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Progression of Project Rolling Stone – Mossberg MVP .223

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?

Iteration 1. Bushnell ET-1040 Mil/Mil and a Harris 6-9″ Swivel bipod w/ podlock.

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.

Round 2. FIGHT!

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.

US Optics Scopes, MDT LSS chassis and Burris Signature Series rings on Project Rolling Stone (5.56) and Project Gabriel (7.62)

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.

650m results from Project Rolling Stone

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.

The day I set the 2nd place .223 record, setting up for a 900 yard shot, which I hit. Waiting for my spotter to figure out a set of binoculars.

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.

Up on The Grassy Knoll. Stage 2 at Avenal. About to start missing.

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.

Some of MeccaStreisand’s long range rifles. 7mag, 7mag, .308, .223, .223

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.

All in the family. Upgrades coming rifle by rifle, step by step.

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.

Black Hole Weapons barrel. Wrong thread patten but that’s a simple fix.

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.

Sonoran Coral Snake Cerakote

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.

.308 barrel with Texas Coral Snake pattern by Krylon and me.

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!

The Snake Gun equipped with BipodEXT and Primary Arms 4-14x FFP ACSS.

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.

Project Rolling Stone in its current form.

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.

Project Gabriel in its current form which I call “The Hot Dog Gun”

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.

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Product Review: Primary Arms 4-14×44 FFP ACSS HUD/DMR Rifle Scope

You know me. I have a longstanding disdain for BDC (bullet drop compensating) reticles. Most of that disdain is drawn from the unending habit of people that don’t know any better to try and use them for things they’re not meant for. BDC’s are for making super fast shots with greater accuracy than a guess and less accuracy than a ballistic firing solution. They’re wildly fast to use but lose a lot of precision to that speed. When I say “a lot” what I mean is that last fraction of a miliradian or minute of angle. Worst case, maybe 1 minute at the longest possible ranges and negligible amounts at closer distances.

Messy bench and all. That scope looks weird on that rifle. Gotta admit.

So let’s twist the discussion a little bit. At what point can you as a shooter say to yourself, “The level of precision I need for this is totally BDC territory. I don’t need pinpoint accuracy. Combat effectiveness will suffice.”? You might think that while hunting as a generic selection. You might think 3-gun competition. You might think actual combat is the territory of a BDC. You might be a smart ass and say it’s at conversational distances. The truth is more complicated. Whatever your target is and what you’re shooting at it dictate the answer.

Removed the Razor2 to test the 4-14×44. Removed the SWFA SS to install the Razor2.

If your gun shoots flat enough to land inside the lethal zone even if you misjudged or mis-held for the range despite you messing up, you can use a BDC there. In combat you just want to put metal on meat so the enemy’s people are spent treating his wounds and not fighting you. For hunting you’re looking to be as nice about killing that animal as possible. You want quick and clean kills with no suffering. For PRS competition you need fast and accurate. For screwing around shooting pop cans and eggs at long range you don’t “need” anything. That’s a completely optional activity and nobody’s keeping score.

Stage 5 from October’s Long Range Precision & Tactical Rifle Match:

Stage 6 from October’s Long Range Precision & Tactical Rifle Match:

Stage 7 from October’s Long Range Precision & Tacical Rifle Match:

I recently decided to try out a Primary Arms 4-14×44 FFP scope with their nifty ACSS HUD/DMR reticle in it at my monthly long range precision tactical prone match. I did this because I was curious not because I’m a glutton for punishment. As it turns out I put in my 2nd best score ever with a .223 (within 2 hits of my best score) and I crushed my previous best high wind .223 score by 5 hits. The weather was mild but winds were from 5-35mph and constantly changing directions.

I started out on stage 1 by counting mil-dots and calculating DOPE for the 600-1000yrd shots. Bad idea. That’s not how this scope works and it showed. I only hit the targets that I used the BDC on. That’s fine, over 600yrds right out of the gate and scoring any hits at all, I was happy to do it. Stage 2 I was still calculating based on MV and mil-dots but I was also comparing my real hit locations to the point of aim and the BDC. By stage 3 I gave up the calculating bit and just shot by the BDC and while I wasn’t hitting on stage 3 I was only missing on wind holds. The rest of the 8 stages I did ok on. Stage 4 was ok but while it started well it went right to hell on shot 3. By stage 5 I’d found my stride and started trusting the reticle with really good results. We went from stage 5 to stage 8 and then back to stage 6 and then stage 7 because some shooters are ridiculously, infuriatingly, heart rending slow (Byron, I’m looking at you particularly).

At the end of the day I’d posted a great .223 score landing me in the middle of the pack of everyone else who were shooting 6mm/6.5mm/7.62mm stuff from much bigger cases. Nobody ran the course clean, like always. The reason for my success? Wind holds and drops are on and it’s easy to use. 5mph or 10mph or in between or over or under… no worries. I had little problem doing it once I actually started doing it. Drops are really easy to use and against a man size target, boy I mean the bad guy is in a world of hurt. My misses were measurable in fractions of an inch mostly with the occasional several feet as well. In a military context I’d have one of these reticles on every battle rifle and triple the engagement range of my grunts. See how the bad guys like an army of designated marksman equipped with machine guns.

Oh yeah! “How about the scope itself?” I hear you saying. Well, simply: Great glass. Superb glass. You really won’t expect it to be that nice and you’ll be surprised. Good glass comes with weight and it’s not as light as you might think. Turret feel is plain ol’ shit. They’re rubbery as hell and vague and uncapped turrets aren’t necessary with a BDC. Tracking is actually ok. Wouldn’t rely on the tracking but it was accurate as hell for zero’ing. Eye box is really tight and unforgiving. Zoom and focus and parallax is all great. All in all I’d expect to pay a bit more. If they put more into the turret feel then I see a price twice as high coming with it. Leave the turrets for zero’ing and use the reticle for everything else and the scope is still a real bargain. Seriously, the glass is exceptional. As for durability? Well, I hauled it around a mountain all day, dropped it repeatedly on the ground and shot a match with it. Zero problems. So, not saying it’s battle ready but it’s certainly field conditions resistant.

I have to thank Dimitri and all the guys over at Primary Arms (http://primaryarms.com) for letting me use one of these amazing little scopes. The guys at the match started out with a little light hearted ribbing and by the end of the match they were plumb out of humorous jabs and were instead astonished at how well I was able to do without ever spinning a turret while surrounded with multi-thousand-dollar custom match rifles with multi-thousand-dollar scopes on top. There were a lot of compliments by the end of the day. Next I’m going to try it on my .308. Betcha I clean up.

Columbia River Arms .243Ackley Barrel Shocker

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.

Competition Shooting. For Chickens.

The single best way to measure and subsequently be able to develop your shooting skills is not going to the range with some friends and plinking. No amount of burning hundreds or thousands of rounds is going to make you a better shooter. The problem is when you’re out horsing around blowing up jugs filled with colored water you’re not keeping score or even paying attention to how and why you make certain shots. The most powerful tool to make you a better shooter is to keep score. The absolute best way way to keep score is to have someone else do it.

“What about the fact that I might suck?” or “They’re going to laugh.” or “I’m going to feel like an idiot.” or any of a hundred other excuses are just that excuses. They’re excuses (and shitty ones at that) made by those that foolishly believe that the opinions of others are formed by the ratio of hits to misses of those they observe. It’s based on the attitudes of others. Not how good or bad they are.

My very first metallic silhouette match was the state championships. I was horrified about how badly I was doing. I ended up tying for last with someone, we’ll call him Chuck, that has been doing the game for many years and is well known by the competitors in the region. He just had a terrible shooting day that day and I had a relatively good one which was still bad by any normal measure. Not a single person said, “Chuck, you suck. Why do you even bother?” In fact, the only things said to Chuck were supportive and friendly. No chiding his running of every stage with clean misses. Not even good-natured ribbing.

I had the same score as Chuck by end of day and I was simply horrified at my performance. I was convinced the trash talking would start eventually but it never did. What did happen was pretty early on a girl came up and gave me some advice on stance and hold. Then the next round a guy that she seemed to know did the same thing. By the end of the day I was able to start making some hits because every time someone would see me doing it wrong they’d very gently point me in the right direction.

My first F-Class match I didn’t have anything like proper equipment. I brought a hunting rifle and a hunting bipod and hunting ammo and nobody gave me a hard time. What they did do was tell me what the complications were going to be and how to make the best of what I had brought. I didn’t make a single hit inside the 8 ring but every time I did manage to put metal on paper I got positive feedback.

My first IDPA pistol competition I didn’t have a holster, which was required. I also didn’t have even a belt. At the time I didn’t own one of either. Nobody chided me. The match director didn’t even sigh before he asked into the group collected around the signup table for a spare. He did ask if it was my first match and I said, “yeah”. One of the guys in the crowd handed me a holster and mag pouch and said he’d collect it at the end of the match. I didn’t even really see who gave it to me until he asked for it back at the end of the day. The match director told me to hang out with his son and they’d show me the ropes.

The more unprepared it seemed that I’d arrived the more the assorted match directors both didn’t seem to care and wanted to help. The worse I’ve done in any match the more helpful and supportive the other competitors. It’s been the same with Trap shooting, sporting clays, PRS, and long range tactical precision. Every time I go out to do a match I’ve never done before, or didn’t do enough research on, or have no gun or ammo or basic equipment for etc… It’s never been an issue.

So we can now be certain that nobody will laugh or point or snigger at you. Your pride will not be assaulted and you won’t be treated as an outsider. There’s an easy reason for all of these people going so far out of their way to help newbies out. It’s rewarding courage. Plain and simple. Nobody will ever say that out loud but the people at a match share the pride that they nutted up and showed up even though score was being kept and would be visible to everyone. Nobody is ashamed of their results after a bad score at a match. They’re disappointed very often but that’s derived from one’s expectations of their own performance. Shame/blame/etc… are externally applied but you won’t find that happening, not at a match. Guys and Gals at a match are there in the spirit of the truest fellowship.

If you want to try a match in your area, jump on a forum and ask where to find one, then show up and watch or shoot or help with range officer duty. You don’t have to shoot your first time. You just have to show up.

Making DOPE With BallisticPRS

I was recently asked to create a Density Altitude version of BallisticXLR for those that like DA over absolute air density. Ok, fine. Done. It took quite a number of hours to port it over but it’s there now and it works. This new system is meant for shooters that need extremely rapid ballistics data that is easy to read under time pressure and that can deal with atmospheric changes extremely rapidly.

And here it is!

ballisticprs

The inputs page is a very close match to the original BallisticXLR inputs page but unlike BallisticXLR does not require any atmospheric data inputs. BallisticPRS also differs from BallisticXLR in that it does not have the Primary or Secondary Functions tabs and a number of other tabs that are not relevant for DA applications. It does come with the reloading cost calculator, projectile database, reticle subtend tab, and sniper range cards.

BallisticPRS is meant for the experienced shooter while still being easy enough to use that beginners will not find it stammeringly confusing. As seen below the data tables are noted in meters or yards with data in 10yrd/m increments from 100 to 2490. Data for Drop, Wind, Movers, H-Cor, V-Cor and Spin are listed in a single row making for very fast info uptake.

ballisticPRS1

There’s an included DA tab (which is experimental) that will allow the user to identify a correct DA with a non-standard temperature and a pressure altitude reading. This handy feature will assist the shooter as temperatures change throughout the day in their FFP.

ballisticprs

This latest product is free for download and; just like with BallisticXLR, I provide free email based support. Just like BallisticXLR, BallisticPRS requires genuine Microsoft Excel for correct function. I’ll be adding a new BADEDS and B-FEDS kit with the DA tables shortly. Because of the much larger page count these kits will be modestly more expensive.

I’m very excited about this new product and I think you will be too!

P.S. – Being that it’s Memorial Day as I post this, I thought I’d leave this here. The price of freedom for some is said to be the blood of patriots and tyrants. It could also be termed the blood of our children and our parents. Dead and living soldiers bought this day off for us.
noname

BallisticPRS Launches on Cinco de Mayo

May 5th 2016 marks the official launch of BallisticPRS. BallisticPRS is my new Density Altitude based ballistics spreadsheet. Just like its sister product, BallisticXLR, it uses the Pejsa model in the back end to do the calculations. Unlike BallisticXLR it’s meant very much for experienced shooters, particular those doing PRS shooting, that want field expedient printed data and a super simple system to create them.

BallisticPRS is implemented using Microsoft Excel (only genuine Excel is supported) and is massively simple to use. It provides drop, wind, movers, horizontal and vertical coriolis and spin drift data in 10m or 10yrds increments for every 500ft of Density Altitude between -4,000ft and +11,000ft. Data for each DA zone is contained on a single 8.5×11 size page and each page comes with a handy angle cosine table, compass rosette with cosines, conversion formulae and a mil-dot reticle subtend chart (there are dozens of other reticles already stored for easy update from companies like S&B, USO, Khales, Vortex, SWFA, Leupold and more).

As always, the download is free and I provide free email based support.

February 21st Long Range Match Results

The match format is something like PRS meets IDPA meets metallic silhouette. You have a gnarly trail you have to hike to each of eight stages. Each stage has an obstacle you can choose to shoot from and an area for prone shooting. No shooting mats or spotting scopes (handheld are ok) allowed. You have 5-7 targets per stage and 10 minutes to engage them all from the time your rifle touches the ground. You get one shot per target and if one is damaged you can shoot the next closer target.

Looking at the Long Gongs, stage 1. Targets are at the far end of the opposite box canyon.

Looking at the Long Gongs, stage 1. Targets are at the far end of the opposite box canyon.

Foothills in California look all mellow and appear to gently roll, lolling along casually and encouraging you to take a leisurely stroll along their voluptuous ridge lines. The truth of the matter is that they try to maintain as steep an angle as they can and be as treacherous as possible while presenting the illusion that they’re anything but fiendishly difficult to walk on, shoot on, do construction work on or anything else one might foolishly consider doing. One can be sure that where the land is anything but relatively flat in appearance (and even then it’s actually hillier than you might suspect until you walk on it a bit) it’s not meant for walking, specially crafted boots or no. The hills are the ones doing the walking all over the people. Not the other way around.

Resting for a minute on an uncomfortably steep hill.

Resting for a minute on an uncomfortably steep hill.

The day before the match, my coach and I built a nifty little rooftop simulator for people who haven’t had a hard enough time already to shoot from. We designed it to be nearly impossible to achieve natural point of aim on and it did a stellar job of proving that point to many a taker. Of course building such a thing means pre-fabricating much of it, then lugging those now super heavy sections, along with tools and additional lumber and supplies, over these particularly rugged hills and then installing it. All in one day. That included having to start the day before the sun had cleared the hills by hiking the thing to make sure of what we actually needed in the way of supplies and components.

Rooftop obstacle under constuction.

Rooftop obstacle under constuction.

This thing accomplished I was beat bad. Exhausted since exhausted and still needing to zero my rifle, chronograph the new load I’d tossed together for the occasion, verify click values and add all that data to KAC BulletFlight. Then, I got to do the same for my coaches gun. Finally after all that we could eat and drink some beers and try to get a decent nights sleep.

Couldn’t be done. It was quite cold and the dew point hit and the tent was dripping on us periodically through the night. Apart from that, I can’t stand having things touch my feet when I’m asleep which made the whole sleeping bag thing something akin to waterboarding. I had to deal the whole night with the sensation that the walls were closing in and they were doing it to near my feet first.

When the morning came; as it always does, we awoke still pretty beat from the previous day. I started it off with a blistering hot shower which did much to revive my spirits. Right up until the hot water stopped being at all hot and because it did that rather suddenly. The ensuing seconds of ice cold water delivered a shock which was very much the equivalent of taking a bracing stroll across one of the more barren parts of Antarctica while naked.

After recovering from my abortive attempt to soothe my aching muscles with non-chemical means I dropped a couple Motrin and soldiered on. After about 30 minutes of hurriedly collecting and assembling our gear we were off with our squads.

The shooting was extremely challenging regardless of the conditions. Targets are better than 1MOA true but, that’s a lot smaller than you might think when the distance grows to several hundred meters. A few, very few, were on the other hand mightily generous and I happened to miss almost all of those. Most of that was on stage 1 and happened by me having misread my range card and skipped forward one target for each of 4 consecutive shots. After I figured out what I was doing, things cleared up on that stage but the damage to my score was done and combined with the CHS (see below) that happened there my score on the long gongs suffered. That’s for me especially galling because I usually own that stage. I spend enough time on it screwing around. It should have been second nature but competition has a way of scattering nerves.

A few of the rifles on the line. Big assortment of guns and glass.

A few of the rifles on the line. Big assortment of guns and glass.

By the end of the day I’d hit as many as I thought I might. The ammo I was using was hastily assembled and wasn’t up to snuff. My rifle shoots vastly better with the bullets jammed into the lands but because I wanted to load from a magazine and not single feed I elected to load to mag length. That meant a long jump to the lands and resulting flyers and a large SD and ES.

My coach showing off by standing up where everyone else would normally lay down.

My coach showing off by standing up where everyone else would normally lay down.

For my part, when I hit the bang switch the crosshairs were always were I needed, or at least thought I needed, them to be. My gun was not feeding especially smoothly but that wasn’t a problem. There was plenty of time to take my shots. My new Timney trigger was more manageable than the Jard when my heart rate was over 120 and had just a bit more comfortable trigger feel overall.

The author getting his shoot on. Targets on on the hills about mid way up.

The author getting his shoot on. Targets are on the hills about mid way up.

The MidwayUSA rifle pack/drag bag proved its worth once again and made the day much easier than a sling would have.

Next time I’m using my regular load and saying hang the magazine. Those print .7″ or better and will definitely help bump my score. I’m hoping to beat the course record for .223 shooters (which is 37 of 50) in the next couple months.

Match Results:

I came in 11th out of 17 in the Tactical Rifle class (.308 & .223 limited gun).

I came in 29th out of 38 overall.

Not my best performance ever. I and the gun are capable (demonstrably) of much better. My only consolation is it’s been a long time and the whole thing I approached kinda haphazardly so I achieved actually exactly what I expected which was a score somewhere near the middle of the pack. Buggery ammo, heart rate in orbit, massively difficult wind situation (shifting from 0-30, 3-5 changes inside any particular shot, canyons galore, etc…) and straight up fatigue from having built and lugged up to station 2 the rooftop obstacle.

Squad Setup:

We were squadded in teams of 5 or 6. Each team was started at one of eight stages, one to a stage. So we hike up from the parking lot to stage 1 and those that get to start on later stages continue to hike out to them. Once you finish your first stage you move on to the next one. In the case of starting beyond stage one, stage 7 for instance, you have to go to stage 8 then back to 1 and up to 6 then back to 1 and into the parking lot, all on the trail, to finish without a DQ. It also means that if you start on the farther end you get to walk the whole bloody thing back and forth, twice.

Interesting stuff that happened:

I was started on stage 7 which is almost as bad as you can start out. About a half mile into the walk to our first station I realize my earmuffs didn’t make it into my pack and my squad can’t start shooting till all of us are at the station. Luckily one of my squad mates had a set of seriously uncomfortable foam plugs. Disaster averted at least.

On my 15th shot I suffered a case head separation. Half of the case was left in the chamber and the back half came out. One of the guys grabbed a 20ga bore brush and spun it onto a section of cleaning rod and handed it to me, I ripped my bolt out and jammed that brush into the chamber till I felt it get tight, pulled it out and bang, stuck case removed. The case that separated did so very cleanly in a nice ring. I didn’t see any sign of ICHS during the brass processing. The case did have probably 10-15 loads on it and most of them over book. No surprise. However, next time I’m bringing a 20ga bore brush and a length of cleaning rod.

The team in front of us seemed to peter out a bit after their 4th stage and they were constantly 10 minutes longer than we were at any stage so we got a little rest occasionally if the trip from one pit to the next wasn’t too long. When it was long we arrived out of breath and were almost immediately on deck.

I cranked out a little video for y’all’s entertainment. Enjoy!

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