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Windham: Getting your new rifle ready for hunting season

Windham: Getting your new rifle ready for hunting season

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Windham: Getting your new rifle ready for hunting season

The firearm deer season for Nebraska is not that far off. While the weather is still pleasant, it is time to get to the range and make sure your favorite deer hunting rifle is putting the bullets where you want them. Practice, practice, practice is what it takes. This is a British-made rifle I had shipped over and it is chambered in .275 Rigby. This is what I plan to hunt with this year. I need to get it to the range and get it sighted-in for opening day.

There have been several gun shows recently, so maybe you picked up a new rifle for deer season. If you haven’t already, now it is time to head for the range and make sure your rifle is ready to go. The majority of hunters in the field today use rifles equipped with telescopic sights, so I’ll limit this column to dealing with that topic. And since the majority of the readers of this column are experienced hunters, I will not bore you with things like how to remove the dust caps on your scope turrets or which way to turn the set screws to move your point of impact up, down, right or left. You’ve all done it before.

I missed all of the rifle season last year because of my shoulder surgery. I got cleared recently by my surgeon to be able to shoot this year, but not to do anything stupid. Why do you think he’d caution me like that? I have a British rifle chambered in .275 Rigby that I really want to try this season. I need to get it to the range and begin my sighting-in regimen.

If you need to put a scope on that new rifle, problems can occur when you mount it on a rifle. I have four pieces of advice for anyone adding a scope to a rifle.

» Don’t skimp on your optics. Buy the most scope you can afford. My basic rule of thumb is to invest as much in your scope as you invest in your rifle.

» Get the right scope for your rifle. If you are shooting a heavy recoiling rifle, make sure the scope is designed to take the stresses. If you primarily hunt river bottom environments, you don’t need a 24-power scope.

» Verify there are no loose components in the rings or bases. Everything must be tight!

» Make sure you get the proper eye relief on your scope. Having the scope too far forward will cause you to see shadows or a have tunnel effect. You’ll have to stretch your head toward the scope to see the full field of view. If the scope is too far back, you may run the risk of getting whacked in the head when the rifle recoils; a condition known as Magnum Eye with veteran shooters.

Another problem I’ve noted over the years is with the hunter who has a new rifle and assumes that he has taken care of everything because his rifle was “bore-sighted” where they bought it. Bore-sighting is a method used to align your scope with the barrel by looking through the bore at a specific point and then seeing if your crosshairs are set close to the same point. This procedure will get you in the ballpark, but never consider it to be good enough to go hunting. I’ve seen bore-sighted rifles that shot fair and I’ve seen some that couldn’t hit the proverbial broad side of a barn.

When you do get to the range, begin your test firing at 25 yards. Your target is easier to see at this distance and you are more likely to see where the bullets are hitting than you will be at 100 yards. Beginning at closer distances also allows you to be much more precise with your aiming. Once you get your rifle shooting tight groups at 25 yards, move the target out to 100 yards, and try again. If it shoots well at 100 yards, then practice at whatever range you expect to be making your shots when hunting.

When it comes to ammunition, use the same ammunition for hunting that you use when sighting-in your rifle. You can’t sight in your rifle with 150 grain bullets and expect it to shoot the same way and hit the same place if you use a 180 grain bullet on your hunt.

Your sighting in process needs to be done from a real shooting rest, not lying across the hood of your pickup. Launching rounds across the pasture at a cow pie while lying across the hood of a pickup is not the best way to determine the true capabilities of your rifle. You want to provide the rifle with a sturdy, steady rest, but not a hard flat surface. Some padding is recommended. If the rifle’s forearm is resting on a hard surface, it will bounce at the shot and send your bullet high. Use sandbags or some of the commercially made rests to cradle your rifle’s stock. Carefully set up the rifle the same way for each shot to get the best performance and ultimately the best accuracy.

Here is something else to think about when you are done at the range. Cleaning the chamber is often over looked. The chamber is that place where the cartridge or shell sets when you actually fire the gun. There are always gasses and a few burnt powder particles that blow back into the chamber from the breech of the gun. The chamber gets dirty, but few people think about specifically cleaning this spot. Most gun owners feel that since they run cleaning brushes and patches through the chamber while cleaning the barrel, that the chamber is adequately cleaned. Nope.

Think about the chamber for a second. This is where the cartridge or shell sets in preparation for firing. The clearances here are in the thousandths of an inch. There is very little room for powder residue or anything else to be here without causing problems.

In a semi-auto design, when you fire the gun the bolt is forced rearward and a small piece of metal with a hook at the end, known as the extractor, pulls the spent shell out of the chamber. The spent round is ejected from the gun and a live round is positioned so as the bolt moves forward, it pushes the new round forward and it into the chamber.

Each time you pull the trigger another round is fired, gasses and combustion particles push back into the chamber as the shell casing expands from the pressures generated by the powder that has just detonated from the firing. The shell casing expands and is “fire formed” to the chamber diameter. If the chamber is dirty enough, the round will stick in the chamber and the extractor won’t be able to pull it out. The gun “jams” at this point and you have to clear the stuck cartridge manually.

Cleaning the chamber is not difficult, but you do need a special brush that can fill up the chamber and be stiff enough to scrape any residue off the walls. Brass wire chamber brushes work great and can be found anywhere you find gun cleaning supplies. I have also found some excellent brushes in hardware stores that work great.

Good luck on all your hunts this season.

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