Robertson: Sight in and prepare now

September and early October, when the weather's bright, warm and beautiful, is the time to sight your deer rifles in. Time is flying by and you never know what difficulties may pop up. Our usual, easy going, no problem range session this year had all sorts of problems arise. Now is the time to deal with them and not at the last minute.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, time is just flying by! Good grief, it’s a little scary how quickly 2019 is melting away. In another week it will be archery season! Someone please put the brakes on!

So, when Jim Zirkle called last week to set up a range day I thought it an excellent and prudent decision. It will be rifle season before we know it.

Now, when the weather is mild, is the smart time to sight in and check for any problems that may have arisen since last season. A bright, beautiful morning in September sure beats rain, sleet and snow in late November.

Four of us met at the Derrick City Diner at 8:15 for breakfast. Jim Zirkle, Terry Claypool, Sam Pearce and myself. Surprisingly, three of us ordered the Western Omelet without once consulting with one another. A great choice as it turned out, good sized and delicious.

Once breakfast was over we drove to Jim’s range and set up. Sam shot his 7MM Remington Magnum first. Last year’s scope wouldn’t hold zero and he’d just replaced it with a brand new Vortex 4x12. In short order Sam was on at 100. Then to 200 and another slight adjustment. When we moved him out to 300 yards he had a doubtful look on his face. 300 yards is a long poke, but he hit the orange 4-inch circle first shot. He was all smiles. At 400 yards, he put the 400 yard crosshair on the target and hit just beside the bullseye. Close to a quarter mile looks like an impossible shot, but with an accurate rifle, good scope and very solid rest it can be accomplished.

I shot next and started at 300. Frugal as always, why waste ammo at 200 when I hadn’t moved the scope in years? My first 2 shots were 5-inches low and a little right. Hmm. That’s strange. Out to 400 and I was 8-inches right and 8-inches low. Well, I cranked the scope, fired again and touched the 4-inch bull. Good enough. My .243 shot a great group at 100 yards, I had bedded the rear tang and the rifle shot the 95 grain Nosler Ballistic tips into a tight group with 40 grains of IMR 4350. Once on at 300 it was Terry’s turn.

He hauled out his 300 Winchester Magnum, chambered a factory load, shot, hit tight to the center and gave a big smile. When he tried to extract the case he couldn’t! What in the world was going on? Setting it aside, Terry hauled out his 30-06 and fired. To his astonishment, he missed the entire target. Using the bore sighter showed the rifle was very low and right. Adjustments made and he was soon sighted back in.

Whether the rifle had been dropped or something else mysterious had taken place is hard to say. Thank goodness for some range time to check things out.

In the meantime, we’d managed to open the bolt on the 300. I noticed a bright ring in front of the belt on the big case. Something was definitely amiss. Was it his ammo? That seemed unlikely. He had another partial box at home that functioned fine last year. He agreed to fire one of those and see if the bolt opened properly when he returned. I was dying to find out what the problem was.

Later in the day, Terry discovered his chamber had rusted badly. Remember, to properly clean and store your firearms after using them. A cold rifle brought into a warm house will sweat, moisture condensing on the icy metal inside and out. It’s always a good idea to check your rifle carefully and wipe it down before putting it back in the cabinet. When cleaning the bore always run your cleaning rod through the barrel from the chamber, not the muzzle! Many are unaware of this important rule.

Jim pulled out his new 300 Winchester Short Magnum out of the case and after it was bore sighted settled himself at the bench. He slid a shell in the chamber and the bolt wouldn’t shut! Oh, no!

This was an easy one to figure out. The hand loads which fit perfectly in his previous two short mags were too long to fit the very tight chamber of his new rifle. Since every rifle chamber is slightly different from any other, you sometimes run into one which is noticeably longer or shorter than the average. Jim wasn’t thrilled about that, but that’s why we were shooting early in the year. I later set the die back and the resized ammo worked perfectly.

Next, he pulled out his lightweight .308 with its new, lighter scope. After bore sighting it he quickly had it on at 100, a slight adjustment at 200 yards and both 300 and 400 yard targets were spot on. That little rifle is a shooter! His lever action 45/70 turned out to be a real tack driver with LEVERevolution Hornady ammo.

When we arrived at the range that morning we never dreamed so many issues would crop up. They’re now all addressed and we’re ready for deer season. So, sight in early fellow shooters and avoid costly discoveries which could ruin your hunt if you wait until the last minute.