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Tue, Nov. 12

When sighting in, ammo brand does make a difference

One of the most discussed subjects among hunters who use rifles is this: Does using different brands of ammunition in the same caliber and same bullet weight make any difference when sighting in a rifle?

In my opinion, the answer is a resounding "YES."

Recently I had the good fortune of being able to buy a rifle that I have wanted to own for a long time. I had to do a lot of wheeling and dealing to get it; I sold an AR rifle that I had won at the Friends of the NRA banquet, and did some other "horse trading" with friends and family to come up with the funds to get it.

But finally I got the rifle - a Rock River Arms LAR-15 Fred Eichler Series. It came with a Wylde chamber, meaning you can shoot either commercial 223 ammo or even military spec 5.56 ammo. The rifle features a two stage National Match trigger, a ported and tuned muzzle brake, cryo-treated 16 inch barrel and a lot of other features.

This rifle, in my opinion, is one of the top-of-the-line ARs out there, and one of the selling points of this firearm is it's guaranteed to shoot three-quarter-inch groups at 100 yards with factory ammunition!

So after I got the rifle and put a new Burris 4.5 X 14 223 scope on it, it was time to head to the 7 Mile Hill Range to do some sighting in with some different brands of ammo that I bought at a couple of local gun shops.

We had a Hunter Education class coming up and I was going to do a demonstration with the new rifle, so I wanted to make sure I could hit the targets I would be shooting at.

Accompanying me to the range for the first go around was Hunter Ed assistant Ryan Borden.

We set up our original target at about 25 yards and made sure we were in the ballpark with some Federal 55-grain ball ammo and, once satisfied with those results, we moved our target out to 100 yards.

It didn't take long for Ryan and me to see that this rifle really likes that ammo. Then I tried a few rounds of factory Remington 55-grain ball ammo, and the group opened up a lot.

So we went back to the Federal ammo, rechecked the results, and moved on.

Once we were dead on at 100 yards, we decided to see if the scope, which is by design calibrated for 55-grain ammo with a muzzle velocity of over 3,200 feet per second, was accurate out to 200 yards.

We picked out several metal plates set up at 200 yards at the range.

Using the 200-yard reticle on the scope, both Ryan and I were able to put shot after shot on the targets.

When it came to using the rifle at the Hunter Ed field day demonstration, I was able to easily accomplish my mission of breaking an ice block, then methodically dispatching the smaller pieces of ice.

At 200 yards I fired at a metal silhouette turkey, and once again using the 200-yard reticle on the scope, toppled it over on the first shot! All of this was done with the Federal 55-grain ball ammo.

But now I wanted to see if using different brands of ammo with 53-55-grain bullets would adversely affect the rifle's accuracy.

On this trip to the 7 Mile Hill Range, I had Ryan and his sister Laura with me. I wanted them to witness and verify the results.

I started out once again shooting the Federal 55-grain ammo.

It took a few rounds to get it absolutely dead on at 100 yards.

After a very minor scope adjustment, the next six shots left just one ragged hole in the target.

Then we all took turns shooting the rifle at the 200-yard targets. All of us made hit after hit on the metal discs. This rifle/scope combination was right on!

But we weren't finished with our unscientific test.

I decided to try some ammo that Fred Eichler told me he used in his rifle.

Eichler said his personal LAR shot all factory 55-grain ammo well, but his favorite, and the one he had the best accuracy with, was Hornady's Superformance 223 ammo in 53-grain.

So I ordered a couple of boxes of that rather expensive ($25 a box) ammo from a gun shop and had it with me that fateful day.

It didn't take long to see the results. The rifle shot over 2 inches high and about 3.5 inches to the left with that ammo! Plus the group opened up to over 3 inches, center to center.

Hmm, I thought, maybe it was me. So back into the gun went the Federal ammo.

At the shot, we saw it hit dead center, just like it was supposed to. Other follow up shots confirmed the same results.

Now, I'm not claiming to be an expert, and I've got a lot more experimenting to do with this rifle.

My goal is to have it set up for predators/javelina out to 300 yards, which means I am going to try and use a heavier 62-75-grain bullet. The special barrel in the RRA LAR has a 1 in 8 twist, which means it will stabilize bullets from 55- grain to 77-grain and still maintain accuracy.

The speed of the heavier loads will obviously be decreased to about 2,700 fps, but my goal is to have a rifle that is capable of making a one-shot stop on those critters at that range.

This is my winter project, and it will be completed by next February's general javelina season.

In the meantime, if you're sighting in a new rifle, try different manufacturers of ammunition (in the same caliber and bullet weight) and see which one your rifle likes best. You might be surprised at the results.

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