A rifle for 300m (formerly the 6mmBR project) Update

Since last year I have been thinking about a new rifle for use at 300m, and up until now I have been looking primarily at something chambered in 6mmBR. However after discussions with a few people I have decided to consider the possibilities of other calibers. I am still keen on owning a rifle chambered in 6mmBR, but for now, since I am a student and have limited finances, I have decided to consider other calibers that can offer decent performance at a much lower price tag.

One suggestion I have had is .223 Rem in an AR15 platform. I have never thought of a semi-auto rifle as an accurate platform, and in the UK they are not legal for civilian ownership so they didn’t really enter my consciousness when I thought about target shooting. Here in the US however they are ubiquitous and due to their popularity there are many manufacturers building rifles and components that are highly modified from the original military spec.

One such manufacturer is White Oak Armament who produce a “complete upper” that is purpose built for match shooting. It is really ideal for a discipline called “across the course” which is a military style competition that includes timed details that favour a semi-auto. However I am assured  it’s accuracy is such that it is perfectly suitable for regular matches, if you don’t mind picking your brass off the floor at the end of the detail.

The .223 Rem is a much more affordable alternative to 6mmBR, and the components and reloading tools are more widely available. At 300m it is pretty close to 6mmBR in performance, but at 600yds and beyond it compares much less favourably. However, since I will be shooting primarily at 300m and I have a very good .308 rifle that I can use at longer ranges, this is not a particular concern. Having a semi-auto would also open up the possibility of competing in “across the course” in the future if I desired.

I have not made up my mind, and I have a way to go before I can afford anything, so I will continue to consider my options until I do.

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Shoot a lot, learn a little.

Warning: the loads described in this post are safe in my rifle, but may not be in yours. In the words of many a loading manual: start low and work up while watching for signs of pressure.

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In a previous post (here) I described the beginning of my search for a more appropriate load for 300m competition that won’t leave me black and blue in the process.

I based my first test load on my hunting load that uses 40gr VV N140 behind a 150gr soft point and named it the 300m Special. This load was a pleasure to shoot, but I never felt I was getting the best results with it. I decided to try to compare the 300m Special against my original long range load and a variation of the 300m special with the bullet seated out to 15 thou off the lands.

My first attempt to test was in less than ideal conditions (described here) on a 100yd range, and I was unable to get anything approaching a decent group. I decided to try again on the 300m range, shooting from the heated shooting house. The 300m range is not ideal for load testing as the wind becomes a factor and I am far from an expert at judging wind (I am working on that), but I wanted to test the loads and the way this winter has gone I doubted it would ever be warm enough to do anything else.

I tested three loads of my own, (and was given two 175gr loads by another shooter).

My loads were as follows:

(All loads were in a Lapua case with CCI BR2 primers, VV N140 powder, and a 155gr Sierra Match King (palma) bullet)

Load One: 300m Special – 40gr powder – 2.850 OAL.

Load Two: 300m Special (long) –  40gr powder – seated 15 thou off the lands (I bought a seating depth gauge recently)

Load Three: Original long range load – 46gr powder – 2.850 OAL

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My process was to fire a group then photograph the plot screen as well as the data screens that record group size and location.

I recorded the wind as gusting from 10 o-clock. I didn’t record the temperature but it was cold (certainly way below 0C/32F).

(Results include two groups that were shot with ammunition lent to me by another shooter, these rounds were loaded with 175gr bullets.)

See below for the results.

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300m Special (6 groups)

Group One (plot)

Group One (plot)

Group One (Data)

Group One (Data)

Group Two (Plot)

Group Two (Plot)

Group Two (Data)

Group Two (Data)

Group Two (More Data)

Group Two (More Data)

Group Three (Plot)

Group Three (Plot)

Group Three (Data)

Group Three (Data)

Group Three (More data)

Group Three (More data)

Group Four (Plot)

Group Four (Plot)

Group Four (Data)

Group Four (Data)

Group Four (More data)

Group Four (More data)

Group Five (Plot)

Group Five (Plot)

Group Five (Data)

Group Five (Data)

Group Five (More data)

Group Five (More data)

Group Six (Plot)

Group Six (Plot)

Group Six (Data)

Group Six (Data)

Group Six (More data)

Group Six (More data)

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300m Special long – seated 15 thou off the lands (3 groups)

Group Seven (Plot)

Group Seven (Plot)

Group Seven (Data)

Group Seven (Data)

Group Seven (More data)

Group Seven (More data)

Group Eight (Plot)

Group Eight (Plot)

Group Eight (Data)

Group Eight (Data)

Group Eight (More data)

Group Eight (More data)

Group Nine (Plot)

Group Nine (Plot)

Group Nine (Data)

Group Nine (Data)

Group Nine (More data)

Group Nine (More data)

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175gr experiment (given by another shooter to see how it would shoot)

Group Ten (Plot)

Group Ten (Plot)

175gr Long Range Mk 316

175gr Long Range Mk 316

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175gr experiment 2

Group Eleven (Plot)

Group Eleven (Plot)

175gr Long Range M118

175gr Long Range M118

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Original long range load (One group)

Group Twelve (Plot)

Group Twelve (Plot)

Group Twelve (Data)

Group Twelve (Data)

Group Twelve (More data)

Group Twelve (More data)

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To be honest I don’t know that I learned much from this test.

The 300m Special groups seem to display a distinct vertical spread.

The 300m Special (long) groups didn’t appear to be significantly tighter than the 300m Special, but they were less vertical.

The best group was number 12, shot with my original long range load (but it was only one group of three shots so it may not be representative).

All I discovered from shooting the loads with 175gr bullets was that my rifle will shoot them (good to know) and that I am not very good at reading the wind (which I knew already).

Conclusion: Assuming that the best group (#12) was not just a case of me trying harder, then the only difference between the 300m Special and my original long range load is the powder charge. The faster bullet is less affected by the wind. Therefore, I have determined to experiment with souping up my load a little and see if I can find a balance between speed and comfort.

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When I left Scotland I had to leave behind all the ammunition and components that I had collected and loaded over the years and months before leaving, and being a student I haven’t been able to replace it all. I only have 200 Lapua match cases in .308, and I have been concerned about wearing them out shooting at 300m where their quality probably isn’t making a huge difference.

So I put the word out that I was interested in getting some decent but affordable cases to use at 300m, and I was not long after given an ammo box containing 500 once fired Lake City match brass (see picture below). I am very grateful.

500 once fired LC Match brass

500 once fired LC Match brass

I am going to try my new 300m load in these cases. Having weighed them I have discovered that they are slightly heavier than my Lapua brass so after discussions with George (the club secretary and source of the cases) I am going to try 42.5gr VV N140 behind a 155gr SMK seated to 2.850 inches. There is a shoot this weekend (and I have been reading about the wind), so we shall see what we shall see.

Till next time.