Sunday, October 20, 2013
OF FALS, LTRS, FEDERAL FUSION AND SPEED GOATS
So, awhile back I tried a new FAL product created by Brian Brodhead out at J&TEnterprises in Idaho. Their Light Tactical Rail LTR scope mount for the FN FAL and L1A1 SLR has got to be the lightest weight FAL scope mount on the planet and yet seems to be solid as a rock. I’ve got two FALs wearing them and have been very happy with the LTR mounting and have encountered no problems after approximately a hundred rounds through each rifle, mostly surplus ball and a smaller percentage of factory ammo.
My favorite combination is my first & best FAL “Queenie”, a Century R1A1 that has become my Hunting FAL. The combination of LTR, A.R.M.S. Picatinny-to-STANAG adapter, and German Hensoldt ZF24 scope has proven a winner for me, cut a little weight off the rifle, and made shooting it much more comfortable. Anyone who’s tried the regular STANAG FAL mount knows why…with the latter you need a built-up cheek pad on the stock just to get a “chin weld”. Although an inch-pattern stock technically doesn’t “fit” on a Metric FAL, I made this British L1A1 Maranyl stock work on Queenie, with the only modification required being a small hole drilled for the tang screw. I never have really liked the standard Metric humpback stock, finding it a tad too long and the comb a tish too low for me personally. The British Army SLR stocks came with three sizes of butt pads; I use the shortest one and it makes the FAL very comfortable for me to shoot.
Queenie the Hunting FAL all gussied up in spray paint sagebrush cammo.
Queenie proved to be extremely accurate for an FAL right out of the box. With the FAL’s tilting block bolt system it just inherently can’t be quite as accurate as the rotating bolt lock system found on M1/M14 type rifles, ARs or bolt guns. Queenie somehow proved the exception to the rule. The only accurizing I did was a good trigger job and installing an Entreprise Arms Free Float Barrel Tube.
To my disgrace, even though I did put a new roof on the Man Cave Shed this summer, I still haven’t gotten all my reloading equipment set back up. Shamefully, I donned my Groucho glasses disguise and slipped into my favorite sporting goods store right before closing time to actually purchase factory ammunition for hunting. Oh, the horror! This situation has arisen once or twice before, however, so I’ve shot and been very happy with either Federal or Hornady ammunition over the years. Probably because of DHS buying 8 bazillion rounds of it, even though my favorite well-stocked gun store had all the .30-06, .270 or .300 Win Mag ammo you could possibly want, the .308 cupboard was bare. This being Montana, I was fortunate enough to find a nearby gas station that sold ammo. The only 150-grain .308 ammo they had in my above approved brands was Federal Fusion. Since antelope season was fast approaching and my options fast disappearing, I went ahead and actually tried something new since I've found it's hard to go wrong with Federal.
Of this new bullet, Federal’s website says, “This specialized deer bullet electrochemically joins pure copper to an extreme pressure-formed core to ensure optimum performance. The result is high terminal energy on impact that radiates lethal shock throughout the target.” In this day and age of self-censoring media electing fictitious persons to high office, I have become extremely jaded and skeptical about any and all advertising claims. But this was Federal speaking, not some snake-oil medicine show huckster like Tom Brokaw or Brian Jennings, so I thought I’d give these new 150-grain Fusion bullets a try.
Rather than drive forty odd miles to the Rod & Gun Club Range, I took Queenie out to a nearby state-owned section of land about five miles from home where I shoot safely into the bare dirt at the base of this big steep-sided butte. I set up a portable target at exactly 300 meters, lased with the Nikon range-finder. By zeroing at 300 meters I figured I would mostly average out the trajectory difference between the 150-grain Fusion and the German 146-grain FMJ the Hensoldt’s BDC is calibrated for. I was shooting under “semi-field conditions”, lying prone resting the rifle’s forearm on my pack and using a bean bag under the toe of the stock.
Granted, I was only shooting 3-shot groups rather than my usual 5-shot groups because I’m really cheap when it comes to factory ammo, but still…Holy Underwear, Batman! Is that really a 2-inch group? Yup. Actually a hair inside two inches going from center hole to center hole. I was pretty pleased with that but figured it was just one of those cases of what my Dad would term, “Even a blind hog finds an acorn now and then.” Adjusting the windage and elevation on the Hensoldt, I shot another three shot group. I was once more very pleasantly surprised. This blind hog was really going to town on them acorns! Another group hovering right there at 2 inches, a little over but only by a tish. That’s just some unheard of accuracy for a FAL…I can’t get a group that good at 50 yards with my DSA Para.
Federal Fusion 150-grain 3-shot groups at 300 meters from Queenie.
A few days later, my wife and I were out for Montana’s antelope opener. We were within range of a couple of different bunches of speed goats in the morning, but they were bunched up tight and moving right along, so we never had an opportunity for a good shot. It was getting on towards about four in the afternoon when we went to one of my favorite antelope hunting spots and sure as heck there was what looked like a really nice buck bedded down out in the middle of the wheat stubble. I glassed him good with the Swarovski binos and Tasco spotting scope from better than ¾ mile away and could tell he’d probably already been hit. Even bedded down he had a kind of hunched-up look to his posture and, when I got closer, it looked like he was exerting a lot of effort just to keep his head up. It was also making him, I figured out later, lay his ears back which, in turn, made his rack look huge, especially when viewed from a distance and silhouetted against that light colored wheat stubble background. I thought I was looking at a 15-16 incher.
In years past I’ve filled my antelope tag on obviously wounded animals at least twice. There’s always some idiot out there trying a shot he (or she) has absolutely no business even attempting and they seem to assume every shot fired is either a clean miss or an instant kill. Just after lunch we’d seen one such idiot; resting the wood forearm of her bolt action directly on the top of a fencepost (harmonics!), she’d shifted her cigarette over to the other corner of her mouth and took what had to have been a 600-yard Hail Mary shot at a herd of moving antelope. Of course, I was young and dumb once myself. About 20 years ago I was still new in Montana and while antelope hunting I saw a young buck that somebody had busted one front leg on. He couldn’t keep up with the herd and was all by his lonesome. I didn’t think he’d make it through the winter anyway and I’d be doing him a favor shooting him, so I figured I’d just walk right on over there and whack him. After all, how fast could a 3-legged antelope run? Pretty darn fast, it turns out; a lot faster than I had thought possible. But he circled a bit and I did manage to get him running broadside at 125 yards or so. That was back when I had two fully functional eyes and used Scout scopes all the time.
Having long ago learned that lesson, I gave this buck the benefit of the doubt and the full stalk treatment. Antelope rely primarily on their sight for their best defense; their normal eyesight is equivalent to us looking through 8x optics. So they like to bed down in the big wide open where they can see trouble coming from a looonnnnggg ways off. I had to work my way down the far side of a brushy creek bottom for a quarter mile and then hunched over up a dry irrigation ditch for about another quarter mile. Then I had to low crawl the last hundred yards or so to get to where I could see over the stubble enough to get a clear shot. I was able to hit him with the range-finder; 298 meters. I adjusted the Hensoldt’s BDC to 300, looped up tight in the Langlois Ching Sling, and scooted ahead on my elbows just a little bit more because of the stalks still showing in the scope view. He had a single nervous doe with him who busted me at that point, but she actually did me a favor in getting the buck to his feet rather than lying down. I took the prone shot and heard a good solid hit. Leave it to the Germans, they actually have a word for that heavy, meaty slap of a bullet hitting solidly home; Kugelschlag. The buck took about two very unsteady steps and toppled over.
Installing an Entreprise Free Float barrel tube and a third sling swivel amidships allowed the use of this Langlois Leather Ching sling for a shooting aid.
He was DOA when I got to him. Field dressing him I discovered, sure enough, somebody else had already hit him earlier that day. A “California Brain Shot” we call it, a bullet up the ass. The top of one hind quarter was partially ruined and inside the membrane the body cavity already contaminated by both intestinal and gut content. So I was glad I put him out of his misery no matter what size his horns, which are a little over 13 inches.
The Federal Fusion apparently both held together well and mushroomed even at 300 meters. It took a chunk out of the back of a leg bone and a rib on the way in but still had enough oomph and had expanded enough to make a sizeable hole through both lungs. I’m definitely looking forward to deer season with this combination in hand.