This past Sunday I had the opportunity to enter the ABRA project rifle into it’s second official match since it’s transformation into an unlimited class gun. Since that first match I have made a slight but significant modification to the toe area of the Boyds Pro-Varmint stock to rectify a production flaw that it possessed. This flaw and the modification to remedy the issue are covered in detail in the Boyds Stock Mod No. 1 piece I published here a little over a week ago. In short, the issue was with the toe of the butt stock being angled from one side to the other rather than being flat.
In the first match I had chosen to use Norma TAC-22 ammunition as it shot the best of those types which I had the opportunity to test up to that point. Since then I have had the opportunity to do some testing with Eley Club ammunition and found it to be a little more consistent than the TAC-22. However, during the testing of the Eley Club ammunition the project rifle started to exhibit a fairly frequent and persistent malfunction in regard to bolt cycling and ejection. While the Eley Club ammunition propels a 40-grain bullet to the same velocity as several other types of standard velocity ammunition I have tried to this point without issue, for whatever reason I get a lot of jams with the Eley.
These jams are the result of the spent case not being thrown clear of the action before the bolt closes and chambers the next cartridge, and the spend case gets sandwiched between the bolt and breech face of the barrel. Initially I thought it may be a weak extractor spring, so I disassembled the bolt to check the spring and thoroughly clean the extractor groove, but as you’ll read below that didn’t resolve the problem as the malfunction plagued me throughout the match this past weekend. Yes, I chose to shoot the Eley in the match in spite of the malfunction issue because I knew that the 15 minutes given for each target affords plenty of time to clear the jams even if it happened after every shot. After talking to a few others after the match I’m now more inclined to blame it on the bolt not traveling fully rearward under recoil due to a lighter recoil pulse thus resulting in very weak ejection that doesn’t throw the case clear of the receiver.
Conditions for the match this past Sunday couldn’t have been better. The sky was sunny and clear with only a hint of an occasional breeze from about the 8 o’clock direction. The temperature wasn’t bad either for the middle of the afternoon being in the mid 80’s. I also benefitted a little by drawing a lower number bench near the open end of the bench house which better allowed me to feel the wind on the back of my neck when it would kick up from time to time.
The first target of the match proved to be somewhat frustrating. The first row went fairly well with four 9’s and an 8, but not a 10 to be had. The second row went a little better with two 10’s (looking at it now, one of which should have been scored a 9),two 9’s and an 8. Things started to go the wrong way in the third row with two 10’s and three 8’s, the latter due in part to the previously outlined malfunction starting to rear it’s ugly head more frequently. The fourth row really had me frustrated when I finished up the target as all but one shot was followed by a jam and scored two 9’s, two 8’s and a 7. Total score for the target was 176 which isn’t terrible, but the gun was shooting well when I didn’t have to disrupt my rhythm to clear jams.
My second target of the day fared about the same as the first and netted me the same total score of 176. The first row consisted of two 8’s, two 9’s and a single 10. The second row consisted of one 8, three 9’s and a single 10. The third row saw a single 7, three 9’s and one 10. The final row had one 7, one 8, two 9’s and one 10. The 7’s and 8’s all came after having to clear a jam.
My third and final target of the day was only slightly better than the first two despite jams continuing to be a regularity. The first and second rows both scored two 8’s, two 9’s and a single 10. The third row scored one 8, two 9’s and two 10’s while the fourth row scored one 8, three 9’s and one 10. Total score for the target was 179.
Overall it wasn’t a terrible day of shooting, just frustrating due to the jams and knowing they cost me several points on all three targets. On the bright side, my modification to the toe of the stock was successful in eliminating the rifle canting to the right in the bags after every shot which made life a little easier.
My combined target score of 531 was enough to secure Fourth Place out of nine shooters in the unlimited class. In total I had twenty-seven 9’s, seventeen 8’s and three 7’s. If I can increase half of those by 1 point each next month my target average would jump up to 185 which would put me right in the hunt to be a top contender in the unlimited class. Giving how the rifle shot this month I think that’s a very achievable goal for this season – if I can resolve the jamming issue with this ammunition and we continue to have favorable conditions on match days.
Looking forward towards next month and the next modifications to the project rifle, but the schedule is going to have to change a little given this months developments. I had planned on milling the bottom of the forend of the stock to convert it to a 3″ wide flat benchrest forend, but now my focus is going to be on resolving the jamming issue. My hope is that a simple bolt return spring modification will be all that is needed, but we’ll have to wait and see. I will also likely take the time to polish up the bolt this month.
The August match is the State Championship Match and will consist of 6 targets for a total possible score of 1,200 points so I don’t want to risk trying to do too much and not having the gun fully ready come match day. I’m also hoping some of the folks that regularly shoot the ABRA matches in Hillsdale, MI will show up to shoot in the match next month as I know several of our locals went up and shot in their Club Tournament Match this past weekend. As they say, “The more the merrier!”
Until next time…