Lots of people have asked what I’ve been working on, and I’m excited to finally be able to tell you guys about a huge project I’ve invested a ton of time in over the past several months.
Last year, Bryan Litz and team over at Applied Ballistics ask if I’d be interested in contributing to Volume 2 of their Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting series. I have immense respect for the work those guys have done and the huge impact they’ve had on me and the rest of the shooting community, so I was honored to even be asked.
The idea behind the Modern Advancements series of books is to publish regular installments of ongoing research on topics related to long range shooting. In particular, new equipment and ideas are tested to determine if and how they can help shooters be more effective. In an industry full of advertising and myths, the scientific approach taken by Applied Ballistics is refreshing. Rather than rely on popular opinion or marketing hype, they apply a Myth Buster style with careful experimentation described in a way that’s easy to understand and apply.
I feel like a kindred spirit, because I try to have a similar, data-driven approach on my website … although world-class engineers like Bryan Litz and Nick Vitalbo take things to a whole different level! I told them about a barrel research project I’d been thinking about, and they said it sounded like a perfect fit for the Modern Advancements series.
My Barrel Field Test
The basic idea of my barrel field test was to see how new composite barrel designs like carbon fiber barrels and the StraightJacket Barrel System from Teledyne Tech compare with traditional match-grade steel barrels. My goal was to equip fellow long-range shooters with as much hard data as I could reasonably gather, so they could make an informed buying decision for their application.
One hot topic when it comes to these modern barrel designs is “What happens as they start to heat up?” Will the point of impact shift as the barrel warms up over an extended string of fire? Will precision degrade, causing your groups to open up? Furthermore, it’s common to hear sweeping statements made like “carbon fiber is ten times stiffer than steel.” Is that true? How are carbon fiber barrels different from various manufacturers?
I included a few different contours of steel barrels, and even some fluted barrels, to try to quantify the pros and cons of the various options. Does a heavy contour hold its zero better, and if so by how much? Does fluting help a barrel cool faster?
With these questions in mind, I gathered up a pile of barrels, chambered them all in 6.5 Creedmoor, and fired 2,000+ rounds in search of the answers. Here’s a look at sneak peek at the barrels that were included in my experiments:
The full details and results will be available in the new book, which was just released for pre-orders. The books should start shipping the first week of July. Pre-Orders are available at a discounted price of $34.95 and you can order those here: http://store.appliedballisticsllc.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=0008
What Else Is In The Book?
Because I had contributed a chapter to the book, I got the perk of getting to proofread all the content. While I can’t share too much, I’m very excited about the research topics Bryan Litz and Nick Vitalbo presented in this new book.
Bryan presents a ton of original research focused on advanced handloading topics. These will be especially interesting to competition shooters trying to produce ammo with extremely consistent muzzle velocities and capable of tiny groups. He runs through extensive live fire experiments, and then applies rigorous statistical analysis to discover the cause/effect relationship behind various steps in the reloading process and their real-world impact. He presents compelling research on the effects of things like trimming/pointing bullets, powder measurement, flash hole deburring, annealing, neck tension, and more. There are certainly a few surprises in there!
He also bravely tackles the long-debated topic of group convergence. Is it possible for your rifle to shoot a sub-MOA group at 300 yards or 600 yards, but not at 100 yards? It’s a polarizing topic with strong opinions on both sides, but Bryan carefully crafts 70+ trials of different caliber, barrel, and ammo combinations on a quest to uncover if/when this occurs.
Also in this book, Nick Vitalbo, a foremost expert in laser technology, takes our understanding of rangefinder to performance to a whole new level. A couple of years ago I conducted a rangefinder field test, but what Nick did is groundbreaking. It will literally set a new standard in the rangefinder industry. Think back to the impact Bryan and the Applied Ballistics team had on our understanding of bullet performance when they released their standardized, experimentally measured library of bullet BC’s. Well, Nick presents a similar paradigm shift through a common means of evaluating and characterizing the performance of laser rangefinders. Nick includes performance models that allow you to objectively compare over 20 of the most popular laser rangefinders on the market. They’re all based on data collected from independent performance tests. He also provides a simple chart showing which models offer the best bang for your buck, which is one of the things we’re all going for. Nick goes on to show how we can use those models to estimate the performance on a variety of targets, environmental conditions, and scenarios. Frankly, it’s one of the coolest things I’ve read in a long time.
Finally, if you’re reading this you’re likely familiar with the G1 and G7 standard drag curves related to ballistic coefficients (BC’s). Both are models used to compare the performance of a specific bullet to a standard projectile, and ballistics programs use that to estimate trajectory. A ballistics engine just starts with one of those known, standard drag curves and then scales that curve one way or the other based on if the bullet has more or less drag than the standard projectile. This simple approach typically produces results that are close enough, but it isn’t able to accurately model the unique drag of each and every bullet shape. What if instead of settling for the “best fitting” representation of your bullet’s drag according to one of the “G” standards … you could use a Custom Drag Model (CDM) for your exact bullet? Yeah … that’s a crazy idea, but Bryan shows how the subtle differences in drag modeling between the “G” standards and CDM’s are the last frontier in bringing predictions from ballistics programs into alignment with actual impacts in the field. Bryan does a great job of helping us all understand what this means, and conducts live fire experiments to quantify how CDM’s can help us get more first round hits.
… and there is even more in the book! Too much to cover here! It even includes the latest library of measured G1 and G7 ballistic coefficients with data on 533 long range bullets. Go order a copy. You won’t be disappointed!
And if you missed Volume 1, you can purchase a discounted bundle of both Volume 1 and Volume 2 for $69.95 (normally $79.95). Volume 1 covers a ton of other topics, and serves as a foundation that Volume 2 builds on.
If nothing else, I now completely get the vision of the Modern Advancements series. It’s about a regular cadence of research. It’s about carefully investigating topics important to long range shooters, without any agenda or theory to prove, and simply presenting the results. It’s about a format that is more in-depth and thought-out than what you’ll typically find online, but still timely enough to spotlight areas where exciting advancements are being made. It’s less of an academic or theoretical approach, and more about instrumenting live fire experiments to learn how we can put more rounds on target.
I’m honored to be able to contribute to this series in a small way. Now I’m even more excited about the prospect of future research these guys have planned, and how this installment and upcoming volumes will continue to advance the knowledge of the long range shooting community.
I’ll leave you with a great quote Bryan includes in the book. It’s from Franklin Mann, a hard-working ballistician from the early 20th century, and Bryan thought it perfectly describes the motivation for the MA series:
“It is easy to sit about the fireside or under the shade of the home trees, after a day’s work at competitive rifle practice, and talk over the causes of bad shots, and it’s good fellowship’s pleasures are not to be denied; but it’s not so easy to prove by repeated and, maybe, costly experiments that our fine theories are correct.” – Franklin Mann, 1909