How to Dial your Rifle
Dialing in your rifle
Ensuring optimum performance from Setpoint Ammunition starts with having your rifle dialed to its best performance.
Many of the points covered here will seem obvious to experienced shooters, but will be outlined regardless.
Rifle Set Up
When setting up a new rifle or checking the setup of an existing rig, there are some simple steps that can be take to ensure that they are dialed in for the best accuracy possible:
- Barrel lug tightness – always check with the manufacturer for specifications relative to seating an action in a stock, and match them as closely as possible. An action that is seated loosely in a stock will result in poor and inconsistent accuracy. Additionally, some rifle stocks are free floating which means that forward of the recoil lug there is no contact between the stock and barrel. Use a dollar bill wrapped around the barrel and slid full length of the fore-end until it contacts the recoil lug to ensure that there are no contact points between stock and barrel. Also, there are a few manufacturers that engineer a pressure point between the barrel and fore-end near the tip of the forearm. Knowing this can help avoid unnecessary alteration that may hurt accuracy more than help.
- Mounts and Rings – On a scoped rifle, ensuring that the mounting system is installed properly will go a long way in ensuring top performance. Whether mounting the scope yourself or having it done by a competent gun shop, check to see that both the mounts and rings are tightened to manufacturer’s specs. Over-tightening of screws, especially on scope rings, can actually damage the optic and cause erratic and unreliable results at the target. Other things to look for include proper eye relief, objective bell clearance over the barrel, and ensuring that the scope is squared to the action. If you lack knowledge in these areas, the small amount charged by a competent gunsmith or gun shop to properly mount a scope are well worth it.
Barrel Preparation and Cleaning
- Barrel Break in – When setting up a new rifle, it’s generally a good idea to break in the bore. The reasons for this are that a new barrel, no matter how precisely made, has very small imperfections that over the course of the first several shots are smoothed somewhat by the bullets passing through the bore. Break in will result in a barrel that stays more clean, is subsequently easier to clean, and will in general last longer.
Barrel break in is accomplished simply although it will take some time. It is done by thoroughly cleaning the barrel after every shot for the first 10 shots, then cleaning after every two shots for the next 10. There are other ways of breaking in or polishing a bore. Fire lapping and hand lapping are just two and can be utilized to accomplish similar outcomes, but must be done very carefully and according to the methods prescribed by the makers of products designed for this purpose.
- Barrel Cleaning – Barrels that are free from copper fouling yield better accuracy overall and as such need to be kept free of copper. Copper fouling is generally a bigger problem in over-bore cartridges where large powder charges are employed with fairly small bores, and is a function of case volume to bore area ratio. Examples of over-bore-capacity cartridges are 220 Swift, 25-06 Rem. 7mm Remington Mag, or any of the 30 caliber magnums. Cartridges that are considered at or near bore capacity are 223 Rem, .308 Win, 30-06 and .338 Win. Mag. Many rifles chambered in cartridges that are not over bore capacity can deliver very good accuracy for dozens if not a few hundred shots. That said, once a barrel is copper fouled, meaning that there is a build up of copper in the rifling, it must be cleaned thoroughly in order to have good accuracy return.
There are several ways that rifle barrels are cleaned but only one method will be addressed here.
When cleaning a rifle gun, safety measures should always be observed.
Once the rifle is proven safe and the bolt removed it can be cleaned. Start with solvents like Hoppes #9 to clean residue of burned powder from the bore. Once this is accomplished, a copper remover solvent like Barnes CR-10 or a simlar product from Shooter’s Choice (there are many good products on the market) is used to remove all copper and/or lead fouling from the bore. Extreme care should be taken when cleaning copper from the bore as most copper removing solvents can damage the barrel if left on the metal of the bore for too long. It’s very important that once the copper is completely removed from the bore that several patches using a mild solvent or bore scrubber be utilized to ensure that all copper remover is out of the bore.
Now that your rifle is properly set up, broken in, or clean, whichever the case may be ,you’re ready to do a rough sight in and accuracy assessment. This process will be broken into four parts: Fouling shots, Bore sighting, Rough sight in, and accuracy assessment.
- Bore Sighting – Bore sighting is the method of roughly aligning the bore with the aim point of the scope ensuring first shot hits on paper during sight in. This process is most easily accomplished using one of many excellent bore sighting tools currently available or can be done by your local gun shop. An older but still effective way of bore sighting a rifle is to place the rifle in a solid gun vice, remove the bolt and while looking down the bore, align it on a distant object, then using the windage and elevation dials of the scope, adjust the scope so that the aiming point matches where the barrel is pointed.
- Fouling Shots – Fouling shots are one to three shots made through a barrel that is freshly cleaned. The reason for this is that a barrel that is shiny clean will often shoot to a slightly different point of impact than a barrel that has been shot a couple of times. In a rifle that is already sighted in, fouling shots give the shooter a couple of free practice shots to find his rhythm and be ready to shoot accurately. In a gun that has been bore sighted, it is the perfect time to get the gun on paper at a shorter distance in order to speed the sight in process.
- Sight in – The next step is to get the rifle at least very close to a desired point of impact in order to accomplish a meaningful accuracy assessment. With the current availability of custom reticles for rifles in both MOA as well as Mil adjustment, most rifles should be sighted in at either 100 yards or 100 meters in order to match perfectly the adjustment built in to each scope. Depending on the inherent accuracy of a rifle, rough sight adjustments can be made after every shot, then verified for point of impact using a multi-shot group. Exact point of aim is not absolutely necessary for assessing loads from Setpoint Ammunition, but the location of the group on the target must be easy to verify as the precision as well as the accuracy of each load is evaluated.
Setpoint's Accuracy Assessment
- Baseline Accuracy – If you have experience with a rifle you have owned and are trying Setpoint Ammunition for the first time, you probably have a pretty good idea what the best group the gun has produced is. In a new rifle, you may have shot a few groups and know about how the gun performs. However, in order to establish a baseline of accuracy in a rifle, multiple groups, shot over a period of time on multiple days, and in variable conditions then averaged should be the guide used when comparing with other loads. Most big game hunters use three-shot groups to assess a rifle’s accuracy while target shooters are more likely to use five-shot groups. The number of shots in each approach replicates the quantity of shots likely to be made while either target shooting or shooting at game (hopefully only one shot is needed to cleanly take an animal however).
- Assessing Setpoint Ammunition – Now that your rifle is dialed in you are ready to try your first Setpoint Ammunition Build.