6.5x47 project tactical Rifle build
(or as we call it Green & Mean)
The rifle will be built with the Czech sniper competition as the ultimate goal (see www.precisionrifle.co.uk).
The 308 Win./7.62 Nato would always the first choice for a true tactical rifle. Reason? This ammunition is widely available everywhere and it will do the job at all ranges out to 1000 yards. It might not be the ultimate cartridge but what use is a rifle if you can’t readily get ammunition for it?
But we are not in the theatre of war, our ‘job’ is simply punching holes in paper, so are there better options than the old 308? I can think of several alternatives – like the 260 Rem. Improved or even the 6BR but the new Lapua 6.5x47 cartridge is the one that most readily springs to mind for this project. I’ve had good results with this new cartridge in my own tactical rifle at all ranges and ballistically, it will better the 308 all the way to 1000 yards. The cartridge is slightly shorter than the 308Win. so it will load from a standard 308 magazine and good-quality loaded ammunition is readily available from Lapua, in a useful variety of bullet-weights from 100 – 139 grains. This could save a lot of reloading in the early hours and maybe allow Rob to sample the
We could chose any of the quality custom actions for this project but remember, we want it to be magazine fed. That means that the action will have a large hole in the base for the magazine and this is difficult to do without compromising the general stiffness of most actions. Also, as this is a ‘field’ rifle, which could be dropped, submerged and dragged through the undergrowth, we need a bit more ‘bolt to body’ clearance than we would find in a custom benchrest action. We could even use a standard Remington 700 action – some great guns are still built on these actions, including plenty of the top American military tactical rigs.
I also got to look at another interesting action recently - the Surgeon action. The Surgeon is American – of course – and it was designed from the ground-up as a tactical action. How so? Well, Surgeon realised that it would have that great big cut-out for a magazine, so they compensated by stiffening the action with an integral Picatinny scope rail. This rail is part of the action-forging, not a screwed-on accessory and effectively puts back the metal removed for the magazine cut-out. The rail comes with a built-in 20MOA taper, so this is another plus.
Surgeon have also nullified another of my gripes by using an integral recoil-lug – rather than trapping it between barrel and action. This simplifies barrel swaps and bedding though I do not envisage changing barrels in the middle of the competition!
Unfortunately, the extractor is the same old Remington spring-type which I personally don’t like and would much prefer a proper Sako-style claw but the manufacturers claim excellent reliability with this type of extractor and I must admit I’ve never seen one fail on a Remington. I hope this doesn’t prove to be the ‘Achilles heel’. Finally, the Surgeon action offers an identical footprint’ to the short Remington action so it will sit nicely in any of the ‘drop-in’ tactical stocks currently on offer from manufacturers like McMillan.
The stock is a critical part of any project and this rifle is no exception as it will be used in a variety of shooting positions including prone off-hand, prone with bi-pod, sitting and standing. If a tactical rifle is almost always used ‘prone bi-pod’ the stock design is not so critical but when shooting off-hand, we need good balance and a high – or adjustable comb to give a positive cheek-weld.
So what do we choose? The purist would surely go for the classic M40 ‘Marine Sniper’ stock. This is the stock of legends but in the last 40 years we have learned what is essential and what is not. The M40 has a slender fore-end and a steep rake to the underside of the butt as it is based on a hunting stock originally designed for use with an open-sighted rifle. In other words, although the M40 is still a great stock, there are better options. Beefier fore-ends mean better accuracy off the bi-pod and an adjustable cheek-piece helps with positional shooting using a scope. A flat underside to the butt is a great aid when using a rear-bag. I really like my McMillan A5 and I also have the older McMillan A2. I still think the A2 is the better-looking stock but I concede that the A5 offers superior ergonomics so this will be our choice. There may not be time to apply any paint but McMillan offer a good choice of moulded in camo. finishes.
If you are living this fantasy-rifle with me, what would be your choice of scope? We ideally need at least 20 power and preferably a zoom so that we can wind down the magnification where necessary and increase the field of view to assist in picking out targets.
The Leupold Mk4? The Nightforce NSX? The Schmidt & Bender PM2? Yes, I agree, any one of these fine scopes will do the job. The Leupold Mk4 is built to true military standards, it’s compact and offers excellent optics and lots of adjustment. Similarly with the NSX, though for me, maybe a little on the large size. Again, the Schmidt & Bender is a true military offering and would do anything we ask of it.
These are all great optics, proven in the field and offering rugged build-quality and accurate adjustment but remember, this is to be THE ultimate tactical rifle – so don’t we want the ultimate tactical scope - regardless of cost? So far, we have not compromised on any of our components and we are not about to start now! In that case, there can only be one choice - US Optics. This is the SN3 T-PAL scope with a 35mm body tube - a fantastic scope with a really useful reticle offering accurate range-finding in the field. Optically, it is second to none and build-quality is legendary. You really can hammer in tent-pegs with this scope! What’s more, we can have it in a superb green anodised finish which will perfectly compliment our tactical theme. Buy the best and cry once! I’m really looking forward to seeing how this scope performs in the field.
Ideally I’m looking for a stainless steel barrel blank which will finish at around 26 inches. It doesn’t need to be ultra-heavy as this is not a benchrest rifle. We will need a twist rate of around I in 8.5 to stabilise our 123 grain 6.5mm bullets. If we stick with the 123 Lapua Scenars, a 1 in 8.5 should do the job but a 1 in 8 would give the option of using the 139 grain bullet. The competition is mid October and it’s now September so I was glad to get hold of a 1 in 8.5 Krieger blank. It was a bit heavier than I had envisaged but should be manageable for off-hand shooting. And of course, we need a moderator and I have a new one, so we will have to screw-cut the muzzle.
Our Surgeon action is designed to take the Remington-style triggers but we will be looking for something a bit better than a standard Remmy. Yes, the Remington can be re-worked to give a lighter, crisper let-off but we need reliable a trigger built from the ground up to these standards - we can’t risk slam-fires and the like in a competition of this standard.
For me, the best trigger on the market in Remington configuration is definitely the Jewell - not the 2 ounce benchrest variety but one of the HVR models set at perhaps a pound. Yes, the Jewell could be a problem with dust or water but it will best compliment the accuracy potential of our rifle.
As we have previously stated, our rifle will need to be magazine-fed and for reliability, the super-strong Accuracy International ten-round magazines will be used. Scope rings will be US Optics own and they don’t come any tougher. A harris bi-pod should do anything we ask of it.
So there we have it. That’s our spec. for the ultimate tactical rifle. Next job is to build it, briefly test it and then we're off to wildest
GREEN & MEAN MK II,
THE 260 IMP TACTICAL RIFLE
On my travels I get asked a lot “what’s your favourite rifle” my answer is always the same “the next one” this has been a little difficult recently as the now world famous “Green and Mean 6.5x47 Tactical rifle” that Vince Bottemley and I put together earlier last year has proved to be pretty much unbeatable. Looking at the ballistics stats it clearly beats the 308 at 1000yd it also has a couple of other major plusses, the round fits in a standard mag and its light on the recoil too.. make no mistake this is not about being a recoil wuss, keeping the gun under control means watching the shot go in, either by watching your own bullet wake or spotting the bullet strikes as they happen is essential, both of these methods help with any immediate “hold over” adjustments that might be needed on a rapid follow up shot, take it from me this capability can mean extra points when your shots aren’t marked.
The first thing that struck me when I first saw the 6.5x47 was its size in OAL and naturally the thought occurs “if a round with an overall length of only 2.60 can perform that well what would be possible with a case that fills a standard mag length of 2.80” this seed of a idea was stored away and throughout this year ive looked for a case that would fill the extra gap. After all size is everything.. isn’t it?
A NEW PILL
There’s another good reason for this hunt for some extra case capacity, there has for a long time been a large gap in the market between the light and heavy end of the 6.5 line of bullets so this year Norma saw this gap and came up with a new 130g Diamond Line bullet in 6.5 it’s a fantastic looking VLD shaped round with a BC of 0.548 and although you could use this in a 6.5x47 with a usable case volume of 48g of H2o it would struggle to have enough powder capacity and therefore energy to get this heaver bullet near to the 3000 fps mark necessary for it to be competitive with a 123 Lapua, so the 260 Imp with a internal case volume of 58g of H2o meets the requirement nicely, for all those of you who are not familiar with the 260Imp, its basically a 243 necked up to take a 6.5 bullet and the body taper and shoulder angle altered or “Ackly Improved” to maximise all the potential volume. Its fair to say that this project rifle has been built around this new bullet which in this case makes maximum use of a standard 308 size action and magazine without having to go to a larger long or magnum action.
SURGEON ACTIONS. Of Oklahoma, USA design and manufacture actions from the ground up as to fill the need for a serious hardcore tactical rifle action and accessories. the Surgeon action has an integral 20 MOA Picatinny scope base, integral heavy recoil lug all machined from one piece of steel , the one-piece bolt is machined (no welded or soldered handle), and a heavy-duty bolt stop mounted on the left side of the receiver make for easier access than the Remington style. Final dimensions are machined after heat-treating to insure perfect squareness and alignment. This action also boasts more thread length for the barrel shank. Typical barrel shanks for the Surgeon have a thread length of 0.950" versus the 0.700" thread length in Remington Model 700 style actions. This provides a 37% increase in barrel engagement. More engagement is always a good thing for stiffness, accuracy and ruggedness The action for this build has a new product from Surgeon the “side rail” a small side rail to hold you torch, IR illumination, laser ect that simply hooks onto the rail on top of you existing action it requires no special fitting and can be fitted and removed vie 3 small grub screws.
The action is teamed in this case with a great UK product from South Yorkshire Shooting Supplies (SSYS) who are well known for there top of the line .22 products, have extended the production of .22 line of actions to include fullbore trigger guard/mag wells, these looks very similar to the Badger Ordnance product and works in the same way with the mag release operated by a large trigger forward of the rifles trigger guard, the mag is set up to take the Accuracy International 5 or 10 shot mags. SYSS sells this product with aluminum pillars should you want to pillar bed and 2 replacement action screws, basically everything you need for your re-build without having to wait for a delivery from the US. Roger from SYSS has addressed the demand for Surgeon actions too and now is the UK`s main distributer for Surgeon products and of course his own bottom metal, he will even sort you out with a stock of your choice to. With there own “in house” gunsmithing facility in the shape of Dave Wild you can even get it all put together for you and take delivery of a finished rifle. So now thankfully the “north” has its own “one stop shop” for the tactically minded amongst us.
Ive consistently used Krieger barrels for the last couple of years their single-cut rifled barrels and there excellent so based on the “if it anit broke don’t fix rule” ive had no reason to change, but last year the announcement that some of the guys from Krieger left to start there own company Bartlain Barrels caused a big stir in the industry, the new company uses CNC machines to ensure total control on land and grove cut depth and most importantly a 100% guarantee on the twist rate, they claim the able to work to 4th decimal point i.e exactly the twist you specify with no variances’ and they pre and post lap after the rifling, this last point is particularly important for all accuracy nuts as most people these days have a rifles built around there particular choice of bullet they intend to use, this is true in my case. Another plus in using a BB is the fact they make there blanks a full three inches longer than most others as a standard, handy if you want to really push your velocities, a quality barrel and a good trued action are the two most vital components’ in what makes a rifle accurate so any advances in this area must be embraced check their options at www.bartleinbarrels.com.
NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
There is a new trend appearing of DIY amongst a few of the more capable shooters I know and I don’t mean the B&Q type.. i mean people buying their own gunsmithing machinery and building there own rifles. Whilst this requires the relevant paperwork sorting with your local Firearms Licensing Unit its not a difficult operation and if you have the skills time, money and skills you can produce your own project builds. This is a good short cut because if you want a plain re-barrel let alone a project built by any of the top gun guys around you’ll generally be looking at a years wait before you get your new toy. I feel a word of caution is warranted here this is not an area for a keen amateur or a day dreamer with access to the old works lathe at the weekend, there’s a reason why good gunsmiths are in short supply its an extremely skilled job and of course there is the safety aspect to the project too.. if your creation blows up at the proof house because of an error on your part you could be kissing goodbye to around £2000 of gear ouch!! With all that in mind I contacted a mate, Andy Massingham from Kendal, he is a keen and active shooter and has been building his own rifles for some years and with the decision of one of Andy’s friends who built his own very competitive target rifles to take a sabbatical, Andy took the plunge and bought his machinery. I’ve known Andy for several years and shot with him enough to know he knows what makes a good rifle shoot and more importantly how to put a one rifle together, a look at his own project builds certainly shows his ability so I had no issues with asking him to put this project together for me, I had two barrels cut for this project so there would be no wait for a re-barrel if it fell in the middle of a comp year.
WHEN`S AND A.I. NOT AN A.I.
The answer is when its “Huntered” those of you who read last months article on how I changed an ASIC stock for this project will be up to speed, if you haven’t I suggest you try and get your hands on a back issue and for those of you who carnt be bothered hears the short version.
Accuracy International make one of the worlds most popular sniper rifles and the market demand for those who didn’t want to pay the price for one meant that AI produced the ACIS stock so remy owners could drop in the barrelled actions and you have a lookalike rifle. Whilst the stock is proven is the strength and durability I have real issues with the anatomically fit to us the human end user, and with some time and the right products we at Hunters Of England decided we could re-shape it to make it really fit. In short we stripped it back down to its component parts and rebuilt it making the following changes, The forepeice had the shape corners of the underside of the stock taken off,
the cheekpiece was removed and replaced with a specially contoured piece of hard foam (very similar to the ones we use in our “Snipers Cheekpeice”) and then covered with fabric so it could be painted. But the biggest job was the grip, the standard set up means if you grab the thumbhole pistol grip your trigger finger touches the trigger near the second joint (not good for accuracy or if your on a light trigger) so we had to strip the plastic skins off the stock, fill the inside of the grip with a plastic resin, then machine back the grip, fit a wrist plate to support the hand and using a special mouldable plastic build a larger palm swell and re-shape the new grip over the original phew.. not an easy job but I believed it would be worth the effort and I was proved right.
What your left with is a customised stock designed to fit the owner like a glove after all if the barrel/action is a custom job why not the stock to? Although ive got to say if the AI stock does come up to scratch during testing it will be back to the old faithfull Mcmillan A5 war horse.
The rifle is more or less done aside from the Duracoat paint job from “Jager Sporting Services” which carnt be done until the scope arrives and as S&B would be working on a special build it may be sometime, so in the meantime I used and old friend, a 14x35 power Premier Reticule built Leupold for test firing purposes,, this scope has a fine ret and this is great for testing for small group potential,, It goes without saying I wasn’t disappointed.. as I expected the rifle performs. Using Lapua 243 fire formed brass, the Norma 130g bullets and Reloader 19 / Vit 550 to achieve 3000 fps+ the initial load development and testing was done in a snow storm in early Feb, with sub zero temps but it still turned in average groups of .2 - .3 with some extra load development and kinder some weather I’m expecting great things from this rifle.
Accuracy International products from Graeme at sportingservices.com
Surgeon actions from at sportingsupplies
Norma bullets from RUAG Ammotec UK Ltd.
Special thanks to Andy Mass, Vince and AJH machine shop
PS just to let you all know my attempts to change from McMillan to AI
has failed...even with all the modifications i made on the stock for
this rifle i couldnt get comfertable with it..in my opionon it needs
completely re-designing from the ground up to sort out the trigger
finger postion problem, so its going in the bin and its back to the old
faithfull A5..i will post some pics of the finished rifle and the paint
job in june when im back from Afganistan
Surgical Precision in Prague
(Part 3 of the 6.5x47 Tactical Rifle saga)
Several months ago, when Vince Bottomley dropped a small cartridge in my hands a said with a big grin on his face “It spanks your 308 in wind, drop and less bang too.” My response was B#######s but I should of know better than question him.
Vince has been shooting “very successfully” with the Swiss Match and other small capacity rounds in 6mm for some time and so it was a natural progression to the 6.5x47 plus a quick look at the 6mmBR website also shows it being used in some of the top US tactical / sniper competitions because of its ballistic abilities and light recoil. When I got home I ran the 308 and 6.5 cases through Quickload, which showed the 6.5x47 is a full 100 inches flatter in trajectory at 1000 yd and in a 10 mph wind crosswind is 23 inches better too!! Impressive stats.
Horses For Courses
Coincidently around this time, I was invited back to the Strenla military range on the Czech Slovac border for another sniper comp in mid October. Vince suggested that a new rifle in this chambering would be a great tool for this comp. That was all the persuading I needed; Pete Waker of Walker Rifles builds all my rifles but demand for his services meant he couldn’t fit this in at such short notice, so seeing the predicament I was in Vince offered to help out. Vince has been building his own personal project rifles for some time and I've shot against him enough to know that he knows how to put a rifle together, so with a miniscule time frame of 1 month to build, load-develop and shoot-in, I gave Vince all the nessarcary parts and waited for a call to say it's ready (which came 3 days later!!).
Those of you who have read Vince’s articles over the last 2 issues of Target Sports will be up to speed on this rifle, so I won't go into the build and parts but suffice to say the components were all top notch and so was the end product. My part of the project was just to shoot it and hopefully win the comp.. I always get the easy bit!!
A short fight of 2 hours gets you to the stunning city of
My last experience taught me to expect the unexpected and although we were told the weather forecast was good, for the first day of the comp it was misty and rainy; this set the tone of things to come, so on the first COF I wasn’t surprised to be marched into the woods and told to run to a barricade, kneel and find a egg with my number on it and shoot it in 30 seconds. The eggs were scattered on poles in a field anywhere from 20 to 30 feet away!!
This stress element to the comp is a standard and important part of the proceedings for this type of event, even down to the fact that all your kit, rifle, clothes, ammo etc. for each day must be carried throughout the day. This was followed by a short march through to a clearing in the woods for the first of many unknown distance shots. No rangefinders were allowed this time so all ranging was done by the WAG (Wild Ass Guess) method or by range-finding using your scope reticule. The second is infinitely preferable for reliable results but the key to successful ranging is knowing the size of your intended target. Then a simple mathematical equation of height of target multiplied by 27.778 then divided by the number of Mils your target covers should get you on target - SHOULD - but precision measuring is needed for accuracy.
Burst Your Bubble
The next targets were balloons tied to the tree-line approx. 150 yds away. Not too difficult but the 5 minute wait and instructors throwing flash-bangs plus a gusty wind didn’t allow for a real steady shot. Next was a tricky 2 plate left and right shot. These plates were set at 30 degrees to each other so you could set up on the first but a big re-adjustment of the kneeling shooting position was required to make the second shot. Just when I thought there was nothing else that could surprise me, a further 500yds into the woods we were told to drop the rifles, strap on a pistol holster, grab a 9mm and stand by for a pistol stage!!
This was no big thing for all of the other competitors as their respective governments still trust them with handguns. Except of course for us Brits. I couldn’t resist putting my hand up to ask “What’s a pistol?” I'm sad to report that everyone one else laughed (except us Brits) so, with all of us trying to drag back muscle memories of past days of pistol shooting, on the order we moved down into a small wood and on sight of a moving plate coming through the tress, we dropped the rifle and had 5 rounds to hit the moving plate. It did bring back some happy memoirs of practical pistol days though.
After a good lunch of local fare we started on the known-distance shooting at 1-2-3-500yds at varying sizes and types of targets. This at least gave us a chance to catch our breaths, assess our good and bad points of the day, dry out and plan for the next day.
The weather threatened to out-do the previous day, with cold winds, sweeping mist and dropping temps. Not to out done, the comp. organiser turned up the heat and pressure with COF's like kneeling 40yd steep downhill shots onto bad-guy targets with hits in the eyes counting only. We were shown a very small 1.5 inch picture of a target face in the briefing on the first day, so when we were taken out to 70 yds and turned away from the targets, I had an idea this face may be coming up. The only command that was given was “ You have 45 seconds to turn, drop, load and fire if you see a target, shoot it."
The face was on the target but so were 10 other very similar looking people and not surprisingly many people got it wrong. We repeated this type of shoot at 200 yds. The scope was closed and we were given 45 seconds to memorise a face target - that may be disguised -then given a choice of four faces to shoot, once again the time-induced stress caused mistakes.
With the snow and sleet starting, we moved to a part of the range I hadn’t seen before, to a unknown-distance shoot over a lake. This cleaver trick uses open water to fool the eye into thinking the distance is greater than it actually is and at only 180yds out did fool a few.
This type of COF is meat and drink to the classic image of the sniper and to top off the day we all moved back to the range house for the long-range section.
3 steel plates of known sizes were placed out at unknown distances, then the instructors nominated a target and gave 1 min to range it and on the command engage it. Hit or miss - simple but very cruel, later we did learn the distances were 442, 559 and 640 yds. Any small error in ranging using the reticule can easily mean a miss and this did catch me out on two out of three plates but I didn’t feel too bad as others suffered the same fate but it showed up a weakness that I need to remedy.
With the onset of evening we enjoyed a hot meal and waited for night to fall - which at this time of the year happens around 7 o'clock -for the “night shoot”. A 2 inch black disc on a white background makes a hard target even at 100 yards under a 5 second illumination of car headlamps. But moving back to 300yds, even with a larger head-size target with inward scoring-rings, caused problems. The mist and dropping temp. combined with military illumination flares that seem to make the target move as they parachute down, so those of us with illuminated reticles came into their own here.
These extreme temperature changes could also have accounted for some ballistic errors; a swing of 30 deg over the three days meant that all components were tested to the extreme. Water, mud and snow were thrown at the gun and I'm delighted to report it didn’t miss a beat. Vince did a excellent job. And after each day, a strip down and clean showed the Duracoat paint job protected the working parts and kept the gun looking like new.
As on previous comps. the final day was taken up solely by the stalk. This is as near to a real world exercise as most amateurs come to true sniping - unless you’re a deer stalker, only the deer don’t try to shoot you and then stomp on you!
We moved approximately 1 kilometre from the MIG and were told that a meeting of drug dealers was taking place by the aircraft and that sometime within a 2 hour time frame we would be given a signal to shoot our designated target from a minimum distance 300 metres. We would then have 1 hour to extract back to within 20 metres of the start-position - all without being spotted. Only the successful completion of all parts meant points on the scorebored. But this time not only were the spotters around the plane, there were also hunter-packs of bad guys roaming around the whole area picking up the careless and unlucky. This element of trying to stalk to a position and being hunted was not nice to say the least but really sharpened up the senses.
As people trickled back into the base, there were lots of adrenalin-fuelled stories of daring-do and near misses. This final COF was much harder than last year and the organiser had very cleverly thought it out. The set up meant there were actually only a few places a shot could be taken from; the testament to this was that out of 33 competitors, only 9 took a shot and only 1 took the shot, hit the target and made it back without being captured to complete it successfully. The most important thing in any live-fire exercise was that everyone was safe, and I'm pleased to say that due to top-notch organisation by Mr Peter and his team and the professionalism shown by all involved meant all who started the comp. finished it with all in good health.
Later that evening we were treated to a large roast pig buffet dinner, washed down with lots of blond beer which was followed by the announcement of the results. I'm pleased to report all the hard work paid off as I came in a respectable joint 3rd position, with the rest of the seven Brits showing within in the top 10 places. The sponsor Meopta provided a great selection of prizes including spotting-scopes, rifle-scopes and some great tactical gear.
On the back of my last articles and I'm sure this one too, I get asked a lot “Why don’t you run something similar in the UK?” My usual answer is “One day I hope to.” But it's never as easy as it seems. Nevertheless, I have decided to take the bull by the horns and in conjunction with an old mate, Andrew Hendricks of Riflecraft Ltd., we hope to run the UK`s first official comp. next year. This is still in the early discussion stage and it is dependant on lots of variables - the biggest being a suitable venue but if this sort of thing interests you, please send your contact info to email@example.com and I'll let you know details as they happen, otherwise watch the press for registration details.
David Shone, the ex-pat Brit who lives in Prague and owns his own range, runs a pistol, semi-auto rifle “all inclusive” weekend shooting package. I will covering this event in March 2008 and anyone who is interested in some full-auto fun please contact either myself or David.
Finally, I would like to say a big thanks to all the people who volunteered their services in order to make this project happen - Vince for building the beast; for more details on this and other projects see his web site at www.precisionrifle.co.uk Also, Preston Pritchard and all the staff at Surgeon Rifles www.surgeonrifles.com for there advice and help. James Clark at Jager Arms firstname.lastname@example.org for a fantastic Duracoat finish paint-job. Terry Mann and finally David Shone in
For rifle, semi auto rifle and pistol shooting holidays or functions contact him at email@example.com
Photos by kind permission of Andy Mass, Paul Harper, Nikita.