Academy of Accuracy
The San Gabriel Benchrest School is a great program. At the recent April 9th school session, many of the nation’s best short-range shooters served as instructors, including NBRSA President Dennis Thornberry, Cactus Classic HV winner Gary Sinclair, and Hall of Famer Walt Berger. Imagine if you could go to your local golf range, and, for $35.00, be tutored by Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, and Tiger Woods. A wide variety of topics was covered–everything from match strategies to bullet-making. And it was particularly interesting to see that, among the top shooters, there remains room for innovation in the short-range game. Though the 6PPC is still the cartridge of choice, the day’s top shooter used a 220 Russian. A number of guys pre-loaded their ammo–and many of the “top guns” are now weighing their charges. Clearly, there ARE some new ideas being worked on in the BR game, and the forward-thinking San Gabriel gang is at the leading edge of the sport.
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Charming Amanda Le, in the picture above, shot one of the small groups of the day at the BR School, an impressive 0.163″. Who said short-range benchrest is just for pudgy old guys with cranky personalities? Eighth grader Amanda is living proof that precision shooting can be enjoyed by just about anyone, and that youth and beauty certainly can trump age and experience. Watch out guys–in a couple years, Amanda and her “Pink Thing” may challenge the good ‘ol boys at the Super Shoot. BR School Director Stephen Perry reports: “Amanda (Ted Carlson’s grand-daughter) is a junior shooter all of 14 years old. She is not a regular with us yet, having only shot BR twice with us. She shoots the Pala course with Ted and the big boys. Congratulations on your first BR trophy, Amanda.”
|San Gabriel Benchrest School
by Stephen Perry
The San Gabriel BR School concluded successfully. Those that chose to be a part of it expressed their gratitude for what they saw. It proved to be an great learning experienced for both veteran participants and newcomers who had never shot a PPC before. I was happy we could get so many people together to promote benchrest. And I want to give credit to all the club members and instructors who worked hard to maked the event possible.
The school began bright and early on April 9th. All our “profs” arrived by 0700 and registration was completed by 0745. Students, who had pre-registered, were assigned to one of five topical seminars. These covered virtually every aspect of the Benchrest game from bullet-making, to gunsmithing, and even target-handling and scoring.
The other classes were also popular. I noticed much interest in Gary Sinclair’s presentation of shooting bench procedures and match strategies. Gary, along with Mike Marcelli, presented the proper way to be at the shooting bench and strategies for shooting groups in various conditions. Timing, targets, groups and aggs were discussed during a shoot.
Lawrence Weisdorn and Danny Moscaritolo also had good-size classes for their two sessions of BR Loading. I caught part of their class and could see they were discussing pre-loading which has become popular again. Also Lawrence ran a series of tests on temp and humidity and made a chart for his loadings. Danny showed how to prepare for pre-loading and what equipment is needed for it. Don Nielson and Dennis Thornberry discussed case preparation and wind flags. Don showcased his new high-speed case lathe. On sale now, it delivers higher rpms, with more power and all-metal construction. The new lathe will work with his current neck-turning tools. You’ll find photos and a short video in the tech section below.
Gene DeLoney and Mike Sosenko drew a good size crowd of shooters interested in Benchrest gunsmithing. Gene displayed his Dodd Rail Gun and explained the modifications he did to smooth out some rough spots on the gun. Gene also brought out some of his chambering tools to show the curious what it takes to chamber a barrel. Mike, also a successful BR gunsmith, talked of some of the projects he has done. [Editors’ Note: Mike recently smithed John Adams’ new fast-twist 22 Dasher. Impressively, Mike steered the Dasher to a middle of the pack finish in the School Match against a very competitive field of full-race PPCs. This proved that VLD bullets CAN be competitive at short range. Mike will be working with AccurateShooter.com on some product evaluations in the next couple of months–testing a new infrared Chronograph and doing comparison tests of benchrest primers in a tunnel.]
John Loh and Tom Libby discussed front rests and bags and cleaning. Tom is one of our current World Record holders having shot a 10-shot NBRSA record in Unlimited Class. John’s company, JJ Industries, manufactures the superb Loh “JJ” Front Rest, a favorite among our shooters and world-wide (Photos below). [Editor’s Note: We observed that many of the “top guns” at the BR School had Loh rests on their benches. We were able to put one through its paces and were very impressed. It is incredibly smooth, and the windage movement is perfectly linear with no vertical jerking. Gary Sinclair loves his Loh, and Lou Murdica says that “I own them all, including a few Co-Axials. I do use the joystick rests when I’m testing and have plenty of time for precision aiming. But in a match, I really favor the ease and speed with which I can get an ultra-precise aim point with the Loh. It is also superbly machined.”]
Dave Blazzard (Utah) and Lou Murdica had a nice crowd discussing BR Rifles, barrels, stocks, and triggers. Don’t know if the new Kelbly trigger was discussed but the next time you see Lou ask him about the Kelbly trigger he will have a couple by then and have tested them. [Editor’s note: Lou showed us one of the prototype triggers he has tested. He demonstrated how it can be easily adjusted from a couple of ounces to over a pound, just by switching out a pin. Lou liked the rigidity of the trigger housing and he predicted we’d be seeing many of these on the firing line soon. The trigger retails for $240.00 from Kelbly.com.]
Afternoon Agg–Putting Principles into Practice
Each match had a different winner for small group. Lou Murdica won the Warm-Up Match with a .167. Match 1 was won by Mike Marcelli with a .134 (also small group for the day). Match 2 was won by George Eickhof with a .149. Match 3 was won by Phil Levesque with a .183. Match 4 was won by Amanda Le with a .163. Match 5 was won by George Eickhof with a .162. For the class of regular shooters, Lou Murdica, shooting his 220 Russian, took top honors with a .2524 Agg. Phil Levesque finished second with .2566 and Dan Capps was third with a .2596.
Among the novice shooters, Amanda Le posted small group of .163 (not bad for an eighth grader!). HV Agg results were: 1st place Rob Daniels .2996, 2nd place Phil Peterson .3146, 3rd place Marty Childers .3362, 4th place Dan Carty with a .3478 Agg, and Amanda took 5th place with a .3834 Agg.
BR School Summary
|STEPHEN PERRY’S ADVICE for NEW SHOOTERS
We encourage new shooters to come back and participate in our monthly shoots. Hopefully many of these first-timers will join the fun. Here are some tips for shooters interested in getting started in short-range registered benchrest.
Take BR Seriously
Buying Your First BR Gun
Consider buying a new rifle if you can afford it. Good smiths that build complete BR rifles include Ron Hoehn, Gene DeLoney, Don Nielson, Billy Stevenson, Gary Ocock, and Kelbly’s, among others. See the ads in NBRSA News, Precision Shooting, AccurateShooter.com. A new rifle gets you all the latest technology and more importantly, you’ll have a gunsmith that knows how your rifle was put together. One the most frustrating things for a BR gunsmith is when a guy brings in a used rifle with no history. Most smiths want to know who did the work so they know what they might be dealing with. It’s no fun for a smith to rebarrel the rifle and the customer comes back saying the barrel won’t shoot. Chances are the bedding is bad but that becomes another item the customer must pay to have corrected. A new gun will hopefully have a good bedding job.
Tom Libby and Walt Berger Photos by Jan Cleary, used by permission. Thanks Jan.
Lou Murdica Profile–Thoughts on Calibers and Competition
Shooting a Pierce-stocked, VIET-actioned rig chambered in 220 Russian, Lou Murdica posted the best Aggregate in the BR School’s 5×5 afternoon HV Agg competition. Lou had small group (.167″) in the initial Warm-Up Match, followed by two more groups in the ones. This was a very impressive performance, considering Lou was shooting the “wrong” cartridge, with pre-loaded ammo.
But Lou’s fine shooting wasn’t just a matter of luck. He’s done a bunch of testing and his records demonstrate that the 220 Russian can run with the 6mm PPC, and that pre-loading is not a handicap. Lou told us: “I feel the 220 Russian is one of the most accurate .22 cartridges there is. I will be using it at the Super Shoot and at the Nationals. Based on my testing, shooting group after group, I’ve shot way more small groups and impressive aggs with the 220 Russian than with any other cartridge.”
Why then, aren’t more competitors using the 220 Russian, we asked? Lou replied: “The downside is that the case does stretch. You have to trim the case every time you load. I do that with a Sinclair tool that indexes off the shoulder. I know some guys have experimented with a sharper shoulder angle to cure the stretch problem, but then you lose the advantage of the design. The case design is right as it is–the capacity is right. You can mess around with the 22 PPC .100″ short, but you just end up with the same capacity after a lot of work.”
Lou preloads his ammo at home, using a George Kelbly-made full-length bushing die. He trims the cases each time, then bumps the shoulder “just a tad” and neck-sizes with a .243″ bushing. His match recipe is 25.0gr VV N133 with Fed 205 primers and Spencer FB bullets. “Don Spencer makes the ‘ugly bullet’. A lot of guys on the West Coast have set records with his bullets,” Lou explained.
The barrel is a 22.5″, 4-groove Kreiger, chambered with a .246 neck for turned necks. The gold-hued action is really quite unique. It was produced in Germany by K.D. VIET, and Lou says it’s the finest action he owns. That gold coating is not just for looks–it makes the action both very, very durable, yet incredibly slick. Lou showed us the inside of the action. Though thousands of rounds have cycled through it, there are virtually no signs of wear.
Given his success with the .220 Russian, would Lou recommend that caliber for new competitors? “No”, Lou cautioned, “I’d say a new guy should start with a 6PPC. It is the most forgiving case. There are more components, and more good bullets in 6mm. Start with the 6PPC, get good at it first. Then, when you’re ready to play, go to the Russian. And I’d suggest the Russian over the Walldog or 22 100-short. It’s very hard to make good Walldog cases. And the 22 100-short is the same case capacity as the 220 Russian–so you’re not really gaining anything. A 22 PPC has too much powder capacity I think.”
We asked Lou if he had any “words of wisdom” he might want to share with new BR shooters. “It should be fun, and you should enjoy it. I started shooting Benchrest in 1984. It has given me so much mental relief and stress relief. It takes my mind off business. I love this sport and the people in it. Even after 20 years, I can’t get enough. I shoot all over the country, and I’ve even shoot in Europe with a team that won the world championship (with George Kelbly, Faye Boyer, and Brad Rosenthal). Traveling to matches, getting together with my fellow shooters–that’s what I love to do.”
|A Few Surprising Trends
Powder Charges–Does Weighing Make a Difference?
Cleaning Methods–More Rounds, Less Brushing
Preloading–Not Just for Long-Range Anymore
Caliber Choice–Is There a .22 in Your Future?
There were some very impressive rigs on the line, including a Dodd Rail Gun belonging to Gene Deloney. A quick survey of the line-up showed BAT Machine and Kelbly actions to be most popular but there were quite a few Stillers including Mike Marcelli’s slick Viper in a black stock–it looked very mean, a real stealth rig. Lou Murdica’s match-winning rifle features a rare, German-made K.D. VIET action. Coated in some kind of mysterious, gold-tone unobtainium finish that’s both slick and ultra-durable, after thousands of rounds the VIET action has shown almost zero wear according to Lou. He said it is the best action he’s every owned, and he’s tried them all.
Load Development & Tuning
Your editor sat in on a fascinating class session with Lawrence Weisdorn and Danny Moscaritolo. Both are relatively young and very successful shooters who advocate what I’d call the “scientific” or “quantified” approach to load development and tuning. Both Lawrence and Danny do extensive testing (under ideal conditions) with carefully measured loads. Lawrence explained that, after ignition, the barrel begins to oscillate. This moves the tip of the barrel up and down very slightly. What you want, Lawrence explained, is for all your bullets to exit the muzzle when the barrel is “dead center” in its oscillation cycle. Otherwise, barrel vibration can toss one shot high and another low. Lawrence tests to determine the exact load point where the bullet exits the muzzle at the optimum time in the barrel vibration cycle. This means that the barrel will be at minimum deflection. But in order to achieve this for all bullets in a group, Lawrence explains, you need to keep the bullets’ velocity in a narrow range, so that in-barrel time is constant. Click HERE to download a 14 meg AVI video in which Lawrence explains this concept.
Using measured loads, in 0.1 grain increments, Lawrence tests for group size. His target/data cards demonstrate pretty convincingly that a very small variance in charge weight can result in “instant vertical” due to barrel vibration. Needless to say, in order to avoid tossing shots high or low, you need to keep each charge consistent within a tenth of a grain. Lawrence weighs all his charges, transfers them to small test tubes and then brings those to the match. Other shooters, such as Lou Murdica, are actually preloading their rounds before the match, at least for some calibers.
Of course many very, very successful BR shooters still throw their charges. And it can be argued that up to 30 FPS extreme spread doesn’t show up on the target at 100 yards. Lawrence’s work suggests that we may need to rethink that notion, because it over-simplifies things. We are not just concerned with how a speed variance affects the bullet’s ballistic trajectory (gravitational drop). The point is that the bullet’s vertical point of impact (POI) is affected by barrel vibration, not just by ballistic drop. According to Lawrence, we need to hold in-barrel time constant so that all bullets exit the muzzle at the right time in the vibration cycle. In order to achieve that, Lawrence believes, you need very low ES, and that means weighing every charge.
We had a chance to chat with Don Nielson of “Pumpkin” fame. Talented machinist and inventor, Don had brought his new powered case lathe. This features all-metal construction and spins at 750 rpm compared to 100 rpm for the previous version. The new machine costs $400 and Don hopes to ship the first units this month (May, 2006). Click on Don’s photo to download a short AVI video clip showing Don turning a case-neck with his new machine. The new machine is compatible with existing Nielson case-holders and neck-turning tools.
John Loh (JJ Industries) showed us a very elegant and compact loading station he has created. It has four fixed base units that can be used interchangeably with stands for powder measures or Arbors. The whole set-up is nicely integrated, dispensing with the need for clamps. Remove the vertical rods and the loading platform takes up a minimal amount of storage space.
John showed us another cool little gizmo that many San Gabriel regulars were using. It is simply a block of Delrin that is placed firmly into the front sandbag to keep the base flat and the sides square. We’ve seen this before, constructed of wood or metal. John’s innovation was to place a bubble level IN the form block itself. That way, when the block is placed in the front bag, you can make sure it is level. If the bubble isn’t centered, just tap on one side or the other to make it right. You’ll see John’s Delrin bag block in the photo of the Loh Rest below.
A wide variety of rests were on display at the BR school. Certainly the Loh (JJ Industries) model seemed to be the favorite of a large percentage of San Gabriel regulars. Loh’s rest is beautifully machined. The windage and elevation controls are very positive and run smooth as silk. However, with the Loh rest, you must adjust windage and elevation separately. With a co-axial rest, such as the Farley, you can move in both planes (vertical and horizontal) at the same time. Many shooters feel that helps them aim more quickly, or hold off more effectively. Below the Loh Rest you’ll see the relatively new Sebastian co-axial rest (“SEB Rest”), produced in Indonesia. Below that is Butch Lambert’s new joy-stick activated top. This is shown mounted to a conventional tripod pedestal base.
We didn’t see any radical new optics on display at the BR school. However, your editor did have a chance to put a Pentax 100ED and Zeiss 85mm Diascope through their paces at the match. These two scopes were our top choices in our Spotting Scope Comparison review done last year. As expected, the Pentax was very impressive. It is extremely bright and has a nice, wide field of view, even at very high magnification. But, it is huge, and it demands a very heavy, solid tripod. In looking at 100-yard targets, my first reaction was that the eye relief was very short, when fitted with the 20-60 zoom (effective 26-78X) eyepiece. I felt I had to get uncomfortably close to the lens, and that became bothersome after a while. In bright, sunny conditions, the light gathering capability of the big objective was almost too good. My eyes are somewhat light sensitive, however, so I don’t think this would be an issue for most folks.
“Mr. Moderator” behind the Pentax 100ED
By contrast, the Zeiss 85mm (fitted with 20-60 zoom eyepiece) offered more eye-relief, making the Zeiss more user-friendly than the Pentax. The Zeiss’ image was a little more blue (less yellow) in tone than that of the Pentax. In my opinion, color fidelity was slightly better with the Zeiss. Contrast was good, but I’d give the edge to the Pentax as it was so bright. But when it came to pure sharpness, or resolution, in my opinion, the Zeiss 85mm out-performed the big Pentax. The resolution on the Zeiss is really just incredible–the best I’ve ever encountered, and I’ve also sampled the top of the line Leicas and Swaros. I also preferred the focusing system on the Zeiss. The course-focus wheel is fast and smooth and the fine-focus knob is just about perfect. Lastly, the Zeiss weighs less than the Pentax and is much more compact. Bottom line: If I was shelling out the cash, I’d buy the Zeiss, unless I wanted superior low-light capability. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that there ARE differences between individual scope units. Conceivably, if you pulled a different Pentax 100ED out of the box and compared it with a different Zeiss unit, the Zeiss’ resolution edge might not be so apparent.
You can’t win a BR match if your scope reticle is bouncing around from shot to shot. At San Gabriel, we noted that many competitors used a Murdica-Nielson zero lock device to avoid “wandering zero”.
In the photo at left, you can see the device in place on Mike Marcelli’s BR rig. That extra silver ring in the photo is used to “lock” the windage and elevation on a 30mm Leupold benchrest scope. Conceived by Lou Murdica, this accessory is now produced by Don Neilson. It features a split ring that fits together with internal dovetails. As installed, two small holes are drilled in the scope tube. Small adjusting knobs then hold the internal windage and elevation adjusters in place. In theory, with the device installed, the Leupold’s reticle can’t move relative to the bore axis. Feedback on the device was positive.
|San Gabriel Valley Benchrest Shooters News|
Club Lease Extension
Editor’s Comment: As with many shooting facilities in California, there has been political pressure to close down the San Gabriel range. This is really a top-notch facility in all respects. All Southwestern shooters benefit from having such a high-quality range in the Los Angeles region. It would be a real shame if the Club is forced to move. Stephen Perry tells us: “I have my fingers crossed that the two-year extension the San Gabriel Club has applied for with the City will be granted.” We should all support the San Gabriel shooters in their effort to keep the range open.
International Shooting Range Enhancement Fund Drawing
Stephen Perry reports: “I have 5 tickets left to sell for the merchandise drawings coming up in September 2006. These drawing tickets sell for $20 each. Each ticket will be eligible for a chance at one of some 30 prizes. These inclue: Rimrock BR rifle, Stevens chamber job, 1000 Bart’s bullets, Hart barrel, Allied Reloaders box, Swindelhurst rimfire action, Bald Eagle front rest, 1-year NBRSA membership, 1-year IBS membership, 2007 Group NBRSA Nationals Entry Fee, 2007 NBRSA Hunter Nationals Entry Fee, Pierce Chamber Job, Remington 504 Rimfire Rifle, 2007 Super Shoot Entry fee, Dave Tooley Chamber Job, IBS Group National entry fee, 500 Euber bullets, 500 Rubright bullets, and the list goes on.”
Gene DeLoney Appreciation Shoot
The Club’s next Shoot will be an IBS SP / SP Shoot on May 14. This will be Gene’s day–all day. This will be special because Gene will be moving to Arizona later this year. Gene has done a lot for San Gabriel BR so come on out and show your appreciation for one of our best.
Our monthly shoots are registered with the NBRSA or the IBS. The cost is $30 per day. Registration starts at 6:30 AM. We start shooting at 8:30 AM. We shoot a morning and afternoon Agg. At Registered Shoots all guns are weighed except when HB / UNL is shot. HB / UNL are what we call the Heavy Bench / Rail guns. Sporter and LV are 10.5 lb classes. HV is a 13.5 lb class. Sorry no coaching in Registered competition. Shoots are typically done by 3:30. Any question contact me at (909) 949-9921 after 6:00 PM.
Thanks everybody this has been a busy month for all of us at San Gabriel. Good luck to all the shooters attending the Kelbly Super Shoot May 24-27. — Stephen Perry
|About the Pictures:
All the photos (except Jan Cleary’s images) were shot with a 2.0 megapixel Canon A60 “point and shoot” camera. Having been replaced in Canon’s line-up with more powerful cameras, you can purchase a brand new A60 on eBay for under $65.00 (we paid $135.00 in 2004). The still images were taken at “medium” 1024×768 resolution, JPEG output. Each original picture is 200-300kb. You don’t need 4-8 megapixel cameras to make images for the web! In fact, a 1024×768 photo is often much easier to work with and you still deliver plenty of pixels on screen. The video clips were taken with the same camera.The Canon A60 has some very nice light and color-control features that help produce great pictures. Fill-flash was used in most of the pictures. Daylight flash output was pre-set to 30% of max. This reduces the flash burn-out effect, and lessens the drain on batteries. EV, or exposure, was preset at -1/3 EV. This slight under-exposure (an old trick of film photographers) tends to give better contrast and saturation. Color temperature control was automatic–this is important because it lets you switch from flash to non-flash without worrying about odd color casts. Canon has two very nice features for in-camera image enhancement–a slight sharpening filter and a “Vivid” color setting. These both work very well for images published on the web.
You’ll notice that the images of rifles usually are taken from a diagonal, from the front or the rear quarter. This helps fill the frame with the rifle, and minimizes distracting backgrounds. Getting in close and using a slight wide-angle setting also gives good depth of field and showcases the details of the metal work and stock. A rear quarter angle also gives the viewer a “shooter’s eye view” of the rifle, so he or she can better imagine how it would feel to use the gun on the bench. Of course, there are times when you want to show the whole rifle from a normal perspective, as in the shot below.
After cropping the images, we generally add a little sharpening, and sometimes increase contrast or saturation, but normally the “post-production” image correction is minimal. Cropping, rotating, and adding labels is much more time consuming. All that work is done with Irfanview, a FREE image editing program. Unfortunately, the Canon’s video files are plain-vanilla AVI. This results in very large file sizes. We are soliciting donations for a better video camera that can output MPEG files which should be about half the size. We also need to purchase some video editing software that will allow us to zoom, crop, and add captions to the videos.
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