The FN, Mark 2 Close Up

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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).

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Before

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After

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After

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Before

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After

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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.

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I shot five rounds from 104 yards and took a photo for measurement (0.448 MOA).

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Then I continued with the same point of aim until I had a 10 round group.
1st 10 rounds through rifle

I shot a second group.

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2nd 10 shot group, 1.394 MOA

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:

10 round composite FGMM

FGMM composite 5-1-14

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5-2-14 composite

Amax Test
10 rounds Black Hills 155 grain A-Max.  You’ll be seeing a lot more of this later.

40 round cumulative group made up of individual 10 shot groups:

May Cumulative FGMM 40 Shots

200 Yard shots on targets and then aggregated into a 10 shot group:

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200 Yard 10 shot composite
About a minute.  Not bad.  The 0.381 MOA mean radius is consistent with my 100 yards groups.

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.

22 thoughts on “The FN, Mark 2 Close Up

  1. Great information, I will be trying to duplicate your data test with my gun when I can find bullets worth loading.

    I was curious about your picture of the end of the barrel. Is the the barrel you replaced? Is this an example of a worn out barrel or is that pattern normal wear?
    Thanks for sharing your experience. I am sure a lot of guys are doing this already. But this is just what I need so I can understand how to collect good data.

  2. Steve,

    That’s the new barrel with a bunch of dust and carbon fouling. The spiky looking pattern is the carbon fouling. I think that the swirly rifling pattern looks cool, but it’s easier to see when it’s not so dusty.

  3. Hey RS, sounds like you are well pleased with Mark Deux. For those of us interested in such things, are you able to give an indication of the weight of the rifle ready to go (but unloaded)?

    regards,
    jonno

    • Jonno,

      That’s a good question. I will weight it as soon as I get a chance. It will be a bit, as I’m on the road for the day job right now.

        • Uncle Trevor,

          It weighs in at…

          too heavy for the kitchen scale and too light for the bathroom scale.

          The difference between my weight, and the combined weight of me and my rifle was 14.2 pounds.

          On two different attempts, I ‘tricked’ the bathroom scale into giving me a reading of 13.8 pounds.

          That includes an empty mag, Harris 9-12 notched swivel bipod, an RS-2 with Mil-Force swivels, swivel silencers, and a slide down loop keeper, a rear bag (the Magic Sack), and a BMF front bag. It’s a little heavier than I thought, but it’s fine.

          • I was wrong on the swivels. They are heavy duty push button swivels.

          • Thanks mightily for that detailed report my good man, much appreciated.

            (I would have replied earlier except that I went a little bit silly at the kids’ birthday party the other day and your aunt Doreen wouldn’t let me back in the house to use the computer – had to sleep in me ute!)

            All the best,
            Uncle Trev

  4. “…I love to beat myself up.”
    No worries, we’ll take care of that for you, just relax.

    “That’s how it’s logically possible to come to the conclusion that in order to increase your precision, drink beer.”
    With this statement you have earned the gratitude of untold millions.

    • Pete,

      That’s awfully nice of you to offer to kick the crap out of me occasionally. I guess I can relax now.

      Hopefully you can adapt my precision rifle techniques to your teaching style. “Pay me, show up, go home, drink beer, and you’re a better shooter.” Everyone’s happy.

      • “That’s awfully nice of you to offer to kick the crap out of me occasionally. I guess I can relax now.”

        No sweat, that’s what friends are for.

        As far as beer and teaching, I think most guys would listen better if they were three sheets to the wind, but muzzle control would suffer….

  5. “…feel left out from all the other internet commandos”

    There are many of them? Do they write as well as shoot?

    Nice write up about your gunsmith and the rifle, nice pictures both in words and images of color and contrast. Thanks.

    • “Do they write as well as shoot?” From what I’ve seen, no one writes that well (or shoots that well consistently). I’m getting to the point where it really bothers me to see accuracy stats that lack the number of rounds fired, or sometimes even the distance. I saw this in a magazine that cost $8.99 the other day. I guess it sounds good to have some sort of impressive sounding but meaningless number.

      Thanks for the nice comments about the blog. What I don’t have is the cool black and white stuff that you do. That’s pretty neat.

  6. If I remember correctly, the old barrel was not concentric. Can you please elaborate on the problems of the old barrel?

    • Ivan,

      There was not a lot of detail to expound on. Here’s what I remember. He slugged the muzzle end of the barrel. I think that when folks look at barrels they are usually looking at the muzzle or the throat, but my knowledge there is limited. I think he used a lead 0.313 bullet to slug it with. What I remember is that not all of the bullet was marked by the grooves, but that the part that was marked measured 0.309. I could be somewhat mistaken about some of the particulars, but that is what I remember. Granted, that was a long time ago 🙂

  7. It’s amazing how much difference a good barrel makes. I’m seeing some of that now with 3 Gun. We’ve shot out past 400 yards and I’m finding myself behind the curve. I’m going back and re-reading a lot of your earlier posts because I know it’s usually a case of ‘it’s the Indian not the arrow’ but I’m also considering barrels on all my dedicated 3 Gun rifles. I have a rifle class next month with Keith Garcia. I’m hoping for some answers.

    • With the little bit that I know about your shooting background and the amount of competing you’ve been doing I think you could probably appreciate the difference, probably even from some field positions.

  8. RS, Have you given any thought to the barrel before you bought the Bartlein? I’d be interested in knowing if you were just replicating what you had (in kind replacement), or if you had researched different profiles, lengths, fluting, and rifling strategies (Hex, 5R, progressive) before deciding.

    With so many confusing choices, I could see how a beer and a coin could help decide.

    • I’d given it some thought. I didn’t want something super heavy. The Remington Varmint contour ‘seems’ to be on the light end for what would be considered by most to be a precision rifle barrel. I did like the 20″ barrel I had. I thought about going to 18″, but I liked 20″ well enough. I really appreciate it when moving with the rifle. Fluting is a little controversial, expensive, and not the best way to save weight (I think reducing the length probably is), so I preferred not to have it. As far as rifling, I wasn’t too worried about it. I don’t think I’d notice a difference. I did opt for the 1-10, just in case I wanted to get a can and shoot subsonics, which seems like it’s pretty far fetched at this point, and I don’t know exactly how heavy I could go with that twist at such a low velocity.

      So yes, I did give it some thought, mostly in terms of cartridge choice a while back. .308 is a little more practically useful to me than some of the others that would be a big step up in the wind, like something shooting a .243 or .264 bullet. I’m probably ready for something like that now. I’ve shot out 2 .308 barrels in bolt guns now. The Remington is ready for a new tube as well.

  9. With the amount of practice you are doing, the .308 will remain a solid choice until your reloading room is set up. I’ve been trying to set mine up for almost 4 years after moving. One day…

    • Who needs a room? I have an over size tool box with a bunch of my gear. I tumble in the garage, re-size on the patio and measure powder at the kitchen table. I have two rock crushers but always use the Lee Hand Press. I haven’t hit anything yet, but I’m getting closer…lol

      • The problem with us is that we moved into a smaller house. I still have stuff that doesn’t have a home, which means theres less room and order than there should be already, so trying to reload is going to be a disaster waiting to happen. I make a little progress on my space every week. Problem is that the outbuilding I’m working on isn’t plumb, square, level (classic farm building), so everything is a brand new problem to be thought out, and that’s not my trade.

        I have a feeling that someday you will hit something.

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