F or the last several years I have been conducting tests with both older rifles and newer bullets and newer rifles and older bullets. At first the results were confusing.
I found that older rifles shooting newer bullets shot remarkably well, and that newer rifles with older bullets shot equally well. It was a real head-scratcher. However, I believe I have finally figured it out.
First let me say thank you to those of you who were kind enough to send me your old bullets. With your help I was finally able to come, I think, to some valid conclusions.
When I first began this adventure I loaded up some rounds for both an old Remington Model 722 in .222 Remington and a new Remington M700 in .223 Remigton. For the old gun I loaded new bullets, for the new gun I loaded old bullets of about 1970 vintage.
When I shot them for group on my 100-yard range there was almost no difference in the size of the groups they shot. The Model 700 managed an average of about .850 inches and the Model 722 came in at just .908 inches.
“Aha!” I thought, “It’s the bullets that matter most.” Then I shot a few groups in the new gun with the new bullets and got almost exactly the same group size. Same with the old Model 722 with the older bullets. Thus began the head scratching.
In the end I don’t know for sure how many groups I shot, but I can tell you that I shot numerous groups with, in addition to the above, a .243 Ackley Improved with a new Hart barrel, an old Dominican Republic Model 98 Mauser in 7x57mm, a .222 Remington Magnum Ackley Improved in a Model 700 wearing a Pac-Nor barrel, a Remington Model 721 in .270 Winchester, and a custom .25-06 on a Winchester Model 70 push feed action wearing a Lothar Walther barrel. When I had finished I had data running out my ears that, on the surface, seemed to prove absolutely nothing.
The more I thought about it the more confused I became. Then one day I was sitting in my shop pondering the imponderable when I realized that I had stacked the deck. You see, most of my guns have had accuracy work done on them at one time or another. I simply will not keep a gun that is not supremely accurate.
When I had the .222 Remington Magnum Ackley Improved built, the gunsmith told me that nothing on it was square. I had sent it to him in the first place because it shot five-inch groups at 100 yards. I thought it was the barrel, but in retrospect it could have been the terrible job of finishing the gun at the factory. It must have been built on a Monday. Anyway, the gunsmith spent a lot of time squaring up the lugs, the bolt face, and the other parts, so they did what they were supposed to do. He fitted the new Pac Nor barrel to it, set the headspace, and sent it to me. Although it’s not a tack driver, it will consistently shoot about 3/4 of an inch for three shots at 100 yards.
The .270 Model 721 had an aftermarket stock that was fitted with loving attention to detail and carefully glass bedded (I have since fitted it with a new Hogue overmolded stock with pillar bedding). It shoots consistently around one inch or slightly less, which is not bad for a gun that is probably well over 50 years old. M721 was discontinued in 1962 with the introduction of the Model 700.
The Custom Model 70 .25-06, with a Lothar Walther barrel and McMillan stock, was built for me by a company that is no longer in business, but which specialized in building sniper rifles for the military. To say it shoots well is a gargantuan understatement. It will, when I have not had too much coffee, put three shots in about three-tenths of an inch.
The .243 Ackley Improved with the Hart barrel, built by Ted Borg of Weatherford, Oklahoma, is equally as accurate as the .25-06.
So what did I learn from all of this? I think the truth is that modern bullets are so aerodynamically perfect that they will shoot quite well in any gun that is halfway right. When I look back at the data I have collected I see a very minor advantage on the side of the new bullets. But the rifles I have are sufficiently accurate that they shoot almost any bullet pretty well. That seems to be true of most modern firearms. The barrels of today are so straight and so well finished that they shoot anything well. So modern engineering of both bullets and barrels have come to the point that ammo and rifles are so good that they trump the target rifles of yesteryear. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Email Steve LaMascus at [email protected]