Sunday, March 08, 2009

Day at the Range

Today did not start out well.  As a matter of fact, I had what I call a "Four Advil Morning," due to pain and stiffness in my back.  About an hour after taking 800mg of Ibuprofen I was able to walk without wincing and I was reasonably limber, so I packed up a couple guns and headed down to the range.

I brought with me today my S&W Model 18 .22 Combat Masterpiece and my Savage Mark IIGL bolt action, also in .22 LR.  Unfortunately, the pistol range was packed so all I got to shoot was the Savage.

My normal choices in .22 LR ammo are CCI Subsonic Hollowpoints or Mini Mags.  However, they are relatively expensive, and I wanted to see if the Savage will shoot cheaper bulk pack ammo well.  I had in my stash one brick each of Remington Golden Bullets and Federal Champions.  Both are high speed hollow points, though the Federals are more of a "dimple point."

One thing to note is that when switching from one kind of ammo to another in a .22, frequently you'll probably have to put at least 10 rounds through the gun before its point of impact settles down with the new load.  The Savage had been zeroed with CCI Subsonic HPs the last time I shot it.  It'll put five shots under a nickel with that load at 50 yards.

I tried the Remingtons first.  Once the gun settled in with the new layer of bore fouling, it grouped into 1.5" to 2" at 50 yards, about an inch low.  After about 20 or 30 of the Remingtons, I switched to the Federals.  POI was about the same but I noticed that due to the slightly pointer bullet shape, they fed more smoothly.  Again, groups hovered around 1.5" at 50 yards.

I was not suprised to see the bulk ammo shoot much larger groups than the CCI Subsonics.  CCI rimfire ammo is among the best sold for hunting use, when it comes to accuracy, consistency, and reliability.  In contrast, the Remington and Federal ammo I was shooting today is mostly intended for plinking.

One thing that I suspect contributes to the bulk ammos' lackluster accuracy is that it's very dirty burning.  At one point I pulled the bolt from the rifle and looked through the bore.  I found it lined with a considerable amount of unburnt powder.  In contrast, the CCI ammo I normally shoot burns much more cleanly.

That said, the Remingtons and Federal would do OK in the Savage for small game or varmints out to about 50 yards.  I have a couple of other rifles to test them in -- a Winchester 9422 XTR Classic and a Ruger 10/22.  Additionally, I have the S&W Model 18 and an old model Ruger Single Six in which I want to try them.  If the other guns shoot reasonably well with the bulk ammo I'll pick up a few more bricks.

I'll also note that in comparison with some Winchester XPert .22s which I bought at WalMart about five or six years ago, the Remginton and Federal stuff was practically match grade.  The XPert .22 was absolutely the worst rimfire ammo I've used for accuracy and reliability.  I'd expect it to come out of some Third World hole, not an American factory.

One thing I was not pleased with was functioning in the Savage.  I had several problems with failures to eject and misfeeds, even after cleaning the bolt face and extractor.  The Savage definitely functions better when one works the action briskly.  It also has a tight chamber which gums up after about 50 to 100 rounds if I run waxy ammo through it.  This leads to failures to extract until I clean it.  The tight chamber no doubt contributes to the rifle's accuracy with good ammo, but is a PITA in long shooting sessions.  I normally don't have the ejection or feeding problems with CCI Subsonics.

Since I'll probably go back to the CCI ammo in the Savage, after I was finished shooting I ran a patch with Hoppe's No.9 on it through the bore, followed by a squirt of RemOil, with the excess removed using a Hoppe's BoreSnake.  This will ensure that the worst of the gunk will be absent the next time I shoot the rifle, so the number of fouling shots needed will be reduced.

But all in all, it was still a good day, even with the functioning issues.

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