Friday, April 30, 2010

Maximum Point Blank Range and the Battlesight Zero

The MPBR is the maximum range at which the bullet rise and drop stays within the vital area of your target. Anyone who has been in the U.S. Army or Marine Corps is familiar with a battlesight zero or improved battlesight zero (BZ0 or IBZ0). The concept for an MPBR or battlesight zero is pretty much the same: zero the rifle so that you get a point of aim that is effective over the longest range. The battlesight zero used by Marines when shooting the iron sight M16A2 is the 36/300 zero, meaning that the bullet will be on the sight line at 36 yards and again at 300 yards. The US Army uses what is referred to as an improved battlesight zero, which calibrates the rifle to be dead on at 50 and at 225 yards. The USMC also uses the 50/225 IBZ0 for M16A3 rifles equipped with Trijicon ACOG scopes.

The illustration above demonstrates how a battlesight zero works. The bullet is fired from the barrel and rises up to be exactly on the line of sight at 36 yards. It then continues to rise, topping out at 6"-7" depending on the round used and the barrel length of the rifle. It then descends until it is again exactly on the line of sight at 300 yards. This gives the Marine a good aiming point for a man sized target at any distance between 0 and just over 300 yards.

From the USMC manual:
If a rifle is zeroed for 300 yards, the bullet crosses the line of sight twice. It first crosses the line of sight on its upward path of trajectory at 36 yards, and again farther down range at 300 yards. Since a bullet crosses the line of sight at 36 yards and again at 300 yards when a rifle is zeroed, a rifle's zero may be established at a distance of 36 yards and the same zero will be effective at 300 yards. It is critical that a Marine fires tightly grouped shots directly on the point of aim when establishing a BZO at 36 yards because any error in shot placement at 36 yards will magnify as the bullet travels down range.

If the rifle is properly zeroed for 300 yards/meters, the trajectory (path of the bullet) will rise approximately 7 1/2 inches above the line of sight at a distance of approximately 175 yards/meters. At other distances, the strike of the bullet will be less than 7 1/2 inches above the point of aim. Only at 36 yards/30 meters and 300 yards/meters does the point of impact coincide with the point of aim. If only a portion of the target is visible (e.g., the head of an enemy soldier), the trajectory of the bullet may have to be taken into consideration when firing at a distance other than 300 yards/meters. If a Marine does not consider trajectory, he may shoot over the top of the target if the target is small and at a distance other than 300 yards/meters.

The 50/225 IBZ0 is useful as the bullet has much less rise at the midpoint of the trajectory. Its shorter effective range is more suited to urban and jungle warfare where visibility is limited and most engagements are at close range. The fact that the bullet rise is lower means that shots taken at ranges between 0 and 250 yards are much more accurate, with a bullet rise less than 2 inches at the midpoint of the trajectory.

The battlesight zero as a concept is very useful to hunters as well. When hunting deer, or any medium sized game, it is rare to know the exact distance that the quarry will be encountered at. Luckily, if your rifle is properly sighted in for its maximum point blank range (MPBR) you don't need to know the exact distance. While the ballistics vary from rifle to rifle, it is generally a simple matter using any number of online ballistic calculators to work out what the ideal zero for your rifle should be. The most critical calculation is your second zero. Based off of the size of the vital area of your target, you can compute the maximum rise and drop tolerable for your cartridge. Most white tail deer for example have a vital area that is generally 10 inches in diameter. Mule deer, elk, and moose have vital areas that are significantly larger. A large mule deer has a vital area around 12" in diameter, an average elk around 15", and a good sized moose nearly 21". A hit from a medium caliber rifle to this area will result in a quick kill. Therefore, if we are hunting white tailed deer, we can tolerate a maximum rise and drop of 5". Using this value, it is simple to calculate that the MPBR for a 180 grain Remington Core-Lokt .308 roundnose soft point cartridge in my trusty Remington 700 is 293 yards, with our second zero at 252 yards. With our rifle zeroed for these distances, we can be assured that a perfectly centered aim on a deer at any distance between 0 and nearly 300 yards will result in a hit in the vital area of our target.

The problem with zeroing your rifle for 293 yards in this case is that not many people have access to a 300 yard range. Not to worry, there are other ways to achieve the same zero for your hunting rifle. As it mentions in the USMC manual we referenced above, you can sight in your rifle at a closer range for the same result. In fact, if you have a good bench rest and a gridded target you can, with a little math, perfectly achieve a MPBR zero on your rifle at any range. Lets assume for this example that our range only has a 50 yard rifle range. We're shooting a Remington 700 chambered in .308 and plan to use the 180 grain Remington Core-Lokt mentioned above. By plugging in the information for that load, we can see that the bullet should hit 2.2" high at 50 yards (if you were at a 100 yard range, it would hit 4.45" high). Our first zero for this rifle and cartridge combination is actually just shy of 20 yards, and you can use that distance if that is the only range available at your local shooting gallery, but be aware that minute errors in measurement which may not be apparent at that close range will be magnified at longer distances, possibly throwing your shot off.

Remember: The Battlesight Zero and Improved Battlesight Zero discussed here only work on 5.56 M16 and AR-15 style rifles. You will need to find the maximum point blank range for your unique rifle, optic, and cartridge combination. Even differences such as the scope you have mounted on your particular rifle will change the MPBR and subsequent zero. Find the manufacturers information on your favorite rifle load, google up a ballistics calculator, and in just a few minutes after plugging in your date you'll have a good MPBR zero for your setup.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Compensating For Wind At Rifle Competitions

In the past few weeks, we've gone over how to sight in your bolt action rifle, and discussed how to navigate wind and mirage. After practice at the range, you're probably getting pretty confident in your ability to place rounds in the X ring at various distances and may be considering entering a High Power, F Class, or other long range rifle match. How do you apply these concepts under the pressure of competition and the time constraints when it's your turn on the firing line?

Windsock image courtesy Elizabeth/Table4Five, licensed under Creative Commons
To start with, relax. It's normal to have "competition jitters" at your first match, but take a few deep breaths and try to relax. Talk to other competitors and ask questions. Most long range shooters are more than willing to help newcomers, and you'll be amazed at the amount of knowledge you can pick up from an experienced rifleman. Don't hesitate to confirm your wind and mirage observations with your fellow shooters. Target shooters are a friendly bunch, and most won't hesitate to give you their opinion on the methods they use to measure and compensate for wind and mirage.

From the moment you arrive at the range, begin observing the prevailing atmospheric conditions. Once your squad is called to the line, set up your equipment and immediately start analyzing the wind and mirage. You may not be able to use your scope prior to assuming your firing position, but you can observe wind flags for clues about wind speed and direction. Make a decision about what the prevailing conditions are and how you will initially adjust your sights or scope. This initial observation shouldn't be set in stone; wind conditions can and do change and you may need to further adjust your windage after firing your sighter rounds.

Some novice shooters try to take their shots during lulls in the wind. Keep in mind that wind conditions can change rapidly. This rookie mistake relies on the shooters ability to get every shot fired during identical conditions, a nearly impossible task. Accept the wind and mirage for what they are and instead determine what speed and direction is the predominant condition, then bracket the conditions by firing your sighter rounds and noting the maximum and minimum drift. After adjusting for the average drift, fire your rounds for record by targeting the windward side of the X ring. High power rifle 10 rings are 2 MOA in diameter. By bracketing the conditions and adjusting your scope or sights for the for the average wind speed and mirage, you should be able to fire all of your rounds at the windward side of the 10 ring with confidence that most rounds will land in the 9, 10, or X ring (assuming you can shoot a 1 MOA group of course). For example, with a wind blowing 5 - 10 mph from left to right, depending on the cartridge you are firing, you might adjust your aim 4 MOA to the left. This splits the difference between the 2 - 6 MOA the wind will move your bullet, so that when the wind gusts it will simply move your bullet from the windward side of the 10-ring to the leeward side.

In some cases, the wind changes direction frequently, at times blowing left to right and at others right to left. The key to shooting well in these conditions is consistency. If you are set up for a left to right breeze and it keeps switching right to left, simply be patient and shoot what you're setup for. This is where your consistent observation of the wind conditions prior to approaching the firing lines comes in. You will need to be able to identify an inconsistent wind that changes direction frequently versus a wholesale change in wind direction.

When shooting during slow fire, use a notebook to record the wind conditions and any adjustment or hold and mark the impact of each shot on a sketch of your target. You'll have plenty of time during these slow fire stages to determine how the wind is affecting your trajectory and how well your windage adjustments are compensating for drift. During competition, keep an eye on the upwind indicators; flags, trees, grass, etc. These upwind indicators will give you a few seconds warning of changes to wind speed and direction. Any significant change from the wind and mirage conditions that you have already compensated for may result in a shot flying wide, so if possible wait to see if the change is just a temporary shift or if it is a prolonged change of the prevailing conditions.

During high power rapid fire stages you will only get two opportunities to compensate for changing wind conditions: once before your string of fire and once during the reload. Some shooters prefer to use holdover rather than take the time to adjust for a slight change in wind speed or direction. While it helps you maintain a better sight picture if you adjust your windage rather than hold, the risk of throwing your string off target can outweigh the benefits during rapid fire stages. Unless there is a dramatic change in the wind, it's far better to stick with your bracket and shoot the "safe" side of the 10 ring.

If the wind is fitful, changing direction and speed between your firing position and the target, give the most value to the wind closest to your target. Your bullet is traveling the slowest in the last couple of hundred yards before your target, which gives the wind the most time to affect its trajectory. A .223 bullet takes only 1/10th of a second to travel the first 100 yards of a 600 yard shot, but takes three times as long to travel the last 100 yards. this gives the wind near the target three times as much effect as the wind near the firing line.

Being able to accurately read and compensate for the wind is an important skill, but at the end of the day, there is no replacement for practice. Some shooters spend hours hand loading match ammunition, trying to squeeze the last 1/4 MOA out of their favored cartridge. Instead of fretting over the accuracy of your ammunition, that time would be better spent behind the rifle getting trigger time. In almost every case the rifle and ammunition are far more accurate than the person pulling the trigger. It does you no good to have a rifle and ammunition that can shoot a 1/4 MOA group if you can't keep it within 1 MOA shooting off hand. Shooting full power loads for practice can get expensive, but there are alternatives. If your local range doesn't have targets farther than 100 yards you can still get good practice reading wind with a .22 rifle at distances from 50 to 100 yards. Even setting up a small pellet rifle range in your basement will result in improved match scores by giving you more experience obtaining a good sight picture. By focusing on your basic marksmanship skills rather than your equipment, you will be better able to shoot in a variety of wind conditions.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Steyr Mannlicher History

Steyr was founded on April 16th 1864 by Josef Werndl as the Josef und Franz Werndl & Company Waffenfabrik und Sägemühle in Oberletten. It was from these humble beginnings that gave birth to the Österreichische Waffenfabriksgesellschaft and later more well known companies such as Steyr Werke, Steyr-Daimler (yes, that Daimler, the car company), and the well known modern firearms company Steyr Mannlicher.

In 1867, Josef Werndl and his technical director Karl Holub proposed a design for a simple and reliable breechloader and were rewarded on July 28th with an order for 100,000 rifles. Later that year the military ordered another 150,000 rifles.

The enormous influx of orders overwhelmed Werndl's manufacturing capability and forced him to expand the plant and hire hundreds of new employees. At peak production in the early 1870s Werndl employed more than 6,000 people and produced more than 8,000 rifles every week.

Business dropped in 1877, and in response the company began work developing a new bolt action repeater. The result was the now world famous Mannlicher repeating rifle developed in 1885. The 11mm Mannlicher 1886 sold well around the world and by 1889 the company had grown to over 10,000 employees which it needed to fulfill large military orders.

In April of 1889 company founder Josef Werndl passed away. Yet, his efforts at gaining contracts from foreign countries paid off after his death when the company obtained the manufacturing rights to the Schwarzlose machine gun, making the company the primary supplier for the machine gun throughtout Europe and beyond.

World War I brought an enormous amount of business to Steyr as factory employees swelled to over 15,000 in order to meet the needs of the European war machine. But after World War I, Steyr faced potential ruin from the Saint Germain peace treaty which prohibited arms production. The company branched out into automobile production in order to maintain economic viability.

World War II brought a similar boom and bust as Steyr began producing enormous quantities of military arms, in addition to tanks, planes, and various other military equipement and ammunition. At the conclusion of World War II, the company was in shambles between the damage it took from air raids, the further dismantling by the invading Soviets, and restrictions on arms production placed on the are by occupying Allied forces. It was not until 1950 that Steyr once again was able to begin manufacturing and selling hunting rifles. Once again, the Mannlicher-Schonauer hunting rifle was on the market.

After Austria reinstated their armed forces, Steyr once again began manufacturing military arms. Their first military rifle was the STG58, which was an FAL licensed from Beligian manufacturer Fabrique Nationale Herstal.

In 1987 Steyr-Daimler spun off their small arms manufacturing division as Steyr-Mannlicher AG. Steyr Mannlicher soon made another name for themselves with their groundbreaking bullpup rifle, the Steyr AUG chambered in 5.56 NATO. Later they enjoyed even more success with their SSG line of sniper rifles.

With the decline of hunting among European sportsmen, Steyr sought to develop a line of match grade target air rifles. Late in 1987 after a scant few months of R&D, Steyr released the LG87 Match Air Rifle. It sold fairly well, but it wasn't until the development of the LP1 Match Air Pistol that Steyr really found their stride.

Faced with increased demand for their weapons, Steyr relocated to a modern facility where they remain today in Mannlicherstraße. In January 1994 Steyr acquired a majority shareholder stake in Suhler Jagd und Sportwaffen. Later that year in July their manufacturing facilites were awarded the ISO 9001 Quality Certificate.

Not one to abandon existing thriving markets, Steyr continued their development of fine hunting rifles with their SBS96 line. The SBS (safe bolt system) line of rifles utilize front locking lugs, as opposed to the traditional Mannlicher style rear locking bolt lugs. The lineup of SBS96 rifles was eventually expanded to include the ProHunter, the Forester, and the Scout model, all of which were designed with the American hunting market in mind.

Steyr provoked controversy in 2005 when it sought approval from the Austrian government to sell 400 .50 caliber rifles to the Iranian government, ostensibly so that they could use them for combating smugglers. The United States and United Kingdom raised strenuous objections, claiming that the rifles could find their way into the hand of Iraqi insurgents who the US and UK coalition forces were currently battling. Nevertheless, the Austrian government approved the transaction. Just over a month later, American forces claimed that the rifles had been used in the shooting deaths of soldiers stationed there. Steyr denied the claim, stating that they had seen no evidence that their rifles had been used.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Curtis Stone Responds to Our Article on Compensating For Wind

Blogger Curtis Stone from Captain of a Crew of One made some recent comments concerning our recently published article on Reading Wind and Mirage. He mentions the fact that wind will more greatly affect the trajectory of bullets as they continue down range.
One thing they weren't very clear about: Wind effects on bullets over varying distances is not linear because the flight times are not linear.

Due to the drag of the atmosphere through which the bullet is traveling, the velocity of a bullet is constantly decreasing throughout its flight.

Therefore, on a 600 yard shot, the bullet is moving faster during the first 100 yards of travel than during the final 100 yards. Because it takes longer for the bullet to travel that last 100 yards than it does the first, the wind has a longer time to act upon the bullet's path during the final 100 yards.

This is especially true under strong wind conditions.

What that means is you can't just take your 100 yard correction for the prevailing winds and multiply by 6 to get an accurate 600 yard correction.
Curtis is absolutely right. We weren't very clear on this topic in our earlier article, but there is a very good reason we multiply by wind speed and not distance in the examples we use. The effect of a full value wind increases as the bullet slows down. This is part of the reason why it is important to have a chart that calculates the drift at a given distance.

You can multiply by the wind speed, but you can't multiply by the distance. For example, a 5 mph breeze might move a .223 bullet only a half inch at 100 yards. But you cannot multiply that by 6 to get 3 inches at 600 yards. That same 5 mph breeze will blow our little .223 round more than 45 inches at 600 yards. How much of a difference does that make? Curtis breaks it down in his example:
Using the match ammo that I generally prefer: 77gr Sierra Match King HPBT at 2750 fps at the muzzle, the correction for a "full value" 20mph wind at 100 yards is 1.75moa. If I just multiply by six, I get 10.5moa correction at 600 yards. In reality the correction at 600 yards should be 14.5moa. If I just tried to multiply the 100 yard correction by 6, my point of impact at 600 yards would be off by a full 4 minutes of angle or 24". That would take a perfect center "X" hit out to the 6 ring on a standard NRA target. If you were shooting for a bad guy at that range, it would mean a clean miss...unless the bad guy was unusually hefty in which case you might wing him. [Emphasis ours]
The best way to prepare to compensate for wind at varying distances is to have the drift for your load already calculated for various distances (I like to use 50 yard increments) with a 1 mph breeze. In this manner, all you'll need to do is select the appropriate distance, note the drift for a 1mph wind, and multiply by your measured wind speed and value.

This gets more complicated if you have wind breaks or shifting winds. Camp Swift, for example, is notoriously difficult to shoot due to the sometimes inconsistent and shifting winds there. You may have a 5 mph wind blowing one way near the shooting line, and an 8 mph wind blowing the opposite direction near the target. This seems like impossible conditions, but once you realize that it is the wind speed and direction in the final 200 yards leading up to your target that will have the greatest effect on your round, it's not difficult to dial in your wind dope.

We'll have more on this topic later when we address reading wind and mirage during rifle competitions.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The .30-06 Cartridge

It's probably the most well known cartridge in the United States. Popular as a large game caliber, this round has probably taken more North American deer than any other cartridge save for the .30-30. But hunting wasn't what it was developed for. This rifle cartridge has seen the US through two World Wars in addition to Korea. Of course, I'm talking about the ever popular .30-06.

As the name implies, the .30-06 is a .30 caliber round developed in 1906 when the U.S. military saw the need for a long-range round capable of being fired from their newly developed machine guns. European military forces were beginning to use the recently designed boattailed spitzer bullets with superior aerodynamics and longer effective ranges. Mortars and artillery were not in widespread use at the time, with military leaders relying instead on volley fire for indirect engagement of enemy positions. Naturally, this meant that bullets would need to be able to travel in excess of 1,000 yards and still maintain sufficient velocity. The .30-03 was obsolete almost as soon as it was put into production, being a relatively heavy bullet with a round-nose tip among other problems. Given these flaws, designers scrambled to modify the .30-03 into a more workable design and created the .30-06. The Springlfield M1903 was also modified to utilize the new cartridge. By shortening the case neck slightly and completely changing the bullet from a heavy 220 grain to a sleek 150 grain spitzer, the military soon had their new solution.

After World War I, military planners noted that machine guns employed by other nations had much longer effective ranges than those used by the U.S. firing the 150 grain .30-06. It was decided that the .30-06 design needed to be improved upon in order to reach out to these longer distances. The .30 caliber M1 ball cartridge was created as the answer to this problem. A 173 grain FMJ boattail bullet was utilized for the M1 ball, but was later replaced with the lighter 152 grain flat based bullet in the M2 ball cartridge when it was discovered that the M1 load was more powerful than most military ranges could safely accommodate. The lighter, faster M2 round had a muzzle velocity of around 2,740 FPS in a 24" barrel and quickly became the standard issue ammunition for machine guns and infantry rifles, remaining in service until the development of the 7.62x51 NATO round. Nevertheless, the USMC kept some of the heavier M1 ball for use among their snipers, as that bullet was slightly more accurate and carried a bit more energy at longer ranges.

The long ranges the .30-06 was designed for also made it very attractive to hunters and long range target shooters seeking a cartridge was both versatile and accurate. The flat trajectory of the .30-06 makes it very effective for taking medium sized game with little to no elevation adjustment needed for distances out to nearly 300 yards. Modern hunting ammunition in .30-06 is available in a wide variety of loads with bullets weighing between 120 and 220 grains, but is most commonly found loaded with bullets between 150 and 180 grains. The case capacity of the .30-06 brass allows it to be loaded to much higher pressures than mil-spec ammunition. Many modern cartridges are loaded to these higher pressures in rifles capable of handling the hotter loads giving the round a muzzle energy that approaches 3,000 foot-pounds.

Given the versatility of this well-rounded cartridge, it's no wonder that it remains one of the most popular cartridges among hunters and target shooters alike.

Remington 1911 R1 Sneak Peek

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Remington’s first 1911 in 91 years revealed! The gun was not supposed to be launched until May 1st, but we’ve got an exclusive sneak peek. Well worth the wait, the Remington 1911 R1, comes with two 7-round magazines and a bushing wrench along with an offer for a discount on the purchase of a 1911 Multi Tool.

From the information we have gathered, it appears that the pistol is being manufactured at Remington's facility in Ilion New York. This should bode well for the quality of the pistol. Early reports indicate that the new 1911 will retail for $699.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Reading Wind and Mirage

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Last week we discussed how to bore sight and zero your scoped bolt action rifle. In that article, we touched on reading or "doping" the wind, as well as reading mirage. Reading wind and mirage is sometimes mentioned in the same breath as black magic and astrology. But taking cues from the wind and mirage is not so much hocus-pocus. There are some simple techniques for accurately reading the wind and mirage that you can use to determine how these conditions will affect your point of impact.

There are two primary atmospheric conditions that can affect the point of impact of your fired round. The first, and most obvious, is the wind. The wind pushes your bullet as it flies downrange, changing the point of impact. Mirage on the other hand can cause your target to appear blurry and distorted, or even have it appear to be where it is not, such that firing at the apparent image of your target will result in your bullet hitting somewhere other than the intended point of impact. Compensating for wind is fairly easy, even for novice shooters. Mirage on the other hand can be a bit tricky. Almost everyone has seen a mirage before. Look out across a blacktop road on a hot summer day and you'll see the watery mirage caused by hot air rising off of the sun baked asphalt. This same phenomenon can plague shooters who are engaging targets at long-ranges, even on overcast or mild days. Mirage is caused by differing air densities between the shooter and the target. For an easy example of what mirage does, examine a spoon setting in a tall clear glass of water. When you look at the spoon, you will notice that the handle above the water appears to be in a different place than the handle below the water. This is caused by light being bent as it passes through the boundary between the denser water and the less dense air. In much the same fashion, light reflected off of your target is bent as it passes between dense cool air and less dense hot air. Still, mirage can be your friend, as we'll discuss later you can use the mirage to your advantage by reading it to get very accurate wind speed estimations.


The first step in negotiating atmospheric conditions is knowing the wind direction and how much value to assign it. Assessing the direction of the wind is a fairly easy task. Wind flags are used at most long range rifle competitions, and are generally a permanent fixture at established rifle ranges. If your range doesn't have wind flags you can make some easily and inexpensively using some wooden stakes and fluorescent orange engineers tape. The most basic measurement that a flag is good for is determining actual wind direction. This essential measurement will help you to determine what value to give to the wind; full, three quarters, half, or no value. Wind direction is determined relative to the shooter's position using the clock face method, or using the angle measured in degrees. When the wind is blowing at 90 degrees (3 o'clock) or 270 degrees (9 o'clock) relative to your shooting position, we assign it a full value of 1. Wind blowing at 45 degrees, 135 degrees, 225 degrees, or 315 degrees relative to your position is given three quarters value. When the wind is blowing at 0 degrees or 180 degrees (12 o'clock or 6 o'clock) relative to your position it is disregarded and given no value. See the diagram to the right for more details on assigning wind value.

Some shooters try to compensate for bullet drop or rise caused by the wind blowing directly away or directly towards the target. In this writer's opinion, a head or tail wind simply will not affect the bullet flight enough to warrant compensating for. Yes, it is true that a bullet fired into a head wind will drop due to additional aerodynamic drag, but the amount it will drop is almost negligible. At 600 yards, a 150 grain .30-06 bullet will only drop by a half-inch with a 10 mph head wind, a margin of error so small it must be measured in hundredths of a minute of angle (for those doing the math, that's 1/12th or 0.083 MOA). Only a handful of the most accurate shooters in the world can shoot well enough to be bothered compensating for that small of a drop. If you're reading this you're probably not one of them, so don't worry about it.

Once wind direction and value is determined, it's time to measure or estimate the wind speed. An anemometer is probably the most accurate device for measuring wind speed, but there are other methods that you can learn. If you find yourself without an anemometer, you can use the guidelines set forth in the Service Rifle Pamphlet produced in 1931 by the US Army Infantry Team. While the information is old, the guideline is as valid today as it was 79 years ago.

0-3 mph Wind hardly felt, but smoke drifts
3-5 mph Wind felt lightly on the face
5-8 mph Leaves are kept in constant movement
8-12 mph Raises dust and loose paper
12-15 mph Causes small trees to sway

Flags can also be used as a rough estimate of wind speed. When observing a normal rectangular flag, estimate the angle between the flag and the pole and divide that number by 4 to get the approximate wind speed. For example, if a flag is flying straight out at a 90 degree angle, the approximate wind speed is 22.5 mph or greater (90/4). If the flag is limp and flapping in a breeze at a 45 degree angle to the pole, the approximate wind speed is 11 to 12 mph. This same estimation method can also be used for streamers and pennants.

As important as knowing how to read the wind is knowing your cartridge and how your load will be affected by various wind speeds. Many novice shooters simply do not understand, or do not believe, how much of an effect a cross wind can have on even the speediest of bullets. Consider a 55 grain .223 round fired down range at over 3,250 FPS for example. With only a modest 5mph cross wind that little .223 bullet will be pushed over 1/2" off target at only 100 yards. While that might not seem like much, consider that a 10mph wind will result in the same round being pushed more than 1 MOA at any range. Experienced shooters, having been frustrated by wind before, often have the opposite problem and tend to overestimate the effect wind will have on their bullet.

All bullets have a ballistic coefficient that is usually computed by the manufacturer. This number, combined with the flight time of the bullet, can help you determine how much your bullet will be affected by a given wind. By combining the wind direction and value, speed, flight time and the ballistic coefficient of your bullet, you can determine how much to hold over or how much to adjust the windage on your sights. Because of the fact that bullets with differing ballistic coefficients are affected to differing degrees by the wind, there is no hard and fast rule for calculating wind drift. I won't get into the mathematics of computing wind drift using the ballistic coefficient and flight time of your bullet; wind drift charts and calculators are readily available for almost every cartridge load. Use a wind drift chart for your specific load to determine how much holdover or windage adjustment is necessary.

With the information from the appropriate wind drift chart, apply the wind value to determine the actual drift. For example: Our chart shows that M2 match ammunition for an M1 Garand from American Eagle will drift approximately 5.8 inches at 600 yards with a full value wind at 1 mph. If we actually have a 10 mph wind blowing in at a 45 degree angle (1:30 o'clock) we assign it a value of 3/4 and do the math (5.8 inches X 10 mph X .75) to arrive at 43.5 inches of drift. If the wind shifts to be 30 degrees (1 o'clock) we would assign it a value of 1/2, resulting in 29 inches of drift. Doing the math, we correct approximately 5 MOA for wind at 1/2 value and 6.9 MOA for 3/4 value.

Example of a mirage created by a hot blacktop road; image courtesy of BrentDanley licensed under Creative Commons.

Hot air rising up from ground that is warmed by the sun distorts the image of your target, causing it to appear blurry, or even appear to be in a location that it actually is not. This is referred to as mirage. To some degree, heat from the barrel of your rifle can also affect your target image. Eliminating mirage from barrel heat is relatively easy. Many benchrest shooters use extended scope tubes so that the hot air rises around the line of sight, eliminating any blurriness caused by the hot air. Another way to divert the hot air is to tape a light colored piece of cardboard or paper along the top of your barrel.

Mirage caused by hot ground baking in the sun is not possible to eliminate, but it can be understood and worked around. Like the spoon in a glass of water, mirage can cause the image of your target to be higher or lower, but luckily this shift is generally not significant enough to need compensation. For the most part, mirage is only problematic due to the blurriness it imparts to your sight picture. It is in this case that the wind can sometimes be your friend. When looking through your scope across a hot field in calm air the mirage appears to be "boiling" as if peering at your target through a puddle of water. When the wind is blowing however, the mirage will "follow" the wind, in some cases blowing away so that you can get a clear sight picture. Of course, as we mentioned in the section above, you will still need to compensate for the wind. That is where "reading" the mirage comes in. When observing mirage, it often appears as waves running in the direction of the wind. Many people find that reading mirage in this fashion gives a very accurate indication of wind speed. You can actually watch the waves from the mirage as they follow the wind, and estimate the actual wind speed from the speed of the waves.

Reading the mirage in this fashion can be difficult with a headwind or tailwind as those wind conditions can cause the mirage to appear be "boiling" when in actuality it is running with the wind directly away from or towards you. As we stated above however, headwinds and tailwinds generally have only a minimal effect on the overall bullet rise or drop, and for all but the most skilled shooters can be disregarded. Some shooters will even adjust for a boiling mirage in calm conditions as the hot air rising off of the ground can impart a small amount of lift or rise to the bullet. Again, for all but the most skilled shooters this adjustment is not necessary. Any lift from hot air is easily and quickly negated by the force of gravity tugging the bullet downwards at 32 feet per second squared.

When reading mirage to get an idea of wind speed and direction it is important to remember that the mirage you are seeing through your scope is only the first couple of feet in front of your target, as that is the only area that is in focus. The mirage existing the rest of the distance between you and the target is not visible because it is outside the shallow depth of field of your scope. To increase your depth of field, you can narrow the aperture of your scope by placing a lens cover with a tiny hole punched in the middle, effectively stopping down your scope and increasing your depth of field to near infinity. Another method for reducing your aperture size is taping over the objective until there is a small hole between 1/8" and 1/2" in diameter. Increasing your field depth in this manner allows you to see shifting winds indicted by the mirage over the total distance between you and the target.

An alternative to this is to change the focus of your scope so that the middle of the distance between you and the target is in focus. By examining the mirage over the total distance between you and the target, small variations in wind direction and speed can be noted and accommodated. While unusual, it is possible to have eddies and even countervailing winds between your firing position and the target. These variances in wind speed and direction will be easy to pick up with a bit of practice studying the mirage at varying distances between you and your target.

Practice Negotiating Wind and Mirage

It is difficult to explain the visual differences between a boil, a mirage running away, or a mirage running towards you. Wind drift is a simple concept to grasp, but it still takes practice to know just how much your particular load will drift. There is really no substitute for actual time spent on the range practicing. You will need to train and practice in order to properly read wind and mirage. On a hot sunny day when the wind is blowing, observe the effect this has on your mirage. With a rifle and scope that have already been zeroed in optimal conditions, take aim at the center of your target and call your shot. Sketch the target in your shooting log and mark the area where you called your shot. When marking your target sketch, be sure to make a note of the conditions in as much detail as possible. Once the range is cold, check your target and compare the point of impact to the called shot on your sketch. Note the differences between the point of aim and the point of impact that the atmospheric conditions have caused. By examining the conditions and the difference between your point of aim and the actual point of impact, you can learn how to best accommodate those situations.

At this point, do not adjust your scope to compensate for the wind or mirage. Instead, hold over the appropriate amount to bring your point of impact to the bullseye of your target. Changing atmospheric conditions can cause you to "chase the wind", adjusting your scope for conditions that may vary from shot to shot. Take aim at the center of the target. Again, call your shot, mark your target sketch and note where the round actually impacted your target, as well as the observed conditions at the moment of the shot. Repeat this procedure and continue to record information. By taking good notes, you will be able to review your information while not at the range and possibly see things that you might otherwise miss while sitting at the bench.

Repeat this procedure for differing conditions whenever possible. The more information you have, the more you will know how to adjust your point of aim for various conditions.

As with most things in life, there is no replacement for experience when it comes to reading wind and mirage. No amount of explanation can substitute for sitting at a bench and observing how differing atmospheric conditions affect the flight of your bullet. Take what you've learned, head out to the range, and see for yourself how long range rifle shooting is affected by wind and mirage. Every range is different and has its own peculiarities, so talk to other shooters and see what you can learn from them about handling wind and mirage.

Keep an eye out next week for our article on compensating for wind and mirage in rifle competitions, where we'll discuss the tips and tricks used by the pros to keep all of their shots in the X ring under even the most demanding atmospheric conditions.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

April E-Postal Deadline Approaching

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True Blue Sam shows off his target and reminds us that there is only one more weekend left to shoot the April E-Postal Match. The April E-Postal match is being hosted by JimmyB, The Conservative UAW Guy at his blog of the same name. If you haven't already, head on over to his place, print out the target and rules, shoot your target and submit it by the 11:59 PM Sunday May 1st deadline.

You can enter as many times as you like, but only one entry per gun. Remember, one participant will be randomly selected to win a $50 Gift Certificate from Cheaper Than Dirt!

Beretta: A History of the World's Oldest Firearm Company

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The Val Trompia valley district in Italy, including the city of Gardone, runs through the Columbine Mountains which is a source of high-grade iron ore. During the Middle Ages it was the center of iron working and, in the beginning of the Renaissance Era it was known for its high quality gun making. Maestro Bartolomeo Beretta was a master gun barrel maker living in Gardone. In 1526, Bartolomeo was paid by the Arsenal of Venice to make 185 arquebus barrels, making the Beretta company the oldest manufacturing company in the world. It is written that the bill of sale from 1526 is still in the company’s archives. Bartolomeo Beretta’s son, Jacomo and his grandson, Giovannino, both became master gun barrel makers. This passed-on trade has continued for over 500 years. The Beretta family has continuously controlled the company for the company’s entire history! Ugo Gussalli Beretta and his two sons, Pietro and Franco still maintain leadership of Beretta today.

The Beretta family business continued to grow and by 1698 they were the second largest gun barrel producer in Gardone. The Berettas continued to produce gun barrels during Napoleon’s invasion in 1797 and well into Austrian rule.

Pietro Antonio Beretta was now working for the company and in 1815 began traveling throughout Italy in order to sell more gun barrels. In 1832, he named the family company, Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta. After Pietro’s death in 1850, his son, Giuseppe took over and encouraged the company to start making complete guns. By 1860, Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta was making 300 firearms a year. Guiseppe was succeeded by his eldest son, another Pietro, in 1903. That Pietro lead the company for 54 years until he died in 1957.

With Pietro in charge, Beretta grew substantially, even employing their own source of power- a hydroelectric plant. By 1880, Beretta’s production grew to 8,000 firearms a year.

Drawing on their past experience with supplying firearms to the military, Beretta had contracts with the Italian Royal Army during WWI and WWII. In 1915, Beretta produced the Model 1915, the company’s first pistol. By the end of WWII, Beretta was making 4,000 Model 1915s a month.

In 1975, Beretta introduced the Model 92 in 9mm. The Model 92 is the most widely used self loading pistol in law enforcement and the military in the world today. (“The World of Beretta: An International Legend” R.L Wilson)

Beretta entered the US market in 1977. The move proved very fruitful for the company. In April of 1985, the Beretta Model 92 beat out the Colt .45 to become the U.S Armed Forces chosen handgun. Beretta has continued to grow their line of fine sporting firearms and has added a high-end clothing line. In 1995, Beretta opened its first gallery in New York. Today there are Beretta galleries in Dallas, Buenos Aires, Paris, Milan and London.

Beretta’s website reports that the company produces about 1,500 pieces a day with 90% of those pieces being sporting firearms. Beretta also owns Benelli, Franchi, Sako, Stoeger, Tikka, Uberti, Burris Optics and a 20% interest in Browning.

Want to learn more? Click here to see our Frequently Asked Questions page covering the Beretta 92.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Turkey Loads

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Spring has sprung, the warm winds have begun to blow, and with them come lovestruck turkeys. That's right, it's Spring Turkey season in much of the nation, and will be soon in the rest. Hunters across the country are gearing up to head into the woods and track down North America's wiliest creature.

The shotgun is oiled up, decoys are ready, and camouflage de-scented and ready to go. But one element still perplexes many new hunters: what shotgun load is best for bagging a long-beard? Once a turkey is in range, you only get one shot to take your tom. A missed shot means the bird (and every other turkey in a a square mile) has probably run off for the deepest cover it can find. As such, it is critical that the load you choose be capable of dropping your bird.

Modern shotgun loads specifically designed for turkeys abound on the market today. It wasn't so long ago that specialized turkey loads, extra full or turkey chokes, and custom turkey shotguns were non-existent. It wasn't until the early 1990's that ammunition manufacturers began to produce shot-shell loads designed to perform well on turkeys at ranges out to 40 yards. At first, duplex loads utilizing two differing sizes of shot were popular, but advances in ammunition and powder technology soon surpassed the need for duplex loads. Now you can find effective high-velocity turkey loads for almost any shotgun 20 gauge or larger with shell sizes ranging from 2 3/4" to 3 1/2" in length.

Probably the biggest breakthrough in shot-shell technology is the heavier-than-lead non-toxic Hevi-Shot loads manufactured by Remington. Spurred on by the need to create non-toxic loads that perform as well or better than lead, Hevi-Shot set the standard for non-toxic loads. Previously, hunters in areas where lead-free shot was required had to use steel. The problem is, steel shot cannot be used on most chokes, and it carries significantly less weight than lead. The introduction of tungsten and other dense metal shot meant that these new shells could perform as well, or in some cases better, than their lead shot counterparts. Lead-free shot is also available from other manufacturers, including Bismuth brand lead-free shot.

Turkeys are tough birds, so it is important to get a large enough shot size to ensure adequate penetration, while still maintaining a decent pattern at 40 yards. When choosing a load, look for a high-velocity load that is capable of launching at least 1 ounce of shot to a minimum of 1,100 feet per second. When patterning a load for your particular shotgun/choke combination, look for a pattern that gives you 95% of the pellets within a 36" circle and a minimum of 6 pellets in the kill area of your target (ideally you'll want 12 or more impacting the vital area). The maximum range at which you can achieve this is the maximum range for that load/choke combination in your scattergun. Play around with various loads to determine which gives you the best pattern at the longest range.

The tight patterns made by dense turkey loads do have a drawback. Nothing is worse than working hard to call a turkey into range only to fire a shot and have the gobbler scurry off into the dense underbrush. The dense pattern of turkey shells mean that it is far easier to miss a turkey than it is to miss waterfowl. At 40 yards, shooting a turkey is more akin to firing a rifle. Unlike wing-shooting, turkey hunters need to get their head down onto the stock to obtain proper cheek weld. Many dedicated turkey guns are equipped with a scope, which helps not only with aim, but also requires that the head be down along the stock in order to get proper eye relief. Most missed turkey shots result from the shooter not having proper cheek weld or other shooter induced problem and not from poor ammunition.

Compared to most other shotgun loads, turkey shells are expensive. This might seem to be an issue but, apart from patterning a shotgun, it takes a while to work through a box of turkey shells. Ideally, you will only have to pattern your particular shotgun/choke combination once to find the ammunition that performs best. Once you've determined what loads are ideal, it's not a bad idea to stock up, as brands and loads do change over time. Unlike water-fowling, a skilled turkey hunter might go through two or three shells a day when out stalking gobblers, so a stash of 10 boxes is generally more than enough to last many seasons of turkey hunting.

To help you find the best loads for your turkey gun, we've broken down our most popular turkey loads in a chart below to help you with your selection.

12 gauge

34667 Winchester Supreme Elite Xtended Range HD Turkey Load Shotshell, 3-1/2", 2 oz., #4, 1225 fps
47318 Hevi-Shot, 3-1/2", #4 Turkey, 2-1/4 oz., 1090 fps
65468 Supreme Double-X Magnum Turkey Load Shotshell, 3-1/2" Shell, #4 Shot, (lead)
34867 Remington Nitro Turkey Load Shotshell, 3-1/2" Shot, 2 oz., #6 (lead)

21029 12 Gauge Bismuth Turkey Magnum Load Shotshell, 3" Shell, 1-5/8 oz., #4
34717 Winchester Supreme Elite Xtended Range HD Turkey Load Shotshell, 3",
34341 Fiocchi Turkey Load, 3", #4 Nickel Plated Lead Shot, 1-3/4 oz.,
36954 Hevi-Shot Turkey Load Shotshell, 3" Shell, 1-5/8 oz., #4 Turkey Shot
15707 Federal Premium Mag-Shok Heavyweight Turkey Load #6 Shotshell, 3", (lead)
34862 Remington Nitro Turkey, 3", #4 Lead Shot, 1-7/8 oz., 1210 fps, 10 (lead)

47325 Hevi-Shot Turkey Load Shotshell, 2-3/4" Shell, #5 Shot, 1-1/2 oz., 5
50269 Estate Cartridge High Velocity Steel, 2-3/4", #4 Steel Shot
34340 Fiocchi Turkey Load, 2-3/4", 1-1/2 oz., #6 Lead Shot, 1310 fps, (lead)
66455 Remington Premier Duplex Magnum Turkey Load, 2-3/4", 4x6 Copper-Plated (lead)
14393 Winchester Xtended Range Turkey Load, 2-3/4", #6 High Density Shot (lead)

20 gauge

14341 Winchester Supreme Double-X Magnum Turkey Load Shotshell, 3" Shell, #4
61999 Hevi-Shot Hevi 13 Turkey Load Shotshell, 3" Shell, #7 Shot, 1-1/4 oz.
41073 Remington Nitro Turkey Load, 3", #5 Lead, 1-1/4 oz., 1185 fps

65520 Federal Premium Wing-Shok Magnum Load Shotshell, 2-3/4" Shell, #4 Shot (lead)
68242 Federal Premium Wing-Shok High Velocity Turkey Load Shotshell, 2-3/4" Shell, #5 Shot (lead)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Snake Guns

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Throughout all of recorded human history, man has feared snakes. And for the most part, rightfully so. Silent, deadly, and occasionally prone to aggressive unprovoked attacks, vipers and various other venomous snakes have a more or less permanent place on many people's list of varmints to be killed on sight. Traditionally, a short break action shotgun chambered in .20 gauge or .410 bore was the standard for dispatching serpents. Prior to that, a well-placed blow from a garden hoe or a shovel might be used to quickly end a viper. Now however there are many options for quickly and safely dealing with snakes, with choices ranging from a traditional short-barreled shotgun to various derringers along with the new modern shotshell-firing revolvers available.

Image Courtesy of SoulSurvivor08, Creative Commons Licensed

With the invention of the Derringer, people had the option of a small easily portable handgun platform capable of inflicting devastating damage at close range. Normally found tucked away in a ladies garter, or hidden in a gamblers boot, these small hold-out guns were not known for their use as a snake gun. Early models were mostly rimfire affairs, with larger calibers coming initially in blackpowder .38 special and .45 Colt loads. Soon, smokeless powder was developed and allowed an even larger variety of Derringer offerings. As designers introduced more and more calibers to various Derringer designs, specifically with the advent of pistol caliber shot shells (namely the .410, developed around 1900), it was discovered that these little shooters made excellent snake guns.

While the origin of the .410 shot shell is not very well known, a good indication of its heritage is the fact that it shares the same chamber size as the .45 Colt. This interchangeability drove the popularity of the .410 shell and soon every major revolver and Derringer manufacturer offered pistols advertised as firing .45 Colt along with the .410. This persists to the modern day and has in fact seen a resurgence in popularity with the new Judge line of revolvers made by Taurus.

The Taurus Judge has pretty much set the standard over the past couple of years as the snake gun of choice. It is chambered in either .45 Colt and .410, or as with the Raging Judge, .454 Casull, .45 Colt, or .410. Advertised as the perfect trail gun, the Taurus Judge is indeed versatile enough to take small game, snakes and varmints when firing a .410 load, or to take medium game with a .45 Colt or .454 Casull in the case of the Raging Judge. Available with a 3" barrel, it's small enough to tuck into a backpack or fanny pack, or carry comfortably in a holster.

While hunting early-season white tailed deer, summer feral hog, or late spring turkey here in the woods and fields of North Texas, nothing causes me to freeze in my tracks faster than the tell-tale rattle of a western diamondback rattlesnake. Most snakes hibernate in the winter time, making them less of a threat to most deer hunters, but early archery and muzzleloader season hunters can still run afoul of not only the rattlesnake, but also cottonmouths, copperheads, and a number of other North American pit vipers. Cottonmouth snakes, also referred to as water moccasins, are particularly aggressive vipers and have been said to actually chase after individuals unlucky enough to cross paths with them.

I remember one time I had a too-close-for-comfort encounter with a cottonmouth. I was a young boy out hunting frogs and turtles along the bayous of South East Texas, forging my way through the tall summer grass along the bank and, true to form, was not really paying attention to where I was going. I stepped on what I though was a rock, except this rock was a little squishy and squirmed out from under my foot. As you might have guessed, this rock turned out to be a 6 foot long cottonmouth sunning itself along the banks of its favorite bayou. Luckily, this particular water moccasin was more concerned with escape than biting me and quickly slithered off with a mean hiss. But that large snake put the fear of god into me, and ever since I have been particularly careful about watching for snakes when out and about in the woods and fields.

Bond Arms Snake Slayer IV
Nowadays, I carry a small Bond Arms Snake Slayer IV chambered in .45 Colt and .410 tucked in my hip pocket whenever I head out in the warmer months. It's smaller than the Taurus Judge, carrying only two rounds, but for snake defense that is usually enough. Snakes are ambush predators adept at camouflage and hiding, and when you encounter one it will generally be at a very close range: what I call "Oh my, that's a SNAKE!" distance. This generally puts you anywhere from 3 to 10 feet away from the serpent, close enough to do serious damage with a .410 blast, but generally far enough away to keep you safe from a sudden strike. Past about 12 feet, the pattern from a .410 shotgun load in most handguns opens up too much to make it effective for eliminating venomous snakes.

Loads for snake run the spectrum from .22 LR CCI shot shells, to full shotgun rounds such as 3" .410 shells filled with #4 shot. What load you choose to carry depends on your firearm and what types of serpents you anticipate that you might encounter. .22 LR shot shells are generally going to be inadequate for all but the smallest snakes. Stepping up to the larger, but still mild recoiling, .38 special shot shells we find a much more effective cartridge for dealing with unwanted critters. Firing #9 shot at over 1,000 FPS, the CCI .38 Special shotshell is perfectly capable of dispatching most snakes with a single well-placed shot. It patterns well, and while the #9 shot size is a bit on the small size, it still does the job well.

When it comes to snakes however my favorite load, as you might have guessed, is the .410 shotshell. 3" Remington .410 shells loaded with #6 or #7.5 shot seem to have the best performance from my observations. They are big enough to have adequate penetration, but small enough to give a good pattern at 3 - 12 feet. CCI shotshells loaded with #9 shot are also available in .45 Colt. They provide better patterns than #6 or #7.5 shot, but at the expense of slightly less penetration.

So, what gun for snakes? I've seen fellows use a .22 LR to great effect on snakes while my late great-grandmother insisted on a 12 gauge loaded with #6 lead. Both did the job equally well in the right hands, but in my opinion neither are ideal. A .410/.45 Colt revolver or derringer is small and portable while still packing a wallop. In addition, they are cheap, abundant, and easy to find. Ammunition is fairly inexpensive for these little snake killers, making them affordable to feed and practice with. The Taurus and Snake Slayer IV are not the only choices for a snake gun, but they are some of the least expensive and most commonly available and it would be hard to go wrong by them.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

History of Accuracy International

Accuracy International was founded in 1978 by a Olympic medalist Malcom Cooper, MBE, along with Sarah Cooper, Martin Kay, and weapons designers Dave Walls and Dave Caig. Together they took their knowledge of long range rifle shooting and weapon design to create a suberbly accurate and rugged rifle suitable for both military use as well as long range target shooting.

Their first rifle, the PM was entered into competition in the 1980s when the British military sought to replace the Lee Enfield sniper variant (L42A1). The AE design won the competition, beating out the Parker Hale M85 and was placed into use in 1982 and designated the L96A1 by the British military.

Accuracy International Rifles are deployed by more than 60 militaries and police forces throughout the world, including Britain, Germany, the United States, and Canada. Perhaps their best known rifle is the upgraded version of the PM L96A1 known as the Arctic Warfare rifle, designated the PSG90 by the Swedish military.

The Arctic Warfare rifle was introduced in 1991 and soon became the standard for military sniper rifles. Since its introduction, numerous variants have been designed and placed into servce by a number of militaries, including folding stock versions, as well as various models chambered in .300 Win Mag, .338 Lapua, and the AW50 in .50 BMG.

In 1996, Accuracy International teamed up with Finnish ammunition manufacturer Lapua to develop the .338 Lapua cartridge. The .338 Lapua magnum cartridge was designed to bridge the gap between the 7.62 NATO round and the .50 BMG cartridge.

In 2005 the company was struggling financially and sought liquidation where it was purchased by British consortium. This purchase allowed the original AE design team of Dave Walls, Paul Bagshaw and Tom Irwin to gain ownership of the company. Designer Dave Caig was retained by AE as a design consultant.

Currently, Accuracy International rifles are designed and manufactured in a 20,000 square feet ISO 9001:2008 certified facility in the UK.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Assembling a Bug-Out-Bag

Anyone who has read much about or spent much time around the preparedness community has undoubtedly heard the term B.O.B or Bug-Out-Bag. The Bug-Out-Bag is a bag that you can quickly grab as you are heading out. It is generally prepacked with a number of survival and preparedness items to enable you to get to your destination safely and establish a recovery plan. Bug-Out-Bags are generally only designed to contain 48-72 hours of food and equipment.

Do you need a Bug-Out-Bag? Chances are, you already have one of sorts. A purse, briefcase, day pack, or vehicle rescue kit all constitute rudimentary Bug-Out-Bags. While they may not have everything you would need to survive for 72 hours, they generally have the things that you need the most or that are most important to you. Cash, medicine, a lighter or matches, knife or multitool; all of these are commonly found in purses, briefcases, and day packs. Put a little more thought and planning into the design of a slightly larger bag and you've got yourself the perfect Bug-Out-Bag.

The construction and design of your Bug-Out-Bag is something to bear in mind: some people prefer a large duffel type bag or large rubber totes, and this may be fine if you are bugging out by car or truck, but if you're stuck on foot a backpack or frame-pack may be more appropriate. Also consider your local climate. If you live in a rainy area, or foresee yourself needing to evacuate from or during severe weather, it may be important that your Bug-Out-Bag be water-resistant or waterproof. You will need to analyze your individual situation and determine what the most likely means of transport and what your needs will be before assembling your bag.

I've heard of some Bug Out Bag setups that were nothing more than a series of large Rubbermaid containers numbered 1 through 5 (or more depending on however many you have). In an emergency situation, the containers were simply loaded one by one into a waiting pickup or SUV in the order they were labeled. The most important documents and survival items were kept in the container labeled "1", with less vital items kept in the next container, and so on and so forth with luxury items kept in the last container. This enabled the user to simply grab the first container and take off if need be, or if time allowed continue loading containers until they were all loaded or there was no longer sufficient time to continue packing.

This IDF military style duffel bag is suitable as a Bug-Out-Bag when you are evacuating by automobile.
Large duffel bags such as our IDF military style assault bag the USGI issued duffel bag, and the German military surplus duffel bags all make excellent over-sized Bug-Out-Bags. All three duffel bags also feature backpack style straps to make carrying them easier over longer distances. Assembling a number of Bug-Out-Bags using these duffels will allow you to have a "grab this one first" bag and a number of auxiliary bags with additional equipment.

This type of "grab it and go" methodology is very important to adhere to when assembling your own Bug-Out-Bag. The smallest component of your bug-out setup should be a backpack sized bag that is easy to carry, but which can contain the bare minimum of necessary survival gear. In an emergency, you may not have time to pack a bag with necessary items: that's why you have a Bug-Out-Bag. By packing multiple bags of multiple sizes, you can grab the smallest and most necessary first and then grab more as time allows. This small survival bag can also be used as a portable Bug-Out-Bag and carried 24/7 in the trunk of your car. Such a bag can also double as a "get me home" emergency bag, should you find yourself stranded away from the safety of your home.

What goes into a bug out bag is a very personal choice, and is highly dependent upon the persons needs and experience. In general however, most bug out bags include emergency food rations, first aid or medical supplies, tools, documents, cash, and various other survival gear. Some rudimentary starter-kits are available with the basics you will need for a Bug-Out-Bag that you can customize and add to on your own. Your bare bones survival kit contents may vary, but should contain at a minimum cash, tools (knife, sewing kit, multi-tool), rations (MREs or energy bars, dog/cat food for pets) and water/purification gear, duct tape, rope or paracord, personal hygiene items, respirators or particulate masks, maps and compass or GPS (or both), fire making equipment (tinder, lighter and/or matches), AM/shortwave radio or communications gear (prepaid cell phone, etc.), medical supplies (first aid kit, prescription medications), poncho, and at least one change of clothing appropriate to the season and climate. This is generally accepted as the bare minimum that anyone should include in their basic Bug-Out-Bag. Many people will also include various self defense tools ranging from pepper spray to a personal firearm and ammunition. While this may not always be necessary, and may in fact be illegal in some jurisdictions, it is something you should consider when assembling your Bug-Out-Bag.

When assembling your Bug-Out-Bag(s) remember that you will be assembling them with survival, recovery, and comfort in mind in that order. Your smallest and easiest to reach bag should be only for survival. If you can grab two bags or more, the successive bags should have items and equipment geared towards getting you back on your feet and then providing some level of comfort. Consider packing smaller ruck sacks inside of your larger Bug-Out-Bags in the case that you are forced to downsize your load. If you have geared your Bug-Out-Bag towards evacuation by vehicle and suddenly find you are forced to flee on foot, it will be handy to have smaller shoulder carried bags available to reassemble a downsized emergency pack.

Having a Bug-Out-Bag presupposes that you already have an evacuation plan already in place. You do have an evacuation plan, don't you? If not, take this opportunity to put one together. Consider what threats might cause the need to evacuate and where you might go if forced to flee. Plan alternate routes to a number of safe destinations. Where you will be retreating to and how long you will be staying will play a large part in deciding what items will need to be packed in your Bug-Out-Bag.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Gobbler Body Language

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It's Spring Turkey season in much of the country right now, and hunters are heading into the woods in record numbers in hopes of bagging a gobbler for the dinner table. Turkeys are one of the smartest, wiliest and most paranoid game animals in the North American woods. They are notoriously difficult to read properly and will take flight and flee in a split second at the slightest hint that something is amiss. There is hope however; by studying turkey behavior, calls, and body language, you can learn to understand part of what that sly bird is thinking.

Hunters who have stalked these elusive birds through the woods have more than likely heard the warning "putt" of a turkey just before he, and every bird near him, departs for regions unknown. This ominous sound generally indicates that a turkey is spooked and isn't going to stick around much longer. It warns other nearby turkeys to watch out, and most gobblers and hens will likewise find the nearest thicket to dart into upon hearing a warning putt. So, how can you tell when a turkey is getting nervous? What signs lead up to the deciding moment when a strutting gobbler stops puffing up, stretches out his neck, and gives one last putt before skedaddling out of sight?

Photo Courtesy randomduck, Licensed under Creative Commons.
When you first spot an approaching tom, closely watch his posture and pace. A gobbler confidently walking into range either strutting with his feathers puffed up and beard dragging, or simply purposefully walking in and surveying the situation while occasionally stopping to puff up and display is a turkey who is not afraid yet. Watch your target's tail feathers. Gobblers will generally angle their tail towards a hen they are trying to impress. If he turns his tail towards you, your calls are having an effect on the amorous bird.

On the other hand, if the turkey warily approaches, stopping and turning in fits and starts, you may be dealing with a turkey who has already sensed trouble. Sometimes even confident birds will be difficult to coax into range. If a tom is moving slowly and hesitates to move closer, keep a close eye on him. He may not have sensed trouble yet, but he's searching hard for anything to give him a reason to run. Watch for him to stop and stand up straight: turkeys that see something out of place will stop and stick their head up high to get a good view. Their feathers will lay back flat and slick as if glued down into place. If he hikes a wing up, you've only got a few seconds to shoot or change tactics. Once that second wing comes up, he's made a decision and is taking flight for the next county over.

If you have decoys out and he refuses to strut, twitches and shuffles his wings, or repeatedly stops and examines the area in detail searching for something amiss, again you'll need to quickly change your tactics if you're going to to bring the tom in closer. These wary birds can be called in, but once they are spooked you can't use the normal yelps and cutts. Instead, stop calling all together and scratch some leaves or, if you must call, use soft calm calls like low clucks and purrs.

When you spot a tom surrounded by hens, it sometimes pays to switch tactics and call in the hens instead. Lusty gobblers will follow where the hens go. Try to identify the lead hen and play your calls to her. While gobbling for males is generally a rookie mistake, it does occasionally work when a male turkey is surrounded by his harem. Jealous males will often charge into the area upon hearing a challenging gobbler hoping to challenge another male or teach an adolescent upstart a quick lesson.

Inevitably, no matter how hard you try, you're going to make a mistake and spook your bird. It may be that he spotted your movement, or maybe the sun glinted off of a part of your scattergun; whatever the reason, if the gobbler has already got his neck stretched out and is about to sound a "putt" and leave, you may try preempting him with a putt call of your own. Turkeys find safety in numbers, and if a wary tom hears a putt he may try to get closer to the bird sounding the warning. This last ditch tactic doesn't always work, but if you're going to lose the bird anyway, it never hurts to try to confuse him a little bit.

Turkeys are fickle beasts and even the most confident gobbler will occasionally, without warning, turn and head for the deepest cover available. When this happens, look at it as a learning opportunity. Once a turkey has fled your cover has been blown so take a break and head over to where the turkey got spooked. Try to look at the scene from his point of view. Does anything look out of place? If so, you may try changing your hide spot or adjusting your camouflage. If not, don't lose heart; it's possible that the calls just didn't suit his mood, or possibly he noticed some inadvertent movement on your part.

Calling in a lovestruck tom is one of the greatest thrills in hunting. Sometimes it seems like all the stars need to align just to give your quarry the confidence he needs to move into range. But you can shift the odds in your favor. By practicing your powers of observation, you can quickly learn to read the gobbler's mind and adapt your calling techniques to bring in wary turkeys. Reading gobbler body language is an easy skill to master, it just takes a little additional time spent in the woods watching and learning from your prey.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Guest Post: Commander Zero on Preparedness, Spreadsheets and PTR-91 Magazines

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Preparedness is all well and good, but without a bit of accounting it can be difficult to know what you have, where you have it, and how old it is. Commander Zero talks about the use of spreadsheets for tracking his inventory of foodstuffs and other preparedness items. Later in this article he discusses the PTR-91 as a main battle rifle (MBR) and the current availability of low cost magazines.

A fortuitous episode while grocery shopping the other day. An item that we normally find for $10 was on sale for $8.89. Ok, not a huge sale price but saving something is better than saving nothing. Problem was, they were out. I went to the customer service coutner and asked for a rain check and for them to order me a case. When the case showed up the other day it was in the midst of another sale and the price had been reduced further to $4.99. Well, half-price is sort of a magic threshold for me…I cleaned out the stock on the shelves and order another three cases. Took our goodies back to the house and added them to the food stockpile. Once thats done it’s time to update the spreadsheets.

I cannot emphasize enough the sheer utility of spreadsheets for keeping track of stuff like this. I use Excel and am fairly good with it. I found this thread over at arfcom about how to have your spreadhseet automatically note when a product is nearing its expiration/best-by date. When we upgraded out phones to Blackberry devices I discovered that the crippleware version of Excel in the BB would read my Excel spreadsheets. Joy! I now keep a copy of the spreadsheet in my cellphone. If we happen to be out shopping and discover something is on sale at a ridiculous price I can pull up a copy of the spreadsheet and see if the quantity we have on hand is sufficient or if we should go ahead and get more. Very useful, that.

The spreadsheets I use for tracking our food arent fancy, they just give a general description, brand, quantity, amount and that sort of info. I keep it on a clipboard with a pen and the clipboard is hanging off the steel shelving by the food. When food is taken (or added) its noted on the spreadsheet and then once a week or so I update the spreadsheet on the computer and cellphone. Once every few months I do an inventory to make sure all the numbers jibe. Usually they do…however, sometimes someone in this household will forget to update the clipboard…usually because their hands are full at the time. By and large, however, the accuracy of the count is never off by more than two or three items. Not bad when you consider theres about two hundred on the clipboard.

As of late I’ve been thinking that I need to expand this spreadsheet/clipboard system to some of the other consumables around here, most notably ammo. I have a reasonably good idea of how much ammo we have but I cannot say with 100% accuracy. Ditto for cosnumable gun stuff like spare parts and magazines. Really, I need to take a long weekend and work up a ‘master spreadsheeet’ with all of this stuff.


Speaking of mags, I had a customer who did a very very smart thing the other day. He’s been wanting a .308 battle rifle and I sold him on the PTR-91. He’s been dragging his feet but last week I gave him the hard sell with the same seriousness and somber tone as if I was telling him he had cancer. Look, I said, one of my vendors is having a sale on these things…it’ll cost you $1000. Cheaper Than Dirt still has mags for $1 ea. and spare parts are still abundant. If you dont buy now youre going to regret it later. I know its a pile of money but youve been working ten, twelve hours of overtime every week, right? Buy this. I guarantee you that you will never regret this.

He handed over ten $100 bills and I ordered his gun. I then admonished him to get on the phone to CTD today and order at least fifty magazines. Since the vendor ships the rifles ‘free shipping’, I added ten more Glock magazines for me and the missus. Strike while the iron is hot and all that.

Then, because I know the customer (who is also an LMI and a good friend) had to reach deep for the money for the rifle, I called CTD and ordered twenty magazines for him. I’ll stick them in the closet and if he winds up not being able to come up with the scratch to get some magazines in a timely manner I’ll give these to him as an early Christmas gift. He’s a good guy and I don’t want to see him get caught flat-footed if something goes weird in the world. This way if between the time he gets the rifle and the time he can actually get some mags he’ll at least have twenty mags to keep the gun running.

I really should nag him into some spare parts while Im at it. Hmmmm.

Commander Zero makes his home in Montana with his wife where he is an active member in the preparedness community. You can visit his blog at

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sighting in Your Scoped Rifle

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When sighting in your rifle, you need to make sure that you begin with a good solid bench and an adjustable but solid rifle rest. Many different guns rests are on the market, from advanced fully adjustable machine rests, to rabbit ear bags and old style shot filled bags. Machine rests generally have, at a minimum, a front forend rest similar to The Rock Jr Shooting Rest. This forend rest is adjustable for elevation so that you can easily and precisely position the rifle. A rear bag is also helpful, even with some machine rests. Other more robust machine rests have fully adjustable front and rear rests, and some like the HySkore Dangerous Game Rest even include a remote trigger, enabling you to fire the rifle without touching it at all.

Looking down the bore at the target to obtain a bore sight.
Consistency is key when sighting in a rifle. Every shot should break exactly the same. You don't need to be fighting your rest or your bags when setting up for your sighting in shots. Whether you are using a machine rest or sand or shot filled bags, take the time to set up your rest properly so that when the time comes to fire the shot the only thing you are doing is squeezing the trigger. When properly setup on a bench rest prior to the shot, your rifle should be fully supported by the rest and able to remain perfectly centered on your target without any corrections from you the shooter.

Wind flags and pinwheels are very helpful when sighting in so that your shots are not thrown off by the wind. In the absence of wind flags, pay attention to vegetation such as trees, bushes, and grass to see how and when the wind is blowing. One thing you don't want is to have some shots fired when the wind is blowing while others are shot during lulls in the breeze. Spend some time analyzing the wind and make a conscious decision as to whether you will be firing when the wind is up or during the lulls. Ideally, you should shoot when the wind is down or non-existant. But if that is not possible, you can make accurate estimates of wind speed and direction and use that to adjust the zero on your scope to compensate for the wind. Keep an eye out next week for our article on reading the wind and mirage, where we'll go into detail on how to read and adjust for these conditions.

Choosing a good target for sighting in your rifle is critical to making the process painless and accurate. Our VisiShot Sight-in Paper Targets feature a grid for easy windage and elevation adjustments, as well as a high visibility background that makes it very easy to see where your shots are hitting the paper. Whatever target style you choose, having a one with a 1" grid is probably the most important trait that you should look for. When sighting in your rifle at 100 yards, it is easy to adjust elevation and windage because 1 MOA is approximately equal to a 1" square on your target.

This rifle is firing is high and left after the first group.
When you're sighting in a new scope on your rifle, you will first want to get an accurate bore sight in order to get your rounds on paper and reasonably close to your point of aim. Performing a boresight on a bolt action rifle is generally quite easy. All you need to do is to pull the bolt and peer down the bore while your rifle is on the bench rest. Next, without moving the rifle, glance through your scope and make a note of where the crosshairs are indicating. Adjust the crosshairs towards the target bullseye and then repeat the procedure, until your scope appears to be aiming fairly close to the center of your bore sight.

Reinstall the bolt, and then check your scope. It should be centered perfectly on your target with the bags or rest completely supporting the rifle without any outside support. You should be able to set up on your shooting position behind the rifle and place your shooting hand in position over the trigger, and then remove it so that you are completely hands off without the rifle changing position at all.

Take three shots to confirm that the rifle is consistent. Your shots may not be near your point of aim, but since the rifle has been bore sighted they should be on the paper and they should all make a nice tight group. A good tight group demonstrates that the rifle is capable of making consistent and, more importantly, repeatable shots. If your rifle is not shooting consistently, or highly variable wind conditions cause your rounds to drift significantly, it will be very difficult to zero your rifle with any level of confidence. If the wind is calm and the rifle steady on a good solid bench rest, but your rounds are scattered all over the target, it may be time to try another type or brand of ammunition. If you have tried different weights and brands of ammunition and your rifle is still unable to get a good group, it may be time to take your long gun in to an expert gunsmith who can diagnose and hopefully repair the problem.

Good grouping in the middle of the target.
Once you have confirmed that you are getting consistent shots, it is time to adjust the scope so that the point of aim gives you the desired point of impact. Note that the point of aim and desired point of impact are not always the same. If for example you are sighting in your rifle on a 100 yard range, but you want to have a 300 yard zero, your desired point of impact will be higher than your point of aim by a few inches depending on the cartridge you are firing. By the same token, if you want to sight in your rifle for zero wind but are shooting in a consistent 10mph 90 degree cross wind, you will want your point of impact to be to the right of your point of aim.

There are two ways to adjust the scope to get the point of aim and point of impact the same place. One way is to know how far each click of adjustment moves your point of aim and calculate the necessary adjustments. For example at 100 yards, if your point of impact is 4" high and 3" left and your scope adjusts in 1/8 MOA clicks, you would then adjust your scope 32 clicks down and 24 clicks right. The other way is to hold the rifle so that your crosshairs are on your point of aim, and then carefully, without disturbing the rifle in the rest, adjust the scope so that the crosshairs are now over the actual impact holes in your target. This seems counter intuitive, because even though you want the impact to be lower the actual reticle is moving up to meet your actual point of impact. But if you look at the indicators on your turret tubes where you make the adjustments to windage and elevation, you will notice that you are actually moving the point of aim down while the reticle appears to be moving up. The advantage of these methods are that, properly done, they do not use very much ammunition; you can usually get on target with only one adjustment.

When deciding what distance to zero your rifle for, consider the trajectory of your particular cartridge when choosing a point blank zero. Ideally, you will want a zero that gives you a Maximum Point Blank Range, or MPBR. An MPBR is the zero range at which you will need minimal holdover to keep your round on target. When you are in a hunting situation, there is not always time to grab the range-finder and calculate the exact distance to your target or to stabilize your rifle enough to use your Mil-Dot scope to measure the target size and estimated range. By computing the trajectory of your cartridge, you can calculate the ideal MPBR. For example, let's say that you are zeroing your 4-16x50mm scope on a Remington 700 chambered in 7mm Remington Ultra Mag. If you have a zero at 350 yards, your maximum variation out to 410 yards is only +/- 6". For medium game hunting, this will put you at "minute of deer" accuracy for any range between 0 and 410 yards. If we are zeroing this particular combination at 100 yards, the point of impact should be exactly 4.8" above the point of aim. Ideally you should confirm your MPBR zero at the actual distance you are calibrating your scope and rifle combination for: in this example we would confirm zero at 350 yards. Find the statistics of the round you are firing and some ballistics tables and play around to find out your MPBR before choosing a distance to zero your rifle.

Images courtesy of Ruger Firearms.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Glock History

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In 1963, Gaston Glock founded a plastics company near Vienna Austria. His moderately successful company primarily manufactured plastic curtain rod rings along with various other plastic products. Soon, Mr. Glock realized the strength and durability that could be realized by combining plastic and steel for particular military products and he began supplying the Austrian military with various tools and components. When two military Colonels were visiting in 1981 to oversee the manufacturing of plastic grenade components, Mr Glock overheard the military officials lamenting the fact that no one could manufacture military pistols that would meet their specifications.

Mr. Glock interjected, saying that he could produce the pistols. The military men laughed at him. But Gaston Glock is not someone who tolerates being laughed at. He immediately set to work in his basement designing a pistol that would not only meet but exceed the requirements of the Austrian military.

Glock 17Glock had no experience building pistols before. If you ask him, that was an advantage. Despite Glock's inexperience in manufacturing small arms, they were nevertheless invited to participate in the bidding process. Glock's revolutionary design so impressed the military evaluators, that in 1983, the Austrian army ordered 25,000 Glock pistols.

In 1985, Glock established a factory in Smyrna, Georgia so that they could better serve the United States firearm market. The Glock 17 became enormously popular in the United States and was readily adopted by law enforcement agencies.

Around the same time, GLOCK developed their second model handgun, the G18 machinepistol. The G18 was based off of the G17, but had a selector switch on the back of the slide that allowed the firearm to fire in semi- or full-auto. Because of its small size and extremely high cyclic rate (1,200 RPM) the G18 was never widely used.

Glock's popularity increased demands from consumers for a compact model that could be easily concealed. In 1988 Glock released the G19, a compact 9mm. Despite the smaller frame of the G19, it still had a 15 round capacity. It was around this time that Glock also built a plant in Hong Kong to meet demand from Southeast Asia, as well as a second factory in Austria.

Glock 21Soon, Glock released their big bore models, the G20 and G21 in 10mm and .45 ACP, respectively. These large pistols gained a huge following from American consumers who valued them for their large caliber stopping power. When the FBI developed their .40 caliber round with Smith and Wesson, Glock answered in 1990 with the G22 and G23. The G22 was a full sized .40 caliber handgun, and the G23 was the compact model. Later that year a fourth Glock factory was opened in South America to better serve markets in Brazil and the rest of Latin America.

In 1995, Glock released their G25 handgun chambered in .380 Auto. The G25 was about the same size as the G19 but utilized a blowback design for increased reliability. Later, in 1996, the subcompact G26 in 9mm and the G27 in .40 S&W were both released due to increased demands from the American market where concealed carry led to the need for small easily concealable firearms. Glock released a .380 subcompact in 1997, the G28. That same year, Glock continued the development of their subcompact line with the release of the G29 10mm and G30 chambered in .45 ACP. This helped further appease the US market where demands for big bore subcompact handguns had been growing.

Glock has not been without some mystery and controversy throughout the history of the company. On July 27th, 1999, Gaston Glock was brutally attacked by a hitman, contracted by Glock's onetime business consultant Charles Ewert. Glock fought back, powered by his indomitable will and years of exercise, overpowering the would be assassin and knocking him unconcsious.

Gaston Glock immediately suspected who his betrayer was, and while being treated at the hospital contacted his bankers and immediately started transferring tens of millions of dollars out of the reach of Ewert. Glock succeeded in safeguarding $40 million in this fashion before Ewert could block the transfer of another $30 million. Ewert was eventually convited of attempted murder, along with his hired gun Pêcheur.

To say that Ewert's betrayal was an enormous hit to Glock would be an understatement. Glock, already known as an untrusting and secretive man, became even more paranoid according to some insiders. Ewert had been Glock's right hand man for over 15 years, helping to propel Glock from a small military arms manufacturer in Austria to becoming one of the largest suppliers of side arms for law enforcement agencies throughout the world.

Further investigations both in Austria and the United States resulted in fraud and embezzlement charges being brought against Ewert. Allegations state that Ewert funneled more than $100 million to himself and attempted to fraudulently take over Unipatent, Glock's holding company. For himself, Gaston Glock has continued to oversee the meteoric growth of his company.

Glock continues to maintain their presence as one of the world's handgun manufacturers with their continuing innovation and cutting edge technology. Though often imitated and copied, Glock continues to outperform and remains one of the most popular brands of handguns today.