Took a little jaunt last week to visit Keith Warren in Texas to film some spots for his "High Road" TV show. He just got one of the awesome new NEMO semiautos in .300 Winchester, and called me up to help him choose appropriate accessories for it. NEMO were the first folks to make the AR platform work with this big cartridge. Superbly built gun, not cheap, designed for ultra long range targets. I installed an outstanding KFS Sierra 7 bipod. One of the great features of this Versapod sister company's products is that the legs can be solidly locked into ANY position, forward or aft. In the picture below you can see them folded toward the shooter because we didn't have much space on the shooting bench, and we could still lean into it heavily forward with rock solid stability. You can't do this with almost any other bipod. And it's made in the US by Americans with American steel! Hooya! If you have a larger, heavier gun like this, this is the ticket. It's quite an out of place handful on a lightweight carbine though, kind of like taping a bowling ball to your head. On this big gun or a Barrett, it's a dream.
Keith called because he wanted to set up this NEMO with appropriate products to take advantage of its leg-stretching capabilities. We chose the ultra-quality Bushnell Elite Tactical XRS (eXtreme Range Scope). It's a 4.5-30×50 FFP (First Focal Plane) scope with a 34mm tube for greatly increased adjustment capabilities. We chose to mount it in an equally great Trijicon QD (Quick Detachable) mount. We planned on using the Mil adjustments on the scope and the G2 Milling reticle in conjunction with my favorite rangefinder, the tiny and powerful Leupold RX1000 TBR, which is one of the few that has the capabilities of displaying come-ups in Mils. When the rangefinder is properly programmed with your cartridge's ballistic information, just laser your target and get a readout in yards or meters, as well as the amount of clicks up (or down) in Mils, Moa, or inches, corresponding to your distance for a proper point of impact on target while holding dead on.
In theory and on paper, this is pretty simple. Much easier than using math and a rangefinding reticle. I'm not good at either one. I also don't rely on a single unit to do what I ask until I use it enough to trust it, so I printed out my ballistic information with drop and path (drop is the amount the projectile falls starting with a level muzzle, and path is the amount of fall after your specific zero) from four different resources. Sight in was suggested at 300 yards as optimum for this .300 cartridge. When I checked the rangefinder at 700 yards, it stated 2.8 mils to come-up. That would be 28 clicks. On paper from the ammunition companies I printed out, it was almost one full mil different, which at that distance is over two feet! Something wasn't right. I double checked my ballistic and atmospheric information and zero yardage, as well as made sure that the rangefinder had my cartridge in the proper group. All good. I called Leupold and they went right to work. It took a couple of days, but those savvy cats over there told me to set the rangefinder to a different group than my cartridge should have been in, and instead of zeroing at 300 yards, sight it in at 230 yards. Doing so would result in a maximum trajectory error of under three inches from muzzle to 800 yards. Not a problem. I did it and it solved the issue. What is a concern is that the standard 180 grain 300 Winchester cartridge is like white bread or 2% milk. Very common, and almost identical to other similar cartridges like the 300 WSM. It seemed to me after searching high and low with Google for an explanation, that lots of people reiterate the Leupold literature, but I hadn't found anyone with actual trigger pulling experience trying to do this. I'll bet a lot of people relied on the correct amount of come-ups shown in the rangefinder without verifying with other programs and have missed their target without knowing why. That's one of the reasons why I'm the head Gunbitch of Product Intelligence at OpticsPlanet. We get to play with a lot of products, and use them, really use them. Many times they don't make it back to the manufacturers in one piece. We get to know wha at breaks because we break it, and pass that information onto you. Somebody's gotta do it.
We sighted the gun in at 230 yards, but the groups weren't great. I'm sure it was an ammunition compatibility issue, since the gun was designed around 190 and 220 grain Sierra Match Kings, which we didn't have. I explained this to NEMO before we left, but all we could do was use the copious amounts of the only kind of ammo that Keith had on hand, some entry level 180 grain cartridges with a soft point hunting bullet. I won't mention what type. I was a bit concerned about reliable cycling, but the NEMO has an adjustable gas system, and it ran flawlessly. Because it wasn't a fair test I won't give group sizes, but let's just say they were a bit over Minute of Angle. The recoil on this machine is super manageable. Very light, but very loud.
I brought with me one of the finest spotting scopes ever made since the beginning of time, the outrageous Nikon Edge Fieldscope VR. VR stands for Vibration Reduction. Bullet holes were easily identified at hundreds of yards away, and with the battery powered Vibration Reduction system turned to on, much, much farther. Using this optical miracle for spotting big rodents (the collared peccary is not in the pig family) is like using a guided missle cruiser for bass fishing. But it was mine to use, so use it I did. This $6,000.00 piece of equipment did not get babied. It wasn't exactly bouncing around in the back of a truck, but it did take its fair share of abuse and was covered in fine red Texas dust for three days. It was superb at night, and is really made for long range game spotting, bird watching, and especially digiscoping. Really as good as a spotter can be made today, with quality and performance first, and cost savings just a small concern. The OPMOD APT Pro tripod I used it on did not do it justice. It's a good tripod, but the Nikon is about 4.5 pounds, and really should have a professional quality Manfrotto Bogen tripod matched to it. A carrying case is a separate accessory for the spotter, so I wrapped it in an old Meade soft case and fitted it into an even older Tasco hard case. Oh, the humanity.
We saw the first group of javelina at about 250 yards. I had only seen one other javelina before on a different Texas hunt. I dropped in the dirt while Keith and Colton got the cameras ready. I screwed in my earplugs, rested the NEMO on the bipod, got a good sight picture and dropped the hammer. That cheap bullet flew plenty straight enough to blow a gaping hole through its skeevy heart and the giant rat died. In a not too fair exchange, I picked the cactus needles from my chest and knees for God knows how long.
We all slayed more creatures in the next couple days, and Keith and I filmed a couple of shorts about long range shooting ethics, barrel break in, and a few actual kill shots. This place is known for the world's largest rattlesnakes, and although I came within a step of one, I'm sad to say that no snakes were harmed in the filming of this show.
The accommodations were particularly rough this time. When I left Chicago it was 13 degrees. We were almost at 80 degrees 8 miles from the Rio Grande.
Colton shot a really large hog under a feeder one night. Well over 300 pounds. I've never seen so many ticks on every square inch of skin on any animal. My skin crawls thinking about it, and I just scratched my head again a week later expecting to pull one off my scalp. Yyukkkk!
The NEMO is a spectacular machine. It deserves to be fed the right fodder. I felt like we were running a Corvette on kerosene. Not fair to the gun, the shooters, or its designers. I'm sure the guys will fill the chamber with cartridges of the same quality of the gun, and all will be right with the world.
And since I enjoyed the Southern weather so much down there and felt guilty in regards to my suffering fellow Chicagoans, I took a frozen ride on the OPMODasaki to even things out when I got back.
Be good, sleep well, and finish the food on your plate.