Happy New Year

I didn’t intend to take this long to write another post, but things get in the way. Since I graduated from my Masters degree in May I have been getting used to my new employment situation. I am now working at a gallery in a temp position that doesn’t employ me all the time, and doing some freelance writing. The freelance writing is a new thing and I will admit I never expected to be in a position where I got paid for my writing, but I am and I’m enjoying it quite a lot. It is the perfect other job for my gallery work as it doesn’t conflict and it also keeps my brain turning when it might otherwise fall into disrepair.

On to the shooting:

In November I went hunting for the second time since I arrived in the USA, and prior to the season opener I managed to try out two variations of my new load (45gr AA2520 in a Lake City LR case with a Hornady 165gr BTSP @2.800 OAL). One involved the same load but in a Winchester case, and the second was with a 2.850 OAL. Neither appeared to make a significant difference so I decided to leave it as it was.

I learned a few lessons this year (always nice), but unfortunately I didn’t get a shot at a deer. There was a deer I could have taken a shot at, but elected not to. More about that later.

The weather was pretty warm, a lot warmer than last year, which was both a good and a bad thing. It was good because I wasn’t freezing sitting in the stand, but it was bad because accepted wisdom has it that deer move around more in cold weather. The hunting season being what it is though I have no flexibility to wait for colder weather, so I decided to just accept it and enjoy feeling my toes.

Jason the night before opening day.

Jason the night before opening day.

I had been hoping to make it up to the property before the season started to scout and pick a place to hunt from, but it never happened and I arrived at the cabin the night before the first day without having seen the place in daylight. That night it was just myself with Amber and Jason, and it was fun to hang out, but I think I drank too much. The next morning when I left the cabin at 6am I was feeling a little hungover, and without having seen the land it took me longer to find a spot than I wanted, and it wasn’t till after the sun came up that I was settled in and hunting. I had initially wanted to hunt from the ground and set out with that intention, but after I had found a spot and sat down and the light started to come up, I realised that my view was almost completely blocked by brush. I soon realised that I wouldn’t get a clear shot unless a deer wandered within 20 yards of me, so I reluctantly got up and made my way to an open stand.

DSCN2108

Early morning view from the stand.

I didn’t see anything that morning, but Amber shot her first deer not long after the sun came up. It was a clean shot at a young buck from around 70 yards. That evening I went to a stand further onto the property, and right around last light I saw a deer. When I spotted it it was on the edge of a dense patch of trees about 60 yards away and walking away from me. I could have made the shot, but after a moments thought I elected not to. In the failing light and at the awkward angle the deer presented I decided the chances of a bad shot were too great. Even a well shot deer will run, and a badly shot deer will run a lot further. I didn’t want to risk wounding the deer and losing it in the woods.

I didn’t see anything the next morning, and Amber had to leave at lunch time, so on the Sunday evening it was just me and Jason. Once again I didn’t see anything, and as the light started to fail I stopped looking. I was quite tired and looking forward to getting home, and I didn’t want to delay that by chasing a deer around. I was just getting ready to pack up and leave the stand when I heard a couple of gunshots from the other end of the property, where Jason was hunting. Then I got a text “I need your help”.

Jason had taken a shot at a deer in the failing light and it had run. There was a scant blood trail which we followed for a while before it disappeared. It took a couple of hours but we eventually came across the deer by searching in the direction that it appeared to be heading based on the last blood we found. All’s well that ends well.

I hadn’t planned to hunt the second weekend as Neither Amber or Jason could make it, but at the last minute I changed my mind and decided to hunt. It was just me with Amber’s uncle Rick and his friend Larry. They were very entertaining and I had a good time. I did see a couple of deer the second weekend, although I couldn’t get a shot. I was sitting quietly in a stand when they appeared out of some trees to my left, one was a doe that I didn’t have a tag for, and I couldn’t get a good look at the second one to see if it was a buck. Then they disappeared walking away from me, and that was the last I saw.

Another beautiful day.

Another beautiful day.

 

I elected not to hunt the last weekend, and although Amber and Jason did neither of them saw anything. So that was that-but like I said at the beginning, I did learn a couple of lessons. First: I need to scout the property. I felt almost blind because I had no idea where the deer paths were. I was sitting in stands and guessing which way to face, and in the case of the deer I saw the first weekend I’m pretty sure it came from behind me. If I had had a chance to look for deer tracks ahead of time, I might have been facing the right way and seen it as it passed. The second lesson I learnt was: Sit Still. Up till now I have spent quite a lot of my time in the stand looking through my binoculars and panning back and forth, but I think I underestimated how good deer are at spotting movement. In future I will sit still and use my binoculars less. Patience is a virtue. The third lesson I took away with me was: Don’t reheat a frozen dinner in a pyrex dish on the stove top! The dish will probably explode and leave you eating food seasoned with glass. I still tasted good though.

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Sorry, not Sorry.

I recently graduated from the University of Minnesota and am currently between significant employments, so now is not really the time to start a new rifle build, especially for a rifle that I don’t really have a need for. Nevertheless one has been started.

For a little while I have been contemplating building a rifle for hunting in a more powerful caliber than .308 (which my current hunting rifle is chambered in) and that is suitable for game larger than whitetail deer (that I am not now, nor expect to be hunting any time soon).

I have also been getting interested in some .35 caliber cartridges since I read about the .35 Remington in a shooting magazine. .35s are not particularly popular right now as the trend is for faster and flatter shooting catridges, but I am intrigued by the possibilities of them. When I first started to think about hunting I was considering a .270 Winchester, but Charles Young said to me that big and slow is better than small and fast when it comes to taking deer. My experience with my .308 has borne this out, and the .35 calibers are all about big and slow.

I discussed my thoughts on a new rifle build with George and he told me about the Savage 110 action and how easy and relatively cheap it was to change barrels on them. When I got home I did an internet search and found a barrel on Midway for a Savage 110 action in an interesting .35 caliber, the .35 Whelen. That night I was having trouble sleeping, and in the early hours of the morning I looked again at the listing for that barrel. I observed (in my compromised state of mind) that it was on sale and there were fewer remaining to buy than there were the last time I looked, so I made the decision to buy it.

The .35 Whelen (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.35_Whelen) is a wildcat developed from the 30-06 springfield cartridge. There aren’t many factory loads available, but it is an interesting option for a reloader as the cases can be formed by running 30-06 brass through a .35 Whelen sizing die to expand the neck. 30-06 brass is cheap and plentiful in this part of the world. The same powders and primers I use for .308 will also work for the Whelen.

I will now need a Savage 110 donor rifle chambered for any of the .30-06 family, and possibly a new stock since the barrel I have bought is a magnum contour and so probably won’t fit in the donor rifle’s stock without modification. I think the best time for buying the donor rifle will be in late November through the early months of next year, after the deer hunting season when people need cash more than a rifle. It will probably take me that long to save the money anyway.

It was probably an unwise decision to buy the barrel in my current situation, but I am excited to build a new rifle and explore a new caliber. So I’m sorry, but also not sorry.

Hunting again, and again, and again.

Hunting selfie 2014

Hunting selfie 2014

Last November I was lucky enough to be invited to go hunting with one of the people on my program. I was really excited as I haven’t had a chance to hunt deer since I got to the US, and my rifle looks sooo pretty now! What deer could refuse to lay down for it?

Complete rifle 3

Complete rifle 3

Don’t you think? Prettiest gun in the woods I guarantee! I digress…

Before I went hunting I spent some time at my loading bench, and at the range, testing various loads at different distances. I originally used 40gr of N-140 behind a 150gr soft point bullet (.308Win), but I decided that since white tail deer are a bit bigger than my previous quarry, and as I would be sitting in a tree stand (high seat) I wanted to maximise my effective range. So I made up some loads with charges increasing by 1gr of powder from 40gr – 44gr, and then went to the range.

All the loads shot sub-minute at 100yds with little differences between loads (although I would like to think the groups shrank a little with more powder). Unfortunately I forgot my plan and shot everything but some 40gr loads at 100yds and so I was unable to get actual comparaisons at 200yds. However I shot my last 40gr loads at 200yds and was surprised to see the bullet impact about 7 inches below point of aim, and that was after shooting 1 inch high at 100yds. So since the 44gr shot well at 100 I decided it was safe to make up a batch to go hunting with, and it definitely wouldn’t shoot 7 inches low at 200yds.

The Great White hunters, and the Lakeratz - November 2014

The Great White hunters, and the Lakeratz – November 2014

Here we all are, from left are Amber and Jason White, then myself and Amanda in front of Amber’s uncle’s cabin in northern Minnesota. This was on the first weekend of hunting.

I had no luck on the first weekend. The season opened on the Saturday morning, so we all woke before sunrise and walked to our stands. The property is about 20 acres and we were spread across it.  As the sun came up I started hearing gun shots all around me (most hunters try to get into the woods for the opening day) and then I heard one close by which I later learned was Jason filling his tag. A little while later I saw the backside of a deer as it ran away from me into the woods, but I was unable to determine sex in the brief glimpse I had and I certainly didn’t have time to point my rifle. At about 11am I gave up and headed back to the cabin for breakfast.

I went out again in mid afternoon until it was too dark to shoot but again saw nothing. I repeated this pattern the next day as well with no success. Also worthy of note is the fact that it was considerably below freezing the whole time and I was wrapped in blankets with two pairs of long johns under my trousers.

View from the stand

View from the stand

This is a photo from my stand. Below is a video I shot.

I returned the next weekend. The temperature got down below zero Fahrenheit that weekend, but luckily I took a sleeping bag with me that I climbed into in the stand. It was awkward, but I was warm. I saw a couple of deer that weekend, but they were a long way away and I again couldn’t determine sex or take a shot.

Then next weekend I returned again but this time I had bought myself some insulated hunting clothing to wear which kept me warm but didn’t limit my movements like the sleeping bag did.

New camouflage 2014 hunting season

New camouflage 2014 hunting season

The orange is my new parka, and the green is my new bib, which comes up to my chest.

I had no success the last weekend either.

In the end I am grateful for the opportunity to hunt, and I felt invigorated by spending so much time in the woods listening and watching. I never got to fire a shot so I will have to wait until November 2015 to find out if my rifle is too pretty for a deer to refuse its charms.

I didn’t go home empty handed though, Amber and Jason were generous enough to give me a leg of their deer which Amanda and I duly chopped up and froze. Below is a picture of some venison steaks we ate recently.

Venison Steaks

Venison Steaks

Until next year….

 

Fun shoot

I recently went out with a couple of friends for a fun shoot.

I took my Glock, my .308 hunting rifle, and my AR15 match rifle. One of the other guys brought his .30-06 hunting rifle, and the highlight of the day, his AK47.

Below is a video of my shooting it.

 

 

This video was made the second time I shot the AK47 that day. When I first fired it I experienced a “slam fire” where a second round fired as the bolt closed after cycling. This second shot followed very quickly after the first and midway through the recoil cycle, and as such was not very close to my original aim point.

Slam fire results

Slam fire results

We were shooting at 50 yards and I was aiming at the right hand paper plate (marked by the lower red arrow. The slam fire hit way above the plate at the position marked by the top red arrow. The target frame to the left of the plates is about four feet high so you can see how far off  it hit. An interesting experience.

A stock that is anything but stock…

So a few years back I decided to take up deer hunting, and since a hunter needs a rifle I got myself a rifle.

When I first met the rifle that would become my deer rifle it was in the form of a target rifle.  It belonged to Kelvinside Academy who were looking to reduce the number of full bore rifles they owned. I had a look through their selection and settled on one with an Interarms Mk. X action chambered in .308Win. I made this choice because it had an internal magazine, I could see the stock was good although in need of modification, and the action was in good condition and already drilled and tapped for scope bases.

Below are a series of pictures of the stock as I found it.

Stock as received left view

Stock as received left view

Stock as received end view.

Stock as received end view.

Stock as received bottom view

Stock as received bottom view

Stock as received side view

Stock as received side view

Thanks to Border Barrels, the Schultz and Larson 1:14 barrel was cut down to 23 inches and threaded for a moderator. Charles (The Oracle) helped me mount my scope and bases. David, my friend from Bearsden rifle club, took the stock to work with him and cut off the excess wood that I didn’t need. That process is documented in the pictures below.

Cutting down the stock 1

Cutting down the stock 1

Cutting down the stock 2

Cutting down the stock 2

Cutting down the stock 3

Cutting down the stock 3

Cutting down the stock 4

Cutting down the stock 4

Cutting down the stock 5

Cutting down the stock 5

I then finished the stock with various planes, shaves, and sand paper, and then coated with Birchwood Casey’s Tru-Oil. Below is a picture of the stock during the long process of sanding.

Finishing the stock

Finishing the stock

The tru-Oil gave the stock a beautiful appearance, as can be seen in the photo below, but the one thing that I couldn’t do, and I never tried to do, was checkering. And so the stock remained plain, but no less successful for it.

Rifle and deer

Rifle and deer

I have taken seven deer with this rifle in the UK, and it is clearly capable of very decent accuracy. The group in the following picture was shot at 100 yards on the Border Barrels zero range in the Scottish Borders (apologies for the blur), the coin is a two pence piece that is around an inch across.

Zero group

Zero group

When I moved to the USA this rifle came with me (minus the moderator). The original scope was damaged in transit, and apart from the one trip out to zero the new scope the rifle has languished in my gun cabinet. Until now…

A couple of months ago I was reading a shooting magazine and happened upon a rifle review. I forget which rifle was being reviewed, but the thing that jumped out at me was the mention of laser cut checkering. I didn’t know that could be done until I read that, and as it happens I have access to a laser cutter through my school and a willing tech who enjoys a new challenge.

So I came up with a design, and although I mention the word checkering I very early on decided that that was not going to be the right description of the outcome. A short internet search came up with some simple line drawings of deer antlers and a few hours battling editing software resulted in a pleasing design.

Antler Interlock design

Antler Interlock design

It is based upon the outlines of a Fallow deer antler and a Whitetail deer antler, and I designed it so it would interlock and repeat. At this point my expertise ran out and I passed it along to the aforementioned willing tech, Anthony. Below is a photo of him working his magic.

Anthony converting the file.

Anthony converting the file.

Anthony needed to convert the file from the jpeg that I provided into a vector file that the machine could understand. Once that was done we performed test cuts on one of the offcuts from when the stock was originally converted (sometimes it is good to be a hoarder). Below are photos of the tests. The first was just the outline as per my original design, but it was clear upon handling that this would not provide any significant grip advantage, which is the point of checkering and one of the immediate goals of this project.

Test One

Test One

For the second test it was decided to fill in the outline, and this proved much more effective as a gripping pattern.

Test Two

Test Two

The third test was the same as the second except we decided to cut it a little deeper and this further improved the grip.

Test Three

Test Three

I subsequently used these test cuts to test the finishes that I might apply. The first and third are highlighted with Chinese drawing ink, and the second is filled with graphite. All three were subsequently coated with linseed oil.

Below is a sequence of images of the machine setup and the results.

Ready in the cutter bed.

Ready in the cutter bed.

First look.

First look.

Grip finished.

Grip finished.

Forearm finished.

Forearm finished.

I decided on the Chinese ink to highlight the etching with a final coat of linseed oil.

I am pleased with the outcome. I now not only have a remarkably accurate hunting rifle, I also have a particularly good looking one.

Complete rifle 3

Complete rifle 3

Complete rifle 2

Complete rifle 2

Complete rifle 1

Complete rifle 1

Complete rifle 4

Complete rifle 4

Everyone is doing it..

After finding out that I had ordered a new rifle, my friend Niall reported to me that he had invested in a new rifle also.

He has for a long time used a Carl Gustav that was originally built for biathlon (when biathlon was shot with a full-bore rifle), and which, though lovely, has a limited ability beyond 600yds. Below are photos of his new rifle.

It’s a Musgrave in .308Win with a Border 1:13 stainless barrel which is 300 rounds old. The sights are Fulton’s 18mm ladder foresight and an AJ Parker T.Z. rearsight.

 

Niall's new Musgrave

Niall’s new Musgrave

 

Niall's new Musgrave 2

Niall’s new Musgrave 2

 

Below is Niall’s account of his first long range shoot with the Musgrave.

 

"Interesting day. Good shooting conditions with an irritating variable 
wind from 1 o'clockish.

Got help from an F class shooter (big telescope on gun) to set zero at 
900yds. 9 shots later he hadn't seen the fall of shot once and I'd 
tried everything -, over the bullet catcher, into the mantlet, still no 
joy. Stopped and waited ages 'til Mike was free. Mike saw 
the first shot and brought the elevation up in stages to 50.5mins from 
34.5. Got on target and had 18 shots, a bit hurried, only 4 in the 
inner so fairly happy with that. Better than I could do with the Charlie G.

Back to 1000yds and the plot is attached. For the first time I had 
shot at that distance not too bad an effort. I got caught by a wind 
change on shot 6&7, fairly stupid shot on 16 cause unknown and 19 and 20 
were from a different batch of ammunition. (Learning point - always 
ensure one has more than enough rounds from the same batch). 
Elevation now at 55.5 and seems reasonably reliable.

Now need to think about the sights; also need to scribe a new line on 
the foresight as there is a mismatch from the fixed to variable sides.

Rifle performed well. A fairly tight chamber I think with one instance 
of a bit of effort needed to close the bolt. Will need to watch 
re-sizing of cases as there is not as much slack as with the Charlie 
G. Trigger is still a bit stiff after the light Timney in the CG."

Niall’s 1000yd scorecard

Thanks for the update, and congrats on the new rifle Niall.

Shoot a lot, learn a bit more…

In response to a previous post Shoot a lot, learn a little, I received an email from the Oracle (Charles Young) via Niall. The post was about an attempt by me to find a new load for .308 at 300m using a lighter powder charge.

His response went as follows:

“He enjoys his suffering!

“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.”


In my opinion . . . that isn’t nearly enough N-140 powder to get it to burn efficiently, and the outcome may be erratic groups.  N-140 works better the harder it goes. “

So perhaps my attempt to find a practical (read comfortable) .308 load for 300m International competition is unrealistic with N-140. And since I was going for an easy work around until I could get a new rifle in a more appropriate caliber, then I think this experiment will have to be written off.

And anyway, new developments soon to be revealed have rendered the purpose of this experiment defunct…