Archive | May 2015

Building A Remington 700 Precision Rifle On A Budget

I see this question all the time and I see silly responses like the one below just as often.

Shooters are constantly asking about which 700 to buy and about which model.
Once they get it the first thing they do is start swapping out parts.
Here is a different approach you can take.
Buy a short or long action ready to go from one of the big supply houses for less than $500.
Buy a take off barrel off of E-Bay in the caliber of your choice for $50 and make sure it comes with the recoil lug.
Pick out the chassis or stock of your choice which will run $50 to $2000
Have the barrel installed by any gunsmith done and done.

Tada. How awesomely wrong can one person be? So you’re going to slap a take-off barrel on a never assembled gun, slap some random stock on it, pay no attention to the integration or parts grade and expect what? I know what to expect, a rebuilt Remmy which is unlikely to print as good as a factory Remmy but which costs at least twice as much. Ugggh. Why not just get a box stock ADL and NOT MODIFY IT. It’ll perform at MOA or better in all probability and if they’re not building a combat rig then it doesn’t have to be dead nuts tough.

How about this gem:

Usually about $3,000 is about right for an R700 unless you are okay with crap and cheap Chinese components. Then, you generally want to start at $1,000 price range in scopes. So, about $4,000 is the minimum budget for a completed scoped bolt action rifle. Then, you will have something you can be happy with and it will last. If you pay much less, you’ll end up paying a lot more in the long run if you are serious.

Yep. Equally up their own ass with their own nonsense. There is no requirement for dropping even 3000 bucks on a Remington 700 before it’s a proper precision rifle. This whole line of thinking is in direct refutation of observable reality and it’s based on the singularly restricted thinking of someone that doesn’t think targets closer than 2Km is worth shooting at. (The above quotes are sourced from and the poster for the 2nd bit actually has “shooting starts at 2000 yards” in his sig line)

The reality of the situation is, just like with every damned thing else, it depends. Let’s assume you’re not building a war rig but you do plan on being pretty rough and tumble with your product so you want some toughness. You start with a used Remington 700. It doesn’t matter which one but an ADL will be the least expensive and can be had for 300-350 bucks no problem and it comes with a trigger and a stock and a barrel and a recoil lug. Add a scope and bipod and you’re there. It’s unlikely that the result will print .2″ 5 shot groups but it’ll probably do an inch or thereabouts. So 350 + 300 (SWFA 10×42 SS) + 100 (Harris S-type bipod) = $750. This is a 800yrd rig against 2-minute of angle targets.

Ok, you want to come down from an inch. Simple, adjust your trigger and replace the barrel and recoil lug and bed the stock. You can do a lot with a pre-chambered drop in barrel. Change caliber, change parent case, do whatever. Add 50 bucks to your buy-in for a recoil lug and 300 bucks for a Black Hole Weaponry Remage barrel chambered in whatever you want. You’re up to 700 bucks now on the base rifle. You know what 700 bucks gets you for a base rifle these days? It’ll get you a factory heavy barrel from Remington or Savage that’ll print .7″ groups in all probability with decent ammo. So, there’s no need to build a rifle. It costs about the same to build one (usually more) than it costs to just buy one. We’re at 700 + 300 + 100 = $1100. This is a 1000yrd rig against 2MOA targets.

Now you want to move from .7″ to .5″ or less. Well now we have a problem. You’re going to need a gunsmith. Your action needs trued, your barrel needs lapped (probably), your trigger needs work, you’re going to probably need help and if you don’t want it you still probably need it. Here’s where building yourself can work but it’s not common unless you already know the answer to the question I’m addressing. Blueprinting and truing an action is going to run 2-3 hundred bucks as a start. Add in a trigger job and a bedding job and precisely setting the headspace to minimum and you can see a $600 gunsmith bill and you still may need a replacement match grade barrel which is going to add 350 bucks for the barrel and probably (unless you do a Remage prefit) 150-200 bucks for the chambering and installation. This is at 350 (action) + 350 (barrel) + $600 (gunsmithing) + 300 (scope) + 100 (bipod). This rig is good for 1000m against 1MOA targets and will probably be easily capable of .5″ groups.

So far these have all be using SWFA 10×42 SS scopes. You can add 500 bucks more for one of their HD 10×42’s which has better glass or add 1200 more bucks and get into a US Optics ST-10 TPAL. All of these are also using a factory stock. There’s no legitimacy to thinking a factory wood stock from Remington can’t be on a precision rifle. You don’t need a chassis stock costing 700 bucks. If you want one fine but don’t think it’s necessary. They’re very nice and ergonomic and that’s it. So you could add 1200-2200 bucks more to any of these levels if you want. It just probably won’t do any good.

Now you want to go to the next level. Well here the cost is pretty well fixed. You’re going to ditch the factory Remington 700 action and probably do an aftermarket clone from Surgeon or similar. The amount of gunsmith time goes up dramatically and the accessories go up dramatically in price. At this point it’s really best to call up GA Precision or Mark Pharr or Beanfield Rifles or any of a thousand others and have them build you a proper rifle on a match action. You’re looking at 3000-7000 bucks and it’ll come with a stock and it’ll likely print .2″ groups all day. Add a scope that’s up to the level of the rifle for another 1000-7000 bucks including rings and mounts. This rifle will be able to be competitive at extended range in matches that count group size or X’s. If you were to build a war rig this is probably where you’d want to be playing. You don’t go to war with toys. You go to war with weapons. When you call it a weapon it’s got to be able to be a weapon no matter what. I’d expect to be able to beat someone to death with it and then turn around and finish my 5-shot group. Going to war means life is on the line. Price is irrelevant when life is the prize so I’ll take the most expensive, custom, ruggedized, perfected kit I can manage to get into. Ask any military sniper if they’d like to take a Savage 10FP or a GA Precision Hospitaller to battle. Ask them if they’d rather take a SWFA 5-20x50HD or a US Optics LR-17.

What $2800 gets you.

What $2800 gets you. This rifle is based on a Savage 10FP-SR

People that think like blankets are not thinking. They’re applying topically accurate information to an off topic matter. One of my match rifles started with a $650 rifle, added a $500 chassis stock, a $300 scope and $200 of rings, mounts, bipod and paint.

This is a 1700 dollar rifle and it’s a 1000m (1100yrds) stone cold killer on 1MOA targets.

What ~$1700 gets you.

What ~$1700 gets you. The base rifle is a Mossberg MVP Varmint .223.

Another of my rifles starts with a $900 base rifle, adds a $350 barrel, $200 chassis stock, $600 in gunsmith work, $1500 scope, and 200 bucks in rings, mounts, bipod and paint. This is a $3500 rifle and it’ll shoot 1MOA targets out to a mile (1760yrds).
What $3500 gets you.

What $3500 gets you. The rifle action is a Winchester post-64.

This is my metallic silhouette race gun. It’s a Savage 110 action ($450) that’s been fully blueprinted ($600), professionally hand glass bedded ($250) into a Nesika Bay stock ($600) using a custom triggerguard ($100) with a Shilen Match stainless barrel ($350), custom ground recoil lug ($100), custom chamber dimensions and headspacing ($350), trigger job ($100), a Weaver T24 scope ($500), and weight set to maximum for Hunter gun class in metallic silhouette competition. The total or a rig like this is about $3500 all in and there’s almost nothing to it. It’s a single shot rifle in a fiberglass stock. Every part of it is not the most expensive option but it’s competitive. I still need to drop another 500 bucks into it for a vastly better trigger and some balancing work. The rifle turns in 1-hole groups at 100m but gets used exclusively from the standing position for any range longer than that. At 200, 300, 385, and 500m it’s accurate enough that I can stand up and take my shots unsupported and have a hope of hitting if my crosshairs are on the target. There are guys that I shoot against that come out with rifles that cost twice as much. They’re not any more accurate, they’re just more exotic with stuff like aluminum actions or Titanium actions with more expensive scopes and more exotic stock paint jobs and more expensive barrels and such. You can double the cost of a rifle really fast and not get anything for it.
$3500 worth of competition rifle.

$3500 worth of competition rifle.

And here’s a GA Precision Hospitaller with a US Optics scope appropriate to the cause. This rig is over $8000 as configured. Probably closer to $9000 when you take everything into account. This is not my rifle. The image is the property of a Photobucket user named reximusallen. I hope he’s ok with me using this pic of his kickass rifle. This rifle will do anything a rifle can do.
What closer to $7000 gets you.


Project Maginot Line Hits The Block

Project Maginot Line is going to be sold to fund a new project. It’s a Savage 110 long action with a magnum bolt face. Barrel is a 28″ Shilen match untapered with a dished crown. Trigger is factory savage and still hunter weight. Recoil lug is PTG. Stock is a Choate ultimate varmint. Rings and mount are available. 30mm Burris signature series rings and a EGW 20MOA base. The whole rifle can be yours for $700obo. I will part it out if it comes to that.  The scope is not for sale. Bipod not included.

The rifle is built to launch 180gr Berger Hybrid VLD’s to 1800m. It performs brilliantly with Hornady A-max and SST bullets, Berger Hybrids and VLD’s. Total weight is about 22lbs with a scope on it. The barrel has just under 200 rounds through it. The action had just a few rounds on it before the barrel was swapped.

email if interested. All sales through legal channels.


Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

I spent my weekend competing at the CRPA California State Smallbore Metallic Silhouette Championships. It was a heck of a competition with a strong showing of the best shots in the state. Many of the shooters shoot competitively in more than one discipline and skillz were brought both days. The competitors in every class were great shooters, really nice people and the equipment was pretty consistently of stunning quality so the gun-porn quotient was high.

Many of the shooters that were there I see a couple times a month at regional matches but a few of them I usually only see at specific venues so State is a chance to catch up with people and shoot the breeze, maybe learn a new trick or find out some info you didn’t even know existed. Also it’s a chance to browse an impressive for-sale table and drool over a bunch of things you by the psychosomatic pain your back pocket know you shouldn’t even be looking at.


State is also one of those big matches where the prizes are pretty cool and there are often door prizes or a raffle. Every entrant was put in for the raffle this eyar and one of the guys won a case of Eley Club .22lr ammunition which is one of those frighteningly expensive sorts of things that are amazingly cool to win. There were great prizes given to the winners in the form of trophies (for Match winner) and expensive coinage. Most of the field of winners got varying numbers of either silver dollars or other US coinage of the same ilk.

All in all it was 2 days. Each day was an 80 round match broken up into 2x 40 round matches with a snack break in between. Wind was pretty mellow to non-existent. Everyone liked that. Temperatures were also very mellow but bordered on chilly the 2nd day. I think one of the best parts of the match was the venue. Avenal Gun Club is a fantastic facility, especially for as remote as it is. Plenty of shade and seating and a challenging but not infuriating target setup on the smallbore line.

Here’s a pic of the range. The little black dots are the steel targets. The rams in the back are 4″x3″ in the body. The chickens up front are about 1″ across the body. Sorry the pic is so poor. Lighting was a major problem all day for photography.

Now about the hardware: Anshutz 54’s, Remington 40x and Sako’s pretty much ruled the roost as far as numbers but we did have a couple interesting if not ballsy choices. 1 guy used a nearly box stock ruger 10/22 with a Kidd trigger and shot in AA class and took second. 10/22’s don’t get a lot of respect in the sport because the available triggers are not normally very good. That shooter really did something doing that well with one even if it was modded. Another guy used what appeared to be a falling block Remington or replica thereof with a Lyman tang peep-sight and he shot a pretty amazing score despite not using the 16-36x optics that are the norm on the line. That wicked long sight radius must be pretty helpful.

Here’s a pic of some of the rifles in use. The bulk are Anschutz’s in custom stocks with custom barrels. Pretty high end kit.


Optics: Weaver T series, Nikon and Leupold target scopes were well represented. The average scope on the line is about $500-600 with some folks opting for much more pedestrian stuff and some (infrequently) going up over $1000. Chasing magnification is a little like an addiction and is very common for silhouette shooters to suffer from. They also need high quality scopes of high magnification with precise repeatable adjustments. That can make optics one of the more trying things to find just the right model of. Thankfully because of a very small necessary feature set it doesn’t drive the cost into the stratosphere.

A pic down the line during sight-in:

In other disciplines like F-class the players seem to chase price points as well as magnification and $2500-3500 scopes aren’t at all uncommon and I think that the tendency to compete with dollars might keep people out of games like F-class where smallbore silhouette can be done with pretty modest gear at a pretty high level and if you want to compete with dollars there’s only so far that can go. The equipment chasing is kinda kept down by the fact that we ALL use retail ammunition. The most you can spend there is to use Eley but there are other much more affordable ammo’s that do just as well like SK, RWS, Lapua, and even some bulk options in match ammo are out there. Point is, we’re all able to use ammo of the same capability. In highpower most everyone handloads and the skill that you use to handload directly affects the result. New shooters just aren’t going to have the badass ammo that old shooters do in highpower. I think that’s a huge reason to pick smallbore silhouette for your monthly dose of rifle competition. You can actually do it on a normal human budget.

So back to the match. Competitors came in from all over the state and from neighboring states and boy I mean to tell ya’, when they come that far they’re coming to win. They didn’t win but they sure put everyone else to task to make sure our CA state championship didn’t go to some other state’s resident.

Here’s a look at the firing line after the match:

At the end of the first day of competition I won the B-class Standard Gun. At the end of the second day my coach had won AAA-class Hunter Gun. My coach’s son won B-class Hunter Gun and High Junior. Here we are, 3 of the winners. There was also unclassified, A, AA and Master class for both Hunter Gun and Standard Gun each so there’s 8 more winners plus the overall match winner. There were plenty of competitors in each class to provide an exciting competition and everyone really had to work their mojo.


I shoot A class in Hunter Gun and shot 4th. To make nothing but excuses I was not with my coach in the Hunter Gun relays so I didn’t have my normal spotter. I was squadded with a squad-mate/spotter I’ve only barely met a couple times and it took us the first half of the match just to sync up and learn how to work each other’s strengths and give them the info they needed to make better shots (if my spotter watched me for stance and form problems and ignored actually spotting I hit 70%, if he spotted and ignored what I was doing with my body then I hit 10-30%). The first half I was hitting 10%. The second half I was hitting closer to 35%. The first half he was hitting 80% sometimes and 0% sometimes. By the second half of the day he was pulling a nice 70% average and had stopped throwing zeros.

The day before in Standard Gun I was hitting 32% overall and my weakest set was 25%. The 2nd day was also colder and had more wind early on. My coach and I didn’t bring enough snacks and Gatorade for the 2nd day either and that match was run faster and we all had to set targets the 2nd day (the first day my coach’s son wasn’t shooting and so became our designated target setter for our team) which meant heart rates were up and legs were more fatigued and blood sugar was lower. All in all the 2nd day was closer to an endurance trial than the first which was really quite nice as shooting days go.

I managed to get some great advice from Inez (shout out) which helped me pull through some fatigue and let me concentrate on the task at hand. After that worked and I wasn’t fighting my own body anymore I had time to think about what was going on now and to make some improvements to my form. I found a new way to mount the rifle and settle on target that exploits both natural point of aim and natural respiratory pause and settled my crosshair down from a 6-8MOA sort of area of jitter to a 3-4MOA jitter. That’s a huge improvement and means I’ve got my reticle on target almost the whole time I’m readying to fire instead of crossing the target and being able to hover on it only briefly if at all. It also means I’m fighting the rifle and gravity less and I’ll have much greater endurance for that. I’m hoping that this technique can help me pull up into AA class this year. Big thanks to Inez, Mark B., Chris, George, George and George, Luis, Tony, Edo, Dennis, Will and everyone at the match that helped with advice, good hearted ribbing and supportive words.

You can check out videos of me competing in metallic silhouette at my youtube channel:

Support CRPA:

Check out metallic silhouette shooting:

What’s stopping you from trying this sort of competition out for yourself?

Authors Note: I don’t compete to win though, I occasionally do. I compete to become a better shooter. I want to be a proper rifleman which means being absolutely proficient from all positions when the pressure is on. Shooting from a bench is not fun for me but I’ve gotten very good at it. It’s still just making holes in paper though and that’s not so much for giggles once you know how. Crawling on my belly and shooting so far I can’t see my target without optics is a bit more fun but stops being much of a challenge after a while and there’s not a lot of places you can go that allow you to launch bullets basically “that-a way”. Metallic silhouette shooting; specifically in the smallbore and highpower forms, forces you to stand up unsupported and engage 2-3MOA targets in such a way that it’s totally obvious when you hit and when you don’t and frequently what the quality of your hit was. It’s the ultimate in honest assessment of one’s ability. One tip for those on the fence: In the beginning you’ll usually be in a beginner class which makes it much easier to get to your first win. Wins are fun and so is graduating to a higher class. The point is there’s always going to be 1000 shooters that are 10x better than you and a few will usually be on the firing line at a match. They’re not who you’re competing against. You are who you are competing against.

Powder Temperature Sensitivity Data

One of the guys at SnipersHide posted this truly useful info. If you’re using BallisticXLR you should be measuring your temperature associated MVV but you should also if possible compare your measured results against published sensitivity data if it’s available to make sure that you’re not seeing other aberrations in your results.

HS-6 1.21fps per *
H110/W296 1.24 fps per *
Imr4227 1.17fps per *
Lil’ Gun 1.31 fps per *
RL10x .71 fps per*
Benchmark .44 fps per *
Imr3031 .73 fps per *
Imr8208xbr .59 fps per *
H4895 .23 fps per *
Alliant Varmint pro .89 fps per *
Alliant AR comp .77 fps per *
Varget .19 fps per *
W748 1.32 fps per *
Imr4064 .53 fps per *
Ramshot Tac .91 fps per *
Imr4895 .87 fps per *
AA4064 1.11 fps per *
AA2520 .98 fps per *
RL15 1.52 fps per * from 50* and up
PP2000MR .99 fps per *
Imr4320 1.32 fps per *
Ramshot Biggame .98 fps per *
H380 1.44 fps per *
VV N150 1.08 fps per *
H414/W760 1.42 fps per *
Imr4350 .64 fps per *
AA4350 .47 fps per *
H4350 .29 fps per *
RL17 1.42 fps per *
Hybrid 100v .78 fps per *
RL19 1.61 fps per *
VV N160 1.24 fps per *
Imr4831 1.19 fps per *
Ramshot Hunter .86 fps per *
H4831 .36 fps per *
RL22 1.71 fps per *
Imr7828 1.36 fps per *
Magpro 1.01 fps per *
H1000 .21 fps per *
RL25 1.59 fps per *
Ramshot Magnum .87 fps per *
Retumbo .49 fps per *
US869 1.68 fps per *
H50bmg 1.64 fps per *

YT’er Shawn Lewis Has His Head Up His Ass

I caught this little chunk of utter fucking stupidity at YouTube a few minutes ago and couldn’t help but respond:

Regarding people knowing their rights at sobriety checkpoints and not submitting to illegal search and seizure or illegal detention:

“Right on dude, someday these little morons will grow up and finally figure out these officers are here for preventative measures.”

“…you have no proof that these checkpoints don’t help, just like there is no proof that they do help, but you know what, you can’t catch a drunk standing around doing nothing. People bitch and make fun of officers for being at donut shops doing nothing and people bitch for officers being out there trying to make a difference. It doesn’t hurt for them to be there, quit being so damn paranoid and freaking relax. No ones rights are being taken away, I have a CHL to prove that. Relax and get on the responsible side of the fence for a change and quit making problems for these officers, they have enough to deal with already, just cooperate and move the hell on!”

Well sir allow me to elucidate upon you a retort which may salve the burn which may be suffered at the revelation that you are not the paragon of virtue that you think you are and serve yeoman duty to the job of Little Dutch Boy for your leaky argument. Facile arguments do not make your point. Proof of the non-existence of something is never required and is in fact logically impossible. The requirement for proof of claims is incumbent on the one making the affirmative claim. In this case that’s the claim that checkpoints have a positive effect at reducing DUI.

There are published studies indicating that net positive effects are possible and even likely. Unfortunately, not enough analysis has been done in thorough and disinterested ways or by enough sets of researchers to generate anything other than further conjecture and hypothesis. So the idea that they work is just unproven hypothesizing. The hypothesis that concentrated targeted patrols work better has actually borne some fruit but not enough to start making blanket statements or broadening adoption beyond that amount necessary to further the study. Those are facts.

Officers do spend an inordinate amount of time looking for something to do. Yes people don’t understand that that is the nature of law enforcement. Nobody goes out looking for a cop to be nearby when they’re up for committing a crime. So the perception and the fact are spot on though the stereotype is a little unflattering. Most of an officers day is mind crushing boredom.

To the point of it not hurting for them (cops) to be there (checkpoints). Well, you’re arguably not just wrong but so wrong it’s almost to say that you have redoubled your derp after losing sight of your politics. It does hurt. We are a free society and that freedom is based on freedom from being stopped and investigated for a crime we showed no signs of having committed. That’s unlawful search and seizure and it’s a violation of the constitution unless appropriately strict scrutiny has been applied and an overwhelming case can be made. Even when such a case has been made the infringement must be kept to the absolute minimum intensity and duration which will accomplish the goals of the state. Rights are being taken away and the false analogy of you having a CHL is MEANINGLESS and contradicts your point. You should not need a CHL. It’s your right to defend yourself. But no, you think the government has to ratify that right on a little card you carry with you. Rights are inviolate. Privileges are not.

Secondly, police across the nation have over the past 30 years gradually been adopting a more militarized mindset. One of being the law instead of being there to effect the enforcement of law. Much of this has come from the fairly recent practice of hiring former soldiers on a large scale. When I was in the field the hiring of former soldiers was not nearly even as common as it is now. For the most part people either went into the military or into civilian life and by the time someone spent 20 years getting a pension as an MP in the Army they were too old to transfer in as a probie to a civilian police department. Apart from that the standards of military policing and civilian policing as far as training and knowledge requirements was very different. You’d really have to drop the military after a short-hitch and then go to the academy which didn’t allow a lot of room for combat troops to become police. After 9/11 though that’s almost all that any department hires. Hell for a while the LAPD reportedly had a pretty near permanent recruitment aimed at the marines returning to Pendleton from playing in the sand box.

The point is we’ve gone to a militarized police force, manned by former military, using military tactics and equipment and military style checkpoints and investigational techniques. Not a damned one of those is really a good idea in the civilian world and most of them are flatly illegal or just plain fucking stupid. Shawn Lewis: You are the one that is the problem. You think that you are morally superior and a better person and would never be caught up in an unfortunate encounter with law enforcement overstepping not only their bounds but all reason and righteousness.

You think that militarized police acting like we’re in a police state is fine as long as you didn’t break any laws. You think someone can go through a whole day and not break laws they couldn’t even have guessed existed or that every violation of every law deserves jail time and a beat down by the stasi. You’re the one trying to destroy the rights of the masses by claiming that they don’t need them or shouldn’t exercise them. You are the problem and you should really dig out that rectal cranial inversion and reconsider the facile, failed and foolish thought processes that have led you to harbor them. I say that you represent the appearance of being a pretty fucked up person and a terrible ambassador of gun rights.

I tell you good day. Drops mic.

California State Smallbore Silhouette Championships May 16-17

I’ll be competing in the state championships this weekend at Avenal Gun Club in Avenal, CA. If you’re in California and want to watch or join in on a great match drop by. There are 2 match days. We’ll have a hunter gun day and a standard gun day. Each day is $50 match fee + $5 range fee. If you’re going to want to compete be sure to be there by 0800hrs. If the gate is closed just wait a few minutes and someone will be down to unlock it.

You’ll need a .22lr rifle with a scope to compete. You’ll need to bring match ammo or you won’t have a chance to hit much. I recommend 1050-1080fps stuff from SK, Eley or Federal. You’ll want to bring drinks and snacks but we’ll have food there. You can buy into the tri-tip lunch for $15.

I’d love to have my readers come out and play. You’ll meet some really fun people and have a good time. I promise.

Avenal Gun Club:

You’ll need to be a member of CRPA to compete. Join CRPA at:

The winners circle from my last smallbore match: (l-r)Meccastreisand, Inez, George, Edo

The winners circle from my last smallbore match:
(l-r)Meccastreisand, Inez, George, Edo

Californias Dangerous Mandate: Non-Lead Hunting Ammo

California is phasing in the requirement that all big game hunting in the state be done with lead-free ammunition. This effectively limits us to brass or copper bullets. As effective as stuff like Barnes’ line of expanding monolithic copper bullets and Lehigh Defense’s line of Controlled Chaos expanding monolithic brass bullets are there are problems that haven’t been well explored. That’s a tragedy waiting to happen. By 2019 we’re supposed to be all non-lead in the Golden State. That’s progressive law making at its most stupid for you. There’s a reason lead was chosen when guns were invented. It’s the best metal for the job other than maybe GOLD and it’s way cheaper than gold and it’s not really as toxic as people think in its metallic state unless you have a thumb sucking habit and don’t know how to wash your hands.

Many years ago I performed as a demonstration shooter for Barnes during an event to promote their hunting bullets. We set up with my Browning BLR in .270 Winchester. I started out by getting a zero with the Barnes tipped ammo which shot 4 inches lower than my previous zero which was meant for Remington Core-Lokt ammo. We lined up 2 blocks of gelatin (not calibrated) that were 16 inches deep, 4 inches tall and 8 inches tall one after the next to give us a solid yard of penetration space. Behind the gelatin we placed 3 gallon jugs of water and behind that was a blue 55gal water barrel which was empty.

I aimed and touched off the first round of Remington CL 130gn from 35 yards. I needed to be able to make 2 shots on these blocks so I had to shoot one half very carefully so the other side would be intact for the 2nd shot. The bullet entered the lead block centered very well on the target sticky we’d placed on the face. Penetration was just a hair shy of 24 inches and was generally straight and true. The permanent cavity opened up quickly and by 6″ was at maximum diameter and maintained that through to nearly a foot before tapering right back down. Bullet upset was thorough with a nice complete mushroom. There was no lack of fragmentation but it wasn’t severe. Given the high impact velocity it’s not surprising that the bullet performed as it did. It’s almost a little surprising that with a 3000fps strike speed the bullet didn’t come completely apart but I’ve learned over the years using Remington’s green box of death that they’re surprisingly tough for a bullet that’s otherwise completely non-special.

Up comes the Barnes offering. The bullet was of the tipped variety and the same weight class as the lead core shot. Touching the rifle off felt no different as you’d expect. The bullet struck right where it was supposed to and the shot was nicely placed down the axis. The bullet penetrated the same depth before the fact that the rear block buckled up in the middle allowed the bullet to escape through the top. After leaving the gelatin it sailed through about 8 inches of free air before striking the gallon jugs full of water. It completely penetrated the top all 3 jugs then penetrated the blue plastic water barrel and had enough boot-scootin’-boogie left to skip off the hard flat ground of the prairie we were on 3 times before I lost sight of it. The last of the dirt puffs from the bullet skipping like a flat rock on water was around 150 yards from the firing line. The wound cavity was very pretty and had that perfect winding look that comes from a X shaped cross section bullet spinning through the target. The bullet appears to have expanded pretty quickly around 3 inches was where things got properly noticeable. The cavity grows substantially from 3-6 inches and holds until about a foot through before it really starts to reduce in cross sectional volume. It’s not as wide as the lead core bullets cavity but it’s much more visually attractive.

To be fair and because it’s important, the gallon jugs didn’t get a full hit each. Well, the first one did. That hit was just above center on the jug. The 2nd jug was hit about 3.5inches below the cap. The final jug was hit maybe 2 inches below the top. The first jug was a full hit. The other two between them were about 3/4 of a hit inasmuch as the amount of energy dumped into them wasn’t as much as it could have been. It was still a lot. Having the energy of at least something on the order of a 9mm at the muzzle after doing all that is a little worrisome. After all it still had enough poop to bust through a 55gal polymer water barrel which while empty was pretty thick after it had already busted through my first set of backstops. The bullet of course was not recovered but it appeared to have lost a tiny bit of mass as we found little flecks of copper in the wound track in the gelatin.

Consider this: Barnes bullets are game killers. They work. That said they over-penetrate like mad and the fouling issue is still an issue with many guns despite the marketing rhetoric. I think a little attention to re-working their alloys for specific applications might be beneficial. One, it’ll let them make the bullets a little more fragile, a little more prone to expansion. There’s plenty of room for that still. Two, the bullets they make will be really hard to beat once some of the minor gripe issues are dealt with.

Now to harp on the over-penetration thing a bit. California’s woods are CROWDED. I mean seriously crowded. During deer season it’s hard to find a spot to throw up a tent much less a good hunt area someone else hasn’t beaten the brush to death on already. Getting deeper into the woods is not much of an option because it doesn’t help. In fact it kinda makes matters more complicated in a lot of respects. Day hunters certainly can’t do that and they make up most of the people that live near the hunting grounds. It’s entirely unfair to tell these people in what are uniformly economically depressed areas that in order to stock their freezer with meat that they, who live there, that they don’t have the right to hunt because everyone else lives farther away so they take 2 weeks off and have all the time in the world. It’s interesting to me that the out of town-ers that show up with all this time on their hands then take the closest campsite to the highway that they can find. You’d think that if you have the week or two you’ll be more willing to spend a couple days of it walking in and leave the day-hunt area to the locals and those that don’t have so much time set aside.

With crowded woods like we have we also have an epic amount of nighttime road hunters and just plain ol’ poachers and we have an unending abundance of both legal and illegal pot grows. The pot farmers shoot the deer eating their plants, the road hunters fill the night air with bullets and noise and spotlights, the poachers riddle areas with bullets that you might not expect bullets to be and all of that was more or less something that could be dealt with until the requirement for lead-free bullets. Now with the poachers poaching and the pot farmers depredating and the road hunters spotlighting we’ve got a much larger problem on our hands because the only ammo out there over-penetrates like mad and has a much higher capability of finding a downrange target that really didn’t need that particular bullet. You know, downrange targets like hunters sleeping in their tent, hunters sitting on a hillside, hunters being outside hunting. There’s also people who build their homes in the woods and they’re now at greater risk because of a law that’s based on the desire to preserve a species that has been effectively extinct for 30 years. Well done California. Not only did you endanger hunters more than they already are but you’ve endangered everyone that happens to be around the deer grounds far more than they were before. And what benefit do we get for this, one of the last of the American megafauna will go extinct with the rest of them. Just like every other species ever on the Earth has done and every one currently on the Earth will eventually do.

When it wasn’t a mandate I was fine. Many hunters liked then and still use monometal bullets preferentially, especially Barnes bullets, before the mandate. Many but not nearly a majority. With a variety of ammo types out there the risk of going afield and hunting seemed more like a roll of a 20-sided die than the flip of a coin. With the mandate and the ridiculous behavior of Californians it’s a lot more like a coin flip and I can’t any longer bring myself to hunt on public lands in California where lead-free is mandatory. Private land is fine because that’s obviously a more tightly controlled area with a low density of hunters and other humans. Public land is no longer an option for me though and I can’t help but think that that was part of the original motivation behind the rule.

Thanks to the insane granularity which political power in California has been disseminated we now have a system of governance in the Golden State that is no less than functioning anarchy. That’s a lot like a functioning alcoholic or a functioning child molester. Just because it appears to get some of what could objectively be called work done doesn’t mean it’s not just completely fucked up and wrong and is certainly no indication that it’s a single damned bit useful at accomplishing the job it has to do.

I’m all for protecting the environment and avoiding the extinction of species so long as there’s a cost:benefit ratio that makes sense. In the case of the condor, they went effectively extinct in the 80’s and they’d long been on their last legs. We have their successor species in fantastic numbers and that species doesn’t require such giant meals as a condor. That species is the common turkey vulture. People that cry about biodiversity and say there’s no having a middle ground are engaging in a very expensive form of sentimentality and crushing the rights of others for spurious reasons. I have one question for those that think the millions wasted on the condor is money well spent: How would you feel about extincting something like the malaria parasite? They both serve the same amount of function to humanity and the environment: NONE AT ALL. If you’d be ok with extincting the malaria parasite, why is it so wrong to extinct the condor? Special pleading is antithetical to a useful argument and so we have to now face the question of how we decide and who decides. So far it’s been by bureaucratic fiat and that’s not liable to work for too long.

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