Monday, July 07, 2008

Prairie Dog Medicine

This is a Colt Model CR6724 - Colt Accurized Rifle. The lower is engraved "Colt CAR-A3", which means it is a (again) Colt Accurized Rifle with a flattop upper. A3 uppers are flattops, which makes mounting a scope much easier than the A1 or A2 carry handle uppers. It has a match style trigger. I've got a riser block mounted between the upper and the Bushnell 6x18x50 Banner Riflescope. The bipod is a Harris HBLM - the legs have notches and it doesn't swivel. The rifle is of course chambered in .223. A 24" stainless steel barrel with a 1:9 twist is covered by a free floated aluminum handguard. The buttstock is a standard A2 style with a trapdoor. This is my primary prairie dog gun.

To a hoplophobe, this rifle looks like a sniper's wet dream. However, the stopping power of the .223 even with 60gr softpoints (my favorite load) is in doubt. It is perfect for varmints. The long barrel makes it front heavy and unwieldy in tight places, so Tommy Tactical wouldn't care for it at all. I'll never be taking on any urban assaults in my future anyways, so a M4gery is largely useless for me. I've got one of those, too, but mostly because it came with the four position buttstock. That rifle is another story for another time, though. My "urban assault rifle" is a Winchester 1894 large loop carbine - it's leaning near the door now, it's handy in tight situations, stopping power is good, and I don't have to worry about overpenetration. I'd think the snick of the lever action might be a deterrent as well. I'm not gonna get into a "tacticool" rant at the moment, but it's enough to know I think a bunch of the gewgaws are like custom hubcaps - nothing but eye candy.

I've had this rifle for close to ten years. It was purchased used at the Chisholm Trail Gun Show in Wichita, KS. As far as I know, it's the largest and best show in Kansas . It came with some sort of cheap Simmons scope that broke on a different rifle. I bought a big Tasco for it that had problems as well. This Bushnell isn't a Leupold by any means, but it has served me well.

Were I to buy a different bipod, it would be the Harris model of the same height without the leg notches. Most prone positions aren't perfectly level, and hoods on pickups slope down to the grill. A bit of digging is required when on the ground to level the rifle - it just has to be lived with on a hood. The medium height is perfect. The shorter benchrest versions wouldn't work for this rifle, and the taller version wouldn't work in the prone position with the extra height, unless one was shooting at an upward angle. Rabbit ear rifle bags work well shooting out a window - just roll the window up to the correct height, and put the bag ears down over the edge. Voila - the glass is protected from recoil.

Also, 30 round mags are too long - they hit the shooting surface and even suspend the bipod. Twenty rounders are the "thang" in this application. The eight and nine round Colt factory mags work well, too, but the twenty's supply obviously last longer. Milsurps that aren't dinged up with good springs work well. I've tried Thermold and Orlite mags, too. The Thermolds seem to work better than the Orlites, but to be fair the Orlite mags I have were obviously battlefield pickups that Sarco sold many moons ago.

So, how does it shoot? I've not saved any targets for years, but I can tell you tales of shooting horseflies on the paper at 100 yds. If I sandbag it up on a bench, and do my part, it will almost put the shots in the same hole. If the wind isn't blowing. That is probably the worst thing about the .223 - out on the prairie the wind is generally blowing pretty good, and gusts will cause the bullet to drift a bit. .220 Swift, 25-06, .243Win, and even .308 and 30-06 don't have that problem with the normal 'dog hunting range, but they are all a lot more expensive to shoot, too. I'm sure the .270 Win meets the same criteria - but I've had some experience with the aforementioned calibers hunting 'dogs. I've shot a .270, but only at paper.

Most of the 'dogs around here have been conditioned to rifle shooting. This means if they see you, and they will, they will hide in their holes within a hundred plus yard radius of your position. 120+ yard shots are the norm, which is a bit beyond the norm for .223. Yeah, I know, it is accurate out to a lot further, but when the wind is gusting 30mph, not so much. This is why I prefer the 60 grain softpoints - they stabilize in the wind better than 55 grainers. The heavier bullets - many of them hollowpoints - are target bullets. Penetration and expansion are basically the same as ball ammo. In My Humble Opinion the target bullets aren't as humane as softpoints or expanding hollowpoints. I've seen 'em suffer with ball and target rounds. Besides, ya don't get to see the red mist.

I'd go out on a limb and say any .223 prairie dog gun should be a semiauto. My 25-06 was a Ruger Number One, and it generally didn't require me to "walk in" the killing shot. You just hit what you aimed at, without the need for a followup shot. The same could be said about the other calibers mentioned in bolt action. A bolt action or single shot .223 would require too much manipulation to be effective in real world Western Kansas hunting conditions. We all do quite a bit of "ranging" and use "Kentucky windage" frequently. Sometimes we get lucky and shoot at a cluster, and quick shots score more.

And I'm no Colt fanboi, either. This gun has worked well for many years, but is it better than the others just because it has the Rampant Colt stamped on it? Not really. If I want a different upper, I've got to get a different pin. A new trigger won't interchange with the other variants because the pins are sized differently. The lower was made to prohibit an autosear, too. I have no use for a full auto prairie dog gun, but the politics behind the manufacture of this little tidbit piss me off. It's the principle, not the actual execution that irks me about the blocking of auto sears. Minor quibbles to be sure, considering none have affected the primary function.

Is it worse than a Wilson Combat, Les Baer or Fulton Armory gun? I don't think so. The ability to punch small holes in a small circle might be incrementally better with those guns, but at twice the price? Not so much. I'll envy those with such guns, but if they are shooting with me, they'll be walking their shots in as well. That extra cost doesn't cover reading wind and distance. Do I need a better scope? Not really - I don't necessarily need the extra light capability of a Leupold, since the 'dogs retire before the light goes out. This Bushnell is clear and repeatable. A graduated reticle could prove to be more useful, but I've survived without one for some time now.

So, I heartily recommend this sort of rig for this sort of hunting. The various goodies work as intended, and work quite well. It's due more to the platform than the manufacturer. I've sure enjoyed this example.


Anonymous said...

Jim Zumbo would shit down both legs if he read that! Scott

Jeffro said...