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Dave Morelli

Shooting Circles

Shooting circles to improve your handgunning.

Improve your aim with these simple shooting drills.

Practice drills on hostage targets.
Practice drills on hostage targets.

Although we shoot our defensive pistol at center mass, shooting it precisely is also important. Shooting groups with a pistol is fun and also helps us develop better trigger control and trigger reset ability. Trigger reset is the amount of return your finger allows on the trigger until it clicks or resets for the next shot. This of course pertains to semi-autos but is part of trigger control.

By only releasing the trigger enough to reset, we avoid taking the finger off of the trigger and developing trigger slap, which deteriorates accuracy.

I like to start all of my training sessions shooting circles. Many instructors use similar training, and I got this drill from Ed Santos of Center Target Sports.

It consists of a target that only has to be made once and then copied as many times as you practice. It has four 2-inch circles drawn on it with a heavy marker. It is a precision exercise and requires the shooter to attempt to put the bullet though the same hole. It’s a simple drill, but when practiced regularly, will do wonders with your accuracy.

Start by standing directly in front of the target. First shoot one of the circles at 3 yards and fire three shots. This is not a speed event; try to put each round in the same hole and concentrate on trigger reset. If you’re not happy with the group, shoot the next circle three times trying to do the same thing.

Groups shot at 10 yards.
Groups shot at 10 yards.

When you get a clover leaf consistently at 3 yards move back to 5 yards and then to 10 yards. After that, if you’re really confident, move back to 15 yards. I don’t spend a lot of time on these drills, maybe 24 rounds each training session. I even do it with a .22 sometimes, but it’s good to do with your carry pistol to manage the recoil and become more accurate with the handgun you may be called upon to use in an actual situation.

This practice will perfect sight alignment and trigger control and the training drills will generate notable shooting improvement. While shooting this exercise, remember to use proper grip and stance. There are many versions of hostage targets that can also be added to your training, and they are good for putting a face on something you might hit if you spoil the shot.

Remember as a concealed carry citizen there may be a time you will be called into action. In many situations, there will be a bunch of people running around in a frenzy. Never take a shot that could harm innocent bystanders.

Accuracy is certainly critical at such moments and being able to deliver a round precisely where you intend it will prevent you from getting into trouble. Keep up the training and be sure to work shooting circles into your training regimen.

Gun Training Should Involve a Dose of Nasty Weather

gun training
Gun training should embrace bad weather days as an opportunity to become a more competent shooter.

It’s too windy, or it’s cold or raining too hard to go out and practice. The truth of the matter is, whether hunting or competing, long-distance shooters can’t always depend on blue bird skies. To win in nasty conditions, your gun training can't be called for bad weather.

Practice for Wind

Wind is an easy problem to practice where I live in Idaho. It’s windy most every day.

Sometimes it is so windy it would be a waste of ammo to go out and shoot, but most of the time it is really good for practice. We all know the formulas or put the data in our PDA’s, but how often do we shoot on windy days? Getting everything zeroed must be done in perfect conditions, but after that crummy days are what we are going to have to deal with whether it is hunting, competition or a life saving mission.

Wind not only affects the flight of the bullet but can be a problem beating against the vehicle the rifle is resting on or on the firearm itself. While I’m not sure there is much that can be done to overcome this, shooting in these types of conditions will give the shooter some experience in compensating for it. With a rifle, if the wind is banging against my rest and causing grief, I might go to prone to finish the shot.

Ultimately, the only way to figure out how to shoot in bad weather is to shoot in bad weather.

Beat the Rain, Snow

Rain and snow are other problematic conditions that can cause variances in the flight of your precision bullet. We know that rain and snow are going to make contact with the projectile but will it affect its flight path?

When the rain is blowing sideways with the wind it could cause a change in your usual windage D.O.P.E. (Data on Previous Engagements) a bit at longer ranges. Shooting in rain will fine-tune this adjustment. At the very least, the humidity will be higher.

Rain and snow beating against the shooter is also distracting and a little practice in this environment will help the shooter know what clothing will help minimize this, as well as how to deal with it mentally. Warm clothes, boots and waterproof gear can be tested for utility before the competition during a practice session. Operating a precision rifle with gloves should definitely be done before needed.

Temperature Changes

One of the things that will affect performance immensely is temperature. I’m not talking 20 degrees at ranges less than 400 yards, although they will affect bullet flight a bit. I’m talking about extreme temperature changes that will affect impact greatly and that create performance effects on the shooter.

I was shooting a .300 Win. Mag. that was easily capable of 1/3 MOA at 300 yards. I zeroed the rifle at that range in 70-degree weather and went shooting with it in -2-degree weather one afternoon. The rifle still printed its 1/3 MOA group; only it was about 16 inches low. At 300 yards that could be a definite miss on an elk.

gun training
Understand what heat, cold, rain and other weather does to the flight of a bullet helps shooters adjust to stay on target.

Even with the new temperature-resistant powders being developed, the air density is different when the mercury ranges so far. In fact, the affect on the bullet is immense. When shooting at different temperatures, make sure the ammo is out in the cold—or the heat—like it will be in the competition or other shooting scenario.


Ultimately, practicing in crummy weather comes easy for me because the high valley where I live regularly dishes out some of the worst weather in the country each winter. But Idaho doesn’t own crummy weather and no matter where you live or shoot, foul weather days will find you. Don’t use them as an excuse to sit inside and take it easy. Instead, get outside on a few of those crummy days and when the mission, competition or hunt day comes you will have the right gear and D.O.P.E. to make the shot.

Editor's note, this article originally appeared in the Feb. 11, 2013 edition of Gun Digest the Magazine.

Sniper Shooting Basics

Sniper Shooting Basics

Sniper Shooting Basics is your chance to understand the equipment and techniques used to make the long shot come in. This digital download draws upon the expertise of some of the world’s best hunters and tactical shooters to bring you a practical guide to long-range shooting.

This long-range shooting guide is perfect for you if:

  • You want to understand the fundamentals to making long-range shots
  • You want to study the specialized rifles used by snipers
  • You want to generally improve your overall shooting

Two Critical Accessories in Building a Defensive AR-15

The TLR-1 lit up this completely dark laundry room so brightly it flushed out the camera picture. No Flash.
Sights and lights are among the most important accessories in building a defensive AR.

When it comes to an AR-15 that I plan to use exclusively for defensive reasons, there are really only two items I like to add to the gun: some sort of white light and a sighting device other than iron sights. I don’t have anything against iron sights, but in low light situations, they can come up short. There are a many other extras that can be added to a tactical rifle, and special operators may even need others for a particular mission, but the simple AR with these two necessities is not only all a guy needs, but may prove to be tactically superior to a rifle with a bunch of additional items strapped on.

Choosing Your Sight
As far as a sight is concerned, I like the red-dot types. For my high mileage eyes something like an EOTech, AimPoint or one of the mini-red dots really improves my speed in lining up on target—particularly in low-light situations. Another great option for the defensive rifle is one of the 1.5×5 scopes that can be like a red dot on low power, but also offers some magnification for longer distance shots. Leupold’s MRT is a great choice in this department.

Depending on your intended use, this might even be a better choice, but for most home defensive and close-quarter situations, a red-dot or iron sight will be a better choice. Remember, it’s not outside the scope of operation to make long shots with a red-dot or iron sights, particularly with good eyes and practice so don’t discount these options just because you expect to shoot farther than 50 or 100 yards now and then. My patrol rifle is topped with an unmagnified EOTech and it’s capable of accurate 300-yard connections.

I had an opportunity to try out a medium-sized red dot from Meopta recently—the M-RAD, which proved to be a rugged little unit that can be used on a Picatinny-railed AR without a lot of added weight. It has a heavy hood to protect the optic and the on/off button is on the forward side of the sight for easy manipulation when shouldering the rifle. The same button can be manipulated when the sight is turned on at the shoulder to get the brightness appropriate for conditions.

The Meopta sight on my Sig 516 Patrol rifle. Small, effective and quick sight picture for a pair of high mileage eyes.
The Meopta sight on my Sig 516 Patrol rifle. Small, effective and quick sight picture for a pair of high mileage eyes.

The unit comes with a pocket-sized wallet with all the tools and extra mounting pads to get the correct height for the individual shooter. The battery cap can be removed with a coin, but it’s easier to take off with the provided tool. The sight can be quickly put on and taken off the rifle with a robust clamping lever. The lever also has a spring loaded safety to keep it from coming off during rugged use. This would make swapping it out with a scoped sight easy in the field if the mission dictates.

It was literally a snap to mount it on the SIG 516 Patrol rifle I was shooting, and within seconds, I was on the range sighting it in. The tool wallet has a small screwdriver for adjusting the sight making elevation and windage corrections easy. Within a few shots I was sighted in. On the AR platform, the shot will hit low on close quarter shots because the barrel is a few inches low of the sight. At 100 yards it was dead on.

I ran it through some quick double taps around a barricade and the sight jumped right to the target. In fact, it was easy for me to double tap inch and a half groups. The M-RAD would also be small enough to mount at an angle on a competition gun that bears a scope for close shot versatility.

Light Selection
With sights decided upon, it’s now time to be prepared to precisely evaluate any threat while maintaining the ultimate level of readiness. You cannot evaluate a threat properly if you cannot see it. One of the best advancements that I have seen over the years pointing guns at people in the dark is lighting.

One of the first “modern” lights I owned was a Streamlight rechargeable flashlight. It was big and heavy, but much brighter than its predecessors. Now, almost 30 years later, I still look to Streamlight for my lighting needs. The lights are smaller, brighter and have functions like strobe, which in law enforcement, we were always taught to do manually.

Streamlight’s TLR-1 HL, which I assume stands for high lumens, busts out a whopping 630 lumens of light with a pistol-sized gun light. For close quarters defensive use this light is adequate on the carbine as well as the pistol. On the rifle it doesn’t add much weight or size and will light up, or blind, anyone in the room or area you are searching. It has an easily manipulated on /off switch, which allows the user to set it to momentary, all-on or strobe illumination.

The Streamlight TLR-2 HL boasts the same 630 lumens with a built in laser, which could be an alternate sighting device on your carbine or pistol should the condition dictate. Normally I’m not a fan of lasers, but for no extra weight or convenience, a laser can be waiting for duty should you need to make a shot without a sight picture. I mounted this light with Streamlight’s quick mount on the bottom rail of my AR. It was amazing how well it lit up any room in the house or outside around the house. I could evaluate a person’s hands at 25 yards easily.

The TLR 1 on the 516 Patrol Rifle. I like it mounted on the bottom rail.
The TLR 1 on the 516 Patrol Rifle. I like it mounted on the bottom rail.

This light also snaps on the duty pistol rail and is easily manipulated with the weak hand thumb or first finger. The 630 lumens really lights up the search area, and there is enough ambient light to see the sights as well when using open or other iron-type sights. I remember searching buildings in patrol back in the day with lights that were the brightest available, but were dismal at best compared to the products we have now.

The amount of light emitted by these new units in such a small package is unbelievable. I lit up an area around where my new shop is going in from 35 yards away with the TLR-1 on a carbine and it made everything in the area stand out as if it were in daylight. The smaller pistol/carbine light brightens up a bigger area than the beam oriented rifle light they also offer. This is great for searching as it gives plenty of peripheral vision around where the carbine is pointed.

Streamlight makes a version of the TLR-1 light in a rifle format. The unit is similar, but the lens is more suited to sending light in a beam for longer distance target identification. They also make it with a green LED for hunting as the green light is less spooky to game. I thought the green light would be less bright as the distance increased but it illuminated my 100-yard target board with ease. The center of the beam is bright and through a scope the target has plenty of light for a shot. Both of these units are extremely rugged and I have abused them both on purpose without a fail. The units take two of the CR123 lithium batteries that provide 6 volts of power behind the LED.

Either of these lights can be mounted on the Picatinny 4 rail forearm in any position that is comfortable to the shooter. I like mine on the bottom. The activation button is ambidextrous, and I use my index finger on the right side to operate the light. This gives me a comfortable grip on the forend of the gun, and I have light when I need it. Streamlight also makes an attachment for the back of the unit that has a pressure switch wired to it so a user can put the switch anywhere else on the gun that suits them.

The Game Getter green light had ample light to isolate a threat. The rifle version prints a more focused bright spot for shots at a precise target.
The Game Getter green light had ample light to isolate a threat. The rifle version prints a more focused bright spot for shots at a precise target.

I haven’t used the green light on game, but the white light version seems to stop coyotes in their tracks. I think they are mesmerized by the brightness of the light. The green light really lights up the area out plenty far for a calling shot as I tested it on my 100-yard target. It’s kinda like using a Generation 1 Night vision scope, but the image is clearer. Both of these lights operate on lithium batteries. The run time on the light at 630 lumens is 1.25 hours and the laser if equipped has a runtime of 45 hours. One thing nice about a battery unit is when batteries start to weaken, it’s just a matter of putting fresh ones in. Rechargeable lights don’t give the operator that option.

I really like both of these lights and I’m sure one day they will even be dim compared to the new fangled creations they come up with in the future. But for now, paired with a good red-dot sight, I feel I have everything I need on my AR to safely defend my home.

Getting Western with Cowboy Action Shooting

Authenticity plays a large role in Cowboy Action Shooting, with competitions held in Old West settings and competitors donning the garb of the day.
Authenticity plays a large role in Cowboy Action Shooting, with competitions held in Old West settings and competitors donning the garb of the day. (photo by Sara Norman)

Many years ago a few IPSC shooters came up with an idea to shoot a competition using only outdated Old West-type guns.

They thought it would be fun shooting stages with six guns instead of using the new fangled eight shooter. Then they thought, why not take it a step further and get dressed up into clothing of the period? From there, the idea of shooting stages built to resemble old saloons and jails and using additional guns from the period such as a lever rifle and old double-barreled shotguns came about.

In the end, they had developed one of the newest and fastest growing sports today. They had created Cowboy Action Shooting. I don’t know if it came together precisely in that order but, the end result has been an action-packed series of events that are all about having fun, and in that department, they certainly deliver.

What is Cowboy Action Shooting?
Cowboy Action Shooting is organized by SASS (Single Action Shooting Society) and offers many shooting categories that differ from the types of guns used to the styles of clothing worn. It even offers the opportunity for participants to have an Old West alias.

The first main rule is the only firearms permitted for use must be guns of 1898 vintage or earlier and includes two single-action revolvers, a lever-action pistol caliber rifle and either a side-by-side shotgun or a pump or lever shotgun.

The side-by-side can be hammer or hammerless with no ejectors, but the pump must have a hammer like the Winchester 1897. Pumps are only loaded with two rounds at a time to eliminate any advantage they might otherwise offer over those using double shooters.

The six guns are loaded with five rounds so that the hammer rests on an empty chamber. This is the way they were carried in the Old West because they didn’t have safety bars as we do today in the Ruger Vaquero and other reproductions.

Shooting styles range from Traditional, which is shooting each pistol one at a time with a two-handed hold to Duelist, holding one pistol at a time one handed, or even Gunfighter, which is a pistol in each hand being fired using alternating shots.

Cowboy Action competitions often demand precise shots, such as this one where a competitor attempts to hit a target through two doorways.
Cowboy Action competitions often demand precise shots, such as this one where a competitor attempts to hit a target through two doorways. (photo by Sara Norman)

Getting Started
I started shooting in the Gunfighter Division many years ago thinking it would give me practice with my weak hand. As a result, I now shoot much better with it as far as lining up the sight and trigger control are concerned.

Again, beyond the practice it provides a person’s shooting skills, it is so much fun shooting guns like the cowboys of the old movies, a six gun in each hand, and actually hitting the targets.

There are two ways to shoot Gunfighter. One is cocking both pistols at the same time and shooting both rounds (one at a time) and cocking them again until the stage is shot, or the way I started out, cocking the pistols one at a time. In that fashion, a shooter ends up cocking one pistol as they fire the other.

Whichever style of shooting you choose, there is also the option to go over to the dark side: black powder. The Frontiersman category, for instance, requires the shooter to use black powder in all the guns shot.

These are fun matches that take the smokeless folks out of their comfort zone. There is a lot of smoke, and with any luck, a small breeze so you can see the targets. As a course of competing in the Frontiersmen category, competitors get pretty good at knowing where target are through the smoke.

Making a Name for Yourself
Costuming and an alias are mandatory to a cowboy action shoot. They go hand in hand as you might dress to fit your alias.

Thinking up an alias can be easy or hard. You might pick up an alias because of your conduct, like a lot of the cowboys of old did, or you can pick a name from one of the characters of the Old West and integrate it into your name. The name can also not have anything to do with the West but is an interesting play on words.

Some of the names people come up with are extremely witty and SASS keeps a record of the registered names so there are no duplicates. Your name is your name throughout the SASS world so pick a good one.

Minimum cowboy dress includes a hat, boots, western shirt, bandana and pants, but you could easily go overboard with the costume and are actually encouraged to do so.

Working a Stage
Stages are set up much like a 3-gun match only Old West-style.

We shoot through windows and doors, off of wagons and horses (not real horses unless your mounted shooting), and move from spot to spot between firearms.

A typical cowboy stage will start out with some kind of scenario like you’re tending cattle on the range and the bad guys are going to rustle your cows. There may or may not be a line that you have to recite to start the timer, and when the timer rings you go.

Firing pistols may be first, and you have to shoot them in the order mandated by the scenario. Usually it will be 10 shots on steel targets then you might move to another spot to shoot the rifle, then the shotgun. The rifle targets are usually a bit farther out and the shotgun can be stationary steel, knockdowns, or clay flyers.

Misses are a 5-second penalty added to the time from start to last shot and failure to shoot the stage in the manner of the scenario is a procedural error, which adds 10 seconds.

Scores are added up by overall raw time, which starts at the buzzer and runs to the last shot.

It’s amazing the stress the timer puts on the shooter. The idea is to finish in the fastest time, which isn’t always attributed to shooting faster. A bunch of time can be made up by smooth transitions from gun to gun and moving from position to position.

Always Welcome
New shooters, especially new female shooters are always welcome and every shooter will help them break into this new sport. Even veterans will get the cowboy helping hand. If your gun goes down, there is always a cowboy who will loan you one to finish the match. He or she will even keep the friendly cowboy smile when you shoot a bit faster than they do.

If you really want to have a good time, dust off that old wheel, lever and shotgun and get out to a cowboy match. It’s extremely addictive and loads of fun. If you don’t have all the guns go to a match anyway I will bet someone will loan you a gun and encourage you to shoot a stage. Take the opportunity and get a little western.

Editor's note, this article appeared in the June 17, 2013 Gun Digest Magazine

Recommended Resources

Percussion Revolvers

Find Cowboy Action Shooting right up your alley? Then you're certain to enjoy the Handbook of Modern Percussion Revolvers. This richly illustrated volume is perfect if you own a percussion revolver, want how-to on percussion revolvers or would like to learn more about historic percussion revolvers. Also check out our Blackpowder books, as well.

Increase Shooting Accuracy by Learning to Read the Wind

A wind gauge can be a important tool in increasing shooting accuracy. Getting a read on the wind from your shooting position allows you to make the right adjustments to stay on target down range.
A wind gauge can be a important tool in increasing shooting accuracy. Getting a read on the wind from your shooting position allows you to make the right adjustments to stay on target down range.

Wind correction has been the cause of more misses in the hunting field than it’s given credit for. The first step to correcting for wind is estimating its speed and value.

A wind meter will be the most precise gauge for determining speed and will help provide the value of effect on the bullet path. However, many times there won’t be time or one will not be available. If one is available, hold it next to the rifle so the fan blade is parallel to the bore to determine wind speed perpendicular to the bullet’s flight. The wind value also will be included because the wind hitting the fins at an angle will not spin the blades like a 90-degree wind.

If a wind meter is not handy, natural flags in the woods like trees, shrubs and grass will help the shooter estimate the speed. A 3 to 5 mph wind will be felt lightly on the face, a 5 to 8 mph wind will make leaves in the trees agitate continuously, while an 8 to 12 mph wind will blow dust into the air. When the wind hits 12 to 15 mph, small trees will sway and bushes will blow from side to side.

Even if you have the availability of a wind meter, like one from Kestrel, it’s good to note visual indicators between you and the target to determine variances over the full distance of the shot. Comparing velocities in the meter with the actions of the shrubbery will help estimate the wind downrange when all you have is the movement of the shrubs.

Another way of estimating wind is with mirage. Mirage is the wavy effect that heat makes as it is rising from the ground. This method is accurate up to about 12 mph. Mirage is visible with the naked eye but can be magnified with the spotting scope. To see mirage focus the scope on the distant target and then rotate the focus to blur the target. The heat shimmer barely noticeable with the naked eye becomes amazingly clear.

If the mirage rises straight up there is no wind. If the mirage tips about 60 degrees, the wind is 1 to 3 mph and direction is the way the top is leaning. Forty-five degrees will indicate the wind is about 4 to 7 mph, and mirage parallel to the ground is 8 to 12 mph.

Next calculate the value it will have on the bullet path and adjust your aim accordingly. To become proficient, practice shooting on windy days and keep detailed notes of every shot.

This article appeared in the April 8, 2013 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

Recommended Shooting Resources

Dead On

Dead On

Gun Digest Shooter's Guide to Rifle Marksmanship

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5 of the Biggest Challenges to Long-Range Shooting

Cold dry air creates more resistance to a bullet in flight than warm humid conditions. Such environmental considerations must be taken into account when making an accurate long-range shot.
Cold dry air creates more resistance to a bullet in flight than warm humid conditions. Such environmental considerations must be taken into account when making an accurate long-range shot.

One of the things I really like about long-range shooting is the challenge of getting everything just right over and over for consistent precise hits way out there. Although the definition of long range changes every year, 1,000 yards is still a good poke even with rifles that are capable of consistent extreme long-range accuracy. To become a reliable long-distance shooter, capable of striking your target every time, a shooter must first learn to handle several key challenges.

1. Distance

Accurately determining the distance to a target and properly adjusting the elevation of the shot is the first thing a shooter must be able to address. As a bullet leaves a barrel, it’s immediately acted upon by gravity pulling it toward earth. As it gets farther from the barrel, it gets closer to the ground. When a rifle is sighted at 100 yards, the bullet will pass through the point of aim (POA), which is where the crosshairs and bullet intersect at the target. As the bullet continues past that point it will continue to drop at a repeatable rate. This can be calculated for any given yardage and must be adjusted with the turret of the scope or using the hash marks on some reticles to adjust for the bullet’s drop at the distance the target is situated.

2. Environmental Conditions

Environmental conditions will also definitely affect bullet performance. As a set of general rules, warm air tends to be thinner than cold air meaning a bullet in warm air will meet less resistance. Heat can also adversely affect the barrel temperature with each additional shot, which can affect bullet flight after it travels down the barrel. Although many people assume humid air is denser, dry air molecules are actually heavier than water molecules meaning less humidity can actually negatively impact bullet flight more. Likewise, thinner air at higher elevations or with decreased barometric pressure will impede bullet flight less.

3. Wind

Wind is perhaps one of the biggest obstacles a long-distance shooter must contend with and can be trickier than elevation. The challenge to wind is there are two calculations: Estimating its speed and estimating the correction. A wind meter provides the shooter a precise way to estimate wind. Other signs at the target have to be observed to confirm what the wind is doing where the bullet will travel. Direction of the wind also is important. Obviously which way the wind is going will indicate which way the bullet will drift but also important is the angle that the wind is contacting the bullet. Direct wind at 90 degrees to the bullet path will have the most effect. Wind from 10-15 degrees of either side of the 12 o’clock or six o’clock areas will have no value or no appreciable effect on the bullet flight. Wind striking the bullet at a 45 degree angle to the bullet path will have a half value or will affect the bullet flight half as much as a full value.

4. Inclination

Another overlooked obstacle, at least until you miss a trophy animal because of it, is inclination. Inclination is the up or down angle the shot is taken at. In general shots will print high whether a shot is taken at a steep up or down angle. This is because the line of sight that the range is estimated at is different than the actual distance the bullet is affected by gravity. The amount of up or down can be calculated using the amount of angle and the distance. At shorter hunting distances on a big boiler room this can be quickly addressed by holding off a little low but for more precise compensation such as a sniper making a high angle shot at 100 yards or better is should be figured into the shot.

The consistency in match-grade ammunition or quality reloads goes a long way in providing the precision required to stay on target at long-range.
The consistency in match-grade ammunition or quality reloads goes a long way in providing the precision required to stay on target at long-range.

5. Cartridge Performance

Cartridge performance also comes into play when estimating range correction or calculating adjustments in your aim in order to contend with the many factors that may affect your shot. Cartridge velocity must be consistent from shot to shot with the selected bullet so that corrections will also be precisely the same every time the scope or aim is adjusted. Quality match ammo or reloads must be tested for consistency in velocity and performance. The shooter must become comfortable with the rifle and ammo and confident in its consistency. Avoid using inferior or bargain ammo as it may not perform as consistently throwing calculations off and resulting in seriously blown shots at long-range.

This article appeared in the April 8, 2013 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

AR-15 Review: SIG 516 Patrol Rifle

The Sig 516 Patrol Rifle comes in a standard black model, but is also available in Flat Dark Earth (FDE) and a black/Olive Drab (OD) Green version. Beyond the colors, each model boasts many of the same features.
The Sig 516 Patrol Rifle comes in a standard black model, but is also available in Flat Dark Earth (FDE) and a black/Olive Drab (OD) Green version. Beyond the colors, each model boasts many of the same features.

The Sig Sauer Difference

The Sig Sauer 516 Patrol Rifle is not intended necessarily for military or law enforcement use, but can be if the inside is changed.; it’s a semi-auto, yet it is extremely accurate; and it will dust coyotes. The 516 is not just another AR. It has some really cool improvements over the typical AR-style rifle. One of the most notable improvements is it’s gas piston operated. Conventional AR rifles channel gas down a tube to the bolt—specifically to the carrier shoe, which is attached to the bolt carrier. This is where the gas stops, expending its energy to the spring-loaded carrier pushing it backward into the stock. This, along with the blowback action of the cartridge, extracts the spent case.

Raise Your Sig Sauer IQ

This system has and still performs extremely well, but the gasses transferred to the bolt area carry dirt and fouling along with it, which can be left on the bolt carrier. This fouling needs to be removed during routine maintenance in order to ensure continued smooth operation. The gas piston system, however, and this has been around for years, keeps the gas up front on the gas block part of the rifle. The energy is then transferred to the bolt carrier via a solid rod that runs along the same path the gas tube ran. This keeps the fouling in the gas piston chamber, which means it doesn’t have to be cleaned as often. It still needs maintenance periodically though. I have shot about 600 rounds through the 516, and there is not a speck of fouling around the bolt or carrier area.

The gas-piston Sig 516 Patrol AR is one sweet shooter.
The gas-piston Sig 516 Patrol AR is one sweet shooter.

The rifle comes with MagPul’s adjustable stock and pistol grip, which is a nice addition to an AR.  The adjustability makes it fit a variety of different sized shooters and makes storing the firearm when not in use a little easier. It also comes with a four-rail forearm for attaching a white light or whatever tool for the purpose intended. The carbine barrel is topped off with a flash hider.

The rifle has a more robust lower than your granddaddy’s AR with heavy squared off lines like the area that houses the front pivot detent spring and area around the bolt release/lock. Also there is a left side magazine release making this function ambidextrous. Inside the frame is thicker with quite a bit more metal on the sides and back area for improved durability.

Have you ever been aggravated with your AR when the upper and lower start to wear a little making for a less than tight fit? Companies have come up with expandable pins for the rear upper as well as the little red rubber Accu Wedge, which all help in this area. Sig had a better idea: they put a spring-loaded adjustable detent in the lower right under the rear locking pin tab that keeps constant spring tension on the upper. As the unit wears, it can be adjusted to keep the tension as it should. The end result is no more rattling upper and lowers.

Shooting the Sig 516

The rifle comes with flip-up adjustable iron sights, but Sig’s semi-mini red dot sight—a nice light sight for fast action shooting—can also be had. I topped this one with a Leupold Mark 4 MRT scope, a 1.5×5 illuminated reticle scope that can be used in close quarters, as well as handle long shots all in one sight. I was planning to use the gun for 3-Gun competition and the MRT helps with those close and long-range rifle shots in the same stage. Guess what? It will be a light and quick handling rifle for dusting coyotes in the fall and winter, too.

I’ve been shooting the full floated carbine at longer range targets and found it to be accurate out to 400 yards. Shooting at an 8- and 10-inch gong, one homemade and one of MGM Target’s flash gongs, if I do my job, the rifle does its. I have used several different types of ammo in the rifle, and it seems to digest it all well. I started out with Federal 55-grain FMJ, shot some Silver Bear 62-grain HPBT and had great luck with American Eagle 62-grain FMJ. It seemed to like the heavier bullet. I kind of do, too.

The rifle is quick to work around obstacles like barricades and windows making it a nice 3-Gun choice, and of course it would make a great close combat or home defense weapon. The shorter carbine barrel is better for retention during searches and working barricade stages and still accurate enough for the long shots.

This article appeared in the March 11, 2013 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

Raise Your Sig Sauer IQ:

Targets for Shooting Long Range

I like a large board on which to hang paper targets. The larger 1000 yard targets are ideal because their large area allows you to see hits that are off the mark. This is essential when checking zeros at longer range. The F-Class center is a little smaller than the 1000-yard target and I use it to practice for those shoots.
I like a large board on which to hang paper targets. The larger 1000 yard targets are ideal because their large area allows you to see hits that are off the mark. This is essential when checking zeros at longer range. The F-Class center is a little smaller than the 1000-yard target and I use it to practice for those shoots.

There are no special targets that will make us better shooters. To be better shooters we need to use targets for shooting a lot and regularly. Here are some good targets for long-range shooting.

Shooting at a variety of targets and scenarios is more like training. Practice makes us better shots; training wins matches and prepares us for difficult situations. Getting your own targets for shooting is the key.

Not all of us have the luxury to have a shooting range nearby let alone a long-range facility. With a little engineering and help from some target makers, any safe stretch of BLM or other public ground can become our fun house and give us the training we need in between matches and practice shoots.

My formal 1000-yard range is 120 miles one way from my house. I cannot always make it out for practice sessions although I go as much as I can. These days one has to save travel money for the matches so I practice close by the house with the help of some prefab targets.

For getting on paper I use a target board. The rifle has to be printed on paper to see what it is really doing. Mostly it is for shooting groups and sighting in rifles at 100 yards. It is big enough though, I can shoot at further ranges and show hits on the paper while fine-tuning my ballistic charts. This paper target helps me get some of my elevations set and also I can check variances in different climates.

The paper target backstop is made from some scrap plywood and 2×6 lumber that fit into a metal upright stand.

It breaks down quickly and fits in the back of the truck for easy set up in the field. I can staple any target on it and since I shoot F-Class competition I use a replacement center for along-range paper target. For closer groups that I want to record for later reference I use a Benchrest type target that can be put into a ring binder. These are made out of a heavy grade plastic-coated paper and hold up well in a binder. These record the actual group and any other info on weather and the load that was used.

MGM Targets make a great long range reactive target they call the Flash Target. It is a 10 strike area and that equals one minute at 1000 yards. It is a challenging target and the plastic cards can be seen moving at long distances.
MGM Targets make a great long range reactive target they call the Flash Target. It is a 10 strike area and that equals one minute at 1000 yards. It is a challenging target and the plastic cards can be seen moving at long distances.

Shooting the paper target is doable out to around 400 or 500 yards without a vehicle to get back and fourth to score the targets. I can usually use the exercise but I don’t always have the time to walk back and forth to 1000-yard targets. Sometimes I will put the ATV in the back of the truck and set up a portable shooting bench like the one Caldwell offers for longer range shooting.

For just getting the elevation I will many times use the Caldwell Tack Driver Shooting Bag right on the hood of the truck (Idaho Shooting Bench) and drive back and forth to the target. It is faster than moving the shooting table to different ranges. The Caldwell bags off the hood are not as comfortable as a bench and a front rest, but for portability in shooting different long ranges in the field they work great.

One way I deal with the walk back and forth on the longer range stuff is to use reactive targets. Once the rifle is zeroed on paper and various elevation adjustments recorded I can practice on reactive targets placed in different positions. In the field being able to shoot targets at 1000 yards and see the hit is good practice and can be done without a couple of range buddies in the pit or running back and forth to see the score.

I was surprised at how inexpensive steel targets from MGM Targets are. Considering they last forever with a lifetime guarantee and include the shipping, a backwoods rifleman can get plenty of long-range practice in the field without going back and forth.

Two of my favorite reactive targets are tannerite and plastic cubes. The tannerite is a binary exploding target and adds some fun to the shooting. These cubes and spheres from Just Shoot Me Products can be spread out on a hillside or hung in the sagebrush for hard-to-spot reactive targets. They will jump when hit and roll to a different position to be engaged again.
Two of my favorite reactive targets are tannerite and plastic cubes. The tannerite is a binary exploding target and adds some fun to the shooting. These cubes and spheres from Just Shoot Me Products can be spread out on a hillside or hung in the sagebrush for hard-to-spot reactive targets. They will jump when hit and roll to a different position to be engaged again.

I like the attitude at MGM Targets (Mike Gibson Manufacturing). They dare you to tear up these targets. That’s confidence in their quality. I simply haven‘t been able to shoot these things apart. The strike plates are hard steel and the welds are neat and strong.

They use hardened bolts instead of welding to hold the targets on to the stands so the hardness won’t be compromised from welding heat. About all the bullet does to them is knock the paint off.They come in white, but in winter black shows up better against snow.

For longer range practice the Flash Target is a great choice. It has a 10-inch target area and with larger caliber bullets hits can be seen without a spotter past 600 yards. The smaller calibers don’t move it much further out.

There are two plastic squares on the swivel bar; one is white and one florescent orange. The movement of the target is easily seen when the plastic squares move. The hanging gong swivels on a bar of stainless steel and has a zirk fitting to keep it lubricated. This target breaks down and will fit in a car trunk. It goes up in seconds.

Another great shorter range target is one of their poppers. These targets have 5 inch strike areas and reset themselves via spring action. Neither of these targets makes a gong sound when hit but there is a noticeable thwack. I have several different locations scouted that give me practice in different conditions.

Don’t forget to put up some flags to help dope the wind. It is good to have a spotter to help with the corrections. MGM makes such a variety of targets for the competitive shooter the best thing to do is check out their website. www.mgmtargets.com

There are a variety of other reactive targets that will give the precision marksman some good practice and some fun. Try golf balls, eggs, and balloons. The nice thing about balloons is you can make them different sizes. The challenging thing about them is when the wind is blowing windage isn’t the only problem.

 Companies like Just Shoot Me make plastic targets that are reactive and come in cubes, circles, and shapes like ground squirrels that can be placed on hillsides and engaged. They jump indicating a hit and can be shot again in a different location. They are extremely durable and allow the bullet to pass and then they close back up. A box of these will last a long time and give many hours of practice in one sitting.

These smaller targets are great for sighting in and recording groups. I like the notebook style benchrest targets that are made out of a plastic-type paper. They are weather resistant and can be kept in a ring binder. The actual group is right there to compare with others along with the entire climate and load info.
These smaller targets are great for sighting in and recording groups. I like the notebook style benchrest targets that are made out of a plastic-type paper. They are weather resistant and can be kept in a ring binder. The actual group is right there to compare with others along with the entire climate and load info.

One of the most fun targets to engage at long range are exploding targets. They are small 2×2 square targets that can be bought in a kit and report when hit like an M-80. The active ingredient in these is a binary explosive material called tannerite. Binary means it is two inert chemicals that have to be mixed together to become active. They can only be set off by a high-power rifle bullet strike and are extremely stable even after mixed.

Exploding targets add a lot of fun to the marksman’s training but read all the directions and warnings before using and make sure it is being used within the legalities of your locale.

All my target missions are “leave no trace“. I pick up all brass, target debris, as much lead as I can find (it melts back down into cowboy bullets), even the 22 brass. The only thing left behind where I target practice is the depressions in the ground from bullet strikes.

Caldwell: (573) 445-9200

Eberlestock: (877) 866-3047

Lenny Magill: (800) 942-8273

This article appeared in the February 14, 2011 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

Post-Disaster Survival: Dynamic Entry Tools 101



Tools for dynamic entry
Dynamic entry may become critical following a disaster. It takes tools and practice to do it right.


Editor's Note: Following a disaster, access to friends and family may be not be as easy as opening a door. Understanding dynamic entry tools and techniques is important. Tactical expert and law enforcement veteran Dave Morelli explains these concepts in this article.

When we think about dynamic entry, which could involve breaching a door or other obstacle, the SWAT operator immediately comes to mind. That’s because, normally the dynamic entry tools needed for breaching a door are not found in the patrol car.

Dynamic Entry Tool - Small Pry
Gun Digest recommends this small pry tool. It's a portable way to be ready for dynamic entry in numerous situations.

Depending on the department’s policy on handling an emergency entry situation the patrolman might come upon a call where he has the justification of breaching a door to gain entry and need to do it right now, not when SWAT arrives.

I responded to a call one evening to a large tower hotel that security reported a woman screaming for help from one of the rooms. The room was not in the tower but on the second floor of an outside-accessible complex. The doors were steel and the railing was only about 4 feet from the door, making it hard to get a good position for a kick, especially on a steel door.

Security reported that the door was locked with a dead bolt from the inside and could not be opened with a key. We could hear the woman being thrown around and the guy’s response to our verbal commands was that it was a “private matter” and we should go away or he would come out and kick our butts. Well, if he would have come out to do it the problem would have been solved, but he didn’t and continued beating the woman. We decided some sort of entry was necessary and it needed to be immediate.

I asked the security guard if he could get someone from maintenance to bring up a sledge hammer with which we could breecht he door. We continued talking to the guy while security was getting our request. A few minutes later a guy showed up with a huge 3-foot-long pipe wrench that felt like it weighed 50pounds. It was so big I couldn’t get it on the knob and make a twist to break the lock.

So with the woman screaming I revved up the huge wrench and landed a blow just above the knob on the door. It flew open hard and a naked lady with a swollen face and bruises all over her greeted us. There was also a half-naked guy lying on the floor with the tweety birds flying around his head. According to the lady just before we made entry he put his head to the door in attempt to hear what we were doing.

Bad move! Fortunately he was not seriously hurt and it actually improved his attitude, as he was cooperative when he came to. (Knocked some sense into him I guess.)

MonoShock ram dynamic entry tool
Dynamic entry with a ram is an advanced option for serious disaster preppers.


I think about that call now and then, because part of the situation really was kind of funny. But I also think about how many fewer blows the lady would have had to endure if I had some sort of breaching tools in the patrol car, or at least one of the cars in the area. Come to think of it there were a lot of calls we responded to where some dynamic entry tools would have made life easier.

A dynamic entry breaching tool
This breaching tool at GunDigestStore.com is simple to use. It's ideal to keep on hand for post-disaster access to people or items.

Back then BLACKHAWK! was just starting out, selling mostly packs and nylon stuff. Today they sell a variety of breaching tools along with other necessities for police, fire and rescue folks to fit just about every occasion. From a SWAT call to fire and rescue, to the individual patrolman on a small department with the need for some breaching tools, BLACKHAWK! has something for everyone. There are rams, pry tools, window rakes and bolt cutters. They even have collapsible products that are lighter and take up less space when stored in the vehicle.

Any burglar will tell you there aren’t many doors that will withstand a well-placed shot from a 3- to 5-pound sledge hammer or even a modest sized pair of channel locks. The problem with the channel locks is you have to stand in front of the door to get any leverage. (Fatal Funnel Syndrome.) A long-handled sledge can be manipulated from well along side the door and opens the door quickly for fast entry.

One of BLACKHAWK!’s entry kits, The Dynamic Duo, has a long-handled sledge and The Breacher, which is a pry type tool with 3 feet of prying torque. The head on the Breacher is a tempered stainless steel wedge that has friction ridges on all contact surfaces that counter angled to the head. This improves stability and reduces slippage during use. The Duo comes in a kit holster made from nylon.

BLACKHAWK! also makes a variety of hallagan tools in many configurations that will get the pry on just about any door. They come in mini tool kits and non-sparking non conductive metals for use when there if fear of fire or explosion. They even carry them in stainless steel. There are even tools specific to mobile home doors which usually open outward. But when it comes right down to it, the most useful and versatile is the ram.

How to Make a Winter Bug-Out Bag


Dave Morelli explains how to make a winter bug-out bag (winter survival kit) in this feature from Gun Digest.

Bug-Out Bag
The bag comes loaded with essentials that can be added to. Some of the tools are a Super Leatherman tool, Bushnell GPS, light sticks, flashlight/solar radio, two portable shelters, space blankets, ponchos and food for 72 hours.

There is a lot of talk these days about putting together some sort of bug-out pack. I agree it is a good idea to be prepared for emergency, but there are a host of ideas as to what a bug-out pack is for.

Lots of folks think they could throw a minimal pack on their back, disappear from civilization and live happily ever after. The problem is only a few can do it. An argument could be made that the wise woodsman could make a living following these folks and using what they left behind after they expire. Whatever your reason is to bug out, having some minimal stuff and (most importantly) the knowledge to use it will be a deciding factor in your final outcome.

There are some good reasons to bug out and the bag should be planned for a particular reason. Still, there are some things that should be in any bug-out bag, no matter what, because these items are instrumental to survival.

Some sort of fire starter is paramount especially in cooler weather. It stays cold for a long time up here in the Idaho mountains. It may be spring where you are, right now, but I’m still looking at winter conditions, so I prepare for the worst.  Water is also key, but it is heavy to carry. So you should carry come and plan to get more on the fly. 

You’ll need enough food to get you by until you can find more. A good knife, a small hatchet, fishing supplies, some first aid stuff, a couple space blankets, some plastic garbage bags, (these can be used for a variety of functions) a GPS (and batteries) or a map and compass, flashlight (and batteries) and some method of purifying water. Some sort of firearm would make me feel better if I was stranded in the woods. If I was building a bag for the unlikely event of dealing with civil unrest, I would elevate the weaponry on the priority list.

But the reality is that you’ll be grabbing your bug-out bag to help you get out of the way of a violent storm or wildfire. Or you will have it in your vehicle in case you get stuck or stranded.  This bug out would be a temporary situation and may only last until you could get to safety, are found by rescuers or in a serious situation, reach a gathering station displaced people.

Your location and community will play a big part in planning what to have in the bag.  How long might you be on the move until you get to safety? What services are going to be available at that safe place? What time of the year will you be moving and how? Will there be obstacles along the way? (Bridges out, hostiles, unplanned challenging travel routes)  No single bag set up could cover all the possibilities; so a bag that covers as many of the necessities for an estimated period of time to get to the next stage of safety is a good place to start.  If your location leaves you with the possibility of being stranded for longer periods, you need to take this into consideration.

A situation involving a long stretch without power or road blockages thanks to storms could cause long delays in supplies getting to your area. Your bug-out bag may be better used to wait out the situation in your home. Hopefully, you have some emergency supplies for this situation but the bug-out bag still needs to be ready should some reason force you from the shelter.

There would be a ton of chatter if we started the discussion on which firearm to bug out with.  I can already hear the gears turning.  We all have a variety of firearms available and some are favorites we take everywhere we go.  I would leave the firearm selection until I was running out the door.  The situation or reason I was bugging out may play a big role in what type of firearm would be the better choice.  I always have a handgun on me so I would imagine it would be coming along just because.

Will the bug out gun fill a defensive role or will it be used for food gathering?  I realize that the roles are interchangeable but some guns are better for some purposes.  More important is to consider what would be the best for a variety of situations and which one you will grab without too much thought as the disaster happens.

As important as a defensive firearm is, the risk of starving to death or succumbing to exposure is probably more of a threat than getting into a firefight with a panic-stricken mob, especially if you use some evasive tactics in your bug out.

ASAP bag
The ASAP Bag has plenty of extra room to add things to tailor to specific purposes. I like to throw in a couple extra MRE’s and dry gloves and socks and whatever I think I might need for the time of the year I need to bug-out. Around here is might be winter and a sled is the best bug-out choice. Pack light and include things that serve dual purpose.

Planning with the Rule of Threes in mind will help you prioritize.  You can live three minutes without air, three hours without shelter, three days without water, three weeks without food, and three months without sex.  I am living proof you can stretch the three months out much longer.

I believe the minimum bug-out pack should have at least three days or 72 hours of supplies for each member of the family.  I would also put my areas of importance based on the Rule of Threes, even though that’s more of a survival priority, it puts things in perspective.  When the situation deteriorates, like situations often do, three days of water will get you farther than all the food in the world.

You can put your bug-out bag together from scratch in a quality pack or you can buy the ready-made bag.  Another option is to buy the ready bag and add to it.  The problem with buying the ready bag is you don’t really know if the gear will be adequate until it is too late and if you use the ready bag to test it out you will have to replace the contents before you need them.

The pre-made bag is not a bad place to start and you can always tailor it to more closely fit your conditions.  I checked out a bug-out bag from ASAP Survival Gear.  They have many selections but this was a 72-hour, two-person bag.  It comes with a lot of necessities but also includes a book and CD called Your Survival by Dr. Bob Arnot.  This book and CD will definitely add to your knowledge when you are adding to your bag.  It goes over many types of disasters and gives you an idea of what might be important to have in that situation.

The supplies come in a pack that I really liked. The pockets and zippered pouches were of adequate size and positioned for efficient utility. Things that you might want to access quickly without digging through the pack like a GPS can be kept in a properly sized pocket.  It also had a generous amount of extra room for additional supplies like clothes, medications, and extra food.  This bag is designed for the scenario where you are leaving on foot or it can accompany the other supplies packed in a truck or SUV bug-out vehicle.

The bag also comes with a multipurpose radio powered by a solar  panel or a crank that can be used as a cell phone charger. The unit also has a light that is powered by the crank or the solar panel and has several weather channels.

Also in the bag is a water bottle, space blankets and individual shelters, headlamp, fire starter, a complete first-aid kit, ponchos, and a Bushnell Backtrack GPS. The first aid kit is well stocked and has some common medications you would use in the field. Along with common first-aid items there is a book on wilderness medicine and a small roll of duct tape. There is also room to include personal medications. Light is always a useful commodity and the kit has several light sticks for instant light and a Leatherman Super Tool for common chores.

The kit comes with a 72-hour supply of food and water for two people. The water is in 4-ounce foil envelopes, 36 to a bag. That’s roughly 144 ounces of water for two people for 72 hours. I think it would work out a little light for two people over 72 hours and I would carry more water or at least have a plan to get it on the move.  The bag also has a 32-ounce water bottle from Camelbak that can be filled and refilled when water comes available. Remember, you’ve only got three days without water.

Packing a bug-out bag
Planning with the Rule of Threes in mind will help you prioritize. You can live three minutes without air, three hours without shelter, three days without water and three weeks without food.

The food contained in the pack made up of cubes best described as a food-like substance. But is actually tastes pretty good.  The ration calls for one cube three times a day.  Each bar provides 400 calories, giving you 1,200 calories per day. 

I would imagine it would be enough to survive on but I would add some munchies to my bag.  MRE’s or food from the grocery store in aluminum envelopes instead of cans would last a long time and would add some enjoyment to surviving.  If you went with the supermarket type you could buy MRE heaters to warm them up if you couldn’t make a fire.

There are a variety of long-lasting snacks that can be added to this bug-out bag and it is big enough to accommodate some extra rationing. I would also try to put a change of clothes in the bag and maybe some extra socks and gloves. There may be other medications and supplies that will be needed for each individual according to the circumstances.

You can also set up a bug-out bag from scratch, tailoring it to your specific purpose. For me it would have to be a dire circumstance for me to leave my home on foot, especially in winter. It is just too far to go to get anywhere that would be safer. I most likely will be leaving in a vehicle and will have the luxury of packing a little heavier.

A duffle bag with clothing and food and several cases of bottled water are in my storeroom ready for a bug out. These supplies need to be kept in a safe place and easily retrieved when it is time. Although the food should be rotated for freshness, the supply should be separate from the regular pantry. This will assure the rations will be adequate when the emergency unfolds.

Just because we call it a bug-out bag doesn’t mean we have to leave our homes to be safe.  The idea of the bag is to have some motility in case the best thing to do is get moving. The idea is to be ready for a catastrophe that might keep you from getting to the store.

I live in a remote place and it is common to always have a little more supply in case a winter storm keeps us from the market or the power goes down for a few days. We live on the end of the grid and it is not uncommon to lose power here. Being prepared means having the things needed to survive through an interruption of necessary services. It is also good to include bugging out as part of that plan.

Whatever the situation that presents it is wise to consider the circumstances that might apply to the area in which you live and prepare for them. Having supplies on hand for a minor emergencies is a good start but disasters happen quickly and without notice.

Having a plan can mean the difference between life and death should the poop hit the propeller. Whatever your bug out vehicle is, foot or motor, set up and give some thought to the things that will come in handy. Have them where they can be loaded up quickly.

Building a Magazine-Fed Sniper Rifle

A magazine-fed bolt-action sniper rifle.
Checking zero after installing the Surgeon magazine well. The addition functioned perfectly, picking up fresh rounds and throwing empties. The magazines also dropped freely and were easily replaced.

A removable magazine on a sniper rifle provides one more level of versatility in the field. A magazine-fed sniper rifle allows for faster reloads and for the quick selection of different rounds as the mission dictates.

These are good options to have and you are starting to see them appear on rifles like the Ruger Scout and McMillan’s Tac 30, which is supplied with a five-round box.  All the semi-auto sniper systems carry a removable box.

So, what if, after weighing all the pros and cons, you decide you need a magazine-fed sniper rifle, but already have a Remington 700 BDL? And further, there is no money in the budget for a new rifle and all the brownie points with the sheriff or the chief have been used up. You can build your own, or show this article to a competent gunsmith and have him do it.
It starts by opening the Brownell’s catalog.  Brownell’s carries a variety of systems to change a BDL over to a magazine-fed gun. I like the unit made by Surgeon Rifles.  It is a well-made lower end that replaces the bottom trigger guard and floorplate of the BDL to accept a magazine of either five- or 10 rounds.  This particular unit accepts magazines made by Accuracy International and I found these to be well-made, of high quality with a composite follower in a steel body.

The magazine release is on the front of the trigger guard and is accessible from the right or left side.  Although I prefer steel bottom end metal on a professional rifle the aluminum trigger guard and frame of the Surgeon product is thick and robust.  It is finished in flat black.

Magazine-fed sniper rifle components.
The old BDL door (top) the new well and the five- and 10-round magazines.

Before you start, realize that the stock needs some modification to accept the system. Be sure this is what you want because once you start cutting, you can’t go back.  But one bonus is that you also get a set of aluminum pillars to pillar bed the action if you need to.

Here’s how I did it. After making the rifle safe I took the action out of the stock and removed the factory floorplate. I secured the stock in a vise on the bench with the bottom up so I could take the Surgeon trigger guard and center it over the existing hole to mark out the material that needed to be removed.  It looked like I would need to take off around .100 or so off each side and front and back.  The curved areas needed to be enlarged, the front and rear tang notch would need to be widened and the front would need to be lengthened quite a bit.

I dropped the screws into the trigger guard so they could line up with the holes through the stock.  The kit comes with a set of pillars if you are putting it into a wooden stock and want to pillar bed it first or on the off chance the holes don’t line up in the stock you are using they can be drilled out and centered with the pillars glued in.  The stock that I was going to modify was an HS Precision which has an aluminum block molded into the composite and machined to fit the barreled action.  As it turned out the holes lined up when I was finished milling out the magazine well and I didn’t need the pillars.

I marked the stock on the bottom so I put it in the vise with the bottom up and was planning on milling it out by hand.  The cut must go all the way through the stock to the area under the channel where the round part of the action rests.  This will take an end mill at least 1 ½ inches long and a 2-inch cutting surface is better.  I cut mine on one side and then flipped the stock over in the vise and cut the other side because the longest mill I had was just 1 inch.  It worked, but I would recommend getting the longer mill and doing it in one cut.  The mill diameter I used was .5 inch and it made the round sections fit perfectly to the part.

I removed small amounts of material at a time and check the part regularly.  This will bring the hole size up slowly for a precise fit.  Should you get a little wild and make a gap between the metal and the stock it is easily filled in with some Acra Glas from Brownells.  The stock is composite and after the crack is filled and the paint is touched up there will be nothing to notice.  Keep diligent and go slow and the cut will come out perfect.

The fitted magazine well.
The fitted magazine well.

Once the cut is complete and the part fits snugly,  put the action back in the stock and put in the action bolts.  If you deepened the tang slots to flush up the trigger guard to the bottom of the stock the screws may be a tad long and interfere with the action of the bolt.  They will need to be shortened up either with a saw, a grinder, or both.  A dab of cold blue on the end of the screws will keep them protected from corrosion.

Put the action and stock together and check the workings of the bolt.  Make sure it picks up a fresh round from the magazine and throws out the empties.  Also make sure the magazines fit freely into the well and that they drop out easily with gravity when you hit the release.  The only thing left to do is take it to the range and check the zero.

Adding a detachable magazine system to the bolt gun can be a great way to increase firepower or provide the versatility of changing rounds to meet the needs of the mission. All it takes is a little skill in the shop, or gunsmith you trust and you can upgrade your rifle without breaking the budget.

Three-Gun Shooting Competition: Heaven or Hell?


Have you ever dreamed of doing something to challenge every element of your shooting skills? Point your truck toward Parma, Idaho and bring along a couple thousand rounds of ammunition, it is time to take on the MGM Iron Man 3-Gun Competition. You’ve got to be nuts to try it, but now that I have tried I can tell you nothing will come between the next match and me.

Are you asking, “What is the MGM Iron Man?”

The Slide
The slide. Targets are engaged from the top in any position you can get comfy in and again from the ground.

“This match isn’t for weenies and crybabies,” says Mike Gibson, creator of this one-of-a-kind 3-Gun match developed to test your shooting, physical conditioning, and your ambition to finish the longest and most intense shoot you will ever attend.

Gibson owns Mike Gibson Manufacturing, and produces MGM Targets, those high quality steel targets you see on all the best ranges. I have been trying to wreck a couple he sent me for T&E a couple years ago.  It can’t be done; a little white paint and they are ready to shoot again.  They are reasonably priced and the price includes shipping. But enough of the commercial for MGM, this story is about the match he founded in 1999 and has been running ever since.

The Iron Man combines all of the tougher targets that everybody dreads in regular 3-Gun matches and moves them farther away requiring they be shot from tougher and more uncomfortable positions.  If you shoot a limited or scoped tactical class there is no bi-pod option and the rests are not steady.  One rifle rest was a hangman’s rope hanging from a beam and you fired while standing on a table.

There are many more targets per stage and the round count for a stage is as many as some complete matches I have been to.  The squad I was on started out on Stage 10, which required 97 rounds; 32 rifle, 35 pistol, 19 shot, and 10 slugs.  That was the minimum needed if you didn’t miss.  For me, the whole match was about carrying enough shotgun shells.  Not only do you have to have a way to carry them, you have to manage how you shoot to engage the slug targets and shot targets accordingly and with the greatest efficiency.

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The stage started with the pistol.  We had to shoot through some barricades and the first shot knocked over a steel target to reveal a paper target that poped up and disappeared from view in a second and a half.  This paper target had to be hit at least once in the A or B area or twice anywhere.  Then we saw the “swinger” and it was not as exciting as it sounds.  A pressure plate in front of the window through which it was engaged started things with the “swinger” and scoring proved to be a challenge.

Next up was a short jog around the berm to a table with a dummy weighing around 90 pounds.  I had to carry this dummy a golf cart about 50 yards away and place in the cart without knocking over my shotgun that was staged on the seat. I had to engage some targets with the shotgun while driving the cart!  Other targets included a variety of shotgun poppers, whirly gigs, plate racks, and clay bird targets.  All this was followed up with 10 slug against on five targets at about 50 to 60 yards.

The most diabolical of targets seemed to be the Double Target Spinner. I had never seen anything like it before. The target consists of two round target plates of different diameters on arms of about the same length balanced on a stand. This leaves the heavier one at rest on the bottom.  The spinner rotates on the stand when you hit one of the plates. The goal is to make it revolve over one full turn.

Hitting the plates, which is no easy task, is only half the challenge.  You also need to time your hits to move the targets properly. I never did get used to that thing but it definitely is something to practice for next year.

Keep Your Bolt Running Right

Sinclair International’s bolt maintenance kit.
Sinclair International’s bolt maintenance kit.

One of the most overlooked areas of the bolt-action rifle is the bolt itself. We clean the rifle chamber and bore with care and diligence but many times the bolt is never taken apart until it doesn’t work. This is unacceptable for any rifle let alone a precision or professional rifle. Most of this is attributed to unfamiliarity with the bolt and lack of tools to take them apart.

I have used a vise and some elbow grease for years to get the bolt apart and the spring out. The hard part is holding the spring tension while trying to get the stay pin lined up and in. Then there is the sending the ejector spring into orbit when trying to get it out. There must be an easier way.

Disassembled bolt and tools.
Disassembled bolt and tools.

I decided to give Sinclair International’s bolt disassembly tool a try. It comes with all the tools to easily take apart the bolt for routine maintenance. It can also be used in the field because it doesn’t require a vise or tools other than a punch and small hammer to get the spring retaining pin out. The tools are stored in a neatly divided plastic box to keep them all together and organized.

The tools can be purchased all together in a kit or separately if you want to put it together to suit your needs. The tools include a firing pin removal tool, which replaces the vise as a holding device. This tool holds the spring tension pushing the upper part of the firing pin assembly out so the bolt shroud and firing pin assembly can be screwed apart. The mainspring disassembly can be done with the disassembly tool, and there is a tool to hold the ejector in place while removing and replacing the ejector-retaining pin. Also with the kit is a plastic block for holding the bolt while tapping out pins.

The firing pin removal tool fits over the Remington bolt shroud and has a hook that reaches over the bolt block. By screwing the hook tight the shroud is pulled back and can be unscrewed from the bolt housing because the spring tension is relieved. The firing pin assembly is easily removed by unscrewing the shroud from the housing. There is no chance of damage to the block sear edges because it is not clamped into a vise like most guys do without the tool. The bolt housing can then be cleaned out with a brush of any residual solvents and dried and coated with a light lube. My housing was wet with residual lube and only had to be wiped out. Sometimes this oil over time will harden and grit will stick to it causing build up.

Video: First Round Hit

Precision Marksmanship Columnist Dave Morelli takes you through the process of ranging targets and compensating for environmental factors to make sure your first shot is a hit. Click here to learn more about the Nightforce Ballistic Program.

This video is a preview of a full feature article that will appear in the June 2011 issue of Tactical Gear Digital Magazine. To get that and other issues FREE, enter your email address and click submit.

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Tactical Gear Video: The El Presidente Drill

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Many of you are thinking, “Not another El Presidente story.”

Surrender or starting position. This can be with the targets to the rear or either side depending on which turn you are practicing. Remember you don’t have to be a cooperative captive. I am starting my crouch to make the turn. It should look to the bad guy that I am being submissive and giving up.
Surrender or starting position. This can be with the targets to the rear or either side depending on which turn you are practicing. Remember you don’t have to be a cooperative captive. I am starting my crouch to make the turn. It should look to the bad guy that I am being submissive and giving up.

Do you know the El Presidente drill? The standard drill as I learned it was to stand with your back to three targets that are side-by-side about 10 yards away with six rounds in the gun and six rounds in a spare magazine where you normally carry it.

With your hands up, in the surrender position, turn and face the targets, draw and fire the weapon with two shots on each target, drop the empty mag, reload and again put two rounds on each target.  You can chose to go back the way you came or start on the same target you started with the first time.

I shot El Presidente the first time more than 25 years ago.  And since that time there has been much criticism leveled against this particular training sequence.

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This is largely because it is not a sound tactic to stand off against armed assailants and hope you can put four rounds into each one before you get killed. Someone even did a force-on-force evaluation on how effective it would be to take on three armed opponents standing face-to-face.

Bringing the hands together for a solid two handed grip ans the gun heads to the target. Keep your one eye on the target and one ont the front sight as it comes up to a perfect sight picture.
Bringing the hands together for a solid two handed grip ans the gun heads to the target. Keep your one eye on the target and one ont the front sight as it comes up to a perfect sight picture.

The consensus, was you no matter how fast you are, the best is a draw or you would lose.  Duh!

The point of this training exercise is not that you actually think you can win such a fight. The point is to teach you how to handle the weapon and the reloads.

El Pres is about drawing and presenting the pistol, firing double taps at multiple targets and performing a speed reload. These are very important things to master in handling a gun for defensive purposes.

It is like a kata that has put together several functions in one drill.  The karate man doesn’t expect to get attacked in the same order that he mastered his moves, but learns a kata to help him learn and master each move.

The mind can employ the moves as needed to the situation but first you have to master the moves.  The same with the El Presidente.

Video: Powder Selection for Precision Shooting

Note: For Highest Quality playback, right-click on video and choose “HD”

Dave Morelli, our Precision Marksmanship columnist, describes how to select powder to achieve the best accuracy for your loads.

Resources for reloading:
Cartridges of the World. Click Here.Cartridges of the World, A Complete and Illustrated Reference for Over 1,500 Cartridges

The ABC's of Reloading, The Definitive Guide for Novice to Expert, 8th Edition

Ammo & Ballistics 4, Ballistic Data out to 1,000 Yards for over 170 Calibers and over 2,400 Different Loads

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