Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Long Range Shooting Part 0a - My New Project

**Please note that I was under the impression that the Ruger American Rimfire I had was the 18 inch barrel model but after a quick check, it appears that the LGS was wrong and that mine is ACTUALLY the 22 inch model.**

Sooooo, I'm starting a new project. I'm getting tired of sitting around not doing anything so I need a project. I don't think I will be doing any other projects for a while since this one is a bit on the big side and should take quite a while. One thing I've been interested in has been long range shooting. While I've done a good bit of shooting since I was a kid, I never really thought about stretching out the distances to my target. Every now and then I would get interested in it but the interest would subside. Most of the shooting I've every really done has been under 100 yards. Most of my shooting as a kid was with a air rifles or .22's at short distances (usually less than 50 yards) but as an adult most of my shooting has been at in-door ranges no longer than 25 yards with my handguns. I can still interface with a rifle but, truth be told, I'm not sure I would be proficient at hitting targets with a rifle beyond 100 yards. I know I'd be able to hit those targets at least once but I doubt I would be consistent or have good groups in any shooting position. This lack of experience has me concerned about my abilities as a shooter and firearm enthusiast. Therefore, it is time I started practicing a traditional shooting sport; bench rest. 

I have a clear (or hazy depending on the humidity) goal at the end, which is somewhere around 1000 yards. Yes I intend to, AT SOME POINT, be able to shoot 1000 yards. Lofty goal? Maybe. But that's my objective. I won't consider this project complete until I am able to place 5 out of 10 rounds on a 10 inch steel plate from 1000 yards, and do it in around 20 minutes. Rinse and repeat. If I find myself at the goal (then I'm at the wrong end of the range) then I want to tighten those shots up to 10 out of 10 and maybe even start shooting beyond 1000 yards. I estimate it will take me around 10 years to complete Phase Three of this project assuming that I will be able to complete it at all. If I catch the long range shooting bug maybe I will do this competitively. I have laid out a plan that should help get me started basing that plan on various factors, primarily my financial situation and perceived skill level.

Being on a severe budget for the next few years, I don't have much cash to throw around, especially on a non-necessity item, so buying a high end dedicated rifle, excellent optics and reloading gear and supplies will NOT be an option for a few years. Did I mention that this was a long term goal?  I currently do not have a modern centerfire rifle that I would consider sufficient for those kinds of distances. In fact the only centerfire rifle I currently own is a Mosin Nagant M91/30 from 1943. I don't know if it would be good enough for even 100 yards but even if it was I'm not interested in making modifications to it as it is part of my WWII rifle collection. Then again it appears to have been a sniper rifle at some point and I haven't shot it past 50 yards so I might take it out and shoot it anyway; maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

The Plan - Start Little, Get Big

I designed the plan around my financial situation. I chose to start small and with a gun I already have; a Ruger American Rimfire in .22 Long Rife. No I will not be shooting .22 Long Rifle out to 1000 yards but from 25 to 100 yards I should be okay. It also helps that .22 LR is usually cheaper than just about every centerfire cartridge even if I was reloading. I won't be buying reloading gear just yet but I did have to purchase a scope, a mount, some rings and bag rest, so I did it cheaply while trying to keep quality in mind. I will do a write up on the gear I bought in a different post, but for now I'm using a bolt action .22 LR Ruger American Rimfire with 18 inch barrel, a BSA .22 Sweet 3-9x40 scope, Weaver Quad Lock rings, Weaver #12 scope bases and Caldwell Deadshot bags. This should let me get started with working on the basics; familiarizing myself with a bolt action rifle, being behind a scope along with things like mental focus, breathing, trigger pull, consistency, etc. It's my opinion I don't need a powerful centerfire rifle to learn the basics; just ask the lovely Kirsten Weiss about .22 LR.. The .22 is only the first step in my plan. The big stuff comes into play later on.

Other than the gear, there are a few things I still need before I start this process. THE biggest issue facing me throughout this process is finding a place where I can shoot. Most of the ranges available to the public are in-door ranges and typically only have distances of 25 to 50 yards which could suffice but none of them around here have benches to rest on or even allow you to sit while in the lane. Yes, Ms. Weiss can make crack shots while standing but she is also an Olympic class shooter (and in great shape!) Dur, uhh, eh, I mean, an athlet... (ah who am I kidding, she's a good looking lady that I'd like to take to dinner)......

HEY! Stop day dreaming and focus!

Right. Ranges. So for Phase One, I need to find a range with distances of at least 100 yards with benches. I can't find any around me that don't require me to be apart of a club and I'm trying to keep this in the same state at least early on. Therefore, I will be attempting to join a shooting club. Of all the ranges I've found that meet my requirements the one that appears best belongs to a group called AGC or Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore. The AGC has an amazing facility up around Marriottsville which is super close to me. To have access to the ranges there I will need to have a range badge. To get a range badge, I have to be established with a gun club in the area. I've settled on Monumental as they are also close to me but are rather large and have many disciplines; they may even provide me with a mentor. They only meet every 3rd Saturday of the month so I'm hoping to get out there this weekend as I missed last months'. I'm so excited! But wait, there's more! To join the club I have to put in an application and pay yearly dues, which is okay, but I also have to have, dun dun DUHHH, an NRA membership. Knowing this, I started my annual NRA membership about two months ago; I just got my membership card this week. Once I have attained membership status with Monumental and completed safety orientation then I can purchase an annual range badge from AGC. The badge gets me access to the ranges anytime I want during range hours for that year. The only issue is that the longest range they have is 200 yards so I will also be looking for another range as I progress through the later Phases. I know the Quantico Shooting Club has a 1000 yard range, as well as a 300 yard range, but membership has a 60 mile radius limitation and I might be JUST shy of that radius. I will have to find out to be sure but this is a later date.

From what I can tell, the range I will likely be shooting at the most is the "Barnes Range" at ACG. It's a 100 yard, multipurpose range that appears to have 10 lanes dedicated to bench rest. You can shoot handguns and rifles but I have concerns that I may not be able to put up targets less than 100 yards. This will make things a little difficult as I get started. They do have a 200 yard range that you can put targets at 50, 100 and 200 yards called the Hi-Power range but I'm assuming that I will be limited to centerfire rifles and won't be able to use my rimfire rifles. At this point I'm limited to ACG if I want a short drive. Of course, this would all be easier if I lived closer to home. Then I would just go to the family's farm where I could shoot long range and put my targets at any distance (as long as it's safe and still on the property) and do it all for free. Owning property is at the top of human rights for sure; BTW the right of "pursuit of happiness" was originally "pursuit of property". Too bad I don't actually own any but I'm happy that my family does. Assuming I have found a good range to use then I can move along with my plan.

Here's the break down:

Phase One - 50 to 100 yards - Goal: Shoot reasonable groups at distance and practice basics. Setup my .22 rimfire rifle for distances between 50 and 100 yards. Practice as cheap as possible as often as possible for the next 2 years.

Phase One Rifle Build: Ruger American Rimfire with 18 inch barrel in .22 LR, BSA Sweet 22 3-9x40, Weaver style #12 mounts, Weaver Quad Lock scope rings. Possible stock option includes Boyd's laminated stock in Blue. Few other modifications will occur at all, if any can be made to the gun. During the 2 year time frame, estimate viability of purchasing a new centerfire rifle; if purchase is possible then move to Phase Two, if not possible I might make some upgrades to the Ruger and keep shooting until I can buy new gear. I will test the Mosin for viability if I get desperate but mostly because I don't shoot it mch. I could try handloads to in an attempt to improve shot groups of the Mosin but I have ZERO expectations of groups less than 4 MOA at 100 yards; just being realistic here. If shooting the Mosin becomes a thing, I won't consider it as moving onto Phase Two, it will just be part of Phase One until I can buy a new rifle.

Phase Two - 100 to 300 yards - Goal: Consistently shoot 5 inch, 5 shot groups at 300 yards; Learn to read the wind. Learn to judge windage and elevation holdovers at distance without need to adjust scope. Learn to reload and develop handloads. Get used to large caliber recoil. Use of fixed magnification scope is preferred.

Phase Two Rifle Build: Purchase factory rifle in .308 Winchester, preferably under the $500 mark. Options include but not limited to Remington 783, Mossberg 4x4 or ATR, Ruger American or Predator. Acquire rings, mount, scope, reloading gear and other stuff. I already have a few ideas on where to go with this setup and what gear to buy. This rifle isn't meant to be a high quality competition rifle. This will simply be a budget build and general purpose rifle. The SWFA SS fixed magnification scope in either 6x42 or 10x42 is on my list for possible scope; most likely the 6x for the distances involved and type of use. If it turns out this rifle is okay for longer distances then I can buy the 10x later as these scopes are very well priced. I will have to decide if I will be using MRADs or MOA for calculations. I'll probably go with MRADs for simplicity. The rifle COULD be used as a basis for another build later on. If the rifle ends up being accurate enough at longer distances then practicing out to 500 yards or more is an option but not considered Phase Three.

Phase Three - 300 to 1000 yards - Goal: Place 5 out of 10 rounds on 10 inch target at 1000 yards in 20 minutes. Be able to calculate variables and make scope adjustments as needed. Learn about whatever things I might not even currently know about that I need to know to make this work.

Phase Three Rifle Build: Factory Remington 700 w/ bull barrel then accurize as needed or scratch build from custom 700 short action clone (such as a Surgeon action) and choose custom barrel (such as Krieger or TrueFlite). I will have to choose a cartridge for this rifle. I want it to be nice and be used as a mixed application rifle; say 80% target, 20% hunting. Building from scratch is likely the best idea. I'm already thinking about how this rifle will be made since this is the end goal but I would like to start building it by the end 2018. I'm mixed on this build. This rifle will have some level of customization but I'm not sure if I want to start with a factory gun or just custom build one from an action. I'm not worried about the money on this build as much because I'm expecting my financial situation to improve before this point but I still want to keep the gun under $2500. To achieve the needed accuracy out of a factory Rem 700 I would likely have to have it blueprinted, or other such operations, by a good gunsmith, likely requiring a disassembly then reassembly of the rifle. Starting with a custom rifle action without barrel might eliminate the need for such operations and would only require a good gunsmith to assemble the firearm and do any final smithing to make it reliable. Then again, it may end up being better for me to just spend more money and have a custom manufacturer build a rifle for me. If the rifle ends up not being sufficient for the task, well then I will build one that is. Phase Three won't be complete until I can achieve the stated goal. I will go into depth about the Phase Three rifle build more in Post 0b.

Phase Four - Or maybe it's Phase Three and a Half - Goal: This would only be to get to that 10 out of 10 shots on target requirement and maybe to go further. If the rifle(s) from Phase Three were only good enough to achieve the 5 out of 10 goal then a new rifle would be built. I would build a completely custom rifle specific for long range shooting. No dual purpose rifles here, only bench rest rifles meant for 1000 yards or more. I might compete with this rifle if I catch the bug. This would likely be in 6mm BR or similar. This would be a very expensive setup.

Phase Five - Okay this is just getting ridiculous - Goal: 2000 yards or more. If I ever get to this point I'll likely have grey hair.

Phase Five Rifle Build: All I have to say is CheyTac .408 or .50 BMG. Enough said.

Phase Eleven - WTF, this thing doesn't even go to eleven - Goal: I'ma shoot the moon with a Daisy RedRider YO! Okay I'm done. No there isn't a Phase Six through Eleven. Phase Five isn't even likely to be a thing beyond me trying to be funny on this particular post. Phase Four COULD actually happen but it wouldn't be for about 10 years from now. I did say this was a long term goal right? Hell, I'll most likely end up moving on to something else like 3-gun or IDPA style shooting.

Clearly this post is getting out of hand in length and content but I do have more. Before I end this, I want to say that much of the plan could change as I learn more about this discipline. Look for Part 0b soon.

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