Re: Leveling the Scope Reticle for Long Range Rifles
Having sought long-range accuracy since the mid-1960s, it seemed like hit-or-miss mechanics dominated my ability as long as I used the conventional bases and rings of the day.
Granted, I achieved some excellence results early on with the then-new 6.5mm Rem Mag despite its shorter barrel and light weight. Under half-inch groups became the norm with that rifle, but I was unable to duplicate that consistency as I built on larger caliber rifles including Brownings early (1990s) M-1000 with thumbhole stock, heavy barrel and BOSS.
No combination of hand loads, higher-priced scopes, or radical bench-rest oriented stocks seemed to make a real difference, until the early 2000s when I bought a new bottom-of-the line Savage .17 HMR for truck carry around the farm.
Determined not to put a $300 scope on a $100 rifle, I bought a cheap 3X9 TASCO scope and a decent pair of $20 groove-mounting rings which easily mounted to the top of the rifle's grooved receiver (which I cleaned up both mounts and receiver grooves a bit with a fine 3-cornered file). I used a bore laser to quickly align the scope cross-hairs at about 10 yards. Then tightened it all in place.
Using a modified version of the 1-5-5-5-shot barrel break-in, I took no special care in shooting into the dirt in the backyard or cleaning the .17 cal. barrel. I didn't expect much so I had a built-in excuse if it didn't group.
But the cheap build shot 1/2-inch groups at 50 yards and got progressively better as I shot and cleaned the barrel!
In my estimation, the weak link of my previous builds was the scope mounting system - because there are/were too many mechanical connections incorporated into mounting bases and rings. And all of my old dove-tail windage-adjusted mounts have now been replaced.
I've long since incorporated the Wheeler leveling system for both the action and the scope, but still rely on the bore laser to proof the final alignment.
On a Rem 700 action, I recent built up a 7mm STW using a DNZ (one-piece scope mount) and admittedly was much more careful than I hand been with the .17 HMR project. But the bore laser was dead-on the vertical cross-hair at 20 yards and the first 10 shots started printing 2-inches high at 100 yards, and grouped inside 0.715" with the last three shots of 140 gr. Remington factory ammo.
Granted, I may not be able to better that performance with hand loads and Berger bullets - but considering time, effort, and total investment, the proper mounts, alignment & leveling of the scope has already helped in building the same level of confidence I had with the 6.5mm Rem Mag. And the 7mm STW remains a very promising work-in-progress.
And generally speaking, money can't buy that kind of confidence afield.