Among rifle components, Sisk says the barrel matters most. He told me, “I use Kriegers and Liljas. Others are good, too. It’s as important to have all components — barrel, receiver, mount, rings, scope — pointed at the same spot. That’s not as easy to achieve as it sounds. Few factory rifles have trued actions and perfectly aligned barrels with concentric chambers. Scopes and mounts lack the stress-free fit you need for accurate shooting at extreme range. Minor flaws in hardware that don’t show up at 100 yards become visible at 300, astounding at 1,000. Distance magnifies problems.”
Chamber dimensions affect accuracy. To accept all factory ammo, whose dimensions vary, and to allow easy loading under field conditions, chambers in hunting rifles are generous. Their dimensions also hinge on the reamer’s condition.
“A well-used reamer may produce a chamber .012-inch smaller in diameter than one cut with a new reamer,” says Charlie.
Because brass stretches, loose fit doesn’t matter to hunters. But, for tight groups at long range, you’ll want a snug chamber fit. Ammo matters, too.
“I spin bullets to sift out those with variations in jacket thickness,” says Sisk. “Once, after spinning, I measured groups from the best and worst lots. The most uniform bullets printed groups a third as big as the others.” He favors Berger bullets and Sierra MatchKings. “Concentric bullets at uniform velocities deliver the best accuracy. High ballistic coefficients minimize drift.”
Sisk emphasizes that stiff barrels and actions deliver the best accuracy.
“Long barrels have more flex than short ones of the same diameter. That’s why some very accurate rifles have stubby barrels. I also like relatively sharp rifling twists. Heavy bullets spun fast may give mediocre performance at 100 or 200 yards; they take awhile to stabilize. But, at long range, they shoot flatter and with less wind deflection than light, quick-stepping bullets; groups, measured in minutes of angle, actually improve.”
I met Rick Freudenberg years ago on the Seattle waterfront, near where he builds target rifles that drill tiny groups. His own hunting-weight .30/284 shoots into half a minute.
“I like it because it delivers .30-06 velocity from a more efficient case.”
He’s built .308 rifles for Palma matches, using three-groove Lilja barrels with a 1:13 twist and a 155-grain Palma bullet in front of Varget powder. He also favors the 6.5-284 with Sierra’s 142-grain MatchKing.
“At 3,000 fps, both these loads shoot flat, with tolerable recoil.”
Freudenberg has also used muscle rounds like the .330 Dakota and .338 Lapua. A .300 Dakota on a Kelby action with a McMillan stock is “competitive at 600 to 1,000 yards with 190-grain MatchKings.”
For matches like the Palma, with its iron-sight stages, Freudenberg boosts sight radius with a 31-inch barrel.
“Irons or a scope,” he says, “you need a mirage band (an elastic strap from receiver to muzzle to keep heat waves from distorting the sight picture), for extended fire. I’ve also used a tube from a roll of Christmas wrap on my scope’s objective.”
Freudenberg says many shooters don’t get the reticles square with the action.
“Tilt the scope a bit or cant the rifle, and you won’t see much effect at 100 or 200 yards. But at 1,000, adjustments will move point of impact off-axis, and you won’t be able to shade reliably for wind.”
One thing these accomplished riflesmiths agree on: disciplined practice from field positions is the only way to ensure hits at distance. Holding the rifle still and releasing each shot cleanly will improve results more dramatically than can a rush to new hardware.
This article is an excerpt from the Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Rifles.
You’ll learn about:
- Rifle history
- American and European Rifles
- Rifle Ammunition and Ballistics
- Rifle Sights and Zero
- How to shoot rifles well
About the Author: Wayne van Zwoll is a regular contributor to the Gun Digest annual, and author of the Gun Digest Book of Sporting optics. He is a nationally-recognized expert on rifles, optics and western hunting.
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