F class TR or Palma?

OLD308

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Looking at getting into competitive shooting again. It's been a long time so I'm a bit behind the times. Can't get interested in the PRS/NRL stuff, save NRL22. So it looks like F class TR or Palma. Funny thing is, I'm too old for Facebook. The rest of the internet, to include this Forum, is void of information on either. Maybe limited is a better description. So i'm looking for guidance from actual shooters of either discipline. I have a rifle that will work in the short for F class TR. Not really sure about the Palma requirements outside 308, 155, iron sights. Not leaning towards either at the moment. Just looking for real world experiences and advise from current shooters in either disciples. I will be going to both as soon as I can locate their matches.

I will not start a Facebook account so if that's my only source for information guess I'm SOL. I appreciate any and all commits and experiences from current shooters of the above referenced disciples. Information on training, builders, gear, pitfalls, etc are all welcomed. Thank you.
 

milanuk

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There's a fair bit of information out there on other sites... the pages and forums at accurateshooter.com have a ton of info on F-class, and some (quite a bit less) on Palma. There should be some forums that deal primarily with sling shooting like the old Long-Range.com forums, but those have died off (in part due to one of the admins) but there's still a ton of good info there - just not very active.

One point of clarification... the US rules for Palma don't actually require 155 gn bullets. International rules do, and the US rules for Fullbore (very similar, but subtly different in the way the matches are shot) do have a limit of 156 gn, but regular US Highpower Rifle rules have no bullet weight limits for anything.

I shot sling (Service Rifle, Match Rifle and Palma) for a couple years, but I've been pretty heavily into F-class - primarily FTR - for about 12 years now. I know several others here have similar backgrounds. If you have specific questions about guns, gear, matches, rules, etc., ask away.

The best advice starting out is to find a range near you that has matches, get in touch with the match director, and show up and shoot. Showing up and watching is kind of like watching paint dry, to be honest, particularly if you don't completely understand what you're seeing just yet. Nobody is going to have too much fun at your expense - we've all started out somewhere, and we've all made our fair share (and then some) of rookie mistakes. Just show up and shoot.
 
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sobrbiker883

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I haven’t done much competing in years, switched to critters mainly, but I can say this:
Next to this game in the PreRS days, the most fun challenging shooting I’ve had with rifles was Silhouette (HP and Smallbore).
 

milanuk

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Isn’t Palma iron sights?
Yes it is. Sling and irons.

The slings are more of a half-sling, only the upper arm part, and may have more adjustments than a traditional 1907 leather sling along with being wider and/or more contoured for comfort (relatively speaking).

They are used in conjunction with specialized coats to pad the arms where the sling contacts, along with other areas, and a heavy glove or mitt for the sling hand to pad/protect it as well.

The sights are closer to Olympic aperture / globe sights than military or hunting 'iron' sights - they work on the principle of the human brain being pretty good at centering a circlewwithin a circle. You have the circle of the target (a large black circle) inside the circle of the front aperture, inside the circle of the rear aperture. The apertures are often adjustable and various lenses and color filters may be used to suit the shooters preference.
 

OLD308

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Thanks for all the information thus far. I’ve been on accurateshooter.com and attempted Long-Range.com. Neither contained the nuts and bolts of the competitions I was looking for. Plenty of articles on new gear and past champion rifles. Not much in the way of strategy, proven equipment, or beginner setups.
As stated, I’ll be attending the matches as soon as I locate them. I have talked at length to one F class TR shooter. Not really as insightful as I would like.

Specific questions

Known gunsmith that can build a rifle to spec.

F Class TR seems to be moving to the Berger 200 plus weight bullets. So 1-9 twist?

Is the Vortex Golden Eagle holding up well?

SFP, it that really were it’s at for that competition or is it just tradition?

How are they burning up 308 barrels in less that 2 thousand rounds? This seems questionable at best per my experience.

Since it’s single load only, why would a $1500 custom action have a truly quantifiable benefit over the single shot Savage model 12?

More specific questions so come I’m sure. Thanks you.
 

rckendall

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Isn’t Palma iron sights?
I don’t know the whole story behind this, so forgive me. There is now a “sling” class that allows any site/scope and any cartridge. The original Palma was sling, 308 cartridge with maximum 156 gn bullets. Now with the any/any class some are using scopes and the latest and greatest cartridges.

Richard
 

milanuk

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Thanks for all the information thus far. I’ve been on accurateshooter.com and attempted Long-Range.com. Neither contained the nuts and bolts of the competitions I was looking for. Plenty of articles on new gear and past champion rifles. Not much in the way of strategy, proven equipment, or beginner setups.
As stated, I’ll be attending the matches as soon as I locate them.
Try finding your local state NRA affiliate organization. As an example, in Washington state, it's the WA State Rifle & Pistol Association (WSRPA); in Oregon, its the Oregon State Shooting Association (OSSA). Often times they maintain a state event schedule, as they have to sign-off on any state championships as well. They may have a contact person for HP or F-class, who can in turn put you in touch with a match director near you. Alternately, over on Accurateshooter.com there is a thread on 'where to shoot', some where in the Competition sub-forum.

Known gunsmith that can build a rifle to spec.
Lots and lots. Keith Weil is one that comes to mind (KW Precision) or Emil Kovan (Kovan Match Rifles) are two very popular upper tier builders. Alex Wheeler (Wheeler Precision) and Shawn Williams (Northridge Rifles) also do great work.

F Class TR seems to be moving to the Berger 200 plus weight bullets. So 1-9 twist?
It kind of swung from 175s in 24" tactical/varmint rifles, to 155s for a number of years, then 185s for a few, then people dabbled with 215/230s, and seems to have mostly settled in the 200 gn range as a balance of BC vs. safely achievable velocity, along with some other concerns (behavior in head/tail winds, gun handling, etc.). The old theory used to be to run as slow of a twist as would stabilize the bullet enough to keep it from key holing, for best accuracy. Hence the older Palma rifles running 13 tw, and some of the slower twists you see on short-range BR guns (where BC really doesn't matter at all). The more current theory is to spin the bullet fast enough to capitalize on all the potential BC available from a given shape/design, with the minimum stability margin being considerably higher than previously used. I know people who have ran 200 Hybrids and 200.20X from an 11 tw and reported excellent results. I think I'd say the vast majority of people I know of run (at least) a 10 twist for the 20X bullets. A 9 probably wouldn't hurt. The newer Sierra 200MKs (#2231) are quite a bit longer than the Berger 200.20X (1.58x", vs 1.50x") and from what I hear (haven't played with them personally yet) need at least a 9, if not faster, twist to get the best performance. I've seen people that claim the S200MK wouldn't shoot worth a dang with anything slower than an 8 or 8.5, but Tommy Todd (Sierra's ballistician) says they shoot just fine in a 9.

Is the Vortex Golden Eagle holding up well?
Yes, I haven't heard of any major systemic problems, or even minor ones. I think everyone I know of who has one, loves 'em.

SFP, it that really were it’s at for that competition or is it just tradition?
Yes, for both ;)

Given the nature of the target already having hold-off lines built into it, tic marks on the reticle aren't quite as useful as in other sports. Most SFP target scopes have 1/8 moa clicks, which do come in handy for dialing in your hold, both for elevation and windage. The SFP part typically lets you do very, very fine holds once you have things dialed in how you want. It's not uncommon to hold one line (edge of X-ring), two lines (edge of 10 ring), three lines (edge of 9 ring), etc. Then you get into holding 1.5 lines... 1.25 lines... just inside 1 line... especially if you're chasing a condition as it dies off. Tough to do that with 0.1 mil (0.36 moa) clicks, and since FFP mil/mil reticles vary *wildly* in terms of how fine they are in the center area... it's hard to say if you can hold as finely with those reticles. Also, there are relatively few FFP scopes that run in the same sort of magnification range as a NF 12-42 BR, 15-55X Comp, Vortex 15-60x GE, Kahles, March, etc. Granted, between lighting and mirage, you may not be able to run at that high of a power very often, but it sure is nice to be able to when you can. There are some very, very good shooters out there that run their scopes around 25-30x and hold off all the way to the edge of the paper - or beyond. Some days the mirage gets bad enough that all those lines on the target face just turn into a grey blur, and you're better off holding edge of black, or edge of the target frame - some where, any where that there is a defined edge to reference off of. And finally, most FFP scopes are built for either tactical, or LR hunting, where weight is not an object. SFP target scopes... are built specifically for disciplines (F-class & LR-BR) where there are hard limits on the overall weight of the gun - including the scope. Most people find they would rather have that extra weight in the barrel, the bipod, or something other than the scope since we don't tend to bash them around as much.

How are they burning up 308 barrels in less that 2 thousand rounds? This seems questionable at best per my experience.
'Burning up' is a relative thing. One, they're looking at it from the view point of X-count on a very small (1/2 moa X-ring) target, which means the gun has to be consistently grouping close to 1/4 moa at distance. Not just for a few select shots, but for 20+ at a time, several times a day. So a barrel that may soldier on for 3, 4 or 5k rounds (or more) on larger targets, or where the humans ability to hold (i.e. positional shooting) is the limiting factor, is probably headed for the back-up / loaner / practice gun @ 2k, and probably for the scrap bin @ 3k, in F-class - at the higher levels of competition. Yes, there are people pulling barrels at those intervals that probably really can't shoot the difference (yet) but confidence in one's equipment is worth something in and of itself. Traveling to a big match, paying for hotel, air fair, car rental, match fees, shipping ammo ahead, etc. tends to make you want to be *sure* that the barrel being on the downhill side of it's life is not something else to have to worry about. If you're shooting local / club 1-2 day matches that are in easy driving distance... you can probably 'afford' to stretch that barrel out to the bitter end.

Since it’s single load only, why would a $1500 custom action have a truly quantifiable benefit over the single shot Savage model 12?
I'm probably not the best person to answer this one... as I have been a factory sponsored shooter for Savage since 2007 so I'm just a wee bit biased ;)

That said... *in my opinion* it's mostly a matter of refinement. I have my doubts as to how much edge there is in pure mechanical accuracy. There are a lot of features available in custom actions that are just not readily available, even via aftermarket tinkering, for a Savage. Coned bolt faces, drop ports, easily changeable triggers in the 2-4 oz range, and some of the exquisitely timed actions actions you see on the line would be good examples. Savage actions tend to vary considerably in terms of bolt lift, primary extraction, etc. The 'Target' actions tend to be pretty good (better than the rest of the line, by and large) but even there you run into some that just flat need some TLC from a good gunsmith - and there just aren't a whole lot of those out there that specialize in working on Savage actions.

Something like a factory Savage 12 FTR will get you off to a very good start for local club matches. The factory stock and barrel will get you thru a season or two, and then you'll probably need to replace the barrel anyway. If it's not burned out, you'll probably be getting to the point where you want specific features from a barrel and/or chamber that the OEM one just won't have. The stock... I wish I could say more good about it beyond "it fits most people okay", but I really can't. The McMillan XIT stock is just much, much *much* better all the way around.

The custom actions... are very, very nice when every thing is working. Pure mechanical perfection. Two finger bolt lift, 2 oz triggers, and super, super smooth. But sometimes that uber perfection goes sideways when it encounters dirt, dust, mud and rain. Super tight tolerance bolts can end up with galled lugs; I don't know how many freakin' times I've seen people have to pull guns off the line because their gun AD'd due to a little dust or water in the trigger. News flash, we *do* shoot down on the deck, not up on a bench, and normally not under a cover of any sort. People love to hate the AccuTrigger... but I've got many tens of thousands of rounds down range with them, and I've never, ever seen or heard of one AD. The safety blade may catch the sear from falling and lock up when you slap the bolt closed like a Remchester, but it probably just saved you 10 points by doing so. Run it like a reasonable person, and they work just fine, rain or shine. Lots of people manage just fine with various BR triggers, but there's usually a learning curve of "don't run the stupid thing at the ragged edge, reliability trumps having the lightest possible trigger" that takes some people longer than others to figure out ;)

In the end, it's kind of like cars: you can make a Corvette look pretty and run *really* fast, but no matter how nice you make it, it'll never be quite as 'refined' as some of the fancy euro super cars. Whether you'd rather buy low and build up, or just buy it all blinged out from the get-go, is up to you ;)
 
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Sniper266

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Palma is definatly more difficult in my opinion. 155gr bullet vs 200gr, sling vs bipod and a bag, iron sights vs scope.
For me it really comes down to what is available locally and how often.

If you youre slick with your rifle build there is no reason why you cannot do both!!!
 

milanuk

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Something else regarding Palma (iron sights)... good iron sights are not cheap. Last I checked, a complete setup - new front sight, new rear sight, mounting base, lenses, aperatures, etc. ran $800-1000. Good coats aren't cheap either. Nothing wrong with trying it out... just don't get into it thinking it's going to be 'cheaper' than FTR. The barrels last a good bit longer, running 155s... but the bullets ain't any cheaper, nor is the brass, and you use slightly more powder.

And there are getting to be fewer and fewer niche shops that make good iron sights in the USA. Gonna have to either buy used, or start shopping abroad. Some of the stuff they sell for air rifle and small bore works just fine for centerfire... and some does not hold up under the recoil as well.
 

OLD308

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Looked at the gunsmiths that were referenced. They don't seem to be offering anything different than other noted builders. That leads me to believe there is no special Vudoo to the builds. I didn't think there was, but I don't know everything. They may have special insight on chamber and projectile combinations though.
So for projectiles, same as everything else. Buy multiple boxes of differing types and see what the barrel likes.
Good to hear about the Vortex. I'm by no means a scope snob, so as long as it tracks and clear enough for identification, I'm good.
In no way am i dissagreeing with the barrel life round count. Just going to have to see it and test the measurement method for verification. Anyone cut the muzzle back and re-chamber the other end? Seems a possible option with those long barrels and a friendly gunsmith that dosen't think his lathe runs on liquid gold.
Been down the custom action road many times. Almost have all the top actions. I hear ya on the tight tolerates. I posted on another thread about my issue with super tight actions. This is also the reason I asked about the Savage Model 12 target. Every Savage action I've ever felt, reminded me of what bad machining can do to good steal. On a side note, they all shot well.
Triggers are the new excuse for bad shots to me. Yes there is a difference, but just like neck turning, is the shooter good enough to see it?

Palma is loosing ground fast as the team aspect for shooting is suggested. Not really into depending on others to show up for practice. The idea of shooting "irons" at those distances is alluring. The single use jacket and sling remind me to much of the PRS equipment. So thats another strike against it for me.

I only use Lapua brass and Serria or Berger projectiles, so that cost is a known expense. Nothing in competition is cheap, I remember that much. I also remember all the utter Sudo Science most swore to. That's why I'm so interested and grateful for experienced shooter input. Keep it coming please.
 

smoothy8500

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I'm "dabbling" in both F-T/R and Palma, originally coming from a NRA service rifle field. You are correct that Palma is losing ground to F-class. However, there are always a few Palma rifles at the NRA Midrange and Longrange matches. F-T/R has a much easier minimum entry requirement vs sling shooting. You only need a 223/308 rifle and a pack/rucksack to lay it on.
 

milanuk

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They may have special insight on chamber and projectile combinations though.
That typically is what makes them popular. They are either avid competitors themselves, or have a bunch of clients who are, so they tend to have a fair bit of experience with the specifics of what works, and what doesn't, for this sport (and ones like it, like LR BR). Tons of good 'smiths out there that can build you an accurate rifle; a fair number fewer that know what you need.

Unfortunately I have a fair amount of experience trying to explain to someone local to me what I want, why I need it, etc. when it's not something they normally do. It's not a matter of they *can't*, just they aren't familiar with it. Sometimes they can pick the ball up and run with it, sometimes they trip and fall. I'm pretty much at the point where my next gun will probably be one where I'll suck it up and ship it off to someone like the places listed above.

FWIW, another place that builds *excellent* FTR rigs is Pierce Engineering. Titanium action, Scoville stock, RAD hydraulic recoil system, etc. etc. Very nice... and most definitely not cheap. Plenty of bling won with Pierce rifles (y)

So for projectiles, same as everything else. Buy multiple boxes of differing types and see what the barrel likes.
Meh... not really. Most people I know pick one, and build the gun around it (appropriate twist, throat/freebore dimensions) then buy enough for a season and/or to run that barrel out, sort/prep them as/if desired, and then tweak/tune the load to suit. That's a bunch of bullets to buy all at once, and certainly not something you need to do starting out.

Anyone cut the muzzle back and re-chamber the other end? Seems a possible option with those long barrels and a friendly gunsmith that dosen't think his lathe runs on liquid gold.
In theory, it can work. In practice... unless you're doing the work yourself or have a gunsmith / really good friend that will work for free (or next to) it's not really worth it. In my experience looking thru a borescope, the fire cracking tends to start either at, or just in front of, the lands, and extends several inches forward. Cutting a fresh chamber is just going to give you smoother lands... for a little while. The first thing your bullets go thru after that nice smooth throat is going to be the same patch of burnt and broken blacktop road that it was going thru before. The results can be good... but it's not like getting a new barrel (in terms of longevity), not even close.
 

goosed

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Lot's of good info already in this thread. Just a couple additional suggests for a new shooter.

Check with your local ranges for "leagues nights" usually held once a week. The atmosphere is more relaxed and is ideal for new shooters. You will get even more attention and help from top level shooters than you would while they are focused on winning a match.

If you plan to shoot FTR in the future, but don't have a rifle that currently qualifies for various reasons (weight, caliber, etc.) don't let that stop you. There is nothing wrong with shooting open class with your current rifle. Even if it's with a harris bipod and rear squeeze bag. Getting out there and seeing how equipment works first hand is definitely worth while before you spend your hard earned cash.

As an FTR shooter you need to decide early on how you are going to make very fine adjustments to rifle elevation. I prefer to adjust elevation with the bipod (phoenix for me) and use a flat bottom buttstock with a flat top rabbit ear bag in back. I do stress FINE adjustments as Harris and Atlas bipods elevation adjustments are far too coarse and you'll need a fine rear adjustment to compliment them. Using an angled bottom butt stock, angled top rear rabbit ear bag or even a rear squeeze bag are all valid options for fine rear elevation adjustments.
 

Rocketvapor

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Noobie to F-Class here.
I've made 7 midrange matches with a rig that cost me a tad over a grand, including optics.
(less than the cost of a Golden Eagle)
Not gonna win anything off a prize table, but we'll see just how good I can get.

Take what you got, go shoot a match, look around at what others are using.
I wouldn't suggest having that custom gun made until you have a couple 'practice' matches under your belt.
 

milanuk

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As an FTR shooter you need to decide early on how you are going to make very fine adjustments to rifle elevation. I prefer to adjust elevation with the bipod (phoenix for me) and use a flat bottom buttstock with a flat top rabbit ear bag in back. I do stress FINE adjustments as Harris and Atlas bipods elevation adjustments are far too coarse and you'll need a fine rear adjustment to compliment them. Using an angled bottom butt stock, angled top rear rabbit ear bag or even a rear squeeze bag are all valid options for fine rear elevation adjustments.
So... back in the days when Harris bipods ruled the world ;) we used the front leg notches for 'coarse' (or extra coarse) elevation adjustment, the taper on the toe of the stock for 'fine' adjustment, and squeezing the ears of the bag for 'extra fine' tweaks. The taper on most stocks back then was quite a bit more than today, and going to a straight toed stock pretty much left you with 'coarse' and 'extra fine'. In general, this applies to most setups where you adjust by squeezing the rear bag.

Most modern FTR stocks do still have some taper, though it is much less pronounced than it used to be; 4-5 degrees vs. 9-10. The mariner's wheel on bipods like the Phoenix, Duplin, etc. have essentially replaced the coarse adjustment, and depending on the user's preference, the fine (to some degree). How the shooter ends up doing the 'extra fine' tweaks varies somewhat. Joystick bipods like the SEB do fairly well with a straight-toed stock, as pretty much *all* the fine/extra-fine adjustment is in the stick. Adjusting each leg independently and then going back to re-level things during prep-time can be annoying. Similarly, other designs like the Talon or M-Pod where each leg adjusts independently can be fiddly to set up. The Talon at least has a threaded rod for each leg, so it's a matter of loosening a lock wheel, and turning an adjuster nut on the rod to raise/lower each side. *Very* precise for leveling the gun, and it won't ever 'slip' like designs that have a center cant adjustment / lock lever... but if/when the ground under one side of the bipod settles (or you get squadded at a spot on the line that is very uneven) adjusting it back to level is pretty tedious.

It seems (to me) that fewer people squeeze the rear bag these days. The current gen of Edgewood, SEB and Protektor bags tend to have *much* stiffer sides, and the trend is to have a space between the ears of the bag for the flat of the stock to run on - even with a taper. As such, squeezing the ears doesn't really work the way it used to with traditional bunny-ear bags that just had a 'V' between the ears, with no space. Sliding the gun fore and aft really is the 'fine' adjust, and to some degree, the 'extra fine'. A little bit of tweaking can be done with hand pressure, etc. but very, *very* carefully as it's way too easy to put too much 'English' on the shot and have it end up where you didn't intend for it to go...
 
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OLD308

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All this information is excellent. Continued thanks to all that add to the growing knowledge base.
 

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One piece of bad info up there somewhere.

US Palma does not require 155gr bullets, that's fullbore. I know a lot of Palma shooters that shoot the 185 Juggs; however, those who get tuned up to shoot international competition often shoot the 155s to keep the wind calling consistent.
 

OLD308

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I’m along way from bullet selection at the moment. Found a few competitions with in driving diatomaceous over the next month. So looking forward to learning more their. That McMillan XIT stock looks like my next purchase If the bug bites hard enough.
 

Greg Langelius *

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I shot NRA Highpower N/M (with a DCM Garand, then a 'loaded' M1a) through most of the '90's, then some 300yd Paper Target Club Sniper Matches (graduating from a decent M1A to a 308 Bolt), then shot 1000yd F-Open for a handful of years. My heart went South at teh end of 2004, and I hung in there, but was pretty much toast competitively by around 2010.

I recently (2017 Berger SW LR Nats) attempted a comeback shooting F T/R 600yd MR with a 5.56 Savage 11VT 24" bolt gun.

The rifle did pretty decent work, but I'm just too far over that hill for any serious participation. Two months later, I had my second MI. My Granddaughter shot her first formal match ever right alongside me at that one, with a Stag Model 6 24". She had a great time.

Participation with a 308 is a very logical entry level approach. I'd use 175MK and 42.2gr of IMR-4064 as the goto load. 308FGMM2 is another good choice. A helpful SH chat.

My pair of Savage 11VT's are well into their development, with the best factory load being IMI 168 Semi-Auto Match. I handload an equivalent with 42.5gr of IMR4064 and HDY 168 HPBT-Match, but at the lower altitudes, the 175 becomes necessary.

The IMI 77 is a nice factory load for the 5.56, as is Hornady 75gr Steel Match. My load is HDY 75gr HPBT-Match (not A-Max or ELD, the Savage uses a 1:9" twist, the Stag has 1:8"), and 23.5-23.7gr of Varget. At lower altitudes, the 5.56 with 75gr and 308 with 168 are 600yd MR loads; and will likely not carry the mail well at 1000yd

Greg

PS, I posted this before reading Monte's excellent posts. He is a shooter on several planes above anything I ever manged to accomplish. IMHO, I think of him as Mr. F Class.
 
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Rocketvapor

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With years of skill behind you, I like that you are passing in on (don't pass on just yet :) ) to young ones to follow in your footsteps.
Much more productive in the long run.
 

Greg Langelius *

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I'm teaching her younger Brother (20) the fine art of curating the Garand. He's learning how to do the annual maintenance on our VFW Post's eight Ceremonial Rifles. I can't say how much longer I'll be up and ready for the task, and it goes on regardless.

Greg
 

Denys

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One piece of bad info up there somewhere.

US Palma does not require 155gr bullets, that's fullbore. I know a lot of Palma shooters that shoot the 185 Juggs; however, those who get tuned up to shoot international competition often shoot the 155s to keep the wind calling consistent.
International Palma, shooting for the Palma Trophy is limited to .308 bullets less than 156grains fired out of a 7.62X51 (.308 Winchester) case. It used to be restricted to the Sierra 155gr Palma bullet, number 2165, IIRC, but it has since been opened to any .308 bullet less than 156gr. In the olden days, the ammunition to be used for the upcoming Palma Trophy was supplied by the country where the match was held but it got too difficult and expensive to send training ammo to other countries. Before that, the host country would supply the rifles and the ammo.