Affordable Accurate Ammo
Q: I recently purchased a New England Firearms Synthetic Handi-Rifle chambered in .223 Rem. and topped with a 3X9 scope. Could you please tell me what kind of ammunition would give me tight grouping accuracy and still work for varmints, but not break my bank account at the same time?
-Dennis Homan, Dakota, Illinois
A: Developed as a military round in the late 1950s, the .223 Rem. is popular among fur hunters because of its accuracy, flat trajectory and mild recoil. I subscribe to the principle that a good fur bullet should be designed for rapid expansion or fragmentation, thus releasing its energy within the animal, leaving no exit wound.
Hollow-point and polycarbonate-tipped bullets fall into this category.
I'm partial to the latter because of their inherent accuracy and fur-friendly nature. I've used Remington's 50-grain Premier Varmint (loaded with Hornady V-Max bullets), Winchester's 50-grain Supreme Ballistic Silvertip and Federal's 55-grain Premium (Nosler Ballistic Tip) with excellent results on coyotes, fox and bobcats. While .223 Rem. ammo is relatively inexpensive, you will pay a little more for these premium bullets. In my opinion, it's money well spent. -Gordy Krahn
Baffled By Groupings
Q: I own a Remington 541-T .22 target rifle with a 4-12X Bushnell Trophy Series scope and Leopold mounts. I have it dialed in with Federal 711 match ammo to where it shoots nice groups 2 inches high at 50 yards and 2 inches low at 100 yards. Recently, I tried some CCI Stinger hyper velocity ammo just to see what would happen to the groupings. While the CCI ammo obviously shoots flatter, I was surprised that the 100-yard groups patterned dead-on elevation-wise but roughly 12 inches to the left of the Federal groups on a relatively calm day. Can you explain why such a dramatic lateral shift in the grouping occurred between the two? - Norman Nylander, Marysville, Washington
A: While it's common for different ammo to shoot to a different point of impact from a given rifle, yours is certainly an extreme example.
When a rifle is fired, the barrel will vibrate or "whip" as the bullet passes through the bore. The best illustration is a garden hose that's unsupported. Of course, a rifle barrel's movement is less exaggerated.
These vibrations have a set pattern with each type of ammo and where the barrel is in this pattern when the bullet exits the muzzle is a big influence on both accuracy and point of impact.
I suspect the lighter bullet and higher velocity of the CCI Stinger ammo is changing the dynamic of the barrel vibrations enough in relation to when the bullet exits the muzzle to cause the point of impact change.-Bryce Towsley
Should We Shoot Spikes?
Q: My wife and I own 35 acres of woods. This year we bought a camera to attach to a tree and take pictures of deer. To our surprise we now have pictures of an 8-pointer, 6-pointer, two 5-pointers, and five spikes. Should the spikes be removed from the herd or will they grow better antlers next year?
- Joseph Bowde, Atlantic County, New Jersey
A: Spike bucks are the result of two things: bad nutrition and bad genetics. Research suggests bucks that are nutritionally deprived during the early stages of life grow spikes and rarely match the antler quality of bucks that produce forked antlers. This is especially true for deer living in a northern climate, where the land is heavily forested and winters are harsh.
Studies have also shown that a large percentage of the offspring of spikes, even when fed a high-quality diet, typically grow spikes as yearlings and rarely grow more than a 7-point rack. Providing your herd with food plots is a sure-fire way to see improvement in your bucks' antler size. However, you have to decide what your long-term goals are for the herd. If you're content having a lot of bucks with average antlers, then pass up the spikes and let them mature. But if you want big-antlered bucks and a healthier herd, then you should plant food plots and shoot the spikes. -Steve Bauer