The years following the great wars of the past had a significant impact on much more than the borders of Europe. One of the many facets of life on our planet effected by those wars was the supply of firearms. We’ve probably all heard a story about someone bringing home a rifle from distant lands, or some other fantastic story featuring one of the many surplus rifles that was either destined for, or retired from the fields of battle. Today I hope to share a few of those stories, and how those once prolifically produced firearms have become treasured family relics and makers of forever hunting memories. The following are just a few examples.
In the summer of 1943, many manufacturing companies had switched from making sewing machines and typewriters to making rifles for the military. One of the rifles made that summer ended up in my father’s young hands many years later, whether it ever went to war or spent it’s life crated in a warehouse somewhere is unknown. But in 1964 my Dad was a young man looking to get his very own first deer rifle. As I understand it, it was all the rage back then to sporterize these rifles, and my grandfather and his brothers had all gone through the same process to get an affordable rifle.
Dad purchased the rifle for what we would consider a pittance today and sent it to a local gun shop to have some machine work done to it. Removing iron sights and much of the unnecessary parts of the rifle, as well as drilling and tapping the receiver to accept the mounts for the four-power Weaver that was the best thing going in these parts. Dad purchased a stock kit for the rifle and began whittling away at it to fit his rifle.
My Father hunted with that rifle almost exclusively from that year until 1992 when as a young boy myself, I watched him shoot the last deer that rifle ever killed. Dad said it was always an accurate shooting rifle, something I watched him confirm a few years back. He was shooting some of the same sixties vintage ammo, in paper boxes with single-digit price tags still intact. And sure enough, dad could handily print a five-shot group under an inch.
The sporterized rifle is five years older than Dad, and yet it seems it could kill deer for another lifetime to come. It comes in around eight pounds total, and holds four 30 06 cartridges. It seems to like small and fast 30 06 loads like the 150 grain Silvertip from an old Winchester catalog. The twenty-two-inch barrel has a one-in-twelve twist, optimized for the old military ammunition, but a good fit for Dad’s old hunting handloads.
The K98 Mauser
Next up on our list is another legendary rifle, this one came from a pre-war factory in Germany. The K98 Mauser was mass-produced and copied by near countless other manufacturers who made both copies, clones, and their own rifles that mimicked the Mauser’s design. There are many things that made the K98 great, it utilizes a controlled round feed system and claw extractor that make the rifle very reliable. A blind box magazine housed the cartridges, which for the most part were 8×57. Continue Reading Here…
Top five you say? What kind of maniac could narrow it down to just five of the best cartridges? I mean the world is littered with spent casings from countless different cartridges that offered something that another didn’t. So to avoid being labeled as that guy, I am instead going to go over the process by which anyone can select their top performers as it applies to their shooting. And how I did it for myself.
The first step in this process would be to know and set your limits, unless you’re Elon Musk you probably can’t afford or build a rail gun for your weekend shooting exchanges, so obviously there is a budget to keep. And if you live in flat country where the furthest you can see on a clear day is five-hundred yards, you have very different needs than someone who lives in mountains ranges where one-thousand yards is just to the next turn in the trail. Another important consideration is the target, hitting paper or steel is much different than meat and bone. So it’s very important to define your needs properly, both ballistically and financially.
Extremist Need Apply If your goal is extreme distance competitions like King of 2 Miles, then you are going to want something big. My experience here is minimal, but there are many marksman shooting these distances with a cartridge I am quite fond of and my choice for extreme distance, the 375 Chey-tac, or something similar to it. The cartridge is perhaps the most common in big-bore ELR shooting, as the ammunition and components are plentiful. Not only that, it is an outstanding performer. With high performance bullets like the Cutting Edge MTAC or the Warner Tool Flat-line, you can shoot distances that most people have never considered possible. Of course all this comes with significant cost, and perhaps an above average level of dedication, but how else could you call yourself an extreme shooter?
Okay, Maybe not that extreme If your goals are perhaps a little more mainstream, and you don’t feel like spending $10-$20 every time you pull the trigger, then let’s talk about a better fit for you. Shooting a mile or less is much more common than it was even ten years ago, and one of the reasons it has become so commonplace is the proliferation of the venerable 338 Lapua to so many affordable rifle platforms. But that’s not the cartridge I was about to recommend, I was about to say the 300 Norma Magnum. Why the 300 over the 338 you might ask? I’ll explain.
300 Norma ballistics when using high ballistic coefficient like those available today, will rival those of the 338 Lapua. There are pros and cons either way between the two, as far as barrel life, recoil, and even suppressors if that’s your thing. High quality bullets loaded in the 300 Norma make it a devastating long-range performer, whether you are shooting targets, big-game hunting, or anything else. I prefer the more slender and faster fired bullets in the thirty-caliber as compared to the heavier and a bit slower thirty-three caliber bullets of the 338LM.
The 300 Norma will easily shoot to a mile and beyond, handily take down any North American animal, and has a huge selection of bullets and ammunition selections of the highest quality.
A Poor-Man’s 338 Lapua
Many years ago, before I had experienced both the 338 LM and 300 NM, I found myself in quite a quagmire. I wanted a new barrel for my SRS that would allow me to shoot comparable ranges to those cartridges (1700-2000 yards) , but I was but a common man. I had nowhere near the money to feed a Lapua or a Norma, which is no small cost. Buying a barrel is one thing, but coming up with all the ammunition components needed to become proficient and shoot as frequently as I do is another entirely. So I began a study to find a suitable replacement, a champaign cartridge on a beer cartridge budget so to speak. What precipitated from my numbers evaluation, was this; a very high BC bullet in the 7mm (.284) caliber is comparable to the BC of the bullets commonly loaded in the 338LM. So if I could get them up to comparable or better speeds, I would find myself shooting Lapua distances on Remington resources.
After some careful market evaluation, I was quoted a build for a 24″ 1-8 twist barrel chambered in the mighty 7mm Short Action Ultra Magnum (7SAUM). And before I knew it, my poor-man’s Lapua was in my hands. I had done all my prep work before-hand, and I had loading components ready to go. I ended up shooting the Sierra Bullets 183 Match King, which has a very high BC, and my new barrel would launch them at a magnificent 3050 feet per second (FPS). After spending a few seasons hunting with the 7SAUM, I was completely convinced I had made a good choice for the times. My SAUM shooting the 183’s actually shot flatter than the mighty 338 out to around a mile, the energy on impact wasn’t as high obviously but I wasn’t planning on hitting anything besides steel at those ranges. Even so, the SAUM retained more than enough energy to take down an animal as far away as 1000 yards, so I was certainly in good company.
Lets get common
Nothing I’ve mentioned above is particularly common, or very cost effective for your average shooter. Sharp marksmen have been shooting significant distances for a very long time with everyday cartridges like the .308 and 30 06. And with proper bullet selection and load development, you could certainly continue on that fine tradition. Or you could embrace something more contemporary.
Go ahead and light your torches, sharpen the pitchforks, and prepare your best effeminate insults because we’re about to use the “C” word. Just prior to the current ammo crisis, the 6.5 Creedmoor has infiltrated nearly every little ammo shelf across the country, and for good reason. The 6.5 CM offers 300WM ballistics with recoil and cost subordinate to even the 308 Winchester. There is an extremely high-quality components and ammunition selection for the 6.5, and its easy to load and shoot. There is so much to like about the cartridge, it begs the question why it is the subject of every sophomoric and unsophisticated insult the internet has to offer. Personally I believe it to be its own worst enemy, unfledged shooters are easily tired of hearing how great the Creedmoor is. Especially since what they choose to shoot is obviously better because they chose it, at least thats how they feel. Do not discount the Creedmoor, no matter what the haters say, it is what it was built to be; a great shooting cartridge for those first thousand yards, a great deer hunting cartridge, and anything similar to those two disciplines. It can be found nearly anywhere ammunition is sold, making it a strong contender on this list.
Out of left field
My tastes have changed, and my budgets matured, so I’d be remiss to omit my latest favorite. I wasn’t sure whether to put it in my list or not, due to the obscurity, but this is my list so I’ll do it my way.
Wildcats are a little different, like fingerless gloves at the range, or guys who wear fedoras. Wildcats if you didn’t know, are illegitimate children of the cartridge world, derived from other cartridges that are either “necked up” or “necked down” and usually “blown out” to create a whole new cartridge. Many of our best cartridges were born this way, and to that list I add this one of my personal favorites.
The 257 Blackjack is a cartridge formed by shortening the SAUM case, changing the shoulder geometry, and necking it down to twenty-five caliber. Simple enough, but the crown jewel of the cartridge is another very high BC bullet built by Blackjack Bullets (designer of the cartridge). The 131 grain bullet has a .340 BC, which is nearly untouchable by anything comparable in size and price. Nearly none of the 6.5 and 6mm bullets that would give the Blackjack a run for the money can, especially when shot from the 257 Blackjack cartridge. From my 24” barrel the muzzle velocity is 3270 FPS, and with that impressive .340 BC you can imagine the extremely flat trajectory. There are also other high BC bullets available from Berger that have a predictably outstanding performance. This little short action cartridge will reach a thousand yards with less than 5 MRAD of elevation, and when it gets there it will still be packing well over a thousand pounds of energy and more than 2200 fps. It doesn’t go subsonic till well beyond two-thousand yards, making it very competitive in the same ranges as the 338LM and 300 NM mentioned above.
Would I recommend the 257 Blackjack for long-range shooting? Not at the moment, the tediousness and dedication it takes to run a wildcat cartridge like this is probably more than most would care for. But should factory made brass become available, this would be a shoe-in for anyone interested. It is truly an amazing little cartridge.
So there you have it, my list of my top five long range shooting cartridges. You may take them or leave them, and you wont get any argument from me. Every shooter can decide what works best for his/her needs, and create their own top five. The good news is that there are so many great choices, despite my little list of cartridges, I could probably make due for the rest of my life with just a plain jane 308.
I know I talk a lot about suppressors here, partially because I am a sucker for suppressors, and also because everybody else is also joining the trend. Some trends are just trends, but the suppressor craze is one I can get behind fully. One of the big questions many new suppressor users ask, and one that often still perplexes those of us after decades is; should I get a direct thread can, or a brake mounted one? Hopefully by the time your done reading this, you’ll have a suitable answer.
First lets make sure we understand the differences. Direct thread suppressors are fairly self explanatory, they have threads on the mounting end of the suppressor that are designed to directly engage with the muzzle-threads of the host firearm. Thread pitches vary depending on many factors, but mainly on the caliber of the anticipated host. The most common sizes are 1/2-28 for rimfire and .224 caliber centerfire rifles, 5/8-24 for rifles between 30 caliber down to 6mm, and for .338 sized rifles the common thread pattern is 3/4-24.
Muzzle Brake or QD (as many are called) mounted suppressors attach to the muzzle device, instead of directly attached to the barrel. The muzzle device threads onto the barrel, and the suppressor attaches to the exterior. The various muzzle devices typically seen will usually serve as a recoil reducer when not used in conjunction with the suppressor, they also frequently function as a flash hider. It varies from one manufacturer to another, but often the muzzle device can use course threads, ratcheting locks, and other features to reduce the effort and time required to install the suppressor.
Pros vs. Cons
So lets get to the meat and potatoes of the discussion; which one is better for me? The internet is filled with hatred for the person who presents the old “which one is the best” question, only you can decide that. But with the right understanding you will be more than capable of making a good choice.
Direct thread suppressors are often considered to be better for accuracy, many people suggest them for precision rifles citing this as a better choice. That may have been true in the past, but in my experience direct threading suppressors are no more accurate than brake mounted cans. This is likely due to improvements in technology and manufacturing process’. But a direct thread suppressor is simpler by design, that is for sure. Its simpler mounting system can translate into various benefits like lighter weight, less expensive to manufacture, and single point connection to the host. Perhaps a downside if there is one; some direct thread cans have multiple threaded end caps, meaning you can change from one thread pitch to another, but if you don’t have that feature you are stuck with whatever it comes with. For many of us, this not a deal breaker, but it is nice to have options. Another issue that occasionally arises with direct cans is coming loose during strings of fire. With no mechanical lock to keep the suppressor in place, they can work their way loose which could be catastrophic.
QD and brake mounted cans have their own set of advantages. The Q in QD stands for quick, so as you might imagine if your application will require lots of removal and installation of your can this could be an advantage. Another benefit is you can use as many hosts as you want, installing the appropriate brake on each one. This makes things easy and fast to move the suppressor around on various host weapons, though there is obviously additional cost. You also have the benefits of the muzzle device on the host weapon when the suppressor is not being used.
If brake mounted suppressors are your choice, you’ll want to ensure you clean them with regularity. Especially with rimfire guns that tend to foul faster than centerfire weapons. It doesn’t take much looking to find a case of a suppressor stuck to its mount from carbon or lead buildup, and that is a problem you don’t want to have. Another concern that has mostly been solved by design is the alignment issues from having multiple tolerance stacking issues. Brake mounted suppressors have at least two points of alignment that must be near perfect, whereas direct thread cans only have one. If your host doesn’t have perfectly concentric threads this could be an issue. And again, keeping the mounting surfaces clean will go a long way towards maintaining proper engagement.
Alignment is as important as anything with suppressors, there is nothing worse than the dreaded baffle strike. Minimizing possibilities for misalignment should always be on your mind, particularly with brake mounted suppressors. Often these brakes need to be timed, to ensure the ports are horizontal if they have them. Make sure you follow the manufacturers directions when mounting the brake, they are typically timed using precision cut shims of assorted thickness. When the appropriate thickness of shims are collected between the brake and barrel, the brake timing will be perfect. Shims are not to be confused with crush washers, which should not be used when mounting a suppressor ever. A crush washer is just what it sounds like, a washer that is designed to “give” when tightened against. They are very useful for aligning muzzle devices as they are plentiful and cheap, but they don’t always give evenly, and can easily cause a misalignment when used with a suppressor mount.
Whether you check with a glance down the bore (of an open bolt firearm of course), or use an alignment rod in the bore, its not a bad idea to check your suppressors concentricity when in place.
If your just getting into the suppressor game, or even if you’ve been in the club for years, there’s hardly been a better time. New technology has been flooding the market like gas into a bolt carrier, this has resulted in many improved options for suppressor consumers. Materials like titanium, stainless steel, and inconel have improved durability and reduced the weight added to your host.
Innovation driven by market pressures have also resulted in manufacturers creating some wild new designs, which for the most part have been very beneficial. Some examples of this are manufacturers using standardized thread patterns and sizes, allowing end users to customize cross-brand mounting options and host applications to whatever fits their needs or preference.
Another fantastic development has been multi-purpose suppressors. Modular cans now allow users to install the same suppressor on their 9mm pistol, 5.56 carbine, and a 308 bolt rifle and so on. Threaded end-caps on both ends, multi-staged, and a multitude of boosters and mounting options make these modular suppressors ideal for those shopping for their first can or those who own a dozen.
Your shooting practices are best known by you, so with the information outlined here, you should be able to decide what kind of suppressor best fits your style of shooting. If you do long strings of fire through multiple auto-loading rifles, then maybe a full-auto rated QD can is the best fit. Or conversely, if you are using a suppressor on a bolt action hunting rifle, a lightweight direct thread suppressor might be just the ticket. Either way, you can add some class to your shooting practice.
One of my all-time favorite rifles is the Desert Tech SRS, the Covert model of the SRS made an already short precision rifle into a ridiculously shorter rifle on par with some SBR’s. The popularity of the SRS Covert speaks volumes about the utility of a short-barreled precision rifle.
Don’t miss the video below!
Why so Short?
Why would anybody want a short-barreled precision rifle in the first place? Like everything else in shooting, your setup depends greatly on the intended purpose. If you plan on shooting from a bench all day, then having a twenty-pound rifle that’s forty-inches long won’t matter. But if you’re planning on deploying from a vehicle, or maneuvering through any kind of obstacles then a shorter rifle is much more practical. And even if you’re aren’t confined to small spaces, a shorter rifle is still just handy to operate. Small pistol caliber and rifle carbines are used almost exclusively for shooting scenarios that require hasty movement through obstacles and barricades, the size makes them ideal.
Having a precision rifle of the same size gives all the same benefits, with the added one of precision shot placement. Law enforcement snipers have embraced this trend in rifles as it suits many of their operational needs. The typical distance used in LE shooting engagements is pretty short, which leads into our next subject.
But the Velocity!!
All else being equal, a short barrel will provide less velocity than an equivalent barrel of longer length. As the propellant burns inside the barrel, the bullet is accelerated towards the muzzle, and almost always it reaches a higher velocity as you extend the barrel. This gives more time for the pressure to accelerate the bullet.
So short barrels are slower, but for many marksmen, it is an irrelevant point. For example, if you’re the police marksman trying to engage a target from across the street, the ignoble target in the window opposite wont know the difference between 2600 feet per second, and 2400 feet per second. And though he wont give the velocity any thought it will likely blow his mind anyways. Many barrel cut-down tests have been shown on the reduced velocity of shorter barrels, the results are interesting. On average, a 308 will lose around 250 feet per second when going from twenty-six inches down to sixteen inches. That is certainly not insignificant, but can you shoot accurately with only 2400 feet per second? And furthermore, can you shoot accurately at long-range?
Other cartridges are similarly affected with barrel length, some more than others. But some would be surprised by what you can do even with these reduced velocity rifles. Looking into ballistic calculation, a thirty caliber 175 grain bullet fired at 2650 feet per second has already dropped to a velocity of 2415 feet per second by the time it reaches one hundred yards. So if your starting out at basically that velocity you’ve only lost about that distance in your overall range capacity. Going sub-sonic is typically where things go amiss, so we’ll call that the end of the line. The above data reduces your effective range from just over nine-hundred down to eight hundred yards, this only matters if you’re shooting that far, and what you intend on doing with the bullet when it gets there. If you are just trying to hit a target, then you’re fine, but if you’re trying to kill something then you may need something a little more portly.
Shooting long-range with shorter barreled rifles is not as hard as some would make you believe, and much of the shortcomings can be made up with better calibers, bullets, better propellants and so on. Despite the sixteen-inch 308’s reduced muzzle velocity, I’ve still been able to stretch it out to over twelve-hundred yards in good conditions. But if you want a better option there are plenty of them, an 18 inch 300 WM is another one I’ve shot quite a bit. And it is perfectly suitable for crushing targets out to 1400 yards and more, hitting close to a mile is certainly doable, it just depends on your energy requirements. I also have a sixteen-inch .260 Remington, and an eighteen-inch 6.5 Creedmoor, and they are both very useful inside a kilometer.
A longer barrel with more velocity will have some advantages, but so does the shorter barrel. Shorter barrels will be stiffer than a longer barrel, which will result in less barrel whip. Many people are of the opinion that shorter, stiffer barrels are more accurate than their longer counterparts, and that the benefits of stiffer and more consistent barrel harmonics outweigh the loss in velocity. In the end, you have to dance with who brought you, so make your choice accordingly.
The purpose here today was not to convince you to chop down your barrel, there are pros and cons to both long and short barrels. But I hope we put a seed in your mind, that longer isn’t always better, faster isn’t always best. As you put together your next rifle project in your mind, consider the possibility that going short might be a great option you’ll appreciate later.
Everybody knows about barrel-twist right? The most basic feature that makes a rifle a rifle is often a very overlooked subject, and one that today we will dive into a bit more. But first, are you one of the many shooters out there who is under-twisted?
What is a Twist?
For those following the conversation that may not have a perfect understanding of the concept, lets state it clearly. Lands and grooves are the interior features of a rifle barrel, they are like threads to a screw but they run the length of the barrel. If you’ve ever looked down the bore of a rifle, you’ve seen the long twisted lines that force a bullet to rotate as it accelerates. Barrel twist is specified to dictate a bullets rate of rotation (or spinning). Much like the threads on a screw, the rifling in a barrel are cut to a specific rotational value to stabilize the bullets that will be fired down the bore. For every inch down the bore traveled by a bullet, it is rotated along its axis a certain degree, just how much depends on how aggressive the twist rate is. The twist rate is universally referred to as ONE rotation in every XX.X (numerical denomination), such as one rotation every ten inches (1-10). So if your barrel is a 1-10 (common parlance: “one-in-ten”) twist, and twenty inches long, it will have completed (in theory) two complete rotations by the time it leaves the muzzle.
So Why Are There Different Twist Rates?
The whole reason rifles are better than their ancestral muskets, is because they spin the projectile, which stabilizes It. The centrifugal spinning of the projectile gives it more stable flight, and keeps it more inline with the course it started on. Much like spinning a child’s top to keep it standing on its point, the spinning bullet keeps its point in the same direction from when it was released.
Spinning an egg to get it to stand on point is much easier than spinning a pencil, or a bottle. Mainly because of its short round shape. The longer an object is, the faster it needs to be turned in order to get it to stand on point using only its centrifugal force. The same forces are at play with airborne projectiles.
A typical bullet fired from a 5.56 cartridge weighs 55 grains, and since the diameter of the bore cannot change, most 55 grain 5.56 bullets are similar in length. When a larger (heavier) bullet is used, it typically is longer. The diameter cant change, so the only way to make a bullet heavier is to make it longer (or use heavier materials but lets stay on topic). And longer bullets are harder to stabilize without spinning them faster. Whereas a 55 grain bullet will stabilize in an 11 or 12 twist barrel, a 77 grain bullet will not. The longer 77 grain bullet if fired from the too slow a twist barrel will tumble upon leaving the muzzle, which makes for terrible downrange predictability.
When we say fast twist, we refer to the shorter distance traveled to complete a rotation. A 1-8 twist barrel completes a rotation in 8 inches vs. a 1-12 twist takes four more inches to complete a rotation (Fast twist=Lower number and Slow twist=higher number).
The same goes for bullets of every size and weight, they must be spun at the proper rate in order to maintain stable flight.
Why Does it matter?
You might be thinking Why does this matter to me? Gun manufacturers have been making guns for long enough to know the right twist rates right? I buy ammo, load it, and pull the trigger over and over and bullets frequently hit targets if I’m lucky.
The last decade has seen great advances in bullet design and technology, vastly superior to the previous 40-50 years before it. Bullets have grown in performance, and length in many cases. Longer and pointy-er bullets have increased efficiency, making them superior performers in almost every way. These ballistically superior bullets are better at wind deflection, drop over distances, and energy retention. Additional weight and length is generally one element that these bullets share. And as we’ve already discussed, longer and heavier bullets required faster twist rates to stabilize them.
So we find ourselves in the midst of a dilemma; there are both bullets and ammunition available on the market today that require the use of faster twist barrels, and yet many firearm manufacturers still use the same barrel twists they have since the sixties and seventies.
A typical loading for the common 300WM thirty years ago would have featured a 165-180 grain bullet, either of which would be properly stabilized in the common 11-12 inch twist rate. But if you could find a box of ammunition in a store today, it could feature bullets as large as 230 grains, which require a much faster twist like a 1-8 or 1-9. If you were to shoot that ammo in your Dad’s old 300WM with a 12 twist, it would shoot like a wet pool noodle in a hurricane. Heavy loads like that will only do well with a proper twisted barrel. Tipped bullets are another advancement in bullet technology, read more about them here
In addition to the longer and heavier bullets, there are also some bullets that aren’t heavier, but still require a faster twist than historical bullets of the same weight. For example; sticking with the 300WM, you could shoot a heavy round nosed 180-190 grain bullet from the slower 11-12 inch twist barrels, but today you can find bullets that weigh-in at the same class, but still require a faster twist barrel because they are longer by design. Monolithic copper solid bullets like the PVA Cayuga are much longer than lead cored bullets of the same weight.
The reason it matters to you as the shooter is that you must use the right combination of barrel twist and bullet if you want to do well.
Plan of Attack
To improve your performance you can approach this from two different methods depending on your plans. But before doing so, you should define your purposes (ie hunting, target shooting, long-range, etc.). If you plan to hit steel targets at a mile, then select a bullet in the caliber of your choice that will do the job adequately. If hunting moose at 500 yards is your purpose, then again choose a bullet in the caliber of your choice that will do the job adequately.
If you are building or purchasing a rifle, you can either select a model with the appropriate caliber and twist rate for your planned purpose, or you can specify that caliber and twist on your build sheet. Either way ensures that you have the proper barrel twist rate to suitably stabilize your bullet of choice.
The second method is if you already have your rifle in hand. Changing twist rates requires changing the whole barrel, so the only way to adapt is to select a bullet that best performs in the twist rate you already have. There are a surprising amount of new and better bullets that can increase your rifles performance, just make sure that you choose a bullet that fits the twist rate of your rifle.
Armed with the proper knowledge about bullets and twist rates, you can increase your range and performance when shooting. Some manufacturers are ahead of the curve, and already produce rifles with more aggressive twist rates. Using these barrels with appropriate twist rates to shoot the most advanced and high performing bullets available will take your shooting to the next level, and make sure you aren’t under-twisted.
I may certainly be biased in my thinking, but I think that first focal plane riflescopes are perhaps the best development of the last couple decades. Sure they existed before then, but they have only become prevalent to the general shooting public over the last ten or fifteen years. Before we get too deep into the subject, lets make sure we both understand what this subject is about. So we are on the same plane so to speak.
No I’m not talking about an aluminum lifting body flying through the atmosphere, I’m talking about a point of focus used in your shooting. When you look through a scope and see the magnified image of the target, you are looking through several lenses inside the scope. A first focal plane scope (often called a front focal plane) has the reticle placed effectively before the magnification. A second focal plane riflescope as you might imagine has the reticle placed after the magnification feature of the scope. These two different construction techniques allow for two differing functions. Most of us have likely used the more traditional second focal plane scope. When the magnification ring is turned and the scope zooms in or out, the reticle remains unchanged. For most of the past, with simple duplex or crosshair reticles this wasn’t a big deal as the only relevant point on the reticle was the tiny intersecting point at the middle.
As reticle technology has grown over the years, additional points (subtensions) of hold have been added to our reticles. These additional reticle markings are for measuring hits and misses as well as holding wind corrections and holdovers. This is only relevant to the discussion in that the values of these additional points can change when used in a second focal plane optic. In a first focal plane scope, the reticle is magnified with the image. As the scope zooms in, both the target and the reticle increase in perceived size. The advantage to this lens configuration is that the reticle values stay the same regardless of what magnification the scope is set to. Second focal plane reticles typically register full value when they are at their maximum magnification.
Which is Better?
Despite a revolutionary change towards front focal plane scopes, one is not necessarily better than the other. Its simply based on the user’s preference or purpose. Both types of riflescopes have their pros and cons, so better is not the way to look at it. For example, if you are shooting extreme long range (ELR) competitions then you likely would prefer the finer size of a second focal plane reticle on a target that is three-thousand yards away. And on the other hand, if you are shooting a PRS Match where you have to quickly call your own shots and make corrections at varying ranges it helps to have your subtensions uniform regardless of magnification setting. So while some folks will try to convince you that one is better, keep in mind what you plan to do with the scope.
Pros and Cons
To help you better make a choice between these two scope configurations, I’ll discuss a few of the pros and cons of either selection. First focal plane scopes as I mentioned keep the reticle values intact regardless of what magnification setting you use, this comes at an additional expense. Many manufacturers offer near identical scopes in both FFP and SFP, with the latter being the more affordable option. If reticle usage isn’t part of your routine then this may not be a justified expense. Whereas if you use reticles frequently, it is well worth the added cost.
As I mentioned above, reticle thickness can be a downside to FFP scopes depending on the reticle design. As the reticle increases in size with magnification it can obscure the target or aiming point. Second focal plane scopes don’t have this issue as the reticle is always the same size. They also don’t become so fine as to become illegible at lower power. If you have poor eyesight or other issues related to reticle size, you may be better off with a SFP scope.
If you are looking for a very high magnification optic like a 5-50X, you will find that nearly all of them are SFP, their reticles would otherwise disappear at low power, or cover up a truck at maximum power.
If you do use your reticle for measuring hits, misses, and range features with a second focal plane reticle, you may need to refresh your math skills. Using a SFP reticle to measure things at any magnification besides its calibrated setting will require you to calculate the actual value based off the magnification setting and the measurement with the reticle. Some people like math but they should not be trusted.
There is no wrong or right answer when it comes to focal planes, there is only an evaluation of their applications. Things such as engagement distances and moving targets should surely be considered when deciding which way to go. I have fully embraced the FFP revolution that has occurred these past years, and I think the huge increase in FFP market share tells that I am not alone. The rapid expansion of long-range shooting and related competition has likely driven the trend.
Whether you are a competitive shooter, a military or law enforcement sniper, or just a redneck hunter with serious intentions, the FFP scopes of today can give you an edge that shooters of the past would lust after. But that’s not to say SFP scopes are inferior, as the brilliant shooters of the past have shown us.
The whole reason you bought a suppressor was to get rid of the noise involved with shooting right? Today we are going to discuss one of the phenomenon that comes with suppressors, and one not everybody is familiar with. First Round pop (FRP) as it is most commonly known, is the additional sound that comes when the first shot of a string is fired from a suppressed firearm. But is it something you need to worry about?
What Causes FRP?
FRP is caused by the presence of unburned oxygen in the suppressor when a shot is fired. The available oxygen inside the suppressor is ignited by the burning gasses and pressure from the muzzle. Subsequent shots are typically less volatile due to the combustion of the oxygen during the first shot. As you continue to fire cartridges, the suppressor body is filled with burnt gas from previous shots, eliminating secondary combustion inside the suppressor. Obviously, if your shots are spaced out enough, the gasses can leave the suppressor and be replaced by fresh air, allowing the cycle to start anew.
What Effects FRP?
FRP varies between suppressor type, cartridges, velocity and other variables. A larger suppressor can house more oxygen, and higher pressure cartridges can cause additional pop volume. You could also experience additional pop from using a suppressor of a larger bore than necessary, as it allows faster ventilation of the suppressor body. The size of the cartridge and the powder charge inside it can also effect the significance of FRP.
Sub-sonic vs. Supersonic
Subsonic shooting is the apex of suppressed shooting, movie-quiet suppression is the goal with sub-sonic suppressed weapons. So as you might imagine, FRP is the adversary of sub-sonic shooters. Some folks even go as far as purging their suppressor with inert gasses prior to shooting to avoid it. Other things such as suppressor wipes can also help keep oxygen from entering the suppressor body and causing FRP.
Supersonic cartridges are already quite noisy, so it is less likely as big a concern for those shooters. Personally I don’t worry too much about it, and for the most part I rarely even notice.
Living with FRP
If your like me, you probably don’t worry much about a few extra decibels when you start a shot string. But if you are one of those who like to play sniper in the back 40 with raccoons or hogs, then you may go to extremes to avoid this pesky pop. Make sure you have the best suppressor for the host you intend to shoot with, some are much better matched to your host than others. The right suppressor can produce less FRP, and if you use some of the other practices to reduce it you can get some very unsuspicious results. There are suppressor gels that you can squirt into the suppressor prior to your first shot that will aid in suppressing FRP. You could also purge your can with inert gas before heading out, and cover the muzzle to keep it inert. You could also do something as simple as adding a touch of water to the inside of your suppressor prior to shooting to help keep down the FRP. Just make sure that whatever practice you use is approved by the suppressor manufacturer, this will help you avoid costly repairs and additional wasteful NFA taxes.
First round pop is simply a biproduct of suppressor design, it can be a problem if you are a CIA spook or suburban hunter. But in the end it is mostly a manageable problem for some, and very minor inconvenience for others. Fuss with it if you must, and enjoy the pleasant sound of silence when it seems least likely.
Few things can be more divisive than deeply-held differences of opinion, particularly when these differences are constantly manifest and even poked at like a festering wound. You might think that I’m about to discuss Evangelicals and Satanists, but instead, as you may gathered from the title that today’s subject is the famous six-point-five Creedmoor. But how can something so simple as a slightly different and new cartridge drive such gnashing and bitterness between marksmen? Is the Creedmoor so despicable?
When Hornady released the Creedmoor over a decade ago, it showed great promise with claims of flat trajectory, superior wind deflection, low recoil and many other positive attributes. All this as compared to the extremely common and widely used 308 Winchester. I wont spend much time comparing the Creedmoor or evaluating its virtues other than how it relates to our topic. But before we move on I will say that the mighty machine of the Hornady marketing department is likely responsible for a great deal of the Creedmoor’s popularity and adoption.
The Crux of the Argument
I think I might be able to pin down the finer points of this argument after spending a great deal of time immersed in it. On any given day, in any random forum or facebook group, there are people fiercely defending the virtue of the little Creedmoor. And pounding out their often angry or insulting responses is the opposing group in this discussion. The Creedmoor seems to be both the object of adoration and despise, at the beginning I myself felt some similar distaste for the venerable red-tipped cartridge. The reason myself and others were likely soured against it, was due to the constant and unrelenting talk about it. You couldn’t open a magazine without seeing an ad or article about it, you couldn’t sit down on a bench without some guy offering you information about how great his Creedmoor shoots. It often felt like that meme about the guy who chooses the urinal next to you just to chat.
Obviously however, no amount of marketing dollars from Hornady could prop up a product that doesn’t at minimum, closely match its desired performance. The shooting public can quickly sift through bullshit when it stinks, unless you’re one of those who bought one of those cat-skins at the Boy Scout trading post believing it was a “rabbit pelt”.
The Creedmoor’s excellent performance was hard to deny, and as it continued to flourish, its qualities became more and more desirable. Even creating much of the movement that drove competitors to the faster and flatter little cartridges used in precision rifle matches today. And undoubtedly its popularity was bound to spill over into the hunting market, where it continued to spread like wildfire. And typically that is where so much of the controversy seems to be seen.
The hunting community is a traditional one for the most part. Hunters are very methodical and some reach near superstition when it comes to their practices. So it should come as no surprise that something new would take some serious consideration to be esteemed good enough to replace or stand next to gran-dad’s ol’ 06 Springfield hunting rifle.
Perhaps the defining feature of “a Fudd” is the inability to recognize technological advances, and a willing indifference to learn why such advances were made. Way back in the eighteenth century there was probably a similar rejection when some ol’ boy showed up with smokeless powder, and the eyebrow-less crowd laughed at him.
Math and science are empirical (unless it doesn’t suit your leftist ideology), and even if you show him on paper and again on the range, a true Fudd will dismiss it and say; well my [enter traditional cartridge] has more ass behind it and hits harder. Sometimes they aren’t wrong, but they often are. The possibility that a smaller bullet could somehow carry the same or more energy downrange seems like crazy talk until you understand the math.
Apples to Apples
The tediousness of ballistic comparisons can get extremely long-winded and boring, so I’ll spare you that. But these arguments often stem from exaggerated generalizations.
Somebody made a good shot once upon a time with a Creedmoor so now everybody that was there believes it to be the right hand of God. And at the exact same time on the other side of the mountain, somebody yanked the trigger sending a 143 into the guts of a distant animal that went unrecovered. And everybody there swore off the Creedmoor forever because Yankee McTriggerton was their hero.
There is surely no shortage of shooters who love their Creedmoor so much, that they can hit anything; they once got a first round hit at a mile on a ten inch steel plate in a 17 mile crosswind. And everybody clapped…
But the anti-Creedmoor crowd seems just as silly at times, happily swilling memes about manbuns and making general insults to the Creedmoor and their owners skinny jeans. Some of whom even pretend their 6.5X55 Swede is somehow superior to the Creedmoor despite being nearly ballistic twins.
A proper comparison is only fair, the Creed is neither the hand of God nor is it a weakling. It’s not hard to do a proper comparison if you’re unafraid of the results, depending on bullets and velocity your Creedmoor might be ballisticly superior to O’Connors .270 or it might not. All that matters is you understand and become proficient with whatever you choose to shoot.
You cant kill an Elk…
“You’d be better off with a 300WM” comes the completely anticipated answer when someone mentions hunting with a 6.5 Creedmoor. Maybe you would be, maybe not. Depends on if you are a better shot with the 6.5 or with the 300.
People have been killing moose in their thousands for over a hundred years in Scandinavia using the 6.5X55 Swedish Mauser cartridge, which as I mentioned already is nearly a ballistic twin to the Creedmoor. All those moose steaks stand in direct opposition to the idea that 6.5’s are inadequate for killing large members of the deer family. And yet here in North America there seems to be a disconnect, the majority of the general hunting public seem to be convinced that larger magnums and thirty-caliber cartridges are the only ideal ones for deer and larger animals.
I could speculate but I believe it may have been years of advertising efforts trying to sell bigger and better magnums (28 Nosler anyone?) that continues today, trying to convince hunters they were under-gunned without the latest super-cartridge.
It may come as a surprise to some, but you can easily and confidently take down a Rocky Mountain Elk with a 6.5 Creedmoor. I know because I have done it over and over for several years, as a matter of fact the last five or six elk we’ve dropped were shot with a 6.5 or an even smaller cartridge like the 25 Creedmoor. What’s more, many of these elk were four and five-hundred yards out when they dropped to the ground.
Just like most cartridges and bullets, the 6.5 Creedmoor will take a deer or elk right off its feet. The problems usually start when perhaps an inexperienced or over-zealous hunter takes a shot he shouldn’t have, perhaps having drank too much of Hornady’s red Kool-Aid.
Good shot placement with sufficient impact velocity is a must regardless of the cartridge you are shooting. The “magic” of the Creedmoor wont save you from loosing animals if you don’t make a good shot, the same thing can and does happen with any other cartridge. Read this article if you’d like to go deeper into that subject.
The incredibly popular Creedmoor has a couple legs up on older cartridges like the swede and my old favorite 260 Remington. Perhaps the best one of them is brass, there are so many great options from all the very best manufacturers such as Lapua and Alpha Munitions. Both large and small rifle primer brass can be had, allowing shooters to run higher pressure loads and using different and more modern components. Everything from handloading tools to your favorite rifle can be had in 6.5 Creedmoor, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If anything the Creedmoor has helped drive innovation and mainstreaming many practices that were once very niche.
The 6.5 Creedmoor is the result of applying good designs in cartridge cases and bullet construction, whatever negative reputation precedes the Creedmoor is likely a result of overconfident or negligent hunters who believed the hype. The Creedmoor is a great performer in various applications, and to dismiss it as “a fine target round” or only a “paper puncher” would be ignorant. The sophomoric hatred for the Creedmoor is downright embarrassing, and a quick way to show your ignorance among anyone with objectivity. It is a fine cartridge like hundreds of others, and when used properly it can be very useful for both hunting and any other shooting enterprise. If pride prevents you from joining the Creedmoor cult, you do you, there are plenty of other great options out there as well. But don’t let your pride make you look a fool.