Low temps = Large groups

On New Year’s eve I ventured out to the ranges at Minneapolis Rifle Club to do some shooting (well I wasn’t going there to crochet was I).

I had hoped to get in some practice on the small bore range and then do some comparative load testing for the Swing, as well as test a hand load for my new handgun. In the end I realized that I should have just stuck to the small bore. Ideally I would have gone to the range the day after boxing day as it was the warmest day that week, but since we had people staying and had planned a couple of nights away over the weekend, New Year’s eve was the only day I had free.

I left my house just after 9am accompanied by my friend from school, Beth. I had preheated the truck so it was relatively comfortable for the journey, but unfortunately no one had preheated the roads and I nearly came a cropper on a slip road just minutes after setting off. Fortunately I managed to keep it on the road and away from other vehicles, and once I had rediscovered traction and a heart rate approaching normal I proceeded with a little bit more caution. The rest of the journey was pleasantly uneventful.

The small bore shooting house was already on the way to warming up when we arrived, and after a little while we were able to begin in relative comfort. I had remembered my full fingered glove and a blanket to put under my mat for extra padding and so the problems were limited to a little numbness in my right hand from the cold air coming through the shutter. This made effective trigger control increasingly difficult to achieve as the shoot went on, but regardless I came away with some half decent groups (see picture below).

50 meter small bore target. Dec 31st 2013

50 meter small bore target. Dec 31st 2013

Considering this is only the second time I have shot small bore since I came to the US, I am quite satisfied.

Shooting small bore. Dec 31st 2013

Shooting small bore. Dec 31st 2013

New Year's eve small bore shoot.

New Year’s eve small bore shoot.

I finally found a good reason to grow a beard.

After shooting small-bore I decided to go over to the general purpose range to test some .308win loads.

I intended to compare three loads: my standard long range load comprising 46gr N-140 behind a 155gr Sierra Match King seated to 2.850 inches. My new 300m Special load of 40gr N-140 behind the same 155gr SMK also seated to 2.850 inches. And the 300m Special load but with the bullet seated 15 thou from the lands (I recently invested in an OAL gauge). I have all sorts of questions in my mind about the performances of these loads that I can’t answer effectively in competition conditions.

Unfortunately these questions were not going to get answered that day. The temperature was down around zero Fahrenheit and although I was well bundled up it wasn’t long before I was feeling it. My first shot knocked the snow off the roof of the shelter, which was entertaining, but then I was unable to group better than about 2-3 inches. Considering I was shooting at 100yds it readily became apparent that no useful data was going to be accrued that day, so we moved on to load testing for the Glock. I won’t go into detail except to say that the load still needs a tweak.

Below is a photo of me shooting my Glock. Well bundled but I still managed to hit the paper.

Handgun load testing Dec 31st 2013

Handgun load testing Dec 31st 2013

I will return to the range on a warmer day to test those loads. Results will follow.


I’m thankful for a 150yd zero.

Back in August I wrote about how the scope on my deer rifle was damaged in transit from the UK (see here for that story), the insurance bought me a new Redfield Revolution 3-9×40 that compared to the original weighs half as much, is much higher quality, and is lacking a lot of useless gimmicks like illuminated reticles and parallax adjustments (not that those things are useless all the time, but for the conditions in which I hunt deer they are not needed).

The deer seasons in the Midwest are usually in October/November time, and although I was keen I was unable to go. I was however invited to shoot at The Compound over Thanksgiving and I decided to use the opportunity to zero the new scope on my deer rifle.

I had already mounted the scope and bore sighted it, but I needed ammunition. I was short of time and so it was tempting to run out and buy some generic factory loads, however I have always shot my own reloads through that rifle and I was unwilling to change that. So in the week before Thanksgiving I rushed around to make it happen.

I was already in possession of powder and primers which I had ordered on the internet. I didn’t want to use my match Lapua cases for hunting in case I lost one, and target bullet heads are inappropriate for hunting, so I had ordered some cheaper Winchester cases and Hornady bullet heads on-line to be delivered to a store. Despite having ordered them more than a month previously they weren’t available for pick-up until the Monday before Thanksgiving and we were leaving Minneapolis to visit Amanda’s family on the Wednesday.

Tuesday afternoon found me driving north out of Minneapolis for the 45 minute drive to Cabela’s in Rodgers Minnesota where my stuff had been delivered. Unfortunately in my distraction I went the wrong way and 45 minutes became a hour and 15, but I made it there and got back okay. After a break for dinner I dug my reloading bench and equipment out of the pile of boxes and packages that contain many of our worldly possessions, and settled down to assemble 50 rounds before bedtime.

*The load I use for hunting is not a scorcher, but it is accurate and has accounted for every one of the seven deer I have taken since I began hunting. I use 40 grains of Vihtavouri N-140 in a full-length sized .308 Win case with a CCI benchrest primer and a 150 grain Hornady BTSP Interlock seated to 2.800 inches. I have used this load on every size of deer from full grown Fallow to the naturally diminutive Muntjac, and in every case the deer was on the ground within a short distance with no unnecessary meat damage.*

At 1.30am I had all my rounds assembled and my kit packed away.

The drive into Wisconsin was unremarkable and Thanksgiving was a relaxing break from my first semester back at school, I did a lot of napping as well as the obligatory eating and drinking.

On Friday Amanda and I drove over to The Compound where we met up with Jim Brey as well as Leslie and Ryan who were also down for the holiday. Ryan had never shot a gun before so Jim was going to give him a go as well.

We set up at my preferred zero distance of 150 yards, this allows me to aim dead on out to 200 yards and thus minimises errors caused by misjudging range. Ryan had a go first and got a credible 4 inch group with a 30-06 rifle, then it was my turn. Jim has a very nice shooting bench with a gun rest that made the whole process very simple.

The author zeroing his .308 rifle at 150 yards

The author zeroing his .308 rifle at 150 yards

My first shots were almost off the bottom of the target and about six inches right, but a few clicks got me towards the middle. I couldn’t quite see the point of impact through the scope so Jim ran me down to the target on the back of his four wheeler (quad bike for my UK readers) and I was able to get it into the middle. We had a short break for me to warm my fingers and Ryan took the opportunity to make some noise with a 9mm. When my fingers were back to operating temperature I shot a final group to see what could be done. I fired one shot into the corner of the target to warm the barrel then I fired three for the group.

The author with his zero target

The author with his zero target

I achieved a 5/8 inch group centre to centre (see pic below), which I thought wasn’t bad for 150 yards. The target was the same one we had been using all day and patching with tape, so it was a bit ratty, but I decided to keep it anyway.

three round group at 150yds

three round group at 150yds