Outdoors recently held a media event at the Spur Ranch just outside of
Encampment, Wyoming. They brought in writers, professional shooters,
photographers and engineers to the beautiful countryside. The ranch is a vast
property of rolling hills and typical Wyoming countryside. They have an
outstanding rifle range with plenty of steel targets set at various distances
out to 1,760 yards (one mile). A separate handgun and shotgun range were also
on the property a short drive away from the rifle range. Most of our time was
spent on the rifle range and handgun range. At the lodge in a dedicated room,
reloading benches were set up with various RCBS presses, powder dispensers, and
all the tools necessary to create accurate loads. The ranch had a wealth of varmints
from prairie dogs to badgers. It was obvious upon arrival that this trip would
be a lot of fun. Writers from both Handloader and Rifle were able to attend the
event so be sure to keep an eye out for their stories on the event and any new
products they may be covering.
Little time was wasted getting behind rifles, checking zeros and verifying dope all of this was in preparation for the friendly PRS Match and becoming familiar with new products.
The event was three
days of handloading, long-range shooting and varmint hunting. A friendly PRS-style
match was also thrown into the mix. For this reason, the writers were broken
into two teams so that we could rotate between handloading and shooting. The
first day after traveling was spent warming up to our tools. Bolt action rifles
made by GA Precision chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor and topped off with various
Bushnell optics. I started by checking zero at 100 yards and proceeding to ring
steel out to the one-mile target. The rifles were very accurate and made
shooting 1,000 yards seem almost too easy. In the moment it is easy to forget
how many things must be working together to make a connection at such
distances. The wind calls must be good and the ammunition must be uniform in
accuracy and velocity from your rifle. The optics must be clear in order to
spot your hits or misses and the turrets must track flawlessly. The optic used
was a Bushnell Elite Tactical 3.5-21X 50mm DMR3 with the EQL reticle. Something
everyone became intimately familiar with at the end of the day.
A Bushnell Elite Tactical 3.5-21X 50mm DMR3 with the EQL reticle was mounted atop this GA Precision Team Rifle. This combination allowed for easy hits on steel past 1,000 yards. The Nosler suppressor aided in recoil reduction along with making the ring of the steel all the more satisfying.
Robert Brantley provided information and tips on shooting long range and a rundown on the specs of the rifle and optic.
Once we had finished up on the range we headed back to the
lodge to begin handloading. We selected Starline cases, CCI 200 primers and
RCBS Matchmaster dies, everyone appreciated the bullet-seating window and
bullet retention feature of those dies. They make bullet seating concentric and
simple. When it came to sizing there were 3 Rebel presses and 1 Rock Chucker. The
faithful Rockchucker IV was used to size my cases. From there, cases were
chamfered and deburred on an RCBS Brass Boss case prep center. This allowed 100
cases to be prepared in a matter of minutes, and everyone's hands were
grateful. For all bullet seating
operations, the RCBS Summit press was utilized along with the short handle
which offers excellent feel while seating. If a case somehow missed the chamfer
or an inadequate chamfer was applied, it was noticeable during bullet seating.
In a couple of hours, our team had loaded 400 rounds to hit the range with and
practice for our upcoming competition the next day.
That evening was
spent getting acquainted with the terrain and introducing the prairie dogs to
our rifles. For this, we mostly used rifles chambered in .22 Long Rifle. A CZ
457 with a threaded barrel and suppressor was selected for myself. I managed to
hitch a ride in Jason the ranch manager’s truck to which we enjoyed a quiet and
civilized hunt thanks to the use of only suppressed rifles. The accuracy of the
selected rifle was appreciated as headshots were preferred given the distance
to the varmints (typically between 40-100 yards) and the desire for quick,
clean kills. The rifle did not disappoint in that regard. The only blame for
missing shots at those distances would be the individual holding the rifle.
Handloading 6.5 Creedmoor for our upcoming match and practice was a lot of fun and the setup allowed for efficient loading.
The next morning after a hearty American breakfast we
traveled back to the range and to the GA Precision rifles chambered in 6.5
Creedmoor. It was here we practiced under the instructions of Robert Brantley
and Troy Livesay. Two professional shooters that can be found performing in
extreme long-range competitions and Precision Rifle Series matches. The amount
of knowledge that was humbly transferred here to the attendees was spectacular.
There is something to be said about the attitude of this group of writers and
professional shooters. There were no big egos, no bragging and no blustered
instructions. Everyone came here to learn not only about new or existing
products, but also to improve their shooting no matter what level they were at.
There is something to be said about that mindset and mentality. It also speaks
volumes to the people who put this event together. They wanted us to learn and
have a good time doing so.
At the range, we all put our handloads to the test and compared them to factory ammo velocities, extreme spreads, standard deviation and of course accuracy.
After practice and a break for lunch, we went to the
handgun range to get some time behind some of the Bushnell Reflex sights. A few
pistol pointers were offered to me here as well which I greatly appreciated. It
is always a good day if you go to the range and get to learn something in the
process. The concept of red dots on handguns is certainly not new but its
popularity of it is certainly increasing. It is nice to see some
budget-friendly options on the market such as the Bushnell RXS-250 Reflex sight
which was a favorite of the many I used. This could be a great option for
someone who is looking to try out red dot sights on handguns without breaking
the bank. I think for this application Bushnell is putting out a good product
at a reasonable cost.
The Handloads that were personally tested managed to group into less than 1 inch including the cold bore shot.
Robert Brantly walking us through various shooting positions commonly found in PRS stages.
The teams were then shuffled into two teams - one under
Robert Brantley and the other under Troy Livesay with a total of 3 people per
team. I was placed on Troy’s team and we headed back to the rifle range. It
should be noted at this point I was quite nervous as I have personally never
shot a PRS match before. Admittedly during practice, my performance needed
quite a bit of improvement. However, under the excellent instruction from both
Troy and Robert, I managed to hold my own in the match and thankfully
remembered to leave my bolt open when moving from one position to another. A
difficult habit to break coming from my background, but completely
understandable from a safety perspective. This was all thanks to the careful
instruction of Robert and Troy during our practice session. They easily
communicated solid advice and provided a lot of food for thought. From body
positioning, shooting bag mechanics, and the steadiness of whatever object you
are shooting off of. Tackling these problems practically and offering solutions
that construe into less float of your reticle on the target downrange. Allowing
the shooter to break more accurate shots from a steady position. Many of these
lessons learned can be easily translated for use in the field while hunting. At
the end of the match, team Troy managed to win the competition but more
importantly than that I think everyone there learned something. For myself,
that is what it is all about. I can not thank Troy and Robert enough for all
the advice and time they shared with us.
After the match, we once again went out to shoot some
varmints and test and evaluate some new products in the field. I managed to get
my hands on another CZ 457 chambered in .22 LR with the optic I wanted. Patrick
Meitin grabbed his rifle of choice and we hopped in Jason’s truck and headed
out. This time out we managed to lose count of the prairie dogs we shot. Jason
spotted a group of 3 badgers. He kindly loaned his suppressed Bergara chambered
in .17 HMR to Patrick and I, and we both managed to get one. No doubt aided by
the quiet report of the rifle with the suppressor attached. For this
accomplishment, we were added to the “Badger Board” when we returned to the
lodge. Badger holes are hard not only on the field where alfalfa and crops are
grown, but they are also hard on the equipment used to gather crops. It is for
this reason their population must be kept in check.
Patrick and I with my prized badger taken with a single shot to the head with a .17 HMR, For the Prairie dogs the CZ 457 rifle I am holding was used throughout.
The third and final day started by going to the rifle range
and hammering steel a mile away. We did this with both Federal Gold Medal
Berger factory ammo and our remaining handloads that we had worked up the day
before. I must admit I was impressed with the accuracy of the Federal factory
ammo. A ten-shot group printed just under one inch, a testament to the quality
of both the rifle and the ammunition.
Once we finished shooting and had lunch we once again set
out in search of prairie dogs, woodchucks and badgers. I selected the same CZ
457 from yesterday chambered in .22 LR and headed out once again with Jason. We
had a grand time shooting more gophers, prairie dogs, and even a woodchuck before
heading back to the ranch. With the third day coming to a close, preparations
were made to return to civilization and reflections were made on all that was
The Primos Apex Carbon Fiber Tripod was easy to set up and provided a steady shooting platform for use in the field.
There were many things that I will be practicing now on my
own range, with both rifles and handguns. The knowledge shared during this trip
was priceless and it is something that will be looked back upon with great joy.
I will also be keeping my eyes ahead for the release of future products that
were tested on this trip and I would encourage you to do the same. Never stop
learning whether that be about shooting techniques, handloading, hunting, or
even the products we use to accomplish these things. There is always room to