With permission from The Accurate Rifle Magazine.
Each morning out on the prairie north of Pueblo
West, CO finds Bruce Artus, and Kreg Slack preparing for an attempt
to break their own world record for the longest shot on a prairie
dog ever recorded, at two miles. Specialized super long range
rifles, and associated equipment are just part of the equation.
As necessary as they may be, nothing can replace motivation, determination,
and perseverance evident on the faces of both shooters, as they
watch and study the ever-changing conditions, patiently waiting
for the rare opportunity needed to accomplish their record-breaking
long ago out on the prairie north of Pueblo West, Colorado I found
myself behind the hood of a pickup truck with my eye glued to the
ocular of a Bushnell 36X spotting scope.
I was studying the area around gunsmith Bruce Artus’ 20” steel
gong waiting for any sign of a bullet impact.
Finally a puff of dust rose from the dry, parched prairie maybe
10ft. or so to the side of the gong. A few seconds later, another slightly less authoritative
puff of dust also appeared in a different location close to it.
I glanced up as the shooters made a few windage and elevation
adjustments on the micrometers that were an integral part of the extremely
sophisticated ring/base system they were using. A few seconds later, 2 more Sierras were launched
again into the (upper?) atmosphere on their way to a point far north
of our position. Again I reattached
my eye to the spotting scope watching in hopeful anticipation of a
connection. Mirage was already beginning to build even though
it was still only about 60 degrees or so, and the sun hadn’t even
come close to topping the eastern horizon.
All of a sudden through the scope I could see the “boil” make
a slight directional change to the east, and I felt a breeze touch
my cheek. A slightly unappealing though not totally inaccurate
expletive erupted from both shooters, Bruce Artus and partner Kreg
Slack, as they remarked upon the ever-so-slight change in conditions. Seconds later the bullets impacted downrange
maybe another 10 ft. or so farther away than the first couple of shots. Another micrometer adjustment,
and a couple more big Sierras were off and running again. And so it went for maybe 10 shots or so when
Kreg spotted a prairie dog sitting atop his mound close to the gong,
probably trying to figure out what those strange little things were
that were falling out of the sky.
After receiving guidance to him I couldn’t believe I was actually
able to not only resolve the dog at the distance, but after becoming
accustomed to the image, I could actually tell which way he was facing
as well. After making some
quick micrometer adjustments a couple more Sierras were airborne again,
and I watched through the spotting scope as the bullets impacted surprisingly
quite close to the prairie dog. By
this time the slight breeze of before had matured into a steady 10-15
m.p.h. crosswind, and the shooters both found
themselves adjusting and readjusting elevation and windage micrometers
as Sierras were impacting within a 10 ft. radius of the dog. Finally after another 10 shots or so one of
the bullets actually creased just left of his mound, and gave him
enough of a scare to cause him to scurry off to another hole close
which, he promptly disappeared – all this at a distance
of 2 miles.
Close-up of Bruce's Win. 70 action, and the
base of Elmer Laitala's Super Long Range Scope Mount (SLRSM)
Now I’ll freely admit that a few weeks ago when Kreg told me
they were going for a 2 mile prairie dog my skepticism meter hit an
all time high. Although I had
witnessed their attempts to break their own world records in the past,
and was quite impressed with the ability of these guys and their guns
to shoot accurately at the ranges they were trying for – I mean, come
on – 2 miles?? After all, even
with high-powered optics how
could one even see a coke can sized critter
at that range anyway? Besides
that, considering the average time of flight between their two guns
(10 seconds) Mother Nature has an inordinate amount of time to manipulate
the bullet’s windage and trajectory before it comes to – God only
knows where. Obviously their group size
at 2 miles or 3520 yds. is idealistically
3.5X their average at 1000 (about 5”) which equates to approximately
18” or so at the target yardage. Throw
in all the variables, and we have to ask ourselves, can we even legitimize
what’s occurring at that range by labeling it as a “group”?
aside, I was there that day, and although the calculations may not
agree, I can bear witness to the effectiveness of their system.
And now that I’ve seen it with my own eyes my skepticism has
been dispelled, as I know without question that they will accomplish
their goal soon enough.
in order to turn this goal into reality Bruce and Kreg must depend
upon, let’s say, a sort of skillful manipulation of luck, if you will.
If you’ve been following this “saga” through the pages of this
magazine and its sister publications (all three previous articles
are published in the PS book “Precision Shooting at 1,000 Yards”
– Chapter 5 “Ultra Long Range Shooting In Colorado”) then you’ll recall
that these guys aren’t just grabbing grampa’s old “thutty-thutty”
off the mantelpiece, and pointing it
Close-up of Elmer's SLRSM with Leupold/Premier
20-50X conversion mounted.
in a feeble attempt to lob-one-in on some such
unfortunate rodent hoping to kill him via blunt trauma.
As mentioned in the previous articles Bruce has been avidly
pursuing his interest for many years. He has graduated through the various shooting
disciplines, i.e.; archery, handguns, factory varmint-type rifles
attempting to reach out farther and farther in range, culminating
now in the .30 and .338 calibers with their corresponding high B.C.
Sierra MK’s. He and partner Kreg continue out to unheard
of ranges using state-of-the-art equipment.
These guys aren’t the type to be bound by the conventional,
as their unconventional goals dictate unconventional practices and
Kreg went beyond the 1.75 mile mark though, they both came to the
realization that if they we going to continue farther in range they
would have to reevaluate their equipment choices to incorporate some
innovative ideas and designs.
they were frequently running into was the scope mounting system.
Although effective at the ranges they were shooting, the system
lacked the flexibility necessary to make quick adjustment for shooting
at various ranges during the same shooting session.
Coincidentally, a precision machinist by the name of Elmer
Laitala of Harbor Engineering (Ogilvie, MN) had just designed a highly
efficient and specialized base and ring system that could be easily
adjusted into the field for 100 to about 3000 yds.
Interested readers are advised to refer to the photo(s) of
Elmer’s system as I attempt to explain its workings here. His design incorporates a massive two-piece
base system atop which sits a set of scope “yokes” fore and aft. Two large scope rings are machined to slide
into these yokes precisely, and are held tight by several precision
socket-head cap screws, and
shoulder bolts. These screws
and bolts are alternately loosened and tightened whenever an elevation
adjustment becomes necessary. The
aft yoke has a precision
Close-ups of Kreg's .338 LMAI showing big
Rampro action, Elmer's SLRSM with
Leupold/Premier 20-50X conversion, and Bruce's custom barrel bedding
slot machined into both sides
through which the screws pass allowing the ocular part
of the scope to be moved up or down as the objective end pivots in
its mount. A micrometer is
mounted atop the rear yoke from which accurate adjustments can be
made and recorded for various ranges.
Simply loosen the ocular and objective screws, adjust the micrometer
to the proper setting for the prairie dog town XXXX yds. distant,
then retighten the entire works. Fine
adjustments are made internally via scope turrets.
adjustments are made at the base which is actually a 2-piece system.
The lower portion is machined as a standard base normally would
be, but is mated to the upper part by 2 pins.
These pins slide into their respective female counterparts
in the upper base. The forward
counterpart is simply a machined hole into which the front pin is
precisely mated. The rear counterpart is, of course, another
precisely machined curved slot which allows the upper part of the
base to be moved right and/or left for windage using another micrometer
as a reference and stop just like the elevation adjustment.
I’ve seen the system up close and personal, and believe me
dear reader when I tell you that it is, simply put, an engineering
I spoke first hand with the designer himself about his system.
Elmer said he came up with the idea when he joined the Varmint
Hunters Association. The organization
has established various “clubs” or categories based on your longest
confirmed (by another member of the VHA) shot on a “varmint” species
prairie dogs +/or woodchucks). The
categories are divided into 500 yd. increments, and every time you
break into the 500, 1000, or maybe 1500
yd. range you get a membership in the club, and a pin as a reward.
Bruce prepares for a shot at 2 miles.
that Bruce and Kreg were the only members beyond 2000 yds.
it fascinated him, and he knew he had to give it a go. He purchased a Savage 112 BVSS in 300 Mag.,
and with a few modifications put himself in the 1000, and 1500 yd.
clubs using standard factory rings and bases, with the Leupold/Premier
8.5X-25X boost to 20X-50X. He
quickly discovered that 1500 yds. was about
the limit with the standard factory mounting systems, and internal
adjustments on the Leupold. With his background as a precision machinist,
he initially considered going the same route as Bruce with a fixed
custom elevated base, and Burris Posi-Align rings.
But as good as the system was he knew it lacked the flexibility
for varying ranges. He thought
long and hard about it, and finally brainstormed his current long
range base and ring system, with which he recently became a card-carrying
member of the 2000 yd. Club himself.
He actually manufactures 2 different models.
His original design runs around $750, and has 200 minutes of
elevation adjustment with no windage option.
This system works well out to around 3000 yds.,
but when Elmer met Bruce and Kreg he knew their needs would require
a windage adjustment built in as well. Once again, he thought long and hard, and brainstormed
the windage modification described above. This new package sells for a cool $1000, and
includes an additional 600 minutes of elevation adjustment for a grand
total of 800 minutes of elevation, and 200 of windage.
As Bruce explains Elmer’s design would take them from zero
to app. 5000 yds. or about 3-3.5 miles, obviously
depending upon the trajectory of the chosen cartridge/bullet combination. Bruce says he’ll be attempting 3.5 miles as
soon as Sierra comes out with their 20mm 2500 gr. “Super-Match-king
(SMK)”. Recently I contacted
Sierra’s tech line to ask about the new bullet, and they responded
with a most emphatic “huh”!!?
Kreg's big Rampro .338 Lapua Magnum Ackley
Improved showing Elmer Laitala's SLRSM, and Bruce's custom barrel
Laitala’s whole system is marvelously designed, and can easily be
returned to zero, as both Bruce and Kreg demonstrated to me that
When finished shooting for the morning they returned their
scopes and mounts to the preset 100 yd. zero’s, and nailed
2 cowpies about 150 yds. out. Typically though Kreg and Bruce are within ½”
of their 100 yd. zero’s after shooting at 2 miles, proving just how
accurate Elmer’s system is – quite impressive to say the least. The design is extremely innovative and could
prove useful in many different types of long range applications. Elmer’s
quite the engineer as well as precision machinist, and if you can
think it up he can probably make it work.
has just recently opened up his own shop in Pueblo West preferring
to specialize in bench, varmint, and specialty-purpose big-game rifles
and pistols. While building
his and Kreg’s new 2 mile prairie dog guns, Bruce decided to throw
in a new innovation of his own design.
It’s actually sort of a new twist on an old idea which Bruce
feels provides an improvement over current technology. For years the 1000 yd. boys (and girls) have
been shooting long heavy barrels that if left unsupported put considerable
stress on the action. Most competitors are now having their guns built
with some sort of support mechanism (barrel bedding block) in the
barrel/action juncture to help with this stressful condition.
Most of these barrel blocks are bedded into the stock. Bruce has taken the procedure a step further
though by attaching a large aircraft-grade aluminum plate under the
first 8” of the barrel, another in the bottom of the forearm, which
attaches to a third and final plate that sits atop the action/barrel
juncture. The 3 plates are held together with 16 3/8ths
X 24 machine screws, and 4 precision ground guide pins, sandwiching
the entire works together tripledecker style, which makes for an extremely
rigid and secure design. I
remember watching one day in his shop recently when he demonstrated
how precise his barrel block system is.
As he assembled the unit, each consecutive piece slid down
on the next, very slowly, as if on a cushion of air.
Since using this design
Kreg's gun on a bench in field showing big
Rapro action, Elmer's SLRSM. Bruce's
custom barrel bedding block, 36" Krieger barrel, and Elkridge's
laminated bench stock.
has noticed quite an improvement in the accuracy of these heavy rifles
which weigh in the neighborhood of 35-40 lbs.
Kreg’s big .338 is capable of putting 20% of its shots into
a 36” gong at 2 miles – a testimony to the accuracy of Bruce’s system.
has chosen to stick with the .308 Ackley Improved, as has been thoroughly
discussed in previous articles, and has been more than satisfied with
the 30 cal. barrels he has been receiving from Boots Obermeyer over
on the other hand, has made a slight change in cartridge selection
in that he chose to provide a little more velocity and energy to the
300 gr. .338 Sierra MK. He decided
to increase the case capacity of the .338 Lapua Magnum
by blowing it out to Ackley’s Improved configuration. But after chambering to the improved case Kreg
had Elmer run the numbers across his Silhouette Ballistics Program,
and they came up with some interesting conclusions.
The big variable in super long range shooting is time of flight,
as the longer a projectile is in the air, the more time external forces
have to alter its flight path. So
the sooner the bullet gets to the target range the better.
Obviously the higher the form factor and ballistic coefficient,
the more retained velocity at any range, but the kickers here are
the range to the target, and barrel life.
Kreg came to the realization that increasing powder charges
will shorten the life of the barrel, especially when the target ranges
are so far away that it may take more than a few rounds at each range
to make a connection, not to mention all the preparatory shooting
that’s involved, i.e. barrel conditioning, load development, etc.
As it turns out 2 mile flight time is insignificantly shortened
by 100-200 f.p.s. more velocity, therefore, although Kreg is using
a case that is capable of more horsepower, he chose to stick with
his original load of 85 gr. IMR 7828 in the improved case.
has also made some changes in his instrument of choice.
He elected to go the custom action route, and purchased a large
Rampro for his Artus-built .338 Lapua Magnum Ackley Improved.
It’s bedded in a big laminated Elkridge bench stock, and has
a 39” Krieger stainless barrel installed.
Close-up of Bruce's custom 3 piece barrel
Another problem they were running into was trying to find a gun case
large enough to transport these rather oversize firearms, so they
contracted Alan Marck of Marck’s Sheet Metal, Inc. also of Pueblo
West to make some custom cases for them. He fabricated 2 huge foam-lined cases that are
both strong and durable at a reasonable price.
spent a lot of time on the phone discussing reamers with Dave Kiff
@ Pacific Precision Tool and Gauge.
Both the .308 AI, and .338 LMAI reamers
are from him. They are a special
match grade utilizing Dave’s parallel-throating system. These special reamers guarantee precise bullet
alignment, ensuring top accuracy without the extra pressure of jamming
the bullet into the lands. Dave
believes there is no reason to manufacture these precision reamers
at a high cost to the public, therefore his special reamers are the
same price as the standard SAAMI’s he also produces.
recently began using some of Greg Tannel’s (Gre-Tan Rifles, GTR) precision
machining tools, specifically his Chambering Flushing System, and
his special precision reamer holder. Interested readers are advised to refer to an
article published in PS
issue 8/99 entitled “GTR Tooling’s Muzzle Flush Coolant System” in
which author John Eckenrode thoroughly discusses the advantages of
Greg’s use of a flood coolant system while cutting the chamber.
Since I am a shooter and writer, and not a gunsmith, all I
can give here is a short layman’s description of his special precision
reamer holder. After wading through the technotalk of both
Bruce and Greg, I gathered the system provides a hands-free floating
holder that precisely self-aligns the reamer with
Big Rampro action.
bore while cutting the hamber. Interested
readers are of course advised to speak to the man himself for specifics. Another article was recently published on Greg’s
action accurizing in PS
issue 12/01 by Randolph Constantine, and I understand that Tannel’s
innovative designs are regarded by many to be the wave of the future
for precision gun builders.
No doubt there are some out there that would like to know just what
kind of trajectories we’re talking about here; myself included.
Recently, Elmer ran a drop chart for both Bruce and Kreg’s
loads on his Silhouette Ballistics Program, (Taylor, MI). As for Bruce’s
.308 AI, the midrange trajectory for the 220 gr. Sierra @ 2400
f.p.s. m.v. is about 135 yds. above line of sight, and showed 365.6 m.o.a. of elevation
required at 3520 yds. from a 100 yd. zero.
Remaining velocity and energy at the target yardage is 703
f.p.s., and 241 ft. lbs. respectively. Using the same
Close-up of Elmer's SLRSM.
calculations Kreg’s .338” 300 gr. Sierra’s at 2750 f.p.s. m.v. are
running 92 yds. above line of sight a the
trajectories apex, and 245.4 m.o.a. of elevation require for 3520
yds. The 300 gr. Sierra delivers
817 f.p.s. with 445 ft. lbs. remaining velocity
and energy respectively at the target yardage. Although the energy figures are quite low at
two miles they are surprisingly higher than I had anticipated.
Bruce and Kreg’s goal is considerably different than the thousand
yard competitors, in either endeavor accuracy is paramount in importance,
and I have often secretly wondered to myself just how well these guys
would stack up to the long range paper punchers.
The end result of all this effort inevitably must be put to
the test on the range before they could even begin to think about
sending bullets downrange at the distances they are attempting.
Kreg’s barrel break-in
averaged .557” @ a hundred yds., for 15 3-shot
groups, which includes cleaning between each group, and various powder
combinations. His aforementioned
long range load is netting him an avg. of about 6” at a thousand. Bruce is turning in similar groups as well.
Kreg intends to begin competing shortly at the various 1000
yd. matches with his new .338 LMAI.
But first it’s
2 miles, and I for one, as a disinterested observer know that some
morning, in the not-too-distant future, a pair of sleek Sierra HP
Matchkings will speed their way through 2 miles of variable air currents
toward their intended target. A skillful manipulation of luck, or maybe a
lucky manipulation of skill, depending upon your viewpoint, will allow
one of those big Sierra’s to make history,
as its flight path intersects with an unsuspecting prairie dog.
And what will they have accomplished for all their efforts? That’s simply for them to know, and us to speculate.