Match Results Plus the Coolest Calibers and Hottest Hardware
From April 25-27, three dozen of the nation’s top 600-yard shooters vied for honors at the NBRSA 600-yard Nationals in Sacramento. The tightly-contested match came down to the last relay on the last day. Jerry Tierney earned top honors for the match, under a scoring system that totals a shooters’ rankings for Light Gun Score, Light Gun Group, Heavy Gun Score, and Heavy Gun Group. Tierney, shooting an Eliseo R5 TubeGun chambered in 6 Dasher, captured the 2008 Championship with a total of 10 rank points. Peter White of Modesto, CA, shot a great match with his 6 BRX to finish second with 17 points. Craig St. Claire was not far behind using his 6BR, finishing third with 21 points. Shooting a 260 Ackley, Ron Tilley, the highest-placing "non-local", was fourth with 23 points. Record-setting 6 Dasher shooter Robert Hoppe rounded out the Top Five, with 31 rank points.
Local Shooters Top Field Local knowledge proved invaluable at the 2008 NBRSA 600-Yard Nationals. Four of the top 5 finishers regularly shoot at the Sacramento Valley range. Winner Jerry Tierney admitted that "local knowledge" of the notoriously switchy winds helped out, particularly during the third and last relay on Sunday.
Each day, the third relay was the toughest. Winds were blowing harder and were clocking through 30-60 degrees. Jerry noted that when the winds would shift direction that usually meant a significant velocity change as well. Click on the Video to hear Jerry tell his story.
Light Gun Match Results Group Agg: Bob Dorton 3.155", Don Nielson 3.349"
Score Agg: Craig St. Claire 271-3X, J. Tierney 263-2x
1-Target Small Group: Don Nielson 1.482", Ray Meketa 1.682", Jerry Tierney 1.799"
1-Target High Score: Robert Hoppe 49-3x, Ray Meketa 49-3x
Heavy Gun Match Results Group Agg: Peter White 4.506", Robert Hoppe 4.789"
Score Agg: Jerry Tierney 546-3X, Peter White 543-3X
1-Target Small Group: Rick Duncan 2.505", Henry Pickney 2.641"
1-Target High Score: R. Hoppe 98-2X, Rick Duncan 96-1X
Acknowledgements:AccurateShooter.com thanks M. Friedrich and E. Gill, whose generous $100.00 donations made it possible for our editor to cover this event. We would also like to thank Jerry Tierney, Peter White, and Robert Hoppe, who shared their time and knowledge in preparing this article. Thanks also go to Ed Eckhoff and his match crew for running a great event.
Tubing with Tierney -- BR with a Cross-Course Rifle
Amid a field of exotic benchrest rifles, Tierney’s Tubegun (basically a modified High Power rifle) looked out of place. Jerry shot the same Eliseo R5 Tubegun in both light and heavy classes. The tubegun kit for this rifle was actually donated to 6mmBR.com by Gary Eliseo for a fund-raiser and Tierney was the high bidder on our auction.
Just before the match Jerry did some bullet comparison testing, settling on the Berger 108s. "I’m glad I tried the 108s", Jerry told us, "they shot awesome, with very little vertical." Tierney used a load of 33.0 grains of Hodgdon Varget, CCI BR4 primers, with the Berger 108s jumped about 0.016" from the lands. Jerry's Lapua cases were neither sorted nor neck-turned. The brass was on its third firing.
Fitted with a Delrin front sled and a bag-riding arm in the rear, the Eliseo R5 handled extremely well. Jerry says "with a couple modifications, this Cross the Course gun worked great as a bench rifle." Jerry's light Palma contour Krieger barrel had about 500 rounds through it before the Nationals. Jerry says "there's never been a brush in this barrel. At the Nationals, I cleaned at the end of each day, but I simply ran a couple wet patches through the bore. That's it. I just wanted to get the loose carbon out."
Tierney's TubeGun--Versatile and Affordable Jerry proved that, with one accurate rifle, you can shoot a variety of disciplines successfully. Total cost of the rifle was $1960, including Eliseo TubeGun Kit, Rem 700 action, Krieger barrel, and Jewell trigger. As Jerry noted, "that's a lot less than many custom long-range BR rifles". Jerry built this rifle to shoot Across the Course, and has used it successfully in prone matches out to 1000 yards, recently finishing in the Top Five at the Arizona Highpower Regional Championship (across the course) and third in the 3x600 prone match also held in Phoenix. The gun weighs 14 lbs. with iron sights for prone shooting and 16 lbs. set up for benchrest with a Nightforce scope.
Two relatively simple additions transformed the rifle into a serious bench gun. First, a bag-riding foot or "torpedo" was fitted to the end of the buttstock. Second, Jerry attached a 3"-wide block of teflon-impregnated Delrin (plastic) to the underside of the float tube. With these two modifications, the gun rode the bags like a dream. Jerry told us "with the front and rear add-ons, the gun tracked as well as any benchrest gun I've shot."
In the video below, you can see Jerry shoot his TubeGun at the Nationals. Note how Jerry looks to the left at the large range flags before every shot. Jerry said he was seeing switches that could move his bullet impact at much as 2 MOA. At one point he has a failure to extract. Jerry explained that the gun normally extracts perfectly, but he was deliberately working the bolt slowly to try to get the brass to fall on his towel.
600-yard Benchrest is a relatively new discipline and many calibers can win. The 600-yard game is not like short-range benchrest where 95% or more of the shooters are running the same caliber, a 6 PPC. At last year's NBRSA 600-Yard Nationals, Don "Pumpkin" Nielson, smoked the field shooting a 6.5x47 Lapua and a 6-6.5x47. It was his 6.5mm, however, that really earned him the win. Not surprisingly, this year, many competitors were using the 6.5x47 Lapua case, but typically necked-down to 6mm.
Probably the dominant calibers right now in 600-yard shooting are the 6BR, the 6BR Improveds (6 BRX, 6 BRDX, 6 Dasher), mid-sized "sixes" like the 6XC and 6-6.5x47, and the 6.5-284. Forum member Ron Tilley broke from the pack and campaigned a 260 Ackley Improved and it served him well--he took fourth overall, the top showing by a non-local shooter. Ron tells us his 260 Ackley is "extremely accurate", shooting in the high ones and low twos at 100 yards "right out of the gate". He uses Berger 140gr VLDs, pushed by Hodgdon H4831sc and Russian (PMC) primers. His velocity is 2920 fps, not far from the speeds offered by the 6.5-284, and Ron believes his 260AI will deliver substantially better barrel life than a 6.5-284. Ron had a beautiful Terry Leonard-stocked rifle, and he shot extremely consistently throughout the match. Ron proved that the 260 AI is definitely worth considering for the 600-yard "middle-distance" game.
6.5-284 Advantages Many shooters elected to go with the 6.5-284. A proven winner at long range, the 6.5-284 has the horsepower to drive high-BC, 140gr-class bullets to 2950-3000 fps velocities. The downside of the 6.5-284 is that it tends to burn through barrels quickly and tends to recoil harder than the smaller sixes. However, it seemed like a smart choice for Sacramento as it offers superior ballistics to the 6BR, 6BR Improved, and even the 6-6.5x47 or 6XC. Greg Wilson and Billy Copelin were among the many shooters who brought a 6.5-284 to the match. In the video at right you can see Billy shooting his 6.5-284 in a Light Gun relay.
Peter White on Caliber Choice: 6mm vs. 6.5mm
I started shooting 600/1000 yard benchrest in 2004 using the 260 Rem cartridge. I had shot High Power rifle silhouette for a few years with that cartridge and it worked well for getting my feet wet in BR, but it wasn't long before I put together a 6BR. My 6BR was built on a 6-groove barrel and with the 105 VLDs I could barely achieve 2775 fps before running into high pressures. [Editor's note: Something wasn't right with that barrel; we'd expect 2850 fps at least.] The 6BR was slow but very accurate. Being a newcomer I felt like I was giving up something so I wanted something faster to overcome that dreaded wind thing. The 6.5-284 was my next step. It seemed like a no-brainer for long range, but I never enjoyed shooting it as much as the 6BR. I had been following the development of the 6 BRX and Dasher for a number of months and finally decided to build a 6 BRX. I may still be giving up some wind drift to the 7mms or hot 6.5s but I figure if I improve my wind reading skills everything will be equal. Did I mention it's a joy to shoot the little sixes?
6BR Improveds Win Out Many different calibers shot well at the match, but when the dust settled, the diminutive 6BR Improveds came out on top. In both classes, Overall Champion Jerry Tierney shot a 6 UBL, basically a Dasher with a .274 chamber neck. Close on Jerry's heels was Peter White, who shot a 6 BRX in both Light and Heavy. The BRX has a 30° shoulder, and less body taper than the 40° Dasher, but the case capacity (and ballistic performance) is basically the same. While Jerry had no-turn necks, Peter was running a tight-necked .263" chamber with turned brass.
Robert Hoppe finished fifth overall shooting a 6 Dasher, the same gun that produced an NBRSA-record 0.5823" 5-shot group at 600 yards last fall. So that makes three out of the top five shooters were running a 6BR Improved. Though the 6BR Improveds can't match the ballistics of the larger calibers such as the 6.5-284, this match showed that the BRXs and Dashers are "good enough in the wind" when piloted by talented shooters.
This editor looked at a number of Tierney's targets. Even on the "bad groups" with a lot of horizontal dispersion, I noticed that the vertical was very tight. Jerry was holding close to an inch and a half of vertical even on his 10-shot Heavy Gun Targets. That is 1/4 MOA vertical spread. That kind of inherent accuracy is possible with the 6BR Improveds. They may give up some windage to the 6.5-284s and bigger cartridges, but their tight vertical keeps them in the running.
Dasher Tuning by Hoppe Robert Hoppe has been one of the most consistent 600-yard shooters on the West Coast. He really has his 6 Dasher dialed in. Robert was kind enough to share some of his Dasher tuning tips with us. Click the video at right to hear how Hoppe gets peak accuracy from his Dasher.
600-Yard Benchest From an F-Classer's Perspective
Peter White, second-place finisher in this year's 600-Yard Nationals, is an active F-Class shooter. In fact he used his 6BRX F-Class rifle in the Heavy Gun stages at the 600-yard Nationals. We asked Peter to compare his F-Class experiences with shooting in a 600-yard benchrest match. In a BR match your record shots aren't marked and you usually can't see shot impact, so it's more difficult to gauge if you're making the right wind calls. Peter told us:
"My long range shooting experience has all been in the western U.S. (mainly California). Out west it's very rare to have a calm condition that lasts much past 10:00 AM, so in most matches one has to deal with the wind. My first experiences at long range shooting were benchrest matches, and in the beginning I felt like I wasn’t learning anything about the wind. Some days were good (maybe I was just lucky?), but on other days I thought my brain couldn't process all the information offered by 10 to 16 range flags. I’d head home feeling like I hadn't learned anything.
It was Ed Eckhoff who coaxed me into trying F-Class High Power shooting. Given the way spotting and scoring is done at F-Class matches, I soon found myself learning more and more about what the wind does. The constant "calculate - adjust - shoot - receive feedback" cycle throughout an F-Class match eventually forces you into thinking about the wind value in terms of MOA. You take your best shot with the plan you made, receive the spotting / scoring feedback, and process that info into the next calculation cycle. Shooting Benchrest at 600 to 1000 yards on your sighter target is much like shooting F-class minus the score value. However, shooting for record is a different story -- Shooting benchrest at 600 or 1000 yards on your record target is like taking a closed-book final exam. You either know it or you’re guessing. A 10-shot record string with varying winds can be quite a mental challenge."
Peter's Equipment Used for the 600-Yard Nationals The Heavy Gun I used at the Nationals is my F-class rig chambered in 6 BRX. It has an XP-100 action with a 29"-long (.243" x .237"), 1.250" straight-contour Krieger barrel mounted in a Shehane Light Gun barrel block. The action has a PT&G (Kiff) .701"-diameter replacement bolt using a standard Remington extractor. The trigger is a Jewel BR. The stock is a Richard Franklin Model 8 in Desert Camo. The scope base was made a number of years ago by D.W. Tool Co. ( Don Weathersbee) and the scope is a Leupold 8.5-25x50 LR with a fine duplex reticle. Roughly three pounds of lead are in the buttstock to achieve decent balance, giving an overall weight of 21 lbs., 14 ounces. The 6 BRX case has a .263" neck and 0.100" freebore. I’m currently using Berger 108s with 32.8 grains of Varget and CCI BR4 primers.
My Light Gun (shown above) is also chambered in 6 BRX. It features a 29.5"-long (.243" x .236"), heavy varmint taper Bartlein barrel. This gun uses a Rem 700 short action with a .701"-diameter, PT&G (Kiff) replacement bolt. The trigger is a Jewel BR. The stock is a Shehane MBR tracker in Monarch. [Editor: Great colors!] The scope is a Leupold BR 36-D with a 1/8 MOA dot reticle. There is lead in the buttstock for balance, giving an overall weight of 16 lbs., 15.5 ounces. The 6 BRX case, bullets and primers are the same as the Heavy Gun, but I run 32.9 grains of Varget in the Light Gun.
Billy Copelin -- Shehane Tracker FG stock, BAT Action, 6.5-284.
Andy Anderson -- Greg West Undertaker Walnut Stock, Trued Rem 600, Shilen barrel, 6mmBR.
Steven Ikeda ("Bolo") -- McMillan Edge Stock with keel, Trued Rem 700, 6-6.5x47.
Greg Wilson -- Shehane Tracker Obeche "Indian Blanket" Stock, BAT Action, 6.5-284.
There were a variety of scopes on the line, ranging from a 6-20X Leupold to the new (and expensive) March 10-60x52 zoom. Most of the top shooters agreed that 35+ power was usable and that more magnification was nice to have. Jerry Tierney told us that his 12-42x56 Nightforce BR scope was cranked all the way up nearly all the time: "Every shot I took was at 42X. I did dial it back down to 25 a couple of times but I didn't like what I saw--the mirage was still bad--so I went back to max power."
Don Nielson had the 10-60 March on display. It IS a very impressive scope--very bright and very sharp. We were hoping conditions would allow us to determine if the March could really resolve 6mm bullet holes at 600 yards. Not this time--except for a maybe a few minutes very early in the mornings, even the 60-power March could not resolve bullet holes at 600 due to the mirage. By 10:00 am, the mirage was thick and running strong and it got worse as each day progressed.
Like Jerry Tierney, Peter White was running his scopes at full power despite the mirage. Peter tells us: "Currently all the disciplines I shoot are from 600 to 1000 yards, so my optics all have to perform well at long range. The scopes I use include an 8.5-25x50 Leupold, a couple of fixed 36-power BR Leupolds, and a 12-42x56 BR Nightforce. Generally, I prefer to have plenty of magnification on tap. I've never had the 8.5-25 Leupold turned down to less than 25X. I've never had the 12-42 Nightforce turned down less than 35X. Many (most) times I've wished my 8.5-25 Leupold was at least a 36-power.
Reticles do make a difference. I like the NP2-DD reticle in the Nightforce.
I also like the 1/8-MOA dot in one of my 36X Leupolds. By contrast, the fine crosshair in the other 36X Leupold is tough to deal with. The fine duplex reticle on the 8.5-25 Leupold is OK, but as noted, I wish that scope had more power."
Wind flags and benchtop wind gauges were allowed, but only a few shooters employed their own flags or wind meters. Don Nielson, last year's 600-yard champion, had a full set of flags on the left (upwind) side of the line and they were all visible through his scope. That was a smart set-up, though one still needed to look at the big range flags. Warren Stallings had an easy-to-see benchtop wind meter that did a good job of catching the major velocity changes. And since the velocity shifts were often combined with a wind angle change, the gauge really can be an advantage. Standing behind the line I saw some shooters blazing right through some significant let-offs and angle changes. Perhaps a bench-top wind meter would have alerted them to the switches.
A wide variety of front rests were on display, from basic Hart pedestals to massive platforms for the bigger Heavy Guns. A LOT of shooters, including Jerry Tierney, were running Farleys. At times in the match, Jerry was holding off way into the outer rings. The joystick design allows a shooter to make big changes in the horizontal point of aim very quickly. Andy Anderson was shooting with a handsome Target Shooting Inc. (TSI) Model 1200 front rest--a design we'd never seen before. Lyre-shaped, it's sort of an improved, widened slingshot (see photo right). Andy, who took fourth place in LG Score using this rest, reports the TSI Model 1200 is super-stable and very well made. The hefty (20+ pound) all-steel rest is available for $549.00 from Andy, including a 3" or standard rifle front bag. Contact gijoes[at]mchsi.com for more info, or call TSI's Wally Brownlee, at (605) 868-2164. The $549 Target Shooters rest is fairly "affordable" compared to the Farleys and other high-end rests which are now in the $800.00 range.
Match Operations -- How the Experts Run a Big Event
The Sacramento Valley Shooting Center crew that ran the match, led by Match Director Ed Eckhoff, deserves recognition. Ed and his assistants have now run dozens of major matches, including 600-yard, 1000-yard, and F-Class Nationals, and they have perfected the process. Ed's watchful eye maintained a safe firing line, and the scheduling ran like clockwork. Jim O'Connell's team in the pits scored one set of targets while the next was being shot. As a result, within minutes of the completion of each day's last relay, scores and standings were posted on the results board. Likewise food was dished out within minutes of the final relay on Saturday and Sunday.
Advice for Club Match Directors--Eckhoff Speaks We asked Eckhoff, "what advice would you give to a club hosting a big match for the first time?" Ed noted three key factors: "Number one, you have to have an appropriate facility--you obviously need benches. The number of benches determines how big a match you can run. We have 25 benches at this particular facility so, with three relays, we can run up to 75 shooters." Second, Ed stressed the importance of having a well-trained team. "The match director can't do it all. A good match director knows how to delegate his authority and WHO to delegate it to. You're going to need to determine how many people you need to run the match--that includes safety officers, target officers, scoring officers, etc. Then you have to consider food, rest rooms, camping areas--somebody has to handle all of those things. Staff is really important."
Ed also focused on safety: "One of the primary concerns that any match director has is the safe handling of firearms. Each type of match has a different safety protocol. Having empty chamber indicators or requiring that bolts be removed at certain times, and how the rifles are handled on the line, are major concerns. As you increase the number of shooters, you need more safety officers on the line. You're still going to have a line boss, but along with the line boss, you need at least one other safety officer as the number of competitors increases."
Fast, Efficient Computer-Aided Scoring The scoring team at Sacramento, led by Jim O'Connell, did a truly superb job. Jim has created a highly efficient scoring procedure. One set of targets are scored and rankings tabulated while the shooters are still at the line. Scores are inputted into a lap-top computer, allowing Jim to deliver results within minutes of the shooters packing up their rifles. It's an impressive process, made possible by software that Jim created himself. In the video below, Jim explains his procedures.
Parting Shots -- Are Maxi Heavy Guns Overkill at 600?
Looking at the results from the 600-Yard Nationals, it's clear that the small- and medium-sized sixes were "enough cartridge" to win it all. Even the 6.5-284, by no means a large cartridge, wasn't superior to the smaller chamberings when you look at the overall Aggs. If there's no need to shoot a big, heavy-recoiling caliber at 600 yards, that raises the question: "Do we really need big, massive heavy guns at all?" Tierney took first place in Heavy Gun Score (546-3X) shooting a 3"-wide, 16-pounder. Peter White won Heavy Gun Group (4.506" Agg) with his 3"-wide, 22-pound, F-Class gun. It seems that the giant, maxi-stocked heavies may simply be overkill in this 600-yard game.
These big, heavy guns certainly have a place in 1000-yard shooting for those running 200+ grain .308 and .338 caliber bullets at 2900+ fps. But those big rounds don't seem to offer any real-world advantage at 600 yards--even in nasty wind conditions. Will the big boomers go the way of the dinosaurs? Probably not, but we predict that, in future 600-yard matches, more guys will be shooting 17-pounders in both classes, Light and Heavy.
That said, you have to admire the engineering that goes into the big rigs. They are awesome to behold, and exciting to shoot. Sitting behind one of the big boomers is like strapping into the cockpit of a top fuel dragster. Our favorite Heavy Gun at the Sacramento Nationals was Warren Stalling's fabulous Shehane-stocked Maxi. Below we show this beautiful behemoth, in all its glory. At 600 yards, bigger may not be better, but it still looks great.
Topics: NBRSA, 600 Yards, 600-yard, 600, Benchrest, Bench Rest, Tube Gun, 6BR, 6mm BR, 6BRX, BRX, 6mm Dasher, Dasher, Norma, Lapua, 6x47, 6-6.5x47, 6.5x284, 6.5-284, Jerry Tierney, Sacramento, Sac Valley, Sloughhouse, Championship, Skip Talbot, Ed Eckhoff, Shilen, Krieger, Eliseo, R5, Tubegun, Tube Guan, Highpower, High power, NRA, Prone stock, Stiller Precision, BAT Machine, Nightforce, U.S. Optics, Berger Bullets, 130 VLD, 108 Berger, Don Nielson, Scenar, 123 grain, Hodgdon, Varget, H4831, H4350, ADI, Extreme Powder, Lapua Brass, no turn neck, neck-turning, Recoil Lug, .308 Winchester, 7.62x51, 308, Stainless, French Walnut, 6.5 mm, 6.5-08, Rem 260, 260 Rem, 6mmBR, 6BR Improved, 6.5-284, Switch-barrel.
Photography: All photos and videos for this article were shot with a $140.00 Canon A60 2-megapixel camera. Settings were -1/3 EV, Auto ASA, Auto White Balance,"Vivid" color setting, Exposure Auto or F/8 on manual.