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Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Dead of Winter - Long Ridge

  Well, it is the second week of February everywhere, and in New Hampshire, this is what we call the dead of winter. Normally this time of year sees a ton of snow, and  cold. This year we have the cold, but little snow. The trails are mostly bare which means the snowmobiles are stationary. Very unusual...The cold we have plenty of. It is near zero or below every night, and the days are lucky to see high teens or twenty. Even our fastest brooks and widest rivers including the Connecticut are frozen solid. I love the old adage "running water never freezes"..
Oh, really? Our very waterfalls are a solid cascade of ice. Our dashing brooks are frozen solid in the layers of flow that they struggled to maintain, the ice flows from rock outcroppings along the highways are fabulous in their beauty...
But it gets old...without snow, brown dirt at 5 degrees looks down right depressing. So we put together 'winter projects' that may last well into summer. Here are some that are underway at Long Ridge Deer Camp..
Below you see two model 70 Winchester Featherweights in 30-06. The walnut stocked one on top sports a Leupold 3.5x10, and the MacMillan stocked one below carries a 1 3/4 x 5 Redfield Widefield scope. I use the lower one with the 1 3/4 power in our woods for deer and the upper one with the Leupold for smaller game such as Coyotes, etc. They are both sighted in at 100 yards,  the black one with 180 grain bullets, the wood stocked one for 150 grain bullets. Both, at their best, no matter the round (sans handloads) shoot 1 1/4 inch groups on a good day, 1 3/4 inch on a bad one. This winter's project is to get them to shoot 1 M.O.A. consistently by mid summer.

 I want to accomplish this task for very little money, since that will appeal to the most of you. I have never messed with these rifles, I have had them for years, I shot them right out of the box, and I want to say, that the present accuracy is totally adequate. These are the sweetest shooting rifles I have ever owned. Bolts as slick as honey, you point and shoot these babes and they always take game. It's almost uncanny how they are so forgiving. Put the crosshairs on it, and squeeze, and you own it. Simple as that. And firing the 30-06, they are good for anything on the continent. Anything.  So this is a cheap experiment to see what we can squeeze from them, if anything, without spending much money. The Walnut stocked 70 I will work with 125 grain bullets, factory loads, for the smaller game such as whitetails, and coyotes etc.  The Synthetic will be loaded with 180 grains, factory available loads only, good for all North American large game (though for grizzlies I would re-sight for 200/220 grains)
Above you can observe the two bores. They are rough. These rifles have been hammered over the years. I hunt with them, not show them. There are small nicks and dents all around the bores. For about fifty bucks I can have these bores crowned, and re-set. I won't do it until I have shot for groups without it so we will know what a change, if any, it made...

The 30-06 is not a terrible kicker, but there were days when I shot a hundred rounds at the range. This could be hard on the shoulder if you don't untilize a lead sled or some such device. I do have a magnum shoulder pad I utilize, but researched recoil pads on the market. Above you can see the hardened and unforgiving factory pads attached to my rifles. I've never minded them, but let's make it better! I have settled on the Limbsaver by Sims. Thirty seven bucks or so, and reports are that the felt recoil is unbelieveably attenuated. I'll let you know!

The walnut stock on the Winchester above is cracked, but when that happened it did not seem to effect accuracy, so I never worried about it. These barrels are not free floated, so there is a rise in the stock cut toward the muzzle end of the stock to put pressure on the barrel. I removed the actions from the stock, checked to see if all was well, and replaced, tightening stock action screws to 40 inch pounds each. The walnut stock was fine, the Macmillan stock had a bubble in the glass just to the left of the riser, and I removed this, smoothed the riser, and re-installed the action, again, tightening these screws to 40 inch pounds. This rifle always shot less than one inch groups, but ALWAYS threw a flyer out an inch or more. I wonder of it was this bubble on the left side of the riser, which a heating barrel would expand against, that caused this? We will see.
Just a picture above of my modest and un-organized work station in deer camp...not many or complicated tools needed for the work I do. I mostly need ammunition, not tools!

After I do all of the above, and achieve the best groups these rifles are capable of, I'll install, and sort out, and experiment with a Sims Laboratory barrel de-resonator. The factory claims these can drastically reduce groups. I'll report, you decide. If they do work, I am not sure what I'll do! I don't think I'll like the look of a rifle with one of these silly things around the barrel! And by the way, if your rifle has sights attached, don't bother. These won't fit!
After all of the above, should I decide that more needs to be done, a trigger job on each will happen. But that is real money, and I am hoping to tighten groups for just pocket change.
I will report on intial groups, and improvements (if any) with each change...I can't wait to get started! Jack

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