Early in September 2013 I took my FN PBR-XP to a gunsmith I was familiar with in Spokane Valley, WA. If you were reading the blog last summer you may remember that I was going insane thinking that I must have been doing something terribly wrong to cause my groups to be irregular. It was impossible for me to move past it because I love to beat myself up. Also the conventional wisdom that the gun is more precise than the shooter, that the bullet goes where the sights are pointed when the gun goes off, that I should pay attention to technique instead of gear, etc., etc, etc., had me barking up the wrong tree. What I think I figured out about that is that there are a lot of shooters that those things are true for. For most of those shooters, telling them those things won’t help, because they can’t believe it. That’s why they are that type of shooters. For the ones to whom those things don’t necessarily apply, they will go crazy beating the crap out of themselves unnecessarily. Life is ironic (so is irony).
Initially I wanted pillar bedding, trigger work, and truing if necessary. The lead time was quoted at 2-3 weeks. I told him that I wasn’t worried about time. He told me never to say that to a gunsmith. I figured out that he was right. Lesson learned.
Later on the phone he described what happens when a barrel goes bad. It sounded like he’d been looking over my shoulder the entire time I’d spent at the range being insane. So at first I had a realistic idea of my budgetary limitations, and talked with the gunsmith about what I could do without having to buy a new barrel, which I thought would be bedding and action truing. He said it might not (probably not) help that much, but we agreed that a barrel could be installed any time so why not give it a try?
A couple weeks later I had a few beers and, momentarily forgetting my petty budgetary concerns, ordered up a Bartlein .308, Remington Varmint contour, 1-10 twist blank and had it sent to the gunsmith. That’s how it’s logically possible to come to the conclusion that in order to increase your precision, drink beer.
Fast forward about 8 months and I got it back. The barrel was finished at 20” and ceracoated. The chamber was cut for the .308 ammo I’ve been using for a while now and the bullets are just touching the lands. The stock is pillar bedded to the action. The trigger breaks about about 2.25 pounds. I also had a Limbsaver pad put on. The length of pull is the same as it was before. The balance of the rifle feels perfect to me, with the balance point at the front 3rd of the magazine. It had been a little muzzle-light before.
For lack of something more profound to call the rifle in its new iteration, and also from watching too many Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, I decided to call it the FN, Mark 2 (alternately the Mark Deux).
In my conversation with the gunsmith, here’s what I remember as the high points:
-The barrel was very good. He said that it’s one of the best he’s seen from Bartlein.
He’s been making machines to build cut rifled barrels, so he’s got a lot of measuring
equipment on hand. He said it was nice.
-I was not planning on doing a special break in because I think it’s a waste of time. Iasked about that. Specifically I asked if I could just “plug and play”. He said that the barrel was hand lapped (by Bartlein), the chamber was polished, and the throat was polished. Essentially, he said, there isn’t anything to break in. He suggested I might clean at 35 rounds to check for copper fouling, and then at every hundred or so.
-McMillan stocks tend to be easy to work with because they are dimensionally
true to start with. Some other (less expensive stocks) end up needing more work.
I noticed when loading it that the bolt is not as easy to work as it is locking. I was not sure at first if the headspace was a little tight, but later found that the bullets are touching the lands. I’m okay with that.
I shot five rounds from 104 yards and took a photo for measurement (0.448 MOA).
I shot a second group.
The next time out with the rifle I chrono’d a few loads. The FGMM came in at an average of 2655 feet per second.
At the point I had 59 rounds through it I decided to follow the gunsmith’s advice and clean it. I used Patch Out with Accelerator. I expected a dark blue patch from copper fouling following that many rounds. I saw only a trace of blue, which appeared to be in a small droplet form (about a millimeter), different than the rest of the patch, which showed only carbon fouling. I have been stunned by that lack of copper from that barrel. On a subsequent cleaning with just over 50 rounds I saw no evidence of copper fouling.
Here are a few 10 shots groups from 100 yards, first in their original, one shot per target form, then in their aggregated group done with On Target TDS. Note that although it’s most tempting to look at the group size in terms of extreme spread, the second measurement given, mean radius (labeled as “average to center”) is much more useful statistically. Also notice that while the extreme spread may appear to be drastically different, especially with an aggregated 40 round group, the mean radius doesn’t change much. It doesn’t necessarily grow with more rounds, but the number represents a greater confidence of prediction due to the larger sample size:
40 round cumulative group made up of individual 10 shot groups:
200 Yard shots on targets and then aggregated into a 10 shot group:
As for the precision of the rifle, I am pleased. With just a few rounds it will do the “I have a half minute rifle” thing, so I don’t have to feel left out from all the other internet commandos. With 10 rounds it’s generally just under a minute, sometimes just over, which I think is reasonable and generally good performance.
I’ve been pretty careful to get my head centered up so my eye is addressing the ocular lens correctly, especially left and right. For the height I’ve been largely depending on the cheekpiece, which I set at about 13.3/16” front and rear. I have noticed a tendency of my head to move left, which I only notice by rechecking via side to side movement, so I have to stay on top of it.
Something I’ll be looking into in the near future is the actual effect of parallax error on my precision downrange. Thanks for reading.