; magazine insertion is smooth and there is no rattle at all when inserted. While it is possible to buy just the chassis core and attach a buttstock of choice, I like the Magpul PRS stock which is height and LOP adjustable and so I opted to buy the whole kit which includes that particular stock.

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Attachment of a scope was the last thing I needed to do and while I opted for a smaller, 50mm, objective this was, as anticipated, still a little bit too large to allow for the use of my TPS low rings so I used the TPS mediums I’d set aside in anticipation of the lows not working. The scope I chose to place on this rifle was a Vortex PST 6-24×50 which, while not my favorite brand of scope, was an orphan looking for a ride and certainly isn’t a bad piece of glass to use on a rifle which is going to be only used for paper punching at known distance.

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Incidentally, the rifle used to place in this chassis is a known sub-MOA performer that was formerly housed in my MDT Tac 21. It is chambered in .260 and is actually a Remington in name only as the barrel was replaced with a fat 20″ Krieger and the action was trued at that time the new barrel was spun on. The XMP trigger went into the garbage and was replaced with a Timney 510 and – for purely cosmetic purposes – a nice, oversized, Badger Ordnance bolt handle was installed.

For the shooting part of this review I made up some ammo using 139g Lapua Scenars over 43g of H4350 in Lapua cases ignited with a FGMM primer.

Shooting – most shooting was done from the prone off a bipod ( Cadex thoughtfully includes a Harris bipod attachment ) and rear bag at various distances out to 400 yards with some rounds being shot from standing and kneeling positions to see how the chassis felt. I am very used to the Magpul PRS so there was no surprise there and the rubberized Ergo grip while bigger than that which I use on other rifles was very comfortable. The chassis performed excellently and felt very comfortable and secure throughout the session. Nothing came loose or in any way felt unstable and when I shot from the offhand position the composite areas felt nice to the touch. Magazine changes were smooth and easy and I also appreciated the oversized trigger guard as it allowed me to wear gloves on a cold morning.

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Conclusion and Comparisons – this was my first experience with a Cadex chassis. Ordering, shipping and customer service was excellent and what I bought was perfect in fit and finish. My observation from the field test was that this is quite clearly a very well made product that not only looked the part but performed flawlessly. My only criticism is to do with a failure to let prospective customers know that this particular chassis will not work with the standard length scope rail – and as I pointed out above, that’s easy to address and fix.

To ask how the Cadex compares to the other chassis systems I’ve used and owned is a valid question that I’ll try to answer. The AICS is so different that it really can’t be compared; the PGW chassis isn’t sold as a separate item and it isn’t fair to compare a SWS to a stand-alone and so, of the chassis systems I’ve reviewed and owned, it comes down to how does the Cadex model I bought compare to the Dolphin tactical and the MDT Tac 21. Of the two, this particular Cadex is most similar to the Dolphin – priced within a hundred dollars or so of each other they are both a open top design and both are faultless in construction and fit and finish. My preference of the two would be for the Cadex; it was easier to assemble, has a better buttstock and grip and an overall better feel. The Cadex barrel shroud reminded me of a DDM4V7 in looks and feel whereas I think the Dolphin to be more geared towards an F-Class audience. Comparing the Cadex to my MDT Tac 21 is a bit of a tougher one as they are quite different with one being an open top and the other a system that encases the action. At day’s end, while I feel the Cadex suits my needs better at this time I have to say that both are very good products and – like I said earlier in this piece – I feel fortunate to have Canadian choices when it comes to outfitting my precision rifles.

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Specifications and Contacts – Specs, including color choices dimensions etc for this particular Cadex product can be found can be found online at: http://www.cadexdefence.com/products/chassis/field-strike-ot/

EDIT – SINCE THIS REVIEW HAS BEEN PUBLISHED CADEX HAS NOTED ON THEIR WEBSITE THAT A MODIFICATION MAY BE NECESSARY TO AFTERMARKET RAILS. http://www.cadexdefence.com/products/chassis/field-strike-ot/#prettyPhoto/7/

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.

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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 .

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