Sunday, December 23, 2018
A friend of mine from Kansas arrived in town this fall to try and shoot his first Mule Deer. This was Bill's second hunting trip to Utah in 18 years and he was hoping to make the most of it in the northern part of the state. He drew a general season deer permit for October and was granted access to hunt some property leased by a great friend of mine who was acquainted with Bill as well. A few of us spent quite some time looking for a buck on his behalf beginning in early September.
I told Bill that the shots can be on the long side so it would be a good idea to get in some extended range practice beforehand. Bill lives in the Kansas country side and shoots as often as he changes his shoes. Varmints of his property have a very limited warranty and as expected he showed up in good form.
We hung a target and he fired a fouler, made a minor windage correction then shot a single group. His comment at the target frame was "if you want it any better than that you're going to have to get another shooter". We picked up and left the range.
We then spent the next couple days glassing bucks and trying to decide which one to try and hunt and then how to get in range if the opportunity presented itself. Bill has a set of self articulating knees that operate solely on their own and the severity of the slope in much of this terrain was going to be make things a bit more complicated then Bret or I had figured into the equation.
A couple of times we spotted a buck way above of way below us and when asked if he thought he could make it close enough to that buck to shoot he'd say "get'n there's no problem, getting back isn't going to happen boys"we needed to change up our strategy.
Rather than spot and stalk we decided set up an ambush and had spent time noting the route of a group of bucks that fed low in some agricultural fields then slowly make their way up canyon to bed as the morning progressed. The problem now was the number of other deer, lots of other deer that would be moving uphill at the same time as well into the falling canyon winds. We would have to be above all these deer to begin with. Nothing is ever perfect but this was not our first rodeo either.
Opening morning of the deer season had us sneaking onto a bench above a canyon well before daylight. Our original chosen destination just didn't feel right to me so protesting knees and all Bill and I climbed higher up the slope. Does and young bucks could be seen feeding towards us as soon as the light permitted. The larger Bucks had been coming up the south side of the canyon rim which is were we had finally settled in. The wind wasn't great but at the moment was blowing high enough over the approaching herds to at least allow them to come into range without detecting us. When the thermals began to change it would be a crap shoot at best. Buck after buck came into view but not the mature bucks we'd seen earlier scouting. Then from across the canyon to the north they made an appearance. Two of the larger bucks could be seen slowly walking through a patch of cedars looking for and finally finding a place to bed down.
We had the wind in our favor but from our current position we could not make a move towards those bedded bucks without being picked off instantly. The line of sight to the bedded bucks was right at 800 yards. Now some today would consider that short range and set up to attempt a shot. I'd rather actually hunt than plink so we weighed the options. As we watched more and more deer funneled past us. At 10 O Clock we decided to slip out of sight to the south with some terrain to conceal our retreat then meet Bret and discuss the options. Undisturbed those bucks were going to be tucked in tight for the day.
We ate an early lunch and came up with an alternate plan that might work. Bill and his knee's sat tight while Bret and I made a wide loop out of sight and under the hillside that was now covered with bedded deer. Because of the topography if the prevailing wind blowing out of the south-west held during the day it would keep our scent under and away from the bedded deer and then blow down the canyon from the deer to us during the thermal reversal later on in the afternoon. We might be able to slip within range of where I thought the bucks would emerge from the cedars around dusk to feed. It all sounded good but there's always a risk and we darn sure didn't want to let those bucks know they were being hunted.
Bill and I then retraced my foots steps only this time we planned on getting closer. We hugged as much cover as we could slipping tighter up the canyons southern bench. Does and fawns across the canyon stood up when they saw us and picked they're way further up the draw spooked but not overly panicked. Each time a group got up I wanted to loose my lunch but we let them walk out of sight before continuing the stalk. The bucks were still completely out of sight as we eased up the draw to a spot that put us 300 yards from the edge of cedars that held the sleeping bucks. This was the end of the road any closer we'd risk a complete bust. The time was twelve noon, our wind was still favorable so we settled into what little ground cover we could scrape together.
Did I mention Bill was deaf ?
He has a set of hearing aids but I know for a fact they're only for decoration. Rocks have better hearing capability than Bill. Did I say I'm deaf ? Yep and I don't have hearing aids. What happened next is what some of us can expect in our golden years. For three hours we sat in the sun working on our tans, Pamela Anderson would have been envious and about the time my rear end had completely gone to ground when a pair of does walked into the upper edge of the cut wheat field. Soon a pair of young bucks joined them. Bill shifted around a bit and tried to get his shooting sticks set up more to his liking. I was not prepared to see one of the larger bucks we were after step out of the cedars and walk into the field. I softly said "Bill there's one of the mature bucks we want, he's 298 yards away you might want to get ready while I look him over".
Bill thought I said " there is a piece of pigs liver in that canyon please send a post man down there to paint it".
I was pretty engrossed in trying to look the bucks horns over and decide if we should take him now or wait for the other mature buck to show up as well. While I was looking through the spotting scope it sounded to me like Bill was erecting an oil derrick to my left. The buck was looking around still unconcerned as Bill continued to wrestle with his shooting sticks. Bill being stone deaf kept looking for the perfect stick position and making enough noise to almost wake the dead. The buck now content he was in safe spot lay done with all but his horns visible to Bill. I could see him clearly but that didn't help at all. The construction project to my left kept going and soon the buck looked right at us finally having detected Bill swinging a shovel. I whispered something to the effect of "Bill damn it quit moving he's looking right at us" and got "what ? " for a reply. The next couple of minutes the buck stayed bedded but the down canyon racket finally took its toll. He stood up look at us one last time and slowly made his way towards the trees.
I mumbled something bright like "when he turns broadside shoot him, he's now at 307 yards" I was looking at the deer while Bill was looking at me wondering what to do ???? I again gave another range call as the buck slipped from view. I looked at Bill with a confused glare. Bill looked at me said " What did you want me to do ? I couldn't tell, shoot or not shoot? "
Bill wanting to record every pivotal moment of his hunt got untangled from his construction project just long enough to take this pic of me just after the buck walked in to the trees. I must have been thinking how in the hell are we going to make that happen again. To quote Toby Keith "I'm not as good as I once was, that's just the cold hard truth".
Time of death, well lets call it 3:11 pm.
With the mature buck now back in the trees we got real close to one another and had a discussion. Later on people in the valley below would comment on hearing an argument far off in the distance that Saturday afternoon. Using finger puppets and crayons we mutually decided that if any other large bucks were to walk back out of the trees that I would give the thumbs up and Bill would shoot at one. Bill then took some more time to get his sticks set up just right. Once settled in, he gave me the thumbs up, we were now back in business.
As the hours went by more deer fed out into the wheat, young bucks sparred with one another while the rest of the growing herd fed. Then the same mature buck stepped into the corner of the wheat. Bill and I saw him at the same time, he looked at me and I gave the sign. I heard the safely disengaged while I peered through the spotting scope. The 300 Wtby Legend barked and the buck dropped into the stubble where he had stood. I heard the ping of the spent case leaving the rifle and then heard Bill say "I think I hit him". Yes Bill you did, damn dead center right on the shoulder, nice shot !
Bret had been watching the whole affair far below us from his truck and soon we were all admiring Bills first Mule deer. Even during a period of drought years he carried a solid 4x4 frame, good eye guards and few dingers added on the frame, he was very nice first attempt and a buck to be proud of anywhere. We paid out respects quietly, took pictures and began to dress him out. This buck was in extremely good physical condition and marbled with thick layers of fat and was going to be excellent eating as well.
On the ride home we were almost in tears laughing and wondering why the general public would allow crippled and deaf senior citizens to be turned loose unchaperoned in the hills with firearms.
All in all it had been quite a day that had come together slowly over the last couple months. Lots of scouting, being allowed on a well managed piece of property doesn't hurt, throw in a little skill a little luck, put a steady finger on the trigger and memorable things just might happen.
Bill was able to stick around long enough to make sure I wasn't slacking off at the shop and that Bret was paying attention at his business. He was then kind enough to help Lexi put a mature doe in our freezer a day later on the same property. The two of them are now planning a hunt together back in Kansas.
This should be interesting as Lexi, like her mom, talks pretty softly, I can't wait for this hunt to unfold.
Thursday, December 20, 2018
Here are a few pics of a recent project that included the use of a Shrike 700 Stock. The heart of the project was based on a Defiant Falkon action that had been assembled by Hawk Hill Custom (www.hawkhillcustom.com) with one of their barrels. The stainless barrel was chambered for 260 Remington. The barreled action was originally stocked in a Boyds Laminated stock and reported to shoot very well.
Hawk Hill also installed and modified the Sunny Hill floor plate and trigger bow assembly to allow the Jewell Trigger unit to fit correctly. The Shrike stock was installed by the owner during a 4 day tutorial visit to the my shop to learn the process. The stock was made with a Carbon Fiber Edge Shell and a standard fiber-glass fill.
Consequently the owner has now decided not to get into hobby Gun Smithing after retirement but instead take up a less stressful past time like taming lions or capping burning oil wells.
When using the Shrike stock I've found it beneficial to use a longer set of trigger guard screws. Finding them in an extended Stainless steel and lengths with a nice domed head has never been easy until I contacted Wyatts outdoors (www.wyattsoutdoor.com). These screws are of excellent quality. While we were at it I installed one of their followers as well.
All things considered the project came out pretty well and the owners plans to cross stack a pile of eastern management deer with it in the near future.
Sunday, August 26, 2018
It is often asked of all of us regardless of profession "is the job complete to your satisfaction"?" it's a good question and the answer can be a bit slippery at times to pin down. In many disciplines finishing up a project requires attention to detail and quite often a dogged tenacity to stay focused in the final stretch. The saying "it ain't over till it's over" sums it up pretty well in this profession.
Last week I received a barreled action from Glenrock Blue (email@example.com) which they had just caustic blued per my request. This is one of the very few operations in my shop that I do not in house. While I do rust blue myself when required I have preferred caustic blueing to any other final metal application for all my carbon steel magazine rifles regardless of the current available alternatives.
On the day of final assembly the bench top is cleared of clutter, the door is locked and the phone unplugged even after all these years. The parts are then pulled from the shipping box, unwrapped and each one accounted for. With a standard scope sighted Legend or Classic there are usually 58 to 60 blued parts.
As the Legend is based on Model 70 the tools required for the final assembly are gathered up. The order of assembly is simple, I just grab the closest part. If I reach for the bolt sleeve the safety wing, main spring and firing pin will soon follow. The bolt body might be next and can be handled in a number of ways. I prefer to leave the bolt body blued on both Classics and Legends for rust prevention in the field. Some clients prefer the bolt body to be polished bright and some prefer the look of a jeweled bolt body. If the bolt body is to be jeweled the fixture and tooling quickly put to use.
The bolt body is then cleaned meticulously to insure no abrasive material is left on or it the bolt body. I say this as this seems to be a forgotten task in some shops. I recently returned from an Alaskan Bear hunt where I witnessed a rifle made inoperable due to crud left in the bolt body.
Next the extractor, gas block and collar are secured in place, the cocking cams greased with a light coat of anti seize grease and the sleeve and firing pin turned into place. Then the trigger and its adjustments screws are spun together.
Then I might grab the follower. Like the bolt body I prefer to leave it blued, however many clients prefer to have the top flat, the side of the 60 degree standing wall and the bottom flat polished so they can easily read the 4-CTGS engraved on the followers bottom shelf. Two Delrin "bumpers" are press fit into the front and rear of the follower to negate any possible dimpling to the already heat treated magazine box while the rifle is in recoil.
The action might be next. A threaded stub is installed in the action so it can be held in a variety of angles by the bench vise to allow me to remove the bluing from the bullet ramp. Masking tape is applied anywhere that I don't want to scuff blued steel. Being careful works 90% of time, the tape saves your ass 100% of the time. When the ramp is cleaned up any polishing residue is completely removed and only then is the barrel reinstalled. This does require some finesse. The appropriate sized aluminum bushing and one standard thickness business card will go between the bushing and barrel. Care must be taken to slide the barrel into the bushing as well as the vise without touching either the bushing or the vise or the barrel might be going back to be re-blued. As I have mentioned in earlier post I currently use a barrel vise designed and sold by Jerry A. Fisher.
With the barrel snugged tightly in the vise I then roll the action onto the barrel threads to within a single revolution of the thread extensions shoulder. If your using a in-line action wrench the wrench is slipped into the action and a 3/4" socket wrench seals the deal as the action is rotated into place with the proper inch pounds. Previously I would use an "over the action" style wrench carefully slipped over the action and a business card shim was placed between the bottom flat behind the recoil lug and the top side of the front ring on the action and then snugged into place. In this case extreme care must be taken not to bang the action with the OD style wrench.
With the barrel installed the ejector, sear, trigger and accompanying coil springs are placed in the appropriate cavities. The over travel and weight of pull are temporarily set.
The stock is now addressed. So whatever minimal work still needs to be done to the stock such as wiping the grime off the recoil pad, giving the stocks exterior two coats of Armor-All and then spinning the swivel studs in place is completed.
The rifle is now rotated 180 degrees and the scope mounts are now screwed into place using five 8x40 Torx head screws. The installation is done quickly and accurately with the appropriate diameter alignment tube. We're now ready for glass.
At this point I might install the clients scope back into the rings and take a few pics to be sent at the end of the day to allow the client to see the progress. But for now one of two test scopes come out of the safe and get tightened into the rings as now it's time to go back to the range for a 2rd time during the rifles construction. The barrel had to have shown some accuracy potential when it was shot after the stock was installed and the scope mounts made,
If accuracy at that stage was a bit dicey further shooting would have been required to determine if that barrel was going to stay in place or wind up a tomato stake, a rare occurrence but can happen. The clients scope is also installed to make sure it's working properly. This is the stage to catch any potential accuracy or optical issue, not after the final assembly is done. I use the test scopes to eliminate any new scopes issues right from the start by shooting the clients scope as well at this point.
This shooting is done with know accuracy hand-loads at first as I want to know what the rifle is capable of to my satisfaction. The test scopes are both fixed power one a 12X and the other a 16X. I don't want to use a scope greater than 16X especially if the client is going to using a typical 2.5-15 power scope for actual hunting. I want his groups to at least resemble mine when he receives the rifle and shoots the same ammunition.
Back in the shop the barreled action will come back out of the stock, adjustments made and additional hand-loads put together if necessary.
When the accuracy standards have been established with the factory ammunition then its time to remove the test scope and install the clients scope if you have it in tow. If not your headed back to the range yet a 4th time. The clients scope is now installed and shot for effect. If the stars are aligned properly in an optical sense we're won and done. With the rifle and clients scope zeroed the bore properly cleaned one last time.
But we're not done yet, "holy crap" you say "how long are we going to drag this out ? " as long as it takes Gumby. During the final assembly you had better be sure you haven't added any new "Hammer Tracks" to the package and if so any corrections need to be made before we tie a bow on it.
It's a happy moment when the carrier arrives, gathers up the boxed rifle and drives off into the sunset.
I am tired out already and it's only Tuesday.
I am tired out already and it's only Tuesday.
Sunday, August 5, 2018
Here are a few pics from the field that have been saved for a day like to day.
Below is a Pronghorn buck from Wyoming's Red Desert that Terry shot with his 300 H&H Legend. Then Botswana offered up an excellent plains game hunting opportunity so he traveled to Bots and rolled the dice. Having always been a bit of a Spiral Horned junkie he had been looking for a Kudu and Eland hunt in this country for a number of years. Even late in the season, under intense sun and heat he and a friend were not disappointed.
Ben traveled back across the big blue to hunt with an old friend of mine PH John Oosthuizen of Hunters and Guides (firstname.lastname@example.org). Using his Legend 300 Winchester Magnum John and Ben made the best out of their allotted time together and conjured some memories.
Bret and I hunted in Kansas together this last fall and while Bret is patiently waiting another DE & Co rifle to replace the one that was stolen on an overseas hunt I just had to include this Whitetail Buck he killed even if it wasn't taken with a rifle I had assembled. We were hunting at the invitation of another good friend of my mine that will allow hunting on his property on every other Blue Moon that occurs. Bret shot the buck of a lifetime the second morning of the trip. The buck was known to be in the area and had been seen and photographed all summer and fall on and off the property. The three of us had a plan to try and hunt this buck at the exclusion of any other buck and all the pieces fell into the puzzle. No high fences, no supplemental feeding program, no jive, this buck was as wild as they come.
I spent the next 8 days passing up one buck after the other looking for just the right mature buck and had the safety off more than once before finally settled on killing a big mature doe to take home for the freezer. I hope to go back to Kansas as soon as there's another Blue Moon.
Monday, July 16, 2018
In-line action wrenches are common, just about every Gun-Smithing supply business carries them as do most action makers for their particular action. Being a Neanderthal in many procedural operations I have used the same exterior yoke design action wrench since the early 80's to install and remove the barrel during the rifles construction. I never rust blued a barrel attached to the action for fear of oil or grease leaking out of the barrel shank joint and contaminating the process from the start. Which then carried over into caustic emersion bluing as I wanted the threads inside the receiver as well as on the thread extension of the barrel blued as well. Since I don't Cerakote or Hydrocote the barrel doesn't need to be attached during the final surface application.
During the reassembly process one slip of the older style yoke or loosing my grip on the large Allen wrench to snug up or loosen the yoke and all will not be fine in the land of Echols. When a rifle is put together for the last time the phone is unplugged, the door locked and nobody and I mean nobody gets inside during that time period.
Why it took me so long to convert to an in-line wrench is just pointless to try and explain, there is just no excuse. Not long ago I picked up one for a particular project that would then be included with the rifle when shipped to the client. A second one followed suite and now there are a few more on the way to cover all the other bolt race way and lug height variations I might need.
I purchased these in-line wrench's and the others from Gradous Rifles (email@example.com).
Both examples I've used were well machined with just the right amount of clearance once slid into the action. A standard 3/4" socket wrench allows you to torque the action onto the threads to what ever your heart desires. No more dancing with the devil as you install your old style yoke over that nicely blued receiver. You should find the cost per unit just North of $ 70.00.
I plan to retire my older yoke style wrench for basically one of kind situations unless Gradous starts to stock ZAP Blanks on the shelves for just those occasions.
A good tool and at a great price.
Monday, June 25, 2018
I had noticed only recently that Federal had been loading and now MIGHT discontinue loading this projectile for their line. So few places to really use a specialized projectile here in the states. One can understand if the bean counters at Federal had tallied up the sales then pulled this load off the line when the sales showed no promise. I tried to buy a box of this Federal load to shoot in this 375 but could not find a retailer or dealer that still had them in stock. I finally called Huntington's and Fred sent me a box of bullets to hand load.
It was a very small box to, containing only 20 Hydro's. The price was steep, but few jewels are ever inexpensive. For the sake of science I sat down at my loading and started sizing some cases.
Comparing the length of a 300gr Hydro to a 300gr TSX you will find the Hydro is slightly longer. Case capacity comes into play with many mono bullets. Fortunately this rifle shot extremely well with H-4895 when under the TSX so I decided to try the Hydro with the same powder ? This particular powder charge came right up to the base of the Hydro. Perfect !
Typical 3 shot group fired with the 300gr TSX
As I was still doing the final load development for this 375 and I was hopeful these 2 Hydro's loads would show some promise. Having shot thousands of Woodleigh's for decades I settled in behind the rifle with a certain amount of confidence.
I noted the 1st point of impact, slid back into position and sent the 2nd bullet down range. When I recovered from recoil and looked through the S&B I did a double take. Hmmm! then confirmed the impact with my spotting scope. It could it have been a fluke? so I sent the 3rd round down range.
Looking again through the ocular lens I started feeling all warm and clammy. I decided to walk down and mark the target. My, my lets see if I can do that again, and I did.
This 2nd group was fired with 1 more grain of powder with the same results. So what this tells me is that I will be trying these Hydros again and soon. It was evident to me that the bullets original meplat design would reliably feed even before the nose cap had been engineered. The current capped version fed just as well as or better than any Spitzer soft point I'd run through the gun as it was being built.
If you read the fine print on the Woodleigh website the Hydro was designed to perform as both a hybrid Soft Point and Solid that penetrates into next Wednesday. Maybe they said it in a more scientific and eloquent way but that seems to be the idea. If you can get by using one bullet to cover Impala, Sable, Eland, Buffalo, Hippo and Ele's on the same hunt I can see the benefits big time. Is it a Cat bullet?????? well maybe not in the traditional sense but !!!!!! Is it the one bullet answer ? for some perhaps it is.
More will be ordered, more will be shot, notes and an opinion will evolve, so far my limited exposure to the Hydro has left me with a good impression.