Twin Millenniums for Two Brothers
A Brother's Gift of Switch-Barrel Precision -- Twin Milleniums
This article is not just a story about accurate rifles. It is a story about the bond between brothers and the fulfillment of life-long dreams. It is about the singular dedication many of us have for the sport, and the sacrifices we’ll make to achieve our goals. Our tale is of two rifles built for two brothers, one in America and one in the Czech Republic. Two of America’s finest craftsmen, smith Dwight Scott and stocker Alex Sitman, worked on the project. What they achieved is more than impressive. In 6BR trim, these F-Class-style switch-barrel guns have delivered PPC levels of accuracy at 200 yards, but more importantly, this pair of rifles represents a promise kept, and a dream fulfilled, for two Brothers in Arms.
Two Rifles for Two Brothers
Editor’s Note: The Brothers in Arms saga began with a post by reader Milan in our AccurateShooter.com Forum. He had just tested some new BIB 95s and his groups, at 200 yards, were amazingly small. I contacted Milan to learn more about this magic rifle. It turns out there were two magic guns, not one. Milan, who now lives in California, had commissioned two rifles to be built, one for Milan, and one for Mirek, his brother. Mirek still lives in the Czech Republic. During our interviews, Milan told me: “Please, make sure this story is mostly about my brother. He is a great guy–the best brother anyone could have. He has had some very tough health problems recently. He loves to shoot, but with the economy in Czech Republic, it was impossible for him to buy a rifle that could be truly competitive. That’s what inspired me to build these guns, so I worked overtime for six months to make it possible. I wanted Mirek to get the chance to compete at the top level. With this rifle, that is now possible. Mirek even won his very first competition with his new gun. My job is mostly to develop loads and provide help to my brother. My greatest satisfaction is to see him enjoy this rifle and to help him in any way I can. This is a way of paying him back for sacrifices he made for me.
|You see, 35 years ago, my brother and I had a dream about winning the National Motocross Championship of Czech Republic. Unfortunately, our parents had not enough money to support both of us in motocross racing. So Mirek gave up his dream and let me to be the one who was racing and he became my mechanic. Thanks to him and his sacrifice during next few years, I won the National Final three times.
Almost thirty-five years later, I bought a Sako TRG 22 and started shooting competition in California. At the same time, my brother bought a CZ 550 varmint and started shooting competition in Czech Republic. But with his ordinary hunting rifle, he had no chance to win any competition. I thought this could be a good chance for me to do something for him and to repay him for his sacrifice years ago. Then I got the idea about the two guns for two brothers. And I invited my brother to visit America to celebrate his birthday.
Thanks to great help and hard work of Dwight Scott, who did the gunsmithing and Alex Sitman, who made the stock, I received the new 6BR for my brother just four hours before his arrival at San Francisco Airport. My brother had no idea that a birthday gift–the gun of his dreams–was waiting for him in his room. When he walked into the room and saw the rifle, I noticed how he dropped his chin….For the first time in my life, I saw him so touched and overwhelmed that he could not say a word. He just hugged me and said softly ‘Thank you’.”
Like Christmas Morning–But We Needed Ammo
Milan recounts: “I had ordered the two guns in December, and I received mine a a week before Mirek’s gun arrived. Dwight Scott had chambered three barrels–a 6.5-284 for me plus two barrels for Mirek, 6BR and .308. The stocks were both laminated Master Class F-Class designs, but mirror images of each other. Mirek shoots right-handed and I shoot left-handed, so the cheek-pieces are different on the two guns. Both actions feature a right bolt however. Even though I shoot lefty, I like to load and work the bolt with my right hand. This way I can keep my trigger hand on the gun all the time.
Anyway, when Mirek first saw the gun it was a complete surprise. He was stunned. That was the first time I’ve seen a 50-year old man overwhelmed by emotion. It was a very powerful moment for both of us. Keep in mind that the cost of the gun (the equivalent of 250,000 Czech Crowns), was more than he paid for his house 20 years ago.
Right away we took the gun apart and adjusted the focus on the 12-42 NightForce NXS scope. That’s what we were doing in this picture. Of course we wanted to shoot but we had to load ammunition first. I bought all the reloading tools Mirek would need. He had never done serious competition-level reloading before, and we spent 2-3 days reloading with me as the teacher and Mirek as the pupil. Mirek’s 6BR barrel has a .266″ neck, so he had to learn how to neck turn. We concentrated on reloading for the 14-twist 6BR barrel, but I did give him components for the .308 to take back to Czech Republic.
First Day at the Range–the Millenniums Show Their Stuff
On June 15th, ammo in hand, we made it to the Richmond Gun Club range. Mirek watched some other benchrest shooters. This was new to him. He had no benchrest experience, having always shot prone or from bipod before. With some help from the local guys we got him started, showing him how to work with the Sinclair front rest and rear sandbag.
Mirek shot his 6BR (14-twist, 24″) and I shot the 6.5-284 (it was my first time with the gun also). The 6BR shot very well, and Mirek was learning fast. On his third day he shot a 5-shot group about .070″, using Gentner 66-grain bullets, with N-133 and Federal 205s. He had never experienced that kind of accuracy before. My gun was shooting well also, using Sierra 142s, Hodgdon 4831sc, and Fed 210m primers. The 6.5 shot 1/4″ at 100 yards from the beginning. I had no problem finding a load–the gun wasn’t very picky.
Mirek was completely hooked by now. He was able to shoot every day at Richmond Gun Club. That’s all he wanted to do. He didn’t want to go sight-seeing or do the tourist things in San Francisco, he just wanted to go shooting. I would drop him off at the range on my way to work. We also went to Sacramento a couple times to shoot 300 yards (see photo). Throughout June, he was doing his reloading every night. He had his bed and reloading corner–that, and his new rifle, was all he needed to be happy. At the end of the month he had to return home, so we packed everything up and I gave him lots of gear and reloading components to take back with him.
Mirek started shooting in competion that summer in Czech Republic, and he had immediate success with his new rifle–winning the first match he shot by a good margin. Prior to this he would place around 20th in the matches. He shot four matches that summer, finishing first each time. He shot only the 6BR, because the match was just from 100-300 yards and he had no problem with the light match bullets at that distance. Unfortunately, he had some health problems return and he wasn’t able to finish the fifth and last match of the season. Otherwise we believe he would have won the club championship.
End of Season, and Time to Try a New Barrel
Mirek wanted to compete in longer distance events the next season. He needed a gun that could shoot from 100 to 500 meters. So we decided to try an 8-twist barrel to shoot the heavier 6mm bullets. Unfortunately, Mirek had gotten pretty sick. He was in the hospital and not in very good shape. So, I needed to do the load testing for him in USA out to 500m. So I ordered a Krieger 8-twist, and sent it to Dwight for chambering. When the new barrel was ready, I started testing with Lapua 105gr bullets. I never got very good results from the Lapuas, about 3/4″ at 200 yards for five shots on average. [Editor’s note–these are great bullets, but they don’t seem to like some Krieger barrels with .237″ land dimensions.] Next I tried Sierra 107s. They shot a bit better than the Scenars, but I was still looking for something better. I tried Berger 88s and they shot very well, giving me a 1/2″ group at 200 yards for 10 shots. But I was hoping to find something for Mirek with that kind of accuracy AND a better BC.
It all came together when I read about the new BIB 95s on 6mmBR.com (99.9% of the info I used was from 6mmBR.com.) I immediately called Randy Robinett and ordered them. I think I was one of the first guys to get the 95s. As soon as I got the 95s and tested them, I knew my search was over. They shot great, producing tiny groups at 200 yards.”
Shooting the BIB 95s–Amazing Accuracy at 200 Yards
Editor’s Note: The accuracy of Milan’s 6BR first caught our attention when Milan posted a .189″ 5-shot group (at 200 yards) in our Forum. Milan’s group would have been impres-sive enough at 100 yards, but at 200 yards, this was truly exceptional. To put things in perspective, that was better than ANY 200-yard group Jackie Schmidt shot with his 6BR Rail Gun over the course of five weekends of testing. (In fairness to Jackie, he had very rough conditions, and was tasked with trying multiple bullet/powder/primer combinations in a short period of time.) It is remarkable that Milan was able to achieve this kind of accuracy with an F-Class-style rig, gripping the rifle. We normally only see those kind of 200-yard groups from a PPC shot free-recoil.
Amazingly, Milan says the accuracy came quick and easy once he switched to the BIB 95s: “I did nothing special. Following Randy’s suggestion, I simply loaded 31.3 Varget, .010″ to the lands, with a Fed 205 match primer. I wasn’t even trying that hard when I shot the .189″ group. I was just testing for speed on the chronograph.” While the .189″ at 200 represents Milan’s best effort to date, this isn’t a wild fluke. Milan reports: “Average group size for the 95s is 1/4″ at 200. I have some 3-shot groups in the .150″ range. The barrel and everything is so amazing. I know I’m not the best shooter in the world. I think the gun can shoot at world-record levels in the hands of a better shooter than me.”
The 6BR is now shooting so well for Milan that his 6.5-284 barrel doesn’t get much use. He tells us: “Yes I prefer shooting the 6BR. The 6BR is so sweet. My gun weighs almost 20 pounds so there is almost no recoil–the scope never leaves the target. I have to credit Alex Sitman for a great stock design. I did get a new barrel for the 6.5-284 and I’m using a new load now: 139gr Scenars jumped .025″, with 53.2 grains of Vihtavuori N165, Fed 210m. I believe this is a Grant Ubl load. It runs about 2968 fps in my rifle and delivers consistent 1/4″ groups at 100 yards. I think that’s good enough for long-range competition. So, I’ve taken off the 6.5 barrel and haven’t shot it much. I want to save that barrel for competition and keep the round count low. But before I take it to a match I’ll test it to make sure it’s still in tune.”
|Switch-Action, Switch-Barrel Versatility
With a v-block, it’s easy to switch barreled actions in and out of a stock or quickly swap barrels. You’ll find v-blocks and metal bedding inserts on many factory rifles. Sako’s TRG rifles mount the action to a metal chassis. This produces a strong and accurate gun. However, the “experts” say that ultimate accuracy requires a glue-in installation or a superior pillar bedding job. Milan’s rifle shows that a v-block can deliver world-class accuracy, as least when Alex Sitman installs it. Alex, the first man in America to build a gun with the Millennium action and Flexibed® v-block, has developed a special installation procedure for these components.
–The Secret to Accuracy
Milan, a trained tool and die maker, is employed as a CNC machinist producing high-tech aerospace and medical components. So, let’s say he knows a little bit about tools and tolerances. Not surprisingly, he employs very precise and methodical reloading methods. When he retires to his reloading room (his “little kingdom” as his wife calls it), it’s all business.
Milan maintains an arsenal of industrial-quality measuring tools, including a set of pin gauges he uses to measure neck inside diameters. Click here to see some of Milan’s favorite reloading gear.
Milan has an interesting reloading system. It is slow, but one can’t argue with his results. Milan tells us: “Before I do anything, I clean the outside of the neck with ultra-fine steel wool to make it nice and shiny. I want the neck absolutely clean. I then use a nylon brush inside the neck. I’ll brush 8-10 strokes with the nylon brush but I won’t try to get all the carbon out. I used to use bronze brushes inside the necks but I found that this scratched the brass and actually removed metal over time. You want the necks clean, but leave a little film of carbon. That actually helps seat the bullets more smoothly.
One thing that is really important to me is consistent neck tension. I’ve tried various procedures, and now I use the Hoover method that I read about on this site. This is a three-stage process. First, I full-length size the case (and de-cap) using standard Redding (non-bushing) FL die with die wax on the case body. (For the 6.5-284 I have a custom Neil Johnson die.) Then I run a carbide expander through the neck, without lube (I think lube introduces variables that are hard to control). I use a K&M carbide expander mandrel that Ken made special for my WITHOUT the teeth. (I found it was way too easy to gouge the inside of the neck with the teeth). I also took the expander mandrel to work and machined a smooth radius on the side. The standard K&M mandrel has a sharp corner where the tapered section meets the full diameter.
After expanding the neck, then I size the neck back down with a Wilson neck-sizing die with bushings. I use about .0017″ tension (I tried more tension but the groups opened up). So, it takes me three steps to size each case, but I’ve found that the neck tension is much more consistent case to case. Bullets seat more consistently, and, as I explained, my ES is about half of what it used to be.
For bullet-seating, with both the 6BR and 6.5-284, I use a Wilson stainless micrometer-top seater. This is a superb die that produces very straight rounds.
Brass Prep–I visually inspect the flash holes on my 6BR brass (to see if there is any visible burr), but I normally don’t touch the flash holes at all. This is one bit of advice I got from this website and it works. I do normally uniform the primer pocket, and I use a Sinclair carbide tool to clean out the primer pocket after each firing. I want to caution people when using this tool–you need to keep the tip precisely aligned or you can over-do it and remove brass, particularly if you are using power.”
Milan tells us: “I’m happy to report that Mirek is doing much better, health-wise, and he has been able to start shooting again. He took these photos March 15, 2006 in the hills just outside the village where he lives in Czech Republic. Yes, Mirek told me it was very cold (Zero Celcius), but he wants to keep his skill levels up. His first match is March 25 in Slovakia. I am still doing some bullet testing for him. The BIB 95s shoot better in my 28″ barrel than in his 26.5″ barrel. But, at Randy’s suggestion, we tried more neck tension, and seating the bullets deeper in the lands and that seems to help. Mirek is also trying Norma 203B now and he says it gives him better velocity, with less pressure, than Varget. With 32.1 grains Norma 203B, his groups are running a little under 1/4″ at 100m, with a few groups dipping into the Ones.”
Your Editor recently spoke to both John Hastie and Tony Halberg of H&H Enterprises (HHE), the two New Zealanders who built the Millennium action. This action is based on the original Swing action modified by Robert Chombart to become the Paramount and RPA. Like the RPA, the HHE Millennium achieves ultra-fast lock-time by using a Belleville washer stack instead of a conventional spring. A four-lug bolt provides extremely solid lock-up along with short 50° bolt-lift.
The trigger, similar to the RPA, is a superb unit, adjustable from plus 1500 grams (about 3.3 pounds) down to 5-600 grams (about 1 pound). This trigger, based on Robert Chombart design/adaptation, is a true two-stage mechanism with the increase in pressure for the second stage achieved by change of leverage. The machining on the Millennium is very impressive. Milan, a CNC machinist by trade, says the metal-work on this action is some of the finest he’s ever seen.
Although HHE followed existing designs in the creation of the Millennium, one of their important innovations was mating the action to a proprietary v-block unit, the Flexibed® system. This system provides enhanced vibration damping, while allowing complete barreled actions to be easily swapped in and out of the stock. Alex Sitman (Master Class Stocks) said he was very impressed with HHE’s v-block, in particular the way bushings are used to isolate the action screws. Alex opined that this v-block is one of the best systems available for prone shooters who want to shoot multiple calibers with the same stock. Tony Halberg does just that–he has four barreled actions to use with his favorite HHE target stock. These are chambered in 6mm BR, 6mm Dasher, 6.5 x 55 and 6.5 x 55 BJ Ackley Improved. He recently took top honors in an F-Class match shooting his Dasher. Among the greatest benefits of the Millennium/Flexibed® system, according to Tony, are the ease with which barreled actions can be exchanged and the fact that the bedding is unaffected when shooting in the rain.
While Millennium actions are relatively rare in the United States, they are very popular in Australia and New Zealand (NZ). These actions, usually mounted in HHE v-blocks and Robertson stocks or the HHE alloy stock, have dominated a lot of the shooting in NZ. One of the NZ Commonwealth Games competitors is using a Millennium rifle and the other competitor is using a Barnard action (NZ) with a variation of the Flexibed® bedding system as used by the Millennium. The HHE rifles are consistently topping the competition in NRA of NZ matches and this year (2006) some 30 Flexibed® rifles were in the Final 50 of the National competitions at the Trentham Rifle Range, a place to experience when the wind blows! HHE has curtailed production of the Millennium action, but units are available from Sinclair Int’l, complete with trigger. Flexibed® v-blocks are sold separately. Tony Halberg told us that production of a new variant might begin this year in the United Kingdom. The design has been licensed to Jackson Rifles, which plans to introduce a three-lug version, to be called the “CG Delta” action. This will retain the ultra-fast lock-time of the original, but the tri-lug design lessens the cocking force required, allowing shooters to cycle the action faster and with less rocking-force when shooting from sandbags. Manufacture of the HHE alloy stock will continue in NZ.
P.O. Box 309, Hastings, New Zealand
Randy Robinett’s 6mm flat-base bullets have set new standards for 6mm accuracy from 300 to 600 yards. We asked Randy to comment on the factors that have made his new bullets an “instant hit”. Randy explains: “The new 11-ogive BIB ‘heavy-weight’ 6mm bullets were the result of demand. Over the last four years, many people have been asking me to venture into this realm. The common gripe with the VLD-type bullets has been that they are “fussy” to tune. Many wanted a Flat Base (“FB”) with a 14 to 15 caliber ogive (nose radius) and some wanted secant ogive as opposed to tangent. I opted for the tangent, 11-caliber nose radius because calculations predicted that would yield the best compromise among bullet weight, ballistic coeffecient and bearing surface length. Most people with whom I discuss precision shooting, believe that tangent ogives are more forgiving of “tune” as compared to secant configurations–I tend to agree. A sharper nose rapidly reduces mass: 11 caliber appeared to be the point of diminishing returns, so I opted for 11 caliber and the smallest meplat with which Bill Niemi (my die maker) was comfortable, namely 0.050″.
Bullet-making is not ‘rocket science’. Almost all custom bullet makers purchase their jackets from Berger Bullets/J4. Less frequently, Sierra may offer jackets for sale. The initial step in quality control is to ‘spin’ the jackets upon arrival. I use two jacket spinners and compare the results (invariably the same). Rarely do J4 jackets exceed 0.0002″ of total indicated wall run-out(“TIR”). And even if they should be the maximum allowable (J4 Max TIR) tolerance, I don’t believe shooters can distinguish the difference–especially via a BLIND TEST. Following jacket inspection/acceptance, bullet-making is all about cores, not the weight, keeping the VOLUME consistent and REMOVING any lubricant (after application). Then, learning how to properly SEAT the cores, using a properly-fitting core-seat punch. The pointing is all up to the die–and learning how much lubricant is enough and how much is too much. Lubricant is a necessary evil.
The new BIB 95s were the focus of the 11-ogive project. I wanted a readily tunable Flat Base 6mm bullet, of sufficient BC to be a viable 500/600 yard performer. This goal appears to have been accomplished. The 95gr BIB, based upon the 1.050″ long J4 jacket, is ideally suited to a 1:10″ twist barrel. Under Standard Conditions, at sea level, this twist rate imparts a 1.5 gyroscopic stability factor. This is probably better for precision than a 1:8″ twist would deliver. The calculated BC for the 95 Gr. BIB, at 3000 FPS, is 0.45. (REAL WORLD BC is more likely about 0.43).
The 108gr and 121gr 6mm bullets are additional 11-ogive designs made to fulfill further requests for more BC. The 108s shot great in AccurateShooter.com’s RailGun Testing–besting most of the boat-tail designs. The 108 (0.50 BC) is ideally suited to a 1:9″ twist, while the 121 (0.57 BC) should be perfect in 1:8″ barrels. (BCs calculated at 3000 FPS–real world BCs may be a little lower). The 121gr bullet is expected to offer a viable FB option for 1000-yard competitors. However, a very long throat is required for the 121s. I have sent bullet samples to both Dave Kiff (Pacific Tool & Gauge) and Hugh Henriksen.
I confess, I’m amazed at the demand for these new bullets–I simply could not have anticipated the initial success. This is a humbling business. I extend my sincere thanks to the patient few who appreciate the ‘edge’ provided by custom hand-swaged bullets!” — Randy Robinette
Topics: Millennium Action, Millenium, Sinclair International, HHE, Hastie, Halberg, H&H, Flexi-bed, RPA, Bellville washer, 4-lug, Alex Sitman, Master class, MasterClass, F-Class, Palma, Prone, HighPower, Laminated, Switch-barrel, Switch-Action, Pillar Bedding, 6mmBR, 6BR, .308 Winchester, 14-twist, 8-twist, 6.5-284, 6.5×284, Dwight Scott, Randy Robinett, BIB bullets, 95 grain, Hodgdon, Varget, Norma, 203B, Precision rifle, Czech Republic, 100 yards, 300 meters, 300m, 1000-yard, 1000 Yards, Wyoming, Cody, DnR Ranch, Yellowstone, 7mm, 7 WSM, actions, Krieger barrel, muzzle brake, reloading, powder selection, Lapua Brass, Lapua bullets, Sierra bullets, moly coating, Cheek Piece, Harris bipod.