NW 30BR and 6.5-284 Switch-Barrel
Gene Solyntjes' 600-yard Record-Setting 30 BR and 6.5-284 Rig
Most of us know by now that the diminutive 30BR is the cartridge to beat in benchrest score shooting at 100, 200 and even 300 yards. But when a 30BR aces out the “big boys” to set a new (pending) NBRSA World Record at 600 yards, that’s news. The marksman who pulled off this feat is Gene Solyntjes from Washington state. Shooting at the scenic Upper Nisqually Range in June, 2005, he posted a Ten-Shot, 100-5X Score (and 2.287″ group) that earned him a place in the record books. Gene’s rifle is a switch-barrel rig, so he can shoot both 30BR from 100-600 yards, and 6.5-284 at 600 yards and beyond.
Building a Top-Flight Switch-Barrel Rifle–And Sorting Out the Bugs
Gene tells us: “My rifle is a Hall ‘M’ action right bolt, left port switch-barrel rifle with HV taper barrels in 30BR (Pac-Nor 1 in 18), and 6.5 x .284 (Krieger 1 in 8.5). I chose this action because, at the time, it was the shortest, stiffest action that would feed and extract the 6.5 x 284 case. The action has a Jewell 1.5 oz. trigger and the stock is a Randy Dierks’ design from Action Gunworks. The custom, angled scope base was created by Rick Beginski, and Stolle rings hold a 30mm Leupold Premiere 18-40X scope with a fine dot reticle. The paint was applied in a patriotic theme of Candy Apple red, marble white, and cobalt blue by a patient of mine.
This rifle got off to a rocky start with a different stock that would not track properly. Rick Beginski suggested changing to the Dierks stock. Randy Dierks, of Action Gunworks, shoots 50 caliber weapons and knows a few things about building stocks that tame the torque developed by very high-powered cartridges. While the rifle responded very effectively to its new stock, I sent the gun off to Greg Tannel,
Gre-Tan Rifles, in Colorado. Greg inspected the setup quite closely and concluded that the stock bolts, as supplied, were too small to resist the shear forces generated by the 6.5-284 cartridge. Greg drilled the pillars and tapped the action for .250″ x28 screws, added an ejector to the Hall bolt and made the seating die for the 30BR. The rifle that came back from Colorado was not the rifle I sent. This one worked!”
The Gun Proves to Be a Tack-Driver with Both Calibers
Gene continued: “With stock issues resolved, my task was to adapt to the new 30BR cartridge and the new 6.5-284 barrel. I soon learned the both calibers performed great. Since this rifle returned from Greg Tannel it has won matches at 100, 200, and 300 yards, 500 meters, also 600 and 1,000 yards. Now that’s versatility. The 30BR worked so well, it took some getting used to, since nearly all the groups ever fired by the rifle at 100 yards have been of the single-hole variety. I quickly learned that, for me, the rifle responds better to being gripped, rather than free recoil. The smallest group fired at 100 yards was .341″ edge to edge. This was the hole at its widest diameter. The actual group size (center to center) was .033!
The load that produced that bughole was 34.5 grains of H4198 SC ‘Extreme’, Federal match primers, with BIB bullets seated +0.030″ into the lands. I use a sizing die converted from a 7 BR die by Jim Carstensen of JLC Precision. Prior to setting the Worlds’ Records, the most memorable day with the rifle was winning a point-blank match with over a dozen 6PPCs and BRs. The 30BR is capable of doing great things due to its Lapua case, ultra-accurate Robinett bullets, and the 17- or 18-twist barrels which work so very well.
While I had previous experience with the 6.5-284 cartridge, the new 6.5 barrel had been sitting at Gre-Tan for over four years before it was chambered. (Bob Crone had suggested purchasing this barrel when Krieger had made a particularly excellent run of these fine 8.5 twist tubes.) Well it turns out it was worth waiting for that barrel. It shoots superbly. My best load currently is 50.8 grains of RL22, Federal match primers and Sierra 142 MKs seated 0.020″ short of the lands.” [EDITOR’S NOTE: this load works in Gene’s rifle, but it may be too warm for you gun. Always start 10% low and work up. Seating Depth changes–going into the lands, for example–can also alter pressure significantly.]
Caliber Choice–Why the 30BR and 6.5-284
Gene explains: “I decided to go with a 30BR after consulting with Randy Robinett of BIB Bullets. Offering to help get ‘this project on the road’, Randy sent his reamer to Greg Tannel and rounded up a barrel from a large order placed with Pac-Nor. Early articles in Precision Shooting had left no doubt in my mind that a 30BR should be capable of superior, consistent accuracy and it should not be temperamental to tune. The major challenge with the 30BR is finding a better load than the one you are using already, since it’s so easy to tune! This is a very shooter-friendly, exceptionally accurate cartridge.
For my long-range barrel, I chose the 6.5-284 because it’s becoming the most popular 1,000-yard cartridge and so much is known about its design and capabilities. Good loads are well-known. This case and the 142 grain Sierra BTHP is a tremendous combination, particularly if you sort the bullets for consistency.
Secrets of Accuracy–Perfect Stocks and Consistent Ammunition
If there is anything I can share which will help readers it is the importance of precision bedding and stock-fitting. I sat behind a rifle on a bench a little over a year ago and returned it to battery. The crosshairs did not waver a bit. They returned to the same place every time. I was stunned. Rick Beginski then explained to me the bottom and side-flats of the stock had been trued to be exactly parallel to the bore’s centerline. Thus the rifle, with the bags set properly, would return consistently to the very same place. Over years I had battled this problem and suddenly here was the solution in my hands. With a rifle bedded this way, and a stock with straight, consistent dimensions, you can get off a fast shot string with amazing accuracy. Rick very carefully beds the action to ensure his guns track this consistently.
I credit Ted Larsen’s tutoring when it comes to precision shooting and reloading. For years, Ted Larson held nearly every meaningful BR record at his home range and he was state champion several times. Ted was almost fixated in his attention to bullet jacket consistency, and the dimensional consistency of his turned necks. He also regarded neck length as his particular secret to consistent grouping. Ted preferred his necks to be just .003″ short of the OAL of the chamber. He felt that fouling tended to build up in the space between the end of the case neck and the sharp 90° end of the chamber, which affected the bullet before it even reached the throat. He kept his case necks very long to fill this gap, so no fouling could even build up in that area. This is one little detail I follow.
Another critical item to Ted was case expansion at the neck. Ted measured his brass after firing and selected cases which showed exactly the same case expansion at the neck. He reasoned that the measured case necks’ release of the bullet would be more consistent than any random set of brass, prior to reloading. I anneal my case necks every six firings and believe that special attention must be paid to the correct temperature when annealing brass. Many folks heat these necks too much. I highly recommend using temp sticks to monitor neck temperatures during annealing. I used these small details in my reloading when setting the records, trimming two of the cases and matching their neck expansion from the record thirty I shot each day of the competition at the three targets. My 0.325″ neck bushing sizes the neck approximately .0005″.”
Final Thoughts on the 600-Yard Game
I realize several respected shooters do really well at 600 yards with their 1,000-yard rigs shooting long boat-tail bullets pushed by a lot of powder. I can’t argue with their success. Personally, though, I think that a lot of shooters can benefit from looking at 600-yard shooting in terms of what works well at 300 yards, not 1,000 yards. I feel there is a definite demarcation at 600 yards and that flat-based bullets and smaller-capacity cases can do amazingly well at 600, though they can be mediocre (or worse) at 1K. If some custom bullet makers ever come up with a really good medium-weight, flat-based 6.5 mm bullets, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of shooters appear with 6.5 BR, 6.5 IMHSA (shortened .308s), and 6.5-308 chamberings at 600-yard matches.
All in all, I am enjoying this rifle and its fine accuracy and it was worth the travails and challenges to finally get it right! I regard myself as a seven-year ‘rookie’ with long timeouts due to my target weapons being stolen, a heart attack, and cardiac rehabilitation, not to mention fighting cancer. The chemotherapy ended just a year ago when Greg Tannel reworked the action and rebarrelled it. Since then it’s been an amazing “ride” culminating with the 600-yard World Records. [EDITOR’S NOTE: As the son of a cancer survivor, I want to praise Gene for the courage he has shown in dealing with serious health issues. His commitment and drive are an inspiration to us all.]
A Record-Setting Washington Weekend
Gene reports: “[My records] were a combination of circumstances. I had received a different Light Gun from a gunsmith at the range and still wished to shoot my 13-lb 30BR, so I had no choice but to enter it in the Heavy Class (70-lb weight limit). There was some good-natured ribbing, but things turned quiet when I discovered I was in third place on the second day. After the first match, the wind was low and constant at about 15 degrees from left to right, towards me, from the target. This direction made it simple keeping track of the wind on a wind flag I could see easily with my left eye. I started to shoot at the signal and made sure the rifle returned to battery consistently. The conditions did not deviate and I made no adjustments at all during the string to the rifles’ position on the bags. Match Director Rick Beginski came out and said that Billy Copelin had tied a ‘X’ record with a four-X group and then he announced I had broken both ends of the World Records in the heavy class with the 30BR. The group was 2.287″ and all were in the white sighting square with five in the X-Ring, breaking the Score Record. It felt like a good group, but I was still shocked. And, please, let’s not talk about the size of that last group I shot that day–I lost third place by one-half thousandth of an inch.”
|A Great Range in Washington’s Cascades
The Upper Nisqually Sportsmen’s Club (UNSC) range, nestled in Washington’s Cascade Mountains, is one of the most beautiful ranges in the world. With Mt. Rainier as a backdrop, matches are held all year round. At Upper Nisqually you don’t have to worry about gale force winds, extreme summer heat, or terrible winter blizzards. It’s truly a wonderful place to shoot for those who love the challenges of long-range competition. Built with true determination and dedication by Ron Baker and his helpers, UNSC’s 600-yard range is so new that the roof over the ten benches hasn’t even been built yet! Matches started in February and three NBRSA World records have been set and five others are pending in just this short time! While I feel honored to have shot two pending World Records at Upper Nisqually, I want to give credit to the others who broke records as well. Both the heavy and light gun agg records were set at the same meet. Billy Copelin set the heavy gun agg records of 3.670″ (60 shots) and 3.284 (120 shots). Ron Baker set the light gun agg record of 3.276″ (30 shots) at this meet. These two, along with Rick Beginski, form the nucleus of the outstanding shooters from this area.
If you’re ever in this area, come visit–there are camping and lodging facilities nearby. Matches are regularly scheduled, and Rick Beginski, (425-349-5043) or Kevin Watson (253-847-1616) can provide match info. The UNSC website has directions to nearby Eatonville, WA, and to the range. Upper Nisqually’s reputation is growing as word of their “Ironman” BR competition spreads, a two-day shoot featuring ten-shot matches at BOTH 600 and 1,000 yards on each day.