Here you go! Hot off the presses.
Typically as I wear out a barrel I’ll see it shoot fine, fine, fine, start to open up, plateau, fine at plateau, open up more, open up more, open up more and it’s all downhill from there. After the plateau if it doesn’t quickly plateau again it’s getting there and it’s time to start planning my next pipe. I’ve already started planning my next pipe, a 6XC to match an identical one we’ll put on Coach’s gun. Nonetheless, this barrel is still good. Question is, for how long?
I know from prior experience that I get a little longer barrel life from the polygonal rifling that CRA uses. I’ve not burned out enough to get a useful statistical value for how much longer but I can speculate. Right now, given the throat wear and grouping we’re getting on Coach’s existing 6XC; which is at 1500 rounds so far, and the expected life of that Shilen barrel being around 2200-2300 rounds, I’m estimating; and trying to be extremely conservative in that estimation, that I’ll make it to 1800 rounds or further before this pipe is really done for match work.
That’s almost 40% longer barrel life than I initially anticipated, if it gets there. We knew that the HBN coating on the bullets would help barrel life so I’m confident it’ll get to 1500. We knew the CRA polygonal rifling means no sharp edges for the burning powder plasma to ablate would help too. We knew the Ackley shoulder angle would keep the flame vertex inside the case neck and that that would help too.
It’s just with all those things helping, we have no idea where this train is going to stop. If I go on throat erosion alone, calculating how far until the boat tail is up inside the case neck, then I’m looking at almost 3000 rounds of barrel life. That’d be 230% of anticipated barrel life and I just don’t see that as being realistic given the amount of powder being burned and the rapidity with which I shoot in matches. I’ll get that barrel pretty hot sometimes.
I get higher velocities than one might expect from less powder than one might expect. I get longer barrel life than one would expect. I get amazingly accurate and consistent performance than one might expect (especially for a drop-in pre-fit). The thing turned out sub-MOA groups with fire forming loads. It did not like 55gn varmint bullets at all though. No surprise on an 8 twist. The chamber on it is very tight. It’s meant for someone who’s willing to turn necks if necessary (my inside neck diameter on a fired case is .2435). Thankfully I don’t have to neck turn. Lucky me, everything just fits perfectly. When I ordered it I specified that I would not be put off by a possible requirement to neck turn brass if that were what their reamer would require.
Much of this situation was and is by design. When I initially decided I wanted a fast 6mm I found what my options were and then picked a chamber that would maximize performance, brass life and throat life. I picked a powder that would give maximum velocities without pressures being tall or a lot of flash. I picked projectiles that had very high BC’s and would be routinely available in boxes of 500 (including a primary and backup bullet). I set up a load that performs identically with both bullets and shoots to the same point of aim, just in case I’m unable to re-up on one I can use my backup supply of the other. I bought all of the brass, powder and primers I expected to ever use in this barrel ahead of time (8lbs of powder, looks like I might need another 8lbs). Everything about the gun except the optic I’d settle on was decided before the barrel even arrived. Best of all, the barrel was set up to CRA’s rigorous standards which means it was done perfectly and it was under $400.
So why am I building a 6XC now? Well Coach and I shoot together. It’s best if we have one set of ballistics DOPE and shoot the exact same load through identical chambers. It’s actually best if we share a gun but I like mine and he likes his. We find that when we can use drop and wind corrections from each other that we win more matches. Duh. If I run a stage and miss 2 of 7 shots on wind, I can tell him what the adjustments would have been and what the wind was for those misses then he can adjust accordingly and pick up those points and vice versa.
So, I’ve got 2 new barrels on the way from CRA, 27″ 6mm 8-twist unprofiled blanks which we’ll have a local gunsmith chamber, thread and profile for us in 6XC with a .267 neck (CRA doesn’t have a 6XC reamer or I’d have them do it). We’ll set them up for zero head space to minimize brass growth and then we’ll use my new ExactShooting.com Custom Collection sizing die to perfectly set the head space and neck tension of our reloaded ammo. We’ll be as close to shooting the same rifle as two guys can possibly get. If you want faster velocities, longer barrel life and one heck of an accurate barrel, you could do a lot worse than to drop Columbia River Arms a line.
I’ve updated the how-to to include SAE and metric for the latest version. Banded BC how-to is coming out soon too. This information is handy regardless of what external ballistics application you’re using.
Check it out!
I had the opportunity to run a group of former U.S. Marines through my long range precision rifle training class recently. It was nice having a lance corporal, a corporal and a sergeant who all happened to serve together. Chain of command was built in and there was lots of Marines insulting other Marines and dirty jokes.
We started with the basics of form and position building and went through weapon verification and troubleshooting on day one. After about 6 hours of non-stop fast paced work we had all the ballistics data needed to craft very accurate drop tables and had all the guns zero’d properly and scope turrets slipped to zero. On a 100yrd line little issues are going to be easiest to solve and there were a few. Sometimes you just need someone of known ability to drive the gun.
After a day of building blast fatigue (no suppressors in California means loud days) we retired to a barbecue dinner and a few barley pops while we got to know each other and swapped lies. At the same time I put some effort into additional lessons on ballistics, input data gathering and why certain things are important to get very precise while other things really aren’t.
On day two things got intense and we ran drill after drill after drill. These drills are meant to expose students to all of the ways that they can induce their own failure and are meant to be extremely difficult. If you’re not missing, you’re not training. You’re just rehearsing. Drills varied in number of shots fired, timed vs. untimed, single target, multiple target and so on out to 500m.
We covered wind reading for quite some time as that’s the real art in of long range precision shooting. You can take a newbie and they can hit easily when there’s no wind but add a little wind and some complicating topography and things suddenly get extremely challenging again. The lessons on wind effect and terrain effects on wind seemed to be exceptionally valuable and many really good questions were asked. Some of those questions were answered with the truth of the matter, send one and correct. Many though seemed to be pretty enlightening. Thankfully my home range provides ample opportunity for the wind to really screw you up and it’s very challenging to estimate wind very well in that kind of a jumbled topographic environment until you’ve had this exact kind of training.
Once I had sufficiently burned them down and had their heads fully swimming, with so much information coming at you it’s hard to absorb it all, it was time to build them back up and implement at properly long range what we’d learned on the intermediate distance range.
We ran up to the long range course and went through quite a number of drills from team drills to ranging exercises, bracketing exercises and so on. By the end of the day everyone was being pretty predictably accurate and we eventually retired to the camp for another fine meal and some high quality banter.
Day 3 came and because of the very small class size I was able to finish the course on the first 2 days so we were able to get some good old fashioned trigger time from 100-900. Once the heat of the day came on, so did the bugs and the lads had a 20 hour drive home so we elected to call it a weekend at that point and head on home. Coach and I stayed around to clean up the range and dirty up some guns we never get to shoot. I got my 10/22 ready for an upcoming .22LR match and even got to dirty up the new barrel on my EDC pistol.
One of the lads took the opportunity to use my spare BipodExt. When fully extended the bipod was a full foot in front of the muzzle of his AR-10. Eventually the shooter decided that since the BipodExt is somewhat expensive and so would not be entering his kit anytime very soon, that he’d remove it and shoot with just the bipod mounted directly to the rifle. It’s that big a difference that he didn’t want the training to be tainted by having such a good cheat.
On day 3 I broke out the Hot Dog Gun and let the lads take a whack with it. It runs very high ballistic coefficient bullets at immensely fast speeds so the drop is very minimal. So minimal that they got to see the difference in the bullet trace vividly against 6.5CM and .308Win loads. Spotting bullet trace is something that’s easiest through a spotting scope but when I was shooting my rifle I could actually see it in the rifle scope when I zoomed out a little bit. It’s a flat shooter for sure and makes shooting under 500m kind of boring. They were surprised at the extremely low recoil as well. From my point of view, all that speed and power without being a hard kicker is totally worth the barrel life sacrificed.
Still pics are cool and all but video is cooler. BigC laying it down. A nicer, more considerate guy you will not find.
Then comes BigD. Turns out we have friends in common already. That’s cool.
I had to land for a four hour layover in Dubai during my recent flights to and from South Africa. On the way to SA as soon as we landed I went to the Duty Free which actually is the entire airport area near the boarding gates in Dubai Airport now. I needed cigarettes. Wasn’t going to buy them in California at 8 dollars a pack and I was told they were 2-3 dollars a pack in SA. I didn’t figure they’d have any of the rather rare smokes I like though so I checked around the Duty Free and found cartons of Djarum Black for $13.26US and immediately bought a carton and headed to the nearest smoking lounge.
After I’d finished my first smoke another guy, middle eastern looking, walked in and sat at the next seat over around the same ashtray as me. We exchanged greetings and queries of where you going, where you from and such. The were are you coming from question for both of us had the same answer, San Francisco Bay Area. Our destinations couldn’t be much different. He was going to Afghanistan and I to South Africa.
Turns out the guy worked with our boys in brown over there during the war’s heyday and had moved at the first opportunity to California where he loves the climate and culture and clean & safe everywhere sort of feeling. The last remnants of his family, I gather, are in Afghanistan taking care of the last of their property holdings.
We chatted for a long while about religion, politics, war and sports and found that despite our mutual distaste for each other’s system of beliefs that we were perfectly happy to be in each other’s company and to talk, entertain and educate each other. After a while both of us were hungry and we retired to the nearest place where one can get shawarma. Having never really had an authentic regional copy I asked if I should get the sandwich or Arabic version (a wrap lightly grilled). He suggested the Arabic version and so we ordered. The food place had nice seating but didn’t serve alcohol so we both had what they called tea though it was doped with sweetened condensed milk and cardamom so heavily that it really resembled the taste of horchata more than tea. I was unused to the flavors but tried to enjoy them without a preconception. The tea worked to soothe and really broke the shawarma flavor up. The shawarma was, according to my companion, terrible if edible. I thought it would be spicier but was otherwise getting the distinct sensation that a Greek had introduced them to the gyro but called it shawarma so they wouldn’t get offended at it not being a local delicacy.
In the end we ate till just before my boarding time and then I ran full out to my gate to make my flight. My companion, whose name is Ghani, turned out to live not 20 minutes from my house so we traded contact info and agreed that we’d try to find a decent shawarma and continue our conversation upon our respective returns to the States.
In almost every way, the pair is incompatible. Opposites in so many ways. The salve for that problem though was to simply leave aside distaste and to engage in open and honest conversation where we didn’t bog down in the rote definitions of words. We defined the words with contentious possible meanings ourselves and left the “well that’s not what I call that” over to one side. It really made the conversation entertaining and educational.
If countries, religions, political movements and most of all groups of people could accomplish what we did there would be no international conflicts and fewer conflicts within individual nations. Live and let live gets you only so far. Sometimes you really need to deliberately set aside distrust or dislike and simply coexist.
Hi Ghani! Be safe in your travels and let me know when you’re back in the States. This time the dinner is on me.
Danie Joubert is a somewhat legendary gunsmith and knife maker in South Africa. While I was there a mutual friend introduced us and we got to chat for a while. Turns out that Danie (pronounced Donnie) had whittled out a little gift for me in anticipation of our meeting. I don’t know why other than the extreme hospitality that seems endemic among the hunting/shooting community there.
Danie usually crafts field grade to exhibition grade safari rifles and custom target/tactical rifles. At least one King of a country has a rifle in Danie’s safe waiting for delivery. Safari rifles are stuff that has to work just right every time or someone probably dies. In Africa, as you might have heard, everything bites. There are even a couple species of antelope that are notorious for attacking & killing hunters after being shot if they’re not put down hard right there. All the critters in Africa are tough. Tougher than American critters in my experience. I’ve never shot a deer in the chest and it take another step (well, with one exception but that was more opening the chest up than penetrating it, long story). I shot 2 springbuck in the heart and they both ran a little ways before dropping. The eland I shot and hit in the heart and both lungs walked 2km. The impala I liquefied the chest cavity of dropped but tried to get up for a solid minute.
Anyway, Danie and I had a good couple hours long chat about rifle construction and how people use custom rifles there and at the end of the visit he walks in with this amazingly nicely made fixed blade and presents it to me. I was admittedly a bit floored by that. Then he says, “This is a working knife, so you have to use it. If you need to change a tire and you don’t have any other tools, this knife will do just fine.” So far it’s only been in the necks of a few critters (hey, you gotta put blood on it right) and cleaning the dirt from under my fingernails. I do now carry it in my backpack daily and on my hip when I’m in a place where a knife on my hip isn’t illegal.
Pics time. Kydex scabbard and G10 grips. Not sure what exact kind of steel but he did mention it’s a tool steel.
It’s seen a little use but not much. Just enough to wear some finish down.
Full tang goodness.
Red hat courtesy of spending OODLES of money with RedHat back in 2003.
My recent trip to South Africa was partly to do a couple hunts and partly to see what the long range precision rifle scene there was all about and how it could be well served. What products and services were available, what are needed and what just won’t play there. They have their own competitive rifle sports that are very like some of ours but different enough to have special needs. They also have a budding long range precision scene in the more common American influenced sports like F-Class.
Along the way I met a huge number of people: Gunsmiths, Knifemakers, Suppressor Makers, Farmers, Competitive Shooters, Guides, Importers, Exporters, Collectors, Legendary Hunters & Soldiers and 3 of the toughest, most well behaved polite & intelligent teenagers it’s possible to raise in this world.
I took some time to teach a few basic ballistics classes for some friends and we even got down to doing some long range live fire work complete with challenging drills and tests of both bravado and ability. Shots under 500m were there but we focused on shots over 500m and I have to tell you, these guys in South Africa are not fooling around. They’re motivated, well educated and not afraid to spend money if it’s going to return results.
I learned not only what biltong is but how to make it and why it throws jerky straight into a cocked hat. I saw fully 15 species of antelope, along with warthogs, ostrich, cape buffalo, and more. I got to experience what it’s like to be an ethnic super-minority and a chance to learn a little Afrikaans.
Afrikaans is a lot like Dutch but to the ear it sounds like there’s a lot of Hebrew or Arabic language influence with some of the sounds. I found it greatly difficult to understand spoken Afrikaans with my hearing loss eliminating vast wadges of the audio inputs and lip reading it is right out, much like Hebrew and Arabic. I did manage to toss a bit of surprise around when I picked up a book about wildlife which was written in Afrikaans and I started translating it to English on the fly, out loud.
For those that don’t know, modern English decends from Old English with tons of Norse, Latin and French tossed in. This is why English seems to lack a coherent set of rules… there’s nothing but exceptions to the rules it might otherwise have because all the languages it’s based on have different rules. Old English itself is largely descended from Dutch, or a Dutch relative and a surprising number of the words they use are pronounced identically (cheese, bread, meat, beer, blue, etc…) but are spelled in a way that would make Chaucer giggle. Once you figure out how they use vowels and some odd uses of the letter “g” though translating the language to English is almost unnecessary as it’s so much the same as English and the rest you can get from context pretty well. For someone that truly sucks at languages, this was a nice experience.
If you’re thinking of a trip remember that you don’t have to know a lick of Afrikaans to get along. Everyone there, EVERYONE, speaks English pretty fluently if with various accents and sets of commonly used phraseology. All the signs are in English. The retail infrastructure is quite a lot like a mix of European and American. It lacks the number of big box stores and has oodles of smaller more specialized shops (though big box stores are there).
It’s almost like visiting San Diego in a lot of ways, especially in the visual appearance of the landscape. Apart from the racial makeup (who is in the minority) you’d have trouble figuring out you’re not in a city in the American southwest somewhere, other than all the cars are diesel powered and they drive on the other side of the road.
Also, for your first time especially if you’re an American: DO NOT RENT A CAR TO DRIVE THERE. You really need a primer trip where you get driven around first so you can see how the locals actually drive or you most definitely will find yourself in a surprising situation or two and may piss someone right off by trying to be safe instead of polite. If you’ve driven in India you’re probably not going to be surprised as much but otherwise, take the first one with a local driving you around.
Knife made for me by Danie Joubert.
.308 150gn Sierra Game Kings working springbok innards.
Draining blood and guts from my eland.
One of the two toughest little girls I’ve ever met.
My eland on the ground.
Tracking my eland as it walks off to die.
Rough country doesn’t mean you can’t prone out properly.
Filling my guide in on where the eland went to die.
Getting our stalk on.
Africa is as austere a place as it is beautiful.
The tall thin trees are actually aloe’s. 3m tall aloe. Just wow. Never knew they grew into trees!
Authentic South African Boer recipes. In Afrikaans of course.
A braai of livers, hearts and sausages. OMG that was good.
My springboks getting their cool down on.
That’s a happy hunter.
With a poker face carved in stone.
My trophy springbok.
My first springbok.
A landscape that says, “You’re totally alone here. Don’t get injured.”
Outline for a little classroom ballistics session.
It wasn’t a formal class, actually greatly condensed. Still, we wanted everything to look nice.
Sakkie and his bride. A more amazing pair of honest, hard working, kind and generous people I have not met. Only James Yeager comes close (if you haven’t met James, you don’t know him).
It’s winter in Africa. And quite cold and windy.
Landowner warthog trophy.
Landowner bushbuck & caracal trophies.
A caracal trophy.
My impala ram.
My impala ewe.
The buckey (what South Africans call a pickup truck)
Jacques confirming zero.
Black giraffe not 100m from our accommodations.
Johannesburg, SA suburbs. They name restaurants very strangely there.
Teaching ballistics eventually leads to a range session.
Dubai looks cool from the air.
Russia looks greener than I ever imagined it.
Teaching a little ballistics to a few friends.
Cruising through acacia trees on dirt roads. Like being a kid again.
These guys are great people, great shots and great students.
A landscape you just can’t find anymore. Empty of apparent human activity.
I just got back from South Africa and thought it might be nice if my followers got to see some highlights before I get into the weeds with longer articles on smaller subjects.