Baney's 6BR--the "Lil' Big Gun"
World Open Heavy Gun Winner
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Jason Baney, our 1000-yard Editor, proved that "less is more" with his little 15.6-pound 6BR. On July 7-8, Jason captured the Heavy Gun (HG) Overall title in the ultra-competitive World Open Match at Williamsport, PA. Competing against large, heavy (50+ lb) big-bore rifles with unlimited stocks, Jason notched fourth in HG for score and fourth for group to garner the Heavy Gun Grand Champion title, besting some 140 talented shooters. He did that with brass essentially right out of the box, with a no-turn neck chamber, shooting a caliber many people consider "under-powered" for the 1000-yard game. Awesome shooting, Jason. This just proves that the little 6BR cartridge is capable of some amazing performance when delivered from a quality rifle by a very talented shooter.
Jason's 6BR during load development. At the World Open it had a Leupold LRT on top, boosted to 20-50X by Premier.
Multi-Discipline 6BR--From Concept to World Open Winner
by Jason Baney
From the Beginning
Interestingly, this rifle project was one of the original inspirations for launching this web site (6mmbr.com | Accurateshooter.com). Way back in the summer of 2004, your editor (Paul) and I were both thinking about building new 6mm BR rifles for Varmint and 600-yard matches. Paul had collected load data and assorted information about gear, dies, and gunsmiths. He said, "I could put up a few pages on the web so you could access them more easily--should take a couple weekends--no sweat." Well about 3500 man-hours later--here we are with 650+ pages of content and thousands of readers worldwide. And my original 6BR project gun has finally been completed and tested in competitions. Its performance has far exceeded my expectations. Versatile, and wicked accurate, this rifle was a winner from Day One. Of course I have to credit Mark King for his great gunsmithing work on the gun.
Paul and I both considered a variety of components, but the only thing we knew for sure back then was that we wanted to try a Broughton 5C 8-twist barrel for our project rifles. The only problem was, Broughton didn't yet offer a 5C in 6mm 8-twist. Well, a call to Tim North revealed that he would actually be receiving an 8-twist button in late August of 2004. We both ordered barrels and within a few weeks, we each had one of the first 6mm 8-twist Broughton 5C barrels.
Next up was the action--which turned out to cause the main delay in the project. I had been talking with a fellow about an all-new action, a cute little single-shot (now, finally, in production). Unfortunately, delivery times kept getting pushed back due to new business woes--understandable. Almost a year passed with no assured delivery date, so I decided to give Jerry Stiller (Stiller Precision) a call. I wanted a stainless, RBLP Diamondback. As luck would have it, Jerry had one in stock and it was soon in my hands.
Stock and Chamber Choices for a Double-Duty Rifle
I wanted to get the most "bang for my buck", and therefore wanted two different stocks so I could use the gun in several different applications. One stock would be a long-range BR stock, and the other, a tactical/field oriented stock. This rifle was to serve as mainly a GroundHog Shoot rifle, as well as a back-up Light Gun for Williamsport 1000-yard BR. I also might use the 6BR (in tactical trim) at the Allegheny Sniper Challenge (ASC), a field expedient, unknown-distance, steel match in West Virginia. For this "tactical role", I wanted to be able to use factory Lapua 6BR loaded ammo. That meant a "no-turn" chamber.
Because of my requirements, several compromises had to be made. A lighter contour, 28" barrel was used (7.4 contour). Also, a straight 6mmBR, no-turn 0.272" neck chamber was used with 0.113" freebore to take the heavy bullets, and fit the factory ammunition.
Well, I had made a fairly easy decision to go with a McMillan A5 for the field stock, and ordered it to fit the original action (Remington footprint). True to form, this project changed directions once again. The Diamondback would not fit the Rem 700 inlet, so the stock wasn't suitable, and I was running out of time before match season. So the A5 was sold, and a new one (inletted for the Diamondback) was ordered. But now I was 14 weeks out, waiting on a stock again, and the GroundHog Match and BR seasons were fast approaching. Initially, I was going to fit the A5 first and then decide which BR stock to use, but due to time constraints, I decided to start with the BR stock first, and install the A5 when it finally showed up.
After a glance at this site's Sponsor list, I decided to order a new LowRider stock from Richard's Custom Rifles. Richard promised me a fully-inletted stock in under two weeks--and that's just what he delivered. I was hoping the LowRider, with its advanced design, would make the little un-braked 6BR track like it was on rails. At right is a photo showing a different LowRider laminated stock. This shows the vertical "step" just forward of the action plus the integral "rails" on the fore-end. The relieved area between the side rails allows the stock to track cleanly on the front bag, even if the bag is bulged a bit in the center.
I wasn't disappointed. The LowRider is extremely stable on the bags, with its ultra-low profile. The front "rails" perform as advertised. Once I obtained a rear bag that was sized right for the rear of the LowRider, I found I could free recoil the 6BR with great success. Even with its 28" barrel, the gun tracks like a dream with very little hop and minimal torque effect.
Optics--First Sightron, Then Leupold
During initial testing with the rifle, I fitted a 36X Sightron Benchrest Scope. Later I swapped in my Leupold LRT, boosted to 20-50X by Premier Reticles. I liked the extra magnification, and the ability to zoom down the power when necessary. There's nothing real tricky about my scope set-up, though I have rotated the scope 90 degrees counter-clockwise. This way I don't have to reach over the rifle to get at the windage turret. With my mounting setup, I had just enough clearance under the scope to do just that with a 20-50x50 Leupold LRT. After the scope was turned and remounted, the marked turret covers were simply switched, so now the old windage turret runs elevation, and vice-versa. This makes the parallax a little harder to adjust, as it is now at the 6 O'clock position between the scope and action, but it is really no problem at all when you are shooting at known distances, as in a BR match. Set the parallax once and you're good to go.
|Reloading Methods or "Who Needs Case Prep?"|
This gun was intended to be a field rifle as well as a BR gun. Therefore I wanted a very simple loading regimen. This way I could load up a large amount of ammo for a tactical match (or varmint hunt) with the minimum amount of effort. I want to emphasize that my reloading methodology is very basic. I inspect the flash holes, but do not ream the primer pockets or flash holes. I weight-sort the brass, but do not turn necks. Basically the only thing I do to my 6BR cases (after weight segregation) is to chamfer the necks inside and out. After fire-forming, I size the cases with a Harrell's full-length die with bushings. This is similar to a Redding Type 'S' FL bushing die. I run about .001-.0015" neck tension. Bullets are seated with a Wilson stainless, micrometer seating die. It is outstanding. I don't tumble my brass after firing. Instead I clean the cases, inside and out, using the ultrasonic cleaning method I've described in this article.
When loading for Benchrest matches I do sort bullets by bearing surface--if there is enough variation to justify it. With the Scenars, I think you can get away without sorting.
Load Development and Accuracy Testing
Over the year of waiting, I gathered up my rather large collection of basically every available 6mm bullet from 87gr on up, as well as some light varmint-weight bullets. Deciding which to select was very hard as I was looking at dozens of bullet styles from many different manufacturers.
I picked the 105 Scenars as I had the largest quantity of them, and a check of bearing surface uniformity was a surprising eye-opener…these were some quality bullets! [Editor's note: I purchased one thousand 105gr Scenars at the same time Jason did, from the same lot. Measuring bearing surface, 93 of 100 bullets were within .002", and the majority were within .0015". Overall length was also extremely uniform, as was weight. After doing some testing, I basically stopped sorting the bullets.]
For a beginning load, I started right off with about 30 grains of Varget and CCI 450 primers, bullets seated firmly in the lands (about .020"). Yes, you will experience lot to lot variations with Hodgdon Varget, but we've generally found that 29.5 to 30.0 is a good place to start with Varget and a standard 6mm BR case. Often, you'll find your best accuracy between 29.5 and 30.5 grains of Varget, with the 105-107 grain bullets. Your editor told me the 105 Scenars shot well when seated .020" into the lands, and that indeed produced tight groups.
I decided to do a Ladder-type load work-up at 100 yards. I ran 3-shot groups round-robin to identify nodes. Initially it looked like 30.4 grains and 31.4 grains of Varget were good accuracy points. Since the 30.4 load was under 2800 fps, I went with the hotter load (2850 fps).
>Warning: My Broughton 5C (5 canted lands) barrel seems to tolerate higher charges, and I'd rate my lot of Varget very slow. Accordingly, I strongly recommend you do NOT excede 30.5 grains of Varget with the heavy bullets. My 31.4 grain Varget load is definitely NOT recommended for most 6BR rifles.
[Editor's Note: I was quite surprised that it took a full grain more Varget for Jason to reach 2850 fps compared to my PacNor-barreled 6BR loaded with 2004-vintage Varget. We were puzzled why his velocities were slow (until he tried the Reloader 15). Nonetheless, Varget did produce excellent groups. During the course of Jason's ladder testing at 100 yards, the aggregate for all 13, 3-shot groups was 0.3 MOA at 100 yards.]
On to Competition--Four GroundHog Matches, Three Wins
As I've explained, one of the main reasons I built this gun was to shoot the 500-yard GroundHog matches that are popular here in Pennsylvania and the East Coast. I managed to get the gun together in time for the spring season at Mifflin County Sportsmans' Club. At 500 yards, my 31.4gr Varget load proved very competitive. It delivered surprisingly easy sub-2" five-shot groups at 500. I had great results with the initial load of 31.4 gr Varget, CCI 450s, and the 105 Scenars seated 0.020" in the lands, winning two of the first three GroundHog Matches I entered. Unfortunately, driver error took me out of the winner's circle in the third match, as I was unable to find the center of the target at 500 yards. Group sizes in those matches at 500 yards have been top in the class, or in one case (just mentioned) about 0.3" behind the smallest group. (At this point, unbeknownst to me, carbon fouling was beginning to give me vertical issues).
About this time, we were getting reports (confirmed by Jackie Schmidt's testing for AccurateShooter.com) that Reloader 15 might yield better velocities than Varget, so I decided to give it a try. It worked. I felt 2850-2860 was a "practical" max with Varget. With Reloader 15, I immediately picked up about 80 fps before seeing pressure signs. So, I proceeded with 30.4 grains Reloader 15 (2930 fps) and won my third GroundHog Match--making it a string of three out of four. Reloader 15 definitely gave me more velocity than Varget, and it didn't seem to pressure up as fast.
The Williamsport World Open was nearing, and I was not real happy with what the Scenars were doing at 1000 yards--though this may have been my fault as I didn't have much time to test after the carbon issue was resolved. So with a little encouragement from my smith Mark King, I made a last minute decision to switch it up, and test my bag of 106 Clinch River bullets with the Reloader 15. That meant more testing.
First up was a 500-yard ladder test, two shots per charge, fired round-robin at two different aiming points. So this way I had two separate ladders shot in reverse order to confirm how they stacked up vertically, and see if they pointed to the same charge. Well, my first ladder was rudely interrupted around shot 3 (30.3gr RL15) when fog blew in and obscured the target enough that my Dad (spotting/plotting) could not see bullet holes. Shots 3-6 in the second ladder (30.3-30.9gr RL15) hit within one-quarter inch (yes that's inch, not MOA) of vertical at 500 yards. I kid you not. Now here is where it got interesting--shots 7-9 (31.1-31.5gn RL15) landed counter-intuitively. Meaning, the slower charge hit higher on the paper, and the faster charge hit lower (around 1" total vertical on the second ladder). This was confirmed on the first ladder as well. Had I found the "perfect tune" people have been talking about? (I.e. slower shots exit higher than faster shots, and they meet up at 1000 yards.
Now on to testing at 1000 yards. Since the 500-yard ladders were shot on a cooler day (68-70° F) I decided to test a bit under the middle of the apparent node because it would most likely be nearer 80° F during the matches and push my velocities to the center of the node. At 1000 yards, I fired 5-shot groups (30.5, 30.7, 31.2 RL15) round-robin, at the same point of aim (POA) as fast as I could in fairly ideal conditions. The clear winner was 31.2 grains Reloader 15, which produced a 1.5" wide by 4" high group at 1K. 30.7 grains was just under 6", and 30.5 grains was around 9". I decided to go with the 31.2 grain load, though it was pretty tough on the brass. It runs about 2975 fps.
Baney's 6BR (right), next to a "real" 'Big 30' Heavy Gun, Dale Anesi's 60-pounder with barrel block and ultra-wide fore-end.
Initial Performance at 1000 Yards in Match Conditions--Bad Vertical
The first time I shot at Williamsport with this rifle (Match 1), I had a 3" wide, 14" high group…bummer! This is when I realized either that either carbon, or higher ambient temperatures, had pushed me way out of my tune. I decided to give RL15 a try (still not realizing my carbon issue) and shot it at the third Match. Velocity was great, but I had an 11" groups, again with way too much vertical. I knew the gun could shoot better than that, so I had to look for the source of the problem.
I was pretty sure I had a serious carbon problem. I chron'd my load and saw the velocity was way higher than I expected (+45 fps). That's a tell-tale sign of carbon build-up. So, I decided I had to attack the carbon in the throat. One patch of JB paste, and about 20 seconds of scrubbing brought velocities back to where they had started. I'm not a big fan of abrasive cleaners, so now I do a conventional brushing with a bronze brush every 40 rounds or so.
|Carbon--The Unseen Enemy--When to Bring Out the Brush|
With this rifle I employed an experimental cleaning procedure using only patches, and no ammonia-laden solvents. I would use Slip2000 Carbon Killer first, and follow that up with Wipe-Out, soaking 4-12 hours. It worked very well initially. Accuracy was excellent and there was very little throat erosion. However, near the 450-round mark, the carbon started to build up to a point that it pushed me out of the node resulting in bad vertical (near 3" at 500 yards and 12"+ at 1000 yards.) Basically, it was causing more pressure and pushing the velocities too high. The situation seems to have been rectified first with JB on a patch, and currently with the use of a bronze brush with CarbonKiller, followed by WipeOut. Let me tell you, this 6BR is some carbon fouler! (However, that's a Hawkeye sample image, not my barrel, thank god.)
|Williamsport, PA World Open--the 6BR Beats the Big Boomers|
Fast forward to the next match, the Williamsport World Open. I was feeling all right with my 4", five-shot group in load development with the Clinch Rivers, but I was a little worried where the other five would go since we shoot 10-shot groups in PA. At least I had solved the carbon problem, so I was back in tune, with the vertical under control.
Currently I am running two Light Guns (LG), a braked .284 Win at 16.42 lbs, and this un-braked 6BR at 15.6 lbs. Since our Heavy Gun (HG) rules prohibit muzzle brakes, I had to shoot my little 6BR in the HG class to compete for the Overall prizes. The Overall, or in our case dubbed, "Grand Champion" is awarded to three spots: LG Grand Champion, HG Grand Champion, and Two-Gun Grand Champion. These take into account both days' rankings in both group and score as one combined rank.
On Day One (July 8, 2006), conditions were pretty calm, with some small groups being shot. I was rewarded with a 7.3" group, 96 score. This put me second in the relay for group and score, and landed me pretty far back for day 1 standings (somewhere around 20th place for group and score). Sunday (July 9th) dawned with a good bit more wind, and some switchy conditions, and the groups reflected this. When my relay finally came up, the light conditions were as inconsistent as the wind due to the passing clouds. I was fortunate enough to pull out a 6.9" group, 97 score. This represented the smallest group and highest score in my relay.
This ended up getting me a win for HG Grand Champion as I had the best combined rankings of HG Score and HG Group for the 2-day match (4th overall score, and 4th overall group for a total of 8 points).
The Williamsport World Open's prize table is unquestionably the best you'll see. The Grand Prize for the Two-Gun Overall Champion was a $6000 Complete Heavy Gun and rest system donated by Mark King Rifles, and JB Products (John Buhay), (717) 335-2217. Joe Saltalamachia shot incredibly well to win both the LG Overall and the Two-Gun Overall. So Joe took home the Mark King rifle, but I didn't do too badly, winning a new Nightforce Scope and certificates for two new barrels.
|Baney's Basics--Lessons I Learned:|
-- Watch your carbon fouling!!
-- When you start with great brass, extensive prep may not be needed.
-- Use brushing (bronze), but sparingly (when fouling affects accuracy).
-- 100-500 yard testing with a good chronograph (Oehler 35P) tells you most of what you need, but 1000-yard load development will tell you the whole story.
-- You don't need a 100-lb beast to be competitive in the Heavy Gun class.
|Rear Bags--Finding a Good Match for the LowRider|
The new LowRider stock soon showed me it would not work well with the extra-long Protektor "Doctor" bags I used with my other bench rifles. The LowRider is cut-away in the middle of the underside of the buttstock to achieve a lower profile. But the pistol grip area and end of the stock are left full-length top to bottom. So, you have an overhang both front and rear. The extended pistol grip acts like a recoil stop, while the overhanging butt gives you a full-size recoil pad--useful with heavy-recoiling calibers. However, I soon found that the front and rear over-hangs interfered with my long-footprint rear sandbag. The Doctor bag worked great with a standard MBR-style stock (without overhangs), but it interfered with the tracking of the LowRider on recoil. So, I called Adam at Protektor and some discussion resulted in a new bag on my doorstep in about a week. This design, I thought, would suit the new LowRider stock perfectly. So far it has done all I asked. The larger bags get bumped on recoil due to the cutout and limited travel in the buttstock, but the new bag has eliminated that issue.
|When Looks Count--Finishing a Laminated Stock|
The LowRider stock came from Richard Franklin unfinished, per my request. He gave me a recommended prep routine for the stock, and I stuck with his recommendation: sand to 240 grit and coat with sanding sealer, then hit that with 240-320 grit before application of auto-body clearcoat. After NINE coats of clear and some wet-sanding by my buddy at his body shop, the stock was shiny and ready to go. The surface finish was very smooth and even, and this helped the stock glide easily in the bags. One key thing in working with any laminated stock is using a sealer of some kind. Without it, the wood, which is very porous, will just soak up the clear (or urethane if you prefer). That can lead to a mottled finish that seems muddy or cloudy. You also need to clean the stock VERY thoroughly between coats. With patience (be sure to let the stock dry completely between coats), you can get a professional-grade, mirror-like finish.
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