Tennessee Triple — VolDoc’s Varminters
Shooting Prairie Dogs at extreme long range takes some highly specialized equipment. Forum Member VolDoc and his friends have taken long-range varminting to a whole new level. With his Savage-based, Hart-barreled 20 BR, VolDoc managed a verified 1,032-yard Prairie Dog kill, possibly the longest recorded with a .20-Caliber rifle. But that’s just part of VolDoc’s impressive precision varminting arsenal. Here we showcase three of VolDoc’s accurate rigs: his stunning English Walnut Diamondback 6BR/Dasher, his Nesika-actioned “Orange Crush” Dasher, and the 1K Prairie Dog-slaying 20 BR Savage.
Diamondback Switch-Barrel Rifle Specifications
The action is a Stiller Diamondback, drop-port. The custom stock is similar to a Shehane ST-1000, but crafted from 40-year-old English Walnut. [Editor's note: the wood on this gun is gorgeous!] There are three barrels for the gun with three different chamberings: 6BR Brux 1:8″-twist HV; 6BRX Krieger 1:8″-twist HV, and 6mm Dasher Krieger 1:8.5″ twist fluted straight contour (no taper). The scope is a Nightforce 12-42x56mm, with 2DD reticle.
Comments: This rifle is a good study in comparison of the three different chamberings. On the same rifle platform (same stock and action), each of these barrels had killed prairie dogs over 1,000 yards. So if someone asks which is best, a 6BR, or 6BRX, or 6 Dasher, VolDoc says they are all effective. The improved cartridges will deliver higher velocities, which can be an advantage. On the other hand it is simpler to load 6mmBR brass right out of the box, and it’s easy to find an accurate load for the 6mmBR (see photo).
Nesika 6mmBR/Dasher Rifle Specifications
VolDoc’s “Big Orange Crush” rifle has a stainless Nesika ‘J’ action, with 2 oz. Jewell trigger, in a painted fiberglass Shehane ST-1000 stock. Originally a 6BR, the gun is now chambered as a 6mm Dasher with a .271 no-turn neck. The barrel is a 1:12″-twist Krieger fited with Vais muzzle brake. On top is a NightForce NXS 12-42x56mm scope with double-dot reticle. The double-dot gives precise aiming and lower dot can be used as an aming point, when you need a few more MOA of elevation in the field.
Comments: Big Orange Crush shoots 87gr V-Maxs into bugholes at 3,400 fps. VolDoc’s load with the 87s is very stout, more than 32 grains of Vihtavuori N-135 with Wolf SRM primers. Cases are full-length sized, with an 0.266″ bushing for the necks.
This 3400 fps load with the 87gr V-Maxs has accounted for hundreds of Prairie Dogs killed from 97 yards to 1,050 yards. The 87gr V-Max at this speed literally picks Prairie Dogs up and throws them 10 feet vertically and laterally. VolDoc reports: “The barrel now has more than 3,000 rounds down the tube and exhibits little throat fire-cracking and no loss of accuracy. I can’t explain why, it just hasn’t deteriorated yet. This rifle is my best-ever ‘go-to’ Prairie Dog rifle.”
Savage 20 BR Rifle Specifications
The action is a Savage Dual Port, with an aftermarket Sharp Shooter Supply (SSS) 4 oz. Evolution trigger. The stock is a modified Savage factory unit that has been pillar-bedded. The factory barrel was replaced with a 28″ Hart stainless, 1:9″ twist barrel fitted with a Rayhill muzzle brake. The gun is chambered in 20 BR with a 0.235″ no-turn neck. Kevin Rayhill did the smithing. To provide enough elevation to shoot at 1,000 yards plus, Ray fitted a +20 MOA Bench Source scope base. This +20 rail is very well-crafted, and made especially for the Savage Model 12.
Comments: VolDoc reports: “When I got the Savage back from Kevin Rayhill, it still had my 6 BR factory barrel on it, as I use it to compete in Factory-class regional matches. I put on the new 20 BR Hart barrel Kevin had chambered and quickly put in a full day of load development using the 55gr Bergers (0.381 G1 BC) and the 40gr V-Maxs. Both proved very easy to tune and I soon had my loads. My 55gr Berger load with runs about 3590 fps. Varget was very accurate with the 55s (see load dev. targets below).
The mild recoil of the 20 BR, along with a very good muzzle break (Rayhill’s design) enables me to spot every hit or miss myself. Kevin also re-contoured the underside of the Savage stock so it tracks straight back on recoil, also making seeing hits easier.”
|The 20 Caliber 1000-Yard Prairie Dog Quest|
Making the 1032-Yard Shot with a 20 BR
by Dr. John S. (aka “VolDoc”)
This article covers my recent successful quest for a 20-caliber varmint kill past 1,000 yards. This may be a first — I couldn’t find anyone else with a confirmed 20-Cal Prairie Dog kill at 1000+. I started a thread on the Varmint section of the AccurateShooter.com Forum about building a 20 BR capable of 1,000-yard Minute of Prairie Dog accuracy and many said 20 Cal bullets just could not do it. Some came to my defense and said those that doubted had never studied the ballistics of the 20BR with the new Berger 55gr bullets now available. Well, folks, I can tell you, hitting a Prairie Dog at 1000 yards isn’t easy — but it IS possible. Here’s how it was done….
Gale-Force Winds and High Temps
After arriving at our Prairie Dog Ranch in Colorado, I soon realized my quest was going to be especially difficult because we had continual 40+ mph winds and 100° heat every day. We had a special place where Birdog and I had made many 1,000-yard+ kills in years past, so I knew the ideal location but needed a small window of opportunity either early morning or late afternoon. Based on past experience, I knew I needed about 21 MOA from my 100-yard zero to get to 1,000 yards. On the first day of the Safari, I shot the 20 BR in the 45 mph brutal winds and heat of 97°. But after about 20 shots, I connected on a dog and lifted him about three feet high. Well, that’s a start.
Winds Subside — Here’s Our Chance …
On the second day of our shoot, I had listened to the early weather forecast, so I knew that there was to be a brief period of light winds early in the morning. We were out on the Colorado prairie at daylight and the conditions were perfect. The sunrise was at my back and we had about a 10 mph tailwind. I looked through my Leica Geovid Rangefinder Binos and the Prairie Dogs were out for breakfast. I quickly ranged the targets and found a group at about 1,050 yards. The technique is to find the dogs, range them, click-up according to your ballistic chart and shoot.
My first shot was very, very close. I added about four clicks up and a couple of clicks left for windage and let another go. That shot threw dirt all over, but the dog didn’t even flinch. This is another good point to remember about long-range Prairie Dog hunting. To be successful, the dogs can’t be too skittish, because if they have been shot at even a few times, they will go down and stay down. So, you should have an agreement with those in your party as to where each member is going to be shooting and respect this boundary. Drive-by shooting style is OK if that’s your thing, it’s just not mine.
Hitting the Mark — Dead Dog at 1032 Yards
On the fourth shot, I saw the dog go belly up and kick its final throws. My quest for the 20-Caliber 1,000-yard Prairie Dog had become a reality. We confirmed the distance with our lasers at 1,032 yards. Our technique for retrieving a dead dog at that range is worth mentioning. When I killed that dog, I left it in the crosshairs of my Nightforce scope. My shooting buddy kept looking through the scope (of my gun) and guided me to the deceased dog using Motorola walkie-talkies. When I got to the dog I was jubilant. I marked it with my tripod and orange jacket, and we took some pictures. (See view through scope photo below). The 55 Bergers require a center mass hit as they will not expand, especially at that range. I centered this dog in the head — his BAD LUCK, my GOOD.
After making the 1,032-yard kill, I shot many many other Prairie Dogs with the 20 BR using the 40gr V-Maxs. The dog flights were spectacular — red mist and helicopters, counter-clockwise or clockwise on demand. I killed at least five at over 500 yards. I will not use the 55 Bergers on Prairie Dogs again since the quest is over. I will use the 40gr V-Maxs and 39gr Sierra BlitzKings for next trip’s 20 BR fodder.
The One That Got Away … The Really Long Prairie Dog Shot
During our Prairie Dog Safari I attempted some other very long shots, including one at about 1,500 yards. After one extreme-distance shot, my buddy watched my target dog for about 5-6 minutes and then remarked, “Doc, he’s moving.” Before I could get reset and shoot again, the dog got behind some tall prairie grass out of view. I knew he was hit hard but wasn’t sure if he was a goner. I went out to the hit area and JR guided me to the spot. The dog had gotten into his hole. Just for kicks, I ranged back to my shooting table in two increments as the Geovids are only good to about 1,200 yards. We figured the total yardage was slightly over 1,503 yards. Now that would have been a Loooong Dog.
|SPECIAL THANKS and Credits
One of the most important ingredients of my successful 2011 quest for a 1,000-yard Prairie Dog (taken with a .20 Caliber) was one of my “Best of Friends”, JRinKY. He and I have been on many Prairie Dog hunts in Nebraska, South Dakota, and Colorado. He maintains a low profile but he’s always there to help with all the menial chores, such as setting up and tearing down shooting sites. He always kills more Prairie Dogs than Birdog and I put together. He is the heart of my “Shooting Fun”. Without JR, Ol’ VolDoc would stay at home. JR uses the spot-and-stalk technique and kills hundreds when I kill only a few. I thank JR for all his help.
I would also like to thank my smith, Kevin Rayhill, who transformed a factory Savage into an ultra-accurate Prairie Dog Killer. Kevin’s work made a big difference.
Topics: Colorado, Voldoc, 20 BR, 6BR, 6mm Dasher, ST1000, Prairie Dog, 1000 yards, Nesika, Savage, Diamondback, Stiller, Berger, NightForce, Hunting, Varminting, Shooting, Marksmanship, Reloading, Precision, Accuracy, Precision Shooting, 20 Cal, 20 Caliber, 6mmBR.com, 6mmBR, benchrest, long-range, barrels, gunsmithing, Daily Bulletin.