Will O’Meara on the future of shooting

Having tested his kit and drawn his conclusions, Will O’Meara turns his attentions to the future of shooting and how to help it 

This month’s article is a bit of a mixed bag; which is similar to the variety of hunting I normally pursue at this time of year and also of the effects of Covid measures on hunting and the hunting industry.

For a start, let’s look at some of the results that Part Two of velocity testing revealed. In the last article we looked at a broad spectrum of factors that may affect muzzle velocity and in turn affect accuracy.

You may recall that at the end of that testing I had a few questions that still needed an answer; Does a taped muzzle/moderator affect velocity or accuracy? Is there a difference in accuracy between moderator, brake and bare barrel?

And, at what point do we see a significant jump in velocity when shooting strings larger than five shots. And what does leaving a round in a hot chamber do to performance?

The muzzle gag

First, the muzzle gag; it is fairly common practice to tape the muzzle of your rifle, and it seems that the more extreme the environment, the more common the practice.

It’s par for the course in the mountains of New Zealand but nothing more than occasional across Europe. My take on all such measures is to explore their merits, minimise any adverse effects and let common sense prevail.

I have tested accuracy from a taped muzzle before and found no ill effects; I was keen now to do such testing with both moderator and muzzle brake.

Another aspect of this test was the material used, electrical tape aka insulating tape is what I have seen commonly used, I was keen to try Duct tape as it would be easier to use on a moderator due to its width and it could be used to tape up a muzzle brake with a single wrap of the tape.

For this test I put a single square of duct tape on the end of my Hausken moderator and fired a shot from a cold bore. When we compare these results to other cold bore shots the results are very much in line with shots fired without tape on the mod.

Result – taping your mod does not change your muzzle velocity, nor does it affect point of impact or accuracy. I think I will be sticking a square of duct tape on my moderator from now on!

I then repeated the test, firing a shot from a cold bore and taped moderator, immediately followed by a second shot. I was keen to see what the second shot showed us, being from a warmer barrel and now an un-taped muzzle … What I saw in three iterations of this test was a slight velocity drop but all still well within the tolerances of my standard deviation for this rifle/bullet combo. These shots also displayed no adverse impact on accuracy and they grouped as normal.

Next was to fit the muzzle brake and conduct a point of impact shift test along with a taped muzzle test. I have a love-hate relationship with muzzle brakes, there is no denying their effectiveness in taming recoil but there is a significant price to pay in terms of noise.

My Tikka UPR shot so incredibly smooth with the little bastard (named for its ear drum rupturing ability I’d say…) that I am looking hard at how to counteract that noise. I know I am not particularly recoil sensitive but I know I am noise sensitive… if that makes sense.

Issues I had previously were that my ear defenders would lift on recoil and expose me to that boom, which in turn makes it hard to observe strike. I am now looking at in-ear electronic solutions.

To my mind they have the capacity to protect my hearing without being cumbersome, no doubt they take some getting used to, but I am keen to find out – watch this space.

Swapping the mod for the muzzle brake test showed a small shift in impact, 0.2mRad higher at 150 yards (almost 3cm/1 inch) with the brake. Taping of the brake showed no influence on muzzle velocity, all results being in line with previous moderated results.

The Duct tape was ideal for taping the muzzle-brake, a square on the crown and a single wrap around the ports. Even with this done I could still see that the brake was correctly timed. Timing your brake simply means that it is lined up evenly with your barrel and doing this in a repeatable manner is best ensured by having a timing mark on your brake.

You can also use the ports themselves as a reference to ensure the brake is level but I find a single mark easier to use. Accuracy was consistently sub half MOA regardless of what I had screwed onto the pointy end of the barrel.

So in summary of the Tape test – no change to muzzle velocity or accuracy on either the moderator or the muzzle brake. My brake affects my point of impact, or my zero, by +0.2Mils – noted!

Hot shots

The next test was the round in hot chamber test, in fully automatic fire there is a situation that is referred to as a “cook-off”. What happens here is that the temperature of the chamber and barrel get to extreme levels during sustained high volume firing.

A round left in the chamber will fire or “ignite” based on temperature alone. This happens without the firing pin striking the primer and can happen even with the safety catch applied.

Not leaving a round in a hot chamber will avoid this but sometimes it is unavoidable – an example being a hard extraction – where the cartridge is stuck in the chamber and the extractor has pulled the rim off the base of the round, this gets particularly interesting when you have explosive ammunition natures in the mix!

How would the muzzle fare during the tape test?
Common practice, but not very useful it seems

I limited my heat torture test to 10 rounds in 90 seconds followed by a round left in the chamber for up to three minutes and then fired. The results of this were not at all significant and right in the middle of the average velocity band.

In the previous article you might recall that the five shot string test didn’t show any major spike in velocity, I was now keen to see what a 10 shot string would show us. I conducted this test with both moderator and muzzle brake to see if there was any difference.

Testing showed mixed results but more often than not the tenth shot had the highest velocity, just marginally. In one 10 shot string test the third and fifth shot had the highest velocities…

So, whilst velocities generally climb as barrel temperature increases it is not an absolute rule and the increases are not linear. By not linear I mean that the tenth shot was generally faster than then first shot but each shot was not faster than the previous one – so, what does that tell us?

It tells us that shot correction from seeing the strike of your previous shot is important, and that – as always – execution of the fundamentals is essential. In the 10 shot string the biggest extreme spread was 72fps and the highest SD or standard deviation was 22fps – not huge but more notable than the results of the five shot string.

One more aspect of this testing was to have a look at the performance of the Sako Gamehead Pro ammunition that I have used to great effect this season and last season.

This ammo demonstrated uniformity in that it was almost identical to the Sako Trg Ammo, SD was sub-20fps and my average speed was 2,760fps. Again, this will perhaps be faster in other rifles – it just seems my rifle is a little on the slow side – longer barrel life is a positive I guess!

Testing times

With testing complete and conclusions drawn I want to shift the focus of the remainder of this article in more of a political direction. The past few months have really highlighted to me the vulnerable nature of our hunting.

Here in Ireland we have, by and large, escaped the wrath of anti-hunting sentiment. I believe that this is because gun-based hunting is predominantly a solo activity or a perhaps a small group of two or three, hence it has pretty much gone under the “anti” radar to date.

Testing has provided mixed results

The response to Covid-19 here was based on a model of restricted movement and reduced density of people in public. Without going into the fine details of the rules, the major outcome here was that hunting was effectively deemed to be in violation of the rules, even if it was conducted within the lockdown restrictions. An example being that a farmer could walk down his own field and shoot a crow but not a pheasant.

The point I want to highlight is not the nuances of the Covid-related restrictions but more so the importance of the general image that we, as hunters, portray of hunting.

I know that there was much frustration amongst hunters in Ireland due to the effect of restrictions but there was also, I believe, an even greater frustration at the alarming lack of political support or public understanding of hunting that we saw.

It made me realise that we have a lot of work to do if we want to ensure the future of hunting. It also made me take a very objective look at what we understand as hunting and how it can be justified.

The main question we all need to ask ourselves is “What am I taking and what am I giving back?”

Testing, like many shooting activities, was curtailed by Covid restrictions in Ireland

I think we need to ensure that what we are doing is justifiable and always focused on best practice. We need to understand why we hunt and why it is a good thing.

There are many answers to this that including the harvesting of clean wild organic meat, the management of game species in the limited lands where they are now tolerated and free to live, the conservation work being done to ensure we have a thriving bio-diversity and healthy wildlife, the pursuit of hunting as an activity central to being human that is ingrained in our DNA, is central to our evolution and is without doubt a wholesome, demanding and rewarding undertaking.

Why we shoot

I believe we firstly need to justify to ourselves why we hunt. It cannot be for sheer enjoyment on its own – although it should always be enjoyed and even the most gruelling and arduous of hunts are undertaken for the enjoyment of hardship and challenge.

One of the most basic justifications for my hunting is meat. I want to take personal responsibility for the taking of that animal for the meat that facilitates my life; “life eats life”. I am not content to pay someone else to do my killing for me so that I can mindlessly pick up the plastic pack of steaks at the supermarket.

A knowledge of shooting helps to justify why we shoot 

I am also not interested in consuming food that is produced using antibiotics, pesticides and other non-natural practices. I understand and appreciate why this is done, how it supports a growing population, brings cheap food into the reach of others who would otherwise be denied it, and improves margins, I am just saying I don’t want to eat it.

I want the freedom to source my food locally, with the knowledge of where it came from and how it was produced. I want the freedom to kill my own meat and I put value in the wild animals that are that meat source.

With that in mind I want to protect those wild animals in order to ensure they continue to exist. This existence has to be managed with the competing interests of forestry, agriculture and the urban sprawl. The wild areas that can support wild animals need to be protected and managed.

As hunters we need to ensure that this management is based on science and not on emotion. How do we do that? Money, that’s how. I believe that we need to invest in our future, fund conservation projects, be clear on what we do and make a good job of showing the general public why hunting is a good thing, an essential pursuit of mankind. 

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