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 “kill zone”
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.
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.
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.
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. It’s main drawback is it’s
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 I’ve 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
wouldn’t 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.
22-250 is one of those cartridges that’s 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 “22
Caliber Varmint Rifles”, the basic idea of converting Newton’s 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 1930’s. 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.)
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 Gibby’s 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.
For the Encore’s 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. I’ve
used BullBerry barrels for many, many years and I’ve never had one that wasn’t
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 isn’t 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 won’t 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 it’s products have
always been geared towards the needs of the precision shooting marketplace
rather than for the “average” shooter. Consequently, the quality of their
products is a couple of steps higher than the competition’s. 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
that’s tight. However, I wanted to keep things relatively inexpensive, just
the way a new silhouette shooter who didn’t have unlimited amounts of cash
laying around might do.
Encore with Bullberry 22-250 Barrel / Burris 10X / Bullberry Benchrest
Consequently, I went for a set of Redding’s standard dies. The superior
quality was still there and I could always upgrade to competition grade
dies later on.
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 wasn’t 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 isn’t what I would
call a large case but it’s 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 Encore’s 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
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 you’ll 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.
velocity 22’s are used on silhouette targets, the issue of target damage is
often raised. I supposed this is only natural as the 22’s 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 “drill time” against the
steel. That debate can be a whole different article and so I won’t get into it
here. As long as the 224 shooter stays away from full metal jacketed bullets,
there shouldn’t 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.
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.
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. I’ve 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.
shooting off sand bags per se, I used my Uncle Bud’s 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 won’t 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 “Lynx” Weaver style rings that I haven't used in a
while. These are very strong, steel rings that would be perfect for this
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 it’s 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
you’re a practiced pistol scope shooter, I’d 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
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, I’d guess that barrel flip would only be another couple of
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 Sierra’s 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
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 doesn’t get better than that.
22-250 100 yard