Remington Model 700 XCR Tactical Long Range 300 Win Mag

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What is more accurate a barrel that is CLEAN or DIRTY?

This is a debate for the ages. Some swear by cleaning their rifle constantly while others wouldn't think of ever cleaning their rifle for fear they might lose the accuracy they cherish. So which is it? What is more accurate, a barrel that is dirty or clean?

This last time out to the range my objective was to test a series of ten loads I developed to determine which would shoot the best groups. Having thoroughly cleaned my barrel after the last outing I knew I was starting out with a squeaky clean barrel. My concern was that having a clean barrel to start with would produce better groups with the first few loads and then they would gradually get worse as the barrel fouled.  I resolved to do a good cleaning between each 3 shot group to eliminate any inconsistency. WHAT A ROOKIE MISTAKE and it showed.  My groups weren't impressive and once again I came away very disgusted that I wasn't getting the sub moa accuracy I expected.  At first I blamed it one using a my bipod on a less than perfect shooting bench rather than sand bags and resolved to buy my own set of bags immediately.

What I learned:
After sharing my dilemma with Ryan from "The Road to Precision" series on youtube I learned a valuable lesson that I'd like to share. If you have watched Ryan's series you know that he is extremely scientific in his approach and even encroaches on being a little OCD at times so I trust that before he says anything it has been tried and tested to the extreme. What he shared was surprising and gives me hope that my groups will be better the next time around.

Here is what Ryan had to say about FOULING FOR ACCURACY: 

Your first shot through a clean barrel is always a fouling shot and should never be counted in the group. That said, it it also wise to track where that shot tends to land, because first shot placement will always be off a little from the main group. If you are hunting with the rifle and don't have time to foul the barrel before that big moose shows up, you are going to want to know where that first shot will place from a clean barrel. 

when I first started into shooting, I was religeous about cleaning every 10-20 shots. Then I read an article about cleaning frequency VS. precision. Simple put, only custom rifles in the extreme Bench rest competitions need to be cleaned between groups, everyone else WILL BENEFIT from a dirty barrel. 

So I put the theory to the test. I shot alot of groups and didn't clean at all for 200 rounds. I should have documented my results, because it showed what most others are finding. 

From round 1 until about 20, the groups were on the larger side. As I passed the 20 mark the groups started to shrink. I found the best groups happened between 50 and 75ish rounds. as I worked my way to 100 and beyond, the groups started to open up again. 

Becasue of this, I never clean until I have at least 100 rounds down the tube. And I try to make sure I have at least 10 rounds through the barrel before I go to a competition, because a standard competition uses about 65 rounds total, and I want to see good precision on the 900 meter line. 

There are also some really good articles out there on the net, written by Gale Mcmillan. Its really hard to argue with someone who has changed the firearms industry. 

The one I specifically like, he bashes the barrel break-in routine. Calls it a big waste of time and bullets. Also has proof that a fellow gun smith started it as a rumor to help increase barrel sales. The rumor stuck and now everyone belives it as LAW. Funny stuff coming from a master rifle builder.

Here's a video from the Best of the West Series on the Same Topic

Interview with John Krieger, custom barrel maker and legend. Talks about cleaning & break in at 4:00 into video. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Seating Depth & Homemade Overall Length Gauge

New Stock - Still not impressed but happy.

So it took Remington about 2.5 weeks to get me a replacement stock but it was FREE and overall they were great to work with. Here's the good and the bad.

The Good - after installation the barrel was again free floating.

The Bad - the fit and finish around the barrel was once again uneven one side to the other.

After visiting with my Gunsmith Ron in Encinitas he suggested that perhaps the posts on my action were the problem, ie they aren't perfectly straight.  I may contact Remington about this issue and the likelihood that they would repair it but for now I'll live with it.

I intended to have him pillar bed the rifle to improve accuracy which would also allow him to place the pillars such that it would properly align the action with the stock.  However, after spending more than an hour picking his brain he talked me out of having him do anything to the rifle for the time being. Instead he suggested focusing on load development before doing any upgrades to the rifle itself.  He said that as it is the rifle should should shoot MOA (1" group at 100 yds) as it is with a good load.  I fully expected Sub-MOA accuracy from this rifle out of the box but to be honest have only tested it once and wasn't impressed. After our conversation it became evident that a dirty barrel, wind conditions and a poor powder choice may have been to blame.

I tried to pry a list of upgrades in order of importance from Ron but he was reluctant. Here is my best shot at it.

Here is the basic process he suggested - 

  1. Load Development - Find the powder, projectile, primer and seating depth that produces the best results both in accuracy. Consistency being more important than higher velocity. 
  2. Gunsmithing - It was difficult to get him to list the different accuracy upgrades in order of importance but he for the average rifle he suggested the following 
  • Free Float Barrel - ie. upgrade your stock or modify your current stock by bedding or pillar bedding. (in my case the barrel is now floating and he seemed to think I was getting good contact between the action and aluminum bedding block based on the even rub marks on the bedding so he didn't think spending the money for pillars was worth it at this time.)
  • Trigger Job - Most triggers come from the factory at 4-8 pounds. A 1.5 - 3 lbs trigger is best. (mine came from the factory at a surprisingly good 3 lbs so spending $50 for a half pound adjustment isn't warranted on a tight budget) 
  • Blue Printing or Truing - Disassembly of the action and barrel, truing both surfaces resulting in better alignment. The bolt face and lugs (knobs on the bolt that lock it forward when closed) are also trued to ensure a flush contact surface, even pressure distribution and a consistent fit shot to shot. By removing the bolt and examining the bolt lugs you can look for irregularities such as the signs of rubbing which indicate an uneven distribution of pressure. (mine lugs did show signs of uneven wear) Ron charges $45 to true each component. ($135 for barrel, action & bolt) 
You can see the bluing is rubbed off only on the outside edge indicating that this is the only point on the lug that's making contact. After truing the fit would be custom milled ensuring contact is even across the lug face. 

Optional Upgrades - 
  • Muzzle Brake - The 300 Win Mag can be brutal to shoot repeatedly do to heavy recoil. A good recoil pad can help but a muzzle brake will drastically reduce the recoil. Heavy recoil left uncontrolled can lead to Flinching which dramatically hinders shot to shot consistency and can be a difficult habit to break. Ron charges $50-75 to install a muzzle brake that you provide. Brakes cost between $75 and $200. Popular muzzle brakes - Ops inc, Badger Ordinance, Holland, Vais, JP, Defensive Edge.
  • Tactical Bolt Knob - Looks great and makes cycling the bolt much easier thanks to the added size, weight and angle of the bolt know. About $35 for the average knob and $40-60 to install. 
Additional Major Upgrades
  • Match Grade Barrel - A Krieger or Lilja barrels are phenomenal but pricey. They won't get dirty as quickly and can increase accuracy significantly. $300 - 500 depending on the barrel. 

I've taken Ron's advice and started loading a new series of loads for testing and even jumped the gun a bit and started toying with seating depth. I'll post a video on how to effectively find overall length without buying any expensive tools or gauges.