X-Ray's Stick By Les Voth
Jesse's dad stuck with his 22-250 Remington for almost forty years for everything up to deer and antelope. These days a Tikka in 25-06 Remington does it for him. Monty Esquire is still using the sporterized Enfield in 30-06 Springfield he got 40+ years ago from his dad. Max switched from a 30-06 to a 270 Winchester over 30 years ago after all his guns were stolen.
The point is, some guys are very successful hunters without changing their cartridge length and bullet diameter twice or more per year. How many times have you thought about which rifle you would keep if you could just keep one? It's a daydream/fantasy to entertain you while you're stuck in traffic, in the shower or in a tree stand.
X-ray makes his living with firearms, traps and explosives. Showing up at your place and saying, "Hi! I'm from the government and I'm here to help you," is a relief to hear when you've called for his help - and he shows up.
X-ray has special guns for specific jobs. Long range - 1000 yard plus stuff - gets taken care of with a Badger Ordinance actioned 338 Norma Magnum. Not something you want to shoot every day all the time, but it is a wonderfully accurate long range thumper. The authoritative sound of a 300 grainer smacking something at 1000 yards makes me wonder why I pack a 6.5 Creedmoor loaded with 130s.
The GA Precision 308 X-ray used to compete with has gone down the road. It accounted for much game and some great F-Class scores. It didn't thump like the Norma does at distance, so it slipped into the back of the safe and was eventually sold.
Then the 6mm SLR came along. Laserlike-Lightning-from-a-stick. For years, the one-hole printing, blueprinted Remington in 6mm SLR was X-ray's go-to rifle. Rabbits to moose fell to the SLR. An authoritative punch at long distance was missing, though. The search went on.
A Ruger RPR was purchased in 6.5 Creedmoor. It wasn't long before that became a 22-243 and the Creedmoor barrel went down the road. Another safe-dweller. Back to the SLR.
Still looking, X-ray decided George Gardner at GA Precision and Len Backus at longrangehunting.com were right about the 6.5 SAUM, or 6.5 GAP 4S (Super Secret Squirrel . . . Stuff).
The action: Bighorn Arms TL3
Choice of single stack or double stack magazines
Integral recoil lug
Savage barrel threads for quick change barrel opportunities
Changeable boltfaces allows everything from .223 - belted magnum chamberings
Pinned 20 MOA rail
Choice of bolt handle - Spiral
Remington 700 footprint allowing maximum aftermarket accessories
The Trigger: Trigger Tech
Remington 700 Special
Sets at 1oz detented increments
Frictionless Release Technology
The barrel: Bartein
Single point cut rifled
Light Palma profile
8.5 left twist
Threaded muzzle 5/8 X 24 TPI
Rings: Seekins Precision
Stock: Manners EH5A
MCS-DBM MINI CHASSIS GEN 2
Scope: Kahles K624i
Suppressor: Varminter 3.0
Dakota Silencer Mack Bros. built 30 Cal
Sling: Homemade Biathlon
Machinist: Yellow Medicine's Magician - J. McLain
Ammo & Reamer: 6.5 SAUM GAP 4S
Federal 215 M primers
Berger 130 grain VLD
JLK 130 grain
Norma 7 SAUM cases necked down
Necks turned to 0.0145
Runout - less than 0.002
Federal 210M primers
Redding bushing dies
Concentricity + consistency = accuracy
Many of these parts were developed by the performance-minded. Not unlike race car technology making its way into passenger cars, the PRS market has driven much of today's new innovations. From there it has spread to the hunting world and other areas of target shooting sports.
Being a professional hunter capable of performance shooting, X-ray stretches the limits of hunting through four North Dakota seasons. From 100 degree days to the balmy wind-howling -30 degree nights chasing individual stock killing coyotes, equipment must perform at levels most hunters have nightmares about.
If you've rolled four coyotes in a row at over four hundred and fifty yards in weather that renders your four-wheeler into a field-ornament to-be-rescued later - you've been on-the-job. If you liked it . . . You might be an X-ray someday.
Why did he choose these parts for his new rifle?
Downfield authority for shots in wind, weather and out to a mile. Cold bore accuracy is a must in successful hunting. No sighters. No warming the barrel. No shooting out the storage lube. See the target. Take the target. One shot.
In order for first shots to impact their intended targets waaaaay out there, the 20% component that is comprised of your equipment must be straight, concentric and square. To do it consistently, its quality must be unquestionable.
Why 20%? Because 80% of precision shooting is mental. Know what you want and need for a job - work for the desired result - make it work for you. But it's still a big 20%.
Bighorn actions are machined into works of art by Zermatt Arms, under the watchful eyes of Product Manager, Aaron Trisch, in Bennet, Nebraska. The same outfit that makes parts for the airplane industry and medical research businesses also makes precision actions for guys who treat them like walking sticks on mountain trails and river crossings. They use them for canoe paddles and then for the precise placement of projectiles at long range - with confidence.
Xray wanted the flexibility to be able to change barrels and calibers without a great hassle. The Bighorn action allows him to do that. It's one thing to sneak a couple of miles into a hide and snipe livestock killing predatory canines with a 14.5lb rifle. It's another thing to cruise Colorado's 9000 foot peaks chasing elk with the same weight rifle.
A quick barrel and scope change, dump the bipod, unscrew the suppressor and snap on a single sling. Voila! You're under 10 pounds and still of use to your 70+ year old dad. Not worried about whether you should have just brought your .44 magnum Ruger and folding knife, and 'neaked up on Mr. Elk!
The chassis-ed Manners carbon fiber stock ensures stability, security and longevity in an environment that's less than pristine, clean or gentle. Its adjustable stock allows X-ray to fit comfortably behind any scope, barrel or caliber choice he makes.
The Trigger Tech trigger chosen to be a part of this combination is now spreading through rifle competition circles. Action manufacturer's too. In early April I made a detour on my way home from the west coast and stopped at Bighorn in Bennet, Nebraska. Aaron, while demonstrating the Bighorn action to me, handed me his personal prairie dog slaying 20 Vartarg barreled action. The Trigger Tech trigger hanging off the bottom immediately caught my eye.
Last summer X-ray and I invested in a few of these triggers after trying one in my trued Remington. The Canadian military sniper rifles are so equipped now, too. They didn't ask us, but we approve!
One day last summer a few of us were shooting as far as 1200 yards together and I had the opportunity to shoot a few of the other guys' rifles. I was looking through Gen 2 Razors, an ATACR Nightforce and my own Vortex Viper HS LR. Not comparing, just shooting.
I noticed a difference between the scopes, but was concentrating on the 965 yard target more. The differences weren't stark that day. Then came the Kahles.
If precision shooting is 80% mental, the k624i removes just a little more of my mental. When I shot X-ray's rifle on our spring rock hunt in March of this year, I was stunned at its clarity. Why someone would choose this scope, when the shots available absolutely must be made, is obvious. It tracks, and all the other mechanical stuff it's supposed to do, and then it just takes your breath away when you look through it!
Before all the parts were in the same place for this build, Xray made me use his new Varminter 3.0 suppressor on my 6.5 Creedmoor. I've had a bunch of different suppressors on my rifle. Sometimes my shooting partner wants my Creedmoor to just "hush up." Sometimes we're in one of a couple of feedlots we shoot coyotes at and it's a good idea not to get the resident bovines all swirling around and running in circles. Farmers frown on it.
At any rate, we've tried and we've tested a few. The Varminter 3.0 is the lightest and quietest I've used on my 6.5 Creedmoor. On Xray's 6.5 SAUM it didn't disappoint either. I'd recommend it, or buy it myself.
The Thumping-Authority test Xray and I did shortly after all his parts were assembled wasn't even close to scientific, but it was telling. We were shooting rocks at 700 yards. He was using Berger 130 grain VLDs and I was using Berger 130 AR Hybrids in my 6.5 Creedmoor.
The Thwack-Upon-Arrival-Factor was much more pronounced from the SAUM. Higher velocity will do that. The SAUM was pushing a mild-for-round speed of 3043 fps, while the Creedmoor was moving at 2886 fps. There was an audible difference upon impact.
If Wayne Von Swoll could take an elk at a lasered 600 yards with a factory production 6.5 Creedmoor - this 6.5 SAUM GAP 4S should have the authority to more than do what needs to be done in the game-fields.
To date, Xray has dispatched critters sized from beavers, coyotes all the way up to a brainworm infested moose. It was the moose that really sold Xray on his choice of caliber - a single well-placed shot made the decisive decision. From 200 yards the SAUM exited in dramatic fashion and its lights went out before it impacted the ground.
Les Voth learned to hunt whitetail deer and coyotes in his native Canada, and has hunted both as often as possible in eastern North Dakota since immigrating to the United States. Life Les'ons, by Les Voth, is available from Amazon.com, Kindle & createspace.com.