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IHMSA News Feature Article
Published in The IHMSA News, the Official Publication of The International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association
Published monthly except November/December - January/February
IHMSA on the web at http://www.ihmsa.org
 
22-250 BullBerry Encore For Half Scale
  By Todd Spotti Load data
 
     Shooting the half scale targets are certainly the most challenging category in handgun silhouette competition. As we know, in spite of the name, the targets aren't really half the size of the regular silhouettes, but rather one quarter the size. Consequently, the demands on the shooter and their equipment is extreme to say the least. And then when it comes to the tie breaking shoot off targets where one is often trying to hit a half sized chicken silhouette with a ďkill zoneĒ of approximately 3 X 3 inches at 200 meters, you better be using a cartridge and a load that can deliver the goods each and every time. So what does that mean in measurable terms? That equates to your gun shooting a maximum of plus or minus an inch and a half at 200 meters.
 
     So besides extreme accuracy, what other characteristics should the ideal half scale cartridge have? Obviously, high velocity is very desirable for a flat trajectory and minimal sight adjustments, especially when shooting with open sights. Another characteristic would be moderate recoil.
 
     Now, hereís where there seems to be a contradiction between common practice and the ideal. I would guess that a very sizable number of half scale shooters are using high velocity cartridges that utilize bullets weighing between 120 to 140 grains in weight. The result is a very respectable amount of recoil with all its negative consequences to accuracy because of its effects on the shooter. Consequently, many if not most half scale shooters will equip their guns with muzzle brakes to reduce that recoil. This in turn, jacks up the cost of an already very expensive gun even higher.
 
     Today, we live in an era of $1700 revolvers and unlimited guns that are just as costly if not more so. Consequently, I was curious to see if the old IHMSA ideal of a moderately priced gun that anyone could easily put together could be competitive against the ultra custom gunsmithed pieces in the heady arena of half scale shooting.
 
     That led me to the Encore. As you know the Encore is an extremely strong action and can be purchased for a fairly modest amount of money. Itís main drawback is itís lawyer proof trigger. However this can be modified by various gunsmiths to very acceptable levels. To be honest though, there will never be a 2 ounce Encore trigger, nor should there ever be, as it would be very unsafe. The bottom line on any trigger though is the size of the groups that it and the gun are capable of producing.
 
     As far as the cartridge was concerned, I wanted something that would be very accurate, flat shooting, and had recoil low enough that a muzzle brake would not be required. Other cartridges that Iíve used and written about that met these characteristics were the 223, the 6 TCU, and the 6.5 TCU. This time around, I wanted something that had even more performance and yet something that wouldnít involve the cost of custom dies and the hassle of making custom cases. Simple, accurate, very powerful, modest recoil. Did such a cartridge exist? You bet - the Remington 22-250 filled the bill in every respect.
 
     Now the 22-250 is one of those cartridges thatís just inherently accurate to an exceptional degree. There are a number of such cartridges, like the 243, 308, 6 PPC, 6 TCU, some of the BR series, etc. Those cartridges represent a perfect, or at least near perfect blending of size, shape, performance, etc. that make them stand head and shoulders above the herd, and the 22-250 is definitely part of that elite club.
 
     The 22-250 is based on another outstanding case - the 250/3000 Savage (25 caliber & 3000 fps) which was designed by Charles Newton, a gifted early pioneer of modern cartridge design. As documented by C.S. Landis in his classic 1947 book ď22 Caliber Varmint RiflesĒ, the basic idea of converting Newtonís Savage case to 22 caliber and changing the shoulder angle to 28 degrees originated with a gunsmith named J.B. Sweany back in the mid 1930ís. Sweany was assisted in this effort by the famous Captain Grosvenor (Grove to his friends) Wotkyns of 22 Hornet fame, who made several suggestions on the design and the development of loads for the new cartridge. Wotkyns also vigorously pushed the industry to adopt it as a standard chambering. At the time though, industry was in the process of reducing the number of commercial cartridges that they were supporting and were just not interested in something new and radical. (Anything under 30 caliber was viewed with suspicion.)
 
     Hereís where a new player enters the picture. Gunsmith J.B. Gibby sees that there was indeed a sizable market for the new cartridge and began to vigorously advertise and sell rifles for it and even copyrighted the name that is most commonly associated with the 22-250 (The Varminter). As long as Gibby owned that copyright, mainstream ammo and rifle manufacturers were afraid to have anything to do with the 22-250 even though they now realized (late) that there was huge market for it. The story goes that Remington eventually bought the copyright from Gibbyís heirs for a pittance and finally standardized the 22-250 in 1965, roughly 30 years after its inception. Today, the cartridge is widely used by everyone interested in extreme accuracy and high velocity. That includes users as diverse as varmint hunters and SWAT teams.
 

TC Encore with Bullberry 22-250 Barrel / Burris 10X / Bullberry Benchrest fore-end

     For the Encoreís barrel, I decided to splurge a little. In my mind there could only be one choice - BullBerry. BullBerry has been making match winning Contender and Encore barrels from almost the very beginning of our sport. Iíve used BullBerry barrels for many, many years and Iíve never had one that wasnít an outstanding shooter. In fact, I have a BullBerry TC carbine barrel chambered in 22 rimfire that is more accurate at 100 yards than most $4000 rimfire benchrest guns are at 50 yards. This kind of accuracy is possible because they use only match quality barrel stock that is slow turned on their lathes with lots of coolant. BullBerry says that this insures that accuracy robbing heat stress isnít introduced into the metal structure. BullBerry barrels are also unique in that they feature their exclusive forend hanger system which also ensures that when you tighten up the screws on your forend you wonít be putting stress on the barrel. Eleven degree target crowns and tight benchrest quality chambers are also standard. Additionally, the accuracy of each and every barrel is BullBerry guaranteed. How can you beat that?
 
     For dies, my choice was my long time favorite - Redding. Redding and itís products have always been geared towards the needs of the precision shooting marketplace rather than for the ďaverageĒ shooter. Consequently, the quality of their products is a couple of steps higher than the competitionís. I was really tempted to use Redding's innovative competition bushing style neck sizing die and its equally valuable competition bullet seating die in this little experiment. As you know the neck sizer allows you to use variable sized bushings to allow you get the exact amount of sizing on your case that you need. It also uses a spring loaded sliding sleeve to fully support the case during the sizing process. This insures the alignment of the case and bushing is very precise. The competition seating die also uses a spring loaded case support sleeve and its seating stem and wall tolerances are so exact that  that you can actually float the stem on a column of air inside the die. Now thatís tight. However, I wanted to keep things relatively inexpensive, just the way a new silhouette shooter who didnít have unlimited amounts of cash laying around might do.

     Consequently, I went for a set of Reddingís standard dies. The superior quality was still there and I could always upgrade to competition grade dies later on.

     For bullets, I decided to keep things simple. I used exclusively Sierra products simply because they always do the job no matter what it is. Bullet weights ran from 50 to 63 grains. While there are plenty of even heavier 224 bullets available, I knew from my previous experience shooting the 223 in half scale competition, that heavier bullets weren't necessary to take down the half scale 200 meter rams. In fact, after trying a wide variety of heavy bullets with the 223 in a fast twist barrel, I ended up using 50 grainers at around 2700-2800 fps, and had no problems with knock down. I knew that the 22-250 would give me significantly more velocity, so I wasnít worried about ringing rams.
 
     I also used the simple approach with my powder choices and stuck almost exclusively with Hodgdon products. Hodgdon is always the one that I look at first because they have a huge selection, and there is never a problem with availability like there often is with pricey imported powders.
 
     At first, I was a little puzzled about what powders to try. The 22-250 isnít what I would call a large case but itís certainly not a small case either. You can easily put 40 plus grains of powder in it if you wanted. Generally speaking I also like to have a case at least 90% full for consistent internal powder positioning and subsequent even burning. On the other hand the Encoreís barrel measured 15 inches. If I totally filled the case, a lot of the powder would end up being burned in a fireball outside the barrel. Consequently, I tended to use medium to medium-slow burning powders which filled around 75% of the case.
 
     For those who use home made silhouette targets of softer steel at your home range, I also experimented with a couple of lower velocity loads utilizing Accurate Arms 5744 powder. As youíll note below, this power can produce outstanding accuracy in the 22-250 without needing to come anywhere close to filling the case. Remington cases were used exclusively throughout the evaluation.
 
     Whenever high velocity 22ís are used on silhouette targets, the issue of target damage is often raised. I supposed this is only natural as the 22ís velocity is higher than other bullets all other things being equal. However, a good point can be made that flat shooting 6.5 mm bullets are actually harder on the targets because of their heavier, longer bullets with greater ďdrill timeĒ against the steel. That debate can be a whole different article and so I wonít get into it here. As long as the 224 shooter stays away from full metal jacketed bullets, there shouldnít be any problems with damage to standard silhouette targets made from T-1 steel. The bullets used in my evaluation would dimple the targets but not crater them, even when driven very hard.
 
     The test gun consisted of a standard blued Encore frame that I picked up just after they became available on the market several years ago. At the time I had a local gunsmith take the trigger down to one pound.
 
     The BullBerry barrel is a fifteen inch long, un-tapered, blued, chrome moly type measuring one full inch in diameter. It also featured a very nice high gloss finish. Not knowing what to expect at the time, I figured that the weight of the thicker barrel would hold down recoil. As it turned out, the extra heavy barrel was totally unnecessary, as recoil was never objectionable. Subsequently, a standard profile barrel would have worked just as well.
 
     I also ordered the barrel with a bench type forend that was nearly 10 inches long and a full 2 inches wide with a flat bottom to facilitate my load testing. The two inch wide flat bottom forend goes a long ways to eliminate any side to side rocking when the gun is resting in sand bags or in a Sinclair type bench rest. The added stability of the long, wide forend really, really proved itself when I was shooting test loads. Although I had specified that I wanted a utility grade forend, it turned out to be a fairly nice piece of wood. Iíve noticed that the wood coming from BullBerry is always at least several cuts above what you get from the TC factory. The forend was also furnished in a very nice shinny gloss finish. A more traditional narrow forend that I already had on hand would be used for match shooting.
 
     Rather than shooting off sand bags per se, I used my Uncle Budís Bulls Bag. This is a large butterfly shaped sand bag with a suede leather top that really grips the forend of any rifle or single shot pistol that you may drop into it. When filled with play sand from your local home improvement store, the thing weighs around 40 pounds. Consequently, when you fire a shot, you can be assured that it wonít move.
 
     For optics, I first threw on a Weaver base making sure I degreased the screws and then followed up with a drop of blue Loktite. I thought I had a spare set of my favorite Leupold rings laying around, but I discovered that they were already mounted on another gun. Digging further into the back of my closet, I ran across a set of B-Square ďLynxĒ Weaver style rings that I haven't used in a while. These are very strong, steel rings that would be perfect for this application.
 
     For a scope, it was a toss up between a Leupold 2 X 8 or an older Burris fixed 10X with adjustable parallex. I really like the Leupold because itís more compact and has a nice field of view. The scope is also much more forgiving as far as eye placement is concerned as well. On the other hand, the Burris did have the greater magnification, although eye placement in the very center of the rear lens and at the correct distance was very, very critical. In fact, unless youíre a practiced pistol scope shooter, Iíd have to say that the Leupold would be the better choice between the two. Never the less, I wanted that extra two power, and once you got your eye in the right place, the image was nice and bright. The adjustable objective also insured that parallax was never a problem.
 
     All groups below were shot at 100 yards. I was pleasantly surprised that recoil was very modest. The heavy barrel and the large forend no doubt went a long way to dampen things down. Even with very stout loads, the muzzle never lifted more than three or four inches off of the bag. For some reason, the recoil impulse seemed to be more straight back rather than up. Even with a lighter barrel and a standard forend, Iíd guess that barrel flip would only be another couple of inches.
 

Typical Bullberry 22-250 100 yard groups

     As far as accuracy was concerned, the 22-250 combined with the high quality BullBerry barrel delivered the goods all day long. Half inch accuracy at 100 yards was routine and I was able to break the quarter inch mark one time using Varget and Sierraís 53 grain match bullet. The 22-250 delivered excellent accuracy with a wide variety of powders. With several of the loads I had a one hole three shot group going but then things would open up slightly to the half inch range. There was a brisk wind blowing at the time or it could just be the limitations of using a relatively low powered scope, or it could have just been the shooter. Anyway, I felt that the gun was capable of doing even better than what I was getting (which was excellent) if I only had a higher power scope.
 
   The bottom line here is that the BullBerry Encore 22-250 can be very successful in shooting IHMSA half scale silhouettes. Plus, you also have the option to take the gun varmint hunting the very next day after a match to help an appreciative farmer cull his ground squirrel population, or a rancher to eliminate ground hogs. This is a very versatile dual use gun that can give you twice the fun on any given weekend. It doesnít get better than that.
 
Good luck and good shooting, Todd

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Warning: All technical data mentioned, especially handloading, reflect the limited experience of individuals using specific tools, products, equipment and components under specific conditions and circumstances not necessarily reported in the article or on this web site and over which IHMSA, The Los Angeles Silhouette Club (LASC), this web site or the author has no control. The above has no control over the condition of your firearms or your methods, components, tools, techniques or circumstances and disclaims all and any responsibility for any person using any data mentioned. Always consult recognized reloading manuals.
 
 

BullBerry Encore 22-250 Load Data


POWDER

PRIMER BULLET VELOCITY GROUP  
5744 20.2 gr. Win 50 Sierra HP 2479 fps .356Ē  
5744 22.3 gr. CCI BR 50 Sierra HP 2702 fps .376"  
5744 24.0 gr. CCI BR 50 Sierra HP 2815 fps .536"  
H335 34.4 gr. Win 50 Sierra HP 3329 fps .663Ē  
H322 32.2 gr. Win 50 Sierra HP 3255 fps .596"  
H4895 35.5 gr. Win 50 Sierra SP 3450 fps .476"  
H4895 34.8 gr. Win 50 Sierra SP 3384 fps .316"  
H414 36.0 gr. Win 60 Sierra SP 2991 fps .466"  
H414 36.0 gr. Win 63 Sierra SP 2964 fps .456"  
Varget 35.2 gr. CCI BR 53 Sierra HP 3198 fps .218"  
Varget 35.5 gr. CCI BR 50 Sierra SP 3283 fps .591"  
H380 39.6 gr. CCI BR 53 Sierra HP 3275 fps .376"  

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