MATCH RIFLE CARTRIDGES
Match rifle shooting or Schuetzen work has now come to mean off-hand shooting at two hundred yards exclusively. For this purpose the choice of cartridges has narrowed down to those listed above. The requisite qualities of such ammunition are: the greatest possible accuracy, weight enough of bullet to be steady in the wind, and a practical absence of recoil. A balance of accuracy, steadiness, and freedom from recoil are insisted upon by the Schuetzen man, and one quality would not be tolerated if gained at the expense of another. As an example the .38-55 once in general use, is no longer in great favor, because what this larger bore gained in steadiness it lost through its "kick" with the resulting undue strain under which the marksman labored. On the other hand while the .25 caliber is very accurate and without recoil, it is too sensitive to wind for any but good weather conditions.
As a result the choice of match rifle cartridges has almost narrowed to the .28-50, .32-40, and .33. Again the preference for one of these would be governed by the constitutional tendencies of the rifleman. If he has a delicately adjusted nervous organization the chances are he is partial to the .28, while a more rugged man would do his best work with the .33, because less annoyed by changes in the wind.
It is not to be disputed that the match rifle and its cartridges are the most accurate combination ever made for work at two hundred yards, and to me it seems doubtful if the present output can be improved upon in the future. The cartridges alone cannot be credited entirely with this hair-splitting accuracy, neither can the rifles from which they are shot, for much of it is due to carefully considered manipulation of rifle and ammunition.
From the beginning the match rifleman has utterly condemned the ordinary fixed ammunition such as is used in hunting rifles. Usually he has a preference for heavier bullets than the standard, the very heaviest bullets that his rifle will spin without tipping, finding that these will group closer. Some have been content to load these heavy bullets in the mouth of the shell with nearly all grooves exposed, so that closing the action forced the ball up into the rifling. Others considered this but a half measure and by the use of a bullet seater, placed the ball quite ahead of the shell. The intent in either case was the same, to get the bullet seated in the center of the bore so that it could not start in a tipping manner or "shave” lead as it took the rifling.
In former days a great problem was to maintain a uniform cleanness of bore, with an entire absence of leading. I might state here, parenthetically, that I have never yet seen a rifle with lead bullets crimped into the shell that would fire a hundred shots without showing traces of lead in the bore, or that would maintain accuracy for this number of rounds. Sometimes the elevation will change as the lead deposits, in other instances a wild shot will be thrown now and then; the worse the leading the poorer the results. A rifle that would stay in a six-inch circle with the first score might be scattering all over a twenty-four inch before the hundred was finished.
Knowing this, many careful marksmen preferred patched bullets, seated ahead of the shell, the rifle being invariably cleaned between rounds. So manipulated, the rifle gained greatly in regular accuracy, and nearly all the finest scores of a decade or two ago were made with this style of loading. I need not go into it further here because the patch bullet is now nearly obsolete.
Askins, Charles. Rifles and Rifle Shooting. New York: Outing, 1912. Print.
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