Thursday, March 19, 2015

After School

My daughter and I went to the range this afternoon. The weather was perfect and the afternoon sun felt good. Even though we made an effort to do a lot more upland hunting this last season Lexi hadn't been to the rifle range since before Christmas. So today I gathered up a handful of gun cases and locked the shop behind me.

Recently Lexi had been kindly given a Winchester 52C Silhouette Rifle by the first paying client I ever had. Decked out in a loud Green McMillan off-hand stock, sporting a target barrel and barrel tuner it visually gets your attention, sort of like seeing a blue elephant at a stop light. This rifle was assembled by an old friend, Walt Predovich (sadly deceased) a gunsmithing class mate of mine.  There is a sentimental thread to all of this. As requested, Wally had modified this repeater into a single shot, barreled, and stocked it for the owner. It has been a veritable hammer in his capable hands on steel pigs, chickens and rams ever since its conception.

Lexi sat down and fed the rifle a few German SK Match rounds to confirm the rifle's approximate zero and to get a feel for the old Canjar match trigger. Then she settled in behind the butt and sent 5 rounds down range. Needless to say this barrel is still a drill. This rifle has become an instant favorite.



The next rifle out of the case was a beautiful M2 Springfield with the metal work assembled by the late Tom Burgess, then stocked and finished by Jerry Fisher about 12 years ago. The owner of the rifle apparently never could decide on what to use for the front sight until last year. I was then pulled into the picture to doctor up and install a Lyman Globe sight to blend with the efforts done by my mentors. This M2 came dressed in a Huey Case, equipped with a scope, a Lyman 48 and all the other finery you could possibly want. As the owner will retrieve it soon I wanted Lexi to have a chance to shoot it before it left. She was at a slight disadvantage as the owner has yet to supply any inserts for the front globe sight. So she just held the round bull in the center of the empty front globe and in turn centered the globe into the center of the Lyman 48 aperture. To date she had never shot any type of peep sight and following my half baked instructions sent 10 rounds into the bull.






This M2 is the epitome of functional elegance and a superb example of gun-making talent at its finest.

Last but not forgotten she finally set her 40XBR on the bags, got everything like she wanted and fired 2 rounds into the target at 100 yards. Both holes cutting the 12 O Clock position and 5" above the 1/2" orange dot. It was then she remembered she had zeroed this rifle for 300 yards last fall and was using it to dust clay pigeons before her Antelope hunt. 20 clicks of adjustment placed the next group into the orange dot which promptly disappeared. Satisfied with the afternoon we gathered our kit and headed in for dinner. I never fired a round.




Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Revisiting My Scope Ring Alignment Tools


This product was recently mentioned in John Barsness's newest book, Modern Hunting Optics that was reviewed on this Blog and I felt this was a good time to revisited the subject.

More often than not I am required to develop a tool for my own use and sometimes find others just might benefit from the same tool or fixture. This is the tale of such a tool. Both these 1" and 30 mm alignment tools are made from precision ground steel round stock. Rigidity is the name of the game here.

These 1"and 30 mm alignment tools were originally developed for the specific task of aligning both the front and rear scope rings that I install on the given receiver after the fabrication of these rings. The ID of both the front and rear ring is bored to the specific scope diameter + .001 They also serve to re-align the finished scope mounts whenever they were removed and or re-installed on that receiver.






Since my ring and base are integral I wanted a way tighten the base screws to the action and keep the rings in alignment. These tools allow access to both the front and rear sets of scope base screws. As the screws are tightened down the tool aligns the front and rear mounts in the same plane as the screws are drawn up tight. Even with a precision fit set of rings made to exacting tolerances I wanted a simple way to prevent one ring from possibly leaning to the right and the other to the left or twisting under the torque of the screw driver during the installation. These tools have been used in my shop for many years now and shipped to many clients that have both a set of 1" and a set of 30 mm rings for a singular rifle. Having both the 1" and 30 mm tools allows them to switch out and reinstall either set of rings  simply and accurately when required.

Over the years we also found a number of other scope mounting uses for these tubes that are very practical for the home enthusiast or professional gun smith using both custom and  conventional industry mounts. These tubes like any other bar type tool can be used to rotated the front ring 90 degrees into position and by having the rear ring attached to the tube as well will allow you to snug the rear ring into place with the scope base windage screws. The rigidity of the tube will insure that the rear ring is inline with the front ring and that the scope will not be put under and undue stress laterally.



However this tool and method will not correct any vertical misalignment issues in height between the front and rear ring. It will instantly make obvious the amount of height deferential and allow you to determine if you will want to install a shim under a base to correct the height issue. I recommend always placing the shim under rear base so as to prevent elevation correction in the scope to be compromised.

Once you have installed a set dual dovetail rings and labored over getting both rings in-line with the typical assortment of tools for this job such as using apposing flat or pointed rods placed in each ring to turn the rings into alignment. Then lapped the rings to gain as much contact with the ID of the rings and the scope. The thought of then removing this set up and ruining the fruits of all that labor can cause you certain amount of mental grief. If base arrangement will allow you access to all 4 of the base screw holes. You can remove the lapped rings and bases together and mark the forward edge of each ring and then send the paired rings and bases assembled together to be blued.


This prevents rust from forming over the years in the lapped ID of the ring and yes this does occur even with completely blued rings as seen in the pic below. With lapped but unblued rings this rust occurs at a very rapid rate.


Done in this manner maintains the necessary friction required to hold the rotary dovetail firmly in the base. Every time you rotate ring in and out of a rotary dovetail it degrades the fit on both the male and female contact area of the set. In short the interference fit of both the rings and bases degrades to the point that renders the set up as loose as a goose and keeping the rifles zeroed is like accurately predicting when the Congress and Senate will vote on any issue together.

Here is another example of where this alignment tool also comes into its own. If the set of rings you've installed and invested all this work into allows you access to all the base screws without removing a ring, leave the lapped set of rings assembled and unscrew them from your receiver for future use or to install a higher set of rings for that 56 mm Hubble sized scope you have always wanted. When the time comes to switch the scope back to a 3.5-10x40mm use the alignment tool to reposition both the lapped lower set of front and rear base/ring combination back onto the same rifle. This is simply done by placing each base/ring back on the receiver, drawing up the scope base screws just enough to take any excessive slack out of the screws but still allowing the mount to wiggle around ever so slightly. Place the alignment tool into both bottom ring halves press the tube firmly towards the receiver and snug up each base screw through the tube body and the slots provided.



Some mounts position one or two of the scope base screws actually under a ring, usually the rear ring. This is fairly typical with older style 2 piece Redfield or Leupold windage screw rear mounts or most vertically split mounts system such as the Talley, Warne, etc. In this case you will not benefit from the use of these alignment tools during an installation or re-installation. The tools will work equally well with the Leupold QR and QRW style rings and Weaver or Picatinny style rails and rings as long as the ring placement does to obscure the base screws. Below a set of Talley Aluminum horizontally split rings are being installed using a 1" Alignment tool.



For those that might be interested in acquiring one or both of these tools I keep and quantity of these in stock and can be order directly from the shop by calling 435-755-6842 or from my Web Site at echolsrifles.com. The cost is $112.00 per tool plus the shipping cost. Please note that USPS will always be cheaper.







Monday, February 9, 2015

Modern Hunting Optics by John Barsness

Here is another heads up on a book worth adding to your personal collection. Modern Hunting Optics is filled with a mother load of in-depth information that any novice and experienced hunter will want to read. The practical and technical advise in this book come from an expert that has made a career testing, freezing, submerging, breaking, using and evaluating hunting optics from every major manufacture in the game. As optical technology for the hunter seems to morph every couple of years it is hard for even the seasoned hunter and rifleman to stay on top of what is truly fact and what is current marketing BS. 

I think John has done his best to stay on the cutting edge of this optical maze by ferreting out anything with a lens when it pertains to hunting industry then giving it the critical eye ball. This text does its best to steer the reader towards making the correct choice for their next purchase or how to better utilize what optical equipment they already have. With 20 chapters and 197 pages it is certainly well worth the price of admission. 


Shameless Marketing Alert: My scope base alignment bar was also given a mention as well and its always nice to know that you have an idea and product that makes the grade with others.


This book can be ordered directly from John Barsness at Deep Creek Press, PO Box 579, Townsend Montana, 59644 or by www. RiflesAndRecipes.com.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

High Lights From SCI 2015, Outfitters and Professional Hunters


This year I elected to participate the SCI convention as a patron rather than an exhibitor. I have held a booth for over a quarter century and felt it time to view the event from the middle of the carpet for a change and spent Wednesday and Thursday walking the isles visiting old friends and meeting a few new ones. I had the notion that this means of doing the show would be less stressful and a layed back way to see friends but was always at a dead run between stops both days.

Shorty after getting my bearings I ran into the Phil Shoemaker his son Taj and later daughter Tia. Phil's wife Rocky had wisely chosen to give the convention floor wide berth for the time being. Over the next two days we re-grouped a couple of times and had a few laughs and discussed more than a few subjects. Gin somehow became the required lubricant during these brief encounters. Tia mentioned a possible opportunity that my daughter Lexi might be interested in so we'll see what transpires in the future. Being one of Alaska's few women Brown Bear guides she does indeed know where the bear craps in the woods and how to deal with the situation.


As many of you know Campbell Smith of Campbell Smith Safaris and I have shared a booth for well over a decade and a half and it was great to spend time with Cam and discuss his plans to start hunting In Mozambique along with his other opportunities in South Africa. Always at the top of game he was in prime condition and ready to engage anyone that stopped by. This year he was teamed up with  Graeme Pollock and the two of them together form a wicked combination of wit and humor. Cam was eager to have a good show and then get back across the great blue as he had a Lion hunt looming on the immediate horizon.

John Oosthuizen of Hunters and Guides and I saw each other briefly and caught up on what his plans were for the up and coming Safari season. His company is spread throughout a variety of countries and offer diverse destinations and Safari packages. Cautiously optimistic he was looking forward to the convention season and then heading home to do what he does best.

I got to spend some time with Joe Coogan and discussing his new venture. As many are well aware Joe has spent most of his life involved in the African bush as a professional hunter, writer and celebrity. He is now teamed up with some old hands and collectively have formed Africa Allways who's business model is to plan, organize and outfit African Safaris in an all encompassing package to suit all taste. I understand these services will include Fishing Safaris, Photographic Safaris, Climbing Kilimanjaro, Bird Watching, Bird Hunting and Big Game Safaris as well as a broad spectrum of other travel opportunities and offered in a variety of destinations. If Joe is involved the company has a bright future.

Athol Frylinck of Luwata Safaris was again in attendance. Zambia as we are all aware has been closed to concession hunting for over a year and a half and Athol was patiently awaiting the Zambia Government to complete their tender allocations so he might get on with the business at hand. When I left the convention the situation in Zambia was still fluid and I hope is sorted before to long. Athol has a Legend chambered for 375 Ruger and has grown fond of seeing it the rack and reaching for it when its services are required. I only hope the powers to be come to their collective senses and allow the Zambian Pros to step back into the bush soon with the same quota they have had in the past.


The Bucks and Bulls booth was neck deep in potential and past clientele every time I walked by. Having guided for this Outfitter for many years myself I was not at all surprised at the traffic jam around their booth. Specializing in Trophy Mule Deer, Elk and Antelope their quota of slots is quickly filled every year. I managed this pic early Thursday morning before crowd control was required. Somehow I got sucked back into another year guiding for Antelope in New Mexico and look forward to going down again in August. The Antelope on their New Mexico leases are worth the long round trip drive and effort.


I stopped by had a chat with Martin Nel and we instantly got into discussion about his 450 Ackley Magnum. I met Martin while on a hunt in Tanzania and we have stayed in touch ever since. Martin has the distinction of having survived a Buffalo pounding while carrying a double and seems to have gone back to a magazine rifle. As he now feels having more than 2 rounds in reserve is better. Martin has been hunting in Zimbabwe's Bubye Conservancy for a number of years and his photo album proves that he certainly knows the lay of the land and how to pull the best trophies out of his area.


I ran into Rich Guthrie late Thursday afternoon as I was about to exit the convention hall and we caught up on his recent Brown Bear hunts in the short amount of time we had. Rich is a premier Alaskan Brown Bear Outfitter and his expertise spans many decades. He has the distinction of owning one of my Classic Rifles and we have hunted Antelope together in the past and are both Whitetail Deer Fanatics. Our conversation on Thursday ended with him detailing his exploits in Ohio and Illinois to me. It's always good to spend time with Rich. 


Two full days did not allow enough time to see everyone I wanted to. You do the best you can and run like hell.

SCI 2015 High Lights-Swift Bullet Company Break Away Solids

While attending the SCI convention this week I spent quite some time speaking with Bill Hober the owner of Swift Bullet Company about Swifts new Break Away solid. This bullet has been in development for a number of years and I have anticipated its release with more than a casual interest. The bullet is made from a proprietary jacket material that houses a traditional lead core. This design allows the overall length of the bullet to be shorter than an identical weight mono-metal bullet of the same caliber and does not overly limit powder capacity. Bill also states that the composition of this bullets jacket and core design is completely forgiving in early production Classic doubles rifle barrels.


The Break Away features a radial shaped polymer tip that is attached to the nose of the bullet just ahead of typical parabola ogive section. By design the shape of this ogive and radial polymer tip will allow the bullet to impact the feed ramp at a higher position and enhance the geometry or path of a loaded round as its stripped out of the magazine. I see this as being a huge advantage over some of the current flat meplat bullets despite their performance potential once they leave the muzzle. We need to remember that the rounds must cycle through the magazine before the bullet is sent on its way. On impact this polymer nose breaks away for the bullet hence its name.  To date I have not loaded a single Break Away into any dummy cartridge cases nor have I tested this theory but I can tell by looking at the Break Away nose that getting this bullet to feed will be very simple.


This bullet does not feature any driving bands. The Shank of the bullet from the base of the bullet to the approximate cannelure position is bullet diameter and then steps down in a diameter reduction that appears to about .010 per side. As I had no micrometer to measure this I could not confirm the actual diameter. Exhaustive wet lap penetration test have proven to Bill that the Break Away delivers extremely deep and consistent in-line performance. These bullets have already been used in the field on just under a dozen Elephant and Buffalo with predictable results. I have been told that approximately 1000 of these have been sold to clients and Professional Hunters to date and I'm sure more field data will begin the trickle in from the veld as the 2015 Safari season unfolds.

The Break Away Solid is an expensive bullet to make and the retail price reflect Swifts efforts to bring it to market. Mr. Hober says that regulating the Break Away to shoot into the same point of impact as the A-Frame has been very easy with the rifles used for testing to date. Having said this the Break Away will not be for everyone but I do believe it will soon become a familiar subject around a Mopani fire ring like the legendary A-Frame and round out the Swift product line completely. I will use and test these bullets in an up and coming 450 Rigby Magnum Classic I have begun and will report my finding as they become available. As usual the Swift Bullet Company is not sitting on its laurels.




Friday, December 12, 2014

Hunting On The Roof Of The World

Many dream of hunting rams in the rarefied air and high basins of middle Asia, chilled and winded as they glass the ridge lines in hopes of laying eyes on a band of mature rams and then making a stalk. While many just dream some make it a reality. Those that make this pilgrimage often choose to hunt early in the Fall to avoid the formidable cold and snow while others wait for the rut and the weather itself to push the rams into somewhat more accessible elevations. The gamble on any of these late hunts is always the weather. Two clients of mine, a couple, have just returned from such an adventure and despite the zero degree temperatures and hunting at elevations up to 16,000 Ft. they had a grand time and made the most of their hunt. Unless you live next to Mt. McKinley coming up with a Cardio plan to duplicate the conditions you'll likely encounter on this hunt will be difficult at best. It goes without saying that serious physical conditioning is in order for this level of commitment.


This team was also well aware that another critical key to their success would come down to the rifles selected for this hunt. Two Stainless Steel Legends chambered for 300 Winchester Magnum were commissioned for this task. As each rifle was delivered the shooting practice began in earnest. Once the basic zero was established from the bench top the real world practice began in the dirt. As time drew short they elected to change up their original scope selection and I retrofit each rifle with a Swarovski Z6 3.5-15x44mm scope.  Each scope came complete with a come up turret and a customized ballistic cam to further hedge their bets for success. This was a very wise decision, they were leaving nothing to chance. Both rifles scoped and loaded with 5 rounds tipped the scale at just under 10 pounds. A weight class I consider an asset for this type of hunt. Despite the fact that two different barrel manufactures had been used for these rifles, both rifles shot a 180gr Nolser AccuBond with the identical hand-load extremely well. No chance for an ammunition mixed up on this hunt.



The terrain was stark and wide open with Sheep and Ibex in good numbers. Hours were spent behind the lens of their spotting scopes until a ram was selected and the stalk was on. Leica range finding binoculars eliminated the guess work as to the actual distance, guesswork was not an option.  They got as close as they possible could and when they ran out of cover looked for a proper rest and set up for each shot. Collectively they confirmed the range, determined the wind values and turret come up as each hunter prepared for the shot. Now its time to trust your gear and make it happen.

One ram was taken at 444 yards at a slight uphill angle. The other ram was taken at 690 yards over  level ground. Each ram was killed with a single round. Both Ibex billies were each anchored with a single shot at steep uphill angles. One was shot at 200 yards and the other taken at 230 yards. The hours of practice by shooting on the ground instead of their bench top was proving to be priceless in value.



Not only did they encounter many Sheep and Ibex but also saw 1 Snow Leopard, the tracks of 2 others and 6 wolves. In fact the best Ram they saw was chased out of country by a band of 5 Wolves in hot pursuit. I know this will not be their last sheep hunt in that part of the world. Like most hunts of this nature it begins as an adventure and rapidly becomes a passion.

                 Congratulations to them both on hunt well planned and executed.



Monday, November 17, 2014

Stainless Steel Legends Head For Central Asia



As I type this post the two Legends shown above are now in route to central Asia. The owners, a husband and wife team are on their first quest for Marco Polo rams. Both rifles are chambered for 300 Winchester, both equipped with pre-zeroed back-up scopes in the event of an optical disaster and both rifles shoot the identical load very, very well. Both Legends are outfitted with every option available and some that weren't an option until these two Legends were commissioned. Certainly the hardware is up to the task. These rifles follow in the foot prints of other Legends that have made this trek into Asia. I'm told that at 15,000 feet above sea level the temperature at this time of year will hover around 20 degrees as an average in the warmest part of the afternoon. The owners have put in a lot of honest practice at the range with much of that practice on the ground shooting over their packs, practicing with bipods and lord knows what else.

Success now will be largely due to the steel in their legs and the skill of their guides to get them within range of those coveted rams in the shadow of the Hindu Kush.