World Record 6×44–the ’6BR Long’
IBS Shooter of the Year Joel Kendrick's 600-yard Guns
Joel Kendrick took the Benchrest world by storm in 2004, setting multiple world records and racking up enough points to be named the first-ever IBS Shooter of the Year in 600-yard competition. He did it with a pair of rifles chambered in Dave Tooley’s 6×44, otherwise known as the “6mmBR Long”. Formed from a .243 Winchester case, the 6×44 looks like a stretched 6BR, with powder capacity midway between the 6BR and .243. The 6×44 takes the concept of the 6mm Dasher one step further, offering an ultra-accurate means to launch 105-107 grain bullets at 3000 fps.
Joel’s 600-yard BAT/Leonard gun (with weight removed) and a 20.5″ 6PPC barrel served as Joel’s LV Super Shoot rig.
Record-Setting Performance in the New 600-yard Benchrest Discipline
2004 marked the first year of official sanctioned 600-yard IBS and NBRSA benchrest competition. Starting off, nobody really knew what would prove to be the winning set-up or caliber to beat. As it turns out, Joel’s innovative 6×44 proved to be ideal for “middle distance” competition. Not only did Joel win the coveted IBS Shooter of the Year distinction, but he set four new 600-yard world records in the process.
Joel notched one IBS world record with the purple Borden, and three with his Leonard-stocked BAT. Both guns are chambered in the 6×44 wildcat. Notably, all of Joel’s records were Aggs or combined LG/HG scores, not just one “lucky group.”
1. Light Gun Score Aggregate, 205 (8X) (3.0275″), 7/31/04
2. Heavy Gun Group Aggregate, 2.373″, 11/21/04
3. Two-Gun (LG/HG) Combined Score, 390 (7X), 11/21/04
4. Two-Gun (LG/HG) Combined Group, 2.5548″, 11/21/04
Remarkably, Joel scored enough IBS points during the course of the year that he would have captured Shooter of the Year (SOY) honors even without his record-setting performance at the season-ending match in St. Louis. IBS officials told him, “You didn’t even need to go to St. Louis.” Obviously though, he’s glad he did. For the 2004 IBS season, Joel finished first with 54.5 SOY points, followed by James Phillips with 30 points. (James also set multiple 600-yard world records at St. Louis shoot on November 21st–a good day for breaking records.)
|“Once I get started it is almost impossible for me to stop and take a second look at the flags or mirage. I just ‘Grip it and Rip it’ and hope for the best. When I shoot the best I never have to touch the joy-stick on the Farley from the first shot to the last.” — Joel Kendrick|
Building a 6×44 (“6BR Long”) for 600-Yard Competition
Joel’s world-record rifles were not purpose-built for 600-yard competition. In fact they both started out as “point-blank” BR Rigs: “I purchased my first custom benchrest rifle in 2001. It was a second-hand 6PPC Light Varmint smithed by Jim Borden, with a TPE action bedded in purple Rimrock stock. I used this gun for IBS Score and NBRSA Group shooting in the Southeast until the summer of 2002. At that time, I built my second 6PPC LV benchrest rifle with a microport BAT action, a beautiful Terry Leonard stock, and a Kreiger chambered by David Tooley. Late in the summer of 2003, I learned about the new 600-yard IBS discipline and found out that Piedmont Gun Club would shoot this yardage starting in February 2004. I decided in August of 2003 to order a new 27″ Krieger and have Dave Tooley chamber it in 6×44, a wildcat that had worked really well for Bobby Greenway. Since the Borden action already had a 308 bolt-face it was the logical choice to use for my 600-yard rifle. But I did order a new .308 bolt for the BAT action so it could run the 6×44 also.
I used the Borden for all my 2004 IBS 600-yard matches except the last match of the year in St Louis. There I used the BAT-actioned gun because it had an ejector and I could shoot a little bit faster. It turned out to be a very good choice as I set three 600-yard world records at that match. Whether it was the gun, or good conditions, or great luck, I can’t say. But I did use new brass for the St. Louis match, so that probably helped. The conditions were decent too. It was blowing 10-12 mph, but it was very steady–no problem getting off a 5-shot string.
| Borden Rifle Specs
Chambering: 6×44 mm
Components: Borden TPE action, Rimrock stock, Kelbly bases and rings, Leupold 40X Comp scope, Jewell trigger. Tooley-smithed 27″ Krieger 4-groove, 8.5-twist, HV contour. Added weight in butt of stock to give better balance; weight 13.5 lbs.
Joel notes: “The low-profile Leonard stock may track a bit better, but the Purple Borden racked up the lion’s share of the points that won me the Shooter of the Year Title.”
Load Development and Accuracy
Bobby Greenway had been using a 6×44 for the last few years with great success and he helped me with starting loads for this cartridge. I used H4350 starting with 36 grains and tuned at 100 yards, settling on 37.0-37.2gr of H4350. This is with 105gr Berger bullet into the lands around .035″ with light to medium neck tension letting the bullet seat itself. I figure the bullets are ending up about .025″ into the lands this way, or .010″ “off jam”. I tried several other bullets but the Berger 105s gave the best results, and they proved very consistent both in weight and base-to-ogive length.
The 6×44 is a very efficient cartridge and not very finicky. It is easy to keep in tune–I pretty much used the same load all year from 28° to 95° with no problems. The only load-related problem that I had all last year was when I over-annealed my brass leaving very soft necks that would not hold the bullets to the same OAL length when chambered. The result was that vertical was terrible along with my match results. Consistent neck tension and bullet seating depth are obviously critical to accuracy.
The Kriegers have been amazing. From the very first shot I’ve never seen any copper. They’re just that good. I do use one trick during break-in–I make sure the lead-in angle area is smooth with no burrs or nicks. I polish that area with JB and then inspect with the bore scope before the first shoot. I can say that the Manson Reamer cut a very nice chamber in my rifles. One more word about barrels–most people worry about copper when they should be worring about carbon. I’ve been using a new product from Tom Meredith, a liquid he simply calls “TM”. I used this all week at the Super Shoot and it works great on carbon. I do spot check for copper regularly. If it’s a problem, I use Butch’s Boreshine or Montana Extreme “50-BMG” solvent.
|BAT Rifle Specs
Chambering: 6×44 mm
Components: BAT RBLP, Right Microport action, Leonard carbon/redwood stock (bedded by Leonard), BAT bases, Kelbly rings, Leupold 45X Comp scope, Jewell trigger. Tooley-smithed 27″ Krieger 4-groove, 8.5-twist HV contour. Added weight to stock to give better balance; weight 13.5 lbs.
Joel notes: “This gun’s a little faster. The BAT action cycles so smoothly it doesn’t jar my set up, and the ejector makes a difference.”
Joel behind the 6×44 Borden, with a 27″ Kreiger. Joel earned most of his 2004 SOY points with this 13.5-pound gun.
Joel’s Match Strategy and Shooting Technique
During competition I try to send five bullets down range on my record target as fast as possible under the same conditions (which usually last just a few seconds). At St. Louis they timed a couple of my strings at 9 seconds (per string), but normally it takes me 15 to 20 seconds, maybe a little faster with the BAT gun since it has an ejector. Once I get started it is almost impossible for me to stop and take a second look at the Hensley flags or mirage. I just grip it and rip it and hope for the best. I cannot see the bullet holes at 600 yards. I can tell when I have shot a good target–everything is working correctly (table manners), and the gun just slides right back on target. When I shoot the best I never have to touch the joy-stick on the Farley from the first shot to the last. When I’m shooting well, I just get into this mental zone, what I call my “A Game”. There are no secrets, no “Fairy Dust”. It takes good eyes, a well-tuned rifle, and a lot of luck. 95% of the matches involve some luck of the draw. Interestingly, all last year I did not shoot in the first relay except for the St. Louis match, and there I set three world records. (The photo at right shows one of my record-setting targets.)
6×44–Will It Dominate 600-yard Competition?
I cannot compare the 6×44 to other calibers shot at 600 yards, as this is the only caliber that I have used in 600-yard competition. I did try a 6.5-284 at a fun shoot at the club in January 2005, but it would not Agg as well as the 6×44. As far as the performance of this cartridge goes, I will let my four IBS International Records (all aggregate records) and the Shooter of the Year Award tell the story. If I do my part, I’m confident that the 6×44 can run with anything. In my opinion, the ideal caliber for 600 yards would be the most accurate one. I think that means some form of the 6mm BR cartridge, if you consider the most effective bullet/barrel combination given the weight limits. Is the 6×44, aka “6BR Long”, the caliber to beat at 600 yards? Well, a standard 6BR is extremely accurate, and easy to tune. But with a standard case you’re going to max out at about 2900 fps and that’s running pretty hot. The 6mm Dasher gets you more fps, but I think the Dasher’s short neck may erode throats more quickly, and I do believe a longer neck is better for accuracy. The longer-necked 6×44 easily gets me to 3000 fps at moderate pressures. I don’t have to hot-rod the cases. I’ve got over 2000 shots on my original 50 cases for the Borden, and I’ve only lost three cases to split necks.
What does the future hold for 600-yard benchrest shooting? Competition is definitely heating up. More top shooters are trying the 600-yard distance, and some real smart guys are experimenting with new cartridges and new bullets. Personally, I will be trying some Lapua Scenar 105s as soon as they can fill my back-order. This past year I was running well under the weight limit, so I’m adding some weight to the gun to bring it up to the 17-pound maximum. I’m curious to see if that helps with stability and cycling speed. I don’t think we’ll see any major technological breakthroughs in the next year or two, but I do expect to see the records continue to fall.
Final Thoughts on Becoming a Better Shooter
Your editor asked me if I had any specific recommendations for novice competitors. Well, a few years ago, at the first Super Shoot I attended, I asked Tony Boyer if he had any advice for new shooter. He replied “Practice! Practice! Practice! And use flags!!” OK, lesson learned. Jim Borden also told me that if I paid more attention to flags I would become a better shooter. And I have to credit Ted Manning of Virginia for mentoring me in the art of reading wind flags (see Ted I do listen). I would also like to thank my friend Terry Leonard in helping this green rookie exceed his goals ahead of schedule (a 5-year plan). With the help of all these gentleman, I was able to progress quickly and achieve never-expected results in BR competition. So to novices out there, I say practice, listen to the experts, and learn to read the wind. Combine that strategy with good loads and a well-tuned rifle, and you should be successful.”
Making 6×44 brass is not easy. It takes about eight hours to work up 100 cases. Starting with Lapua .243 brass, I form cases down using RCBS 6mmBR form dies. While the brass is in the second form die in the press, I rough-cut the brass to length. Later I trim to finish length (1.740″ OAL) with a Wilson trimmer. This gives a .296″ neck length.
After forming the brass, I anneal the necks, then fire-form the cases using about 10 grains of Red Dot or Green Dot pistol powder with Cream of Wheat filler and paper towel packed in the neck. Then I’ll polish the neck interiors with a brush wrapped with #0000 steel wool. Next comes the time-consuming part–expanding the necks with a 6mm mandrel and neck-turning. It takes me about five passes with a K&M cutter to get desired neck thickness. After the neck-turning is complete, I’ll chamfer the inside and outside of the case-mouths and uniform the primer pockets. The final step is to run the cases through a full-length sizing die with a Redding neck bushing. Dave Tooley made both my sizing die and my seater die.
|Tech-Talk with Dave Tooley
Dave writes: “Here is how I came up with the 6×44. I don’t think I was the first one to do it. There is not much that is actually new these days. I just found a good shooter in Joel Kendrick to shoot the thing. I guess it was about 15 years ago that I got a used barrel from another gunsmith in the area. It was a 1:13″ twist Hart chambered in .243 Win. The price was right so I thought ‘what could I do with it?’ I wanted more velocity than the 6BR offered and less bark than the .243 Winchester. I had a small Hall action around and several sets of BR reamers. I ordered a stock from McMillan to put together a walking-around rockchuck rifle.
While waiting on the stock I played with case lengths and settled on 44 mm more or less. While the cases require a little work to make I thought it would be worth it. The case capacity was just right. It was exactly what I wanted. I could shoot 66gr bullets at over 3800 fps with accuracy, long case life, and very little recoil. There wasn’t a rockchuck safe in Wyoming after that gun entered my arsenal. I got to know Joel through the 500-yard shoots that were being held at Piedmont Gun Club here in North Carolina. He was shooting a 6PPC at the time. We started with 3-shot groups. He could hold his own there but when we went to 5-shot groups he found out that the 6PPC was little undersized. We talked and I told him about the 6×44 and he bit. The rest is history: Joel is the IBS 600-Yard Shooter of the Year and I don’t remember how many world records he set–plenty that’s for sure. By the way, it appears that some of those records may have been broken this past weekend at Piedmont while he was at the Super Shoot. That will teach him to leave town.” –Dave Tooley
EDITOR: Here is one of Dave’s latest projects, a 1000-yard gun in 30 BooBoo. Dave has designed some new heavyweight .30-caliber bullets for the gun that have shown AMAZING accuracy in early testing. Watch out for Dave on the 1K circuit this year.
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