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2008 WORLD SNIPER CHAMPIONSHIPS - HUNGARY

Our sniper in residence Rob, has just returned from the World Sniper Championship in Hungary where he finished up on the podium. He wasn’t intending to do a write-up but I know a lot of you are interested in tactical rifles and enjoy reading Rob’s stuff on Precision Rifle so, I managed to persuade him. Read on…………..I'll get some photos up soon - Vince

 

7th WORLD SNIPER CHAMPIONSHIPS IN BUDAPESTHUNGARY

'The Best Of The Best'

 

I wasn’t going to do a write up on this comp. as looking back through the articles I’ve written this year, it seemed very similar to most of the others but, after speaking to several friends I was convinced that, as it was the official ‘World Sniper Championship’, this was a fitting and worthy subject for the final foreign competition of the year and of course they were right. As usual, names and faces have to be protected so I won’t go into personal details of my fellow competitors but I will try and give you a honest account of the comp.

 

This past couple of years I’ve shot a fair bit in Europe with both the police and military but without doubt, this comp is the pinnacle of its type within the sniping community. I have known of its existence for some time and long wanted to attend but with over 20 countries invited, places are limited and are strictly by invite and of course only open to military and police/security services.

 

Fortunately, one week before the competition was due to start, I had a piece of good fortune - an Israeli sniper was short of a partner, my security services clearance had just come through and a friend who was already down to compete put my name forward as a possible stand in. The ‘powers that be’ said ‘yes’ and I was on my way. A short Easyjet flight to Vienna and then a two-hour drive gets you to Budapest, where everyone was billeted in the local police training academy, which was a 30 minute drive to the range.

 

The range itself is 450m long and 200m wide and is divided down the middle by a concrete wall and surrounded on three sides by 40ft earth berms. All this meant that we were protected from the worst of the wind but when gusts did make it down to us, they were very tricky to read.

 

The first day started with the usual opening ceremony, flag raising and photo sessions with police and military top brass, then the safety briefing, which with over 20 countries participating was a translator’s nightmare but with English being the designated language for the competition and a very good multi-lingual translator, all went quickly and smoothly.

 

Day 1: Engage brain & go to your guns!

 

The first course of fire (COF) was a cold clean-bore shot at two very small air rifle targets (approx 1 ½ inches across) at 100metres. Given that the temperature was 95 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity close to 50%, I was interested to see what effect it would have on my Diggle range-card settings. Surprisingly, although there was over a 1000ft difference in elevation and a huge difference in temperature, old ‘mean & green’ held true to her original zero - although I did make a balls-up of the first two targets the following four small bullet-patches allowed unlimited sighters and confirmed the error was mine not the rifle’s. With my zero confirmed, the next COF moved us closer.

At 25metres we were presented with a cocktail stick with a flag on it. One round in three seconds with the instruction to break the flag pole! Any hit on the flag would mean minus points! A cock-up on this stage meant that you could be into minus points before you even got on the score board! This ‘minus score’ trend continued throughout the competition.

 

After a short lunch we moved down to 155 metres and the target was a 50 BMG cartridge-case. Again, one round in 20 seconds - again a very tough call with tons of mirage and 30 other guys to the left and right of you blazing away with everything from 223 up to 300 Win Mag. the necessity to be able to ‘get into your bubble’ was a must. Personally, I had a couple of very unfriendly muzzle-brakes close by but during the COF owing to the high level of concentration required, I was oblivious to them - thank God.

 

A good solid multi-positional shooting technique is of course a must. Two rounds kneeling and then dropping to prone for the final two shots all in 45 seconds was a good test of speed and pin-point accuracy and that was the name of the game here. Any dropped points and you plummeted faster than a tarts knickers on pay day. Another important aspect of this level of shooting is your own confidence and mental strength, so when you're confronted with four targets at 150 metres, the largest being 1 ½ inch across with a decreasing scoring zone and any bullet hole that is touching the line means you loose all your previous scores is a good test of your faith in your own ability. I screwed this one up too by the way!

 

A good evening meal on range followed the end of the first day’s shooting and then it was preparation for the night shoot. There were two COF’s at 155m and 203m under the illumination of a hand spotting-lamp and car headlamps. This is type of shooting really tests your scope and an illuminated reticle is a must. The 58mm object lens and 35mm body-tube on my US Optics scope grabs as much light as possible and transmits it to the shooter’s eye. I’ve got to say this scope has served me brilliantly throughout all the comps this year - by that I mean its reliable, the clicks are solid ¼ MOA, no more no less and the zero stays put regardless of abuse or travel. Build-quality is fantastic and the thick body-tube wall doubles-up as a carry-handle when in a rush. The crisp clean reticle is fine enough to pick out the finest detail on a target and includes a great Mil scale to range a target accurately. I use a simple rule when it comes to my scopes – if you can’t see it, you certainly can’t shoot it! When it comes to scopes, get the best you can afford. Never skimp on your glass.

 

Day 2:  Must Try Harder

 

After the night shoot it was back to base to clean your rifle and sort out your kit for the following day. We had four hours sleep and then we were back out again. With sleep deprivation and jet-lag starting to bite, the day started with long cold-bore shots at 450m. Again, having trust in your equipment and charts meant the difference between hits and misses. The best COF of the day for me was the ‘Karma Sutra’ - well named if you look at the picture! You had to use your partners body to support your rifle for five shots at 180m at a very small inward-scoring target. Just like the Karma Sutra, there were lots of variants in the positions used to do this but I was really happy with ours - my partner had a broad back and by using two of my back-bags I had a kind of shooting bench. He was so still I think he went to sleep at one point - just don’t ask where his head was! 

 

As the morning wore on, the temperature shot back up to 95 degrees but thankfully slightly less humidity, so when will were told that as part of a team-shoot, one guy would run and the other would shoot, my partner who was used to the Israeli desert heat took pity on me and offered to run whilst I did the shooting. I didn’t argue with him.

 

Both team members start prone and on the word ‘go’, the shooter engages a one-inch clay disc with as many rounds as necessary to break it. When the disc was hit a cover fell away to reveal 20 smiley faces. Meanwhile, the runner runs back 20m to get a picture of the target then runs back to the shooter and tries to describe the correct face! The shooter must then find and identify the face and engage with one round…tough? By the way all that had to be done in 60 seconds. I was very pleased with our efforts on this one - even with an accent and grammar differences, we did complete it successfully. Following this stage, we had an impromptu down-pour of hail, lightning and monsoon type rain which put a brief stop to shooting but not for long.

 

At the end of the second day, evening meal was again on the range as was weapons cleaning and kit drying then back to our accommodation. By this time, a wash and brush up and a few medicinal beers were in order before catching up on some much needed sleep. By the way, if a group of Russian shooters ever invite for a quick drink don’t go!

 

Day 3:  Nearly over!

 

The final day is only a half-day of shooting but the pressure does not ease off. There were three different COF’s - first a one round, 168m shot at a hens egg - not too hard but then factor in a 10 second time-frame and a 15 degree downhill angle, plus a gusting 5 – 10 mph quarter value wind and it makes the whole thing considerably more difficult.

 

The second COF was my favourite out of the whole event. The famous SOG knives are one of the sponsors of the event and donate a stack of their throwing-knives for this stage. The blades are knocked into a block of wood with the blade-edge facing towards the shooter and a piece of white paper is stapled to a board behind the knife. At a distance of 80m and within 30 seconds, the shooter must fire one round at the blade-edge and strike it perfectly so as to split the bullet into two haves and show separate impacts on the paper behind. Who the hell thought up this one up? Until I saw it done, I would of said this was nearly impossible but the skill level of the shooters attending meant that around 30% of the field made the shot – outstanding!  Don’t try this at home guys as a bad ricochet could end up anywhere.

 

The final COF was another good one. The targets were a small, medium and full-size clay-pigeons at distances of 136m, 246m and 364m. With the rifle placed down on the firing line and the shooter 10m further behind, on the command run forward and with one round engage one target, run back for the next round and engage the second target and so on, all to be completed within 50 seconds. Once again, speed with pin-point accuracy was the only way to gather points.

 

The end of shooting meant a big sigh of relief. This was without doubt the toughest competition I’ve ever shot in with some of the smallest targets I’ve ever seen but as the organisers said, it was designed to decide who was ‘The Best of the Best’

 

The evening was a very grand affair held in the centre of the beautiful city of Budapest on the banks of the Danube with some excellent catering and of course the hard-won trophies were presented. The competition is split into two halves - police and military. The result of the police individual event was 1st Russia 2nd Ukraine and 3rd Macedonia and the team scores were same. The military individual results were 1st Russia, 2nd Russia and 3rd United Kingdom and the teams were 1st Russia, 2nd Hungary and 3rd Czech. rep.   

 

As I mentioned previously in other articles, I’ve shot against the Russian and Ukraine guys before and the standard of all aspects of their shooting is amazing. They don’t have the best kit in the world but the key to their success is a simple one - practice, practice and then more practice! There is a lesson there that we all would do well to heed. For every round I’ve shot this year either in practice or in competition, I’ve also shot ten dry-fires and it's paid off.

 

Kit Review

 

Before I close I would like to say a big thanks to all involved in getting the rifle together this year without which none of the comps would have been possible and for all those who have asked about my ‘Green & Mean’ rifle, here is the spec.

 

Action - Surgeon (probably the best tactical action on the market) with built-in Picatinny scope-rail and recoil lug. It also represent great value for                             money.

 

Barrel - Kreiger (no explanation necessary!)

 

Moderator - Stealth sound moderators from ‘ The Whole Shooting Match Ltd’ this is the best mod. I’ve had so far. It’s designed to be stripped and cleaned, no difference on shift in impact and lighter than most other over-barrel designs.

 

Stock - McMillan A5 Tactical (again no explanation necessary - the best)

 

Scope -US Optics SN3 5x25 Tpal - as I said above, just a rock solid scope, dependable and no dramas. Thanks to John Williams and all the guys at USO for making the ret. I designed for the scope and getting it put Together and out to me in time for the deadline.

 

And finally, a big thanks to Vince for putting it all together for me with a weeks notice!!

 

Enjoy and be safe

Rob

 

PS - Don’t try to reproduce any of courses of fire detailed here as they may result in injury or death 

 

  

MEET KEVIN - OUR NEW MIDDLE-EAST CORRESPONDENT!

Precision Rifle is pleased to have Kevin, who is a keen benchrest shooter currently working out in Iraq, on board. Kevin is currently stationed in Bagdad and he will be posting the occasional interesting pic as he is currently working as an armourer and gets to play with some extreme stuff. 

                                                                                                Kev is the current UK 1000 yard Heavy Gun record holder - but not with this!

 

ULTIMATE TACTICAL RIFLE - ROB HUNTER TAKES OUR 'GUN OF THE MONTH' TO CZECHOSLOVAKIA FOR THE ULTIMATE TEST

Rob takes up the story..................

Several months ago, Vince Bottomley dropped a small cartridge in my hands and with a big grin on his face said “It spanks your 308 in wind, trajectory-drop and with less ‘bang’ too.” My response - "Bollocks!" but maybe I should have known better than doubt Vince as he has been shooting very successfully with the 6mm Swiss Match and other small capacity 6mm cartridges for some time.

 

Vince’s cartridge was the new Lapua 6.5x47 and when I got home I ran the 308 and 6.5x47 cases through the Quickload ballistic programme, which showed that the little 6.5 is a full 100 inches flatter in trajectory at 1000 yards and in a 10 mph crosswind, it displays 23 inches less drift! Impressive ballistics. A quick surf around the net also showed that the 6.5x47 is already in use in some of the top US tactical/sniper competitions due to its ballistic capabilities and light recoil.

 

Horses For Courses

Coincidently around this time, I was invited back to the Strenla military range on the Czechoslovakian border for another sniper competition in mid October. Vince suggested that a new tactical rifle in this chambering would be a great tool for this competition. That was all the persuading I needed and I approached Pete Waker of Walker Rifles in West Yorkshire, who normally builds my rifles.

 

Unfortunately, with barely a month to the competition, Pete just couldn’t accommodate me at such short notice and seeing the predicament I was in, Vince offered to help out. Vince has been building his own personal rifles for some time and I’ve shot against him enough to know that he knows how to put a rifle together so, with our miniscule time frame of one month to build, load-develop and run-in, I gave Vince all the necessary bits and pieces and waited for a call to say the barrel was chambered and fitted - it came 3 days later!

 

 

Those of you that have read 'Gun of the Month' will be up to speed on this rifle, so I won’t go over old ground but suffice to say the work was top-notch and so was the end product. My part of the project was simply to shoot it and hopefully win the competition - I always get the easy bit!

 

Ready, Steady, Shoot  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 The pre-shoot briefing - many of the competitors are on active duty so no faces.

 

A short two-hour flight gets you to the stunning city of Prague but then it’s a further four hour drive to the picturesque village of Stranla where the range is located. After a welcome drink of the local firewater (Slimavich) it was off to bed. The following morning dawned bright and sunny and was scheduled for practice. The 33 competitors gathered to check zeros and check-out each others kit. As this was my second time at the competition, it was also a chance to renew old acquaintances but friendships aside, make no mistake, everyone was there to win. There was plenty of ‘top of the line’ kit on display with rifles from Accuracy International, Sako, Sig, Draganov, Blaser and the odd custom job too. Glassware was mainly Leupold, Schmidt & Bender, Bushnell and a Tasco.

 

                                                                                                                              It was just a walk in the woods really...............

 

If my last experience at this competition taught me anything, it was to expect the unexpected and although the weather forecast was good, for the first day of the competition it was misty and raining. This set the tone of things to come and on the first course of fire (COF) I wasn’t surprised to be marched into the woods and told to run to a barricade, kneel, locate an egg with my number on it and shoot it – all within in 30 seconds. The eggs were on poles scattered around a field anywhere from 20 to 30 feet away!

 

This ‘stress element’ is a standard part of the competition and an important part of the proceedings for this event plus all your kit - including rifle, clothing, ammunition etc. for each day must be carried throughout the day. The egg shoot was followed by a short march to a clearing in the woods for the first of many ‘unknown distance’ shots. Rangefinders are not allowed, so all ranging was done by the WAG (Wild Ass Guess) method or preferably by range-finding using your scope reticule. The key to successful ranging is all about knowing the size of your intended target. Then, a simple mathematical equation of height of target multiplied by 27.778, divided by the number of ‘mils’ your target covers should get you on. I say ‘should’ but precision measuring is needed for accuracy.

 

Burst Your Bubble

 

                                                                                                                                  Remember these? I didn't! The pistol stage was good fun though.

 

The next targets were balloons tied to the tree-line approximately 150 yards away. Not too difficult but the five-minute wait and the instructors throwing flash-bangs plus a gusty wind didn’t permit a really steady shot.

 

The next stage was a tricky two-plate left and right shot. The plates were set at 30 degrees to each other so you could set up on the first plate but a big re-adjustment of the kneeling-  position was required to make the second shot. Just when I thought there was nothing else that could surprise me, a further 500 yards into the woods we were told to drop rifles, strap on a pistol-holster, grab a 9mm semi-auto pistol and stand-by for a pistol stage!

 

This was no big thing for all of the other competitors, as their respective governments still trust them with handguns - except of course for we Brits that is! I couldn’t resist putting my hand up to ask “What’s a pistol”. Not surprisingly,everyone except the Brits laughed. So, with all of us trying to drag back memories of past days of pistol-shooting, we moved on command down into a small wood. On sight of a moving plate coming through the trees we had five rounds to hit the plate. It did at least bring back some happy memories of practical-pistol days and caused a small amount of merriment when my buddy Paul Harper couldn't fasten the holster around his ample girth! 

 

At the end of the morning’s shooting we enjoyed a good lunch of local fare and then it was  on to the ‘known distance’ shooting at 1/2/3/500 yards, engaging targets of varying sizes and types. This at least gave us a chance to catch our breath and assess our good and bad points of the day, dry out and plan for the next day.

 

Day Two

 

                                                                                                                        Here we go - when the going gets tough.............

 

Today, the weather threatened to out-do the previous day, with cold winds, sweeping mist and dropping temperature. Not to be out-done the competition organiser turned up the heat and pressure with COF’s like steep down-hill shots at 40 yards, which had to be taken kneeling onto bad-guy targets with only hits in the eyes counting. No political correctness here – most of these guys do this for a living! On the first day briefing, we were shown a very tiny picture of a human face so, when we were taken out to 70 yards with our backs to the targets, I had an idea this ‘face’ may be coming up. The only command given was “You have 45 seconds to turn, drop to prone, load and fire if you see a target you recognise”.

 

The face was on the target all right but so were ten other very similar looking faces and not surprisingly, many got it wrong. We repeated the shoot at 200 yards and this time we were given 45 seconds to memorise a face-target that may be disguised then given a choice of four faces to shoot. Once again the time-induced stress caused mistakes.

 

                                                                                             Briefing for the 'Hostage recognition' stage. The shooter is shown a picture which he must then memorise.

 

With sleet and snow now starting to fall, we moved to a part of the range I hadn’t seen before to shoot at an unknown distance over a lake. This is a clever trick which makes use of a stretch of open water to fool the eye into thinking the distance is greater than it actually is and, at only 180 yards out, did fool a few.

 

Long Shots

 

 

This type of COF is food and drink to the classic image of the sniper and to top-off the day, we all moved back to the range house for the long-range section. Three steel plates of known sizes were placed out at unknown distances. The instructors nominated a target and gave the shooter one minute to range-it and on the command, engage it. Hit or miss was the only option - simple but very cruel. Later we did learn that the distances were 442, 559 and 640 yards. Any small error in ranging when using the reticule can easily mean a miss and it did catch me out on two out of three plates but I didn’t feel too bad as several others suffered the same fate. However, it showed-up a weakness that I need to remedy.

 

Night Vision

With the onset of evening, we enjoyed a hot meal and waited for night to fall, which at this time of the year happens around 7 o’clock. The night shoot involves a two-inch black disc on a white background, which makes a hard target even at 100 yards under a five second illumination from car headlamps. We then moved back to 300 yards with a larger head-size target with inward scoring rings. The mist and dropping temperature, combined with military illumination flares that seem to make the target move as they parachute down, caused many problems and those with illuminated reticles came into their own on this stage.

 

The extreme temperature changes could also have accounted for some ballistic errors, a swing of 30 degrees over the three days meant that all components were tested to the extreme. Water, mud and snow were all thrown at the rifle and I’m delighted to report that it didn’t miss a beat. Vince did an excellent job. After each day’s shoot, a strip down and a clean showed that the Dura-coat paint job had protected the working parts well and kept the gun looking like new.

 

Sneaky Stalkers

As with the previous competition I had attended, the final day was taken up solely with the stalk. This stage is as near as most amateurs will come to a real-world sniping excercise - unless you’re a deer stalker. But then, the deer don’t try to shoot you and then stomp on you!

 

If you read my previous report of the Czech competition you will recall that there is a Russian MIG fighter parked on the range. We were moved to about one kilometre from the MIG and told that a meeting of drug dealers was taking place by the aircraft and that at sometime within a two-hour time-frame, we would be given a signal to shoot our designated target from a minimum distance 300 metres. We would then have one hour to extract back to within 20 metres of the start position - all without being spotted. Points would only be awarded on successful completion of all the elements of the exercise.

 

This time, not only were there ‘spotters’ around the plane, there were also hunter-packs of bad guys roaming around the whole area, picking up the careless and unlucky. This element of attempting to stalk to a position and being hunted was not pleasant to say the least but it really sharpened up the senses.

 

                                                                                                                        A good example of effective camo

 

As competitors trickled back into the base there were lots of adrenalin-fuelled stories of derring-do and near misses. This final COF was much harder than last year and the competition organiser had very cleverly thought it out in such a way that it meant there were actually only a few places from where a shot could be taken. Out of the 33 competitors, only nine actually took a shot and only one person took the shot, hit the target and made it back without being captured.

 

The most important thing in any live-fire exercise from un-known firing points is safety and I’m pleased to report that the top-notch organisation and the professionalism shown by Mr Peter and his team, we all survived unscathed.

 

                                                                                                               Sniping or sleeping? You rested when you could!

 

Later that evening, we were treated to a large roast pig buffet-dinner, washed down with lots of blond beer, followed by the prize-giving. I’m pleased to report that all the hard work paid off and I came a respectable joint-third, with the rest of the seven Brits placing within  the top 10. The sponsor, Meopta, provided a great selection of prizes, including spotting scopes, rifle scopes, and some great tactical gear.

 

UK Sniper comp

I often get asked “Why don’t you run something similar in the UK?” One day I hope to and I have taken the initiative. In conjunction with an old mate, Andrew Hendricks of Riflecraft Limited, we hope to run the UK’s first official tactical competition next year. This is still in the early discussion stage and there are lots of things to sort out - the biggest being a suitable venue but if this would interest you, please send your contact info to jager@virgin.net and I’ll let you know details as they happen, otherwise keep looking in Target Sports for registration details.

 

                                                                                                                                                        Says it all - great comp., great company, great rifles, bloody cold!

 

Thanks

Finally, I would like to say a big ‘thanks’ to all the people who volunteered their services in order to make this project happen - Vince for building the beast - for more details on this and other projects see Gun of the Month'. We also got a mention on www.6mmBR.com Also Preston Pritchard and all the staff at Surgeon Rifles  www.surgeonrifles.com  for their advice and help. James Clark at Jager Arms  jager.sportingarms@virgin.net  for a fantastic Duracoat paint-job. Terry Mann for help with the moddy and finally David Shone in Prague for organising the competition.

 

David Shone is an ex-pat Brit who lives in Prague and owns his own range and runs pistol and semi-auto rifle all-inclusive weekend packages. I will covering one of David’s weekends  in March next year. Anyone who is interested in some full-auto fun can contact either myself or David at quadlite@fsmail.net

 

If tactical shooting is your 'thing' - check out my new website Uk Tactical - Rob Hunter

 

 

 

Rob's previous  sortie to Prague to compete in the 9th Police Sniper Championships

Following on from last month’s article (below) on the military sniper competition, we now move to the second of the two competitions - this time it’s the turn of the Police Snipers.

 

With the military comp. over and the hangover just clearing, it was time to move on to the next venue, Libiva, a military training facility. Once again David Shone was acting as guide and interpreter which ensured that the two-hour transfer went quickly and we all arrived safely with our kit in one piece. Once again we lucked-out with digs. First-class accommodation in the form of the newly refurbished officers’ quarters which was only a ten-minute drive from the range - all by kind arrangement of the Czech police.

 

With two days to kill before the competition started, re-loading was the order of the day. David had thoughtfully provided all the necessary tools, powder and primers and with three of us working away, the 300 required rounds were quickly loaded, although the odd visitor did comment that our room looked like HQ during preparations for a small war.

 

                                                                                                                                                 Reloading in the hotel bedroom

 

The police competition had over 100 entrants covering mainland Europe from Finland, Lithuania, Belgium, Poland, Germany, Russia, Portugal, Slovakia and of course the Czech Republic. Once again I’m ashamed to say the British contingent was made up of a small group of police and military marksman who provided their own rifles and ammunition and made their own way there and paid all there own expenses!  HMF lack of interest or lack of funds?

 

A Few Good Men

All of the participants gathered on the morning of the 15th May on the Military proving range at Libiva. This is a huge testing facility for all types of heavy artillery and tanks. Officials from both the local police training academy and the military were in effect the hosts for the event and even provided a splendid army catering unit as well.

 

All participants gathered for the introductions and greetings and after the safety briefings, it was down to business. Again the kit showed up some interesting trends. All were shooting their ‘work’ rifles, the most popular by far was the Sako TRG closely followed by Sig, CZ and Accuracy International. All were chambered in 308 Win. with the glass from Zeiss, Hensolt, Schmidt &Bender plus some very nice Zeiss spotting scopes.

 

For this competition we were squaded into pairs and this meant we were scored as an individual as well as a team. I got lucky here as my assigned partner was a Royal Marine. Danny (for the purposes of this article) was part of the Brit. bunch who had shot in the previous military competition, so I already had a chance to shoot with him and get to know him. It turned out Danny had been a deerstalker on the Scottish estates before joining up so, not only could did he have the right skills and temperament for sniping but, as with all professional stalkers, he was a damn mean shot too.

 

The information that we were given regarding the course of fire was that it would be multi-position shooting at distances out to 450m using a total of 180 rounds and shooting a variety of sub MOA targets. After being caught out on the previous comp. I was prepared for surprises this time and after a brief period allowed for checking zeros and a spot of army lunch, the first stages started.

 

The range has two separate firing points, each kitted out with remote-controlled targets at 200, 250, 300, 350, 400 and 450m which enabled the operating tower to control time of exposures and distance of targets. The competitors were split into two groups, each shooting a different combination of distances and targets. This separation aided a quick detail change-over and also kept competitors from seeing in advance what was in store.

 

 

Who’s Got The Team Brain?

Once again time to engage brain! Attention to detail and a waterproof note-book were the key to a good result, especially as three complete courses of fire were explained before each detail. This meant shoot first C of F and adjust; shoot second C of F and adjust; shoot the third C of F. All the intervals were timed and any lapses of concentration or lack of information cost points. I can testify to this - after one complete course of fire, I didn’t reset my scope turrets back to zero; consequently I ended up with three sets of blank targets next time around! Did I say engage brain?

 

Targets came in lots of shapes and sizes but most were half or quarter size fig. 11 type to the usual police hostage shoot/no shoot and several ‘dazzle’ or

multi-target types. Of course, when all the targets were up it was easy to loose yours in the sea of targets so some of the allocated time had to be used just to locate your own target. One common theme that ran throughout all targets was sub MOA scoring rings, so only shooting of the utmost precision got scores on the board. It was easy to hit the target but get a big fat zero.

 

Beware the Russians

 

 

Given it was possible to hit and not score – I’m sure most people suffered this fate somewhere along the day - there was one team that stood out above the rest from the start. The Russian contingent (Alpha Team Special Forces) gave a spectacular demonstration of shooting. Their sitting and kneeling produced groups just as small as their prone groups. I was warned about these guys and although this team were on the opposite detail to me, we did manage to get a look and they were outstanding.

 

However, at the end of the day when everything was added up and to the great delight of locals, the first place (Top Gun) went to Libor H, a serving Czech police sniper.

 

Later that evening, the official awards ceremony was held in the base auditorium. Not only did first place - or Top Gun - go to the Czech police but also second place, with Russia coming in third and fourth. Later, over a superb buffet and free beer we all had a chance to relax and reminisce over the last week’s effort, though it must be said that some ‘relaxed’ more than others!  

 

                                                                                       There was a chance to try a few other rifles...........  

 

Lessons learned

I think the biggest lesson I learned from both these competitions was to think for yourself, trust your data and don’t assume anything. Although my shooting partner and I constantly checked and swapped information in order to minimise errors, ultimately you are on your own, making decisions in situations that are both distracting and fluid. To move from ‘formal’ range shooting to this professional level - where no one holds your hand or gives you a second chance if you screw up - was a real wake-up call. Ultimately, for these guys in the real world, there are no second chances and screw-ups are not an option.

 

I guess the moral of the tale is be careful what you wish for - you might just be lucky enough to get it! I just hope they invite me back next year. Finally a big thanks to all concerned with making this trip happen.

 

Rob Hunter hoe.longshot@virgin.net

 

More information about pistol and semi-auto rifle shooting in the Czech Republic can be had from Dave: email  quadlite@fsmail.net

 

 

                                                                                                                                            See anyone you know? Rob's in there somewhere and so is Craig.

 

Top guns go east

Whichever way you look at it, we live on a small island and between Blair Athol and Bisley, we have few long rifle-ranges and even fewer open field-firing areas.

 

Several months ago I was perusing my shooting calendar and bemoaning the fact I only had the usual round of UK comps to go to, when out of the blue I got a phone call from the organiser of the European Military Sniper competition and the European Police Sniper competition asking if I would like to attend both events to cover it and best of all to participate as a guest!!

 

That was the no brainier of the year - of course I said “yes” but it was only after I had time to think about what I just signed up for that I began to have second thoughts.  Giving an even passable account of yourself against some of the top police and military snipers in Europe sure wasn’t going to be a walk in the park but ‘who cares wins’!

 

Military competition

Once the European Firearms Pass was organised, the kit was the next big problem. Due to the size of my Peli carrying-case there was only one option - the Unique Alpine TPG 1 rifle. The main barrel is chambered in 6.5x284 and I had a spare 308 barrel as a back-up. In addition I would take a Leica Telivid spotting-scope, Leica 1200 yard range-finder, Cheytac Advanced Ballistic Computer (ABC) and a Reflex T8 sound moderator.  All great kit but would it make the grade?

 

                                                                                               Would my spotting scope be good enough - probably not!

 

I made a few enquires to competition manager Petr M - who is himself an active military sniper - to try and get details of the course of fire but this was a closely guarded secret so that no competitors would have an advantage. The only information available was that there would be twenty courses of fire! Targets would be out to 650 meters and a night shoot, ghille crawl and a stalk and shoot would be included.

 

D-day arrived and after short 1 hour 40 minute fight, I landed in Prague. From there it was a three hour drive up to the Strelna shooting range which is on the Czech/Slovakian border.  The sponsors of the both competitions were Meopta and CZ firearms - both big names in the European shooting market. Accommodation had thoughtfully been arranged in a nearby local hotel for the competitors.

 

Wake up call

The morning of the first of three days shooting was taken up with formal introductions, safety briefing and checking zeros - otherwise known as ‘scopeing out’ the competition. The 35 competitors had come from afar as Finland, Poland, Germany, Russia, Portugal and of course Czech Republic. Rifles were as diverse as the competitors and all had brought their duty kit which included Sako TRGs, Sig, CZ, Hyem, Draganov and Accuracy International, the majority in 308 Win. topped out with Zies, Hensolt, Schmidt & Bender and Nightforce optics.

 

                                                                                                 It wasn't all prone bi-pod stuff

 

I should say at this point that the majority of competitors were active ‘special forces’ or their equivalent; therefore names and even faces connot be used or shown in this article. Its also worth noting that the British contingent had serving members of the Royal Marines, Army Artillery and RAF  but none of these personnel were sent or sponsored by their relevant units. In fact, all made their own way there and supplied their own weapons and ammunition. UK? Sounds familiar!!

 

As this was a military shoot I was expecting prone 300 metre plus shots, so the first target caught me out and a lot of others too - a single snap-shot at 25m downhill at a hens egg tied to a tree in a forest! Scramble down a bank into a hide, find your numbered egg and shoot it – all in 15 seconds! This surprise/stress shooting element set the tone for the day and marching en-mass with all your kit from point to point only added to the realism and showed up any deficiencies in your gear.  Later the same day, we engaged balloons hidden in a tree line at 150m on the command of a whistle whilst being distracted by strategically thrown flash-bangs.

 

Then we quick-marched to the next firing-point and shot reducing-size targets from the kneeling position at 1/2/300m and were given KIMs (keep in memory) tests. These are typical memory tests where you are shown a picture of a face which may or may not appear as a target in a later hostage situation. This last exercise may seem like good fun at your home range but in this sort of company you soon realise that lives depend on such skills and the shooter’s decision must be correct.

 

The second day again started bright and early with 500m cold barrel single shot with a hit or miss target. At this stage it was obvious to everyone that a lot of points could easily be lost with a poor range estimate or bad wind call. Next we walked out to a wood and took two shots kneeling at 150m in 30 seconds at steel plates. These were placed at 45 degrees to the shooter and required a change of firing position during the C of F.

 

                                                                                            The Mig - it looked spectacular!

 

The highlight of the day for me however on day two was an unknown distance shoot at three steel plates. All competitors moved back to the range house and without the aid of laser range-finders had to range three steel targets, one of which was a half man-sized plate by the cockpit of a MIG 23 – yes, you read that right, a real Russian MIG - not something you see parked on every range. Using my milldots I made the ranges to be 530, 560 and 612 yds. On the command you loaded and waited and waited and waited. This was of course designed to increase the stress levels - it did! Then, in a random order, the RO would whisper to you either 1, 2, or 3 and you had 15 seconds to engage the target. This may not sound too bad but having to wait for an indeterminate amount of time and then have only 15 seconds to adjust the scope, find, shoot and hit the correct plate - not easy. 

 

By their nature, military snipers aren’t fair weather shooters and if your detail happen to be in the middle of one of the several torrential downpours then so be it but holding onto three-feet of steel tubing during a thunder storm wasn’t helping my small groups.

 

                                                                                                         It made a good shelter as well!

 

A quick note about target size. Although most of the targets were standard or half sized fig. 11, the scoring areas measured sub. MOA only surgical precision scored points. This sort of punishment did take its toll on kit; several scopes did fail and one rifle suffered a broken stock after a bad fall. So by the end of the second day we were several guys lighter and a lot wetter and that wasn’t the end of the day - after an evening meal on site we prepped the gear for the night shoot.

 

Night Owls

This was a great test. Under the illumination of car headlights, black head-sized targets were engaged at 100, 200 and 300m. Yep, black targets at night - as the mist came in!

 

By the time we progressed to the last distance at 300m it was well past midnight and the headlights weren’t up to the job so out came the flare-gun parachute flares giving between 15 to 30 seconds of bright and moving light, which seemed to make the targets dance and move around. Those of us on high-powered scopes were in big trouble here and the low/high magnification variable scopes with illuminated reticles came into their own. 

 

Woodland ghosts

Although originally conceived in Scotland by stalkers, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Ghillie (camouflage) suit was a US invention. Thanks to Hollywood films, this type of product has become a lot more familiar and there are lots of variants out there in the commercial civilian market and most are synthetic junk.

There’s a good reason why the military still use a mix of burlap and jute - because it works best.

 

It was almost spooky to see these guys walk into an area and almost disappear in front of your eyes. The mission on the final day was using a set safety-arc, make a 50 minute stalk towards the MIG on which two sniper instructors were sitting.  If you were spotted, walkers were directed by radio to your position and you were out of the game. This was their home range and they knew how and where to look, so a good 50% were caught. After 50 minutes was up, the spotters and walkers left and a whistle signalled a 30 second window to shoot your designated target. One shot one kill - a miss meant no points. Unfortunately, there wasn’t time to do the extraction part of the stalk but, for those who did make it into a good firing position and hit the target without being pinged, got a big ego boost.

 

                                                                                                        Fernando - when this guy speaks - you listen!           (Photo by kind permission of Nikita)

 

There was a gentleman I must mention, a special invited guest who was on hand to compete and minister advice. Mr Fernando has attended every competition since the first one held. During his working life, Fernando was a US Ranger sniper and did three tours of duty in Vietnam so, when this guy talks, you listen. Many of the guys on the line weren’t even born when the Vietnam war ended but all of the people that Fernando spoke to came away better off. I think the photo speaks volumes. I’m hoping I can get him to do a full interview for these pages in the future.  

 

The stalk was the final event so when it was over everyone could relax and take a little R&R in the form some full-auto and pistol shooting - guns supplied courtesy of David Shone. Dave is a Brit. ex-pat. who now owns and runs a local range that can cater for groups and corporate shooting that we in the UK can only sadly reminisce about. Dave was also the general dog’s body, Brit. admin. organiser and translator for the military comp. Later, at the official presentation, the final scores revealed that 1st place went to a Czech URNA member and 2nd and 3rd went to ACR. Later, over a lot of excellent Czech beer, tall tales, back slapping and the swapping of ‘phone numbers was the order of the day and even with the language barrier, a bunch of men that came together as strangers left as firm friends.        

 

In next month we will continue our Czech adventure in Libava for the Police Sniper Competition.

 

More information about the competitions or pistol and semi-auto rifle shooting in the Czech Republic can be had from Dave Shone email : quadlite@fsmail.net

 

 

THE WEATHERBY 30-378 TRR DESERT MAGNUM. (*Updated 30.9.06)

                                                                                                                                                                                                 Stuart Anselm puts on a brave face for the camera!

The TRR stands for 'Threat Response Rifle' and it certainly qualifies for that title! Personally, I prefer 'the beast!'

 

Now although I don’t consider myself to be recoil-shy, when I looked in the reloading-manual and saw that the case-capacity of the 30-378 was around 120 grains, I confess - my enthusiasm for this rifle waned a little. I must admit that I was totally unfamiliar with the 30-378 cartridge. I assumed that it’s prime purpose was to knock-down extremely large animals – but no – this cartridge came about as a result of a collaboration between Roy Weatherby and the US Army, who were looking for an ‘extreme’ anti-personnel weapon.

 

The cartridge was actually developed way back in 1959 and is of course based on the 378 Weatherby case. The round-shoulder is the unique feature of Weatherby cartridges and the 30-378 is no exception. This really is an enormous case that makes Lapua’s 338 Magnum look positively wimpy. Photo below shows the 308 Win. for comparison. The so-called 'desert camo' doesn't look too out of place in a woodland setting.

 

                                                                                                                                                              

 

These massive cartridges are fine to shoot provided they are housed in a suitably heavy rifle but the TRR is quite light with its composite stock and spindly, fluted barrel. OK, it has a muzzle-brake (Accubrake) but it doesn’t look beefy enough to be really effective. Spindly? The 26 inch barrel is 1.25 inches diameter at the breech but swamps down to just 0.716 inches at the muzzle. Barrel is by Criterion, a division of Krieger and is made of 410 stainless steel. Action and barrel are coated with a tough but attractive matt-black titanium-nitride finish which is ideal for a tactical-style rifle.

 

                                                                                                                                                      Note aluminium bedding-block

 

When I took the barrelled-action out of the synthetic stock, I was surprised to see a moulded-in aluminium bedding-block. Clearly, there is more to this stock than just a funny cammo. paint-job. Like many tactical stocks, the designer was unable to resist the temptation to ‘militarize’ it, whilst missing out on a few ‘must haves’. Nontheless, most shooters will get on with this rifle as pull and cheek-piece can be adjusted but I would have kept the underside of the butt completely flat for use with a rear bag and put a bit more ‘beef’ into the fore-end. It does however have an Anschutz-type accessory-rail built into the fore-end, so handy for attaching a bi-pod and other accessories.

 

  

 

The action is the familiar Weatherby Mk 5 that has been around for almost 50 years and features a large diameter bolt with nine locking-lugs of the same diameter, arranged in three sets. This gives a bolt-lift of 56 degrees. We read a lot about short-throw bolt-handles but why is this coveted? The two-lug Remington is 90 degrees but so what? In terms of operation, this means lifting the bolt-handle an extra half-inch or so. Wow! The bolt has eight straight flutes running longitudinally which will help smooth operation a little by reducing the surface-area and also providing a receptacle for an extraneous matter which might find its way into the action. There is a conventional plunger-ejector in the recessed bolt-face and extraction is via a traditional claw. There are three large vent-holes in the bolt body which will direct gases out of the ejection-port and away from the shooter in the event of a ruptured primer.

 

                                                                               Note safety on bolt-shroud, robust trigger and vent-holes in bolt.

 

The receiver is circular and is 1.35 inches in diameter. There is an enormous cut-out in the underside for the two-round box-magazine and a built-in recoil-lug – a much better option than trapping the recoil-lug between barrel and receiver. Unfortunately, the rifle didn’t come with a scope but we do have a set of dedicated rings and bases which are quite impressive and clearly, the designer had previous experience of scopes moving under recoil! I was tempted to install one of Fox Firearm’s ZOS scopes but thought better of it and went for a 3.5-10 Leupold Mk 4 - not ideal for group-shooting but clearly, strength is paramount with a cartridge of this magnitude and the Remington 700 action for example could never handle a round of this size.

 

The Weatherby Arms Company has had a somewhat chequered career when it comes to manufacture. Initially they were made in America but then production was switched to Germany and then Japan – which is why some Weatherbys look very similar to Howas – or is it the other way round? Anyway, our rifle, based on the Mk 5 action is now made in America once more. Quality-wise, the action has a nice ‘custom’ feel to it – that ‘knife through butter’ feeling as you close the bolt – but not when you open it! The borescope revealed that the button-rifled barrel and chamber were also well finished internally.

 

Yes, at last we are getting close to shooting the beast but for one small point – no ammo - but we do have 20 brand-new Weatherby cases. Time to consult the manuals. I also needed a set of dies and approached North West Custom Parts, www.nwcustomparts.com who are agents for the vast range of Midway products. I was impressed - NWCP had an RCBS die-set for me in a little over a week.

 

As regular readers will know, I like to test rifles in competition if possible and with a UKBRA 1000 yard benchrest competition only days away, I loaded up our twenty new cases with a massive 116 grains of Vit 170 powder and Sierra Matchking bullets. As I was already down to shoot my own Light Gun, I decided that it was time for Stuart to see the error of his ways and give the beast its competitive debut. Of course, we weren’t sighted-in for 1000 yards but after bore-sighting and using Vihtavuori’s muzzle-velocity data and my ballistic programme, we took a stab at our elevation settings which proved to be pretty well spot-on – just 19 MOA up from our 100 yard zero. Compare this to a 308 Win. which would need more than double that using the same bullet.

 

 

Although our elevation was spot-on, lack of testing revealed that we were a long way off an accuracy-load and after one attempt at a group, Stuart abandoned the test. Accuracy was abysmal – but surprisingly, recoil was tolerable - that tiny brake was clearly effective. The trigger broke quite cleanly at 2.75lbs and is adjustable but this is a rifle where a really light trigger is not desirable – you need to be sure of a snug hold on that stock before you make the decision to ignite 100 plus grains of powder!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

So it’s back to the reloading-bench but first, how to pull those now useless rounds as the 30-378 case is just too fat to go in a conventional kinetic bullet-puller! After fruitless attempts with collet-pullers etc. it was time for some drastic action. The shell-holder was gripped in my lathe-chuck and the bullet in my Jacob’s chuck mounted in the tailstock. I just managed to wind-out the bullets without spilling too much of my precious powder. Needless to say, the Sierras were scrap.

 

After running all the cases through the full-length body-die, I tried another load using a 185 grain Lapua Scenar bullet and again the Vit 170 powder. Initial tests again revealed disappointing results at 300 yards (two-foot groups!) and I was beginning to think that the beast had some inherent fault and we would never get it to group. Having said that, we had the factory 100 yard test-target supplied with the rifle, showing a three-shot group measuring just 0.656 inches. Unfortunately, there was no supplied loading-data other than that 180 grain Barnes bullets were used.

 

OK, back to basics and 100 yards. We’ll try a new powder, this time Hodgdon’s H1000 – I used this in my 300 Norma Magnum. And we’ll try some Hornady 178 grain A Max bullets. Our starting load was 110 grains and we were soon shooting three-inch, three-shot groups at 100 yards! Three shots means a massive 330 grains of powder burnt in the barrel – the equivalent of 7 or 8 shots with a .308. We were wrapping a wet towel around the barrel to cool it between groups! Shooting from a covered firing-point is really anti-social – the blast from the muzzle-brake almost lifts the roof off and elicits a stream of un-printable expletives from fellow shooters.  

 

                                                                                                                                        Left - our final group measuring 0.398 inches. Right, the factory test target 0.656 inches.

 

We dropped the powder-charge by grain or so at a time and at last, the groups began to shrink – two inches, one inch and then, our best of the day – a stunning group measuring just 0.398 inches. It was a great relief to get a result and finally tame the beast. When we chronographed our load, it was pushing the 178 grain A Max at a satisfying 3200 fps – nicely within the muzzle-velocity for most ranges though well below this cartridge’s potential.

 

The Weatherby TRR (Threat Response Rifle) is now safely back in its cage at Garlands. It’s for sale - complete with dies and test targets - for anyone brave - or foolish - enough to take up the challenge. 

Vince Bottomley/Stuart Anselm

 

THE 408 CHEYTAC by Rob Hunter

It’s not often in life you get that ‘road to Damascus’ moment - that is to say a blinding-flash of realization that lifts the darkness from your eyes and you see things with a purity and clarity that makes you think “Why didn’t anyone think of that before?”

 

Back in 1998, the latest issue of the (sadly now defunct) USA Tactical Shooter magazine dropped through my door and I settled down for a good read. As I turned to page 73 instantly my shooting life instantly changed - there it was in front of me, the future of extreme distance shooting!

 

From that moment on, the plan to build the definitive extreme long-distance rifle based on that 408 Cheytac cartridge was never far from my thoughts and this is the continuation of my 338 RPA Rangemaster rifle project (see next article below) and its rebuild into a 408 calibre ultra long-range rifle.

 

The article in Tactical Shooter was based on the concept, design and construction of a new cartridge and rifle named the 408 Cheytac. The task undertaken by Dr John D Taylor and William Wordman, was to create a completely new sniper weapons-system including ancillary equipment, to take law enforcement and military specialist snipers into the next generation of conflict and battlefield situations.

 

                                                                                            The guys behind the Cheytac programme

 

Present day offerings

An examination of present day military cartridges shows us that the 7.62 Nato, (holding 56g of water) is the standard benchmark for sniper weapons-systems. Using heavier long-range bullets, it is effective out to 1000yards. Even at this extreme range, it is still a capable anti-personal round and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to back this up.

 

The 338 Lapua Magnum was developed in 1982 and holds 114g of water and is considerably larger than the 7.62 Nato cartridge. With the far heavier bullets coming in at 300 grains, there is a obviously bigger recoil and blast-signature but it still runs out of steam at around 1500 yards and is severly limited in its choice of ammunition and is only reckoned to be of use on soft-skinned targets at the extreme edge of its range which, given its size increase over the 7.62 Nato doesn’t show a great ballistic advantage.

 

The 50 BMG holds 300 grains of water and was designed in 1918 as a ‘light’ anti-tank round but advances in tank-armament soon made it obsolete for this task though throughout time it has featured in various ‘special ops’ situations for extreme-range and/or its kinetic hitting-power. It was famously used by Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock in Vietnam in conjunction with an Unertl 8x scope in a long-range anti-personal role. Although the 50 BMG comes with various bullet configurations, including armor-piercing, explosive and match, and will reach out to around 2500 yards, it’s an ‘overkill’ round in its anti- personal role and its true armor-defeating capabilities fade rapidly beyond 600 yards.

 

Furthermore, in the guise of a mobile sniper-rifle in a turn-bolt set-up, the 50 BMG is an uncomfortable weapon to shoot, owing to its heavy recoil and of course it does give of a very large blast-signature on firing, making it easily detectable by the enemy.

 

It’s worth noting at this point that the present darling of 1000yd match shooters is 6.5x284 cartridge. Initially a ‘wildcat’ but now offered by Norma, it has a comparable recoil to the 7.62 Nato and a flatter shooting trajectory than the 7.62 Nato, 338 Lapua or the 50 BMG and is easily portable, coming in at roughly the same size and weight as a 308 Win. rifle. Various special operations units around the world have not been slow to pick-up on the advantages of this chambering.   

 

The next generation

So we can see that there is defiantly a ‘niche’ here for a ‘new kid on the block’. The 408 round was initially conceived to fill the gap between 338 and 50 BMG. I.e. improving on the 338 ballistically and being equal to the 50 BMG in its range and hard-hitting capabilities.

 

                                                                                                                         From left: 308 Win., 338 Lapua Magnum, 50 BMG & 408 Cheytac 

 

Cheytac Associates, the company responsible for the 408 Cheytac, has a motto ‘Technology Over Tradition’ and it is this use of ‘cutting edge technology’ that is at the heart of this system. A completely new case was designed, based on the ancient 505 Gibbs (sounds like tradition!) and a brand-new 408 caliber bullet was created. The bullet is a solid copper/nickel CNC turned projectile manufactured by Lost River Ballistic Technologies and comes with a BC of .945 (about double that of a typical Nato 7.62 bullet. LRBT design their bullets around a ‘patented balanced-flight principle’ which displays some amazing characteristics.

 

‘Balanced flight’ means that when the bullet goes through the transonic stage (super-sonic to sub-sonic) they still fly true to their original trajectory - unlike a standard projectile that once it becomes transonic tends to become unstable and deviate from its supersonic flight path.

 

The 419 grain Cheytac bullet fired at 3000 fps is still supersonic at 2,300 - 2,500 yards, depending on weather conditions and at 2500 yards, it only needs 102 MOA elevation with a flight time of 4.37 seconds. By comparison, the 50 BMG using a 750g Hornady A-Max match bullet out to 2500 yards needs 130 MOA and arrives there half a second later than the Cheytac.

 

Cheytac have another lighter 305gr bullet called the BDR (Battlefield Domination Round) for shorter ranges but can be propelled at 3500pfs and if the rifle is zeroed at 100 yards, has a maximum ordinate of just 48 inches at 1000 yards. This saves the ‘operator’ having to make multiple range estimates and scope adjustments in a rapidly-changing battlefield situation. Just zero at 500 yards and you’re away. With a flight time of only 1 second out to 1000 yards, this has already proven to be a very useful combat tool.

 

Another useful military bonus of the Cheytac’s copper/nickel bullet is its armor-defeating capability. Although it was not designed as an AP round, it displays better armor-defeating properties than the 50 BMG M8 AP at 650 yards.

 

Cheytac have carried out extensive testing using a Doppler radar system at the US Yuma proving grounds to back up all this data. In short, these bullets are faster, flatter and handle the wind better than any other bullet currently available. Ultimately this round beats the 50 BMG in just about every field and has less recoil and a smaller firing-signature and hence is much kinder to the shooter.

 

The proof of the pudding was clearly demonstrated the during testing and proving of this rifle and bullet combination. A USMC sniper-team using their standard M200 Intervention Cheytac rifle, set a three-shot record of 16-5/8 inches at a mind-blowing distance of 2,231yards – shooting prone off a bipod. That equates to two-thirds of a MOA at over one and a quarter miles!

 

The re-build

So how can all this R & D be of use to us – or me specifically? The brass is of very high quality with no belt but extra strengthening on the web and of course, the bullets have that superb BC of almost ‘one’ and being a solid projectile as apposed to a copper jacket-encased lead-core, can be pushed hard without fear of deforming or flying apart when launched. As with most cartridge-cases, some redesigning or ‘improving’ can increase case-capacity and efficiency so if we blow out the side-wall and increase the shoulder-angle,  this gives us some additional capacity to experiment with different powder-loads.

 

For my ‘match’ version of this rifle, the barrel must be of heavy profile, tapering from 1 ¾ inches at the breech to 1 ¼ inches at the crown with an overall length of 34 inches.

 

The barrel I have chosen is carbon-fibre wrapped to keep weight to a reasonable level and weighs-in at 8lbs. The action, chassis and stock is basically that utilized by the RPA 338 Rangemaster. Why RPA? Well there are lots of custom-actions, mainly from the USA, that you could use for a project like this but why bother when the UK already offers a proven world-class product that is second to none and is on the doorstep and readily available. The bolt and action has a Blanitnite-C finish which is both a dry lube and a wear-resistant coating. The action has a very short lock time and its  ‘gold’ trigger is weight and length-of-pull adjustable and is a true delight to use.

 

I mentioned to Mike Cherry of RPA at the outset that it was my intentions to use their 338 Rangemaster for my Cheytac project and Mike relived the ejection-port a little to take the larger 408 case and made me an extra bolt to handle the larger case-head. Next, I took the original 408 reamer-dimensions and increased the shoulder-angle and with a little help from Pacific Tool & Gauge in America, we soon had the chamber and die reamers for the ‘improved’ Cheytac now re-named the 408 Hunter. No ‘off the shelf’ dies of course, so blanks were obtained from Troy Newlon whose ‘stock in trade’ is supplying die-blanks from custom wildcatters.

 

Once all the bits and pieces are obtained, you need someone who knows his stuff to put it all together. This is no job for the enthusiastic amateur so over to Pete Walker of Walker Custom Rifles in West Yorkshire. Pete has built-up reputation for turning-out high-class precision-rifles for some years now and in fact he’s just moved to bigger premises to keep up with the demand for his talents.

 

                                                                                                                                    Pete Walker of Walker Custom Rifles carried out all the machning work on the Cheytac

 

After a weekend of intensive machining work (on Pete’s part) the job was complete and at the same time, Pete made a muzzle-brake which is designed and based on the ‘dead air’ principle that air-rifle shooters use. This has an inverted cone inside the brake so that the bullet’s nose enters the cone at the same time as the rear of the bullet’s bearing-surface exits the barrel-crown. This helps to stop the gas getting in front of the bullet inside the break thus forcing the bullet to shoot through its own gas which could disturb the bullet’s flight.

 

My improved case (right)

 

As with any wildcat, there is a degree of fireforming needed to get the brass blown-out to the new chamber-size. The water capacity of the standard 408 case is 158 grains which equates to 125 grains of Reloader 25 and that in turn will give approximately 3000 fps at the muzzle. My ‘improved’ version comes in at 164 grains of water and will take 130 grains of Reloader 25 and should allow me to moly-coat my bullets, which will lose me a little velocity but the additional capacity will hopefully keep them at same MV of 3000 fps.

 

Other necessary extras

The finished rifle weighs-in at 18.5lbs, a fair part of which (6.5 lbs) is in the US Optics SN9 ASEARTS (Advanced State of the Art Extreme Range Telescopic Sight) 10-42x80 scope. I met Dr John Williams Senior, President of US Optics at the Las Vegas Shot Show in 2003 and after many long discussions, I decided to choose this scope because of its superb clarity and elevation adjustment of up to 300 MOA (no sense in making a long-range rifle and running out of scope adjustment).

 

The more observant will notice that the windage and elevation adjustments are external. This leaves all of the 30mm body-tube to lenses and light-transmission, which after all is it’s purpose. The massive 80mm objective lens  sits somewhat higher than normal, so I fitted a Hunters of England Snipers Cheekpiece to the butt, which is an easy way to raise the eye back up to the correct position and make target-acquisition quicker and shooting more comfortable. All US Optics scopes are made in the USA to the highest spec. and are regarded as the ultimate in scope technology and pretty much bomb-proof. This one is strong enough to double-up as a carrying handle but I wouldn’t recommend you to try that with any other scope!

 

 

The large scope makes the rifle appear slightly top-heavy, so I fixed a spigot into the front of the fore-end of the stock and adapted a Sako TRG bipod to fit it. This has the affect of lowering the centre of gravity nearer to the barrel’s bore-axis and at the same time widening the bi-pod footprint, making the whole thing a lot more stable. I really like this bipod; a lot of thought has gone into its design and construction. With the spigot-attachment, it can be fitted or removed in seconds and the legs can fold forwards or backwards.

 

Finally, in the interests of Health & Safety and due regard to my fellow-shooters, I had a sound-moderator made by Reflex and supplied by Jackson Rifles of Dumfries, Scotland. It is actually a shortened 50 BMG example modified to take the 408 bullet. This is a great piece of kit and it reduces noise and recoil considerably.

 

As I mentioned in my article on the 338 RPA, I intend to start a ‘One Mile Club’ shortly for anyone who fancies dabbling at the extreme end of things, so if you’ve got something that will reach-out that far and you want to have a go at testing yourself and your kit and hopefully setting some UK records, drop me an email and I will add you to the mailing list to keep you informed of dates and venues.

 

Finally, I’d like to say thanks to all the people who have helped in this project including Mike Cherry of RPA, Anthony Taylor and the staff at Cheytac, Pete Walker of Walker Custom Rifles and Andy J Hunter.

 

Rob Hunter

Hunters Of England

 

 

Usefull numbers

 

Walker Custom rifles 01422 248241

RPA 01732 359766

Hunters of England 0161 366 7631

 

 

RPA's 338 LAPUA MAGNUM RANGEMASTER by Rob Hunter

The 338 Lapua Magnum as we know it today was and developed in 1982-3 by Jim Bell of Mast Technologies and Boots Obermeyer (master rifle & barrel maker) although to be truly accurate, the names of Edward Dillon and Jerry Haskins should be added to that list.

 

The project was conceived at the request of Research Armament Industries ( R.A.I.) for the U.S.A. For the U.S. Armed forces. The specification for the project handed to these men was for a long-range cartridge to be reasonably flat shooting, buck the wind well and arrive at 1000 meters with enough energy to defeat the equivalent of 5 layers of military body-armour.

 

This usually equates to a 250g to 300g projectile leaving the muzzle at anything from 3000 fps for the lighter 250g Lapua  Scenar, down to 2750 fps for the 300g Sierra Matchking respectively. It should also be noted at this time that because of the bullet weight and kinetic energy, this round is already used in the hunting environment to stop some of the larger game animals.

 

 

Left, 308Win, the 338 Lapua Magnum, the 50BMG and the 408 Chey-Tac

 

When compared to the 308 Win and 50 BMG, the 338 has come to be known as the in-between’ cartridge - half way between the 308 and 50 Cal in size. This is not strictly true in that a 308 holds 56 grains of water, the massive 50 BMG 300 grains and the 338 114 grains but more about a true ‘in-between’ cartridge later.

 

These days the 338 Lapua Magnum is used world-wide by police and military alike for extended-range work, or where a high kinetic energy value is necessary to overcome ‘barriers’. To this end, there are armour piercing and a solid variation of bullets that can be used to disable light-vehicles and damage other soft-skinned targets.

 

Field Portable

The overall size of the loaded cartridge (around 3.70 inches) requires a larger magnum action to handle it but it is still possible to keep the overall weight and length of the rifle down to manageable proportions to keep it field-portable - an important factor if you have ever had to lug a 338 a long distance to get to your final firing position!

 

As for shooting the 338, many shooters shy away from large-calibre cases because they think they couldn't handle the recoil but it’s not as savage as you might assume. The overall weight of the rifle helps to a certain extent to soak up some of the ‘kick’ and in the case of my rifle, the RPA, weighs-in at 8 kilograms and if a muzzle-brake is used, it’s not uncomfortable to shoot.

 

RPA's own muzzle-brake

 

The muzzle-brake on this rifle comes as standard and is RPA’s own design. Mike Cherry (MD) is very proud of this feature and so he should be. The last time I shot this gun at 1000 yard, I was easily able to see my shots impact on the backstop! In real terms means a recovery time of 0.75 seconds - I doubt this would be possible without the aid of very efficient brake. (pictured)

 

I've played with lots of different muzzle brakes over the years, trying to find the definitive design and I’ve must say this is one of the best I’ve ever used. Going one better, if a suppressor is used, (the Reflex suppressor will fit the thread on this barrel) the recoil feels similar to a .308 Win. and is no problem for most shooters to manage.    

 

The heavy gun wildcatters of the USA weren't slow to see the possibilities of this large capacity case for 1000 yard benchrest and varmint shooting. There are now many variants of the 338 case used in benchrest heavy and light gun class. Once the parent case is necked-down to 30 cal. to use a range of lighter bullets with high BC’s, including the excellent 7mm bullets, that can be launched at speeds in well in excess of 3000 fps, the designer of the chambering can re-name the variant chambering, so you can now here some interesting names banded around the BR firing-point such as the Yogi, and Gonzo - can’t wait for the Shaggy and Scooby-doo! 

 

RPA International, based in Kent and long famed for their world class Quadlite and Quadlock target rifle actions, have recently ‘thrown their hat into the ring’ with their Rangemaster rifle. These rifles basically come in three sizes – medium, as in .233 to .308, big as in 300Win Mag. to 338 Lap Magnum and great big, as in 50 BMG. The latter is still under development but should be released soon.

 

A Closer Look

These rifles are undoubtedly aimed at the tactical shooter/sniper end of the market and they are already in service in this role in various parts of the world. But this rifle would not be out of place on the line of any competition in my view, with its sleek, dark good looks, reliable feeding action and solid unbreakable feel. It would be competitive and draw admiring attention on any range.

 

Composite stock with carbon-fibre butt and fore-end

 

But it’s the use of cutting-edge materials such as titanium, carbon fibre and Kevlar that really make the design of this rifle stand out from the opposition.

I had been on the look-out for a large magnum rifle for a while - both to shoot and for a project I’ve been working on. To this end, I took the opportunity to visit the RPA stand at last years Imperial Meeting at Bisley. It’s always nice to  handle a rifle before parting with your hard-earned cash and I had looked forward to getting my hands on the RPA for some time and I must say that it didn’t disappoint in any respect.

 

The stock is of a three-piece construction, consisting of a butt, chassis and fore-end. The butt and fore-end are both made from a mixture of carbon-fibre, Kevlar and titanium these products were chosen for their strength, weight and bearing properties. Not only is this functional but the carbon-fibre material gives a very distinct and pleasing pattern to the overall finish of the stock and fore-end.

 

The receiver is bedded into the aluminium-alloy chassis. Note mag. release and safety

 

The use of these materials also helps keep the overall weight down. If that was not enough, the butt also incorporates a mono-pod, adjustable-height cheek-piece and movable butt-plate. The underside of the stock also has a butt-hook - a small recessed ‘hook’ cut-out on the underside of the butt-stock. This is very useful for controlling the rifle with the non-shooting hand.

 

The carbon-fibre butt and fore-end are then fixed to the machined aluminium alloy central chassis, which houses the 5 shot detachable box-magazine. All of the metal parts are anodized for durability and long life.

 

The barrel is a 26 inch, 1-10 twist medium to heavy-weight profile in chrome- moly steel and is fluted – to reduce the weight but without sacrificing stiffness and is finished in a anti-glare matt-black coating. The barrel and over-size Quadlock action is then hand-bedded into the chassis for a perfect fit.

 

RPA produce trigger-units that are just as good as most of the top-end after- market options available today. You have a choice of two trigger-units offering a ‘pull’ ranging from 0.45kg to 1.5kg, although these can be adjusted to suit both let-off weight and finger length and are offered with optional safety-catch. The placement of this safety is a really good piece of design. It’s a small lever placed just forward of the trigger and within the trigger-guard and is operated by the trigger finger. When pulled-back to ‘safe’, it covers the trigger and to disengage, the shooter simply pushes it forwards with the trigger-finger, thus allowing the shooter access to the trigger. All this can be achieved without coming out of position to either look or feel for the safety. (Pictured)

 

The mag. release is a simple lever placed just to the front of the trigger-guard and by pushing it forward, the magazine drops cleanly. When the mag. is full, the rounds are slightly offset but the tapered lips on the top of the mag ensure that the rounds present themselves singularly to the centre of the bolt. This gives a positive and clean feel to cycling the action and also results in fewer feed-jams.

 

For the purposes of testing the RPA, I mounted my Leopold 6.5-20x50 that has a Premier Reticules boost to 14-35 power and headed for the range. The loads I planned to test were home-loads and although there are not masses of match bullets for the 338 hand-loader, the Lapua 250 grain Lapua Sceanar and the Sierra 300 grain Matchking are as good as anything and easily obtained via your local dealer.

 

The four-lug bolt is similar to the RPA Quadlock - but longer 

 

I prefer to shoot only moly-coated bullets in my rifles and as this gun was brand-new and therefore not even run-in, I took my time shooting the first few groups with frequent cleaning in between.

 

A cartridge of this size is not the type of round you would use for 100 yard plinking, so I chose 400 yards in order to let the bullet settle down. Although the recoil with a brake is not savage, I used a Hunters of England ‘Snipers Cheekpiece’ and their ‘Field back-bag and ‘Snipers Kit Bag’ to both steady and reduce the felt recoil. (pictured)

 

As usual, when you want to do some serious load testing, the weather will always do its best to screw things up for you and this day was no different so with a healthy 6 mph cross-wind gusting to 15 mph, I shot two groups at 400 and 600 yd. Interestingly, there didn’t appear to be much difference between the 250 and 300g bullets, although the best group at 400 was just 2.5 inches and the best at 600 was 4.75 inches - shot both with the 300g Sierria Matchkings (pictured)

 

To properly test the rifle’s potential, it should ideally be shot at greater distances and I got a chance to shoot 1000 yards in a UKBRA benchrest competition the following week. Although I’m more comfortable and familiar when shooting off the grass, the rifle’s best group of the day was an 8 inch five-shot group fired off the bench. This rifle held its own against many custom rifles on the day, so not bad for an ‘out of the box rifle’. I’ve no doubt that once shot-in and with a bit more load-development, this group could be reduced even further.    

 

So, in conclusion, if you’re in the market for an ‘off the shelf’ large-calibre rifle and you fancy testing your self in the long-range arena, then you could do far worse than choosing the RPA. At around £3,400 its not the cheapest kit around but you get an awful lot of rifle for your money and the cost is comparable to any other custom gun. Plus, you’re buying British and in the rare event should you need it, the after sales service is first-class and available in the UK.

 

Before I finish, I’ll refer back to those comments about the 338 not being the true intermediate round between the 308 Win. and the 50BMG. This accolade surely belongs to the 408 Cheytac - a round developed by Dr. John D. Taylor in the USA. This amazing cartridge is capable of sending a 420 grain bullet at near 3000fps and has a stunning BC of ).945. This is the future of ultra long-range sniping without a doubt and I hope to cover all aspects of its capability in a follow up article when we will cover the building of an ultra long-range rifle in this calibre and based on my RPA Rangemaster rifle.

 

We hope to be starting a ‘One Mile Club’ for those how like to dabble at the extreme end of distance-shooting and we will be attempt to set some 1 mile U.K. Records. If you have a rifle that will reach out to one mile and you fancy a go, then send us a message at hoe.longshot@virgin.net  and we will add you to the mailing list and keep you informed as to venues and events.

 

Remember - use it or lose it !

 

Rob

 

 

 

 

Extreme Optics

U. S. Optics – Seeing Is Believing

 

 

These days, rifle scopes have a lot in common with cars - they come in all shapes and sizes and with prices to match and, like cars, you see a lot of Fords and few Ferraris. The purpose of htis article is to bring to the attention of UK shooters a company in the USA that builds the ferrari of riflescopes. That translates in to some of the highest spec. optical products anywhere in the world and also offers a bespoke scope-building service that means you design it and they will build it!

 

 

US Optics was founded in Califonia in 1990 by John Williams Jr, I've met John on several occasions and had many long conversations about scope design. John was the type of guy that any industry would be proud to have working for them - a visionary of whom the saying 'thinking outside the box' could have been written for.                 

 

The base-line for his original brief for scope-design and construction was to surpass all standard scope production methods and then, starting with a blank sheet of paper,  design from the ground up, the scope we would all wish for in an ideal world.

 

As a demonstration of his confidence in his product I once saw him take one of his scopes off a rifle and use it to smash the corner off a MDF table and then he threw it some 30 feet on to a concrete surface. He then re-mounted it and demonstrated to an amazed crowd all its functions still worked, not many other manufactures would dare a torture test like that.

 

John sadly died in a motor accident in 2005 and was acceded by his son, John Williams III who continues to ‘push the envelope’ of scope-design.

 

Big Gun - Big Scope

A couple of years ago, when I designed and built the Ultra Long Range 408 rifle, I decided that I needed a scope to match its performance. After all, at extreme long range ‘if you can`t see it, you can`t shoot it.’

 

 

In order have sufficient elevation to hit targets at one mile plus, there was only one choice - the SN-9 ASAERTS (Advanced State of the Art Extreme Range Telescopic Scope).

 

The first thing that jumps out at you from this scope (apart from its size) is its rear external mounting-bracket and erector housing, the windage and elevation adjusters,

 

This has three major advantages:

 

1. It leaves the whole of the tube-diameter free for lenses and light transmission and without any moving internal parts it’s super strong.

 

2. It allows for a massive 235 MOA elevation.

 

3. Because the housing is moveable, you can alter its position on your rifle’s scope base, which in turn will alter the value of the elevation clicks (very clever) No other scope builder offers this much elevation which is more than enough for even the biggest calibres and longest shots.

 

 

At 6.5 lbs and 25 inches long, with a 80mm objective lenses it’s regarded as the ultimate in scope-technology and pretty much bomb-proof. This scope is strong enough to double up as a carrying handle as well!

 

At the other end of the scale is the diminutive SN-4 which is a 1-4x mag CQB (Close Quarter Battle) scope as used by both police and military for rapid target acquisition. 1x magnification at 100 yards giving a 116 foot field of view, or 4x mag. at 100yards  offering a 34.2ft field of view. The 30mm tube comes with an option of 5 unique mounting systems, .223 and .308 BDC (bullet drop compensation) knobs and a huge choice of reticule options.

 

 

My Shopping List

I was so happy with the performance of the big SN9 scope, that when the need came for a new scope, I naturally went back to U.S.O. This time I wanted a more conventional- looking scope that I could swap around on several different rifles for tactical/sniper competitions but the look of this scope is the only thing that’s ‘normal’.

 

The SN-3 MK4 T-PAL (turret parallax adjusting lens) is a true bespoke job.

I wanted plenty of elevation again, so I ordered a 35mm tube although you could go to 40mm or even 50mm if required (U.S.O. were one of the very first companies to produce this size of tube, which is now being copied throughout the industry).

They offer this line of scope in 3.2-17 and 5-25 magnification and I choose the highest magnification as I would predominantly use it for long range work. This unit also has the option of an 11-position rheostat to illuminate the reticle. The side-focus knob is now an industry standard and all four knobs are mounted on a large square turret in the mid section.

 

Click-values are down to the customer but U.S.O can provide everything from 1/10th to 1 MOA clicks, I went for the standard ¼ MOA click.

 

Reticule choice is another option where the customer can have his input, with the choice of everything from the Horus H37 range finder (pictured) which offers multiple hold over points for rapid target acquisition/follow up shots and also a range finding capability.

 

From a simple fine cross-hair, U.S.O. can provide just about any reticle you can imagine and if you want to create your own, they will do it for you.

 

 

The turrets are another customer choice. This low-profile version is the large flat EREK (erector repositioning elevation knob) and they are very ergonomic with a very positive ‘click’ and are really easy to use. And, with the 35mm tube, it offers 22.5 MOA per revolution, which adds up to a total of 62 MOA elevation with loads more hold over points on the ret.

 

Extras

Once you’ve created the ultimate in scopes, you don’t want to be let down by inferior rings and bases, so understandably U.S.O. created their own product-range. The material used is special high-strength heat-treated 7075-T6 alloy and they are CNC machined from solid forged billets (not cast) and The MKIII tactical rings shown also have 20 MOA windage adjustment. This is a very useful idea to get the most out of your scope’s elevation adjustment. They have even considered the long-range problem of ‘canting’ and offer an ‘anti-cant’ bubble level that can be fitted anywhere on your scope base. The picture shows a comparison between a Leupold QR, a Badger Ordinance and the huge U.S.O. set of rings - sometimes size does matter!

 

 

Their bases are produced to fit almost any rifle and come with 10-20 or 30 MOA taper to get full use of  your scope’s elevation adjustment. Even the sunshade has a larger honeycomb optical diffuser than any other manufacturer.

 

Bottom Line

With a combination of high and ultra high-resolution Schott glass, state of the art lens coatings, thickest body-tube, a unique ‘hand built in the USA’ construction policy, some super tough external finishes, wider and clearer field of views, etc., etc.  The list goes on and on.

 

By now you’re probably thinking “That’s all well and good but what about the price?” Well of course bespoke kit is never cheap. U.S.O. scopes start around $1000 but with the £ to $ exchange rate it’s similar - or even cheaper in some cases - than certain European manufacturers.

 

 

There is so much information about U.S.O.`s line of products that I couldn’t possibly cover them all here (their own catalogue is highly technical and full of spec details runs at 150 pages). If you’re serious about your shooting or if you’ve got a problem that lesser scopes can`t deal with - or you just want Ferrari performance with Hummer toughness - then check out the website or give them a call. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Tel 001 714 994 4901 or go to www.usoptics.com

 

Rob Hunter

Hunters of England

 

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