600 Yard BR
The 6mm BR is the Caliber of Choice for the New NBRSA Distance
|600-yard benchrest was officially adopted as a new sanctioned benchrest discipline by the NBRSA in 2003. The rules are basically the same as for 1000-yard shooting in terms of scoring and gun classifications. Light Guns must not exceed 17 lbs. with scope while Heavy gun class weight is unlimited.
We think 600-yard competition is the most interesting and exciting of all the benchrest formats. Why? Well, first because it is new. The 600-yard distance is "uncharted territory", and we are seeing a lot of innovation as shooters experiment with chamberings, barrel lengths, twist rates, and bullet types to see what works best for the distance.
Second, we like the fact that 600-yard competition is unpredictable; no one caliber dominates, unlike 100/200 yard BR where the 6PPC is king. A .17-caliber wildcat took top honors in a recent Midwest 600-yard match, drubbing the rest of the field by a large margin. On the other hand, we've seen 600-yard wins by .308s and even .300 win mags. Still, nothing is winning more matches, with smaller Aggs, than the 6mm BRs. At the first-ever NBRSA 600-yard Nationals last year, a 6BR shot the smallest group in Light Gun and 6BRs posted most of the best Aggs.
The Long and the Short of It
600-yard BR offers a true "half-way" distance that attracts shooters from both short-range and 1000-yard camps. For decades there were the 6PPC guys and the 1000-yard thunder-stick shooters operating in separate worlds. Now we're seeing both groups shoulder to shoulder on the 600-yard firing line. As a result, both types of shooters are now sharing their secrets and learning from one another.
You also get to see different philosophies in practice. It's like going to a drag race and seeing some cars with front-mounted engines and some with rear engines. Variety is the spice of life. Each group of shooters still operates with its own set of preconceptions of course. The 6PPC guys like to send light, short flat-based bullets at high velocities. For the long-distance crowd, a bullet's ability to "buck the wind" is a cornerstone of their religion, so they shoot high-BC bullets from fast-twist barrels.
So far, both strategies have shown merit. When the winds are calm or steady, 6mm flat-based bullets can smoke the rest of the field, delivering 5-shot groups under 2". When winds are erratic, a high-BC 6mm Clinch River may be the best choice. One of our readers, Larry Isenhour, recently posted a 1.7" "best group" at a 600-yard match at Piedmont (NC). He wrote us:
"I compete at 600 yards and enjoy it as much or more than 1000yd shooting. One has the opportunity to shoot more. As of now all I have used is my 1000yd load, (31gr N540, Clinch River 100gr VLD and Fed 205s). You're right, no one caliber dominates, but last match at Piedmont I had small group of the match with a 1.7 inch. We have a 600-yard match this coming Saturday and I plan to try some 80gr Fowlers and 88gr Bergers."
And the winner is . . .
With one year of official 600-yard competition behind us, there does appear to be one clear trend--the cartridge to beat, more times than not, is the good old 6mm BR. The reason is quite simple. The 6mm BR brings the pinpoint accuracy of a 6PPC to the game, but it can also shoot the wind-cheating VLDs.
At the NBRSA Sacramento 600 match on 8/22/04 for example, 76-year-old Ken Schroeder, shooting a 6BR, won Light Gun with a 3.275" aggregate. The winning Heavy Gun Agg was nearly twice as big--a 6.220" shot with a 6.5-284. Schroeder's 6BR also posted the smallest group in match, a 2.049". That was HALF the size of the best Heavy Gun group (a 4.041" by another 6.5-284). These little 6BR cartridges can shoot!
We shouldn't be surprised by this, because Euro shooters learned long ago that the 6mm BR was the very best caliber for shooting at 300 meters. A round that combines low recoil, bughole accuracy, and good ballistics is what works best at 300m. All indications are that this holds true for 600 yards as well.
Time will tell of course, but if you plan to campaign a rifle at 600 yards this coming season, you can't pick a better one than a 6BR, either standard case or improved. Most 6BR shooters are still going with the 1:8 twist, 107gr MatchKing combo, but 1:10 twist barrels with lighter bullets, such as the 95gr Berger VLD, have been very promising. 6mmBR.com contributors Bob Crone, Danny Reever and Mark Schronce have all won matches at distances from 400 yards to 600 yards shooting lighter bullets from ten twist barrels. We shall see if that is the set-up to beat in the months ahead.
400-500 yard Egg Shoots by Mark Schronce
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