The time has come to shoot your newly purchased rifle! By now you should have kitted yourself out with the equipment you will require. Your rifle will have sights mounted (Iron or scope) and you will have sighted in crudely using the bore sighting method discussed in the previous article in this series. Before leaving for the range (or perhaps at the ranges armoury) you will need ammunition.
I am not going to discuss reloading your own ammunition here. Later on I’ll be writing a series of articles guiding the new shooter through reloading. For now we just want to get to the range and shoot. You will find as you get into target shooting that its easy to spend many hours tinkering and fettling. That is great but first and foremost it will be time put in actually shooting which improves performance. With that in mind we will run through some factory ammo basics.
Ammunition is not cheap. If you took my advice on calibre then you can thank me at the till. .308 is one of the cheaper options due to its huge popularity. If you selected an unusual calibre, get ready to hit the credit card IF they have it in stock… Also bear in mind that calibre choice effects wear on the barrel. A .308 is good for several thousand rounds at least. Some calibres are good for about 500 before the barrel needs changing. In general terms Magnum, Supermagnum and other such cartridges will cause the barrel to wear faster. The bigger cases allow bullets to be driven at greater speed down the barrel. The combination of heat and friction cause damage. Be honest, can you afford the cost and hassle? If your competing at top end then any edge is a bonus. For the new shooter I suggest keeping it simple and relatively cheap…
In a perfect world we would pick calibre/ammunition based on best performance for our chosen application. Some calibres are ballistically superior BUT…. That is only true on paper. If you can’t even buy the ammunition then it isn’t superior at all! America currently has big problems stocking enough ammo to keep the civilian market supplied. I am in the UK and the firearms business is so small here that most dealers keep little in stock. For whatever reason it is fair to say very few countries can boast a consistent and varied choice of ammunition. If you choose a popular calibre you are more likely to be able to purchase it. If it is a calibre used by the military then that opens up another supply route discussed below..
Once you have found some ammunition you can both afford and is available you may find that there are several options/brands. The quality of ammunition is an important consideration. Do different brands have big differences in quality? Yes. Although there is a quirk to this. Every rifle built differs slightly, tiny imperfections in the barrel for example. These differences cause rifles to have “favourites” in terms of ammo. Sometimes the expensive “quality” stuff doesn’t run well and a cheaper alternative does. For this reason I suggest buying a small amount of as many different brands/bullet weights as you can. Don’t drop all your cash on a brand your buddy told you will work. He only knows that it works in his rifle. Avoid buying old ammunition. The savings it appears to offer are outweighed by unreliability and in very old ammo corrosive materials. My rifle loves Lapua 170g bullets, it doesn’t like HBC 155s. Both are superb bullets and my barrel twist of 1-12 should cope with both equally well. There is no specific reason other than the Lapua 170s suit my specific rifle. The next rifle off the production line might prefer the HBCs.. You just have to give them all a go…
The ideal bullet weight is in part decided by the rate of twist in your barrel. The numbers given refer to the rifling and is listed as 1 full turn for x number of inches. A 1-10 twist barrel will give 1 turn per 10 inches. A 1-12 would be one turn per 12 inches and so forth. Hopefully most of you new shooters will have selected a .308 rifle. These are most commonly offered with a 1-12 twist. Check your owners manual for details. The 1-12 is offered because it suits the most popular bullet weights. Bullets between 155g -175g seem to be the most popular among long range .308 shooters. The 1-12 handles that range of weight superbly. If you want to shoot heavier bullets then a 1-10 would be more suitable (180g-200g bullets). The best thing to do here is to ask what others are running in terms of bullets. Most shooters will be happy to tell you. We then get back to the issue of supply. It comes down to what’s available. I would suggest buying a variety of brands and weights for your first few range outings. That way you can keep notes and then make a judgement choosing one type of ammunition to use all the time.
Last but not least I will mention Milsurp (military surplus) ammunition. The military obviously have a requirement for plenty of ammunition. Some of that ammunition is sold to the civvy market. It can be a lot cheaper than branded store bought stuff. Calibre choice and bullet weight are seriously limited. The good news is that if you bought a Remington 700 in .308 as I suggested then 7.62mm milsurp will run through it no problem. In fact my Remington loves milsurp and will happily shoot .75moa groups with it all day long. You should always check with your rifle manufacturer before running 7.62mm as oppose to .308. Not all rifles can handle the increase in pressure especially vintage firearms. Many people think the two calibres are the same, they are not, they have slight differences. That is why it is vital to check the info first. I absolutely love milsurp by an Eastern European company called GGG. It is highly consistent and its quite cheap!! I always keep some around for emergency spares..
You should now have a rifle with scope or sights mounted along with assorted kit AND a variety of ammunition. Next article will see us heading to the range!