A young man’s first deer is a memory that lasts a lifetime, but this story has more than one first time.
The 25 Creedmoor project that I named Operation Quarter Lord, has taken down its first big game animal. But it doesn’t stop there either, it is also the first time a Blackjack bullets ace 131 has been used on a deer.
It started late one afternoon, after a heavy rain storm had passed through the dry desert canyons of Utah. Myself, my Brother, and a good friend of ours headed up into the hills to see if we could get on to a deer or two. Also in tow was my friends son Aiden, who was eager to fill his first deer tag.
Only a few minutes after setting up the spotting scope, we had eyes on a fine little buck who would fill the tag nicely. The gun obviously was new to him, it was still new to me for that matter but I was very confident in its potential due to much practice.
Aiden was quickly voluntold to get in position for a shot, and after a few moments he more or less said “shooter ready”. We all focused through our perspective optics, and waited for the buck to give us a good broadside shot. When he did, just a moment later, everything went quiet, and we all concentrated on the small buck, six hundred and ten yards away.
Thats no short poke, but this wasn’t Aiden’s first rodeo either. He has practiced all summer shooting further distances with a custom .223 Remington his father built.
Excitement was in the air, and even my own heart pounded. We waited silently as Aiden took his time to get a good hold, and calmly broke the trigger.
I watched as the ultra flat shooting Ace flew through the cool evening air, barely arching above the target due to the uphill angle. It found its mark, as I have found it always does, impacting the young buck behind his left shoulder. He staggered forward a few steps, looking as though he was going to take a dive, but since he didn’t, Aiden sent round two. Running the bolt on the Tikka like some kind of pro. The second bullet also impacted the bucks chest, and after a couple more staggers, and coughing up much blood, he rolled over and died.
The excitement was thick in the air, a Boy’s first deer, a Father’s first successful hunt with his Son, and ontop of that, my excitement for a project perfectly executed.
The deer was dragged back down to the truck, cleaned and inspected, then back home where he was summarily skinned and washed for butchering.
The excitement never dims, be it the first, or just another hunt. These adventures bring so much flavor to our lives, and tables. I can only hope it stays so.
I suppose you could say I’ve come full circle, I started this game with a .25 caliber rifle, and after many many years I have a new one. I learned much with that first rifle, a Ruger M77 in 25-06, I still have it, and I dont think I’ll ever get rid of it.
My love for the 1/4 bore was cut short, by the lack of high Ballistic Coefficient bullets. There is a good assortment of 115-120 grain bullets, but many of them peeter out long before my then goal of one thousand yards. So despite claiming many of my first’s, the 25-06 went to the back of the safe.
In the defiance of time, I always had a 1/4” hole in my soul. Turns out that I wasn’t alone, and some folks with impressive math skills finally saddled the long range quarter-horse. Black Jack Bullets is a new manufacturer with a specialty in high BC 25’s.
As soon as I had spoken with Miles and Logan, I was convinced that my old love of the 25 needed to be rekindled. I almost immediately started Operation Quarter Lord, my goal; a .257 rifle that I could build light, and haul all over these Rocky Mountains to take antelope, deer, and even elk.
Due to the piles of 6.5 Creedmoor brass I had laying around, I decided to go with the 25 Creedmoor. I wanted to stay with a mag fed short action, and with Black Jack’s new high BC bullet (.330G7) it would outperform even the heaviest 6.5 Creedmoor loads.
The project came together very quickly, parts started arriving, and my gunsmith took minimal arm twisting to spin it up. We started with a Tikka T3 action, then added an X-Caliber .25 caliber, seven twist blank. Cut to finish at twenty two inches, because I dont like long rifles. All that was left, was a chassis system. I have always been a big fan of KRG, so I took this opportunity to get hands on their new Bravo chassis, it’s rigid and intuitive design was a perfect fit for this project that I wanted to keep light, but tight. Everything was cut, chambered threaded, and finished at ES Tactical, Eric does great work, and Im beginning to lose track of how many barrels of his I have.
With a twenty MOA scope base mounted on the Tikka, I mounted up my new scope, the RTS Mod 5 6-24X50 from Riton Optics. You can read more about the scope here: Riton RTS Mod5.
For rings I went with Aadland Engineering thirty milimeter HD rings, Mr. Aadland makes top notch mounts and I’ve always loved the quality.
Now that I had the rifle basically built, it was time to start manufacturing the top fueled cartridges that would make the Xcaliber hum. I started fireforming the Alpha Munitions 6.5 Creedmoor brass. I considered myself lucky to have such high quality components available. Alpha makes probably the best brass money can buy, and their small rifle primer brass was perfect for this high pressure project. To make the 25 Creedmoor brass, I swapped my Redding 6.5 Creedmoor die’s bushing out for a .281. Then I would run the lubed neck over a .257 expander ball. I was amazed at how consistent the Alpha brass was, seating depths were extremely uniform due to the constant neck tension. Looking back, I’d probably go with a .282 bushing, to work the brass less.
I also tried several other brass manufacturers, just for the sake of science. I made 25 Creedmoor brass out of Hornady, Lapua (SP), Federal, and Petersen. As you might imagine, the Federal and Hornady had some pressure issues and stiff extraction with the hottest loads. Even the Petersen was a little sticky, but the small primer cases won the day for sure. Both Lapua and Alpha had zero stiff extraction, but the Alpha took a smidge more powder. This allowed for a non-compressed load, with the best velocity, and no pressure related problems. Alpha is definitely the way to go. As you can see a few pictures up, Alpha Munitions has since produced 25 Creedmoor headstamped brass, and it is perfect.
With both bullets and brass so rare, I was very slow and methodical in my loading. The long pointed tips of the 131 Ace seemed to fit just fine in my 6.5 seating die, and despite their long nose, they still fit the AI mag. I seated the bullets twenty thousandths off the lands, and charged the cases with 42.7 grains of Hodgdon H4350.
The chronoed loads with the 131 Blackjacks averaged 2930fps, with single digit SD numbers. The groups fired were easily 1/2 MOA, and if I wasn’t so terrible at shooting groups, they’d likely cut in half. The X caliber barrel obviously was a big part of the accuracy, which wasn’t a surprise to me as the other X caliber’s I have shot were also very accurate. And even though we cut it at 22 inches the velocity was right where I had hoped it would be.
The main appeal of the Ace 131 is obviously the BC, which is advertised at .330(G7), I have found that number to be fairly conservative.
Unlike many manufacturers, Blackjack must not inflate their data. After punching in all the data to various ballistic engines, I was consistently shooting over targets by a minute or two. The only way to compensate for it was to true up the BC to a slightly higher number. Once I did that, my Trasol program was predicting the bullet path close enough to make cold bore hits on 1-2MOA targets at 575,840, and 1057, each with a follow up confirmation hit. All this in a very switchy wind as a storm came in, the Ace didnt seem to mind. With my average DA here in the high desert, the Ace should stay supersonic to almost a mile.
My next project for this rifle is hunting season, which is only a few days away. I might make it easier on Junior by just taking the one rifle for both of us, and any deer within half a mile would be foolish to show his tines. With a trajectory nearly as flat as my 7SAUM shooting 183 Sierra Match Kings, but the tender recoil of a Creedmoor, I cant imagine a sweeter little deer rifle. And first chance I get I’ll put it up against wild Wyoming’s pronghorn as well, but the likely precursor will be Rocky Mountain Elk.
My very first elk fell to a single shot from that old 25-06, and with the added power and accuracy of the Blackjack Ace 131 I am very confident both Junior and I can pull it off again.
Im a hunter at heart, so thats where I always turn towards. But the 25 Creedmoor would really shine in a competition setup. With its light recoil, super flat trajectory, and great accuracy, it would stand ahead of most of it’s 6.5 competitors.
This project is still very fresh, so I will continue to update this post with new information as I get it. There will be acompanying youtube videos soon, on both the rifle and its components. Follow my social media pages for frequent updates, and for answers to your questions. And follow the links here in the article to get to those mentioned.
Edited to add:
So far in the fall/winter season of 2018, we have managed to kill three mule deer with the 25 Creedmoor, and two elk. Shots varied from 220yds, 500yds, and 600yds on the deer. And both elk were shot right at 300 yds with a neck shot.
In the fall hunting season of 2019, Operation QuarterLord took another two deer. The first one, a small mule deer at an astounding 1100 yards. The second one, a larger three-point was taken at 450 yards. Both of them took a single shot through the vitals, and neither of them made it more than a few steps.