Precision Shooting 1-Part 1: The Basics of Your Rifle
Scope mounts break down into two components: mounting rails and mounting rings. The rail that mounts on the top of the receiver can come in a one piece base or in two pieces. And the rings are available in many different fashions. I am just going to give you my opinion on this and skip the detail of other fabrications.
For the top rail, I like both the one and two piece bases although I use only the one piece on my rifles. Installation is easier, there is more room to adjust your scope and for other add-ons, that we will go over later on. The down side is that you cannot get your fingers into the open receiver from the left side of the rifle as easily. I thought that the one piece would be a hindrance however that has become more of a misnomer than anything else. I choose the “Badger Ordinance” twenty minute of angle, one piece base and their matching rings. High quality base and rings make a large difference and the Badger Maximized series of scope rings and rails are made to the highest tolerances in the industry.
Badger Scope Rings are machined from steel bar-stock and come numbered in serialized matched pairs. This assures that both rings are identical and eliminates the damaging effects of mismatched mass produced rings. Install poor quality rings on your rifle and you may find yourself with a broken lens inside your scope when attempting to mount it. Poor quality equipment is available everywhere at inexpensive prices. But poor quality equipment can lead to big problems down the road.
Here is one example: This last year a friend of mine purchased new rings for a new scope that he was going to be mounting on his new rifle. As he has had this as a project for quite some time he was pretty excited about it. He installed the new rings, torqued them to the required specs and then began to mount the scope. He placed the top half of the rings onto his scope and began to torque them down to the required twelve inch pounds of pressure. All of a sudden we both heard a crackling sound. I was pretty sure what it was and he began to panic. Looking through the scope all he saw was “white”. We removed the scope and rotated it, and heard the sound of broken glass. Looking down through the front objective you could actually see that one of the lenses inside had indeed shattered. This happened twice and was caused by a poorly matched pair of rings that had not been bore lapped with a poor quality scope.
When the rings are bore lapped they fit the scope tube perfectly and do not cause any of the unwanted effects such as the “bowing” of the scope tube or any unnecessary pressure on it. All of the scope’s assets work harmoniously and the parallax will not and should not stick. If it does, return the scope immediately.
Scopes are an interesting piece of equipment. Imagine what goes into building these things. Take Night Force for example. There are approximately eleven lenses throughout the body of the scope. They are hand assembled to strict tolerances by people here in the US who care a great deal about quality. Everything is fitted properly and the reticles are calibrated to perfection. This may be true with Night Force products, but is it true with other scope manufacturers?
The scope itself can be an asset or hindrance, and there are many times when I have gone out to the range to “test” and “qualify” a new scope that was coming out on the market where the turret adjustment click increments were not what they were suppose to be or the reticle was not calibrated correctly or it had a jumping zero and shot two different groups. In fact, I have actually experienced a problem where the front tube of the scope was five-thousands of an inch larger in diameter than the rear tube. When mounted into the rings, the scope “bowed” causing the parallax to stick which in turn caused a series of other problems to develop.
Through all of my experiences, I have found the flowing scopes to be of the best quality in componentry, quality and assembly. They are: 1) Schmidt Bender, 2) Night Force, 3) Leupold M4’s and 4) Hensholdt. At least these are the scopes that I have had experience with that lasted for years and did not fail. These are what I call professional grade and they will last, (in my opinion) a long time and will continue to work exceptional well. We will cover more on this subject later on in the book.
Don’t be discouraged at the pricing of some of this stuff. It can get up there. However once your rifle is established, you have made a tremendous leap forward. Now, there is just a little bit of information and practice that you will need to get yourself confident in longer range shooting. However, once you have your new rifle, you will need to properly break it in.
Breaking in and cleaning your rifle
Break-in procedures are as diverse as cleaning techniques. Shilen, Inc. introduced a break-in procedure mostly because customers seemed to think that we should have one. By and large, we don't think breaking-in a new barrel is a big deal. All of Shilen’s stainless steel barrels have been hand lapped as part of their production, as well as any chrome moly barrel. Hand lapping a barrel polishes the interior of the barrel and eliminates sharp edges or burrs that could cause jacket deformity. It also polishes the throat. This, in fact, is what you are doing when you break-in a new barrel through firing and cleaning. Here is our standard recommendation:
Clean after each shot for the first 5 shots. The remainder of the break-in is to clean every 5 shots for the next 50 shots.
During this 50 shot procedure, don't just shoot bullets down the barrel. This is a great time to begin load development. Zero the scope over the first 5 shots, and start shooting for accuracy with 5-shot groups for the next 50 shots. Same thing applies to fire forming cases for improved or wildcat cartridges. Just firing rounds down a barrel to form brass without any regard to their accuracy is a mistake. It is a waste of time and barrel life.
How do I clean my new barrel?
As with break-in and using coated bullets, you will find many diverse opinions on this subject.
Use a good quality “coated” cleaning rod with a rotating handle. The rotating handle allows the brush or patch to follow the lands and grooves. A non rotating handle forces the brush bristles to jump over the lands and grooves instead of following them.
Use a good brass or bronze brush with a looped end. Do not use a brush with a sharp, pointed end.
Every shooting product manufacturer has their own miracle solvent, and most do the job as advertised. I have been using Hoppes No. 9 for almost forty years. #9 is a carbon cleaner and will not remove too much copper fouling. To me this is ideal. However, if your rifle barrel does indeed stop shooting, a copper solvent by the name of 7.62 will remove all of it. This will allow you to start over by re-breaking in the barrel. Try it, you might just find that your shot out barrel isn’t shot out after all.
Bore guides fit into the chamber area of the receiver. They guide the cleaning rod and prevent it from hitting the chamber, throat and bore. I highly recommended them.
Flannel or cotton patches work the best. Either trim or fold your patch to insure that it will fit snugly into the bore, but not so tightly you have to force it. Forcing a patch causes the rod to flex inside the bore of the rifle. If you are using a coated rod, this usually won't hurt anything, but the uncoated stainless steel rods that some shooters use can batter against the inside of the bore and damage rifling.
Once again, many different procedures abound. All accomplish basically the same thing. Here is ours: With the bore guide in place and the brass jag attached to the end of your cleaning rod, run solvent saturated patches down the bore of your barrel twice. Then, attach a tight fitting brass or bronze brush to your cleaning rod and slide the brush through the bore guide into the chamber with a twisting motion. Push the brush through the barrel until it comes out the end of the muzzle. Now pull the brush back into the chamber guide. This is one "cycle". Make ten cycles. Now, fold or cut a patch for a snug, not too tight, fit; apply some solvent to the patch and push the patch all the way through the bore and out the muzzle. As you draw the rod back, the patch should fall off. Put on a dry patch and do the same thing until it is clean. Repeat the process with a patch as necessary. If you are through shooting for the day, lightly wet a patch with light viscosity machine oil such as “Kroil” to prevent or retard rust. Push this patch through the bore. Let it drop out the muzzle, and you are done.
How clean is clean?
A rifle barrel does not have to be spotless to shoot great. Many times more harm than good is done in trying to get it that way. Picture a car's fender. If the fender has a small dent in it, then professional application of body putty fills the dent. When painted over, the dent becomes unnoticeable, and the surface of the fender is smooth and consistent. The same thing happens in a rifle barrel on a microscopic level. Removing this small trace of copper puts you right back to square one. The next bullet that crosses that area will, again, leave a small trace of copper. (Similar to patching a pothole). All successful bench rest shooters shoot one or more "fouler" shots down the barrel before going to the record target. This is not to warm up the barrel. They are resurfacing it on the inside. Bench rest shooters clean between relays to get the powder fowling out, not the copper. However, since copper usually comes out with the powder, they know that it must be replaced to get "back in the groove".
Ward Brien is a US Army Veteran, owner of Sniper Tools Design Co., LLC and the inventor of the "Angle Co-Sine Indicator," which is sold and under contract to different branches of the US military, British military and others. Located in the top of the Colorado Rockies, Ward also instructs a specialized three day Precision Shooting 1 course to hunters and has trained military and other government agencies.
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