By: Bruce Potts
Bruce Potts picks up a second hand ‘rail gun’ for a bit of extreme long range shooting
It must be my age but as everything seems to shrivel and wrinkle but the size of the rifles seem to get larger! I seriously love my small calibre varmint rifles especially .14, .17 and .20” but when you really want to push the envelope with regards to range there is no substitute for bigger is better. Here I am not talking 500-750 yards but 1000 -1500 yds which not only require extreme cartridges with plenty of oomph but also serious hardware with regard scopes and rifles. Out beyond 1000 yds every benefit of ballistic coefficient from your bullets, velocity and wind bucking abilities come to the fore. The rifles too need to be big, long barrelled, precision engineered actions well bedded for consistency and the best scope money can buy you.You can - if your FAC allows - shoot vermin but I usually place out steel silhouettes of crows, rabbits and foxes across the hills of Scotland and use these as targets. It becomes very addictive, if not a little expensive in powder and bullets sent downrange but it’s a great way to hone those skills and also fantastic in judging wind conditions. In fact ancillary kit like accurate range finders and wind meters are essential as the smallest change can make a big difference downrange.
Of late we have been getting a bit more adventurous in our targets and we now have the 1500 yds ‘Haggis must die challenge’ were the elusive Scottish haggis must be hit with only ten rounds allowed.
Big and I mean big, the longer a barrel and heavier the rifle the more velocity and the chance of shooter error is minimised. For this sport a ‘Rail Gun’ is ideal. This type of rifle as it names suggests runs or slides on rails under the stock or on purpose-built rifle rests, so it recoils in exactly the same way and thus guarantees shot-to-shot consistency.
I have been after one of these rifles for a while and missed out on a Remington XR sleeved rail gun that Norman Clarks was selling in .300 JCB wildcat (H&H Mag based). So when he called and said something similar was in, I was off to his shop ASAP!
Sure enough an enormous rifle emerged from the vault, nearly as big as my smile. It had a Black Lee Six stock that had an extra wide forend of 4.25” with twin aluminium rails set into the underside. The bottom of the butt was profiled to ‘ride’ the bags on recoil and the stock was weighted with lead to the tune of 18lbs, overall weight being 35lbs.
Best of all was the action, a Geske custom item from the States. These are hand made by Gerry Geske and have incredibly close tolerances and bolt lug shear values, 73,000 lbs compared to a Remy 700 of 37,500 lbs!
WORK OF ART
They are works of art and hold incredibly high tolerances and are butter smooth in use and specifically designed for large magnum calibres for long range use. To this the precision Jewell trigger is attached; it gives a 6oz release with zero creep that maximises your accuracy potential. Of equal importance are the scope mounts. Here a Davidson rail length that allows precision mounts such as Kelby and Jewell. I actually had this removed and milled to give a 40 MOA degree angle better suited for long range work.
The Krieger barrel is enormous. It’s 34” long with a 1.25” O/D, fully floated and cut for an MAE Extreme sound moderator. It features Super Match grade cut rifling with a 1 in 10” twist rate for heavier .308 bullets. The chambering was for the .300 Remington Ultra Mag (RUM) ideal for the task at hand although I would prefer a weird old wildcat. The gun was rounded off with a NightForce NF 12-46 x56mm scope with super fine double dot NP-2 DD reticule and 1/8 click adjustments.
The 300 RUM is a formidable beast looking like a mini Saturn rocket. It was introduced in 1999 by Remington based on the vintage .404 Jeffery case. It beats the 300 Win Mag by at least 20% and can launch a 180-grain bullet at 3300 fps and with heavier pills and longer barrels like mine it’s preference for slower burning powders are maximised.
Practical choices of powders are H1000, RL-25 or Vit N170. Charges are heavy at over 90-grains – for comparison I use 12-30 grains in my varmint guns! But you can - and I have – used lighter bullets and faster powders just to explore the RUM`s boundaries,.
Accuracy was my primary concern for long ranges and there was not much difference between the Berger 210 and the 208 A-MAX. At 100 yards they were just one hole i.e. 0.1” or less, at 200 not much larger and at 500 you could achieve 1.5” with 3-rounds, ( I shoot groups of three so as not to burn the throat area to much). Now wind measurement determines accuracy as the rifle is capable of better than I can judge in truth. At 1000 yds I have had 5.5” but I always seem to ruin it with a flier and then beyond you are in the lap of the gods and the Quick Load ballistics program and Quick Target really help judge your trajectories and wind values.
Practice is the best policy and no ballistics program is perfect and wind shifts so rapidly it can drift a bullet off feet not inches at these sorts of ranges. Of real importance is a steady rest, I use a BR-Pivot shooting table from Norman Clark, it’s very heavy which is good, as even in a stiff breeze it is steady. I plant suitable sand bags under the forend with cordura surfaces so the aluminium rails under the forend slide nicely and to the rear a square edged belly again to let the rifle free recoil.
I also use my trusty SkyMate wind meter to judge wind at the shooter and then surveyors tape tied to fence posts or steel targets down range, cheap but effective. Wind direction is also very important and again surveyors tape is good but I also use Open Seasons Windy Disc which gives an excellent directional indication with a visible readout of intensity values to alter your correction values; more useful than you can image.
The NightForce NF 12-42x 56mm gives the magnification I need to aim especially with the super fine NP-2 DD reticule fitted and 1/8th adjustments help to get on target with out over shooting per click at 1500 yards. Most important – my shooting technique, it’s like none other. You can shoot normally off the shoulder but for best consistency it’s best done like an artillery piece!
Settle the beast on the bags and run it back and forward to settle it into the fabric. Then push it forward so it`s out of the shoulder and line up the sights on ones quarry, squeezing the rear bag gives elevation adjustments. Now with thumb and fore finger resting on trigger blade and rear of trigger guard gently caress the Jewell trigger.
The rifle free recoils for about 3-4” with the bullet strike clearly seen. All you have to do is push it forward again and slight adjustment to the sighting for the next shot. There is therefore zero recoil and the MAE Extreme does an excellent job of suppressing 90-grains + of powder!
Remember that the puff of bullet strike reaches you before the sound does so the smoke can have drifted in the wind giving a false indication of bullet strike. At these ranges the scope and adjustments are working at their limits, you need +43 MOA of adjustment from a 100 yards zero to connect at 1500yds.
Haggis costs £1.59, the bullets, powder, primers and all the kit costs thousands but that’s not the point it’s a great way of learning how bullets react in the wind and that helps out in the field. To date I did connect with a poor Hooded Crow at 1087 yards which surprised me, the land owner and the crow
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