Lead free projectiles have been around for some time now and with the increasing push by the anti’s, we’re seeing areas in the United States being declared lead free zones which has limited the choice of projectiles that hunters can use. Fortunately, manufacturers were quick to respond by increasing the range of lead free projectiles available.
As some of you may be aware I ‘m a huge fan of Nosler’s range of projectiles so naturally, I jumped at the chance to review their lead free Ballistic Tip Varmint projectiles. The box I received was their 40grain .224 projectile which would be perfect for my Remington 788 in .222 Remington.
The first thing I noticed when I opened the box was the length of the projectiles. They are really long in length and I had to weigh one just to be sure that they weren’t a heavier projectile that slipped through into the wrong packaging! No doubt the lack of lead means that the projectiles are going to be longer in length to make up for the lack of weight. In fact, they are only a tad shorter than a 50gr V-Max.
Nosler’s lead free Ballistic Tips are a flat base design which differs from their usual Ballistic Tip range. They do however have the polymer tip which has a metallic colour to it. Being a Varmint projectile means they are designed to fragment and cause massive damage with very little penetration. More on that later.
I used my usual method of working up some hand loads by using the starting load in a well know loading manual and moving up in charge weight from there. After some pressure loads were fired, I settled on 23.5 grains of AR2206H which gave me a warm but safe load in my rifle. As always, work up to your loads as each rifle is different. I decided not to play around with different charge weights until I had tested this one at the farm.
The first day I had free I headed off to the farm for some range testing and as it turned out it was a perfect day for it. I only had one day for accuracy and game testing so it was nice to have the weather working with me for a change. Things just got even better when I started putting some groups down range. You know how some days everything just seems to work out perfect? They are few are far between but this was definitely one of those days! I won’t go into group sizes, I’ll just let the pictures do the talking. Even though my Remington is a particularly good shooter, I wasn’t expecting to find such an accurate load on the first attempt.
With the range testing over with, I decided to head off to a nearby Rabbit warren. I was almost there when I spotted several crows feeding on a sheep carcass. They were only 150 meters away and with the bipod attached I knew I had a good chance of bagging one. Lying prone, I was rock steady and with a squeeze of the trigger there was a puff of feathers and it was all over for one more nuisance crow. On inspection the projectile had passed through taking the crows insides with it.
Moving onto the Rabbit warren I was surprised to see two Rabbits sunning themselves even after the commotion of a nearby gunshot. Lying prone once again I felt confident enough for a headshot, but I wanted to see how the projectiles would perform when punched through the shoulders. Placing the crosshairs on the closest Rabbits chest, I squeezed off another shot and watched the Rabbit flip over with hardly a kick. The projectile had passed through both shoulders but had caused massive damage on its way through. Whilst there was no “explosive” effect at the modest velocity obtainable with the .222 Remington, I’d expect there to be some spectacular results when pushed out of a 22-250 Remington.
Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to test the Ballistic Tips on a Fox which was my main goal for this review. I’ll continue to use the Nosler’s for the next few weeks so hopefully I can add some input to their performance once some more game has been taken.
If you’re trying to find an accurate load for your .22 Calibre Varmint rifle, then I’d suggest you give the Nosler Lead Frees a go. Whilst we aren’t suffering from the Lead Free crisis at our local Rabbit patches (just yet anyway), they may end up being a short cut to that accurate load that you’re looking for.
I’ve always been a Weatherby fan and at the moment my favourite factory rifle would have to be the Vanguard. I love the 24 inch barrels that come as standard on the sporters and the actions are as good as any other in that price range. I’ve also owned a few Mark V’s and they are built to handle the bigger Roy magnums with ease. I’ve also had a lot of interest in the Weatherby cartridges themselves. Designed on the concept that speed kills, they certainly aren’t lacking in the feet per second department.
Weatherby, The Man, The Gun, The Legend gives a complete history of Roy Weatherby himself and provides an insight into the struggles of his early endeavours. It explains how Roy left a high paying job to pursue his dreams and of course the problems he has along the way. I was amazed at how many times Roy was nearly made bankrupt but each time he found a way to keep his company alive. The book also explains the help Roy received along the way which mostly comes in the way of financial support from high profile friends.
The part of the book that I was looking forward to most was excerpts from Roy’s diaries from his various hunting trips. Of most interest was his African trips and I was surprised to read of his erratic results on game when using his high velocity cartridges. Today we know that speed isn’t everything but back then Roy was trying to promote that high velocity was a spectacular killer even when not hit in a vital area. I’ve just never thought that Roy’s diaries might hint that maybe he was wrong! If only Roy had access to premium projectiles! Roy does indeed bag a lot of game on his hunting trips and in any case, his cartridges still did the job well enough for them to still be around today.
The book is very well set out and I found it easy and enjoyable to read. I’d recommend it to anyone who has an interest in firearms and cartridge design.
Recently a friend asked me if I could take a look at his hunting rifle. It had developed the dreaded problem of a shifting zero. I instantly thought of loose mounts or a faulty scope and told him to bring it over when he had a chance.
On its arrival I got the pleasant surprise of a Steyr Mannlicher Schoenauer Model MC being pulled from his gun bag. A model I’ve never been familiar with, I was keen to get a closer look. At first glance I knew the problem would not be easy to diagnose as the mounts were of a designed that I had never seen before, but more on that later.
My friend gladly allowed me use of the rifle for a review and hopefully we’d fix the problem along the way.
The first thing about the rifle which caught my eye was obviously the full woodwork that the Mannlicher’s have become famous for. I’ve seen plenty of pictures of the full length woodwork before and to be honest it never really appealed to me. However, in the flesh the rifle certainly had some unique appeal to it. The wood itself was rather fancy when compared to today’s standards and it was refreshing to see some decent walnut for a change.
The trigger was un-usual to me as it was the double set design which some Brno owners may be familiar with. Once the rear trigger is set, the front trigger lets go at only a few ounces. I struggled somewhat with the trigger as I found the front trigger to be too far forward for my fingers and the let off weight was too light for my liking. It did however make target shooting a pleasure as there was no detectable creep with such a light let off. Perhaps you could get used to the double set trigger and the people that do seem to swear by them, but they’re just not for me.
The barrel was deceiving in its length as it measured in at only 20 inches. I think that the full wood has a lot to do with this as it appears to be longer than it really is. It had a 1-10 twist which is standard these days for the .243 Winchester cartridge. The barrel internals showed that my friend was rather laid back in his cleaning regime but came up pretty good once a bottle of Hoppe’s No.9 had been let loose.
Perhaps the oddest part of the whole rifle was the scope mounts. The Schoenauer (I’m glad I get to type that and not have to pronounce it!)Model MC has an open bridge action which means that conventional mounts would stop the bolt from being able to be worked. To get around this some interesting mounts and rings had to be made. As I later worked out, these particular mounts were quick detachable. However, they failed to re-align precisely and this meant a shift in zero whenever they were removed. Research provided no other available mounts for this rifle so it was basically a leave them and be happy job. The front ring actually wraps around the outside diameter of the scope, which leaves you limited to only having a scope of the same objective lens diameter. Of course this also means no adjustable objectives either. The pictures describe the setup better so I’ll let them do the talking.
The bolt is described as a turned down butter knife because that’s pretty much what it looks like. At first I thought it’d be rather awkward to use, but after a day in the field I found it to be second nature. The design itself is very strong with two large locking lugs that Mauser owners would be familiar with.
Getting onto the shooting side of things, it didn’t take long to work out that the un-usual mounts were the cause of his problems. They needed some tightening and some strict instructions on not detaching them in the future. Once they were sorted out and the barrel had been given a good clean, I headed out to the farm to do some final testing. Unfortunately, my friend doesn’t reload and he had only given me a packet of 20 Norma loads to do the testing with. I wanted to field test the rifle as well so I kept sighting in and grouping to a minimal.
As it turned out, I got lucky and my bore sighting was pretty much bang on where I wanted it. I then fired a couple of three shot groups which measured in at just a touch over an inch. Not bad for a carbine barrel of this age and it was a real shame that I didn’t get to group it properly with some decent hand loads. In any case, the rifle was shooting where it should be so it was time to chase some game with it.
The next farm along has a steady population of goats on it so it was only a short walk before a few were seen. I found the little Steyr an absolute pleasure to carry even without the use of a sling. Shouldering was quick and precise and I developed a strong liking for it as a hunting rifle. The Goats were quite wary and even with the wind in my favour, they could sense that something wasn’t right. I decided not to close the gap to anything less than 200 meters as cover was limited. Using a large gumtree as a field rest, I steadied up on the Goats and picked out a nice nanny for the freezer. I’ll admit that I actually passed a few shots simply because the trigger just didn’t feel right. In the end though, there was a loud bang and the goat simply fell where it stood.
The Steyr Mannlicher Schoenauer is getting on the old side these days and it’s not likely that you’ll see many of them on the market. I recently saw one advertised with a price tag of a little over the two grand mark. I certainly wouldn’t buy one at that price but somebody did so it’s obviously a matter of personal taste. As a hunting rifle, it suits the job well by being both light weight and accurate.