300M Shooting — A Challenging Discipline

Report and Photographs by Tony Chow
On August 12th to 16th, USAMU’s Fort Benning range hosted the 2013 USA Shooting 300m National Championships. This match, held every four years, nominates athletes to represent the United States at the 300m World Championships, due to be held in 2014, in Granada, Spain.

300m Championships Fort Benning

300m Shooting — A World-Class Challenge
300m shooting is a challenging discipline. With much smaller scoring rings than NRA targets, the 300m target can bedevil even the most experienced High Power shooters, especially in tricky wind conditions. While European 300m shooters typically use expensive rifles from the likes of Gruenig & Elmiger (G&E) and Bleiker, less costly American-made equipment has proven to be every bit as competitive. Case in point are the free rifles used by the USAMU team, all of which are built from American target actions such as Panda and BAT, fitted with Krieger barrels, and glass-bedded into Anschütz stocks.

The competition took place in unseasonably mild weather for this time of the year in Georgia. As the popularity of 300m shooting is limited in the United States, 21 shooters in total took part in four days of competition. Despite the light participation, the athletes included some of the best international rifle shooters in the country. The relaxed and club-like atmosphere belied intense and high-level competition on the firing line.

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Electronic targets record all shots as 10, 9, 8, etc., with the X-count being the first tiebreaker. Each whole number score is accompanied by a more precise score that ranges from 0-100. An official 10, for example, could be anything from 91 (on the edge of the ring), all the way to 100 (dead center). The more precise score is NOT used officially for score keeping in ISSF competition, but could be in the future, as already is the case in 50m prone and 10m air rifle.

300m Championships Fort Bennign

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3P Course of Fire and Results
The 3P events occupied the first two days of competition. Athletes shot in three positions–kneeling, prone, and standing — using free rifles, mostly chambered in 6BR. Under ISSF rules, men fire 40 record shots in each position, while women fire 20 record shots in each position. Each event is repeated on the second day, and the two-day aggregates determined the winner. In Men’s 300m 3P, USAMU’s Joseph Hall, who had never shot a 300m match before, beat his more experienced teammates Joseph Hein and Michael McPhail to take gold. Among women, USAMU’s Erin Lorenzen edged out 2008 World Championship veterans Reya Kempley and Janet Raab for the gold.

The prone and Standard Rifle events followed in the second half of the competition. The 300m prone match is shot by both men and women, using same free rifles as in the 3P events. The Standard Rifle match is another 3-position event, except contested only among men, using rifles strictly limited in external shape and adjustability. Cooler temperatures and intermittent rain made conditions trickier to read than during the first two days. In men’s prone, USAMU’s Eric Uptagrafft took gold, edging out Unit teammates Hall and McPhail. In women’s prone, Erin Lorenzen once again came out on top over Reya Kempley (photo below) and Michelle Bohren.

300m Fort Benning National Championship Tony Chow

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In the Standard Rifle event, AMU’s Joseph Hall continued his good form and took another gold over teammate Joseph Hein. Equally noteworthy is the third place finisher Steve Goff. Goff, an AMU Hall of Famer who now competes as a senior in USAS matches, beat back much younger challengers to earn the third and final slot in the 2014 US Men’s Standard Rifle Team.

Cartridge Options for 300m Shooting — by Tony Chow
The cartridge of choice in 300m is 6mmBR Norma (aka 6BR). The AMU shooters all shoot Norma Diamond Line 6BR factory ammo, loaded with moly-coated 105gr Berger HPBT bullets, with the notable exception of prone match winner Eric Uptagrafft, who shoots handloads with HBN-coated bullets in his 6mm Dasher. Civilian shooters mostly shoot the 6mmBR as well, also preferring Berger bullets. I was the odd man out shooting a Gruenig & Elmiger (G&E) chambered in 6.5×47 Lapua. That cartridge was actually the result of a collaboration between G+E and Lapua to create an alternative to 6BR, though in the 300m world, it never managed to catch on. There was one shooter using 6.5-284 and another shooting a wildcat cartridge called “.260 BMR (boomer)”.

6BR 6mmBR Tony Chow 300mI’m not the authority on the pros and cons of various calibers. I doubt that most world-class 300m shooters concern themselves too much with these matters. The 6BR is simply good enough. It holds well inside the 10-Ring, is relatively economical, and offers extremely long barrel life when using mild factory loads. G+E rates its chrome-moly, cut-rifled 6BR barrels as capable of lasting 7,000 rounds. The AMU gunsmith, Glenn Sulser, told me that the AMU’s policy is to re-barrel at the 4,500-5,000 round mark.

Longer cartridges such as 6.5×47 and 6XC are supposed to offer easier feeding, but in my observation, the nose-heavy nature of 6BR is, in practice, not a major problem for 300m shooters. One of the advantages of 6.5×47 is even longer barrel life, and that’s the reason I went for this caliber myself. But looking back now, the greater recoil and extra cost in brass and powder are probably not worth it.

Factory Ammo vs. Handloads — Cost Considerations
One of the advantages the AMU shooters enjoyed over the civilians is that the Unit marksmen had an unlimited supply of ammo, and therefore could shoot as many sighters as they wished. In a 15-minute sighting-in period, it was not uncommon for AMU shooters to fire 20+ sighter shots, just as they do in smallbore. We civilians had to settle with under 10 sighters, in order to leave enough for the match.

Unless you are filthy rich or have someone else paying for the ammo, reloading is definitely the only way to go. A reloaded round costs under 50 cents a piece. The European factory ammo costs nearly $3 a round these days (as sold in the USA).

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