Tag Archives: Rifle

How to Spec Out Your Dream Rifle Build

I receive questions almost daily from people who are in the process of putting a custom rifle together, its usually a question about chambers, barrel lengths, different manufacturers or some other specific part. Many times during the discussion, it comes out that maybe one or more of the options aren’t ideal for the intended purpose of the rifle, and that inevitably ends up causing a change in strategy. In the interest of not wasting valuable time, money and other resources, I figured I would put down a good process so that anyone who is interested in a custom rifle build can follow along in the hopes of avoiding that waste. And perhaps the details that follow can get you on the range sooner.

Whether you are rebuilding a rifle or starting from scratch, there are a few very important criteria that should be considered every step of the way. There may be others, but the main two I will focus on, and the rest are based upon are; the intended purpose of the rifle, and the budget you have to spend on it.

The intended purpose of the rifle is very important, it will dictate many of the rifles aspects such as caliber, weight, quality, etc. If your intended purpose is a hunting rifle, then a twenty-plus pound rifle would not be a good starting point. Just as if you are building a match rifle for PRS style competition, a 338 Lapua Magnum may not be the ideal cartridge to choose. So it is very important to evaluate what you intend to do with this rifle when you’re done with it. Many people start with the idea of a do-all rifle when building a custom, in my experience, custom rifles are an addiction and if you build one, you will likely follow it with more. So don’t be too afraid to get fairly specific with your purpose.

The budget you have to spend on a rifle has just as much influence as the intended purpose because many of us are not rich, and the dollars we have available to spend are limited. You should make sure that your choices are made with that in mind. If you blow your entire budget on a receiver and barrel, you may not have enough left to spend on a good scope. With so many great options available to you today, there are components that will meet most every custom rifle build budget.

Moving forward, here is the order in which I typically choose my components. Afterward, I will discuss them individually:

  • Intended Purpose
  • Project Budget
  • Accuracy Required
  • Distances intended to shoot
  • Weight Limit
  • Bore Diameter
  • Bullet intended to shoot
  • Velocity required
  • Barrel Twist
  • Cartridge Selection
  • Barrel Length
  • Receiver Selection
  • Barrel selection
  • Capacity needed (magazine)
  • Chassis or Stock Choice
  • Trigger
  • Scope & Mounts
  • Accessories
  • The distances you intend to shoot are very important. If it is a match gun for thousand-yard benchrest, then you probably want to shoot something 6mm or larger. If you plan on dangerous game in Africa, then you probably want something .375 or bigger. It’s pretty easy to decide on this subject, if in doubt, just look at what most others are using to do the same. The important part is to match the distance and bore-size to the job at hand. Hitting targets at 1000 yards don’t require huge amounts of energy, whereas hitting a buffalo at 100 yards does. And it’s especially important if you plan on shooting animals at any significant distance, you need to know what kind of energy and accuracy you need before moving to the bullet.

    Selecting a bullet you’ll notice is almost at the top of the list, which may seem like putting the cart before the horse but you’ll soon see why. The only reason we shoot rifles is that we want to hit what we’re aiming at, accuracy then must be one of our top priorities. So once you figure out your available budget, and what you plan to do with the rifle, you should have a pretty good idea about the level of accuracy that will be necessary. Most of the time we want as good of accuracy as can possibly be achieved, so it goes almost without saying that we want a precise shooting rifle capable of sub-MOA (minute of angle) accuracy, and preferably better than half MOA.
    So the next step is choosing the bullet you intend on shooting. The reason this is so important and at the beginning of the list is because so much of the rest depends on it. You should pick a bullet that meets the criteria of your budget and purpose, personally, I try and use the most inexpensive and readily available bullet I can, but one that is heavy for caliber, and has the highest Ballistic Coefficient (BC) as possible. For example;
    If I am planning on shooting a 6.5 for competition, I would probably find something that is 140 grains or more, preferably with a high .290 or better BC, and available readily and in bulk packages to save money. Just how high a BC is up to you, there are plenty of inexpensive options like the Barnes Bullets Match Burner, or you could spend quite a bit more on something like a Berger Bullets 156 EOL.
    Another example; If you are building a hunting rifle and only anticipate shots inside of two hundred yards on whitetail sized game, then you probably don’t need to spend a fortune on specialty or high BC bullets. A simple and inexpensive soft pointed bullet would do the trick just fine. There are pros and cons to either, so pick a bullet that fits your budget and availability, I say bullet but it could be multiple bullets if you must. I prefer and suggest to others to stick to one bullet, if you dont know why, then you should read this when your done.

    Once you have decided on a bullet or perhaps bullets, then you know what kind of barrel twist is required by that manufacturer in order to shoot it well. So mark that down on your build list right next to the bullet. I like fast twist barrels, they are better for shooting the typically heavier bullets that have the higher BC’s. And with technology going the way it is, there are more and longer and heavier bullets headed our way. So favoring a faster twist may leave the door open to shooting better bullets in the future. I have at least one barrel that is an 8.5 twist and I wish it was an 8 or a 7.5, but that’s life in the fast lane.

    If your goal is to hunt big game animals at long range, then you will definitely need as much energy as possible, that can be achieved by higher velocity. A 308 and 300WM can both shoot a 180-grain bullet, but the 300WM can shoot it much faster and therefore carry more energy. The 300WM then would be the better choice of the two for long-range hunting. That is the simple way to choose a cartridge, you can make it as simple or as hard as you want. Just keep in mind the two governing factors we spoke of at the top, what fits both my purpose and budget. It might be a 300WM or it might be a 30 Nosler or PRC, one has more energy, one is cheaper, pick your poison.

    Now that you know your bullet and cartridge combination, you need to decide on a barrel length. How much barrel do you need to get your selected bullet up to speed for the job you’ve tasked it to? Bigger cases with lots of powder usually need a long barrel to burn it all, and that’s what gives those big cartridges their speed. So if you chose the 300WM with a twenty-two-inch barrel, you’ll be slower than had you chosen a twenty-six inch. With as much data as there is available today, this is a very simple calculation to find. Just figure what muzzle velocity you need to stay above the minimum required velocity and energy at the distance you have determined at the outset of the project. Today’s ballistic solvers are an extremely valuable tool for doing this, there are many available, I prefer Trasol.
    There are many fantastic barrel manufacturers, some cost more than others, and some have features and services others don’t. You may want a less expensive button-rifled barrel, or perhaps a cut rifle barrel. You may want flutes cut in the barrel to reduce weight, or maybe a carbon fiber wrapped barrel. Each has its pros and cons again, look into as many options as you can, so you don’t regret it after your rifle is done.

    With barrel details, and the cartridge now written down on your build sheet, its time to pick a receiver to house all this excitement. If you are building a short action cartridge like a 6.5 Creedmoor, then you can pick from a plethora of high-quality short action receivers. Whether it’s a simple Remington 700, or something real fancy like the Badger Ordnance 2013 Action, it once again comes back to your budget and purpose. There are too many manufacturers to list nowadays, making short, long, and XL actions. You can get them in the very common Remington 700 footprint, to use the huge aftermarket support of that pattern, or try one of the many others. Just make sure that when choosing a receiver, you make sure your components are compatible (chassis/stock, bottom metal, etc.).
    Keep in mind that some of these receiver options come with built-in canted scope bases, or available scope bases with various cant options. Do yourself a favor and research those options before buying to make sure it matches your intended purpose.

    The purpose of your rifle will also determine what kind of round capacity you will need. Whether its three, or twelve, you can feed your rifle through a magazine. Most hunting rifles use a blind box mag, and if that meets your requirements then you needn’t look any further. But if you want a larger capacity, then you may consider a detachable box magazine. If your not sure, you can always choose a DBM setup, and run five round mags, ten rounders, or whatever fits your needs. Just keep in mind that additional weight for your end goal.

    Another big choice you will need to decide on is what kind of chassis or stock you plan on using. But since you now know what action, barrel & contour, magazine or DBM, and of course what the purpose of the rifle is, it just comes down to choice and what you can fit in the budget. Keep in mind features between chassis, such as construction and accessories. A carbon fiber stock is much lighter than a fiberglass stock, but maybe you want a heavy chassis instead, with adjustable weights on it.

    Almost any rifle receiver worth having has a good trigger available. Again, do your research and see what you can get that fits your taste, your rifle, and your budget. I am a very big fan of Trigger Tech triggers, but there are many others as well. One thing on triggers, make dang sure you are getting the right model for your build, and ensure safeties, bolt stops, and releases are compatible before you order one. The last thing you want is to get everything put together only to find out your bolt release won’t work or some damn thing.

    The scope and mounting system are incredibly important, so don’t skimp on them. It can be very hard to know what heigh rings to get, or what base to mount them to if you don’t have the components in hands. Many of us order these parts online, so you cant really dry fit them until they arrive. Unfortunately, the best you can do is estimate from your best measurements, and see how it turns out.
    Your scope and base choice are critically dependent on your ballistic data (determined by numbers we figured out already above). You may need a 20, 30, or 40 MOA scope base in order to reach your distance goal, particularly if the scope you choose has inadequate internal travel. Whereas if you are building a short-range rifle or a super flat shooting rifle, you may not need any additional cant.
    Your scope magnification depends greatly on preference and your eyes. But choose one that will allow you to see targets within your intended range, and has the range of magnification you will need. Optics are very subjective because we all have different eyes, so you cant always take others’ opinions for granted, not even mine. Ideally, you should try out your prospective scopes beforehand, but if that isn’t an option, then you may just have to base your choice on other people’s reviews.

    The last thing to cover is accessories, things like bipods, slings, suppressors etc. Now that you have all of your other bases covered, it should be pretty easy to pick out accessories. A stockpack perhaps that fits the stock you already selected or a support bag that attaches directly to the chassis you picked out. With all the minutia of your build nailed down, you can select all the accessories that will fit it.

    Hopefully this has been a helpful walkthrough on how to put your dream rifle together, these steps can be followed or applied to additional build aspects. If you’ve done it right, you should basically have a build sheet with everything you need to aquire. The end goal is to have a rifle you are pleased with, functions as designed, and brings a smile to your face. But dont be too satisfied with it, as it won’t be long till the build bug bites you again and the whole process starts over again. And when it does, come back and read this again.

    -CBM

    The Desert Tech SRS A2

    I have long enjoyed an affair with precision rifles, and one of them in particular. I fell in love with the Desert Tech SRS many years ago now, it has been through several generations since, and the latest generation is the SRS A2.

    For those of you who aren’t familiar with the SRS family, it is a detachable box magazine-fed, bolt action bullpup, with the added advantage of being a multi-caliber rifle. A bullpup means that the rifle’s action is behind the trigger, and against the shoulder. This design has been tried many times over the years, in order to shorten the overall length and portability of the rifle. The SRS has all of the advantages a bullpup was designed to bring to the table, as well as the quality and a stellar record of performance sought by both law enforcement, military, and devoted precision shooters. And the icing on the cake is the multi-caliber capability.

    The SRS A2 follows the long celebrated A1 model, from which it evolved. The SRS features an all-aluminum receiver, that is sandwiched between two polymer skins that comprise the pistol-grip, and magazine well. The receiver is split down the middle, and has four clamping screws down the side, together these features allow one of the SRS’s strongest assets. All SRS barrels have a shank at the breach that fits very snuggly into the receiver and is then clamped in via those four screws. Barrels are slid into the chassis from the front and seated against a steel feed ramp that doubles as an index point. The unique barrel clamping system also allows the SRS to return to zero, guaranteed every time you install each barrel, it will return to shoot the same point of impact every time. Bolts are slid into the breach by easily removing the recoil pad from the back, I say bolts because with differing cartridges you may require at least a couple of them. Anything from 223 Remington all the way up to 375XC, most options from the factory are your well-known bestsellers such as 6.5 Creedmoor, 308 Win, and 338 Lapua Magnum. The SRS has a large following with a multitude of aftermarket barrel manufacturers, allowing users to customize these factory-built rifles in whatever caliber they desire.

    What’s New:

    The evolution of this precision bullpup has brought several advantages to the system. One of the first notable differences of the new rifle is the M-Lok handguard, the more popular mounting system replaced the pic rail design from prior generations. The next most obvious change is the rifle’s weight, the A2 was put on a healthy diet. This new revision has the rifle weighing 2.1 pounds less than its predecessor, through various cuts and shaving material where possible.
    The trigger also received an upgrade, a new design they call a “field match” trigger. This new trigger is adjustable from 1.5 to 7 pounds.

    The SRS A1 featured a built-in retractable monopod in the bottom of the butt-pad, many users found this monopod to be a very valuable tool because of its quick deployment, and both coarse and fine adjustments. The A2 model was designed to be lighter, and the monopod was then made optional equipment instead of standard. That also helped lower the overall weight of the rifle.

    The new M-Lok handguard is also interchangeable. The A1 handguard was difficult to swap between different length handguards, and it required a proprietary tool from Desert Tech. The new SRS A2 handguard is user-replaceable using only a Hex Key wrench, this allows users to easily swap between the standard length (longer) handguard, and the shorter length (Covert) handguard. Desert Tech sells the separate handguards as a kit for end-users to install, so they can enjoy the benefits of either configuration.

    In addition to the new rifle chassis, Desert Tech will be releasing a few new calibers specifically marketed towards big game hunters. These newer barrels are chambered in popular cartridges such as 300 RUM, 300WM, and 7MM Rem Mag with more to come. A lighter contour barrel also helps lower the overall weight of the rifle. With a lighter rifle, the SRS is now even more appealing to those of us that would like to hunt with it, so these new offerings are a welcome development.

    What’s the same:

    The SRS A2 being a direct descendant of the A1 means that it inherited some of its best traits. The barrel mounting system is the same, which means that the barrel collection most SRS owners enjoy, can be used in the new A2 chassis as well. Bolts, barrels and magazines are also interchangeable between the two rifle chassis. This is a very welcome feature to SRS aficionados, as barrel kits can cost anywhere from 800 up to 2000 dollars.

    The barrel clamping procedure remains the same, there is a barrel lock on one side of the receiver and four clamping screws on the other. The barrel lock rotates 360 degrees, but has a detent on the lock and unlocked positions. After installing the barrel in the chassis, the barrel lock is rotated to the lock position which rotates a cam to hold the barrel in place. The four clamping screws are then torqued down to 80-inch pounds.

    The SRS A2 Covert with my 18” 6.5 Creedmoor

    The A2 maintains both standard length and Covert models as was the A1, the Covert model allows for using shorter barrels like the very popular sixteen-inch 308 Winchester. The longer standard handguard, allows for further forward bipod mounting, as well as clip on night/thermal optics.

    The adjustable comb height adjustment stays the same, as does the spacer system to adjust the length of pull. These features are easy to adjust and allow you to fit the rifle to you.

    On the Range:

    Being quite familiar with the SRS platform, I found almost everything about it to be very recognizable. All the same functions I was used to, I tried several of my older conversion kits in it with great success. One thing I didn’t miss at all was the weight, the couple pounds lost make the rifle noticeably lighter. And the new hunting profile barrels are lighter than I was used to, making the whole kit seem more friendly to hiking hunters.

    Clockwise: The new Field Match Trigger, fluted bolt body, M-Lok handguard with QD sling receivers, handguard mounting screws.

    Desert Tech claims the A2 to be even more accurate than its precedent platform, this was a claim I wanted to see for myself. The SRS has always been a very accurate rifle in my experience, half MOA groups are expected and even guaranteed by Desert Tech when using match grade ammunition.  The accuracy guarantee for the A1 SRS was half MOA, I was surprised to find that the A2 did not come with a better guarantee according to Desert Tech’s 36% better accuracy claim for the A2.

    Shooting the SRS A2

    I shot several different barrels in the A2 while at the range, among them were 6.5Creedmoor, 308 Winchester, 300 Remington Ultra Magnum, and 300 Winchester magnum.  The new hunting calibers were all the lighter contour, this made the felt recoil a little more aggressive than I was used to, but with muzzle brakes installed the recoil was very manageable. Accuracy was everything I expected it to be from the SRS platform,  typical groups were half MOA. Ammunition types gave wildly varying results, some of them did not even shoot MOA, while others easily shot sub half MOA.  I can’t say for sure if the lighter barrel contour had anything to do with it because when they had the right ammo they just shot great.

    A typical five shot group from the SRS A2

    My fourteen-year-old son also shot the rifle a bit and carried it around, he too seemed pleasantly surprised by the rifle’s easy handling and modest recoil.  As usual, the rifle shot better when the sound suppressor was installed. The Desert Tech suppressor mounts directly to the muzzle brake and provides hearing safe shooting with enhanced accuracy. Another moment the bullpup platform shines is when a suppressor is installed, the SRS A2 with a suppressor mounted is still shorter than comparable rifles without one.

    Whether shooting inside a 100-yard underground tunnel or shooting 1200 yards across a breezy mountain ridge, the SRS A2 tackled targets with great ease.

    Detractors

    The only problems I found with the SRS A2 were not so much problems as they were questions. Previous generations of SRS rifles had fully adjustable triggers that were serviceable in the field with a simple Allen wrench. The new trigger requires disassembly of the chassis to complete the adjustment. While an infrequent necessity, it is still an unwelcome one.

    Final Thoughts

    The SRS A2 is a pleasant breath of fresh air that I didn’t even know I needed. It appears Desert Tech has listened to consumers and delivered a better bullpup, my A1 wont be going anywhere soon, but it definitely needs an A2 to go with it.

    -CBM

    Graham Brothers Rifleworks MARC Sport Chassis for the Remington 700

    Precision Rifles are just my cup of tea, and watching the technology around them progress over the years has been exciting. While they are still relevant, and in many cases beautiful, traditional and wooden rifle stocks are being overtaken by modern chassis systems.

    A chassis system essentially serves the same purpose as a rifle stock, but the difference between them is quite stark. Stocks are generally made of wood or a synthetic material like glass filled nylon. Rifle chassis are almost uniformly manufactured from non-organic materials, such as aluminum, plastics, and more and more often from cutting edge composites like carbon fiber.

    Rifle chassis bring modularity, customizable options, and other modern conveniences to the user’s rifle. As well as providing one of the most important foundations for precise shooting, a rigid and firm structure from which successive shots can be launched with meticulous control. Naturally, modular rifles like the AR-15 have been gleaned over, and some of their best features have been merged into precision rifle chassis.

    And that brings us to the current subject, the Yankee Hill Machine MARC Sport  Rifle Chassis is one of the latest to join my fold. Yankee Hill has long manufactured AR-15’s and their components, so it seemed a natural progression to build the similar parts of a precision rifle chassis.
    YHM has a new division specifically geared towards the precision rifle market, suitably named Graham Brothers Rifleworks, I look forward to see what else they bring to the shooting bench.

    The Remington Model 700 has long enjoyed a position as the one to use for custom rifle builds. As such, most rifle chassis are built to accept the 700’s footprint and its many clones, the MARC Sport is no different. Other footprints such as Savage Long and Short actions are also available as well. And I wouldn’t expect it to end there, surely others like Howa, Tikka, and other popular models will follow.

    The MARC Sport comes as just the heart of the chassis, it uses an AR-15 style buffer tube in the back. The simple reasoning behind this is that you can easily attach any buttstock made for the AR-15 family of rifles. The modular design allows the end user to configure the chassis to their liking, an ownership feature that many gun enthusiasts are quick to take advantage of. The chassis also uses AR-15 patterned pistol grips, so you can pick and choose from the bountiful variety of grips to fit your hand and shooting needs.

    The handguard of the MARC Sport is similar to an AR-15 freefloat handguard, obviously it attaches differently, but it shares familiar features. The handguard has MLOK slots on all eight facets, this allows the user to add accessories such as bipod mounts, cartridge quivers, support bags, or tripod interfaces, all great accesories for competition shooting.

    The handguard attaches via four screws along the center of the chassis, steel thread inserts assure durable strength over time. It also features QD sling cups at the front and rear of the handguard tube. The chassis also has a series of threaded mounting holes along the bottom of the fore-grip area, to attach likely a tripod mount, or the available YHM Arca Swiss rail.

    The chassis accepts AICS pattern magazines, I have tried several different manufacturers magazines and they all work perfectly. One suggestion I would give YHM would be perhaps a slightly longer mag release bar, or a wider one. Either option would give the user a better purchase when trying to strip a magazine from it. And if you twisted my arm for another complaint, it might be that the handguard is a little too intrusive in the objective area of the scope. This didn’t allow me to install the sunshade on my scope, not a huge deal, but one you may want to know about.
    The MARC Sport chassis will accept both right or left handed actions, it comes with a small adapter plate that uses a screw to hold it in place. The plate is mounted over the unused bolt handle recess on either the right or left side.

    The MARC Sport shown with optional Arca Swiss rail, mounted on the tripod.

    In the very rear of the chassis is the buffer tube adapter, there are two different options when purchasing the MARC Sport. These are to accept the different types of buffer tubes and the buttstocks that go with them.

    My little 16 inch 260 Remington was a perfect fit, the aftermarket trigger also had no issue fitting into the chassis

    The chassis is built intuitively, a thumbshelf comfortably bedded in the right place. A comfortable contoured grip area under the center of gravity for carrying, and rounded edges in all the right places. And it comes with screws of the appropriate length to mount your Remington barreled action.

    I used one of the many Magpul buttstocks available, mainly because I had them. It was very convenient to have the collapsable buttstock, it made the overall rifle more compact and easy to store. But with so many great options out there, you can surely find one to fit your needs.

    The MARC Sport chassis system is a perfect addition for a good rifle. Most of us love to customize our guns and this chassis allows you to do it at a great price without giving up any quality. It does exactly what a rifle chassis should do, it gives the rifle a solid platform, that the user can adjust and customize to fit his skill level and needs. It has rekindled my love with my custom Remington’s, I have another one finishing up at the gunsmith now, and it too will soon be paired up to the MARC Sport chassis for a little match shooting.

    -CBM

    Cheap Ammunition, is the Bang worth the Squeeze?

    Inexpensive ammunition is very appealing to shooting sports enthusiasts.
    The relatively high cost of ammunition and its high angle trajectory shows no sign of changing anytime soon.


    Today we are going to discuss an interesting topic; Is cheaper ammunition really a good buy? There are a few questions that are relevant to the discussion here, to determine that answer:

    • What kind of shooting am I doing?
    • What kind of target?
    • What is my budget?
    • What type of gun am I using?

    A quick perusal of catalogs and store shelves can give you a good idea of what people buy the most of. There is usually a large amount of what has become known as “plinking ammo“. Plinking ammo refers to its application, inexpensive ammunition that can be bought in large quantities allowing for longer shooting sessions, or at least more of them.

    Plinking ammunition typically is used for pistols and carbines, the higher volume capability of these types of firearms is part of the reason people buy them. They shoot lots of inexpensive ammunition, which most of the time equates to more fun and training. This type of shooting usually takes place at relatively short distances, at targets ranging from automated steel plates, right down to improvised things like cardboard boxes. For this kind of shooting, plinking ammo works great.

    Accuracy is dictated by the size of your target. If you are shooting pumpkins at two hundred yards, then you have a much larger margin for error than if you are trying to hit prairie dogs at four or five hundred yards. It is important you start out with reasonable expectations, don’t shoot at one or two MOA targets with a three to four MOA rifle. You’ll quickly find yourself spending more ammunition, only to be frustrated with poor results. The same can be said for ammunition, if your three thousand dollar rifle will only shoot 3-4 MOA with cheap ammunition, you are going to be disappointed.

    If you intend on a more serious type of shooting, such as competition, or hunting, or some other application, you may find that inexpensive ammunition may not be savings you intended on getting.
    Inexpensive ammunition is produced on large-scale production lines, using components that were also mass produced. These processes drive the cost of the ammunition down and the volume up, but it is hard to maintain consistency when mass producing something meant to fly faster than the speed of sound. Quality ammunition is also produced on large scales, the quality of the ammunition depends on the attention paid to its assembly. In order for ammunition to be accurate, it must be consistent. The time and precision it takes to produce consistent ammunition translate into a higher cost.

    Perhaps hunting is your main shooting activity. If so, going cheap may not only be more expensive, but it could be unethical. If inconsistent ammunition is used during a hunt, it could cause an animal to be wounded and go unrecovered. It also could be the cause for multiple shots needed and a loss of meat, either scenario should be avoided. Accurate ammunition isn’t always expensive, but cheap ammunition can cost you far more than the money you spent.

    I set out to try an experiment, our theory being that quality ammunition is still a better buy than the cheap stuff. The reason behind the theory is simple; If I shoot at my target 5 times and hit it once, shooting my cheap Fiocchi 308Win at $0.80 per shot, I have spent $4.00 for one hit. If I shoot at the same target using DTM 308 match and hit it on the first shot, I have only spent $1.44 for the same hit. So how much money have I saved? Even if it takes two shots to hit my target, I am still spending less per hit.

    Here you can see some of the results to my experiment (admittedly not clinical). You can see that with the same gun and shooter combination produced better results with high quality ammunition vs. the inexpensive option. Left target is DTM 308Win Premium Match, right is Fiocchi 308 Win.

    The theory proved to be well founded, from a precision perspective. As you can see in the pictures above, the less expensive ammunition created a much larger pattern on the target. Using the exact same point of aim, you can see that it created a roughly three inch group. While on the left target we see groups closer to half or three quarter inch. This is where the answers to the questions I asked at the beginning of this article come into play. If all you need is to hit a sheet of paper at 100yds, then the inexpensive ammo from above will work fine. But let’s say hypothetically that the paper was moved out to 500yds, several of those shots may not even be on the paper much less near the point of aim. The match ammunition on the other hand that prints sub MOA groups, at five hundred yards will still keep groups small enough to hit a small piece of fruit, over and over. So for cost per hit, the premium ammunition proved to be the better buy for sure.

    Obviously this depends greatly on the type of firearm and the target you are using. For example, if you are shooting a surplus military rifle or relic, shooting quality ammunition might not give you that big of an advantage. Or if you are training with pistols at 7-20yds, it would make sense to use something inexpensive. Some firearms perform good or great with performance ammunition, and others perform mediocre no matter what you feed them. Not all guns are created equal. The above groups were shot using the Desert Tech SRS A1, perhaps in the future we can redo the same test with a surplus rifle, or an inexpensive equivalent, and see how the results compare.

    It is important to compare apples to apples then, plinking inside one hundred yards with a rifle, doesn’t always require the best. But clearly, if hitting exactly where you aim is important you, then your best bet is to stick with quality. Also keep in mind that some firearms are like high performance cars, they aren’t meant to run on 85 octane. The same goes for some performance firearms, running cheap ammo could actually do more harm than good. If you are lucky, you can often find an inexpensive combination of rifle and ammunition that still performs to the accuracy standard you desire. But since luck has never been my companion, I stick to well known performers, and the quality ammunition that they run on.

    So if serious shooting and accurate engagement of targets is part of your plan, quality ammunition should be one of your first considerations. There is a time and place for cheap ammo, but when the pressure is on and hits are a must, send the best you can get.

    CBM

    Originally posted on http://www.deserttech.com/blog/

    The First and Last Elk

    As the sun sets this time of year, frigid cold air rushes in to fill the void left by the sunlight. We watched as the last few glimmers of the sun disappeared over the cloudy horizon, the cold grip of winter seemed to tighten around us in the eerie silence. My son, my cousin and I, sat in the snow regaining our composure as natures evening show came to a close. It had been a busy day, and we finally had a moment to pause.
    For the past few months, we had been following the habits of a small herd of elk that live in the steep and rocky mountains that surround this valley. You likely read about our previous encounters with them, only last week I took one of the herd myself after we got into them. My son still had a tag, and he hadn’t burned out yet, so we had returned to fill it.

    The temperature inversion turns the valley into a cold cloudy soup

    This time of year, getting up the mountain early doesn’t seem to have the benefits it does during the normal season. The cold temperatures, and the lack of hunting pressure have animals out and about during the daytime. Deer, elk, coyotes, etc. can all be seen and heard during the day, and its a great time to just be out there. Once we got above the cold fog in the valley, there was a beautiful sunny day waiting for us.
    This nice buck sat and watched us from 300yds for the better part of a couple hours

    As Junior and I made our way up into the canyons, I scoured the draws and hill’s where I expected to see our herd. Moving slowly, we would stop every so often to glass the brush covered ridges. It is amazing how little it takes to conceal a whole elk. I hadn’t even planned on shooting anything today. I figured we would go for a nice ride up in the sunshine, and if we were lucky, maybe spot the herd on some distant, miserable, and untouchable ridge line.
    It is of course Murphy’s law, that as soon as you least expect something, or ill prepared for it, that something will happen. This was the case, as Junior and I rounded a turn, and my eyes focused on familiar brown and tan shapes that stood above us on a slope. Four of them, kicking away the snow to find the grass underneath. Not wanting to spook them, we quickly and quietly grabbed our gear, and made our way to a clearing. Once we had gotten a good position, I helped Junior get his rifle setup over a pack. It was a fairly steep angle, so we had to build a little taller position to get him comfortable. In just a few moments, we were fixed on our target.
    Our girl

    There were four elk visible, all cows and calves. This herd had once numbered six, besides the one I had already taken, the missing one must have been just out of view. There was a single elk off to one side of the herd alone, and her broadside position made her the ideal target. While Junior prepared himself, I hit the elk with my rangefinder. The distance to our target was 540 yards, not a short distance. But I knew he could pull it off, as he had done before. We had practiced as much as time would allow.

    A shot like that requires a good rifle, and my son carried it in his hot little hands. A custom Remington I had put together for him the year preceding. It was a sixteen inch .260 Remington, today it wore a Delta P Design Brevis II 6.5, and a Minox 1-6X30 scope. Junior had shot this rifle with great success, and it fit his stature. Well enough to shoot his very first Mule deer buck a few months ago at a similar distance.
    So now we sat there, ready to shoot, all that was left was the trigger pull.

    My son has been hunting with me since he was two or three years old. Even though he has been there, and seen it done so many times, he still gets that pounding heart and feverish excitement when its time to shoot. He was nervous for a moment, but after we locked eyes, and had a little Father & Son pep talk, he calmed down. He resigned himself to it, and I watched through my 8X rangefinder, waiting patiently.
    Maybe it was that he needed to just get one shot off to feel at home, or maybe it was the shot itself that focused his little mind. But whatever the reason, that first shot pealed across the slope without hitting the elk. And as if a switch had been flipped, Junior’s demeanor changed, and he was now “in the zone”. After a reload, he re-engaged the elk, and put a bullet into her. She walked a few steps forward, and laid down in the snow. We put another one into her moments later, to make sure she was dead.

    The steep hike up the hill to the elk took a little time, but it was very gratifying once we got there. Habitual observances took over at that point. We took some time to take plenty of pictures, and clean her up. The beauty of the snow covered landscape lit by the unfiltered rays of sunshine made the experience even more pleasant. Just a short time earlier, we were covered with coats, hats, gloves and the typical winter gear. The cold fog below had left our beards frosted, and yet in this moment of pristine success, we stood in the sunshine wearing only T-shirts under blue skies.



    With the help of a couple good friends who came to help, we tied her up, and drug her down the hill. It took quite an effort, but it was well worth it once we had her back to the truck, and ready to bring home.

    As night drew near, the ice cold fog that had hidden the valley from us, worked its way back up the mountain and threatened to envelope us once again. As it does every year, the bitter sweetness of the end of the season came over me. Knowing that we are done hunting for the season brings a somber feeling. The blood dried on the backs of our hands, as well as the freezer full of meat, fills me with satisfaction, and gratitude. These two contradicting sentiments are what give spice and excitement, they are part of the experience that comes with participation in this primal circle of life.
    The only thing better than experiencing such exhilarating highs and lows, is doing it with the ones we love the most. I am a very lucky person, being able to share this with my son, and family. We are already looking forward to next year.
    -CBM