Rewiring

So far the new McMillan stock is working out really well in most aspects.  It seemed right off the bat as though my hold in offhand was significantly better.  The built in cheekweld riser is a big step above the soft cheekpad I was using before.  The orientation of the grip to the trigger is a huge improvement over what it was with the Hogue, and is better than most other things I have tried, the exception being the McMillan Baker Special which was perfect in that respect.

One thing that I hadn’t anticipated with the new stock is a major glitch in my bolt technique.  I had been very near the point of a completely automatic and totally reliable, lighting quick work of the bolt, on par with the Sako as far as speed, but with greater regularity.  Some very minor and subtle changes in ergonomics have put me back to completely re-building it.

I think the first thing that clued me in to trouble was when I started completely missing the bolt knob in the unlocking phase.  What should look something like this:

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…turned into this more often than not:

 

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I don’t know exactly why my hand’s approach to the knob became so much wider.  The principle differences in the grips of the two stocks, old and new, are in angle and thickness.  The placement of the thumb, which in the case of my technique acts in opposition (pretty much just like a thumb should do) to give the fingers more oomph, is slightly different as well.

Another glitch was not so obvious, but took some scrutiny to uncover.  The symptom was decreased speed and power in the locking phase.  This particular bolt has the idiosyncrasy of being difficult to close when worked gingerly, gently, half-heartedly, normally, semi-forcefully, or anything short of pure, wild, abandon.  I believe that there is an issue with the fitting of the safety or firing pin, because when the safety is in the center position, the bolt is so smooth as to make a grown man be reduced to a drooling simpleton in the throes of a pleasure induced semi-coma.  That is to say if feels nice.  When the safety is switched off and the striker bumps forward approximately 1/16”, it feels like the Porsche 911 is towing a Caterpiller D9 on a flatbed trailer (don’t forget your pilot vehicle).  At rocket speed with operator resolve set on warp 9 the perception of this resistance vanishes.

Anyway, the change I noticed with the new stock was that I was contacting the bolt differently in the locking phase.  What should look something like this:

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…had morphed into something like this:

 

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There is something odd about that.  To explain it I’ll have to open the topic of length of pull.  Length of pull with the new stock is more complex.  Whereas the length of pull used to be mostly a non-issue, I now notice that the scope’s eye-relief is just a smidge farther in some positions, a little too close in others, and still just right in a few others.  I think that the scope is still set at the best compromise.

In terms of the feel of handling, it feels like the length of pull is just slightly long.  I notice this in my approach to the bolt knob, and the ability to get the butt tucked properly in the shoulder pocket.  As to this discussion of bolt work, the knob feels farther away in some positions.  That also brings up that I notice a marked difference in different shooting positions.

Here’s the kicker.  The old length of pull was ~13.6.  Current length of pull is 13.5”.  This tells me that like the angle and girth of the pistol grip, there is another difference of angle, shape, or weight that I just need to get used to.

Every time I have had to rebuild a technique it has resulted in my understanding of that technique being broader and deeper.  Since I outlined my bolt technique in the beginning of the blog, I have discovered that the description was not entirely accurate.  I was doing my best to take freeze frame stills of something that I only understood in a blur, or in terms of feelings I could only express through vague analogies.

The upshot is that this seems like a perfect time to publish a complete re-work of approach to bolt technique.  Stay tuned.

Book Review: Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Rifle Marksmanship, by Peter Lessler

Petes Book
-Softcover
-253 Pages
-18 Chapters

I’ll get this out of the way first: Pete is a friend of mine (internet buddies, never met in person). Also, I got the book for free (actually I traded a sling for an autographed copy of his book). Having said that, you might expect that it would be difficult to remain unbiased for a book review. I had no such difficulty, as anyone who goes as far as to even correspond with me is suspect in my opinion (that was a joke). Actually, I had no such trouble because the book is very good.

What Pete has done is make a comprehensive guide to rifle shooting. It’s one of those fully encapsulated, stand alone books that you could probably buy at the beginning of your interest in rifle shooter, and continue to refer back for details throughout the course of your shooting life. His book is similar in scope and feel to The Hunting Rifle, by Townsend Whelen and The Complete Book of Rifles and Shotguns, by Jack O’Connor. The contrast is that Pete’s book has a modern feel, it is completely up to date in terms of technique and equipment.

I believe it would be accurate to say that his book is meant to provide all the information that someone starting completely from scratch would need in order for a person to develop the marksmanship skills to successfully and ethically hunt big game with a “standard” rifle cartridge (not a super whiz bang uber magnum). Pete describes it as the ability to deliver a shot to a 7″ to 10″ vital zone resulting in a clean, one-shot kill out to 300 yards in the minimum time possible. This may sound like a simple objective, but I find it likely that most hunters lack the marksmanship skills to attain this standard, nor take the responsibility to make clean, ethical kills seriously. Pete obviously has great respect for the game he shoots at.

The scope of the book is really impressive. I’m not going to write out the table of contents again, because I already did that here and it took quite a while to do it the first time, plus it would take up a lot of space. Based on that, I had expected the book to be physically very large, which it is not. Pete’s writing, like Jeff Cooper’s, is concise.The writing and format is logically laid out and easy to follow.

I consider myself a fairly well-informed student of rifle shooting. Most of the information was not entirely new to me, but it was nice to read someone else’s perspective.

Some of the information that Pete is clearly ahead of me on is on bullet choice and terminal ballistics. Pete’s been putting bullets into furry critters for a long time and has really figured out what works. I found that information very helpful.

While my opinion on some very minor details of shooting may differ from Pete’s I’m comfortable saying that if a person went with Pete’s approach they would be on sound footing. As far as facts are concerned, it’s obvious that Pete has gone to great pains to make sure that he got the details right. This book clearly represents a lifetime of an obsessive pursuit of excellence, as well as some impressive training and experience. I highly recommend it.  Link to order.

 

Anatomy of a Shot

This shot was from last month, but I only recently got the video from it. The target was at 500 yards, and was moving at approximately 3 MPH. It was our last target of the day. By this time I had the wind on this stage figured out for the most part.  I was correcting for a 13 MPH wind from 3 o’clock.

We had two shots to score a hit on this target. Up until that time we had been holding wind. The plan for this target was to dial wind and hold for lead. The method of shooting a moving target we used was “trapping”, remaining stationary on the rifle until the target passed to the correct spot in the scope’s reticle.

For the first shot I forgot to tell Young Miss Rifleslinger to dial the wind, so she missed the target. Then she set up again, all ready, and pressed the trigger. Click. It helps to have a bullet in the chamber. On the third try she waited and pressed at just the right moment…

While I did beat her on points, I did not hit the mover. Bragging rights are nice for a young girl to have.  Of course they say that most of the credit should go to the spotter…

EXTREME Time Delay Sako 75 Cold Bore Target

This is the 3rd installment of the time delay cold bore target for the Sako 75, 30-06 (The Rifle Formerly Known As #1 [TRFKA1]). The first shot on this target was taken in August 2012. The second shot was taken in September 2012. This third shot comes a little late, which makes it like shooting a hunting rifle that was put away at the end of the season and pulled back out. Interesting.

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The first shot out of the rifle in approximately 10 months seems to have broken with the pattern of the first two cold bore shots. The only prep for the rifle was to run a bore snake down the bore. After the cold bore I fired a 5 shot group on a different target.

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My suspicion was that the point of impact for the cold bore shot was not significantly different than the rest of the shots. I overlayed the targets and found that I was correct.

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The inclusion of the cold bore shot increased the group size less than a quarter of an inch, with the overall total group approximately 2″.

The bolt lift on this rifle is so short that it causes a glitch in my bolt stroke in prone. When the bolt reaches the top of it’s lift, it’s still so low that it feels like it is blocked or broken. I don’t feel this when operating this rifle in offhand, which is just about as smooth as it was when this was my main thang. The trigger on this rifle is very, very nice.

Blog Housekeeping Note

I’ve noticed that many of the photos from the older posts are missing. ImageShack doesn’t seem to be very reliable, which is probably why I left it a long time ago.

I’m in the process of cleaning up and fixing things, but it’s tedious work and is going slowly. If anyone has any requests for posts to be fixed sooner rather than later, let me know. Thank you for your patience.

Mid-Year Self-Evaluation

So far this has been on odd year for life and shooting. I made goals, then apparently decided to abandon them. I had some setbacks that changed the context through which I approach my shooting practice. I got mired down in trying through contortion and force of will to make my gun shoot more accurately. What follows is my evaluation of what I have done so far this year to get better and accomplish my goals. It may seem like I beat myself up, or that I’m too hard on myself, I feel good about identifying things as they are so I can move on. If I don’t get in touch with things as they are I won’t be able to get better.  I don’t feel negative; rather I feel matter of fact and positive about the future.

Skill:

I really got obsessed with trying to perfect bipod prone. I kept thinking there was something I could do to get make the rifle shoot consistently well. I have a tendency to blame myself first, and to think that it would be a cop out to blame equipment. Maybe it’s that I’ve seen others blame their equipment too often when it was far more likely shooter error. I also think it’s appropriate to take responsibility and address issues instead of making excuses. These tendencies were bolstered by sparsely intermittent times when it looked like the rifle might be able to shoot somewhat okay, perhaps not so horrible, to include, but not limited to, the following examples:

4-17-13 1point12
1.12″ at 129 yards, approximately 0.83 MOA.

4-16-13 168 TAP 0point97
0.97″, 100 yards.

4-16-13 0point98
0.98″, 100 yards.

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12 rounds, 1.5″.  Four 3 round groups with a sight adjustment and subsequent return to zero in between each group of 3.  Not great, but better than my five round groups have been of late.

While the above groups were OK, they were few and far between.  Also, there wasn’t anything I could point to what I was doing that would cause a difference between the acceptable groups, and all the rest.

I could say the intensive focus and single-minded use of my time was bad, in that it did not bring a tangible return (clear success). I could also say that it was useful as a learning process. I can tell that my trigger control and follow through are both better than before, and that the improvement is especially evident in other positions. I also put a ton of energy into checking small details and working on them, which I think will bring the results I’m looking for eventually.

Maybe the smarter thing to do would have been to shoot the rifle from a bench to remove my skill from the equation. What kept me from even considering that was a bias that bench shooting is an unacceptable activity for a “real rifleman”. A couple of intelligent readers put the idea in my brain that there are times when that is appropriate, and I thank them for prompting me to use my brain instead of sticking to some silly notion of riflemanliness. Regardless of whether I could have been more productive or not, I can’t take it back so I’ll just make the best of it and drive on.

Equipment:

In a lot of ways I’m in a similar place as I was last year. Last year I pillar bedded my Sako to try to get it to be as accurate as I wanted. It did make a small, measurable improvement in accuracy, but it still sent the cold bore shots high. I thought about making a project out of it, but the whole thing was so idiosyncratic that I decided it would just be better to start over. I’m glad I did. I still like that Sako, but it’s not the rifle I needed for what I had in mind.

This year I hoped a new stock would cure my woes. The new stock is a significant improvement overall, but it didn’t help my gun’s accuracy by itself. I was aware that it would have been miraculous for the rifle to start shooting like I wanted it to by only upgrading the stock. I’m a person that tends to get my hopes up.

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The difference from last year is that so far I haven’t been able to break anything on this rifle and the action is good for what I want out of it. Perhaps all that is left is a new barrel, a bedding job, and some accuracy work until the rifle shoots like I want it to.

The equipment side has always been about money, and for me trying to find shortcuts around having to spend it. Where I’m at now is realizing that it’s really inevitable, but that I can spread it out over time.

Life:

In February I resigned from a voluntary position due to one of those integrity/trust vs. opportunity/privilege type situations. It was an easy choice to make, though a regrettable situation. It was basically a minor setback in terms of my opportunity to be a better shooter, and a more significant setback to my long term resume credentials.

During my adult life I have never thought too much of credentials or what letters people have after their name. Substance has always been more important to me. That’s one of the reasons I chose to write my blog anonymously. Although divulging more information would likely lend me credibility, I wanted my work to stand or fall on its merits alone. So I was surprised how much it bothered me to suddenly be without my official specialty, and the opportunity to really get good in that role. It was also disorienting to be without a specific purpose to guide my rifle training. Sticking to core principles outweighs those things, but it’s a rather lackluster reward to be able to look at myself in the mirror (if I cover my face with a black box for pictures you can guess I’m not much to look at).

Fitness/Health:

This isn’t overtly shooting related, but I think it’s at least a significant tangential aspect. Consider that you have to get to a location to shoot. Prior to firing a shot you must take a shooting position. Those things must be done in as little time as possible. Sometimes a position needs to be maintained for a while, and concentration with it to make the shot a good one.

When I shot the full distance Appleseed in November of 2012, I definitely faded quickly as the days progressed, which I thought at the time was a result of being in poor shape, inadequate nutrition, inadequate caffeine to satisfy my established level of dependency, and maybe the cold, which goes back partially to being in poor condition.

I had let myself go physically during 2012 and early 2013. There was a lot of “life stuff” going on. I was also enjoying my food to the point where it was running me instead of vice versa.

In November, right after Thanksgiving, not so coincidentally, I stopped eating sugar. No white sugar, no brown sugar, no honey, no molasses, no sugar substitutes- in essence, no way to rationalize a way to cheat. To satisfy the need for things to taste good I started eating a bunch of fruit. A week after that I quit caffeine. Coffee was not the same without the sugar. I noticed that when I drank it I really didn’t enjoy it, I just had an elevated heartbeat and felt nervous and shaky. Giving up sugar has been the best thing I’ve ever done for my diet, and it’s gotten easy to maintain that part of my diet.

The aforementioned voluntary position I resigned from had physical fitness standard, although it had been weakly enforced. Out of healthy spite, I decided to get way better shape than I had been.

From February to June I got into some semblance of reasonable physical condition, but I was carrying what looked like a starter beer gut, or maybe one of those modern “donut” spare tires.

I must have had one of those moments when you see things as they actually are and noticed it.  I’m one of those people who do better making a change all at once, rather than in stages, so I decided to radically change the way I eat.

I cut out all meat, eggs, and dairy at the end of May. It was a lot easier than quitting sugar, probably because I knew I could just do it. It changed the way I approach eating. Food isn’t enjoyable on the same level at all. It sounds like a bad thing, but actually it detaches most of the emotional component from eating, and makes every food choice a rational one. It also makes a lot of the past eating choices seem like more of an addiction (if you know it’s harming you, if you don’t need it, but you choose irrationally to do it anyway, is it not an addiction?) All that’s left is to make sure I get the right amount of nutrients. The challenge will be adding the meat and dairy back in such a way that objectively provide for better health in each instance and not some irrational comfort food type of thing. I’m going to give it at least another month to make sure that the better eating habits stick. I’ve dropped about 8 pounds of gut so far. I’m not quite back to looking and feeling like myself yet, but I’m getting there.

I’ve been running with a 20 pound pack and about 4 pounds of rocks in each hand. My goal is to do an 8 minute mile with all that on. I have just under 2 minutes to shave off of my current time. Without the pack I’m running at almost exactly what I did in 2010. I’ve also been doing pullups with the pack on, and sometimes my pushups as well.

Goals:

If the goals were considered the route along the map, I suppose I decided to change course since setting them. The one important one that I would still like to do, and haven’t done yet is to find some good training to attend. What it really comes down to is that this rifle shooting stuff costs money, as does anything when you reach the point of trying to perform at the top X percentile (I’m not saying I’m there at all, as that’s clearly not the case).

More significantly, looking back at my goals, it doesn’t appear that I really put much thought, imagination, or consideration into them. Sometimes a self-imposed deadline creates the feeling of getting things done just to get them done.

 

I have about 600 rounds left worth of .308 components. Looking forward, my next priorities are to get a .22 trainer similarly configured to my main rifle, then to get what I need to bring the FN up to snuff. I’ll consider what I need to do to get the software upgraded and move from there.

 

 

The Mauser Finally Hits the Range

It took about 6 months of owning the Mauser before I got around to spending enough money on it to clean the barrel (needed a new cleaning rod) and getting its function up (needed a new extractor). I don’t have dies for it, so I had bought a box of factory ammo, Hordady Superformance loaded with 95 grain SST bullets. To re-fresh your memory, the rifle is a Mauser 98 that was re-chambered in 6mm Remington, which seems like a smart choice in cartridge a Mauser action.

I had no idea whether the scope was anywhere near zeroed. My first shot, therefore, was at 25 yards to see what I needed to do to get the rifle on at 100. I slung up in rice paddy prone, aimed at the center of my 1″ bulls eye, and pressed the trigger. I called the shot slightly left, and the impact was just left of that and just low, approximately a half inch in each direction. I shot one more time, just to make sure nothing was going too crazy, and hit the bottom of the bull. I figured that to get the rifle close to being on at 100, at 25 the rifle should impact high 0.75″ to just less than 1″ high (probably on the lower end due to the scope being mounted fairly low- if that doesn’t make sense read this). At 25, one MOA is right around a quarter inch, so I made a quick scope adjustment and went to 100.

I shot 5 shots from 100 in prone. The recoil was more than I thought it would be. I would characterize it as being like a 9mm if you were to consider my .308 to be like a .45 ACP- weaker in general but snappy. I just had thought it would be more .223-like based on descriptions from others. The group was approximately 2.17″ in size, approximately 5.5″ high and 3.5″ right. This was higher and righter (not a word, but I make my own words up- admit it, you knew what I meant) than I expexted based on what I saw with the initial shots and the sight correction I put in. The math at 100 is easy, so I put in 5.5 MOA down and 3.5 MOA left.

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It was high enough to hit the next target up, which I didn’t feel like sharing, hence the cropping.

My next five shot group was approximately 1.5″ low and 0.25″ right, as judged by looking at the target grid through the scope at 100 yards. Apparently the scope adjustments aren’t exactly as advertized, which is probably to be expected, especially in a very old scope. I divided the amount the scope actually moved my group by how many clicks I put in to get a better idea of the average amount that a click was moving my group. The number that my math (longhand) produced was 0.34″ per click at 100 (very approximately, obviously since it is based on my shooting). So instead of putting in the 1.5 minutes (6 clicks) that I would have put in if the adjustments were actually quarter minutes, I put in 4 clicks up and 1 left. I was running out of my box of 20 rounds, so I just sent 2 more downrange to verify that I was close, which I was.

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I made sure not to touch anything on the scope after getting it set. I don’t know what changing the magnification would do to affect the zero, if anything. Also, when I set the elevation I made sure to approach my target number from the same direction. I’m interested in a new scope for it, but it’s very low on my list, which makes the likelihood of me doing it very low. If I were going to replace the scope, I would be limited due to this:

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The ocular housing on that old Bushnell is slimmer than just about anything comparably configured made today. Looking at the Swaro Z3 in a 3-9 or 3-10, the ocular is slightly larger (2mm if the Midway stats are correct) and would probably fit, especially if it were mounted slightly higher. I think that would be the most appropriate thing to put on the rifle, if not something with a magnification range on the lower end.

The trigger is heavy, approximately 7 pounds with a bit of roll and a lot of overtravel. I don’t mind overtravel as a practical matter, so that’s that. I’ve learned that a bit of roll in a pistol trigger actually works, but I’m not quite there on rifles. At least there’s no jerky creep. The weight is too much for me to work the trigger without disturbing the sights a little. I’d like to say that I’m so good I can handle it, but I see it move, usually to the left. I don’t know if that’s on the break or at the end of the overtravel, so it’s possible the overtravel is actually an accuracy enhancement in this case, in allowing the bullet time to exit the barrel before the trigger hits the end of its travel.

People usually comment that the rifle is heavy, but it’s light compared with what I’m used to. The rifle seems long because of the stock, but the barrel is only 22″, and the barrel contour isn’t too different than my PBR.

The comb is at a great height for snapshooting with the optic set at low power. To really get precise the comb would need to be much higher, but I don’t need to play the precision game all the time. The rifle pulls up and points as well or better than anything I’ve tried, which I think may be due to its long forend. If that’s how it wants to be shot, I can accommodate it.

 

 

New Stock Accuracy Update

I finally was able to get to the range with enough time to find out something meaningful about my rifle’s performance with the new stock. To make a long story short, I didn’t see any meaningful difference. I shot a 10 shot group with Federal Gold Medal Match that was slightly worse than the 10 shot group from when the rifle was new.

9/14/12, a couple weeks after getting the rifle:

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7/15/13:

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I agree with the bird.

I’m going to give this bipod stuff a rest for now, so that the rifle will stop driving me crazy.  I can still work on positional shooting. The next thing I do will be to get my rimfire setup going, seeing that the range I have access to is limited to 130 yards (maybe 200 if I have the range to myself and get creative). That will also give me something to shoot if I have to be without the rifle for a while.

That’s all I have to say about that.

Controlled Round Feeders: Model 70 and 98 Mauser

Note: These are simply my observations based on a sample size of one of each type. They are not meant to be taken as conclusive.

Last fall I did a comparison of the function of the Remington 700 and the Model 70. After an objective look it was hard to say that either rifle, properly operated, had a clear advantage one way or the other. They both have their idiosyncrasies and they both tend to work. On the other hand I was able to induce malfunctions in both of them by intentionally short stroking the bolt.

Early in the year I was given a beautiful 98 Mauser in a custom maple Mannlicher style stock. It had a functional issue, which was that the extractor did not grip the case rim. It took a while, but I finally ordered a new extractor for it. When I say “new”, that sounds along the lines of what I was expecting, namely, something like a new old stock part. I ordered the part from Numrich, and it looked like it had been pulled out of a bin that contained every extractor from every Mauser that had been discarded during Germany’s misadventures in Russia during WWII. That’s a nice way of saying that it took a little work to clean up (that was an even nicer way of saying it). I’m tempted to learn how to jewel bolts so that it looks like the one I removed.

The “new” extractor may have took some work to make it look nice, but as far as function go all I had to do was install it. I slipped a round under the claw and it gave me a reassuring, soft “snap” as it fell into the right spot. It felt like it was drawing the round to sit in the bolt face.

The Model 70 extractor feels about like a 1911 when a round is slid under it, up into the bolt face. It’s a smooth push with a very slight and smooth resistance. It’s just enough to know that it’s being held. The Mauser, on the other hand, feels like the extractor wants the round under it. Note the bottom edge of the extractor claw in each of the following photos.

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The Model 70 extractor has a bevel on the bottom of the extractor.

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The Mauser extractor is not beveled, which makes its grip slightly more positive.

 

The next thing I was interested in was if the Mauser would chamber a round set in the action, but not pushed into the magazine. This is something the Model 70 will do without any problem. I did not expect the Mauser to, and it did not. Again, the reason for this is that bevel at the bottom of the extractor that the Model 70 has, but that the Mauser does not. It seems that you can either have a very positive hold, or the ability to feed a round that was tossed in the action. I’m sure the Mauser bolt could be forced forward, so that the extractor will pop over and clear the rim, but that’s one of those things that is kind of a last resort if one accidentally finds oneself in that position and absolutely must get the round chambered immediately. Otherwise the magazine must be used. That makes the magazine cutoff, as in the 1903, seem like a good idea. I don’t know if that would make the extractor clear, or if the 1903 was designed to clear it anyway. The bottom line with the Mauser is to use the magazine.

The next thing I was interested to find out was if I could get the Mauser to short stroke and malfunction. I loaded five rounds in the magazine. After chambering the first round I worked the bolt forward and backward, slowly easing my way toward the rear of the bolt’s travel. Near the rear of the bolt’s traveling range, just prior to the point at which the round contacts the ejector, is the point where I can get even my Model 70 to pick up a round from the magazine without ejecting the brass it pulled out of the chamber (it’s bad when that happens). I tried my best for all the rounds I had in the mag, and there was absolutely no indication that the gun was even considering malfunctioning.  I’m amazed that they were able to keep the timing perfect on a mass-produced (the most mass produced?) battle rifle.

Here are some photos to compare the Model 70 and Mauser.

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Model 70

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Mauser.

 

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Model 70

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Mauser.

 

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Model 70

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Mauser.

Because of my inability to cause a malfunction in the Mauser, I started thinking that it must be vastly superior in its ability to cycle rounds. Looking at both of the bolts and how they hold rounds, I have a hard time seeing how they are very different (in terms of cycling). The Model 70 can feed a dropped in round, the Mauser cannot. I believe that my Model 70’s ability to short stroke would go away if the ejector were just slightly longer, and I don’t know that it’s not a problem that is limited to my specific gun. If that could be fixed, the Model 70 would be about on par with the Mauser in terms of feed reliability (the Mauser supposedly has stronger extraction). In other ways, such as the amount of support to the cartridge, and the way the rifle handles gas, the differences may be more significant.

The Mauser is a very impressive machine, both in design and execution. It may be lacking in smoothness, but it has a ton of character. The amount of work that went into them would likely make them very expensive if they were made new today (they actually are made today, are extremely expensive, and not easy to get in the US).

 

 

Field Trip

My dad came over to visit. Not having a TV means that I have to think of stuff to keep folks entertained. I’m not a great entertainer, being a person with a one track mind. Going to museums is one of those generic activities that people like to do. Being a person with a one track mind means that when I go to a museum of my choosing, there will be guns there. Exotic dead animals mounted on the wall is actually pretty interesting too. With that in mind, we went to the Jack O’Connor Center in Lewiston, Idaho. That also gives an opportunity to drive by the ATK ammo plant, just in case they’re having excess ammo they need to give to passing motorists. No such luck this time.

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If you don’t know who Jack O’Connor was, and you’re a rifle shooter, you pretty much need to do some reading about him. Better yet, read a book by him. He was the editor for Outdoor Life magazine for a long time, a while ago. He was known as the “Dean of Gunwriters”, back when gun writers were a breed of interesting and experienced folks.

The relevant stuff about Jack O’Connor to me is that he did a lot of hunting all over the world and killed a lot of animals. He loved the classic, “pre-’64” Winchester Model 70, which he dubbed “The Rifleman’s Rifle”. He was a strong proponent of the .270 Winchester cartridge. Both of those things probably owe a good deal of their success to his endorsement of them.  A look at the Jack O’Connor center is an interesting way for a rifle shooter to get to know him a little bit through his rifles.

Jack’s favorite rifle is at the museum. It’s a Winchester Model 70 chambered in .270 Win. It was meant to be a backup of his #1 rifle, but he turned out to like the second one better. He called this one #2.

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Who does #2 work for?

Most of Jack’s rifles had some sort of texturing treatment on the bolt knob. #2, as you can see, has what looks like extremely aggressive checkering. I say looks like because the rifles are in glass cases. The rifles even stayed in the cases. Firstly, they did not recognize me on sight (who else has a floating black box over his face?). Asking the question, “Do you know who I am?” in a confrontational tone did not do the trick either (weird, I know, that should work every time). Telling them I was the heir to the Jack O’Connor legacy, strangely, seemed not to convince them to open up the cases for a thorough inspection. Actually I didn’t try those strategies, preferring to get the same experience as all the “little people”. Because of that, the photos were not all they could have been.


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Jack was also was a big fan of jeweled bolts. That must have been a regular thing on a custom rifle. Looking at all of them made me wonder exactly what went into a custom rifle in those days. After reading books from some of the old gunwriters I get the impression that their accuracy (precision) requirements were not as stringent as those of people today. I’m guessing that’s because they had a specific purpose for the rifle, and learning to shoot was an adequate and practical way to accomplish that, something that most modern rifle owners don’t understand. The consistencies among Jack’s custom guns were attractive, well-made stocks, jewelling, engraving, and other aesthetic metal work. Stocks were not typically free-floated then, as gun makers and hardcore shooters of that era seemed to consider a free floated barrel cheating, and thought that a well made stock should perfectly conform to the rifle.


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The above photo is of one of Jack’s custom Mausers. I really liked the stippling on the bolt knob. It looked like a much more functional texture, as opposed to #2, which looked as though it probably took years to work up the callouses necessary to work it without bleeding. Here’s a closer look:

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One the following rifle, note the clean checkering on the safety and the flow of the woodwork:

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Jack’s wife, Eleanor, was also a hunter and shooter. Two of her favorite rifles were on display. They reflect a slightly different set of preferences. The bolt knobs on the rifles displayed were smooth. The scroll work on the stocks was perhaps a touch more decorative. Another interesting tidbit was that when going on a hunt in Africa, she set her maximum tolerable level for recoil at that of a 30-06, and went on to kill two tigers, a lion, and an elephant with it. I suppose another thing we might learn from the older generation is that shot placement might make up for having a rifle chambered in .99 Tyrannosaurus Ultra Mega Triple Belted Short Magnum.


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The common theme of both Jack and Eleanor were Mausers and Model 70s. I think that the push feed rifles were available during a good portion of their active shooting careers, but they continued to favor what was (and is still, to a large degree) considered a more reliable extraction system. Jack did admit that the push feed Model 70 was a good rifle, but I don’t know that he was ever as active a proponent for it as he was for the pre-’64.

In addition to the rifles, there were a lot of other items of interest:

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Beer on the left.  I thought I might take a break from my self-imposed abstinence… alas, although they appeared unopened they had been drained from the bottom.

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I circled my favorite one. They look cute, but when they get close they open a cobra-like hood, open a what turns out to be a razor sharp, tooth filled jaw, spray venomous poison that blinds their prey, and then about 20-30 of them will eat it alive (including humans). Or am I thinking of Jurassic Park?

One last thing to note is that there is a raffle rifle (say it five times fast). I tried to win one of these before, which was a .270. Maybe I’m dumb, but I always think I have a good chance of winning these things, get my hopes up, and always get crushed. The current rifle up for raffle is a pre-’64 Winchester Model 70 chambered in .375 H&H. Jack’s original rifles were made by Al Biesen, but this one was made by Al’s son, Roger. It looks to have the same level of detailed work:

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If you’d like to buy a raffle ticket, get your hopes way up, then have them crushed like a 6 year old who missed Christmas, you can buy a ticket over the phone. The info you need is here: http://www.jack-oconnor.org/