Q: I have a Mossberg Model 800B bolt-action rifle, chambered in .243 Win. I had this firearm as a young boy and now I'm sharing it with my daughter. At some point during a hunt last season, while the safety was on, the action opened and I lost a cartridge. I am not sure when this started happening and never noticed it happening before. I emptied the magazine and tested the safety, which seemed to be functioning properly, but the bolt continued to roll through with the safety on. Is this normal for this firearm? I am concerned this will lead to other potentially dangerous mechanical failures.
-TIMOTHY TANNER/WICHITA FALLS, TX
A: Timothy, I first would like to congratulate you on introducing your daughter to shooting and hunting. As for your rifle, I discussed the operation of the Mossberg Model 800B with Victor Havlin, the best authority on all things Mossberg in the United States in my opinion. (Check out the Havlin Web site at havlinsales.com if you require any info about Mossberg firearms, past and present.) Victor assured me the safety doesn't lock the movement of the bolt; your rifle is operating properly. There are a few other action designs that don't lock the bolt when the safety is placed to the "on" position. That old Mossberg is an ideal rifle for your daughter. I hope you and your daughter have great times shooting it and much success in the field.
Q: I'm new to hunting with a muzzleloader and am wondering which powder is best to use to minimizing barrel fouling after each shot. I realize there's always going to be some fouling, but right now it's so bad that if I don't clean the barrel after each shot, it drastically affects my accuracy. Currently I'm shooting a Connecticut Valley Arms Optima Pro Magnum muzzleloader, with 150 grains of Pyrodex pellets and a 245-grain Powerbelt bullet.
-JONATHAN FOSTER/VIA E-MAIL
A: Jonathan, on average, nearly 20 percent of your powder charge remains in the barrel in the form of burnt residue. That's why serious shooters clean after every shot. The residue is also very hydroscopic, meaning it attracts moisture and can lead to oxidation in the barrel if left for even a short period, like overnight. My advice is to clean the barrel thoroughly after every shot. If you are hunting, run a spit patch after a shot before reloading. Be sure to clean the gun thoroughly at the end of the day. If it's going to be put away for a while, run a solvent-soaked patch down the bore before storing. Be sure, however, to swab it dry before reloading the gun. You can use American Pioneer Powder to help minimize fouling. The formulation allows the shooter to fire repeatedly without a major fouling buildup. Shoot it as much as you like in a day, but definitely clean the gun before storing it. If you are looking for consistency and top ballistics, use Hodgdon's Triple-7 or Pyrodex powder. If you are looking for less mess, go with American Pioneer. You're also probably going to find that you'll get better accuracy with a 100- to 120-grain load than with a 150-grain load. In fact, Triple-7 burns so efficiently that manufacturers recommend a maximum of 100-grain loads.
OUT OF FOCUS
Q: I shoot a Remington Model 700, chambered in .30-06 and topped with a Simmons 3-10X44mm scope. When I focus on the target, the reticle appears fuzzy, and when I focus on the reticle, the target appears fuzzy. Is there an adjustment I can make to this scope to alleviate this problem? Or, do I add this impediment to the list of problems that come with getting older?
-JOHN KAUFFMAN/LEVITTOWN, PA
A: It is possible that your scope innards could be out of whack, but we first need to rule out everything else. The phenomenon you describe occurs to some degree in any variable power scope. It's most pronounced and noticeable when aiming at an object that's very close on a high-magnification setting. To check that the scope is functioning properly, adjust the scope to the lowest power setting and aim at an object less than 10 yards away. Look through the scope and you should be able to have both the reticle and target in reasonable focus. Raise the magnification while you continue to look through the scope. It should become increasingly difficult to keep both in focus until it will be impossible at some point. If that holds true, go back to the lowest power setting and re-aim at a target at 100 yards. If your rifle has adjustable parallax, set it for 100 yards. Now perform the same test. Both reticle and target should be in reasonable focus at all magnification settings. If it seems that it's just a little out of whack, go to the highest power setting and adjust the focus by turning the rear of the ocular bell. Frequently, this will have a set ring you might have to fine-tune. Adjust until the target appears in sharp focus, then retighten the set ring or note the reading on the calibration. Then, go back to lowest power and try it again. At this point you should be able to go through the magnification range keeping both in focus. If it's beyond reasonable, the scope is messed up or you need to make an appointment with the optometrist- probably both!