VOLUME 31-----------JANUARY 2005
SHOOTIN', HUNTIN', AND RELOADIN'
WITH THE OL' MISSOURI HILLBILLY
Happy New Year! Hope your Holidays have been as good to you as ours have to us! Family, Good Food, Good Health, and Gift Exchanges: It don't get no better'n that!
Here it is January, and we've had no winter weather to speak of. Had a couple of early snow storms, one of which was supposed to be a doozy, but they only generated 3 or 4 inches of snow each. After that, we had a stretch of warmer than normal temps, accompanied by a 10 day ordeal of fog and miserable drizzle. The last couple of weeks though, have given us some sunshine and very little moisture. The skiers are bitchin', but I like it!
Our hunting is pretty much over for the winter, unless an unlucky or extremely stupid coyote shows himself in sight of the house. Those pocket gophers that I battled all summer don't hibernate and are active all winter, but they are safe for now. Even though the temperature has been above normal, it's still too cold to sit out in the wind and watch a dang gopher hole!
Speaking of gopher hunting; I guess Rick and Christi must have been embarrassed by my gopher hunting equipment. Heck, I didn't see anything wrong with wanderin' around the Ranch carryin' a crippled lawn chair, a shotgun, and a blue plastic bucket to hold the rest of my stuff!
Anyway, one of my Christmas packages contained a camouflage painted bucket, with a padded swivel seat. Now I can dump the lawn chair, put my gear and ammo in the bucket, and do my gopher huntin' in style! I may even wear my camo coyote huntin' outfit and really do it up first class!
New Gopher Huntin' Seat
I guess time will tell, but I do have a couple of concerns. One, if I set that camo bucket down to dig out a gopher hole, will I ever be able to find it again? Two, if I get lost or break a leg while wearing my camo coyote huntin' clothes, will the Little Heifer be able to find ME? (Perhaps the better question is: Will she even look?)
I get a little amused at manufacturers puttin' that camo finish on everything from knives to GPS units. Hell, if I drop one of them expensive little suckers in the woods, I don't wanta' be able to not see it!
The Ranch deer hunting was pretty much covered in the December Newsletter, but we did see some familiar characters the other day. Short Tail was behind the house with a big smile on her face, so we assume she had a successful procreative season. That same day Four-Horn and Spike, along with another little fork horn buck were desolately sparring around in Larry's pasture. They weren't smilin', so we're thinkin' they just didn't have the stuff to entice the ladies away from the bigger boys! Oh well; better luck next year, guys!
Ann and I cut the loins and backstraps out of our deer to slice into steaks, and had the rest processed into pepperoni sausage sticks. Tim's Specialty Meats in Coeur d'Alene, ID did the processing and the sausage turned out great; pretty spicy but excellent.
We are not particularly fond of the taste of fresh venison killed in this part of the world. That's why we either have it processed into sausage and jerky, or give it away to friends who like it. We have eaten and relished the steaks, chops, and burger from Missouri whitetails and Colorado mule deer, but these Northeast Washington whitetails just have a wild, gamey flavor that we dislike.
My goal this year, and the reason for cutting the steaks, was to develop a preparation method that would make the meat edible, without the expense of having it made into sausage.
After researching some of Little Heifer's cookbook collection for marinade recipes, Ann and I settled on a combination of two book recipes, and then added several ingredients that weren't in either. Believe it or not, both the base recipes were for a chicken marinade!
The end result was venison steak that was not only edible, but darn good! (When Ann devours two or three thick backstrap steaks at one sitting, you know they're good.) Next year's venison crop will be home processed into more steaks and chops, and Tim's Meats will get less for sausage makin's.
Recipes should properly be posted in Ann's Corner, but I'm gonna put in a nice little one cell table and insert my marinade recipe here anyway.
Well, so much for that idea. Hopefully I can prevail upon the Little Heifer to put the dang recipe in HER area!
Anyway, it's time for a little gun talk!
As I reported in the December Newsletter, my crippled (oops! I meant to say 'physically challenged') buck was shot with a Browning Stainless Stalker, and I intended to expound upon this rifle in that edition. Believe it or not, however, I became so long winded with the rest of the December tales that the gun story never made it! (I really don't understand this. I have NEVER been afflicted with the malady of long-windedness before!)
The rifle in question is a left hand A-Bolt II in .338 Winchester Magnum, that I purchased from a dealer in Missoula, Montana in August of 1995. The Stainless Stalker moniker, means it has all stainless steel metal and a black composite stock. At the time I was looking for a larger caliber than my 7MM Mag, for elk hunting duties. This rifle also sported Browning's then new, Ballistic Optimizing Shooting System® (B.O.S.S.)
For those not familiar with the B.O.S.S., it consists of an adjustable weight on the end of the barrel, with numbered graduations that allow it to be threaded in or out and locked in position. The theory is, that by adjusting the weight, the rifle can be 'tuned' to any chosen load or bullet, by controlling barrel vibrations, thereby squeezing as much accuracy out of that load as possible. In its original form, the adjustable weight was drilled with multiple angled holes, to also act as a recoil reducing muzzle brake.
I chose a Leupold Vari X II, 3 to 9 power variable scope, which was mounted by the dealer before delivery.
I had no plans to reload for this rifle, so I purchased a goodly supply of Winchester Supreme factory ammo with a 225 grain Fail Safe® bullet. This bullet is a proven performer on game. Testimonials by several nationally known gun writers, indicate that it provides good expansion and deep penetration on any size animal, and performs well through a wide range of velocities.
Now to the shooting bench to get this baby tuned up for fall hunting seasons. Shooting from sandbagged rests, I soon discovered that the muzzle brake did indeed make the rifle recoil like a pussycat for a .338. It also made the muzzle blast so obnoxious that it verged on painful; this with top of the line shooting muffs, AND foam earplugs!
As I shot up a 'goodly portion' of that 'goodly supply' of expensive factory ammo, and adjusted that B.O.S.S. thingy in and out, I also discovered something else; the rifle wasn't shootin' worth a damn either! Heck, as a kid, I could throw rocks into a 10 or 12 inch group at 100 yards!
Back to the drawing board! When I had thoroughly cleaned the rifle before going to the bench, I noticed nothing out of the ordinary that would explain this miserable performance. Another dismantling and parts inspection left any apparent cause still a mystery.
After putting everything back together, I noticed that the fore stock seemed overly flexible. It took very little upward pressure to cause the end of the stock to contact the barrel.
BINGO! Now I have a clue.
According to Browning's literature, a completely free floating barrel is necessary to make the B.O.S.S. adjustments work as advertised! When the rifle was placed in the normal shooting position on the front sandbag rest, just the weight of the rifle was flexing the stock enough to cause contact in two places within the barrel channel, obviously negating the concept of 'free floating.' This speaks well of close fitting tolerances, but not too well for the rigidity of the stock. No wonder it don't work!
In fairness, I should pause here to note that the composite stock on the Browning is one of the first available out of the factory, and the 'state of the art' has improved greatly since then. Current technology makes composite stocks much more rigid than earlier efforts, while retaining the light weight and stability that we desire.
All of the above prompted a call to the customer service department at the Browning facility in Utah. My initial query, after the usual, model, caliber, serial number ritual, went something like this: "I understand that the barrel on this rifle must be 'free floating' for the B.O.S.S. to work properly, yet when I shoot from a sandbag rest the weight of the rifle causes the fore end to flex enough to contact the barrel. Should I relieve the barrel channel a little, or what?"
Customer service guy's response: " Oh no, don't do that. Just don't shoot it off the sandbags."
Am I in trouble here or what?
After a pause to recover from this dose of dumb ass, I replied, "Not shooting from the sandbags aint an option, now what do you suggest?"
"Ship it to our service department and let us take a look at it, " my learned friend responded.
At this point my Browning confidence level is not real high! I told the guy I would think about it, and started looking for my small rattail file!
After some judicious file work, the barrel channel was relieved in the two trouble spots, so that the stock no longer contacted the barrel, and still didn't look like you could throw a cat through the crack.
The next bench session began to show that the B.O.S.S. concept really does work. After shooting another 'goodly portion' of that 'goodly supply' of ammo, I had the rifle consistently shooting 3 shot groups around an inch to inch and a quarter at 100 yards. I can live with that level of accuracy in a .338!
What continued to be hard to live with, was that awful muzzle blast! After one trip to the backstop to change targets, I mistakenly began another group with the muffs lying on the bench instead of clamped on my ears! Believe me, you'll only do that once with this sucker!
There was no elk hunting opportunity that year, so I decided to use the Browning for deer. I had the crosshairs on a nice buck the last evening of late season. The range was about 60 yards, and this was a 'done deal' with a squeeze of the trigger. Suddenly the deer disappeared from my scope's field of view!
A .300 Magnum bullet through the neck will cause that 'drop from sight' thing! I guess Rick decided that buck would look better on his wall than mine, 'cause he had beaten me to the draw. At any rate, the Browning remained a virgin with regard to live game, found its way into the back row of the gun safe, and was kind of forgotten.
A couple of years later, the Browning folks came out with an optional version of the B.O.S.S., that eliminated the muzzle brake. They called it the 'Conventional Recoil' B.O.S.S. The new adjustable weight part was also made available as an aftermarket item; apparently, for those like me, who had bitched about the noise. I ordered one for the .338, and put it in a gun parts drawer for later installation and trial.
Well, other priorities interfered, and that project found its way into the back row of my mental gun safe. (One of the interfering priorities happened to be the introduction of Remington's new .338 ULTRA Mag, and its availability in a Left Hand Model 700; I just had to have one of those, and that may have diverted my attention somewhat.)
While doing some load development for some other rifles before hunting season, I ran on to the new B.O.S.S. part, and decided it was time to see how it worked. I dug out the Browning, installed the part in place of the muzzle brake, and headed to the range. It shot into about an inch and a half without further adjustment, and that really obnoxious muzzle blast was pretty much gone.
Here is the new version installed, with the old muzzle brake at top
Yes, the Browning's recoil was somewhat heavier without the brake, but wasn't bothersome. I guess this is a real life example of everything being relative. I had put several test rounds through the aforementioned Remington .338 Ultra Mag the previous week, and that kickin' son of a gun makes a .338 Win Mag feel tame in comparison!
Another lesson learned, and another opportunity to utilize one of my 'gun nut' toys came out of this shooting session though. I found myself having to twist the rifle a bit to align the scope's crosshairs with the lines on the sight-in target. The scope had been mounted in the rings with a very slight clockwise twist which only became apparent with my current range equipment.
Since this rifle was last shot from the bench, I have built a new target stand, and am now shooting off a Bench Master shooting cradle for my target work. The target stand is plumbed up with a carpenter's level, the Bench Master cradle has a built in vial and bubble level, and it holds the rifle in a perfectly upright position when properly adjusted. So, if I have to twist the rifle, somethin' aint right!
Back in the gun room, with the rifle in a cleaning cradle, a Segway Reticle Leveler was attached, and the misalignment, though slight, became apparent.
The Segway Reticle Leveler
In use, the metal bar at the bottom of the tool, indexes on the scope mount base, and the horizontal crosshair is aligned with the marks on the fixture. The next picture is the leveler attached to the rifle. I found that the camera could not focus on the crosshairs and the stadia lines at the same time, but hopefully this blurry compromise will give you a rough idea of how it works.
Segway Leveler In Action
So why the big deal about a scope being rotated a few degrees from level? Ever remember reading or hearing an admonishment about not canting the rifle when shooting? Well, after turning the scope to a level position, this rifle shot a full two and a half inches left of the previous point of impact! This might not be a big deal on a deer sized target, but it'll cause you to miss a lot of prairie dogs; precisely the reason many serious varmint shooters mount a tiny level on top of their high powered scopes!
Oh yes, one other personal decision came out of this experience. Having accumulated the proper tools, I now mount all my scopes personally! Usually the guy at the gun shop means well, but sometimes doesn't have the expertise to do this job correctly. Besides, two people rarely hold and fire a rifle in exactly the same way, and there are some critical adjustments that need to be tailored to exactly the way you do it!
Anyway, that's the story of the Browning Stainless Stalker. Maybe this summer I'll tinker with that B.O.S.S. some more and try to make a one hole shooter out of it. As I wrote last month, it killed my buck, so it does work!
Now, for those who want to poke fun at me for using a .338 Win Mag to shoot a lil' ol' whitetail deer, here's this month's hillbilly wisdom; straight from the Ol' Missouri Hillbilly hisself:
I aint never killed a critter too dead, no matter what caliber I used!
I guess my next chore will be to find out how much begging and groveling I'll have to do to get my marinade recipe posted in Ann's Corner.
Well, It's time to shut down here, So . . . .
'Til next time, Keep 'em shootin' straight, shoot 'em often, and above all, BE SAFE!!!!!