Does The USMC Need To Replace The M40 ?

There is a great discussion going on at Snipers Hide about an article that appeared in the Washington Times. The article suggested the USMC are under gunned and ought to change out of the .308 M40 into something else.

Worth reading and discussing for sure.

Review – Savage 12 Benchrest in 6.5-284 Norma

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Note: The rifle reviewed was actually sold to me as the Savage F Class.  Aficionados of Savage rifles have pointed out that this is actually the Benchrest model (Sku 18613). I have edited the review to reflect this.  Embarrassing but this is the internet !

While I have owned a number of Savage rifles – ranging from the Savage MkII BV in .22LR through to the 110BA in .338 Lapua Magnum – they’re not usually my first choice in firearms brands. For some, entirely subjective, reason I find Savages to be ‘clunky’ and somehow lacking the smoothness of other brands. However, and no matter criticisms I may have about Savage, one thing that has to be accepted is that ‘out of the box’ they can most certainly shoot. The other positive that must be said about Savage is that they have really made an effort to go after a smaller market – F-Class and BR – in a way that the other manufacturers have not, and for this they must be commended.

Last year I added to my Savage collection one of their offerings that is designed to cater to this limited market of shooters – the rifle I acquired was the Savage 12 Benchrest chambered in 6.5-284 Norma.

While the the Savage 12 F-Class (Savage SKU # 18155) is purpose built for the F-Open shooter and has features such as a 30″ barrel, dual port (left load and right eject) and the Savage Target Accutrigger. The Savage Benchrest  (18613) has a one inch shorter barrel and lacks the flat bottom buttstock that the F-Class has but in other respects they are identical. At an overall length of 49″ and a weight of 12.75 lbs this Benchrest rifle can certainly be used for F-Open as even using the heaviest of scopes, rings and bases, is one that will easily make the F-Open weight limit of 22 lbs.

Dual Port

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Target Accutrigger

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A couple of the features that people usually say contribute to the accuracy of Savage rifles is the very solid action and – almost by accident – the floating bolt head. Of course, this model has both of these features and it is housed in a stiff wood-laminate stock with a wide forend that is ideal for shooting off bags or (more likely in F-Class) a front rest.

Wide Forend

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While the 6.5-284 is no longer the dominant chambering it once was in the F-Class game, having been replaced with various offerings in the 7mm category, it remains a superbly accurate cartridge that can certainly be competitive at all levels (other than perhaps the absolute top tier) of competitive shooting and is one for which both very high quality brass (Lapua) and projectiles (139 Lapua Scenars amongst others ) are readily available.

6.5-284 and .308

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Loads for what was once a wildcat of the parent .284 Winchester, are often developed using H4350 or H4831SC as well as IMR 4350 and others and so when I got my rifle I sought out the Lapua brass, bullets and 4350 powder and started to get to work making up some loads.

The 6.5-284 isn’t a hard recoiling round to begin with and what recoil there is gets nicely managed by the weight of the Savage F-Class rifle which ensures that this rifle/ammo combo is a pleasure to shoot.

Usually, a good load for the 6.5-284 can be found somewhere between 47-49g of H4350 and this rifle seemed very happy at the lower end (47.2g) with no appreciable improvement at higher charge weights though I suspect a higher node lurks somewhere above the charges I was working with but I don’t want or need a barrel burner.

There are a couple of downsides to this rifle – one is that the wide fore-end makes no allowance for the attachment of a bipod. Users of this rifle have to shoot of bags or a rest and I think that was a mistake; milling in a channel and attaching a short Anschutz rail would have been a good idea in my view. The second downside isn’t really anything to do with Savage but rather a downside of the chambering – you see the big downside of the 6.5-284 cartridge is barrel life. With very moderate loads a 6.5-284 barrel may last a couple of thousand rounds but up the charge weights and barrel life can be as short as 750 before accuracy noticeably falls off.

The negatives aside, this remains a very good rifle to buy to get into Benchrest or F-Open and it is very well put together. Comfortable to shoot and nicely accurate, this Savage can compete at pretty much most levels and could easily be in the winners circle at club matches for sure.

Under an Inch at 200M = 0.420 MOA

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Care, Feeding and Maintenance of Precision Rifles Part IV – Finishing Our Reloads

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Last time – in Part III of this series – we looked at how a new reloader would go about preparing fired brass to make sure it was once again ready to carry a charge and bullet. This time, in Part IV, we will look at the next steps the new reloader needs to make; charging up the brass and seating a bullet. At the end of this article we will be ready to test the reloads at the range.

Because this series of articles is geared towards the newer shooters and reloaders amongst us, I will leave more advanced handloading techniques aside for the present but will incorporate them into a future article about handloading for competition. The purpose of the present series of articles is to provide sufficient guidance to ensure that our newer shooter can get properly set up with his or her new rifle, know how to clean and maintain it and, in this and the preceding article, make safe and accurate ammo that will perform as good as a premium brand of factory cartridges.

So, where we left off is that our reloader has a tray or two full of nice shiny, trimmed and primed brass and is ready to embark upon the next steps – charging the case and seating a bullet.

Beautiful – Ready To Charge

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Before pouring a single speck of powder let us digress for a moment. You need to make certain you have read over the reloading manuals regarding the recommended charge weights and powder selection for the bullet chosen. In our example we are assuming that the new reloader has decided to go with Varget powder and a 168 gr bullet and has read that bullet maker manuals recommend a charge weight between 39 – 44g of powder and powder makers manuals suggest that it is OK to go up to 46g.

Every reloader thinks that manuals err on the side of caution – loads have to be safe for all rifles of a given chambering and we live in litigious times – but this should not be a new reloaders justification for jumping in at the top ( or beyond ) end of what is recommended as a safe load. On the contrary, one should always start at a lower charge and work up the load in increments from there. A rule of thumb is 1% at a time but I usually go up in .5 of a grain with cartridges like the .308 so in this case where the range is 39 – 44g, I’d likely start at 41.5 then 42.0 then 42.5 etc.

A lot of people like to do ladder tests or OCW tests but I am a bit old fashioned and so I like to shoot 5 shot groups – it uses up more ammo but it is my preference and time behind the trigger is never wasted. So, in this case I’d load up 5 rounds at each incremental point from 41.5 – 44g for a total of 30 rounds and I’d add to that 5 of my factory match rounds and two or three foulers for a total of just under 40 rounds; a nice little range visit.

After fouling the barrel I will shoot one round of the 41.5 at target #1 followed by one round of 42.0 at target #2 and so on until each of the targets has a bullet hole. I will then wait a minute or so and repeat. At the end of the exercise I will have 7 targets and each target will have in it a 5 shot group. Of the groupings shot you will usually find that a couple will be better than the others and this will allow for some fine tuning between the charge weights.

I do not recommend that the exercise of figuring out a good load be done at 100 y/m as it is possible to have too many false positives ( groups that look more promising than they will prove to be over distance ) but, rather, try to shoot at 200 y/m (unless you are quite accomplished, leave the 300 y/m for a later date as you want to make sure it is the ammo you are testing not your marksmanship ). Doing the exercise at 200 y/m will suffice to weed out false positive groups and should still be a distance that isn’t too demanding of your rifle skills.

During load development you need to be wary of any signs of pressure that the gun or the brass may exhibit. Signs of significant over-pressure would be primers that are blown out of the primer pocket, cracks in the case near the case head or case neck and cases where the head has separated – these are very dangerous indications and you should pull remaining bullets and drop the charge weight of your load. For a new reloader I say that even the beginning signs of pressure such as flattened primers, ejector marks on the case head or a sticky bolt lift is where you should back off – it is too early and totally unnecessary to be hot-roding cartridges.

Digression over, let us resume the exercise of charging our new brass with powder and bullets – all our cases are primed and waiting in a loading tray so let’s pour. I know there are many people who use a scoop or a powder throw to dispense powder but I take the view that because reloading (and, even more so, the art of ‘handloading’ ) is all about consistency – and since powder weight is the single biggest factor in reloading that the reloader can control – I like to see each charge weighed. Of all the things a reloader can do, I believe that taking the time to ensure each round has the same amount of powder in it is the thing that will yield the largest gains in ammunition accuracy and consistency.

While charges can be weighed on a traditional beam or balance scale, a very solid investment to make is in a RCBS Chargemaster 1500 which allows you to select a powder charge, dispense the amount you selected and then stop. This machine can be a real time saver and I recommend buying one. Another use of the Chargemaster is as a scale to check charges you have thrown from a powder hopper.

RCBS Chargemaster

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While even the moderately dexterous can easily develop a cadence of loading a bullet into one charged piece of brass while the Chargemaster is preparing a charge for the next piece, I’m going to caution against that procedure. I recommend that the new reloader charge all cases and then make sure that each and every one has powder in it – seriously, use a flashlight and visually check this. It is too easy to forget to charge one piece of brass, load a bullet in the case and put it in the box. Sadly if you make such an error what will then happen is this: when you are shooting your ammo the unloaded cartridge will be fed into the chamber, the trigger will be pulled, the primer will go bang and that has enough ooomph to push the bullet part way into the barrel where it will come to a stop. The next round will go bang and, a nanosecond later, disaster will strike as the second bullet will collide against the tail of the first one and split the barrel , blow up the receiver and possibly cause you to loose an eye or worse. Sound serious ? It is, so be careful to ensure that there is a charge of powder in each case ( the opposite problem – a double charge – isn’t possible with a .308 case as it will simply overflow )

All Filled Or Not ?

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A Flashlight Can Confirm

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A quick note on powders – some meter, or pour, better than others depending on the size of the individual grains; Varget, for example, meters well whereas IMR 4350 not so much.

Varget – Temperature Stable and Meters Well

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A cautionary note on all electronic scales is that they can be susceptible to drafts or other interference so periodically you may wish to cross check to make sure they are weighing correctly – I keep a bullet of known weight handy for such a purpose.

So, at this stage you will now have a tray full of neatly laden cartridges ready to be capped with the bullet of choice.

First thing you need to do is to remove the sizing die from the press and replace with a seater die. I very strongly recommend that the money be spent on a quality seater with a micrometer head as these allow precise and quick adjustments. Overall I feel these are worth the extra money and give a more uniform seating than the other, regular, seaters. I use both Forster and Redding brands of seaters and find both to be equally good.

Micrometer Seaters

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To set up the seater dies back out the micrometer adjustment all the way then raise the ram of the press and screw in the die until it contacts the die body then back it out a 1/2 turn or so to ensure that the numbers are facing you. Secure the die by tightening the locking ring and securing the set screw.

Now taking one case place it in the shellholder seat a bullet on top and run the case and bullet all the way up in the die until the handle stops. Lower the handle and remove the cartridge and voila you have made your very first round of ammunition !

All Done

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Now we will need to remove the loaded cartridge from the press and measure the length to see how much we need to adjust the die so that the bullet is seated to the proper depth. Let us assume that we are making a dimensionally similar cartridge to our factory match ammunition (which you have measured as being an overall length of 2.779″) so measure your new reload and, using the micrometer, turn the seater down so that the loads you are making measure the same length as the factory rounds.

Check for Overall Length

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In our next article we will talk about a more advanced measurement than overall length (OAL) and also how to vary seating depth to fine tune our loads but for the present, simply repeat the process of seating bullets until all your rounds are made up and then put a label on the box and make a note in your logbook of all the details ( powder, charge, bullet, OAL etc ) of your new cartridges.

Simple Label on Box – Details in Logbook

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Now it is off to the range to see how our ammo works. I made up the exact same ammo as detailed in this article using the exact same procedure with the only difference being that I used Lapua brass. I used 43.5g of Varget, a FGMM primer and a Hornady 168g HPBT bullet which I seated to an OAL of 2.779″.

How did this ammo shoot. Well, to be fair I didn’t use a bone-stock rifle but I used a Remington that started off life as a SPS and now has a Rock Creek M40 Profile 1:10 barrel and is bedded into a McMillian M40 HTG stock. This rifle has a Timney 510 trigger and a NF 20MOA rail and is equipped with a Sightron Siii 10-50×60 scope with the MOA 2 reticule.

My Test Mule For This Article

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I shot 25 rounds and each group measured around .5 MOA with the best producing a ‘five inside a dime’ grouping of 0.377″ at 100 m which is 0.344 MOA.

Best Target

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This is excellent for beginner level reloads and in the next series of articles – Handloading For Competition we will look at ways of making ammunition so consistent that, with the right rifle, scope and shooter, half MOA or better will be the norm. See you next time !

Our Female Standard Poodle “Lapua” Who Occasionally “Helped” Write This Article Also Says “Bye”

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Care Feeding and Maintenance of Precision Rifles Part III – Making Ammo

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I have written a couple of articles about how to Care, Feed and Maintain Your Precision Rifle and these have proven really popular which, in turn, has inspired me to write another article geared towards the new shooter. This post goes into some more detail on the first steps needed to make good ammo for your rifle and so while it can be read as a stand-alone post, it is really Part III of the Care Feeding and Maintenance Series.

If you have read the Part II article ( if not, here it is : ) you have got your basic supplies and have set it up in a suitable space. You have also bought some quality components and have at least one reloading manual – I recommend buying a few manuals because as is the case with potato chips ( or “crisps” for the UK readers ) “you can’t have just one”.

Having More Than One Manual Is Helpful

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For the purposes of this article let us assume that the new reloader has purchased a heavy barreled Remington 700 chambered in .308 Winchester and that he or she has access to a range that goes out to 300 yards or so. This assumed this rifle, chambering and range combo is the most common I could think of but if your circumstances are different don’t worry as the information I present will still work well for you.

I’m also going to assume that because the new reloader is only going to shoot out to about 300 yards that they purchased some 168g bullets, some Varget powder and some Federal Gold Medal Match (FGMM) primers. For brass I am assuming that my imaginary reloader followed the advice I gave in my earlier article and shot FGMM ammo until reloading gear was purchased and so has on hand a nice stock of once fired Federal cases. ( a lot of people don’t like Federal but I see no harm in using the brass that you have until it is time to buy new in which case I recommend Lapua )

Lapua Brass – My Preferred Choice If Buying New

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For reference, let us agree that the factory ammo usually gave our shooter five shot groups that measured in and around the 3/4 minute mark which wouldn’t be unreasonable out of such a rifle.

What we are going to do is work together to turn these components into ammo that is match-grade and capable, in the right hands, of printing nice tidy little groups that at least equal the factory match ammo.

The first thing we need to do is to decide upon which step to do first – clean the brass or de-prime and resize it ? I suppose that the very best thing to do would be to clean it first as then you wouldn’t be putting dirty brass into your resizing dies but I do it the other way around. My brass isn’t all muddied up and I am in favor of keeping the number of steps down to only those that are really necessary so I deprime and resize first.

I recommend that newer shooters Full Length resize – if you really want to, you can always neck size down the road as you get more experienced with reloading. With neck sizing you can run into feeding issues and so, especially for a hunting or tactical rifle where you certainly want the round to easily chamber every time, FL sizing is the better choice. As a matter of fact while I neck size for my F-Open and F/TR rifles, I do FL resize for everything else and to be perfectly frank I am actually leaning towards the view that I am not able to see any appreciable difference in accuracy using a neck die over a FL die. On this issue some pretty knowledgeable guys ( like Kevin Thomas of Team Lapua USA for example ) are quite strongly of the view that neck sizing of brass gives no advantages at all.

Redding and Forster Dies – Neck and Full Length

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Your reloading manual will tell you how to set up your dies and these instructions should be followed. If your ammo is likely to be used in more than one rifle I recommend that with the ram raised, you run the die down all the way until it touches the shell holder. Then you lower the ram and screw the die in an additional 1/8 to 1/4 turn before securing the locking ring. This way will ensure your ammo fits and feeds easily in all your rifles chambered in the same calibre.

If you have only one rifle that this ammo is going to be used in you can set up your die so that the ammo is tailor-made for this one chamber but that is a story for next time. Today we are keeping it nice and simple.

Ok, before placing your fired brass in the die you need to lubricate the cases – this is really, really important. If you don’t lubricate your cases one will get stuck in the die and then you are in serious goo-goo unless you have a special tool to hand for removing said case.

You Hope You Don’t Need This

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I personally don’t use sprays for lubing cases preferring instead to lubricate cases with a lube pad for the body and a brush for the inside of the necks.

My Preferred Way To Lube Cases

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Once all your fired brass is de-primed and resized you should trim them to length. Reloading manuals say to trim to 2.005 – but don’t panic is you go below that as SAAMI specs allow for the cartridge to be shorter – and that is the number you should aim for. There are lots of ways to trim and these days I like to use the World’s Finest Trimmer which attaches to a drill and is fast and efficient once set up ( setting up is a bit tricky – hence the reason I know about trimming too short ! ).

Trimmer Attaches To Drill

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Trimmers Available In A Variety Of Calibers

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Deburring and chamfering of necks is the last step and there are both power and hand tools for this – I use an old-fashioned hand tool as I find this little task to be both therapeutic and a good opportunity to actually inspect each case. There are powered tools that can do this job and I have been tempted by a specialty tool made by Giraud Tool Company that trims, chamfers and deburrs all in one step but it is expensive and, like I said, I find this exercise therapeutic.

Hand Tool For Deburring and Chamfering

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Others will write about the importance of cleaning up primer pockets and such things but we will leave that alone for this article. Likewise all talk of neck turning and annealing can also be left for another day.

Having done all the resizing and trimming it is now time to clean up your brass – actually, you don’t absolutely have to do this but since you need to get the lube off any way why not. I like to clean my brass in a case tumbler which I use with Lyman media though any brand will be fine. Let the brass tumble away for a couple of hours or so and it will come out looking real nice and shiny. Tip – the nature of the beast is that vibratory tumblers are loud and irritating so keep them in a shop/garage/basement if you can. Tip #2 – make sure you check brass for small little bits of media getting stuck in places like the flash hole – if you find any there they can be removed with a dental pick or similar.

Old Dental Picks – Very Handy Tools For Gunnies To Have

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Now you will have some nice shiny brass that looks like new and it will be time to prime them – it sucks to miss this step and charge all the cases only to realize that they have no darn primers in them; ask me how I know !

Freshly Clean and Ready to Reprime

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To re-prime my brass I use the RCBS hand primer that came with my kit when I bought it a thousand years ago. Any brand of hand primer will work and your goal is to smoothly insert a primer into the pocket at a uniform depth. You don’t want a primer sitting too high ( especially is something like a M1A ) nor do you want to ram them in too deep so just go slow until you develop a ‘feel’ for what you are doing.

RCBS Hand Primer

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When all your primed brass is done take a break – you have deserved it. In Part IV of this series we will charge up those primed cases and continue making quality ammo. See you next time !

Primed and Ready For Powder

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The Law of Diminishing Returns: Are We Spending Too Much for Precision?

This is such a great post – I have seen many people chase small groups through the checkbook; just like golfers who try to buy an extra 20 yards off the Tee.

The Everyday Marksman

There is a story about the late Colonel John Boyd in which he admonishes a young crowd of Air Force officers about progressing through their careers.

And you’re going to have to make a decision about which direction you want to go.” He raised his hand and pointed. “If you go that way you can be somebody. You will have to make compromises and you will have to turn your back on your friends. But you will be a member of the club and you will get promoted and you will get good assignments.” Then Boyd raised his other hand and pointed another direction. “Or you can go that way and you can do something – something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself. If you decide you want to do something, you may not get promoted and you may not get the good assignments and…

View original post 796 more words

Review of Pentax 80ED Spotting Scope

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It goes without saying that I visit quite a number of gun sites and one of the questions I often see is some variation of the “what spotting scope should I buy?“. Sadly, the advice usually given is to buy either a very, very expensive piece of equipment or, “well Costco has a deal on……“. Fact is that neither of these answers really satisfies the prospective purchaser who is looking for a high quality piece of glass at a reasonable price.

I’ve had my Pentax 80ED spotter for about three years now and have recommended it whenever I see people pose a question looking for a very good spotter that won’t break the bank. When using it the other day – in some horrible mirage conditions –  I figured it was time to actually write and post a review to show readers that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a very nice piece of equipment that will satisfy most target shooting applications.

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How did I settle on my spotter ?

For a number of years I stubbornly refused to spend much money on spotting scopes because I chose to pour my optics budget into good glass for my rifles. When I got to the point where I was mostly satisfied that my rifles were fairly well-glassed, I decided to invest in a decent spotting scope to replace my ‘good value’ spotter that I bought some years previously from….. yes, Costco.

I was not planning on using a new spotter for hunting so size/weight wasn’t an issue but at that time of my purchase I really didn’t use a spotter very often so I gave myself a budget of $1500 to play with. This budget constraint eliminated some brands of spotter but I felt I should be able to get a nice piece of gear for somewhere around the price I set myself.

I chose to make the purchase over a weekend when I was competing in a F-Class match as this gave me a good opportunity to look and compare spotters and if the local store had a good return policy, permit me to ‘buy and try’ some contenders.

In the store I looked at a variety of mid priced scopes and initially chose a Leupold Sequoia. Frankly, after testing in a variety of lighting conditions I didn’t even bother taking this spotter to the range preferring instead to search about the store for a better product….. a Vortex Viper HD

After upgrading to the Vortex I went off to the match. The Vortex was a huge improvement over my old spotter and for a while I felt fully satisfied that I had gotten what I needed at a very reasonable price…….until…… yes, I started to look through some other scopes on the line. While the Vortex was good I felt that it wasn’t quite what I wanted.

Besides the usual brands seen at any match, I noticed a disproportionate number of Pentax spotters on the line mmm…. maybe people knew something I didn’t …. After looking through a few of these Pentax units throughout the day and in changing light and mirage I was impressed. Bullet holes at 300m were viewable and targets at 500m were very clear.  Finally, something I could see myself owning and at day’s end my mind was pretty made up but  though I had used Eyeball V.1 to assess what I liked, I decided to do at least a bit more research.

I learned that the Pentax 80ED features extra low dispersion (ED) glass elements, a large 80 mm objective lens, and a nitrogen filled (JIS Class 6) waterproof body for – according to Pentax – “the perfect blend of durability and outstanding image quality even under the most demanding conditions”.

The body of the PF-80ED incorporates the American standard 1 1/4-inch – diameter eyepiece receptacle, which accepts not only the Pentax XW eyepieces, but also other telescope manufacturers’ eyepieces on the market. When I made my purchase I was torn between the zoom and fixed eyepiece and went with the zoom which was a tough choice – the image quality is better with fixed but zoom gave me the ability to dial down and, at the time, I put more weight on that feature. Today I would likely have gotten a fixed eyepiece but, either way, make sure that the eyepiece you buy is also waterproof – Pentax ones are.

The zoom eyepiece I purchased features a magnification range of 20-60X, an apparent field of view of 38 to 60 degrees, and an eye relief of 20mm. Eye relief is important – especially if you wear glasses – and more is better. I am OK with the 20mm eye relief but I’d be more OK with 25 or 30mm.

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A built-in lens shade cuts down on excessive light and helps to prevent rain and other weather elements from interfering with viewing and an extra wide focusing knob is incorporated for effortless focusing.

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I chose to buy the angled body as it suits my needs – shooting from prone – better but others may prefer a straight body depending upon their intended application.

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I’ve used my Pentax for about three years and change now and I’ve found it to be excellent. Is it as good as a Kowa spotter ? No, but it cost less than half of what I could have ended up spending and it works really well for my applications – I can see bullet holes easily at 200m and in nice weather out to 300m and beyond. I can see bullet trace and can easily see target markers out well past 500m. For me, I am very happy with my choice and recommend that you consider this spotter when next looking to make a purchase of this pretty important accessory to your shooting hobby.

Prices ( in US$ ) for the Pentax body average $850 and eyepieces average about $350. Mine came as a kit for $1099 which included the zoom eyepiece and a soft case.  Even though I live in Canada I bought my spotter from Cameraland NY in the USA and was very pleased with their pricing and service.

Marksmanship – The ABC’s by Col Townsend Whelen

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Recently, when thinking about putting down on paper some ideas about basic marksmanship skills the expression ‘only accurate rifles are interesting‘ passed through my mind and I immediately thought the person who coined that expression – Col. Townsend Whelen – probably had something to say on the matter. Five minutes later I had found an article written by this legendary shooter, hunter and marksman and quickly figured out two things – firstly, what the good Colonel wrote was better than anything I could have written and, secondly, his words were as relevant today as when penned nearly one hundred years ago. So, without editing at all, here – in the words of Col Whelen himself – are the ABC’s of Marksmanship from his 1918 book The American Rifle.

Rifle shooting is almost entirely a matter of intelligent practice. Practice alone, without head work, will not get one very far. To illustrate, take the case of the man who made the highest score in the course in rifle shooting of the 10,000 men attending the Plattsburg training camp of 1916. He was a man of about thirty years of age, and had never fired a rifle before in his life. He had only about four days of preliminary instruction, perhaps two hours a day, before going on the range, but he stated that he paid particular attention to the instructions of his officers, and tried to follow them as closely as possible. On the other hand, in my work in the Army I often come across men of a rather low order of intelligence whom no amount of practice will teach to shoot, chiefly because they have never learned how to use their brains. Any man of ordinary intelligence, who is not physically handicapped, can become a good shot. To become an expert shot requires both a good body and a good brain. Most persons have the idea that eyesight is the important factor. Fair eyesight is of course essential, and may be obtained either naturally or by the aid of well-fitted glasses.

There are five essentials which must be attained in order that one may be able to shoot accurately. All instruction in rifle shooting is aimed at perfecting one’s knowledge and execution of these five essentials. These are as follows:

1. Aiming. One must be able to aim consistently, aiming each shot exactly the same. This requires the training of the eye in the correct alignment of the sights and target until the view or picture that they form becomes so indelibly impressed upon the retina of the eye that whenever the aim is the least bit incorrect it will be noticed at once.

2. Holding. One must be able to hold the rifle steadily in the various firing positions. First, a good, well-balanced position must be learned, and then this must be practiced until it becomes perfectly natural, and one acquires steadiness in it. Usually this takes longer to learn than the other essentials.

3. Trigger squeeze. It matters little how accurately one aims, and how steadily one holds, if, just as the rifle is discharged, one gives a convulsive jerk to the trigger which deranges both aim and hold. The trigger must be squeezed so that the rifle is not disturbed, does not move a particle, before the recoil comes.

4. Calling the shot. Literally calling to the coach the exact spot where one’s sights were aligned on the target at the instant that the rifle went off. Of course one tries to hold steadily, but absolute steadiness is beyond the ability of most riflemen. The sights bob around a little with the best of us. We must catch with our eye the exact place on the target where the sights were aligned at the instant that the recoil blots out clear vision. This spot is where we expect the shot to strike. If the shot does not strike close to the point of call it shows that there is something the matter with either rifle, ammunition, or sight adjustment. If one has a good rifle and ammunition it indicates that a change in the sight adjustment is necessary.

5. Sight adjustment. The sights of the rifle must be adjusted so that the bullet will strike close to where one aims. Owing to factors which will be discussed later, almost all men require slightly different sight adjustment. Thus a rifle sighted in by one man is by no means correctly sighted for others, and rifles sighted in at the factory are never more than approximately correct. One must be able to adjust his sights so that the bullet will strike where his rifle is aimed; that is, where the shot was called.

Finally, one must learn to co-ordinate all these five essentials. He must learn to aim accurately, and at the same time hold the rifle steadily. While he is doing this he must be gradually increasing the pressure on the trigger, so that when the aim seems best, and the hold the steadiest, he can squeeze on the trigger the last ounce or so of pressure which will discharge the rifle. And while doing this he must not forget to catch the point where the sights were aligned at the instant that the rifle goes off. He must learn to concentrate his mind, and every bit of his will power on doing these four things, and doing them perfectly.

The secrets of good shooting are:

1. Know your rifle. Get a good rifle and stick to it. Do not be changing your rifle all the time. Never change to a new arm until you know the old one as perfectly as it is possible to know it. There is a very true saying, ” Beware of the man with one rifle.”

2. Pay the closest attention to every little detail.

3. Be careful. Lots of good scores are spoiled, and lots of game escapes, through carelessness alone.

4. Be accurate. You are handling an instrument of precision, but it will not avail you if you be not accurate yourself.

5. Don’t get excited. An excited man cannot hold a rifle steadily, nor will his aim be accurate. Excitement usually comes from a lack of confidence; that is, from a lack of practice.

6. Go slow. Especially at first, go slow. Many men who have been shooting for years will never make really good shots because they do things so fast, or so impulsively, that they do not get the required steadiness or accuracy. Do not attempt rapid fire until you have mastered the slow fire. Skill in slow fire never makes a man a poor rapid-fire shot; it is lack of practice in rapid fire.

Some men soon acquire a remarkable ability to shoot the rifle, but it must be remembered that to be really expert one must have his lessons so drilled into him that even when excited he will still continue to shoot well. This means that one must practice until shooting becomes second nature before he can really call himself expert. In every case where anything important is at stake in rifle shooting there will be a certain amount of excitement, physical exertion, and necessity for speed. Let the novice not think that because he has made a score which equals the record he is an expert. Let him try to duplicate his work after a hard climb up a steep mountain when a mountain sheep suddenly leaps up and is about to disappear over a ledge. Or again, on the battlefield, when he must beat the other fellow to it with a perfectly placed bullet or go under. Most beginners can become good shots after several weeks of daily intelligent practice. To become a real expert requires years of practice, study, and experience. If it were not so the game would not be worth the candle.

Col Townsend Whelen who was born in Philadelphia on March 6, 1877 and died on December 23, 1961 was a career soldier, outdoorsman, hunter, marksman cartridge inventor and prolific writer whose ideas about all things to do with shooting are as valid today as they were when written.