Savage 12FV in 223 Rem Accuracy Experiences

Discussion in 'Small Stuff--22s, 20s, and 17s' started by SlowSqueeze, Nov 25, 2017.

  1. SlowSqueeze

    SlowSqueeze

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    OVERVIEW & SUMMARY

    I update the following information as I get results that are worth presenting. This is current as of December 13, 2017. Details are included in the thread if you are interested- where I can I'll include links to relevant posts/sections.


    My factory Savage 12FV in 223 is capable of 0.5 MOA precision with basic hand-loaded ammunition (junky PMC brass, Lee dies, and a poor powder choice). Here’s the detailed graph of my results over several groups of 5 shot rounds of hand-loaded ammunition- take a look at 23.2 grains, it’s under 0.5 MOA (note: ALL of these loads are under 1 MOA).

    Handloads for 223.png

    Here's a summary of what I've learned about the chamber on my rifle. Use this information at your own risk however- you should verify each reading by measuring your own rifle.

    Savage12FVChamberMeasures.jpg

    Finally, here's how I would prepare the loads today with the same materials (i.e. PMC brass). I don't recommend using PMC brass however (hopefully that's obvious), and I wouldn't use IMR4064 either. If you want to make a more informed selection, check out the 223 FAQ here- there is great information about brass, bullets, and various powders. In short, H4895, Varget, H335, or VV N133 for powders, and better brass (i.e. Lapua and Nosler) are good starts.

    Savage12FVBrassPrepMeasurementTable.jpg

    DISCLAIMER: I am not, and have not been, compensated by Savage Arms or any manufacturer mentioned in this thread. I purchased all the materials and supplies that I discuss here, and have no external affiliations or relationships. The thoughts I present here are exclusively my own, and should be used at your own risk.
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2017
  2. SlowSqueeze

    SlowSqueeze

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    WHO IS THIS SLOWSQUEEZE GUY...

    By way of introduction of my marksmanship, I’ve been shooting since the age of 12, but took a three-decade break. I’m jumping back in now and learning how to really drive precision, with a near-term goal of being a solid bench-rest shooter at 100-200 yards. After that I’m going to extend my ranges out to 1,000 yards, and then start going farther. I might even try my hand at the Precision Rifle Series or similar event, but that’s probably not something that will happen in the next year or two.

    Savage12Rifles.png

    I’ve got a few Savage rifles now (see above), with my 243 being my favorite- I’ve got another far more detailed thread in the works that will include all my rifles, from 204 through 308, but that’s a different thread and you’ll have to wait. For now, I’ll characterize myself as a decent shooter who can shoot between 1/2 and 2/3 MOA with regularity. My best 5-shot groups are 0.26 MOA on the 223 with hand loads, and 0.376 MOA on the 243 on some amazing factory ammo (more to come).

    This thread covers my emersion back into the shooting world as it started with my 223 on some PMC Bronze factory ammo, and led up to some interesting results on hand loads.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
  3. SlowSqueeze

    SlowSqueeze

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    RYAN CLECKNER & NSSF VIDEOS ROCK!

    In early 2015 I moved from Pennsylvania to Colorado where they have a lot more room for shooting and the culture to match. Before buying the rifles I mentioned above, I was doing a ton of research on long range shooting and really appreciated Ryan Cleckners videos from National Sports Shooting foundation on YouTube- here's the list of videos that I ran through:

    1: Rifle Cleaning:
    2: Shooting Positions in the Field:
    3: Shooting Fundamentals:
    4: Scope Tracking:
    5: Practical D.O.P.E.
    6: Rifle Sight-in Process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDrrJA14wtg&list=PLACF2AEF0EC711484&index=6
    7: Shooting at Angles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTSBcNgGMNo&list=PLACF2AEF0EC711484&index=7
    8: Wind Estimation and Compensation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p026Y0WUy6Q&list=PLACF2AEF0EC711484&index=8
    9: Understanding Mils (Milliradians): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5AGsHSIsVo&list=PLACF2AEF0EC711484&index=9
    10: Understanding Minute of Angle (MOA): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VA2PZBD5Tjg&list=PLACF2AEF0EC711484&index=10
    11: Set up Your Scope for Success: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COoXVpGfXQE&list=PLACF2AEF0EC711484&index=11

    I have watched most of the videos several times and I am sure I’ll watch them at least a few more times. While I’m here, thank you Mr. Cleckner and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, NSSF, for producing the shorts- they have been very helpful!

    Of course, the mother of all long-range shooting videos is RexReviews on YouTube with his “Sniper 101” series. If you haven’t seen these videos, happy birthday! There are about 100 videos in the series, and many of them are about 1 hour long- it’s a ton of information that is well organized and enjoyable to watch. I will present a disclaimer however, Rex has his own opinions about methods associated with shooting that are not always shared by the community. Whatever you believe is best, Rex presents an overwhelmingly helpful body of information in those videos that will easily get you started on your path, whatever you choose that path to be.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
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  4. SlowSqueeze

    SlowSqueeze

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    MY SAVAGE 12FV 223 RIFLE

    From the Sports Shooting Foundation’s Milrad video (#9) I started thinking about my Purpose Of Use (POU)- anyone who watches the nuttnfancy project knows what I'm talking about (and if you haven’t found Nuttn before this- uh, well, you’re welcome for that too…). My POU for shooting is focused on long range paper (and steel) and long range general use. I like rugged equipment and will gladly sacrifice a little accuracy for precision and toughness that will last.

    After getting settled in Colorado, and doing some more homework, I bought 3 rifles for my kids. I spent quite a bit of time reminiscing about the ‘good old days’ I spent at the range with my dad and brother, and thought my kids would enjoy the same memories and fun. I don’t have a ton of money, so I was looking for deals on rifles and spent a lot of time on the pre-owned gun racks.

    In the mid-summer of ‘15 I got lucky and found the above Savage 12FV in 223 with a nice Burris MTAC 4.5-14x 40mm scope on Burris Xtreme Tactical rings (see previous post) for my 14 yr old son. I also got a Ruger American 22 for my 12 yr old daughter (that one was new…), and a nice Savage Rascal for my 9 yr old son. I didn’t have the cash leftover to get a rifle of my own, but I figured I could use the 223 for a while to get back in the groove.


    My personal preference is for solid stuff- heavy and long barrels, solid actions, and less of a focus on the form/style of the rifle. That's why the Savage 12FV was such a great rifle to start with- its relatively heavy at 8+ pounds, with the 26” barrel and focus on simple accuracy, comfy standard non-Accustock (yes, tupperware I know), and has Savage’s reputation for out of the box accuracy. Granted the 223 won’t really get me to long range distances, but working up to 500 or so yards with a small bullet will pave the way to much more capable rounds later on. Here are some of the key features of the rifle...
    Savage12FV.png
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
  5. SlowSqueeze

    SlowSqueeze

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    BURRIS MTAC SCOPE

    I also wanted a MilDot reticle in the scope- it just seems far more functional for sizing and ranging out in the open, which is a type of shooting I’m interested in getting into. And man, did I get lucky with that 223- the Burris scope isn’t all that highly rated or discussed, but it sure does fit the bill; over-built, solid, and functional. It’s not a $2,000 bench queen- it’s likely more comfortable with mud and sand being thrown at it while shooting. I found a great review on the scope over at predatormasterforums for anyone who wants to know a little more: http://www.predatormastersforums.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=2486612

    The kids are with me for the summers, so I knew I could use the guns when they aren't here for the rest of the year to get some skills of my own. And so, the journey began, starting by getting comfortable with the 223. On a slight tangent, I have started hand loading again with my old Lee (circa ’83) press in hand. I thought the limiting factor for my accuracy started somewhere between the bench and AccuTrigger (i.e. me), and I wasn't interested in expensive ammo to start- so long as it was brass to give me something to reload, I was set. To get me some time and experience, I picked up a boat load (~900 rounds) of PMC bronze with 55 gr FMJ BT ammo. I figured that would help get a stable base for me and the rifle to see where things are before I start making improvements that really matter for precision.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
  6. SlowSqueeze

    SlowSqueeze

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    FIRST SHOTS!

    Before I went to the range for the first time I ran through the scope setup per Ryan Cleckner’s #11 video. I had no idea what the 12FV was sighted in at when I got it home, so I didn't mind starting from scratch. When my son and I got to the range we bore sighted the rifle to 50 yards and hit paper on our first shot. Since that was a first for me, I was stoked (my dad did the sighting when I was a kid). Then up to the 100 yard target just behind the 50, and we got sighted in with no trouble. Once the rifle was sighted-in and fully adjusted I ‘zeroed’ the turrets using a small Allen wrench after I got home.

    The results from the first day, while not stellar, were a lot of fun. We got out one more time before my boy had to go back east for school. We weren't averaging under 1 MOA, but one of my groups was pretty tight.

    7/22/2015: Average MOA: 1.22 (2 groups, 3 shots each)
    Group 1: 1.207 MOA
    Group 2: 0.639 MOA​

    8/2/2015: MOA: 1.99 (2 groups, 5 shots each)
    Group 1: 2.162 MOA
    Group 2: 1.822 MOA​
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
  7. SlowSqueeze

    SlowSqueeze

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    PEBTAC (PROBLEM EXISTS BETWEEN TRIGGER AND CHAIR)

    As I started shooting more seriously by myself, I was getting some reliable statistical results, and I wasn’t really fond of what I was seeing. I thought the results were heavily limited by something between the trigger and chair- what I would call “PEBTAC”: Problem Exists Between Trigger And Chair. As I would soon find however, that wasn’t really true…

    With the PEBTAC assumption, the only way I saw to get better was to run some rounds through the rifle and systematically work through my breathing, trigger squeeze, and comfort around the rifle (ergonomics). I focused pretty intently on my shooting technique as I built up a solid baseline of performance to measure where my skills really were with the gun and ammo. Excluding the initial sight in and plinking we did, I put just under 400 rounds through the gun. I’m pretty confident I have stable, yet very humble, results.

    9/20/2015: Average MOA: 1.72
    2015_09_20_Results.jpg

    9/26/2015: Average MOA: 1.90
    2015_09_26_Results.jpg

    11/14/2015: Average MOA: 1.35
    2015_11_14_Results.jpg

    11/15/2015: Average MOA: 1.51
    2015_11_15_Results.jpg

    11/22/2015: Average MOA: 1.46
    2015_11_22_Results.jpg

    It’s important to remember that I was using bulk ammo for all these tests, and didn’t really change much in the process outside of my own skills. That being said, I was really unhappy with how things were going at this point of time…
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2017
  8. SlowSqueeze

    SlowSqueeze

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    THE ONTARGET SOFTWARE SAVES TIME!

    It was around November ’15 when I found the “OnTarget” software (download here, and review here). Before I downloaded it and used it I was trying all kinds of stuff to easily get a gauge of my marksmanship. Most visibly in the (early) above targets is the use of a quarter to determine 1 MOA at 100 yards (a quarter is just over an inch in diameter). Since my groups were so bad, I also needed something to get me a quick read on 2 MOA, which was nicely satisfied by the top of a beer can (which I was using to drown my sorrows from such terrible groups). You can see the markups (traced circles) from both the quarter and can lid on the above targets.

    In that time, I also concocted a scoring system to save me time in measuring individual shots and groups. Basically, anything inside an MOA counted for a point, while anything that hit the MOA boundary counted as 0.5 point. Anything outside gave me a big doughnut hole. All that buffoonery changed once I found, and downloaded OnTarget. The software is really great and does all the heavy lifting for you as you can see above. If you don’t have it, try it out, it’s an outstanding tool.

    As a result of OnTarget, my targets got cleaner after November ’15 (which you won’t see until later). I also stopped tracking individual shot orders because it was all so bad, but I’m sure moving forward I’ll start logging that again when I get really precise.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
  9. SlowSqueeze

    SlowSqueeze

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    IMPROVING SHOOTING SKILLS

    In the meantime, I saw an article about “Froggy”, an expert level shooter somewhere in New Mexico, that provided some helpful tidbits about accuracy and long range shooting:

    http://www.accurateshooter.com/shooting-skills/bugholes-from-bipod

    As the shooter, I have a long way to go before I can comfortably take a 1,000 yard shot, but I can only improve my skills at a fixed and somewhat slow rate (apparently, from the above results). At that point I wanted to eliminate unknowns around fixed factors with my existing equipment- top on the list is making sure the rifle is in tip top shape, and then get a good stable load. So I hit the following things from a rifle perspective:
    1) Rifle- Reassemble with the Rifle and Scope with known torque, and
    2) Trigger- Adjust the Accutrigger pull weight.​
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
  10. SlowSqueeze

    SlowSqueeze

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    TORQUED ABOUT MY STOCK

    For the rifle, I found a great, way-down-in-the-weeds, article written by Stan Pate from Team Savage about how to property torque a stock to an action (link below):
    http://www.accurateshooter.com/technical-articles/savage-action-screw-torque-tuning/

    From the article, Stan talks about 3-bolt actions that have the following torque specifications:
    Front bolt- 40 inch pounds
    Middle in front of magazine- 15 inch pounds
    Back behind trigger guard- <7 inch pounds​

    The 12FV only has two action screws (the third screw doesn’t hold the stock to the action- it is only there to hold the trigger guard to the stock). The better, more expensive Savage rifles do use the three action bolts- if you have one, it’s probably a good idea to pay attention to Stan…
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
  11. SlowSqueeze

    SlowSqueeze

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    DOES THE SYNTHETIC STOCK REALLY MATTER?

    The ‘synthetic’, non-Accustock, fell far short of my expectations when I got it off the barreled action- when people say tupperware they mean all plastic, cheap (ok, to be fair to Savage and Cabela's [exclusive distributor of the 12FV], I’ll call the stock extremely cost effective), light, and not-so-solid looking! I thought the rifle had an Accustock with a machined aluminum bed to mate the action when I bought it, but now I see that’s one way the FV can be sold for a $419 retail price. I was looking into bedding the stock at some point, but my stock doesn’t have enough material to bed to, and the material that is there is all plastic! So, I’m starting to consider new stock options for the rifle long-term.

    In the meantime though, the following thread shows some of the impressions about the stock. It certainly doesn’t compare to a higher priced after market stock, but all indications suggest the stock doesn’t limit accuracy that much (and I agree after seeing the results below. The synthetic stock might be a bigger factor with larger calibers due to increased recoil force (time will tell with my 12 FV in 308), but again I don’t think the stock is the first thing you should focus on if you have one of these rifles…

    https://www.thehighroad.org/index.p...e-factory-synthetic-stock-worth-using.321903/

    In the process I did some searching and found this thread about the Accustocks.
    http://www.sniperforums.com/forum/rifles/32084-savage-accu-stock.html
    https://www.americanrifleman.org/Webcontent/pdf/2009-6/2009623134444-savageaccustock.pdf
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
  12. SlowSqueeze

    SlowSqueeze

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    ADJUSTING THE ACCUTRIGGER

    While I was in the guts of the rifle I adjusted the Accutrigger, which was relatively easy once I found my small screwdriver- I didn’t get the little ‘tool’ that Savage makes to adjust the trigger pull weight, but a quick search on Google showed me I can use a small ‘jewelers’ screwdriver. To adjust the trigger to a lighter weight you simply turn the spring in the back to expand the back spring all the way. The manual says to turn the screw clockwise, but the picture it shows has the trigger vertical in the normal ‘ready to shoot’ orientation. I was looking at mine upside-down, and hence needed to turn it counterclockwise. Either way, the trigger is set to the lowest pull weight, which should be 1.5 pounds.

    After adjusting the trigger, it was time to put the rifle and stock back together. To start, I wanted to see how the recoil lug mated to the stock- again a frown as I saw the plastic on the stock that it hits. When I put the action back into the trigger I wanted to make sure to keep the recoil lug as tight on the stock as I could. So, I used my left hand to put backward pressure on the barreled action and tightened the action screws (not all the way tight yet) with my right hand- I probably had about 50 pounds of downward force pushing the recoil lug into the plastic while things got tightened. With the pressure correct on the front screw and lug the back of the stock was rotating away from the action- I know this because the second, back bolt, was wiggling a bit after tightening it. I guess it’s not surprising given all the plastic that the stock ‘bends’ with measurable torque on the action screws, but boy I was hoping for more from the stock.

    Anyhow, after getting things somewhat tight I dropped the stock to the ground to remove any additional space on the lug and tightened the front screw to 45 inch pounds. The manual doesn’t have a torque reading for the bolts. I then set the torque on the back screw to 25 inch pounds. The whole process took less than 30 minutes to complete, and I was hoping it would make a difference, assuming I got better contact between the recoil lug and the stock (even if it is plastic).
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
  13. SlowSqueeze

    SlowSqueeze

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    DID TIGHTENING THE STOCK MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

    So, the big question, did anything change? Short answer, not really. There was some better consistency, but also the worst group ever on my last group- 2.426 MOA on 12/2017 (I’m not counting the 4+ MOA group- that is just absurd).

    12/19/2015: Average MOA: 1.65
    2015_12_19_Results.jpg

    12/20/2015: Average MOA: 1.62
    2015_12_20_Results.jpg

    That last target showed where I was with an off the shelf used rifle, bulk Korean ammo, and rusty shooting skills after about 6 months- averaging around 1.55 MOA over 66 5-shot groups (330 shots).
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
  14. SlowSqueeze

    SlowSqueeze

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    I TRACK MY DATA VERY CLOSELY

    The graph below shows the scores of the above outings in graphical form, so I can plot my progress and monitor improvements.
    RawMOAResults.png

    Like I said above, I had a long way to go before sub-MOA is a reality (keep reading- it gets better fast). Looking at the above graph is depressing- the variation is crazy. In my last outing I had my worst group ever (#4) at 2.84 MOA AND one of my better groups (group #8) at 0.732. That’s nearly 4x the spread, and it wasn’t like a single flier on that nasty group- they ALL sucked!
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
  15. SlowSqueeze

    SlowSqueeze

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    INTERPRETING MY INITIAL DATA

    When I looked at the scatter plot of precision above I saw four distinct regions as shown below.
    RawMOAResults_Markup.png

    Region 1- Settling in with the new rifle, this was mainly me learning it and getting used to my new surroundings. I don’t take these too seriously, but it did establish a decent enough baseline from which to look forward. Interestingly, I cleaned the rifle after the 5th group (two trips to the range). I’ve run the barrel pretty dirty over these runs, which it seems to like. Nonetheless, in Region 1 there are some promising signs of improvement dipping down from a clear average of around 1.8 MOA (green line).

    Region 2- This region really, REALLY, bothers me. First off, I keep a pretty good log of things that I do to the rifle, and I can’t find anything that I did to trigger such an odd trend. In fact, I didn’t do ANYTHING during this period (except get engaged and be distracted from shooting). The weather did change in November, but this region is over two consecutive days in mid-month. The green line (all green lines are eye-balled estimates and not proper linear interpolations) showing my precision getting progressively WORSE over almost 20 groups is a real head scratcher.

    Region 3- Another oddity, and for those of you familiar with statistical process control (ergo Six Sigma), will see a clear sign that there is a statistically significant process variation- the data points alternate between above and below the average for 7 or more points, and appears to be stabilizing toward the green line. I don’t know what caused this either, but that kind of up-down variation, without some cause or change, annoys the crap out of me. Again, my shooting log is silent during this period, so I cannot attribute this very odd pattern to anything I did… Finally, and most notably, the MOA average drops 0.3 MOA to around 1.5 MOA after region 2 with NO explanation. Something contributed to a statistically significant improvement, but I have no idea what. I didn’t really change anything in my shooting style or form either.

    Region 4- My last two outings with the PMC ammo (thank God) are in region 4. Right before this is where I took the rifle apart and tightened the screws per Stan’s direction. I also reduced the pull weight of the Accutrigger. I like the contrast between Region 1 and Region 4- in Region 1 there were glimpses of potential, in Region 4 my average dropped about 0.3 MOA, but there were now some glimpses of something bad- the spikes up to over 2 MOA… I’m still not sure if tightening the action (Stan’s article) really helped drive the 0.3 MOA precision improvement or not.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
  16. SlowSqueeze

    SlowSqueeze

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    READING BETWEEN THE LINES- I.E. GUESSING

    Normally, if you showed me the above chart and gave me a little context I would assume some event (something changed) after Region 1, and another event after Region 2 that took some time to stabilize through Region 3 into Region 4. In other words, it appears to me that Regions 2 & 3 are stabilization periods- maybe something like developing copper equilibrium in the barrel… That would all make sense IF I actually did something to the system (i.e. rifle, ammo, me), which, per my records and memory, I did not do anything between these regions.

    I do think my trigger pull is a bit fast- rough timing using my iPhone put me between 14 and 20 seconds, which I’d like to get closer to a 25-30 pull. One of the things that has really been bugging me is the randomness of my groups- some shots feel really good, but end up looking like fliers! I expected the load variation to yield a noticeable vertical error as some rounds should be faster (high) while others should be slower (and low).
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
  17. TheOtherZilla

    TheOtherZilla

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    Son has one. SAVAGE 12 fv.. With our load shooting 52 SMK's it is a tack driver..
     
  18. TheOtherZilla

    TheOtherZilla

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    Be nice to have a link to the Stan Pate article
     
  19. centershot

    centershot Silver $$ Contributor

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    My 12 FV shot 55 grain hand loads and factory ammo sideways through the target at 25 yards. Your results may vary. I pulled the barrel and sold it.
     
  20. SlowSqueeze

    SlowSqueeze

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    I’ve got a batch of 1,000 52 Hornday’s in the garage waiting for round 2! Nice to hear they have a good chance of doing well!

    The link to Stan’s article is above, but I included the full URL/Link. Just to make sure, here it is again:

    http://www.accurateshooter.com/technical-articles/savage-action-screw-torque-tuning/


    I bought some Hornady Varmint Express that were 55gr as well- they key-holed through the targets! I think the barrel was over-stabilizing the rounds, but that was before Hornady fixed the polymer tips. If you look at the following target you can see the lead mist on the sides of most of the holes, suggesting the bullets were rapidly disintegrating... There are also two amazingly sideways holes!:eek:

    Oh, and by the way, this is my son's target where he was doing his best to simulate a shotgun with a bolt rifle... My only group on this ammo is in the top right- it's not a great group though.

    2016_07_06_223 Hornady 55gr VMax.jpg
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2017

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