In fact, when I first started seriously experimenting with beyond-500-yards prairie dog shooting some years ago my first choice was a custom Patriot Arms rifle in .260 Remington, loaded with 120-grain Nosler Ballistic Tips. The best scope I had for the purpose back then was a 4.5-14x Simmons V-Tac featuring a milradian-based reticle and tall adjustment turrets, with the windage turret on the left side of the scope where it could be twirled while aiming, a handy feature (at least for a right-handed shooter). But the 1" tube of the scope limited elevation adjustment, and with the scope cranked all the way up the bottom cross hair of the reticle was good only to around 750 yards, though the bullets did drift a lot less than any .224 bullets then available.
The lessons learned pointed toward a bigger 6.5mm cartridge and a 30mm-tubed scope. This is exactly how John had set up his 26"-barreled rifle, with a 30mm tubed, 8.5-32x Pentax Lightseeker 30 in Talley steel rings. I already had thoroughly wrung out my rifle during the previous summer’s prairie dog shooting, so there would be some basis for comparison. I hadn’t hit any prairie dogs at 1,000 yards, but had shot several at ranges out to 800 and scared the heck out of others at longer distances.
In my rifle the most accurate load was a 140-grain Berger VLD combined with Hodgdon H1000 for just under 3,000 fps. This grouped very well at 100 yards, but even more telling was shooting at 700 yards, where all groups ran under one MOA, and the rifle’s best three-shot group measured 31/2 inches. It also shot very well with heavier plastic-tipped bullets, the most useful projectiles for long-range varminting.
It would be interesting to see how John’s rifle shot in comparison, especially since most shooters seem to regard E.R. Shaw barrels as OK but not great. While they are not hand-lapped competition barrels like those made by Dan Lilja, the E.R. Shaw company retooled completely several years ago and since then their barrels have been quite good. Every barrel company will make a dog now and then, but I have encountered only one “barker” in quite a few Shaw barrels since the retooling. The rest have shot very well indeed, in chamberings from .22 Long Rifle to .30-06 Springfield.
The 6.5/284 turned out to be more consistently accurate than my 6.5-06. The best loads from the two rifles shot about the same, with five shots in 1/2" or so at 100 yards, but the 6.5/284 shot very well with bullets weighing from 95 to 140 grains, while the 6.5-06 shot noticeably better as bullets got heavier. Why this should be so I don’t know, since both barrels have the same contour and the same rifling twist. (Maybe there is some magic in the shorter powder column of the .284 case.)
John Anderson’s rifle apparently is chambered for the Winchester version of the 6.5/284. Though the magazine is long enough to handle the Norma version, the chamber throat allowed bullets to be seated out only to an overall cartridge length of 2.8 to 2.95 inches, the exact length depending on the ogive of the bullet.
The only bullet that simply wouldn’t shoot was the 120-grain Barnes Triple-Shock X-Bullet, which is odd since TSXs usually shoot extremely well. I have handloaded them in more than a dozen cartridges from the .223 Remington to the 9.3x62 Mauser, and rarely have seen them group over an inch at 100 yards, and in the 6.5/284 they grouped over two inches.
John Anderson wanted to use this rifle for medium game as well as for varmints, and of the bullets tried the 120-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip would be most suitable. I have seen this bullet used on several deer and pronghorn, once from a 6.5/284, and it is a quick killer, yet holds together very well. It also expands easily on long-range varmints, even prairie dogs.
For a relatively light-recoiling varmint load the 95-grain Hornady V-Max load would be superb, and for extreme long-range shooting of varmints or targets the 140-grain Hornady A-Max load would do very well. This bullet isn’t designed for big game hunting, but I know some hunters who have used it on deer and antelope with satisfactory results.
All the test loads used Norma brass and Federal 210 primers. Loads were assembled in two sets of dies, from Hornady and from Redding. Unfortunately, the road to my longer range still was blocked by snow at the time of testing, so all groups were shot at 100 yards. The only “problem” encountered was that in almost every test group the first shot landed slightly above the last four shots. The source of this anomaly could not be traced. I’d fixed the bedding of the barrel before starting to shoot, sanding away a couple of spots in the fore-end that touched the barrel. All screws on the rifle and scope mounts were tightened correctly. There didn’t appear to be any stress on the scope itself. All the handloads were checked for bullet runout on a Sinclair gauge, none testing over 0.003". The fliers weren’t a vast distance from the main group, but when the other four shots often create one hole in the paper, a fifth hole only 1/4" above stands out! Consequently the accuracy for each load listed is for the last four shots in each group, without the high first-shot flier. Maybe John Anderson can solve this mystery when he does get some time to shoot his very accurate 6.5/284.
The VARMINT HUNTER Magazine, a 208-page publication put together for shooters by shooters. The Varmint Hunters Association, Inc. hosts several 600-yard IBS matches, a coyote calling contest, and an annual Jamboree in Fort Pierre, SD. The Jamboree is a week-long shooting event known as "a summer camp for shooters".
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