Dialing The Truth
Proving Your Scope's Accuracy
Box To Bench Precision Targets
By Les Voth
I come up to the line in a comp stage repeating a mantra in my head, "Trust your dope. Trust your dope. Trust your dope." When you don't have confidence in your dope you start shooting at all four corners of your target hoping to get a hit you can build something on.
That sucks for hunting critters.
My dope was okay, but still a stitch out. I didn't know why, though. My rifles shot little bitty groups. I could even clean the RLR know-your-limits rack at 650 yards when I'm all calm, cool and collected. Although I hadn't run an extensive scope tracking test, it always came back to zero, so it's good, right?
I was coming to the line with confidence to about 700-750 yards. After that I was dialing what my dope said and holding at about 10:30. I could drop it in off barricades at just over 50% on an 18" circle on the first shot out to 1000. Then I could make hold corrections based on what I saw, and if I could stay steady, I was satisfied.
I got the book thrown at me with this exercise, though.
Box To Bench Precision, LLC, of Kettle Falls, Washington sent me some very unique new hunting targets to preview. I glanced over the targets and the instructions that came with them - Instructions. For. Targets. Huh! I knew I could ace this (Ha!), so I waited for the Red River Valley lake bottom land to firm up after the spring thaw and went out to go through the motions.
Trapper's laser-like 6SLR.
Packing a box of 100 freshly handloaded 6mm Creedmoor and a heavy tube-full of B2B hunting targets I drove to McVille, ND, the site of The Valley Ranch Run - the beautiful location of the NRL Border War Precision Rifle Series match on May 18th of this year.
These targets are to be set up at exactly 100 yards, perpendicular to the shooter and square to the world. Your rifle needs to be zeroed at the same 100 yard distance.
In the past I zero-ed at 100 yards and called it good. Plug in scope height, bullet BC, muzzle velocity, Mils or MOA - all the usual stuff. Run off a sheet with come-ups in ten yard increments out to 1200 yards and I'm good.
Wind? I held that based on my lifetime experience of hunting and practice. I was even somewhat satisfied with my performance - until these B2B targets started showing up with holes in all the wrong places, then no holes where there should be holes.
Along the bottom of the 38" tall target are three orange aiming points, numbered 1, 2 and three, from left to right. As you can see in the accompanying photos there are multiple animals with target circles at various heights on the paper.
Simply put, you are directed to hold your crosshairs on a specific one of the three numbered orange dots at the bottom, dial your scope from your 100 yard zero setting to a predetermined position - say 4 MOA UP and 3.75 MOA LEFT or 32 MOA UP and 7.25 MOA RIGHT - and your shot should impact the circle on that designated animal silhouette.
After your shot attempt at that animal, re-zero your scope, move to the next set of directions, dial and repeat until finished, frustrated, validated or vindicated.
Frustrated? I was. I took my 6 Creedmoor - which I trust to hit whatever I point it at - and I couldn't make it shoot. Mostly it was because I had removed the adjustable cheek piece, and forgotten to replace it and the recoil pad spacer I had removed as part of a bad experiment.
My backup, or the rifle I brought as rifle-case ballast, was then put into action.
Trapper's completed target which proved my theory of this being a bad idea - wrong.
A blueprinted Remington, it has a 27.5" Remington Varmint weight Kreiger 6.5 barrel, Bix 'n Andy trigger, Vortex HS LR FFP 6-24X50 MOA scope and an adjustable Bell & Carlson stock. If I want confidence in the field - that's the rifle I grab going out the door.
My first attempt to connect with every animal on the target was a failure. My next trip was the same. Careful shooting had me close up to about 16 MOA of adjustment - but after that every shot went high and higher. The highest target, which requires 32 MOA of adjustment, wasn't even on the paper.
The next day I called Vortex - cuz it couldn't have been my fault, right? Vortex gave me a realistic list of reasons why it shouldn't be their product - all things I would have to, and should verify, before sending the scope to Wisconsin.
The target I shot after getting my Leica rangefinder setting in the right position.
I decided to one-up Vortex by proving that a borrowed Nightforce would do what their HS LR would not. I borrowed a Nightforce ATACR 7-35X56 F1from a generous/trusting soul, disengaged the clutch to get it below his zero, went to shooting . . . and got the same result as with my Vortex.
I spent the next day trying to figure out why this target exercise is simply impossible. The sad thing about it being impossible was that the designer had to be wrong somewhere. That didn't make sense and I didn't want to believe that, so I called Trapper.
Always up for a shooting challenge, Trapper showed up at my place the next morning with his Kahles guided laser. This Bartlein barreled 6SLR stuck in an MPA chassis is the epitome of trustworthy. Even I have made a few holes and killed some rocks with it.
My 6.5 topped with the Vortex HS LR that I originally thought couldn't cut it.
We set up a pallet with a sheet of OSB board on it. Secured it at the proscribed perpendicular position with pounded-in t-posts, and leveled a Box To Bench Precision Ultimate Hunting Target on it, securing the target with staples.
One hundred - Terrapin measured - yards away, Trapper rolled out his mat and checked his zero on the right edge circle near the bottom of the target paper, placed there for that purpose. His rifle was zeroed.
I read out scope settings while Trapper shot each silhouette the way the target was designed to be shot. His Kahles K624i 3rd generation tracked to each animal and back to zero the way it was designed to do, too.
A word about the Kahles: While Trapper doesn't dial windage in the field, he cranks the elevation dial a lot. The elevation dial on this scope is clearly marked for three full rotations - no guessing and doing rapid math after the first rotation! Nice!
So while I was reading numbers and Trapper was hitting his marks I was remembering my yesterday. The day before this I was trying to figure out - how - this target thing - didn't/couldn't - work. Now I was watching it work for someone with nothing invested in the exercise, targets or pride.
Here is another scope testing grid from Box To Bench Precision, LLC.
It was time to analyze why it didn't work for me. What did I do wrong? What was kittywumpass with my equipment? What would I have to do to end up with a correct outcome?
My scope came back to zero after every shot, after dialing as far up as 32 MOA in elevation and across almost 25 MOA of windage. The rifle hit zero every time, too.
The thing to do was walk through every step, each piece of equipment, make sure the setup was right and nothing was broken or lose.
The original target I used was perpendicular to the ground and to the bench I shot off of. The distance to the target was the next thing to check. I had used my Leica LRF 800 on the target stand at The Valley Ranch Run and it said "100" every single time. Trapper used his Terrapin to range the steel at all the stages, so we knew they were good.
The zeroing range was the only place I had used my Leica and not Trapper's Terrapin. We checked two different objects with the Terrapin and the Leica, and it went: Terrapin - 81, Leica - 72/ Terrapin - 122, Leica 111.
Gotta be a bad battery.
I had purchased the Leica used three years ago and never looked at the battery except to see what kind the range finder used. Opening up the battery compartment I saw something I never noticed before - a dial with an "M" and a "Y." The indicator was on the "M." Yards and meters. Gack!!!
I used this thing for three years . . . Just like that! Clueless as to why I'm hitting low, etc. "Trust your dope . . ."
Switching the Leica's dial to "Y" we checked it again and voila! The two rangefinders matched!
Setting up another target at EXACTLY 100 YARDS I shot every silhouette the way a guy with a good scope can!
Why should you you go to benchtoboxprecision.com and get some of these targets for yourself? So you will know for sure that your scope tracks into some wacky stuff and back out. So that you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt when you have to make a first round hit, that - you can do it with confidence.
This is a great load development target from B2B that you can use for many different variables in producing accuracy with a rifle.
This isn't the same as using a tall target test or a box test. Heck, I box tested that high dollar Nightforce and it went hole-in-hole. But it didn't complete The Ultimate Hunting Target from B2B because there was something else in the equation that was wrong and I didn't know it - yet.
I thought I knew a bunch of stuff about what I was doing at distance. Now I know more. Now I'll get a proper zero at 100 yards, not 100 meters. My dope will have me printing higher on distant targets without compensating for a bad zero. Now when I tell myself to "Trust your dope!" it'll mean more, because I know more.
Another thing, for those who dial their scopes for fun and pleasure: The simple act of running through this testing target will have you dialing your scope more naturally and quicker than before.
If you're hunting, you know that critters don't always wait around for your perfect setup. If you're dialing in a PRS-type match, even at known distances, you're going to know your dials better after a single go at this target.
But wait! There's more!
Once you have used this target for testing your scope you don't have to be done with it. You can use it for a fun dot drill! Sharpie on each animal a random number and get someone to call out the numbers, or flash cards with the numbers, and drill each critter in a timed competition with your shooting buddies. You'll get better at finding and hitting, for sure!
This test was an eye opener for me in a couple of ways. I'm old enough to think I know some stuff. To be shown that I have more to learn - and learning it - is a good thing. To actually work at discounting a product because I couldn't make it work at first, then to watch someone do what I couldn't, was instructive.
As individuals we need to remain flexible enough to admit error, and humble enough to fix it - you can always do better if you let yourself.
Les Voth hunts as often as possible in Eastern North Dakota and shoots at an occasional PRS match.
His book, "Life Les'ons", by Les Voth, is available from Amazon.com.