Range Report: Federal 6.5x55mm Swedish 140gr

Yesterday I went off to the 100-yard indoor range to play around a little with the new rig:

…and see which ammo it likes best of all.  I have quite a few different brands / types of 6.5x55mm ammo, so picking one is no easy choice.  I decided to start with the Federal ammo, because I’ve always had good results with it, and long ago I standardized my bullet weight at 140gr because that’s what all my rifles thus chambered (there have been a few) have shot well.

Before we look at the target, I need to talk a little bit about the scope technique.

Last week, after zeroing the scope, I reset both the top- and side knobs to zero.  All “warmup” strings were fired with that scope setting, and then I’d adjust the scope (once) for that ammo, and let off another string.  While I was letting the barrel cool between the different ammo brands, I’d reset the both scope turrets to their original zero, before changing to the new ammo.

All aiming-points are the center (bull) diamonds.

Because I couldn’t take too much time — the range is always fairly busy, even on a Monday — I had to shoot a little more quickly than I normally would, which meant the barrel heated up quite a lot.  So here’s the 100-yard target:

The top two targets were as follows:  the top right-hand target was the warm-up string with this type (includes a called flyer), and the top-left was after I’d adjusted the scope.  Not bad.

The large center target held two groups:  the left-hand group (with yet another called flyer) was basically the same ammo I used to zero the scope last week, and I was a little worried because my aim-point was the center diamond.  Was the barrel starting to whip?  I decided to let the thing cool for about ten minutes, and then I tried the “new” ammo I’d purchased a few weeks ago:  the Federal “Fusion”, the first string of which which is the right-hand group on the large target, and then, after scope adjustment, the bottom-right target.  Lovely. Good thing I have lots of it.  (Okay, I have a lot of all the ammo types, but whatever.)

Then, disaster.

The bottom-left target was reserved for Federal Premium “Trophy Bonded Bear Claw”, which has always given me excellent results, across three or four different rifles.  All this ammo, incidentally, has the same lot number on the boxes;  it was very carefully chosen and ordered, and it has worked consistently well.

Just not this time, with this rifle.

The two flyers were not called — in fact, all five shots felt “right” when I touched them off — and while I can live with flyers an inch or two off, these two came out of the blue, and were not the last two fired, either:  from memory, they were the 2nd and 4th in the string.  In fairness, the barrel was really hot by then, so… I ended the range session.

The reason this is so perturbing is that if I were suddenly to be called away on a hunting trip with no chance to test-fire any of the types shown, I would grab the Bear Claw in a heartbeat and head out.

It looks like I need to spend a little more time with this ammo.

That aside — and I will get to the bottom of the problem — the Federal ammo brands and types all performed well, under the circumstances.  Remember that this was really just a “rough” test — I plan on fine-tuning each type in separate sessions over the next couple months, with the scope adjustments noted.

Range Report: CZ 550 American / Meopta Optika6

Yesterday I took the new toys out to work, said toys being a CZ 550 American (6.5x55mm Swede), topped with a Meopta Optika6 3-18x50mm scope.  Here’s the tout ensemble:

…and the illuminated reticle:

…which I would only use if I were hunting at dusk or dawn.  (On paper, the cross-hairs work just fine.)

Now, I’m pretty sure I heard someone saying, “Meopta-whut?”

Me, too;  until I discovered who they are.  Here’s the full scoop, but the executive summary is:

  • Czech company
  • been around since the 1930s
  • mainly makes commercial photo-enlargers
  • renowned for the quality of their glass
  • started making scopes a couple decades ago
  • if you’ve ever bought a Zeiss Conquest scope [raises hand], it was made by Meopta and stamped by Zeiss
  • congratulations;  you just paid two hundred-odd dollars more than you had to, for the identical scope.

Let me get the basics out of the way, first.

This scope cost me about $650, and I honestly think I got $1,200 value for it.  Holy cow:  the precision of the scope is astonishing, and the clarity as as good as any scope I’ve ever looked through.  I was originally going to get a Minox ZX-5i of similar power for about $100 more, but nobody had it in stock at the time and I was antsy, so I took a flyer on the Meopta, and I don’t regret it, at all.

That said, there are a couple of things that irritated me about the scope’s setup operation.

I’m using Warne Maxima rings, the tallest you can get, because the 50mm bell needs to be raised off the barrel and CZ bases are quite low.  As it turned out, the bell wasn’t a problem.  What was a problem was that yuge magnification adjusting ring on the scope:

…which proved very good at preventing the bolt from being pulled back — which, in a bolt-action rifle, is Not A Good Thing.  I had to put a shim into the rear scope ring to raise the scope the requisite millimeter or thereabouts so that the bolt handle would clear the adjusting ring.

The second issue also involved the adjuster, and it was the little stick screwed into it, supposedly to aid the easy working of the mag adjuster (which, by the way, is hellish stiff, more than it has to be, I think, but it should ease up with use).

Well, maybe the stick helps adjust the ring, but what it also does is get in the way when you’re working the bolt — and yes, there are several threaded holes to choose from to overcome this problem:  but what I found was that moving the stick so that it stayed out of the way worked for one magnification setting, but as soon as I changed the magnification (from, say, 10x to 5x or 12x to 18x), the fucking thing would catch on my hand when I worked the bolt.  And nothing makes Uncle Kimmy crankier than when something interferes with him working the bolt.

So I unscrewed the little stick and threw it away.  Don’t need it, won’t need it, especially as the adjusting ring has those deep, thick grooves to provide a decent grip*.

But those were the only issues I encountered at that session.  The scope worked flawlessly, and zeroing it took just under an hour (I generally let the barrel cool between strings, especially a skinny lil’ thing like the 550’s.)

Like an idiot, I hadn’t bothered bore-sighting the scope before hitting the range, and I paid for it by having to waste over a dozen rounds just to land the boolets into a dinner-plate group.

I had no intention of going for MOA (except by luck) during this session, anyway.  This is a hunting rifle rather than a precision target piece, and in any event, I was only shooting one brand of ammo to get everything into the same zip code.

The ammo was my standard sighting-in choice:  bottom-of-the-line no-frills Federal 140-gr Soft Point:

…with which I managed this 100-yard grouping with the last 5 rounds in the box.

That’s close enough for government work (or anti-government work, depending on your circumstances).

Now that the scope is roughly zeroed, next week I’ll get serious and start running through the dozen-odd different brands and bullet weights I have lying around in Ye Olde Ammoe Locquer, to see which one works best.

What fun.

*I don’t wear heavy gloves when shooting, anyway — in very cold weather (e,g, Scotland), I use the flip-off mitten type over thin gloves.

Not That Bad

Via Insty (thankee Squire), I see that our favorite shooting rag has a piece about a new Bond Arms Derringer:

Speaking personally, I think it’s pig-ugly;  but no doubt someone will soon be telling me how matte is the new black, or something, and all the cool kids are carrying it.  Whatever.  I like ’em shiny (and without that sissy trigger guard):

But anyway, it was Insty’s comment which got my attention:


That has not been my experience (remember that I am an infamous recoil wussy).  I’ve had two of these beauties in my time — in .45 Long Colt /.410ga, and in .38 Spec/.357 Mag — and I didn’t find the recoil in any of the four chamberings to be too unpleasant.  Here’s why.

I think that the teeny lil’ barrel helps.  Basically, it seems to me that before the burning powder can get up to full oomph in the chamber, the boolet has already left the building, so to speak.  Even .410 slugs were stout, but quite manageable — especially when you remember that Derringers are “halitosis-range” guns, in that even if the scumbag doesn’t immediately die from the boolet, the muzzle flash should set his fucking clothes on fire to complete the carnage.  And forget the loss of muzzle velocity from the tiny barrel — at 4″ distance from the target, it’s very much a moot point.

I wouldn’t want to let off hundreds of rounds of serious centerfire ammo in a single session at the range with a Bond Arms Derringer, mind — half a dozen would do just fine, thank you — but frankly, even a dozen-odd rounds of .45 ACP wouldn’t be too much of an imposition on one’s shooting hand.

What I’ve always liked about the Bond Arms guns is that they are heavy, baby — which means if you hold it in your hand and give someone a swift smack on the side of the head with it, he is going to go down.

Manly guns.  I love ’em.

Asking The Important Questions

Key takeaway from the test:

  • The AK is the most reliable but after seeing how many have broken over the last two and half years on the range, it’s not the indestructible weapon everybody talks about (and I always thought it was).
  • This may sound crazy but it’s fair to say that they finally suffer a catastrophic failure (cracked trunion) at 80,000-100,000 rounds.

Oh.  Positively glass-like fragility, then.

Well, that means that on my current AK (obtained almost NIB), I have about 79,000 more rounds to go.  (I hardly ever shoot much through mine because a) I know how it works and can shoot it just fine,  and b) I prefer shooting my other guns.  I shoot it fairly often, but only a mag or so’s worth at a time — more a “hi there, how’re ya doin?”  kinda thing.)

I know how to fix the thing if it ever breaks — I just don’t care to.  If I were ever in a (SHTF) situation where my AK breaks, I’m sure there’d be a couple of other options lying around.


Outstanding Comparison

I just watched Paul Harrell’s video comparison of the .357 Mag cartridge vs. the .44 Mag, and it’s the best yet.  Basically, he compares identical bullet weight and barrel length (to make it “fair”) in an empirical study, then compares “common” gun choices and bullet weights for a realistic evaluation.

But what impressed me was that he doesn’t bother with any of that ballistic gelatin nonsense.  Nope;  he builds a realistic effectiveness measurement target using pork ribs, pork chops, oranges (to simulate vitals tissue) and back ribs.  This is what I’d do if I wanted to get into what he does, on a full-time basis.

Watch the video for the full flavor.  It’s long — as they all are — because he’s serious about the topic.

As for his bona fides, he lists them all at the beginning of this video, and let’s just say that his skills, knowledge and expertise are more than adequate for the task.

He’s done many more such shows, so wave good-bye to your weekend if you dive into the Harrell Matrix.  That’s where I’ll be, if anyone asks.

One Forward, Three Back

Sometimes I wonder why they bother.  In an article which reviews Ruger’s new mini-wonder pistol, the field-stripping process is described thus:

Field stripping is easily accomplished by following the directions in the instruction manual. That’s the usual gunwriter verbiage, but it isn’t quite what I experienced with the 57. Following the direction to ensure the pistol is unloaded, the slide is first locked to the rear.
Opposite the takedown lever is a pin that takes a bit of effort to depress. Ruger recommends using the base pad of one of the magazines; I ended up using a punch. Once the takedown lever is protruding from the frame, it can be rotated down. Next, rather than the conventional method of running the slide forward off the frame (I warned you to read the directions) the slide is moved forward about a quarter inch, then lifted straight up.
The recoil spring and barrel can then be removed from the slide in the usual manner. Ruger has designed this pistol to be taken apart without the need to press the trigger, a feature I heartily applaud.
Reassembly is quite easy if one follows the instructions, but entirely impossible if, somehow while messing around with it, the takedown lever is allowed to snap back into the frame. (Ask me how I know.) Anyway, it really is quite easy, but I enjoin you, make sure the takedown lever is still out (or in the disassembly position) should you wish to avoid a couple of frustrating hours mucking about.


Ruger could just have made their new wunder-pistole come apart like their own Mk IV .22 pistol, namely:

  1. Remove all boolets (and the mag) from the gun.
  2. Cock the piece and click the safety catch up into SAFE.
  3. Press the little button under the slide tabs at the back.
  4. Lift the slide assembly off the frame.

And that’s it: no special tools, no screwdrivers, no coins, nothing. The firing pin assembly is loose in the slide, and just drops out into your hand for cleaning. Here’s a pic-by-pic:

And now for the best part: the reassembly.

  1. Slip the firing pin assembly back into the slide (it can only go one way).
  2. Place the slide’s hinge hook back into the front of the frame.
  3. Drop the slide back onto the frame, and push it closed until you hear the click.
  4. You’re ready to start shooting.

Best part:  I never had to consult the manual.

Did Ruger do that?  No.  Instead, they made the new 57’s field-stripping procedure more akin to the older Mk I/II/III pistols:  a study in frustration.

I don’t know the answer to this (but I’m willing to learn):  how difficult would it have been just to stretch out the Mk. IV’s frame and breech to accommodate the longer 5.7x28mm cartridge?  Or, for that matter, the .22 Win Mag?

Oh, wait, I forgot:  that wouldn’t engender the same increase in sales (and all the concomitant gun-magazine hype) that a new pistol  would.

Instead, Ruger seems to have made a “new” pistol which hearkens back to the past.

Not interested.

Now if I were seriously interested in the 5.7x28mm ratshooter cartridge (a BIG if), I’d be far more likely to look at the PS90 mini-carbine:

I shot Doc Russia’s daughter’s PS90 a couple weeks back, and it was a sweetheart (albeit as ugly as Rosie O’Donnell).  But that gun’s way too spendy (over a grand and a half), so:  no.

I just can’t get excited about a new cartridge which is simply a very hot .22 Win Mag and which would cost an arm and a leg to get into, what with all the new guns etc.

I have enough calibers in Ye Olde Gunne Sayfe, so:  no.

What I may look at, if ever the funds become available, is the Kel-Tec PMR-30 in .22 Win Mag (of which I may already have one or two rounds in Ye Olde Ammoe Locquer)…

…and it’s all Ruger’s fault.

Or am I missing something, and is the 5.7x28mm the absolute bee’s knees?  Chuck Hawks doesn’t seem to think so.