Light-Weight, Short-Action Repeater for Hunting, and Tac Comps
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Canadian Shooter Kyle Herranen wanted a double-duty rifle, a gun that could harvest game AND perform competitively in tactical and F-class matches. He chose the .284 Winchester because it is an efficient cartridge with good barrel life and a wide selection of superior hunting and match projectiles. Observing that the .284 Winchester was originally designed for short actions, Kyle built his .284 on a short action. This helped him achieve his goal of a versatile rifle that weighs just 10 pounds, complete with scope. Kyle's project gun demonstrates what a .284 can do with modern bullets and propellants. This is an impressive, dual-purpose firearm that excels both as a long-range hunter and as a tactical rig.
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Short Action .284 Win for Hunting and Tactical Use by Kyle Herranen
Project: Dual-Purpose 10-lb Tactical Hunter My goal, with this rifle project, was to build a dual-purpose, tactical and long-range hunting rifle for whitetail deer, moose, and elk. I wanted superb 7mm ballistics in a medium-weight carry rifle that weighed no more than 10 pounds all-up with scope. For both hunting use and tactical comps, the rifle needed to have a detachable box magazine (DBM), and it had to feed smoothly and reliably. Premium components were to be used such as a Surgeon SA repeater action, Jewel HVR trigger, Krieger barrel, McMillan A3 stock, and Leupold VX-3 6.5-20x40mm LR scope. In choosing optics, I wanted a light-weight, medium-power scope for shots out to 600 yards.
Rifle Specifications -- All the Hardware The receiver is a Surgeon Rifles short action (SA) repeater with integral recoil lug and scope rail. The lug and rail are machined into the body of the action, with the integral rail helping to maintain rigidity in the hollow-bottom repeater action. The bottom metal is manufactured by Badger Ordnance and utilizes a 5-shot Accuracy International (AI) magazine with a maximum Cartridge Overall Length (COAL) of 2.90". This action and bottom metal were chosen based on Surgeon's and Badger's tight machining tolerances and reputation for reliable feeding.
Fitted to the action is an Arnold Jewel HVR trigger with top safety, set at 1.5-2 pounds. Because this is a hunting rifle, the safety was an absolute necessity. The trigger does not have a bolt stop as the Surgeon action is outfitted with one.
The barrel is a #5 contour stainless Krieger with a 1:9" twist. The #5 contour is the smallest Krieger will machine a 7mm stainless steel barrel. I chose to finish the barrel at 25" length. This may seem short to F-Class and prone shooters, but remember I must carry the gun in the field while hunting. The 25" length strikes a compromise between velocity potential and weight. Dave Kiff at Pacific Tool and Gauge supplied the .284 Win reamer. Grant Schick smithed the rifle.
Stock Choice and Optics The barreled action was skim-bedded with Devcon to a McMillan A3 stock in 40% olive drab, 30% black, and 30% light tan swirl. I chose McMillan's A3 stock rather than the A4 or A5 mainly to save weight. The A3 has a shallower fore-end, making for a lighter stock. Also I did not want the butt hook found on the A4 and A5. I think a standard straight-toe stock is easier to carry. Also, I went with a fixed, rather than adjustable, length of pull (LOP) to further save on weight. All metal was finished in matte black Cerakote". For optics, I selected a Leupold VX-3, 6.5-20x40mm LR with fine duplex reticle. This may not have the light-gathering ability of a larger tactical scope with a jumbo objective, but the Leupold 6.5-20 saves weight and is reliable. The VX-3 LR is secured by Leupold Mark IV 30mm aluminum rings.
Caliber Selection -- Why the .284 Win With Charles Ballard's National 1000-yard F-class victory with a "strait" .284 Winchester, there has been renewed interest in the original .284. See his Purple Haze Gun of the Week Rifle. A .284 single shot on a LONG action throated for long VLD bullets is an extremely efficient and accurate cartridge, as Ballard and others have demonstrated. People are now commonly neck-up 6.5-284 Lapua brass for 7mm projectiles ... oh the irony. To learn more about my caliber selection, watch the video below.
Issues Peculiar to a Mag-Fed Short Action .284 Though the .284 was originally designed for a short action, a .284 built on a short action will present special challenges, compared to a long action build. I discuss some of these issues in the above video. To begin, even relatively light 140gr bullets, seated to a maximum 2.90" COAL, have bases that project below the base of the case shoulder by approximately 1/8", reducing available case capacity (see slide show further down this page). A 160gr Nosler Accubond's base sits roughly 1/4" below the base of the case shoulder. And when the 162gr Hornady A-Max is seated to a COAL of 2.90", the bullet's ogive is actually just below the mouth of the case neck. You can view this in the slide-show below.
Furthermore, many people believe the sharp 35°-shouldered case poses feeding problems. This is the steepest shoulder ever produced by an American manufacturer. Secondly, the rebated rim is thought to be difficult to feed from a magazine that is designed for the narrower .308 cartridges.
Cartridge Feeding -- Feed-lip Fix As I explain in the video above, I am only able to get four .284 Win cases into the nominal 5-shot .308 Win Accuracy International (AI) magazine. Maximum mag-compliant COAL is 2.90". When the rifle was first assembled the bolt would grab the cartridge from the mag and then quickly jam as the bolt slipped over the case. The magazine feed lips needed to be bent open in order to raise the height of the case in the action. Once the feed lips where opened enough the action fed very smoothly.
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Case Prep -- Sorting and Neck-Turning the Winchester-Brand Brass So far I've been using Winchester-headstamp .284 brass, though I will be trying necked-up Lapua 6.5-284 brass in the future. The Winchester brass is pretty good, but it needs attention. Out of the box, the necks on my Winchester-brand brass measured anywhere from .313" to .315" with a round seated. I brought them all to .313" loaded which cleaned up about 80-90% of each neck. A few, maybe 20 per 100, allowed for a full 100% clean up. Dave Kiff cut my reamer with a .317" neck, giving me .002" per side of neck/chamber clearance, which is ideal. It has been said by a few respected builders/shooters that too tight tolerances in neck/chamber can create accuracy problems with the .284. I followed this advice. After my brass were turned, primer pockets uniformed, flash holes deburred, trimmed to length, and chamfered, I weight-sorted the brass into one grain increments (see photo below). Luckily, I got two groups of 50 cases that weighed within one grain of each other. I started with 200 cases, culled 22 that had flash holes punched off-center, dented necks, or primer pockets that were too deep -- as to those, a Sinclair uniformer would not touch the bottom of the primer pocket at all.
Load Development with H4350, H4831sc, Reloder 17
Hunting Bullet of Choice -- 160gr Accubond With a target COAL of 2.80" and mag-restricted max COAL of 2.90", I was unsure if I could reach acceptable velocities due to the limited case capacity. When it came time to choose a proven low-drag hunting bullet, Nosler's 160gr Accubond appeared to be a great candidate. It has a very impressive G1 BC of .531. It just so happens that 7mm bullets ideally suited for hunting in the 140gr to 160gr range have very high BCs, with the 160gr Accubond being the highest. Other noteworthy Accubond features are the solid base-design jacket that produces reliable expansion, and the pointed polymer tip that should resist deformation when feeding from a magazine.
3-Way Powder Comparison One of my initial strategies in developing a load for the 160gr Accubonds was to use small grain powders such as Hodgdon's H4831SC and H4350, and of course Alliant's new Reloder 17. First up was H4831SC. My worst nightmares came true as I sat down to load my first set of cases after fire-forming. The max powder charge that would fit in the case with a 2.90" COAL was 53 grains. With H4831SC, 53 grains was such a compressed load that I could not maintain a consistent 2.90" COAL. Many of the cases would come out 5 to 10 thousandths longer. This was discouraging because Hodgdon lists 55.5 grains as being the max non-compressed charge with a 2.87" COAL. To simplify matters, it turns out that 53 grains plus/minus 1gr was all the powder I could fit in the case with a 160gr bullet and a COAL of 2.90" for the Hodgdon powders.
Load Specs: Winchester case, Win Large Primer, .310" neck bushing, 2.165" brass caselength, loaded with Redding FL die and Competition seater. Here are my findings, using a Chrony Beta Master set 10 feet from muzzle. Conditions: 77° F (25° C), 55% RH.
Powder Comparison Tests with Nosler 160gr Accubonds
Conclusion -- Reloder 17 is the Speed King Reloder 17 has given new life to the short action .284 Winchester, offering a clear velocity edge. Of the three powders tested I was able to get more RL17 into the case than H4831SC, and H4350. 53 grains of powder was the maximum allowable powder charge with the two Hodgdon powders. H4831SC was the bulkiest and ended up the most compressed charge. All else being equal (and with the same powder load by weight), RL17 is 73fps faster than H4350 and an amazing 305fps faster than H4831SC.
H4831SC: 53.0 gr = 2670 fps
H4350: 53.0 gr = 2902 fps
Reloder 17: 53.0 gr = 2975 fps
I still have not mentioned accuracy or other bullets. I am also going to try 162gr Hornady A-Maxs. (See Long Bullet Testing Report below). Up till now the testing has only been to determine which powder will get me to an acceptable velocity range with a short action mag-length COAL. I will continue accuracy testing with Reloder 17 between 2800 fps and 3000 fps with the Nosler 160s and Hornady 162s. Thus far, things are looking promising, but there's considerable room for improvement. I'll keep you updated as I perform more tests and (hopefully) find the accuracy node for each bullet. Any comments or questions are greatly appreciated.
.284 Winchester Cartridge History
The .284 Winchester has a somewhat odd history. It was first developed by Winchester in 1963 to fit their short action Model 100 autoloader and Model 88 lever action rifles. Winchester's original objective was to create a short-action cartridge that rivaled the ballistics of the 280 Remington. In order to accomplish that goal, the case needed greater powder capacity than was previously available in any non-magnum, short action chambering. The case has an expanded width of .500" at the web while maintaining the .308 Win bolt face diameter of .473", creating what is called a "rebated rim". The near absence of case taper, along with a steep 35° shoulder yields (according to the books) 66.0 grains of powder capacity. This approaches the 68.6 grain book capacity of the 280 Remington, the 67.4 grain capacity of the 270 Winchester, and the 68.0 grain capacity of the venerable 30-06.
The .284 Winchester, in its original form, never achieved great popularity. The Winchester model 88 and model 100 were not particularly successful and so the .284 Win cartridge never really caught on. That is however, until wildcatters realized its potential and began both necking-up and necking-down the squat, sharp-shouldered .284 case. Long-range varminters and benchresters necked down the .284 to 6mm, and the 6mm-284 set a number of records in its heyday. And of course, when Norma standardized the 6.5mm version of the case, the 6.5-284 became one of the most popular and successful long-range match cartridges ever. The 6.5-284 remains the cartridge of choice for the U.S. F-Class team and it can compete with anything out to 1000 yards, particularly when high-quality Lapua 6.5-284 brass is used.
In terms of match victories, the 6.5-284 is still the most successful derivative of the .284 Winchester, but in the last few years, we've seen renewed interest in the straight .284, shot with high-BC, 175-180 grain bullets. Charles Ballard has used the straight .284 to win the 2008 F-Class Nationals (Open Class) and the 2009 Spirit of America F-Open match. With the recent release of Alliant Reloder 17 powder, .284 Win shooters can now push 180gr bullets to 2950 fps and beyond--velocities considered unobtainable just two years ago. New shooting disciplines, new bullets, and new powders have all contributed to the resurgence of the .284 Winchester.
Load Development with Longer Bullets
Pursuit of 3000 FPS with Reloder 17 When a COAL of 2.890 is maintained with Hornady 162gr AMax bullets, the absolute maximum case capacity is 54.4 grains of Reloder 17. When 54.6 grains was tried, I could no longer maintain repeatable COALs due to a very compressed load. I start to get slight but acceptable pressure signs at 53.6 grains, and my maximum powder charge of 54.2 grains gave me very high pressure signs and I had to stop. 54.4 grains would be unsafe, in this rifle, with mag-length restrictions on COAL. Here are results with 3-shot groups, and incrementally increasing RL17 powder charges.
Load Specs: Winchester case, Winchester Large Primer, .310 neck bushing, 2.165" brass case length, loaded with Redding FL die and Competition seater. Tested at 10 feet from muzzle with a Chrony Beta Master. Conditions: 82° F (28° C); 50% RH.
Will the 7mm, 180gr Berger VLDs work? The stated .659 BC (G1) of the 180gr Berger VLD looks enticing, but the long bullet robs case capacity when loaded to short action magazine length. On the other hand, shorter 7mm bullets can be loaded to mag-length and still offer good performance. When a tangent ogive bullet such as the 160gr Nosler Accubond is seated to a COAL of 2.890", the ogive (end of bearing surface) is approximately .020" above the top of the case neck. When a secant ogive bullet such as the 162gr A-max is loaded to the same COAL, the bearing surface actually ends slightly below the top of the case neck. This is due to the greater distance from bullet tip to ogive. The nose length (ogive to bullet tip) of the 180gr Berger is 0.764 which is very similar to Hornady's 162gr A-Max. So there would be no problem seating a bullet with enough neck to bearing surface tension. However, the extra length of the Berger 180gr VLD (1.525" OAL vs. 1.420" OAL of the A-Max) would limit case capacity further by 0.105". This would diminish effective case capacity by roughly 5.0 grains of Reloder 17, reducing velocity while at the same time increasing pressure because you would still have heavily compressed loads.
Shooting in Saskatchewan -- Hunting and F-Class
I live in Canada's Saskatchewan Province, located between Alberta to the west and Manitoba to the east. The Canadian prairie of Saskatchewan (SK) has a lot to offer the long range shooter. The vast, wide open fields and expansive gullies offer many extreme long-range shooting opportunities for both the hunter and precision target shooter.
Hunting on the Canadian prairie is challenging yet rewarding. Saskatchewan is renowned for its world-record-size whitetail deer. With acres upon acres of flat farm land, and ever increasing numbers of whitetails, Saskatchewan provides truly exceptional opportunities for long-range hunting. On the prairie, heavy-for-caliber, high ballistic coefficient bullets are preferred for their wind-bucking ability. For the hunter, shooting at game over wind-swept fields demands an intimate knowledge of rifle and conditions. And you want a quality-designed bullet with excellent ballistics.
F-Class Competition in Canada Historically, Canada is the birth-place of F-Class shooting. Canadian George Farquharson (hence "F"-class) was the original pioneer behind F-Class competition. In the 1990s, George convinced the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association (DCRA, Canada's NRA) to approve his idea of shooting full-bore rifles with a scope and front rest or bipod, and F-Class became one of Canadas official shooting sports. Currently, the Saskatchewan Provincial Rifle Association (SASKrifle.ca) is the governing body for fullbore and F-class shooting in Saskatchewan. The SPRA North Star range located east of Nokomis, SK has a 1200-yard firing line and is host to the Saskatchewan Provincial Championship.
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Topics: Kyle Herranen, Saskatchawan, SK, Canada, short action, Surgeon rifles, Hunter, Hunting, Nosler, Accubond, Hornady, A-max, Amax, Lapua, Winchester, McMillan, Krieger, Kreiger, F-Class, F Class, High Power, 7mm, 7 mm, 7 millimeter, .284, .284 Win, 284 Winchester, McMillan A3, Gun of the Week, Hodgdon, H4831sc, H4350, Alliant, Reloader, Reloder 17, RL17, RL 17, IBS, NBRSA, Prone, High Power, High-Power, NRA, NightForce, Leupold, Leupold VX-III, Jewell trigger, Benchrest, BR, Bench Rest, Single-shot, competition, rifle accuracy, Norma, CCI BR2, BR-4, Hodgdon Powder, H 4350, H 4831, H4831sc, CCI BR, Berger, Berger VLD, Lapua, stocks, Action, stainless barrel, reloading, powder, case forming, neck-turning, Lapua Brass, Berger bullets, precision.