Thursday, May 17, 2012

Back To The Fun of Shooting

During the month of May - 2010, I was in Alberta Canada hunting Black Bear.  Now I am not going to tell you a story about there being 50,000 Bear in this one Area of Canada.  I’m not going to tell you about all of the Bear in the different color phases (blonde, chocolate or cinnamon) that I saw.  I’m not going to tell you about having Bear trying to climb up the same tree I was sitting in.  I’m going to talk about all the fun we had shooting 22’s every morning before the afternoon Bear hunt.

When I was a kid, I thought the most fun in the whole world was to go out and shoot either Rabbits or Varmints.  Back in those days, Deer hunting was for the meat. If I was able to shoot a nice Mule deer, we had a supply of meat for the winter.  The deer hunting season was short, just two weeks and when that was over, most hunters would put away their 30-30 or 30-06 rifles until the following year.  After the season ended, I was always looking for a way to be able to go shooting.  I knew of areas in the woods where plenty of rabbits and squirrels hung out.  I also knew of several great areas in the plains, where the farmers wanted you to come out and shoot prairie dogs and ground squirrels.  If I was lucky where the prairie dogs were, you could find an occasional coyote, and there was a two dollar bounty on coyote.  If I could happen to get two or three coyotes I could pay for my weekend of shooting.

I had a good 22 rifle which my mom had bought for me and it was great for rabbits and squirrels, but anything out beyond 100 yards was pretty safe.  The coyotes seemed to know my range and would hover about 150 yards away picking up the ground squirrels I had shot.  I needed more rifle and a longer range gun.  I decided to build my first wildcat caliber and selected the 17 Ackley Mag.  Now this rifle was great, it would vaporize the prairie dogs and ground squirrels out to 400 yards and the coyotes never had a chance.  There were a few problems with this caliber though.  First, if you shot anything that you wanted to keep and eat, forget it, there was not enough good meat left to make a sandwich.  Second, the barrel fouled or got dirty after about 15 shots.  So I would have to clean it before the accuracy would come back.  Third, it took special cleaning tools to clean a 17 caliber rifle. The cleaning rods were so small in diameter that I was always bending the cleaning rod and that would end my shooting for the day or weekend. The last problem was finding quality 17 caliber bullets.  All of the ammo I shot, I had to make and finding the bullets was getting harder and more expensive all the time. 

The next rifle I started shooting was a 22-250 which I borrowed from a friend.  This rifle was the perfect answer for my weekend prairie dog shooting.  I could hit dogs out to 400 plus yards and could hit a walking coyote beyond 300 yards.  I could shoot 40 or 50 times before I had to clean the bore and ammo was easy to make or I could even buy factory ammo if I had to. On a good weekend, I could make money with this rifle by shooting 4 or 5 coyote.  My normal weekend shooting would be to take out my 3 favorite rifles and set up above a dog town and blast away with the 22 at the close targets.  Later when the ground squirrels would get smart and not come out at 75 or 80 yards, then the big guns would come out and I could shoot 200 rounds of ammo in a good day.  The coyotes were curious about the shooting and wanted to get a free lunch and would come around to see what they could snatch up.  Any coyote that would stop for more than 5 or 6 seconds would be mine.  I soon learned how to shoot the smart ones that would never stop and just slow to a walk.  I would try a few running shots but that was just a waste of good ammo.

I started remembering all the fun I had when I was a kid on the first morning after arriving in Bear camp.  One of the other hunters asked me if I had ever shot ground squirrels.  I told him I had, but it was a long time ago.  He said he and his wife were going out to shoot some and asked if I wanted to go.  He armed me with a bull barreled 22 with a very old 4 power scope and we hopped into a Suzuki 4 wheel drive and headed out.  We didn’t have to drive far before seeing all of the holes in the farmer’s fields.  There must have been thousands of ground squirrels in this area.  The squirrels had done so much damage there was no way you could ride a horse in these fields.  I was surprised that the cows had not broken any legs in the holes.  The sun came out and the squirrels started popping out of their holes.  I became a kid again.  Any squirrel out to 75 yards would never make another hole in the ground.  We had 2 rifles so we would take turns with 2 shooters and one driver. Between breakfast and lunch we could easily rack up 100 or more ground squirrels.  

We would hunt bear in the afternoon.  From four to about ten every afternoon you would sit in a tree and count the bears coming into the bait.  I was lucky enough to shoot a very nice cinnamon colored black bear on the third day of a six day hunt. 

After I shot my bear, I had to do some filming to finish up a TV show, but as soon as I was done I was out in the fields shooting ground squirrels.  On the last day of the hunt, I spent the whole day blasting away with the 22 and had managed to shoot up 400 rounds of the outfitters ammo.  I had 5 bullets left when I noticed a lone coyote coming in at a trot.  He had his eye on a new calf that had been born that morning.  As he closed the distance on the calf, I set up rock steady on the hood of the Suzuki.  The coyote made a fatal mistake; he stopped at about 80 yards and looked straight at me.  Well, he never bothered the new born calf.

There are some great calibers for Varmint shooting.  I would lump them in to three categories short range, medium range and long range.  For short range shooting nothing beats a good 22 LR.  A 22 Mag or 17 HMR are just as good, but cost a bit more to shoot.  For middle range shooting out to 300 yards I like a 223 Rem.  A 222 Rem. or 17 Rem. or even a 6x45 work good but again 300 rounds of daily shooting can cost a lot more.  For long range shooting beyond 350 yards I think the 22-250 is King.  I also like the 220 Swift or even a 243 Rem. or a custom built 6mm-284 would be great for super long 600 plus yards.  None of these rifles are cheap to shoot, but if you want consistent kills at 400 or 600 yards you need a fast, flat shooting rifle.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Enough Gun for Women - By Carol O'Day

When I first started hunting, my husband bought me a .243 Winchester.  I shot the rifle very well and took the time to learn everything about the rifle and the caliber.  We were not hunting big animals, just Whitetail deer and lots of does.  After shooting several deer, I discovered that the caliber was very “iffy”.  Sometimes it would drop the deer in their tracks and other times the deer would run off and have to be tracked and found 100 or more yards later.  I noticed Kerry’s rifle, a 35 Whelen caliber, never seemed to have this problem. 

I decided very early in my hunting career that I needed a rifle that was capable of cleanly killing any animal that I was going to hunt.  I asked Kerry to build me a 35 Whelen like his.  Most women are afraid of recoil so they are told that they need a small caliber rifle.  I think this is a myth and comes from men believing that a woman is not capable of shooting the same caliber as they do or a bigger caliber than they do.  If a .300 Winchester is too much for a man then it should be too much recoil for a woman to shoot.  Men can’t take recoil any better than I can.  I shoot a .35 Whelen caliber for the big game that I hunt and a 7mm STW for any time that I might need to take a long shot.  My best friend and hunting companion shoots a 375 H&H most of the time and also uses a .270 Winchester for the  smaller game.  One of my good friends, Sandra Sadler also hunts with a 375 H&H and has taken over 100 trophy animals with it.  Another friend, Deb Cunningham, hunts with a 7mm STW and a 338 Winchester.  Deb is about 5 feet 2 inches and weighs nothing, if she has no problem with recoil then no one will! 

The fit of a rifle is very important to every shooter, especially a woman.  I know if a rifle or shotgun fits me then it seems to have less recoil.  If a rifle is too long and I have to stretch to reach the sight picture in the scope, then the rifle is going to kick me more.  A rifle needs to feel comfortable and not be too long.  I can shoot a rifle that is too short, but not one that is too long.  Taking the time to have a gun properly fit to you is the first step in getting ready to shoot accurately and to hunt the game of your choice.  Nice soft recoil pads don’t hurt either.  If a lady is still afraid of the recoil from a rifle or shotgun, then consider having a muzzle-break installed on the rifle or have the shotgun ported.  Muzzle-breaks are great and make it easy to control the recoil of any large rifle.  I see lots of men using them too! 

What is the perfect rifle for a woman to shoot?  It is the same as any man would shoot.  For general hunting in North America, I would pick a 7mm Remington Mag or a 300 Winchester Mag.  For the real big stuff, I like the 375 H&H or the new 375 Ruger.  Both the 7 Mag and the 300 Winchester are capable of cleanly killing most any animal in North America or Africa.   Now, if you are hunting Big Bear (not Black Bear) then I feel the bigger caliber makes more sense.  Any animal that can kill and eat me, commands a lot of respect and I want the biggest caliber I can handle and shoot well when I hunt them.

If you’re a woman, don’t be afraid to try a larger caliber.  Make sure the gun fits you and that you are comfortable in handling it.  Once you have accomplished the fit, all it takes is practice to get use to the gun and the recoil, then you will be ready to go everywhere and hunt anything.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Barrel Break In Made Easy - The easiest way to make your rifle accurate.

Most shooters have heard that you need to break in your rifle barrel. However, most shooters have no idea “why” you need to break in your rifle barrel.   If you buy a custom rifle from any reputable maker it will come with instructions on how to break in the barrel.  However, I have never seen any large rifle manufacturer give instructions or even recommend how to break in a rifle barrel.  Most shooters are so excited to go out and shoot their new rifle; they won’t even clean the barrel before they take it out to shoot it for the first time.  All rifles should be cleaned before shooting.  Rifles are shipped with packing oil or grease, which needs to be removed before you start shooting.  You won’t damage your rifle if you don’t but you will wonder why you are not hitting any thing the first few shots.

Why would you have to clean or break in a new rifle barrel?  The first few shots fired from your rifle are some of the most important shots that you will ever fire.  When a rifle barrel is made, the riflings are cut, as well as, the chamber.  All the cuttings in a rifle barrel are done with buttons or reamers as well as, chamber reamers.  All of these tools will leave small burrs or cut marks inside the barrel.  The last thing you want is for these cut marks to get worse and turn into small holes.  If you end up with small holes in the barrel, these holes will start to strip brass or copper from the bullets.  The holes will also fill up with carbon from the burned powder.  The carbon will start rust or corrosion in the barrel.  The corrosion will make the holes bigger which will strip more brass from the bullets and so on.  What you end up with is a nasty cycle which leads to an inaccurate rifle or one that will have a shortened life. I just worked on a Kimber rifle which would not shoot any more.  The barrel had never been cleaned let alone having had proper break in.  The rifle was ruined and needs a new barrel.   

Well, I have broken in hundreds of rifle barrels in my lifetime, but I have never given one a true test just to see how much breaking in a barrel properly would help with accuracy.  I grabbed a new Remington 700 in 30-06 caliber off the shelf.  I did a quick trigger adjustment, setting the pull at 3 pounds, and then I loaded my favorite 30-06 load of 165gr. Hornady boat-tail bullets and 57 grains of IMR 4350.  I packed my cleaning equipment, 2 boxes of factory ammo and headed to the range. My normal break in procedure is to shoot the rifle, clean it and shoot it again and clean it again.  I do this for the first 10 shots.  I then will clean the barrel after every three shots for the next 20 shots.  This time I wanted to see how much difference breaking in a barrel on a factory rifle could really make. 

The first thing I did was to shoot a three shot group with my handload for both accuracy and velocity.  The group surprised me, a .910 group from a factory rifle with nothing done to it but a trigger adjustment.  The velocity was where I figured it should be at 2784 feet per second with an extreme spread of 55 FPS.  I then cleaned the rifle.  I used the same cleaning routine from then on.  First, I would run a solvent covered brush through the barrel five times, then I would run five Sweets soaked patches through the barrel and follow up with three patches soaked with Gum-Out carburetor cleaner to remove the Sweets.  For the last step, run one dry patch through the gun to dry everything out.  I would then shoot one round of factory ammo.  I did the same shoot and clean, shoot and clean process until I had ten rounds fired through the rifle.  Then, I went to a three shot routine of shooting three shots and clean and shoot three shots and clean.  I used the same cleaning program for the three shots as I did for the one shot.  Some shooters think Sweets is too harsh on the barrel, but I have had great luck with it.  I just don’t let the Sweets sit in the barrel for a long period of time.  Once I start a cleaning job I try to finish it.  I use Gum-Out because it is inexpensive and works as well as any gun solvent I have found. 

I noticed by the time 16 rounds had been fired through the rifle that cleaning became easier.  I had a lot less copper fowling and blue color on the patches than I did when I started.  Maybe it was just me, but it seemed easier to push the patch through the barrel which made me think that the barrel was starting to smooth out.  By the time I had fired and cleaned 31 times, the rifle cleaned very easily with very little blue on the patch.  My last cleaning was very thorough.  I spent more time cleaning the barrel so I could see what kind of group the rifle was capable of with a properly broken in barrel.  I set up the chronograph and fired three shots.  The results amazed me!  The group was under ½ inch at a .260 and the velocity had picked up more than 70 feet per second.  The extreme spread was less than 40 feet per second with an average velocity of 2856 FPS. 

The entire process took just over two hours and by the time I paid range fees, for two boxes of factory ammo, the components to load a box of custom ammo I spent just over $100.00.   Now, that is about the most inexpensive way I know of to make a rifle accurate.  The rifle was very accurate to start with, but the cleaning and shooting just made everything better.  Picking up seventy feet per second is great, but the rifle might have done this on its own after some shooting time anyway.  But maybe not!  The rifle could have gone the other way and ended up shooting worse than when I started.