September 23, 2010
The freezer gets filled when hunting and target shooting meet.
Test your hunting rifle from a shooting position, not from a bench rest. If you feel you need to shoot from a bench to fairly test the rifle, rest your hand, not the rifle fore-end, on the bags, and also use your sling for support. Hold on to the gun as you would if shooting it offhand. Lightweight, hard-kicking rifles are sensitive to point-of-impact changes that follow with how they're allowed to recoil. If you're shooting from a bench rest with little pressure against the rifle, it's a near certainty that the bullet's point of impact will be different once you're shooting the gun in the field.
I have been a hunter all my life, both here and abroad. Selecting and setting up equipment for hunting is really no different than it is for competitive shooting. The venues are different, but it is understanding the requirements of the venue that lets you select the correct equipment for any type of shooting.
Generally, I favor shooting the heaviest bullet as fast as it will go--if it shoots accurately. It is important to choose a bullet with a good ballistic coefficient because it gives you more room for error. The flatter and faster it flies, the less critical your judgement of distance and conditions becomes. I also recommend staying with readily available cartridges. Even if you take plenty of ammunition with you, you still may find yourself in a situation where you need to buy or borrow cartridges, and something like not being able to find ammunition shouldn't end a hunt. It's even better if you and the members of your hunting party all shoot the same thing.
The .308, 7mm-08, .260 Remington and .243 Winchester are excellent cartridges for most medium game shot within a 400-yard range. For larger game and longer shots, I like one of the short-action magnums, such as .300 WSM or 7mm RSAUM. A short-action magnum cartridge is an excellent choice if you want one gun to handle all the nondangerous-game hunting you'll do in this country.
A quick and humane kill is the goal, and--face it--you don't always hit where you aim. I'd always rather have more power than not enough, but it comes with a price. The smaller-capacity cartridges have recoil that is much more palatable. Recoil is a big factor in one's ability to fire an accurate shot under pressure. The less the recoil (and noise), the more likely a well-executed shot can be accomplished.
Any hunter should learn to shoot using a bone-supported position in conjunction with his sling. Not only may a rest not be available, but I have found inconsistent accuracy when I'm not controlling the rifle. Get a hold of the rifle; control it. Set it into your shoulder, not out on the arm.
Handloaders should full-length-resize all their cases. I use this sizing method on all rounds I fire in competition, including those for 1,000-yard shooting. My accuracy standard is in no way affected by full-length sizing. A round has to chamber in a hunting rifle under the most adverse conditions.
I chamber my hunting rifles so that the bullet sits closer to the rifling than it is in a factory barrel. Since the rounds must feed from the magazine, the cartridge's maximum overall length is dictated by the length of the magazine. Since most rifles will shoot better with the bullet closer to the rifling, the solution is to bring the rifling back closer to the bullet. The bullet should always be seated just off of the lands for hunting use; seating the bullet into the lands can be a disaster if an unfired cartridge has to come out of the gun but the bullet is stuck in the barrel.
Review the process you follow in zeroing your hunting rifle, and see if it's complementary to the realities of field shooting. Don't shoot all of your shots from a bench rest to test your hunting rifle. Shoot from a stable position, but make sure you're replicating the pressures and head position you'll use in the field. If you study the differences, you'll find that your head is usually farther back on the stock when you're benchresting a gun; likewise, the scope position--if it was determined from benchrest shooting--will probably also be too far back.
Pay attention to where your cold-barrel shots go, and zero the gun to that point. It's common to see a hunting-weight barrel shoot its first two or three shots together and then begin to group at a different point. Well, you care nothing about where your gun groups after its first few shots. What you should be concerned with is where the rifle will print its first round or rounds from a cold barrel, like the one you start out with on a hunt.
I recommend zeroing at a range that provides a parallax-free view through the scope. Scopes that are not parallax-adjustable are normally set to be parallax-free at either 150 or 200 yards; the scope manufacturer should supply that information.
Always use a sling for support. Always. The clothing you wear has an effect on the length of your sling. Make sure you set the sling length while wearing the clothing you're going to have on at the hunt. I like leather slings as opposed to synthetics because leather doesn't have as great a tendency to slip. I adjust my rifle sling to provide a stable position for the prone position, which is my preferred position, and then maintain the sling tension I want for other shooting positions by changing where the sling contacts my arm (higher up on the arm equals a tighter sling).
Most people shoot over their targets. If you know the velocity of your bullet, look in a loading manual at the computations for point-blank range. That is the particular point where it will hit either five inches above or below the aiming spot. Sight-in your gun at that distance, and then hold on target.
RIFLE AND GLASS
I have used different actions in the past to base my hunting rifles on, and I am now using a Tubb 2000T ("tactical" model). This rifle works as well for me hunting as it does in competition shooting. Its all-metal construction eliminates environmental effects, and, of course, its accuracy is superb. A T2K will endure bumps and bangs and can be transported with greater security and ease because the butt extension can be removed for easy transport. There have been a few other changes geared to providing more flexibility, and one is that its new magnum bolt face has opened the door to a full line of high-performance cartri
dges, including the short-action magnums.
The T2K opens another avenue to the hunter that virtually didn't exist before, and that is the capability to incrementally fit the rifle to the shooter. The reward of custom-fitting to the hunter is ultimately a rifle that has its sights fall into place upon mounting the rifle for a shot. If you think about it, there are few shooting situations where a fast first shot is not important, and the faster the hunter can place a shot on target, the greater his chances are for a good hunt.
No matter which action you choose, don't try to save money on a barrel. I install the same stainless steel, stress-relieved barrels that go into my match rifles; only the contour and length are different. Stress relieving makes the difference between a lightweight barrel that shoots consistently well and one that doesn't; it helps ensure that heat buildup will not change the barrel's point of impact. Most factory barrels are not stress relieved and, therefore, tend to warp or bend as they warm up. As mentioned, this may not matter as much in a hunting rifle as long as you know exactly where the first shot or two will go, but I believe that a serious hunter's rifle should be able to shoot a group.
As said, make sure the scope mounting suits you when you're shooting the rifle from a field position. I suggest a mounting height that makes the rifle comfortable to you prone; most scopes are mounted too high and too far to the rear. I can't tell you which scope to put on a rifle because there is a wide range of requirements across the country. Hunting antelope in Wyoming and whitetail deer in Pennsylvania are completely different circumstances, although both might be done with the same rifle and cartridge.
When I shot a conventionally stocked rifle, I inletted my stocks forward about 3/8 inch to place the action that much farther forward. The reason was to improve the reach to the trigger so the tip of the index finger engaged the trigger surface. I also increased length of pull a good deal over what's found in most factory stocks. This was done to improve its versatility in various shooting positions. People would often pick up one of my guns and say, "That's too long," but if they fired 10 shots
with it and 10 with theirs, they always liked mine better. The fully adjustable T2K stock and trigger offer the opportunity to experiment with virtually infinite fitting options.
I think it's a mistake to "over-glass." It seems better to see a more magnified image, but will you shoot a better shot that way, and will you be able to do so as quickly? Most often the answers are "no." I have yet to go above a 14X scope on a hunting rifle, with that being the upper limit on the variable power optics I prefer. It's normally shot around the 8X setting. If I have a choice, I prefer a scope with large ballistic dots tuned to the specific caliber's bullet weight and velocity. The larger, easily seen dots are more important in hunting than in competitive shooting due to frequently darker lighting and background conditions. The adjustment design and toughness inherent in 30mm tubes are also superior in this regard, hands down.
I normally go with a 24-ounce trigger on a hunting rifle, which is a good deal heavier than what I shoot in competition.
To learn more about David Tubb, Superior Shooting Systems Inc. and the Tubb 2000 rifle, as well as read more of his articles and information materials, log on to www.zediker.com or www.davidtubb.com. Write to Superior Shooting Systems Inc., Dept. RS, 801 N. Second St., Canadian, TX 79014; (806) 323-9488.