Saturday, January 30, 2016

The 7WSM.... An Unloved Cartridge Bargain.

I must admit that in years past, I was never a fan of the 7mm bore. I had mostly .30 calibers and a couple of .270s. It was a prejudice that really wasn't grounded in anything...just a notion floating around in my brain. I've written a couple times now about the 7-08 and how we've found good success with it. I've also written a couple of times about inexpensive rifles that just perform far beyond what their meager prices should warrant.  I've also written about the innate Scot's thriftiness that I've inherited... little did I know that all three of those things would come together in a rifle.

I was perusing one of the community yard sale boards and came across a rifle. A Winchester Stainless Classic. The asking price wasn't out of line, but it was chambered in the red headed stepchild of the WSM family...the 7WSM. Same concept and case as the rest of the WSMs...basically a 7mm Remington Mag in a short action- 140gr@3200, 150gr@3100 and 160gr@3000fps. On the ammunition market, the 7WSM has proven about as popular as the clap.

I've truly enjoyed the .300WSM but the7WSM in this rifle simply left me cold. I just ignored it.

After seeing the rifle hang around for a bit and the owner drop the price a couple of times...I thought that the rifle had potential as a donor for a custom .300WSM at some future date. So I called the owner and basically said something to the effect of, "I have no interest in a 7WSM. I'll give you $400 for the rifle so I can take it apart for a project." I was a little surprised that he bit, and I was the owner of a "new to me" Winchester.

When I got the rifle home I cleaned it and discovered that it likely didn't have more than a couple boxes of ammo down the bore. Everything internally was essentially new and the exterior only had a couple of handling marks. Big whoop- when I'm done, it will have a bunch of handling marks. The trigger was a horrendous 10lbs or more and the hot glue that Winchester puts on the adjustment nut was still there. The black plastic stock had no bedding and full contact with the barrel channel. The trigger was easy enough to fix since it was the old style "Pre '64" trigger that everyone loves- a nice 3.5lb pull was easily achieved with a lighter and two open end wrenches. The stock would require a lot more to fix but I thought- what the heck, I'll shoot it "as-is" and see what it will do.

I rounded up a one piece DNZ scope mount and mounted an older Zeiss Conquest 3-9x40 that I had laying about. The scope put the rifle at 8.5lbs on the nose. I took it to the range.

Three rounds downrange did this-


That's three rounds of 140gr Winchester "Ballistic Silvertip" at 100 yards.  Fired off a shaky folding table over a backpack stuffed with a jacket.

1.25"....that'll kill stuff as far as I'll shoot at it.

I'm thinking that I can work with this one and get it to group better by using a better bench and working on the bedding but that's largely just an ego booster. In the field, this gun over a pack from the top of a pressure ridge would kill a caribou from a very long way off.

Not bad for a $400 rifle wearing a used scope. If you can find one, not such a bad deal when compared to what else you can buy at that price.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

.300 Winchester Short Magnum....15 years of Short and Fat.

We've just seen the end of S.H.O.T., the Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show. In the U.S., this is the most likely venue for new product introductions from almost everyone in the industry. While I greeted the offerings this year with a giant yawn- consisting mostly of AR variants and pieces parts- this wasn't always the case.

Way back in 2001, the folks at Winchester introduced the .300 Winchester Short Magnum in the midst of what some folks have called the Second Magnum Craze. The introduction followed the typical Winchester playbook- great hype in a full court press of magazine articles and a marketing blitzkrieg. One could not open a sporting or shooting magazine without reading an article extolling the virtues of the "Short Magnum".

Most of it was pure baloney.

Claims of reduced recoil in the form of "reduced ejecta" sounded just science-y enough to be plausible. Claims of velocities exceeding the well established .300 Winchester Magnum were everywhere you looked. Hyper-ventilation over the joys of a shorter bolt throw were shouted from the heavens. We were treated to a plethora of dead critter photos in print, apparently only possible from the new cartridge.  In those days, Winchester was a behemoth in the industry and new guns and ammo sold pretty well.

It didn't take long for the ever-cynical shooting community to unleash its own torrent of hyperbole. I was told point blank by a savvy rifleman that the cartridge was doomed to obscurity and cash spent on such a rifle was practically flushed. Work with a chronograph soon revealed that Winchester's data had a bit of "blue sky" in it as well (not the first time for that one either) and most folks with production guns with 24" barrels were getting 2900 fps and a bit of change with the 180gr bullets, far short of the promised 3100 fps. Most folks who pulled the trigger on one got belted with enough recoil to make claims of "reduced recoil" sound like the complete rubbish it is. According to a number of Internet Bwanas, the rebated rim practically guaranteed your mauling at the paws of charismatic megafauna when your gun jammed. Some early rifle had feeding issues that did nothing to alleviate those concerns either.

In those days, you could log into your favorite forum or BBS (remember that!) and read pages of technical minutiae from both sides and when Winchester introduced their follow on family of short cartridges in .270, 7mm, and .325,  as well as Remington's competing "short mags".... things kinda went tilt. Suddenly the market had a glut of cartridges that all, pretty much, did the exact same thing.

What both sides of the debate missed was pretty much everything.

I came along to the .300WSM in 2006, when I (somewhat reluctantly) purchased a rifle I was in love with. My rifle was a lightweight.... a 6.5 pound rifle for carrying into high and rocky places.  I wanted something with enough oomph for the odd grizzly or moose and with enough reach for Dall sheep and caribou over open country. Ammo was fairly expensive compared to .30-06 fodder, but in all reality- most hunters just don't shoot their rifles all that much and with recoil numbers in the 25-29 foot pound range...don't really want to.

A string of dead critters later and the .300WSM did not disappoint. Since then, every big game animal I've taken with one exception has been with the cartridge. I've now had 3 of the WSM family and just recently purchased a Winchester 7WSM for eventual custom work. My favorite rifle shoots 180 grain bullets into 3/4" at 2925fps with boring regularity. None of the WSM rifles I've had exhibited feeding issues and every one of my acquaintances who have WSMs do not regret the purchase. They just happily head to the field and kill stuff.

While it may sound like I'm a fanboy, I'm not. The cartridge is, what it is- nothing less or more. A very effective cartridge that gets near .300 Win Magnum performance in a handy sized short action rifle. It's now 15 years old and pretty near ubiquitous on sporting good retailer's shelves and cataloged by almost everyone making guns and ammunition. I expect that it will not be teetering on obsolescence any time soon. It's not magic either- it's just a brass bottle for holding gunpowder and a pretty good one at that.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Ballistic Chit-Chat.... Anecdotal Evidence Pt.3

The last couple of years I've posted some results of the terminal performance from the cartridges I've seen used this hunting season in a effort to add to the collective body of knowledge.

You can find the previous versions HERE and HERE

So in the similar vein to previous year.


300WSM/ 180 Accubond- I took four animals this year with my pet Nosler .300WSM and the 180gr Accubond bullet. The first was a small cow caribou shot at a estimated 40 yards, one shot- bang, flop, DRT. Couldn't be more pleased. Despite nearly full muzzle velocity at impact the bullet did not fragment. Caribou number two was a middling bull shot at a laser ranged 255 yds. One shot broadside and the bull collapsed in a heap. Everything forward of the diaphragm was soup. No bullet fragments were found. Caribou three was a large cow shot at a laser ranged 345 yds. I shot twice and hit both times in the low lungs. One of the shots shattered the breastbone. Again, no fragments or bullets recovered and minimum meat damage. The fourth animal was a unique experience- a wolf shot at an estimated 20'. Shot twice- once too far back and once in the nose that exited below the pelvis- pelt damage made my taxidermist smile at his hourly rate. Not recommended for that purpose- but the encounter wasn't exactly planned (or even desired). The 180AB might be the best general purpose bullet for the 2800-3100fps .300s like the .300WSM, .300WM, .300RSAUM, .300RCM, .300H&H and high performance .30-06s.

300WSM/ 180 Federal Soft Point- this is most likely a conventional Speer soft point bullet. Two shots at a middling sized cow at a laser ranged 250yds. Both showed good expansion and the caribou expired  on the spot. This is a good economic load for open country shooting at deer, caribou and similar critters.

338WM/ 180 Accubond- I saw two caribou shot with this load this year. Both large bulls. One was shot at truly long range- 400+ yards that needed substantial follow up. The tough Accubond in .338 didn't really expand well. The second was shot at 80 yards. The hunter fired three times although he first hit was totally fatal. No fragments found, even on wound channels that contacted bone. The tough Accubond is perfect for this cartridge.

7-08 Remington/ 140gr Federal Fusion- this load accounted for two caribou. One a middle sized cow at 100 yards. One and done. Good expansion and exited. The second was a small bull shot at 55yds. Two shots- the first a quartering to that hit slightly high, contacted the spine and tracked under the backstrap and put the bull down. The second was a finisher shot at point blank a few moments later. The first bullet was recovered as shown below. These expanded very well at closer range with higher impact speeds which validated my theory from last year's longer range disappointment. These would do very well at typical deer ranges on deer sized animals. For longer ranges, I'd think a softer or faster bullet would do better.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Small Game...Overlooked Bounty


         It is certainly true that when it comes to Alaska, most people think of big game hunting. We have some of the most interesting big game species in the United States. The Alaska/Yukon moose and plains bison are among the largest game animals hunted in this hemisphere, we have three species of bears, and we have Sitka deer and caribou not to mention sheep and mountain goat. As good as our big game seasons are, our small game seasons are even better. Small game is numerous enough that a small game hunter can, literally, hunt 365 days a year. Where moose season might only be a couple of weeks to a month long- hares and squirrels can be hunted year round and in most places grouse and ptarmigan can be hunted from August through the end of March. Even our waterfowl season lasts until December.

            I haven’t written much about small game hunting in the past, but upon reflection that really isn’t fair. I hunt small game more than I do large game and even on big game hunts I will take small game as targets of opportunity. So what I’ve decided to do is to produce something of a small game primer for the Greatland. I’m actually only a couple species away from my “Small Critter Alaska Slam”. That is a term I just made up on the spot…but you get the idea. Method of take here isn’t regulated in most places with the exception of waterfowl. Upland game can be hunted with shotguns, rifles, air guns, archery and in many cases, trapped. There are certain zones limited to shotguns or archery due to safety concerns, but they are really fairly limited when compared to the rest of the state.

            Alaska Department of Fish and Game have three classes of “Not Big Game”.  They are Fur Animals, allowed to be taken on a small game license by residents and include squirrels, beaver, coyote, fox and lynx...think of them as animals not generally eaten (although beaver isn't bad and lynx is delicious). Small Game, which I discuss below in detail and include grouse, ptarmigan and hare and are allowed to be taken by both residents and non-residents alike. The last classes are Unclassified Game and Deleterious Exotic wildlife and include such oddities as porcupine, cormorant, as well as feral domestic animals. Waterfowl are managed under separate regulations. Below are what is generally considered "Upland Game".

Grouse
            I am something of a grouse junkie and we have four species here. I can hunt three in my immediate area and I do so, often, with relish.

            Spruce Grouse are a large grouse that dwells in mature boreal spruce forests. They are often called “stupid chickens” or “fool’s hens” given their propensity to simply hang tight in cover and rely on their (very good) camouflage to protect them from predators. Most spruce grouse flush only when approached very closely and sound like a helicopter taking off. When you’re sneaking through a thicket, having one explode out of cover a few feet away is often a heart stopping experience. That said, I’ve taken spruce grouse with a shotgun, .22 rifles, and a bow of all things. They are not particularly good eating, so I largely ignore them these days. Some people love the flavor, but they tend to be meaty, dark and have a flavor like spruce tips, which is their preferred winter food source. My favorite way to hunt them is “spot and stalk” with a .22 rifle, they flush so close and tend to be in such thick spruce forest canopy that shooting on the wing is generally unproductive.

            Sharp-Tailed Grouse are another large grouse that tends to inhabit grassland and broken prairie habitat. I live near some of the best sharp-tail country in the state and I love hunting these birds. They are great fun to hunt with a shotgun in the early season- much like you would hunt pheasant in the lower-48. After the season wears on, the birds get nervous and tend to simply run away or flush from well outside of shotgun range. In the later season or in pressured areas, hunting with a .22 is more productive. I tend to limit myself to the shotgun on these birds lately and simply love long hikes in sharp-tail country with my Benelli and my dog. Flavor on these tends to be very good and in tacos reminds me of dark meat pork. These are the birds that made me a bird hunter.

            Ruffed Grouse are slightly smaller that Spruce or Sharp-tails and inhabit stands of re-growth poplars and aspen trees. They are easily my favorite grouse to eat, being much lighter in flavor and color than other grouse species. They are a suitable substitute for white meat chicken in most dishes and in many ways, are what all chicken should be. Flavor is very similar to free range chicken, not the Styrofoam protein substitute that’s more widely available at the grocery.  They are, in every sense of the term, the “chicken of the woods”. I’ve taken ruffed grouse with shotguns, .22s, head shot them with a center-fire, and my favorite method is currently the air rifle. Much like spruce grouse, their habitat doesn’t favor wing-shooting. I love the air rifle since approaching ruffed grouse isn’t terribly difficult and the single pellet doesn’t damage meat. Shooting delicate birds with a shotgun tends to destroy too much of the delicious meat of these birds for my taste. These grouse (like most game birds) have highly cyclical populations. I love it when they are up cycle and eat them at every opportunity. On a low cycle, I might go two or three years without seeing more than a handful.

            Sooty Grouse are one of the species I’ve not yet taken. These inhabit Southeast Alaska on the Coastal mountain ranges and are similar to the Blue Grouse found in the Rocky Mountains. These birds live in coastal, old growth rain forest. The typical hunting method is “hear and stalk” and was featured on a recent episode of Steven Rinella’s  “Meateater”. The general idea is to hear the male mating call that gives the species its nickname, the hooter. Once located, you then stalk to the large tree its living in and you glass the bird in the branches. Sniping them with a scoped .22 is the “go-to” method. These are most likely the most specialized and difficult of all the grouse species to hunt due to the difficult terrain and peculiar nature of the birds. It sounds easy on paper, but is reportedly far more difficult in practice.

Ptarmigan

            Alaska has all three species of ptarmigan (Lagopus) scattered throughout the state and I’ve taken all three. A member of the grouse family, they inhabit open mountain country and are wonderful and charismatic birds that make a roosting cry that sounds like “O-O-O...Ohio”. All three species are seasonally camouflaged in white plumage in winter and mottled brown in summer.

            Willow Ptarmigan are easily the most plentiful and widely distributed throughout the state and inhabit the willow flats found along glacial streams and rivers low lying tundra. In fall they are found in small family groups but in winter can flock up in the hundreds. I’ve taken these with both .22s and shotguns. Wing shooting can be very effective when approached like pheasant; a covey can often be jumped several times in succession. The meat is dark purple and they have a strong, liverish quality that some people don’t like. It is unlike other game birds and is complex in flavor. Ptarmigan is featured heavily in Icelandic and some Scottish cooking and is on the menu of Arctic dwellers everywhere.

            Rock Ptarmigan are very similar in appearance to Willow Ptarmigan. In fact, many people can’t tell the difference except by the terrain they inhabit. From a practical perspective, the terrain difference in enough to cause a slightly different hunting tactic. Rock Ptarmigan inhabit higher country, much more open, with lower vegetation growth and tend to be harder to approach within shotgun range. Wing shooting "rocks" can be challenging and I love to pursue them on Nordic skis in the winter. I will also typically have a .22 in camp for shooting rocks in caribou camp for a source of camp meat. In the pot, they are indistinguishable from willow or white-tailed ptarmigan.

            White-tailed Ptarmigan are smaller in body and less prolific than Rocks or Willows. The species is also the sole year-round alpine dwelling bird in all of N. America. White-tails are found exclusively in the alpine zone and coveys tend to be smaller and less densely populated than other ptarmigan species. They aren’t as widely distributed as well. These are readily indentified by their all-white tails (present year round) unlike Willows and Rocks which have a black band on the tail. I have only taken White-tails with a .22 as a target of opportunity while pursuing sheep and early season caribou high in the Alaska Range, but wing shooting could be possible for the specialist, in a fashion similar to chukars. High climbs in rocky, exposed country are the norm for these birds.

Hares
            Alaska contains two species of hare, the snowshoe and the Alaska hare. I have only pursued snowshoes to date.

            Snowshoe hares are a small to medium hare species widely distributed throughout Alaska, Canada and the Rocky Mountains. They are seasonally camouflaged, all white in winter and a typical brown in summer. Average weights are 3-4 pounds. Hare populations are highly cyclical and on up years can be unbelievably prolific. I’ve taken hares with .22s and shotguns in both summer and winter. They can be quite good eating in given preparations but prior to hunting hares the reader is encouraged to research tularemia which is present in Alaska populations and can be harmful to humans. My preference is to hunt them in winter in conjunction with sharp-tails. A piece of Alaska lore is to only hunt hares in months with an "R" (presumably for Rabbit) to protect against tularemia risks. While it precludes hunting hares in the warmest months of summer when infection rates are highest, I use safeguards when butchering hares year round to be on the safe side. Hares are also commonly taken in snares in winter.

            Alaska hares are much larger than snowshoe hares and only found on the Western coast of Alaska and the Alaska Peninsula. Typical weights are around 11 pounds but individuals up to 15 pounds have been recorded. It is a relative of the Canadian Arctic Hare and among the largest living lagomorphs world wide. They are typically hunted with small bore center-fire rifles that the indigenous inhabitants of the area favor as well as caught in nets during drives or snared. I have spent very little time hunting on the Western coast and Peninsula. Most of my time there has been in pursuit of work duties rather than hunting. Alaska Hares are impressive and I hope to eventually get one. They are reportedly much better flavored than snowshoe hares.

            So there you have it- a brief primer on all the small game species in the state. For the non-resident it is quite the bargain for the meager cost of a non-resident small game license and enough to interest even the specialist small game enthusiast. I must admit that I love chasing the small game species enough to do so frequently. While big game gets the lion's shares of the press and attention, it is really a shame that the small game species aren't more appreciated.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Survival...the .223 Cartridge.

I occasionally get some interesting mail. A few weeks back, I wrote about the .223 Remington cartridge and espoused my opinion that it makes a pretty poor big game rifle when one considers the available options.

A few days ago I received an email asking me my opinion on what I thought about the .223 as a "survival cartridge". Well, that's an awfully big subject. "Survival" could be anything from being stuck on your own in a wilderness setting awaiting rescue for a few days to a full blown, end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenario.

Since the author of the email didn't specify- I'll choose the practical more than the fanciful. Let's say you're on your own at a remote cabin and your float plane is delayed for a few days due to foul weather. It's not an imaginary situation- it happens every year here to at least a few hundred people. Combined with a freak accident in which your food supplies went over the bow of the canoe and down the rapids would leave you in a precarious sort of situation. In such a circumstance, any sort of device to procure some grub would be a welcome addition, a .223 included. I'm something of a minority when it comes to "survival rifles"- most are such a collection of compromises that they give up much utility. I've got a normal, light, scoped, bolt action rifle in .223 and it'd be fine in such a scenario.

Consider that I know many Native people out and about in Bush Alaska who rely on the .223 nearly exclusively for food procurement. I think you'd do just fine with the .223. In my travels I've been to several villages where the only discernible high powered rifles were Ruger Mini-14s firing ball ammunition. I've even seen a photograph of a young girl who'd just decked a rather large polar bear at close range. While such things show you what's possible with the .223, it's highly unadvisable.

Most of my Inupiat friends shoot the .223 and they shoot seals, hares, ptarmigan and the occasional caribou and manage to do quite alright with it. While I do believe the .223 lacks a lot to be desired in a big game cartridge, it is nearly ideal for head shooting seals. I've never shot a seal (I'm prohibited by law from doing so) but I've seen Native friends do it. It typically is a close range shot, from a good rest and very, very deliberate. Such shooting is perfect for an accurate, low recoil cartridge and Canadian Inuits have used the .222 Remington for years in a similar fashion. Shooting caribou in winter on barren ground makes for easy tracking in snow.

My Inupiat friends also shoot small game like hares and ptarmigan with the .223 and it does fine. Meat damage isn't as bad as you'd think. This last weekend I shot several ptarmigan with my .223 while predator hunting at about 100 yards or so with no meat damage at all. I've done much worse with a shotgun. Hares are often shot in open country at longer range as well and generally aren't approachable to within shotgun or .22 range when winter hits.

One thing to consider is that most Native folks aren't going to carry a bunch of different guns- they're going to carry one and a light .223 fits the bill perfectly. In that vein, the .223 works but I still can't see it as a weapon of choice for the big game hunter who is purposely pursuing larger game. As a survival rifle it would fit the bill and extend your range quite a lot on small game over a .22LR or shotgun and still be in the realm of possible should a larger animal present an opportunity. In times of desperation, you make do with what you have.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Heather's Choice!

As frequent readers of this blog know. I view most of the common freeze dried backpacking chow as one of the seven levels of hell. I've been known to chop up a ptarmigan into one, or more frequently just go hungry rather than choke one down. In a heavier camp, I'll drag around cast iron and a cooler and real eggs.

But that's not always possible when you're backpacking or rafting.

Enter one Heather Kelly of Heather's Choice. She started in her Anchorage home in 2014, providing meals on a pretty limited basis. Since then, her chow has found it's way to Everest- and into my camp.

Here's an excerpt:
"Originally created for those who rely on lots of calories to fuel them in the backcountry, our meals provide healthy, lightweight, sustainably sourced food without sacrificing taste. What we've come to find out is that people from all walks have recognized the importance of our meals; sailors, pilots, military personnel, and those who value emergency preparedness.
We use the highest quality proteins to create balanced, satisfying meals. Our current menu includes smoked wild caught Alaskan sockeye salmon, 100% grass-fed bison, 100% grass-fed elk, as well as humanely harvested venison, antelope and quail. These proteins not only provide you with high-quality nutrition, but are also sourced in a way that's environmentally friendly."
She had me at salmon, bison and elk...
Now she's looking to grow and funding it through a Kickstarter campaign....a concept I'm not sure I understand, but then again- I'm an old guy.
But this old guy is putting his money where his mouth is...and thinks you should too.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Everyman Rifle Project....or A Bang Stick for Everyone Pt. 1

It's the onset of Middle Winter, in the lower latitudes they have 4 seasons and so do we...but we have early, middle and late winter making up three of them. Middle winter is the time of short daylight hours, frigid cold temps and long periods indoors. 

In short- the perfect time for a writing project. 

In looking back over the analytics and correspondence, many folks were interested in my last multi-part project on the .30-06 and several more have expressed a lot of interest in "budget" rifles like the Ruger American and Savage Youth Combo that I've reviewed over the last couple of years. Such writing is always fun even if it does take me a little while to finish it. I must admit, I've never been particularly impressed with the way most gun magazines test rifles. For one, they get a gun from a vendor- it may be cherry picked for accuracy or it may be a random selection from a bin, no one knows. Second, they always take the gun and shoot it with a variety of loads or even tailored handloads until they get something that shoots a "sub MOA" group. Third, rarely are any problems reported on the rifle and if they are, it's minimized.

The bottom line is that gun tests in magazines and blogs very rarely match the way rifles are used in the real world. For instance, I saw a test reporting "outstanding accuracy!" on a budget gun by shooting $85 a box ammunition through a bench clamp. While the test is valid, it ignores the fact most folks shooting $300 rifles are never going to spend $85.00 on a box of ammo or ever shoot the rifle from such a device. With that in mind, what I'm proposing is to do something a little more real world and in order to keep myself on the intellectual straight and narrow, we have to devise some rules. 

So here they are:
1. Budget Rifle- must be a rifle marketed toward the entry market. For instance, the Ruger American, the Savage Axis, The Savage 11, The Remington 783, The Winchester XPR and the like. We will be somewhat limited on the variety based on what we can scrounge up for test. This is largely driven by Rule #2. An MSRP of approximately $500 for a bare rifle will be the cut off point. There is some discretion on this point driven by the local market being somewhat higher than the Lower 48 and some makers having grossly inflated MSRPs (I'm looking at you Ruger) over what you typically find them for at retail.

2. Test Rifle- must be a privately owned rifle acquired through normal retail channels. None of these rifles will be acquired from a distributor or manufacturer. These are all the personal property of someone, some of them are mine, some of them belong to friends of mine borrowed for the testing. In short, these are a representative sample of what commonly hits the marketplace.

3. Ammunition- we will select 2 varieties of hunting ammunition per cartridge out of the readily available box store stock sticking to major makers' lower priced offerings. Federal "Blue Box", Remington Core Lokt , Winchester Power Point and similar. No match ammo or "Premium" makers will be involved in the test. Real world buyers of these rifles don't buy 12 boxes hunting for optimum loads and they don't spend double the cost of the rifle on a few boxes of shells. 

4. Shooting- the rifles will be fired for three shot groups, 3 times by two shooters...or 18 rounds per ammunition type at 100yds. The shooting will occur over an improvised rest, consisting of a folding table, chair, and a backpack (the way guys with $300 rifles do it!). No ransom rest or bull bags. Results will be reported in a table with no "Do-overs", "Mulligans" or "Called Flyers". The 12 groups will be averaged and reported as the definitive "Accuracy" of the rifle. I fully realize that we could squeeze a bit more accuracy out of them by using a concrete bench and bull bags but here's the reason- the same two guys are going to shoot every rifle- which statistically levels the field and the nearest concrete shooting bench is a hundred miles away.

5. The "Good, Bad, Ugly" Report- the rifle will receive a score on objective criteria such as "Feeds from magazine" as well as some subjective criteria such as "Fit and Finish". I'm still thinking about the best way to this but it will likely look like a value added analysis ( I may be overthinking this a little). It's hard to score rifles on things like stock fit and balance and so forth so we'll try to steer clear  of elements without a firm metric. We'll report such things as a "Notes" entry.

There's the criteria and at this point, I'll invite readers to suggest edits to the rules. I'm very much open to suggestions on this but I need to nail it down before the shooting starts. So please make your suggestion in the comments of via email. 

Thanks,
Hodgeman