338 WM Woes

  • Bought a Ruger #1 B in .338 Win Mag back during the summer in anticipation of a New Mexico elk hunt this year. It came to me with an el Cheapo scope and a very sketchy muzzle brake. Scope was sent off to the gun show and converted into candied nuts. Mounted a new Leupold 4-12X40 as I have used this model before on other hunting rifles and found them to be about right for the application. My gunsmith made and fitted a Vias-style prone brake and worked the trigger over. A couple of boxes of 225 gr Hornady Superformance cartridges followed me home and all that remained was to hit the range and zero the rig. But, like many other grand plans this one collapsed before we hit the city limits. So, now hunting season is over and today was a pretty winter day in central texas, sunny, 70 degrees, light breeze ... Perfect day to call in dead and go to the range.

    The first shot hit the paper at 100 meters! It really looked like another shot and I'd be ready to dial in some elevation and zero at 300 meters and be ready to go shoot a deer the size of a pack horse. But, I couldn't let it go. My shot was .5" low and .5 left, I knew I could do better than that. So, I dialed in the correction and my shot went 3" high and 3" left. Hmmmmmmm. Next shot went 3" high and 3" right! So, I'm thinking WTF? Scope is tight, bases are tight, bore looks good, must be me. So I really bear down and double up the hole on the right. Dial back to center and the POI hardly moves. I'm going to zero this *&^%$#@!! rifle yet. No dice. Chrono data says the ammo was not to blame. Out of ammo.

    Going home now to clean and check everything then get more ammo and try again. I was firing off a concrete bench, Caldwell Rock BR rest and a bunny bag, same hold each time, so that isn't it. Any clue as to what to do next will be appreciated because burning up $100 of ammo trying to zero a rifle isn't my idea of a nice day at the range.

  • Magnetospeed chronograph?

  • Did you have all of the slop out of the main elevation screw on the rest?
    I borrowed one once and it was all over the place.
    Went to a sand filled Bull's Bag and groups went right back down to the limit of the ammo I was using.

    Try a bag or a quality bipod next trip.
    The prefilled Champion Bags are convenient but heavy. $70

  • Nah, Travis, I had my ProChrono set up 25 feet from the muzzle. Wish it was that easy. There were two shots that were what I'd consider unacceptable in my handloads that were 45 and 35 fps below the rest giving me 58 ES and 13 SD on a 2800 fps average. Most were either 2805 or 2812. Neither of the outliers were flyers.

    hypo, I know what you're getting at but I shoot off that benchrest a lot and have a good heavy leather bag on the top filled with shot and hardened/powdered until it is practically frictionless. My tail bag is similar leather and has about 40# of shot in it. I shoot competitively off those two.

    I'm going to pull the scope off another #1 temporarily and see if that fixes the problem. It was all going great until it wasn't, so something changed at around shot #5. Still searching for the cause.

  • Not that anyone but me cares, but this story has a happy ending. About the middle of February an old friend of my gunsmith called him up to see if he wanted to come to South Texas for a visit which would include a few days of nilgai hunting and a fishing trip for him and a friend. I got to be the "friend". David asked what I was going to shoot and initially I said I was going to take a 35 Whelen. He asked if I'd ever gotten my .338WM to behave and I told him I'd reloaded the empties with a 225 grain Hornady Interlock and a factory velocity matching charge of IMR-4831 that I hoped would do better than the Superformance load had but had not had a chance to shoot the load yet. He proposed that I load some 225 Noslers that he had and that he felt worked well in his bolt action Ruger .338 WM and he'd provide everything but the labor and primers. Deal. Turns out his rifle had 0.060" less throat than mine, so two lengths of ammo were prepared and we hit the range on the most perfect cool, still, uniformly overcast day ever. His rifle did, indeed, shoot the load custom loaded for it well, putting 5 cold barrel shots into less than 2 MOA at 200 meters. David was satisfied that he could kill any nilgai he saw with that. My rifle put that load and the slightly longer load with the same components into about 1.5 MOA and in the same group so it was good enough. But, I had the box of loads in my brass with me and just had to see how they'd do. 1" CTC @ 200 meters! OK, I had not expected anything near that. Just to be sure, I shot another group and got the same results. I still had 10 rounds left, so the hunt was on. I shortened all the remaining rounds of David's components so they'd work in his rifle and he had enough to hunt too.

    We were hunting around commitments, so in spite of forecasts for high winds and possible rains we took off into a strong southerly wind to go hunting. Over the next three days the winds blew constantly at 25-45 mph day and night. The ranch had had heavy rains the week before we arrived and the grass was thigh high everywhere. The combination of abundant grass, water and high winds meant nothing was moving day or night. I did manage to see a pile of nilgai pellets near my blind but that was it for game sightings. The Gulf was so stirred up that no fishing boats were going anywhere near the water, so we decided to spend the weekend with our wives and cut our trip short this time. We're invited back this winter, so maybe we'll have better luck next time.

  • Glad you got it shooting, sucks about the weather.