Aug
22

Range Report: New Varmint Build

You may have noticed that I put together a new AR-15 varmint build.

New varmint build - RRA lower, WOA upper, Geissele trigger

New varmint build - RRA lower, WOA upper, Geissele trigger

When I asked John Holliger what he recommended for barrel break-in on this new upper, he simply replied, “I am not a big believer in barrel break-in.”
In WOA’s FAQs, it suggests shooting 15-20 rounds through it, cleaning, and consider it good to go. So that’s what I did.

Conditions: 85 degrees, humid, sunny afternoon, 10-15mph wind.

Heavy stainless fluted 1:12" twist fluted barrel

Heavy stainless fluted 1:12" twist fluted barrel

I shot 19 rounds of 55 grain .223 VMAX to simultaneously break in the barrel and zero the scope. Then I took it inside for a quick cleaning with Bore-Tech Eliminator. You can tell right away when you’re cleaning a hand-lapped barrel like this one – the patches glide down the barrel like butter.

Topped with Nikon Monarch X 4-16x50 scope

Topped with Nikon Monarch X 4-16x50 scope

After that was done, I shot 10 rounds of Thunder Ammo’s 55 grain VMAX in a respectable 1.359″ group.

10 shot group of 55 grain VMAX

10 shot group of 55 grain VMAX

Feeling pretty good about the first 10 shots out of a new rifle after the world’s fastest break-in, I tried some of Thunder Ammo’s 50 grain VMAX, which grouped slightly better than the 55 grain.

The 50 grain .223 VMAX grouped a little better than the 55 grain

The 50 grain .223 VMAX grouped a little better than the 55 grain

I just so happened to have a box of Black Hills remanufactured 40 grain VMAX on hand, which I figured should be well suited for the 1:12 twist rate of the White Oak barrel. Ten more shots gave us the best group of the day – .900″.

Remanufactured 40 grain VMAX Black Hills Ammo grouped at .9 inches

Remanufactured 40 grain VMAX Black Hills Ammo grouped at .9 inches

Did a quick re-zero to the faster 40 grain bullet, and shot a .616″ 5-shot group.

5 shots of 40 grain Black Hills VMAX in .616 inches

5 shots of 40 grain Black Hills VMAX in .616 inches

A short video:

All-in-all, I’m very pleased with this new build. It’s extremely accurate, the trigger is incredible, and the Monarch X scope is nothing short of superb. (Separate reviews for the trigger and scope will come later).

Once we get a few more rounds down the pipe, a less windy day, and a better rest (which will be here in a few days!), I’m sure those groups will tighten up even more.

Happy shooting.

Aug
18

Incoming!

Later this week…

P220 Carry SAS DAK

P220 Carry SAS DAK

That is all.

Aug
17

Varmint Build Is Finished

The upper from White Oak Armament came in today, along with a Geissele match trigger, so tonight I was able to complete the varmint AR-15 I’ve been wanting to build.

It all started with a good deal on a Rock River Arms lower, complete with a RRA parts kit, Ergo grip, and VLTOR buffer and tube. The VLTOR EMod buttstock I had on hand… I may swap this out later on for a Magpul PRS, but we’ll see how this works out first.

New custom varmint .223 build

New custom varmint .223 build

The Geissele 2-stage trigger came highly recommended, and after installing and adjusting it, I can certainly see why. The first stage is set to a smooth 2 pounds with a crisp 6oz second-stage pull. It took about an hour to install and fine-tune the trigger, but that was with a lot of first-time fumbling – now that I know what I’m doing, I’m sure I could do it again in about 15 minutes.

Geissele 2-stage match rifle trigger

Geissele 2-stage match rifle trigger

I went with a WOA upper for a number of reasons, but mainly due to their reputation for outstanding accuracy. I plan on shooting primarily 55 grain Hornady V-Max loads out of this rifle, and WOA’s John Holliger recommended a 1:12 twist. The stainless bull barrel is heavy, and this will not just be a bench gun, so we kept it on the short side at 18″ and added straight fluting that takes off about a pound of weight.

Service from WOA was excellent, and the turnaround on this order was right at 4 weeks.

18 inch stainless fluted barrel on the WOA upper

18 inch stainless fluted barrel on the WOA upper

Speaking of heavy, it’s topped off with a nice, heavy scope: a Nikon Monarch X 4-16×50. This is an amazing scope for the money (street price of around $900). I’ll do a full review of the scope later, but for now, suffice to say I compared this side-by-side with a Zeiss Conquest 4.5-14×44 and Leupold Mark 4 4.5-14×50, and I didn’t buy the Nikon because of the price.

I’m really looking forward to breaking this in next weekend… it should be a real tack-driver.

Jul
26

I’ve been slacking.

Apologies to my readers, for I have been slacking. Well, I’ve been working my posterior off and not had much time for shooting and writing. I do have a few quick updates for you…

First of all, there’s a new precision AR-15 rifle in the works. Started with a RRA lower and LPK, VLTOR mil-spec buffer, EMOD buttstock (this may change to a Magpul PRS), and Geissele match rifle trigger. Now we’re waiting on a complete upper from White Oak Armamemt. Ordered a 18″ Varmint upper with a 1:12 twist and straight fluting. It should be here in about 3 more weeks. Topping it all off will be a Nikon Monarch-X 4-16×50mm riflescope that showed up at the door last week.

You may remember that I took order of a Sig P220 that came with the wrong slide. Well, Sig was true to their word and replaced it with the proper Elite slide – and the pistol was only out of my hands for a couple weeks. I’m very satisfied with Sig’s customer service and speedy turnaround. I’m also thrilled with this pistol – I shoot it better off-hand than any other centerfire pistol I own. I was able to put 18 rounds of 230 grain Federal ball into 4″ standing at 15 yards.

Sig P220 Carry Elite Dark - 18 rounds at 15 yards standing

Sig P220 Carry Elite Dark - 18 rounds at 15 yards standing

Lastly, I’m working on a new target stand. This one has a PVC frame with metal stakes for stability. As soon as I have it perfected, I’ll be sharing pics and post up the plans for it.

So hang in there, gentle readers. I’m doing my best not to let you down.

Jun
6

BSA “Sweet 22″ 6-18×40 Scope

It was finally time to get around to replacing the Redfield scope I had on my Savage Mark II BTVS in .22LR. The Redfield was a spare scope I had, and I mounted it on the Savage when I first brought it home, and I had no intention of keeping it dedicated to that rifle.

I looked at a number of possible scopes to put on the Savage. The MKII BTVS is an accurate rifle, and I wanted something that would complement its accuracy. My list of desired features was short but demanding:

  • High, variable magnification (at least 14x)
  • Clear glass
  • Adjustable objective
  • A BDC of some sort would be nice
  • Under $400

Unfortunately, the price spec ruled out contenders like Leupold and Zeiss. The Nikon Monarch was an option, but didn’t have a BDC for rimfire cartridges. I had heard a lot of good things about the BSA Sweet 22 6-18×40, so I thought I’d check one out.

BSA Sweet 22 6-18x40 on Savage Mark II BTVS

BSA Sweet 22 6-18x40 on Savage Mark II BTVS

I usually avoid Chinese glass like the plague, but I was really having a hard time finding exactly what I wanted, even at higher prices. The BSA had very good reviews, and was only $154 from SWFA. I was skeptical, but went ahead and ordered one.

I must admit, I was pretty impressed when the scope arrived. The scope was solid, the reticle was clean (I’ve seen too many cheap Asian scopes with fat or sloppy reticles), and it even had nice aluminum, fine-threaded lens covers and a sunshade. Instructions were very basic, but clear. The glass on this scope is fairly clear, on par with Simmons, or perhaps cheaper Nikons, like the pro-staff line.

The Sweet 22 scope has a bullet drop compensator built into the turret. Much like the Leupold Mark AR, you zero in the scope, then adjust the sleeve that encircles the turret to the correct mark. Unlike the Leupold, this BSA has triple markings on the elevation turret for 36, 38 and 40 grain 22lr rounds.

I mounted the scope on the Burris Xtreme rings I already had on the MKII, did a quick bore-sight and headed to the back yard.

Sweet 22 mounted on the Savage and ready to zero in.

Sweet 22 mounted on the Savage and ready to zero in.

According to the instructions, you zero at 100 yards, then adjust the sleeve on the turret to the 100 yard mark for your bullet weight, tighten it down and you’re done. After that, if you want to shoot at 50 yards, turn the turret to 50 and shoot. 300 yards? Turn it to 300 and you’re ready to go.

Now, that’s great in theory, but the BDC is calibrated to standard Remington loads. Most match 22LR cartridges are subsonic, so the BDC isn’t going to work for them.

Fortunately for me, I primarily shoot two types of ammo out of this rifle: Lapua Center-x, which is a 40 grain subsonic solid lead match bullet, and SK Hi-Velocity HP ammo. The Lapua Center-X has a slight edge in the accuracy department, but only at 50 yards or less.

So, just to see how the BDC would pan out, I zeroed at 100 yards with the SK, and adjusted the turret sleeve accordingly.

I then moved my target stand to 50 yards and turned the elevation turret to the 50 yard mark. It was close – an inch or so off. Since I rarely shoot at 100 yards, I re-zeroed at 50 yards and readjusted the turret sleeve to read “50″ in the 40 grain row. Then I shot a pretty nice 5-shot group.

5 shots of SK Hi-Velocity at 50 yards with Savage MKII BTVS

5 shots of SK Hi-Velocity at 50 yards with Savage MKII BTVS

Now that the scope was zeroed for the SK at 50 yards, I switched to the Lapua and went for a re-zero. This is where I lucked out: After I zeroed with the Lapua at 50 yards, the BDC marking in the 38 grain column on the turret was at exactly 100 yards. Then I shot a nice 10-shot group.

10 shots of Lapua Center-X at 50 yards

10 shots of Lapua Center-X at 50 yards

Pleased with that, I decided to play for a bit:

So now, if I want to shoot the SK at 50 yards, I turn the turret to the “50″ mark in the 40gr column. If I want to shoot the Lapua at 50 yards, I turn the turret to the “100″ mark in the 38gr column. This is not really what it was meant for, but then again, the BDC doesn’t really do a great job in its intended use. At least I’ll be able to put it to a good use with my special circumstances.

All in all, this isn’t a bad scope. The glass is decent, the reticle is clear, and the eye relief is reasonable. The BDC sorta-kinda works, but isn’t precise enough to rely on. It’s a lot of scope for $150, but if I were to do it all over again, I’d spend the extra money on a Nikon Monarch with a mil-dot reticle and forego the BDC.