Sunday, October 11, 2015

Broken Glass

It is not to unusual to find a defective scope right out of the box or one that caves in within a couple sessions at the range. What are the chances of having two fail back to back?

Determining the scope has gone buns up is not all that difficult if you have the scope mounted on a rifle of known accuracy, provided you have very similar range conditions for testing and have the patience of a saint. Recently I had a Legend returned to have its current scope replaced with a Swarovski  Z5. 3.5-18X44mm. Let me state up front that I feel Swarovski makes an excellent product and I have installed very few that have been problematic.

This particular Z5 featured a come up ballistic turret that featured hold off hash marks for windage and offered a crystal clear image up close and way down range. This scope was replacing a Leupold V-3 4.5-14x40mm counterpart that my friend/client had used for years but he had also experienced some mechanical problems with this V-3 as well. While the V-3 had been had been on the rifle for many, many hunts here and abroad he decided to replace it with the Z5. The owner is a passionate Black Tail deer hunter and has a couple of hot spots where the shots can be at a minimum of 350 yards and then knocking on the door of 600 yards. From what he tells me there is no way to get closer without tipping your hand to the bucks so he and his hunting partner engage in a lot of practice out to 600 yards. I get more than a few pics at the end of each season with some damn nice Black Tails so they have their game plan wired pretty tight.

This Legend is chambered for 300 H&H, and hits the scale at just under 9 pounds scoped and loaded. This rifle has seen a lot of use but like a Land Cruiser is very dependable . With a number of loads this rifle will shoot well under an inch at 100 yards if you can control the rifle and recoil. So I removed the old scope and installed the Z5 leveled the reticle accordingly with a tool and procedure I have developed and snugged it down.

It took just a few rounds to zero the point of impact at 200 yards and set the zero stop. This zeroed 3 shot group was approximately 5/8". Then I cranked up the turret to the maximum allowable come up limit, reversed the turret 2 clicks to remove any backlash and fired another 3 shot group. The point of impact should have landed approximately 20" higher and directly 12 O,Clock above the 200 yard zero in a nice little cluster. However this was not the case. This new group was 20" higher as anticipated but was now just under 3" and strung in a horizontal line and a shade to the right. Hmmm?

Now don't get me wrong I can flinch just as well as anyone and really now is a 3 shot group valid anyway? I wasn't feeling off my game that morning, range conditions were ideal no, perceptible wind, the flag on the frame was hanging vertical, what the ????? So I reversed the turret back down to the 200 yard zero, allowed the barrel to cool and fired another 3 shot group. This group was once again 5/8" at the same 200 yards and was for all intents and purposes superimposed directly on top of the first group. I allowed the barrel to cool off again and then cranked the turret back up to the maximum, removed the backlash and send 3 more rounds down range. This elevated 6 shot group was now horizontally elongated to just under 4"?

As I knew the rifles accuracy history I did not pull out my test scope or continue shooting any further. I documented the groups with my Camera, wrote up a description of my findings that explained why I felt that the scope was having issues. Then contacted my Swarovski area rep and requested a return authorization # so the Z5 could be diagnostically checked by the repair department. The request was met with "by all means send it back" reply. In a weeks time the Repair Department concluded that yes there was mechanical malfunction with the ballistic turret and that the problem was now corrected. In short order the scope was returned, remounted, leveled, zeroed and then put through the same paces when the problem was detected. This time the scope operated as designed 100%. It is now in the field and will be put to good use when called upon to do so. An isolated incident you ask? Keep reading.

The very next scope I installed was to follow a similar MO in the field. This scope was a Zeiss Conquest HD-5, Rapid Z-800, 3-15X42mm. It was fit on an almost completed 700 chambered for 7mm Remington Magnum and bedded into a Shrike stock. Once finished this rifle was headed to the FTW SAAM Hunting Preparation course in Texas. The course is set up to allow the shooters to engage targets from spitting distances out to 700 yards. The Rapid Z reticle unlike the Z5 Ballistic Turret was developed to use a series of Stadia lines for hold over and windage to 800 yards eliminating the need to crank the turret. I have used both systems and understand  completely the limitations and advantages of each. After the SAAM course the rifle and this Zeiss Conquest were to be used on 3 western hunts beginning in mid September. That is if I could get it all assembled as this project was being done after normal hours and weekends. The time line was a little tight.

So with the Zeiss reticle leveled and zeroed on the 7mm I began doing load development for the rifle before sending it off to be blued and the stock painted. Like the Z5 the quality of the Zeiss optic was excellent and as I began to shoot the 7mm I felt this particular scope was a good choice for the shooting course and the hunts ahead. This Rifle was a drill from the first group I fired and with less than 40 rounds down the barrel I settled on one particular load for the SAAM course and then one other load for the later Elk Hunts. Both loads shot at or under a 1/2" at 100 yards. With the load work complete I pulled the rifle apart one last time and sent the metal off to Glenrock Blue ( and contacted my painter to have the stock primed and painted. When everything returned the rifle was assembled and the Zeiss re-installed. To get this rifle to the shooter going to the SAAM course and allow him adequate time to practice the rifle had to be shipped in the next 3 days, this is precisely when the bottom fell out of the Zeiss. Better now than at the SAAM course or on one of the hunts.

At about shot number 41, 42, or 43 I started to have horizontal and diagonal fliers, Hmmm ?????. This condition worsened as I shot more rounds. Instead of nice little triangles in the 7/8" range the groups were now in the 3" to 4" at 200 yards and growing. Well @$%^)!&% !!!!!!!!! Having seen this movie more than before I did not tear the rifle apart, did not check for loose base screws, did not increase or decrease the powder charge.

Miffed, I pulled the Zeiss and replaced it my fixed power Leupold 12X test scope and went right back to the range. Now granted this Leupold is not as optically as sharp and crisp as either the Z5 or the Zeiss HD and it has a maddening habit of loosening up the ocular lock ring about every 3rd shot but it has always, from day one, been mechanically honest. This scope will hold point of impact, rain, shine, gloom and doom. The 12X was quickly zeroed at 200 yards and I shot a 5 shot group with the very same ammo under worsening mirage and wind conditions that measured just under 7/8".

To confirm the crime beyond a shadow of doubt I removed the 12X, reinstalled the Zeiss and as I had anticipated shot another 4" plus group with the next 5 rounds also at 200 yards. Then once again removed the Zeiss and installed the 12x and shot another 7/8" 5 shot group at 200 yards. Time of death for the Zeiss 2:43 PM.

Having been a Zeiss dealer for over 2 decades I know that their Repair Department will fix whatever issue has gone south in this Conquest. To date I am not aware of what they have found.

For those of you that think this post was written to spot light a particular product or manufacture for ridicule you are very sadly mistaken as nothing could be further from the truth. Optical manufactures are working as rapidly as they can to bring to market the "next best" version that we the shooting public think that we should have? It's a wonder that they all haven't tossed in the towel and reverted their technology to making soda bottles or mayonnaise jars. We the public must shoulder some of the responsibility for these mechanical hiccups as we the public have requested our scopes be filled with everything under the sun and the kitchen sink. The next time you have a few spare minutes take a scope apart on your kitchen table, then reassemble it, I dare you!  What I wish to illustrate is that any product can have a bad day and require technical support. Frankly I have lost count as to how many optical cave-ins I have witnessed over the years. I have mentioned this to a number of rifle makers in the past with many more years at the bench that I and they have stated emphatically that they have "never" in their careers had an issue with a rifle scope. Usually when I hear this reply my eye lids begin to twitch and hair on the back of my neck stands up.

Some of these gentlemen have been and are still very active builders and swear that they really do shoot their rifles before they are shipped. Makes me wonder what sort of trouble I've created in a past life when I hear these glowing reports for everything optical, however I do not live under that same umbrella.

So we have 2 new scopes, back to back, out of the box that have given up the ghost in a short amount of time. Neither rifle could be considered a "Heavy Caliber" neither rifle was fit with a muzzle brake or any other scope bashing devise, none of the testing was done off hand with me wearing a blindfold. Why then did this occur ? Rather than try to analyze the exact cause it might be best to accept the fact that mechanical failures do occur in the best of products no matter their price or their pedigree. Any decent manufacture will clearly stand behind their product and resolve what ever issues occasionally surface. The same anomalies can happen with your toaster, 4 wheeler or your lap top. I of course have never had a single rifle I've made develop any problems what so ever.

Sometimes I just crack myself up, OK maybe a few needed some additional tweaking.

I ask you, what ever happened to the simple fixed power scope ? Life was simpler then. Lead core bullets didn't bounce off deer, you were not required to shoot at 1100 yards to secure elk meat and everybody knew how to clean their guns and use a sling. Those were the days.

As a followup:  The 7mm Magnum did make the SAAM course, being fit with a Nightforce 2.5-10x32mm Compact just before the course was to start. It has stayed zeroed, nothing has fallen off, no hydraulic leaks seen, nothing has gone south. This combination of rifle and glass were then put to good use a month later in Utah and Colorado. When you come into the possession of a good, honest, reliable scope heed my advise and treasure it.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Centerfire Rifle Accuracy By William Hambly-Clark Jr

I received a copy of Centerfire Rifle Accuracy a month ago. It arrived via the Registered Mail from Australia and it was an instant hit.  The contents of this book are geared towards the construction and techniques used to build an accurate bolt action hunting rifle for the professional gunsmith and the advanced hobbyist/amateur.

I was first made aware of Mr Clark's book online almost a year ago. Those that had received this latest revision spoke very highly of it. I have to admit my copy was a gift from a friend that felt I needed all the help I could get. When I finally sat down and turned the page to the first chapter I was hooked. I only got out of the chair twice to make coffee, work at the shop stopped for half a day. Centerfire Rifle Accuracy should be considered a form of Continuing Education for any gunsmithing practitioner. I have since re-read a number of chapters. The procedures, deductions and engineering techniques Mr Clark covers are very well thought out.

At 564 pages it covers a lot of ground in regard to the truing of actions, bolts, gimbal 4 jaw set ups, threading, indicating and chambering both actions and barrels and why he prefers these methods to past procedures. The chapters devoted to die making, load development and barrel tuning are interesting to say the least. His coverage of glass bedding is in depth and should make the typical classic rifle maker either re-think his current procedures or never open the book again, ignore the facts and bury his head in the sand. The chapter on trigger construction and modification in itself is worth the price of the book. There is a short mention of an action that he designed and then tried to have produced to fill a void for Australian shooters that never made it off the launch pad. There is a chapter on fitting scope mounts that made me chuckle and reminded me of why I began making my own mounts.

This book does not cover the basics of stock making, finishing, checkering, feeding, bluing or the making of sights or other hardware. Its goal and intent is to steer the reader into the realm of building an  accurate rifle through well planned procedures and how to maintain that accuracy.

The book is filled with a lot of nicely done photography that I only wish were in a larger format. It is clearly evident that Mr Clark is much more than a "Capable" craftsman. Ladies and gentleman from what I can see and read there is no doubt Mr Clark can build both an accurate and beautiful rifle. The pictures of his Classic Rifles along side his Target and Varmint rifles attest to this fact. Mr Clark has been neck deep in a broad spectrum of rifle work be it walnut or fiberglass for quite a very long time. Being self taught should give hope to anyone thinking about stepping into the breech, no pun intended.

Much of his expertise was developed from a life time in the field using his rifles. A number of paragraphs are devoted to preparing a rifle for a particular type of hunt and the effort to zero the rifle for that style of hunting be it buffalo, hogs, dogs or crows.

Sadly there are closing paragraphs explaining why Mr Clark eventually closed his doors having to seek employment outside the trade. It is a common lament for those with great gun making talent throughout the last century, we are all diminished by these events no matter your profession.

Mr Clark gives much of the credit for this book to his wife Lyn who quite literally dotted all the I's and crossed the T's to assemble a shoe box full of crib notes into paragraphs, then chapters, and finally into the current text. No small task for the squeamish. Many thanks need to go to her as it is evident that this book has been a team effort.

This book can be ordered via e-mail to The cost will eat up the better part of $126.00 US if shipped by air. It is well worth the money and should be considered a tool purchase for any serious Rifle Maker as well as excellent reading material for any seasoned  rifleman. It is a wonderful read and I highly recommend it.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Hunting Mozambique with Hunters and Guides

Tony and John Oosthuizen began hunting together in 1984. Tony's first Safari was arranged and conducted in the South Africa's Londolozi Reserve for Buffalo and since then they have shared campfires for many multiple Safari's in Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. The duo has just returned from Mozambique completing yet another trip.

This hunt was planned once again to look for Buffalo and to hopefully entice another Leopard into a tree. There would be the usual Plains Game to hunt, new country to be seen and effort to be applied but that is why you go, at least that is why Tony goes. I had put together a Classic 505 Gibbs for Tony a number years ago and he has put that rifle to good use ever since. This trip would be another reason to carry the Iron Sighted Gibbs and make getting close to a Buffalo Bull the challenge. John and Tony spent a lot of time crouched behind trees and termite mounds then on their hands and knees before finally getting into a position 40 yards from of a small group of bedded Bulls. A bit of time passed before the largest of them stood up and offered Tony the perfect shot, the 525gr TSX did not fail to deliver. The Gibbs is now showing the patina of prolonged time in the bush doing exactly what it was designed to do.

Throughout the Safari other game was taken with a Legend chambered for 340 Weatherby Magnum. This Legend has become an all purpose rifle for many of Tony's hunts here in the states and abroad. I find it gratifying that my rifles have played a pivotal part in all but one of Tony's Safaris. For 31 years this pair of Boy Scouts have shared the ups and downs of spoiled stalks, early rains, burning sun and sweet success. While Mr spots eluded the hunters on this Safari it wasn't for a lack initiative, yet another reason for planning the next trip. 

John's vast skill and experience as a veteran PH came through once again in an unrelenting effort to give each and every client the best of his ability no matter where the Safaris are to be conducted. This hunt was no exception. Together they have experienced the best and worse that hunt can throw at you and have remained close friends all the while, well done gentlemen. 

Further information about Hunters and Guides can be found at