I’ll often get erratic shots when shooting from field positions. The shot goes left/right or high/low for no explained reason. When I shoot from the bench, I seldom if ever experience this.
Your shooting/body position is the problem. It’s doubtful that a “field gremlin” has taken refuge in your rifle. Remove the bolt and do a visual check to confirm. More importantly, note the butt position on your shoulder. Is it in the pocket? Do you have a firm grip on the rifle? Are you pulling the rifle straight back into the shoulder pocket, or is there lateral pressure as well? Is the trigger finger compressing the trigger straight back into the shoulder pocket? Is the rear swivel stud hanging up on your field bag? Is the rifle tracking properly during recoil? Is your breathing cycle consistent?
Field positions can be tough given terrain difficulties. Be certain that all of the above suggestions are in check and that you are not shooting while breathing (causing vertical dispersion) Be sure that the rifle is tracking perfectly for at least 3/8 of an inch without interruption from the ground or shooter (which can cause both vertical and horizontal errors). Go over your mental checklist before each shot. Focus intently on the target and let the trigger squeeze become a sympathetic movement.
On a positive note; your table manners at the bench are pretty good. Most shooters shoot better from the bench than field positions. Bench groups provide a yardstick to match when shooting prone bi-pod or over your pack. When you can duplicate your rifle’s bench accuracy from field positions, you know you are doing everything right!
I get inconsistent chambering with my reloads. Some close easy, while others are kind of hard.
Sizing your brass is the problem! While many folks like to neck size, I prefer to full length size all of my brass and bump the shoulder back .001 of an inch. By doing so, we eliminate the occasional “snug” loaded round and have more consistency in our ammunition. I use a slug of barrel steel and chamber it for the parent cartridge. By inserting the sized case into this gauge, I can accurately measure and adjust my sizing die to bump the shoulder back any amount desired. Note: Be sure to check the OAL of your brass as well. Oftentimes shooters neglect to trim their brass and the out of spec. OAL can cause the tight chambering.
Accuracy falls off in my rifle after 20 rounds or so. I let the barrel cool between groups, but that doesn’t seem to help.
Spare the rod and soil the barrel. Your barrel is obviously fouled and a good cleaning is in order. Most shooters do not clean their rifle properly or have not determined the “FOUL OUT” point with their rifle. Shoot 5 shot groups letting the barrel cool between groups and when the group size is such that you are no longer happy with the accuracy, it is time to clean. This will vary from rifle to rifle. Powder, bearing surface of the bullet, and barrel condition/quality all play a part. When accuracy degrades, be it 10 rounds or 35 rounds, this becomes your cleaning interval for that rifle.
When it is time to clean, use plenty of elbow grease. We recommend 60-80 strokes of a good ammonia solvent, (Barnes CR-10) adding more solvent every 10 strokes. Every 60-80 rounds use Witches Brew Copper Remover to remove the stubborn copper and carbon in the barrel. If you have access to a bore scope, use it to determine if this cleaning regimen is proper for your barrel. Forget about wet patches, spermicide foaming cleaners and other gimmicks. Scrubbing with good solvents and the use of a copper bronze brush is the best way to maintain accuracy.
My “Testosterone Magnum” has quit shooting. The barrel is clean, but it refuses to shoot. I’ve only shot 6 or 700 rounds through the gun.
It may be time for a new tube. Most “newbies” think barrels last forever. Well, think again. That 338 Lapua you necked to 25 caliber will not last very long. When you are burning 80-110 grains of powder, throat erosion and heat checking are major concerns. Have the barrel bore-scoped to determine the throat condition. If it looks like a dry lake bed, you’re in trouble. When patching the bore, if you feel the patch snag and drag in the throat area, this too is an indicator of a worn barrel. Buck up and have it replaced. It’s the cost of entertainment, and the price we all pay for our shooting pleasure. Note: a 308 Winchester is good for around 3500-4000 rounds before accuracy starts to drop off. A 257 STW? Around 600-700 rounds and it’s toast. It’s not a bad idea to build a practice rifle in a milder caliber allowing longer life before re-barreling. A 6mm BR, Dasher, 7-08 or 308 are good rounds to choose when barrel life, mild recoil, and cost effective ammunition are a consideration. Remember: the shooting techniques are the same, and practice does make perfect when that shot of a lifetime presents itself.
Until next time.....
Darrell Holland is a Custom Riflesmith and designer of Advanced Reticle Technology in Leupold, Schmidt & Bender and NIGHTFORCE rifle scopes. Darrell offers an intense 4 day shooting school that is ideal for long range hunters and tactical enthusiasts.