Sunday, April 24, 2011

Running Through The Paces

I finally got to get back to the range today, as my weekends have been booked solidly for the past month. As I mentioned, I was very happy with the results I got from the VV135 powder/55 grain combo, getting sub-MOA grouping using a charge of 24.7 grains. I loaded up 150 rounds using this charge so I could test it out at the range in quantity and see how it runs at 100m as well.

It was exceptionally windy at the range today. I'd guess the wind was around 20mph, with frequent and variable gusts of around 40mph. I'd also meant to test out a rework of my 3031 load with the new primers, but the wind was so stiff, the chronograph couldn't stay standing.

So today, I focused on trying out my finalized VV135 plinking load and trying out the new Marlin 795.

I've got the Marlin all set up with Tech Sights and a sling, so she's ready for Appleseed. I ordered a bunch of magazines, once I found a place that had them in stock. It seems that everyone has the sub-standard 7 round magazines, but no one has the standard 10 rounders. Cabelas doesn't even carry them.

Since this was the inaugural range trip, I started with the Marlin. I strapped it in to the lead sled to get it zeroed at 50m. Because of the gusty wind, grouping was not terribly impressive with the subsonic 40-grainers. Surprisingly enough, the newly-installed Tech Sights were quite close. I'd put out 12" targets, but found that that was not necessary, as the sights weren't too far off. A few clicks down and to the left and I got her zeroed with just a few rounds.

I pulled the rifle off the lead sled and gave it a go without a support. I was getting low on my CCI Standard Velocity rounds, so I switched over to Aguila SuperMaximum Solid Point 30-grainers.


I'm going to go on a small tangent here, while I think about it. Regarding the CCI SV rounds... Cabela's, why don't you carry CCI ammo in usable quantities? Your selection in .22LR is crap. All of the ammo you carry in anything approximating a brick is terrible. Sure, you carry CCI ammo, but only Stinger/MiniMags in tiny little plastic boxes, or some newfangled "AR" ammo that looks like standard High Velocity rounds put in a smaller and more expensive bulk box. I have to go to Dick's Sporting Goods to get CCI Standard Velocity ammo. As much of a drive it is to get to Buda to get to your store, it pains my very soul to have to go to Dicks in The Domain. Seriously, stop forcing me go there. Stock some decent .22LR ammo.

Also, how is it that you sell a rifle that comes stock with a 10-round magazine, but don't carry any of those magazines? No one wants the overpriced piddly little 7 round magazine that you are selling. That's why you have a pile of them still on the shelf, while everyone goes and orders them from elsewhere on the internet. You had 30-something Marlin 795 rifles in stock at the store the day I purchased mine. You should have a little more forethought.

One more thing, Cabelas. Vihtavuori Powder and Speer bullets. Both major players in their respective component groups, but for some reason you don't carry them. Why??


OK, back to shooting the Marlin. One thing I've observed about this rifle is how very light it is. Aside from the barrel and bolt, all parts of this gun are very light. This makes it particularly difficult to keep steady in gusting wind, so the results of my string were less than impressive. I certainly need to start learning sling technique with this gun. As I expected, POI rose, as velocity increased nearly 700fps (1070 vs. 1750 fps). Here are the results:

I ran another few mags through the rifle. It ate it all up and spit out the empties flawlessly throughout, as expected.

Moving on to the AR, in addition to the reloads I brought, there was also a recently-purchased brass catcher. Now, I really had my heart set on a nice catcher from Vector Tactical. Robb got one back in September, and I really wanted to get one for myself once my AR was built. A few weeks after Robb got his, the Vector Tactical site stated that the catches were unavailable for order at that time. Early this month, the domain registration for expired, and has not yet been renewed.

Midway carries 3 AR brass catches, all of them look identical. I ordered the only one they had in stock at the time, the "Mako GMG Brass Catcher AR-15 Nylon Mesh Black". I'm underwhelmed with the performance of this catcher. It's flimsy. While the bag itself should be able to easily hold 100 or more cases, it becomes unusable once 20 is reached. The catcher begins to sag, causing stovepipes. In the 100 rounds I went through today, I had 4 stovepipes, and one double-feed (caused by a stovepiped case). Also, the cheap nylon mesh is not a high-temperature material, so occasionally a case would melt the bag enough to stick.

I think I'm going to have to come up with a catcher net system instead, because those stovepipes are annoying.

As I moved my Nikon back on the rail a few notches, the AR needed to be zeroed again. This was pretty quick, and I was ready to rock. I ran a test set off the lead sled to get an idea of grouping in larger quantities. Results were not as astounding as with the workup group, but then again it was very windy. Nonetheless, the load performed well:

I moved over to a 100m bench, posted a couple targets, and did a lead sled test there as well. This was my first time running the AR at 100m, as everything I've really done up to this point has been load testing. I switched over to the 1MOA dot, as the 4MOA eclipsed too much of the target for my taste. I put 10 rounds on target and here's what I got:

Not too bad. I figured now that I've established my load is good, I'd get some real shooting in. I put another 10 shots into the second target, seated at the bench, unsupported. The grouping opened up considerably more than I would have liked, but it gives me something to work on:

I was working from a box of 100 rounds, and was down to 30. Since I didn't do a target without the sled at 50m, I figured I could load up a 30 round mag and have at it. I worked on acheiving my shooting zen to steady myself, and got some pretty decent results:

I was actually surprised at how tight the grouping was. It's not much bigger than the run off the lead sled. I guess I am getting better. Next trip, I'll be doing the same kind of thing with my hunting load, since I didn't get around to it today.

I'll also test out my 55 grain/IMR 3031 rework, so I can finalize a high-velocity (somewhere around 3100-3200fps) load for my Appleseed ammo. I've got Friday off, so hopefully I'll be able to do it then and give you an update.


  1. John, I'd be interested in your decision making process with buying the Marlin 795 vs. say the Savage Model 64 or the Ruger 10/22. I currently have the Marlin Model 60, and I really want a magazine fed .22, but I can't decide. I'm leaning towards the 10/22, but I've got a soft spot for the Marlin and have heard good things about Savage. Thoughts?

  2. The Savage was never considered. While I hear it's a fine rifle, aftermarket parts are even *more* limited than they are for the Marlins. Aftermarket stocks are pretty much nil, and Tech Sights are not made for them. As the purpose of this rifle was to set up as a Liberty Rifle for Appleseed, I needed to get the Tech Sights for whatever I chose.

    I will admit to having somewhat of a bias against the 10/22. I long ago became tired of postings on forums where the overwhelming response to "what kind of .22 should I buy" was the 10/22, for the sole reason being "IT'S SO CUSTOMIZABLE, YOU CAN SET IT UP WITH A NEW BARREL AND RECEIVER AND MAKE IT ULTRA ACCURATE" nonsense, especially when this person was a new shooter. Most new shooters will never take the rifle beyond a stock configuration.

    Plenty of folks will tell you about their "tack driver" 10/22 rifles, but they only get them that way after several hundred dollars worth of upgrade parts.

    In a stock configuration, the Marlin is a superior shooter because of its MicroGroove rifling. This differs from the 10/22 (and every other non-Marlin .22) in that the barrel has 16 smaller grooves, rather than the 6 standard grooves in the 10/22. This is better because it stabilizes the bullet with less deformation, meaning that POI is more consistent.

    I will say that the 10/22 is not a bad rifle at all. It's made by Ruger, and they make great guns. It is by far the most popular and best .22 for aftermarket parts availability, if that's what you're looking for.

    For my purposes, a $140 Marlin 795 is a much better choice than a $220 Ruger 10/22. Tech Sights are available for both models, and the Marlin comes with sling swivel studs already installed. As far as I can tell, the 10/22 does not.

    While the availability of aftermarket stocks (such as the selection available from Tapco) is quite nice, it is not a necessity for me at this time, nor did I budget $100+ for a stock upgrade on this project. If at some point in the future Tapco produces a stock for the Marlin 795, I may by interested in purchasing one. If not, the rifle still meets my needs just fine.

    From a purely financial point of view, here were my options to get equivalent configurations:

    Marlin 795: $140
    Tech Sights: $ 69
    GI Sling: $ 14
    Swivels: $ 10
    Total: $233

    Ruger 10/22: $220
    Tech Sights: $ 59
    GI Sling: $ 14
    Swivel Kit : $ 15
    Total: $308

    I save $75 and get a better barrel with the Marlin, and don't have to install swivel mounts myself.

    Whatever you choose, you probably won't go wrong. Get whichever best meets your needs and desires, and you'll have the best rifle for *you*.

  3. I think your climbing groups are due to barrel heat up. I have an old Ruger model 180 I bought when I read Mel Tappan back in the 1970s. We were called survialists back then today we are preppers....anyway...the light ruger barrel heats up. I installed a heat sink and for about $10 in parts from the hardware store ( Lowes) and $20 for two barrel clamps made a well as the heat sink. This keeps the groups cneterd in one place with cno clime. For $35 I got new gas bushings which keeps the slide from battering the receiver and installed some plastic bushings also to help keep the parts from damage ( the 1911 bushings fit the ruger slide rod)....WHAT ALL THIS means that for a few dollars you can improve the 22s performance,,,,I would start on a barrel stabilser......$ can't go wrong