Range day with the BDay rifle

in The Pew: Guns & morelast month

Well, I finally got to the range with the new BDay rifle. I must say I am very happy with the rifle, only medium happy with the ammunition. It seems I have gotten spoiled with handloading my other rifle. While I handload the other one mainly for costs savings, it seems I've become a bit of a velocity consistency snob, lol.
The one I was shooting mainly today is the top one, mentioned in my previous post. For refresher, it is a Sako model 85 in .22-250 caliber.

This was a terrible day for attempting benchrest accuracy. First, I was upset because the long distance 100-600 yard range area was closed for upgrades that were supposed to have been completed last month. I had planned on shooting at 200 and 500 yards today for testing. Luckily, I was able to at least go to one of the several other 100 yard ranges.

It was cold, winds very gusty at 6-12 mph and even trying to spit a little snow now and again. I almost didn't go, but I bundled up with my long underwear, flannel lined jeans, sweatshirt, coat, gloves, etc. and braved it. I've been waiting to get this to the range for weeks now and nothing but a downpour or blizzard was going to stop me. Have I made enough excuses for the groupings yet? Haha, actually, these are very good groups for me and I am very happy with that, despite the conditions and excuses, I'm lucky to do this well on even a good day.

Not only did I get two - 5 shot groups in a row to shoot under an inch, there was a third not pictured here with another 4 shot group under an inch with only my first shot about 2 inches high until I adjusted the scope for this range.

I had two goals for today, first, to gather some velocity info using the labradar chronograph, and second to see how well this would shoot at 100 yards my first time out and how much scope adjustment is needed (if any).
Using my Strelok ballistics calculator, it determined that with a 50 yard zero (which I did at home last week), I should be shooting at about "2 clicks" down at 100 yards, and be exactly on zero again at 200 yards. I felt this was a good general setting for this caliber and rifle. Here was my 50 yard target from sighting in earlier in the week.

(Note those are half-inch squares compared to the one-inch squares at 100 yards.)
What I found out by using the LabRadar chronograph, was that even though these bullets were rated at 4,000 fps (feet per second) velocity, the factory tests them in 26" barrel rifle. My rifle barrel is only 20 inches long, which means that they actually go quite a bit slower, around 3,860 fps. This meant that my first shot at 100 yards was over an inch or so high. I adjusted down 4 clicks, instead of the recommended 2 clicks and was then right on the money. Now, I have more accurate velocity data to feed into the Strelok ballistics app for longer range shots without wasting ammo.

In my long range rifle, a .338 Lapua Magnum, I typically handload the ammo to save cost. When doing that, I hand weigh the amount of gunpowder in each load to ensure consist velocities, as that will be more accurate at longer ranges. I guess I have gotten spoiled with that. It's been probably a decade since I bothered testing any factory ammunition. Well since this is to become my new favorite medium range (100-600 yard) gun, I wanted to get accurate readings to extend the distance and just to see how consistent it is.

I was very disappointed in the ammo. Even though these are high velocity specialty ammo, designed mainly for coyote and varmit hunting, not match grade target ammo.
I'm shooting Hornady Superformance Varmit, 50 grains in Sako 85 S .22-250. This ammo is rated at 4,000 fps. I'm getting an average around 3,860 fps out of this Sako with a 20" Barrel. About what I expected.
But the real question is it seems to vary extremely widely. It shoots decent at 100 yards (pic on a windy / cold day). I can't imagine how this could shoot consistent at longer ranges.

I shot 3 - 5 shot strings through a LabRadar chrony with these results
String 1: Avg Vel=3849 fps; Max=3896 fps; Low=3795; Ext Spread=101.63 fps; Std Dev=36.77 fps
String 2: Avg Vel=3855 fps; Max=3901 fps; Low=3810; Ext Spread=91.7 fps; Std Dev=43.31 fps
String 3: Avg Vel=3875 fps; Max=3904 fps; Low=3837; Ext Spread=67.06 fps; Std Dev=27.75 fps


For those not familar, the important ones are the Extreme Spread, and Standard Deviation. This tells us how consistent the loads are. The smaller those numbers, the better. I typically get in the low teens for Std Dev in my handloads or better, and only around 8-20 or so Extreme spread (The maximum difference between rounds).
I wasn't expecting the factory loads to be as consistent as my meticulously weighed handloads (I measure to within 1/10th of a grain, which is smaller than a sharp pencil tip). I was expecting maybe 20-50 fps max difference in factory loads, certainly not 100 fps! Wow, in my eyes, that's not much quality control. Perhaps I've grown too compulsive in my pursuit of "the perfect bullet".


I do love the trigger on this rifle. As I described in more detail in my earlier post a couple weeks ago, it has both an adjustable trigger (which I adjusted down to 2.5 lbs. and what is called a single set trigger. This set trigger allows me to push the trigger forward, which "sets" it, and then lowers the pull to only 6 ounces. Yes, that's less than half a pound. Even in today's horrible weather, I found that I really, really, like this set trigger for bench rest shooting. I can't wait to get it out to longer ranges.

I don't have the dies and powder to handload these yet, but after seeing this, I will definitely need to start!

I must say I am tickled with the rifle, and now just need to tune the ammo to match. This is one of the things I enjoy most, the science of tweaking and twiddling to get it just right. If it were perfect out of the box, I would be more disappointed at not having the challenge!



That's the problem with handloading Kris, we get used to certain performances and when they don't happen...Well, I think you know very well. Consistency-snobbery is a thing.

I'm always chasing an SD of under 10fps for repeatability at long range and factory ammunition can never deliver it. The only one that I've been happy to shoot from the factory is the premium Federal Match Grade stuff,. I've shot it in .308 to good effect...But there's no substitute to a precision handload.

I had a visit from a mate I haven't seen for a while late today and we were talking about confidence when shooting: Weapon system, ballistics software, scope, wind calling, rifle-zero and the ammunition. With confidence in these elements, and others, and the shooter is simple more effective and the hit-percentage will increase.

I htink you've got a great shooter there mate, and with some handloads you'll have it zinging laser-like...Now, if only those buggers will open the 600 yard range...Come on already! :)

Exactly right. I guess I've been testing my handloads and pellets so long that I lost touch. I never really tested much factory stuff before. I also get like 5-8 fps SD and less than 15-20 Extreme. (Even lower on the pellets across 20 shots!). I was just floorstruck when I saw that 100 fps Extreme Spread between only 5 shots! I was assuming they would be maybe 40-50 fps extreme deviation. Even at 30-40 fps, that's an inch at 500 yards... at 100 fps, that's over 3 inches difference! Already over the size group I am hoping for, assuming everything else is perfect (and I'm not)! I need every inch I can get without losing it to poor quality ammo lol.

I can't recall exactly as it's been so long since I've tried to shoot with precision using factory rounds (because they suck) but I reckon my best SD was something like 20-30 with factory rounds. It's ok at certain ranges and in particular situations but when the need to thread a needle arises...It's not acceptable.

I'm like an OCD accountant when handloading for rifle calibres...Check. Re-check. Sip coffee. Check and re-check. Corn chip or two. Check...Then proceed. Lol.

btw, I know you used to shoot this caliber a lot. Any powder / load recommendations? I just ordered a set of dies and some 55 grain Nosler Varmageddon bullets (happened to be in stock). I think 55 grain or maybe 60 grain will be the heaviest I can shoot well in this barrel, 1/14 inch twist. I've been saving some of this Hornady brass, so just need to decide on some powder and primers now. Hard to find in stock...

Oh man, I'm going to have to let you down here, I never shot that pill. Besides, how could I rob you of all that delicious load development process? Come on mate, you know ya love it! 😀

I'm surprised you're finding components difficult to get. Is that due to the troubles in the US of A though?

Incredible shortages over here right now. Not only factory ammo, but components as well. I was able to get the bullets, but spent over 2 hours searching for any of the top three powder choices, and large rifle primers, both came up nil. So, guess it will be a while. I'm sure the factories will catch up in another few months. Mad rush over here with record gun sales the last 6 months or more and if you multiply that by an average 2-3 box (At least) per person... we're talking a huge rush on the ammo manufacturers and component makers... then of course we have the hoarders on top of that buying as much as they can. Hoping to find some before the new Democrat regime starts trying to impose new legislation and taxes... Glad I got the rifle in at least!

Troubling mate, the whole thing I mean. Faith and I keep an eye on it here and things are looking...Bleak? Yeah, I think that's the word. There is so much change on the way and it'll rattle a few cages for sure. I'd be stocking up if I was there too, and I'll be honest, I always have a stockpile here anyway. Our issue here is that with ammunition we are only supposed to have as much as we can shoot in a year whatever that means. For me with my hand guns that's thousands and with my rifle stuff...Well, I cull on a farm so it's a lot also, but they do checks and all. I've got enough, and add to it where possible.

I hope you get some, and have some stored away also.

Yes, I've got enough to survive stashed away. My definition of hoarding is probably a little higher than the average person's, lol. In my view we all NEED at least 500-5,000 rounds of any/every given caliber at hand, just for emergency survival backups. We currently don't have such ammo limits over here. However already seeing the media idiots now adding it to news stories.. Was there tonight, xxx was arrested with an unregistered handgun ....and 5,000 rounds of ammunition!!!!!!! OMG the media is hyping it up!! bah! We may have a bigger fight to keep our constitutional rights here over the next 4 years.

They do the same here...They'll raid a house for some reasons and come out with, ...and guns and cash were found in the house. Yeah no shit. I'm a law-abiding firearms owner and if you broke into my safe you'll find guns (not illegal) and cash (also no illegal the last time I checked.) Libtards.