Hello all. I have posted some recent queries on a few forums about bench and prone technique. I have tried these various suggestions but am still getting fliers. I am having some problems getting consistent groups from my 300 Win Mag big game rifle. It weighs 9.5# with scope. I have been shooting for more than 30 years and reloading for 20 years. I am generally a very good shot and successful hunter. I have taken deer at various ranges including 300, 330, 360 and 508 yards (all one shot kills) from field positions (no bench or sandbags). I have hunted varmints from preschool and have taken rockchucks out to 640 yards.
I am having some problems lately though with a recently rebarreled rifle. It had been a Winchester Model 70 in 300 Win Mag with their BOSS attachment. I finally came up with a load that shot well. It used a 200 grain Nosler Partition at 3000 fps and it was in an 8# rifle with scope (the BOSS muzzle brake reduced recoil though). I had restocked it with a kevlar stock. That load would consistently give me 0.9" 3 shot groups at 100 yards. Now my rifle is not braked and it is recoiling more. I am quite confident that I am not flinching but I do think that the recoil is causing some problems. I am quite baffled as to what I need to do to get consistently small groups. I have shot many small groups with this gun (sub 0.75 MOA with many in the 0.5 MOA range) but often get fliers that I cannot account for. I think it has to do with the recoil and how I am handling it. I mostly think it has to do with my equipment setup but I am not sure what needs to change.
The rifle has a Rimrock synthetic stock and is glass bedded and the barrel is freefloated. Everything is tight. The scope is a tried and true Leupold. I think the main problem has to do with my front rest. I have tried positioning the rifle on the front rest where the barrel attaches to the action and further forward out towards the front sling stud. This positioning does not seem to make any difference. I have tried using my non-shooting hand to pinch the rear bag to fine tune the sight alignment and I have tried holding the stock between the front and rear rests with my non-shooting hand. Still getting fliers. The bench I use is an Armor Portable Shooting Bench. It has a wood top with metal legs. I have used it for years and it is very stable. My front rest is a Hart pedestal rest with a sandbag top. I use a bunny ear rear sandbag. I think the sandbag on the front rest it too hard and may be causing the fliers. I plan to try to remove the bag and replace it with a softer bag. My handloads are high quality.
I do not think the problem is the ammunition or the gun. I think it is me (how I roll with the recoil) or the equipment (how the rifle may bounce differently shot to shot). I have tried so many different things to get consistent groups that I am starting to pull my hair out. I feel that I could profit by some professional instruction. If I could show up with my equipment and rifle maybe that professional could immediately recognize what the problem is or he could witness me shooting and see what may be going on. Also I feel that I could use some fine tuning on my prone technique. Last time I shot a long range prone group with this rifle I put 9 shots into 7.4" at 500 yards but 6 of those were in 3.4". While I recognize that that is very good shooting for most people I also recognize that the rifle and load are clearly capable of 3.4" groups at that range and I do not like seeing those other 3 shots opening the group up to 7.4". That same load from the bench put 12 shots into 5.2" at 400 yards with 10 of those in 2.75". Again I hate seeing those fliers. I am an accomplished hunter and game shot. I just have these nagging fliers with this gun. My other guns are shooting very well and consistently but they are much lower in recoil.
I think that if I could get together with someone who is shooting a similar rifle (9.5# or less 300 Win Mag or more powerful cartridge with sporter stock) from the bench and getting consistent groups (whether they be 0.3" or 0.5" or 0.75" so long as they are consistent) then in an hour or so I would probably have it figured out. Do you have any thoughts as to what I may be doing wrong? I apologize for this very long-winded story. Rufous.
I did go out and do some shooting this morning. I shot at 400 yards. Today though I tried something new. I removed the sandbag (it was quite hard) from my front rest so that I ended up with just a flat platform. Then I placed a softer bag on that platform. The first group was fired while using my non-shooting hand at the rear bag to fine tune sight alignment. It was somewhat windy and I was not using wind flags. I just waited until the breeze on my face felt the same. It was a 3.13" 3 shot group with 2" horizontal and 3" vertical. The second group was fired on a different target and I held the stock with my non-shooting hand. That group was 2.08" 3 shot with 2.08" vertical and 1.4" horizontal. The third group was in the same manner as the 2nd group and was fired at the same spot as the 2nd group. It measured 2.24" with one of the shots 1.8" further left than any of the other 5 shots fired at that spot. So 6 shot group size was 4.5" at 400 yards with one of those left of the others and one of those high from the others. 4 shots went into 1.48". The last group was 4 shots using the same technique as the first group (non-shooting hand at rear bag) and was fired at the same spot as the first group. Those last 4 shots went into 2.75" with 3 of them in 0.9". All 7 shots fired with that technique went into 4.7". The last group was 3" left of the first group. The shots fired while holding the stock with my non-shooting hand were on average 1" high of point of aim while the groups fired without holding the stock were on average 1" low. Even so all 13 shots would have been in 6". Not bad considering that I was dealing with some wind and two different holding methods. The gun is shooting well and I have a good load for it. The trick seems to have been to get rid of the hard front bag. I still am not sure if holding the stock is better than using my non-shooting hand to tweak the rear bag. If I had fired all shots using the same technique I presume that I would have had a 13 shot group size of 4.7" since the group centers were off by 2" vertical. Anyway I think I am on my way to better, more consistent shooting with this heavier kicking gun, now that I am using a softer front bag. Rufous.
This might not be your problem, but one should make sure that the front swivel-stud does not come into contact with the sandbag during the shot (recoil). We find that such contact will throw shots, particularly if the sandbags are firm.
I just did some scope tests and had some flyers from a rifle that does not throw flyers. Usually shoot this rifle from a Harris bipod but did not put it on so had to use a pedastal and sandbag. Didn't notice that the swivel was hitting the bag at first, the swivel made indentations in the front of the bag. Put on a Harris and the flyers quit. Could also have simply adjusted my shooting position to place the forend (McMillan A-2) more foreward to avoid the contact.
We fill our sandbags with the little plastic beads available for making beanie-babies - get them cheap from craft stores. The guys I shoot with don't like sand in their bags as it compacts and doesn't have any "give" during the shot.
We also find that the light-weight magnums usually shoot best from the bench with firm left-hand contact (pressure pulling into your shoulder) and a good hold with the firing hand also. I usually wear a PAST recoil shield when shooting my magnums on the bench. The trick is to use constant pressure shot to shot. We hold our .308's differently than the .300 magnums from the benchrests.
Ian, thanks for the input. I do not think that the problem is the front stud. I have the rifle positioned such that the front rest is just under where the barrel attaches to the action. Also it looks like since I switched to the softer front bag the fliers have stopped. I will try more shooting with the firm hold. The two groups fired that way at 400 yards averaged 2.16" whereas the two groups fired without holding the rifle with my left hand averaged 2.94". What size beads do you use? They must be very small in order to fit through the fill tube on Protector type sandbags. Also what material do you use for your beanie bag? Thanks again, Rufous.
Ian, I also wanted to ask about your use of the Harris bipod. When you use it on the bench do you have it on the hard bench or on something softer like a folded up towel? I have heard that the bipods can also bounce and cause fliers if they are on a hard surface. Thanks, Rufous.
The beads we use seem to be a standard size plastic filler bead, they are a huge pain in the butt to get into the sandbags but worth the time and bother.
Our bags for the toe of the butt are either leather Protectors (with small rabbit ears) or homemade "sandsock" copies using a light canvas and also some denim. My friend's wife sewed up several sizes, they ares so light when the beads are in them that I carry 4 of them in my shooting bag. The different sizes lets me match the right bag to the shooting position nicely.
You also mention the dreaded "tripod-bounce" when shooting Harris bipods on hard surfaces. We shoot off Harris's a lot, much more than off pedastals. I believe that some rifles seem to respond to hard surface contact with Harris's more than others. We just did a little test - it was not large enough to be stastically significant but seemed to show that there is such a thing as tripod bounce.
When shooting off the concrete benches at one local range we used 4 fairly heavy LR rifles (12-14 pounds - little puppies compared to Darryl's rifles...). We shot them with the Harris's directly on the concrete top and then placed a padded canvas guncase or a small piece of in-door-outdoor carpet under the Harris and re-shot. We only had one rifle that seemed to shoot better without the padding, that was out of four rifles and two or three groups per rifle. Not a big sample but I put padding under my Harris for any rifle when I shoot off the concrete, or any hard surface for that matter.
I have a nice oversized soft guncase from Cabelas that will hold a big rifle complete with large scope and bipod and usually throw it down under the Harris.
We have also found that some lighter rifles just won't shoot from Harris bipods, I suspect that the stocks flex and disrupt barrel harmonics. One out of the box .257 Weatherby synthetic in particular just won't shoot off a Harris - 3 to 4 inch groups that settle down to 1.00-1.25 inch 100 yard groups from the pedastal.
Perhaps other shooters here have better-founded opinions, that is just what I have found so far regarding tripod bounce.
I got back from a Coues deer hunt in mexico 2 days ago. While sighting in at 100 yards with the feet of my Harris bipod on the available gravelly turf I got a scary sized group. I hoped it was only due to the rocky ground. Lately on hunts I have also been sighting in at 500 yards to be sure where my long range point of impact is at the hunting location's elevation/temp/etc. When I set up further back I was more careful to find some better turf to set my bipod on. My subsequent 3-shot, 3 inch group at 500 made me breath more easily (relatively speaking since a flatlander puffs a bit at 4,500 feet of elevation).
A few days later my first shot killed a Coues buck (boy, they are small) at 666 yards. I had time to find a good spot on the ground.
I remember that last August in Alaska I got a poor sight-in group at 500 yards on a gravel landing strip. The size of the group wasn't justified by the modest side wind at the time. Really disconcerting when that happens on an important hunt.
I think I am going to do my own test now on gravel surfaces and on top of my concrete bench top. I may find that I need to carry a type of pad or a pair of bipod foot covers for future hunts in rocky country.