I got 3rd place biatches! W00t! In a field of 30 shooters I came in with a solid 3rd place overall as well as for the prone class with the DodgerDog Hot Dog Gun in .243 Ackley Improved. Running 115gn DTAC projectiles with a super high .620 G1 BC at 3180FPS is almost cheating. The winner used a .308Win and 2nd place used a 6.5 Creedmoore but 3rd, 4th and 5th places in prone gun ran 6mm’s at 3,000fps or better with my Ackley being the fastest by at least 100fps.
Coach, JoeV and I started on stage 2 and after the first shot we were starting to get our wind call for the first part of the day nailed down. Coach goose-egged the first stage because of a turret being spun off zero. JoeV and I both crushed it missing 2 and 1 respectively which was pretty good given we were in the “guess the wind” part of the day instead of the bit that comes later… the “know the wind” bit.
Coach brought his wood stocked Savage 110 in 6XC running 115 DTAC’s at 2900. He’s getting consistently better and his scores are trending upward even though he and his rifle aren’t fully friends just yet. Coach’s rifle is shown below on the left. It’s got a Canjar single set trigger (amazing) and a US Optics 3.8-22×44 scope on a 35mm tube and looks pretty plain jane. It is not. Scoring a 21 at the end of the day is really good particularly as he’s still learning to dial DOPE instead of hold it. This is a different game than he’s god 40 years playing.
JoeV brought his 6.5CM chambered Weatherby Vanguard in a custom bedded tactical style stock wearing an SWFA 10×42 optic with Harris 6-9″ S-type bipod and AAC brake. The gun itself doesn’t stand out as anything other than how to spend money the most wisely if performance per dollar spent is the measure. Joe’s pretty humble about his rifle and I think he wishes it was flashier but it’s a friggen laser beam and he’s a ninja with it. One of these days I’m going to trade him guns for a match and see how we each do. Joe’s won the match before with my .243AI so I don’t doubt he could do it again. Damn! The Marines really train their riflemen don’t they!
So… Stage 3 we did well. Stage 4 we did exceedingly well. Stage 5 we did well. You see how this is going. It was a great day with great weather until the wind picked up in the back half of the day. We had a good time hanging out and shooting and when it was all said and done we’d done very well as a team.
Have some video fun! I guess we didn’t get stage 4. Sigh. We always miss one.
When I picked it up, I got it only because it could take my 20 & 30 round AR-15 magazines and I was in to squirrel shooting and preparing a trip to Cedarville, CA for their annual Squirrel Wars event. I was going to not spend all day loading mags this time and didn’t want to use an AR-15 again. Bolt action seemed better.
I ran over to my closest Big5 Sporting Goods and they had one on the rack with a $50 off sale price. So I snagged that right up. It was a 24″ varmint model and I was happy as a clam, for about 2 days. Within those 2 days I pulled it apart and found it was bedded with plastic, the stock leaned to the right down the barrel channel and action screw torque was unrepeatable. Fine. It’ll shoot. Right?
Well, I tossed on a Bushnell 10x40mm optic, some Burris Signature Series 1″ rings and a bipod and went to the range with some steel cased russian 55gn FMJ. The gun printed nothing inside 1.5″ at 100yrds. Ok, let’s start replacing parts. That’s always the right thing to do. Right? Using better ammo wouldn’t help, obviously. That said, I did start some handloads for it and found it had certain proclivities toward heavy weight bullets and being pushed to primer popping pressures.
So, I found out the Bushnell optic was not tracking consistently. While it was back at Bushnell being replaced (This is a common theme with the 10×40’s. Of 4 of them I’d bought, 3 needed RMA’d) I added a 16×42 fixed power SWFA SS optic and 30mm Burris Signature Series rings. I took that out squirrel shooting and was not impressed. Accuracy with 40-55gn ammo was horrid. With heavier stuff it started performing though. So, change of plans. It’s not a squirrel gun anymore. It’s a match rifle. See, I’d just gotten into a regular local prone long range precision match and needed something inexpensive to shoot there. Well, one trip in and that factory stock was shit-canned. Replaced with an MDT LSS chassis, DPMS PSG-1 pistol grip and a Magpul MOE buttstock. That did really well and I managed to turn in the 2nd highest score ever with a .223 at my regular long range match. That still stands. I haven’t bested it to date.
Not too much time passed and I came into a big bonus so I wanted a major optics upgrade. A quick call to US Optics and I had 2x ST-10’s on the way for various rifles. Epic scopes. Simply wonderful. I took that out with my spotter/best friend, The Disco Tripper, and we turned in some groups on steel. Man that combo could shoot. Running 70gn Berger VLD’s and 75gn Hornady BTHP it was an easy gun to hit long range steel with. I mostly kept those ST-10’s on my bigger guns and used the 16x SWFA optics though. They’re a lot harder to use than an ST-10 but I wanted the extra magnification for the aim-small-miss-small thing.
Once we got to this point my coach started harassing me about trying a bedding job on the chassis. So we grabbed some epoxy and fully bedded the recoil lug and skim bedded the action. I also added a MOE cheek riser to the butt. Instant improvement came from the bedding in that no more flyers plagued me. That settled her ass down nicely and I shot quite a few matches as well as a bunch of informal plinking sessions with the gun. The cheek riser had the rifle as comfortable as if it were injection molded around me. I’ve not yet gotten the rifle in its current form to fit quite that nicely, mostly due to time.
I have been able to shoot the living piss out of it regardless of whatever else is going on because it’s a .223 and very inexpensive to load for. That’s been a saving grace with this project.
It was about the time that my barrel was starting to really age that I also decided to upgrade basically all of my scopes. I started with some more US Optics in the form of an ER-25 for my .308. Not the best choice. It worked great on the big 7mm Remington Magnum (below far left) but not so much on the .308. It was also just too damned big for my safe. No rifle fit in there with the ER-25 on it so I had to bounce that optic and began a long journey of horse trading to end up with what I have now which is more US Optics but these fit in my safe and you’ll see them further down in this article. One thing I was really trying to nail down was parts commonality so I could take parts off of one and put them on another if the occasion arose that it was necessary. My mindset was really into TEOTWAWKI at the time. I’m in a better place now that President Daddy is in the White House.
It wasn’t too long after I’d bounced the larger US Optics ER-25 and an ST-10 in favor of a set of Vortex Razor 2 HD’s. One in 3-18×50 and the other in 4.5-27×56. They are excellent scopes but I hate hate hate pinch screws on turret knobs for exactly the reason that I bounced those Vortex optics. They loosen enough to not adjust when you twist em’ but they still click and it happened multiple times on both turrets of both scopes. Plus they’re heavy as all get out and the 3-18x on the MVP was in MOA because that’s what I could get at the time. All combined I just was not happy. So, I looked around and looked around and finally after almost a year found a US Optics B-17 I could sell the 3-18x Razor and buy. Excellent choice. I guess I’m just a US Optics guy.
I ditched the factory trigger early on and got myself a Jard and a Timney. The Timney spends most time on the rifle. The Jard is special purpose and breaks at just ounces. It’s not a safe trigger for most use cases but it’s brilliant when I’m trying to hit chicken eggs at 500m. The Timney doesn’t have that annoying blade in the middle of it but otherwise is set about the same, 2.5lbs.
The first Razor 2 to go away was the 4.5-27x Razor II because I had a buyer for it and something on the line to replace it with. I sold it and had enough money left to buy a used US Optics SN3 3.8-22×44 ERGO on a 35mm tube in MOA with a really slick Dragunov style reticle that heavily uses chevrons. It’s a battle ready optic for sure. My coach decided to get into long range prone though and needed a scope so that went on his gun. Now I needed another. Begin the long look for just the right swap.
I shot Project Rolling Stone in variations of one form for a good long time. Long enough to burn out the barrel. Truth be told I’d more or less killed that barrel the week I got the gun. I had a bunch of steel cased Russian bulk ammo with bullets that were copper washed steel and started the gun on those. That must have eaten half the barrel life. By the time I’d had around 3K rounds out of it (IIRC, it’s been a while) that barrel just wouldn’t reliably hold the match level accuracy I needed. It was fine for a sportsman, and I gave that barrel away to a sportsman later on, but not for a match long range precision gun. Thing is, only 1 outfit had reportedly made any small ring MVP barrels and they made them shouldered instead of barrel-nutted. I also wanted a particular barrel maker’s barrel. Black Hole Weaponry. Why? Well, their pipes are just too easy to deal with, shoot excellently, clean easily, are inexpensive, stainless and come threaded at no extra charge.
Once I got that barrel situation settled then I wanted to do a little something with the finish. So I got the idea to make it look like a Sonoran coral snake. 3 months of beating on my local Cerakote guy and getting nothing but excuses later I finally got it back, literally hot from the oven and the scale pattern was backward. Fuck! Well, such is life. Only dorks and herpetologists ever notice. What everyone notices is he didn’t finish the last 4 inches of the pipe. Dick! I eventually got it back and had my 26″ pipe at 1:7 twist in Caudle 3-groove polygonal rifled 416R stainless steel. I bought a bunch of 73gn ELD-M projectiles and a ton of new PPU brass and have been swatting steel on the regular with it since.
It was such a hassle dealing with the Cerakote guy that I did my .308 barrel with rattle can spray paint and it actually turned out pretty cool despite me not having much experience with this sort of thing. I used the mesh plastic thingy they send barrels in to make the scale pattern and 3 colors of paint with blue painters tape.
Then at some point one of the guys at Primary Arms and another guy from Accuracy Solutions were both interested in how their assorted products would do at my monthly long range prone match. Being a good sport and a bit curious, I set out to find out. I added a Primary Arms 4-14x FFP ACSS HUD/DMR optic and an Accuracy Solutions BipodEXT to the gun. I also switched out the Magpul MOE based butt section for an XLR Industries Tactical stock to gain full adjustability which I wanted for various reasons but mostly because I needed a proper cheek weld with the PA optic on there. The Primary Arms scope works beautifully if you trust and use the BDC reticle and did not do well at all when using the mil dots and calculating. The BipodEXT was brilliant. It put the axis of rotation in 2 dimensions in front of the muzzle which increased the lever length enough to make it like shooting from a machine rest. All wiggle was gone!
Having finished with testing stuff I didn’t want to use long term and written the appropriate articles, I went back to perfecting the combo and slapped a US Optics B-17 on top. To finish the whole thing I bounced my usual Harris 6-9″ swivel type bipod and put a new AccuTac BR5 into my kit. That’s a beast of a bipod.
I get a lot of strange looks and a lot of people stopping by to make comments from snide to supportive about the rifle and all my rifles for that matter. It’s my toy and I’ll play with it how I like to so I don’t mind when they get snide or chiding. All my match guns are meant to elicit a visceral response. Partly that’s to destabilize my co-competitors mentally so I have a better chance of them doing shitty. Part of it is just for conversation starting. Part of it is, I like these rifles and I like to make them look how I like them to look. I betcha you’ll never find another coral snake gun or another hot dog gun but everyone and their sister has a Hello Kitty AR-15 or a scale pattern on the entirety of their AR-15 or shark teeth, etc… Just because they’re unoriginal repeating pieces of camel poo doesn’t mean I have to be unoriginal.
If you do the math, this gun has cost me a pure fortune. $600 for the base gun, $750 in various stock parts, $5500 in various optics, $40o-ish on triggers, $300 on barrels, $300 on rings and mounts, $10 in muzzle devices (A2 birdcage) and $100 in Cerakote and spray paint. So there you go. I’m about $8,000 in if I’d had to buy each piece at full price. Thankfully, I did a lot of swapping this for that and either reselling or directly trading most of the time so my actual spend on the gun as it sits is closer to $2500US in real money spent.
That said, for $2500 I’ve got a .223 that will easily swat a bad guy or a critter to well beyond the effective range of the bullet it shoots and shoots well under .75MOA. It’s got the best parts on the aftermarket on it without resorting to blatantly overly expensive bits that are just more expensive without being any better. I know a lot of folks with $2500 in an AR-15 that couldn’t shoot a 3/4MOA group to save their skin. I’m pretty happy with what I have here.
Who has two thumbs and a big smile on his face? This guy!
It just doesn’t seem to matter what I feed this rifle. It’s only ever made 1 group over an inch and the rest have been closer to half an inch. This isn’t just 3-shot groups. It’s 10-shot groups rapid fire or slow fire and 5-shot groups and 3-shot groups. It’s just a laser beam. Just look at these groups. Those are all 10-shot groups!
Left to right 43.5, 44, 44.5, 45.5, then down one for the 45 grain load. The few flyers were all called and were the shooter’s fault.
The barrel came from Columbia River Arms, formerly Black Hole Weaponry and it’s a gem. It’s a 26 inch 8 twist on an MTU contour. The chamber is quite tight netting necks that are exactly .243″ inside diameter after firing, meaning that my brass doesn’t grow much and working of the necks is minimal. I set it up for zero headspace too so the brass should last a good long time with the Ackley case’s propensity for not stretching (especially not stretching like a .243Win is prone to doing.) If you want a drop in that’s just a laser beam, you need to call up Columbia River arms and have them cut you a barrel based on their .243AI reamer. I’ve never seen anything like this in a drop in barrel. Carl Caudle has a bunch more reamers that are equally nice. All it takes is a phone call and a credit card.
I got my Ackley loads dialed in. Started with .080 jump on the 108 grain ELD-M bullets. Started with a 43.5 grain charge of RL-23 and moved up in half-grain increments to 45.5 grains. Never showed any pressure signs and the velocities were just slightly above where I’d set as a goal. The big deal was a definite signal that the case likes to be full. SD’s were up around 35fps at the bottom but at 45.5 grains everything trimmed out and I landed with 5fps SD’s across a 10 round string with a group .6″ across done rapid fire. Velocities are right at 3170fps and temperature seemed to have little effect on them from 60F to 90F so it’s a match ready load.
I’ve got a match next weekend and I’m going to use the .243Ackley. Look for a pretty high score this time. Yes, I shot the .223 as well but that’s another story. Loads need more work. Popping primers is not competition ready.