Set up the right small-caliber, twin practice rifle to match your big game rifle and you can perfectly match its trajectory. With your twin practice rifle you can train at half the cost and half the recoil.
- The keys are to match muzzle velocities (MV) and ballistic coefficients (BC.)
- Wind deflection and bullet drop will be identical at all distances.
- Recoil could be cut in half.
Ballistic Secrets Behind the Twin Practice Rifle
The biggest secret in rifle shooting seems to be the relationship between muzzle velocity, bullet efficiency, and caliber. Most of us assume a larger caliber, especially a MAGNUM, will shoot farther, harder, and flatter than any smaller caliber and deflect less in the wind. Actually, if MV and BC are identical, it will only shoot harder. Downrange velocity, drop, and drift will not change.
Let’s reiterate: it doesn’t matter if caliber is .22, .27, .30, .50 or anything else. If MV and BC are identical, trajectory will be identical. A little .224 bullet could shoot to exactly the same points as a big, 165-grain .308 bullet.
Contemplate that for a few seconds and let the lights come up. Yeah! The implications are huge. This means you can shoot a small-caliber centerfire at targets and get the same trajectory, the same flight path, the same bullet impacts you would if you were shooting your Old Dragon Slayer. The holes in the paper might not be as large. The steel plate might not swing as far. But your money will stretch farther, your shoulder will hurt less, you’ll cure that slight flinch, see more of your hits, perfect your trigger control, learn to call your shots, and otherwise improve your field shooting skills — without wearing out your big game rifle.
What’s not to like?
Twin Practice Rifle Should Increases Hunting Versatility
Okay, maybe the cost of another rifle is not all that likable. But most of us own more than one rifle anyway, don’t we? Instead of keeping a 270 Win. and 300 Win. Mag. or a 308 Win. and 7mm Rem. Mag., why not spread the field and jump from a 300 Wby. Mag. to a 22-250 Rem.? From a 26 Nosler to a 220 Swift? Go big at the top end to handle the big stuff, narrow at the bottom to handle targets, coyotes, and rodents.
It’s been my observation that too many hunters favor redundancy. They keep rifles chambered for cartridges too close to one another in performance. There’s nothing wrong with owning, say, a 270, 280, 7mm-08, 30-06, and 6.5 Creedmoor, but none does much more nor less than the others. If, instead, you owned a fast-twist 220 Swift and a 30 Nosler, you’d be set for everything from ground squirrels and coyotes to mule deer and brown bears. And if you match MV and BC in them, you’ll be that “man with one gun” we’re supposed to beware of because “he likely knows how to use it.” You’ll just enjoy the added advantage of getting to train with the smaller caliber.
How To Choose Your Twin Practice Rifle
1. Buy identical models. Two bolt-action Kimbers or Mossberg Patriots. Two Browning BLR lever actions. Two Winchester M70s, Ruger No. 1s, or Bergara B14s. Whatever you like. Just get two. But in wildly different chamberings.
2. Choose those chamberings (cartridges) to meet your hunting needs (say, one for deer, elk, and moose; the other for rodents, jackrabbits and coyotes) plus your target and training needs (mild recoil, lower cost ammo, matched trajectory.)
3. Study the average MVs of cartridges plus BC ratings of good hunting bullets in those calibers to find this twin practice rifle ballistic match.
If you do not handload or buy custom loaded ammo, finding ballistic matches can be difficult. Factory ammo options are never as inclusive as handloading options. For one thing, factories never load all the bullets on the market. For another, they load to one standard, to one specific MV, which might be slightly too fast or too slow to match your other cartridge. If you handload, you can modify the powder charge to generate the perfect MV match and buy bullets with the perfect BC match. Often you’ll need to reduce MV in the larger caliber to compensate for the lower BC of the smaller.
The final stumbling block in this plan is the fact that every rifle shoots slightly differently. Your 280 Rem. might shoot Federal’s 150-grain Partition load 100 fps faster than my 280 Rem. shoots it. This could be due to a longer barrel or a tighter chamber or bore. It doesn’t matter why. All that matters is matching the MV and BC of your twin rifles, and that is most easily done by handloading. If you come up 50 or 100 fps too fast on one, reduce your powder until you match the right MV.
An Example of Twin Loads
To get your twin practice rifle in perfect synchrony with your big game rifle, you may need a fast twist barrel and/or somewhat downloaded (less than maximum) MV. Here are two cartridges and bullets I found to make a big game rifle mate nicely to its twin practice rifle. One is a 300 WSM, the other a 22-250 Remington. Bullet BC isn’t a perfect match, but close enough to 800 yards. You’ve got to admit these two rounds will address nearly all of your hunting needs. The 22-250 uses a 1-9” twist barrel to stabilize the long, 75-grain Hornady ELD-X bullet.
Scan down the Trajectory column and Wind Drift column and you’ll see identical numbers out to 300 yards. After that a tiny difference emerges. This is because the BC of the 165-gr. 300 WSM bullet has a 0.005 advantage over the 22-250 bullet. This amounts to a negligible real world drop difference of 1” at 800 yards, a wind deflection difference of 0.8”. I’m not sweating that. The Energy column shows a major difference, of course, and that has everything to do with the 90-grain difference in bullet mass. But who cares? You don’t need 1,000 f-p of energy to kill a target at 800 yards, and 449 f-p are more than sufficient to terminate a prairie rat, woodchuck, or coyote.
What these charts don’t display are recoil levels, and the difference between them is huge. If both rifles weigh the same, let’s say 7 pounds, the 22-250 will generate 8.18 f-p of free recoil energy. The 300 WSM will kick up 35.5 f-p — a painfully obvious difference. There’s also the cost difference. Figure $35 to $60 per 20 rounds of factory ammo for the 300; $16 to $30 for the 22-250 Rem. Handloading could cut that in half.
With other twin practice rifles you might need to drop the MV of one or the other. Sometimes you must compromise a bit more on BC, which doesn’t usually begin to tell significantly until beyond 300 yards. That’s approaching the edge of typical (sensible) range for most hunters.
I recommend topping each rifle with the exact same scope model. Consistency is important whether you use a BDC reticle, turret dialing, or even simple hold-over. Might as well make the scope rings the same too. You may not be able to keep action lengths the same in both rifles, but I see this as a minor issue. More important is setting trigger pull-weight to match. That’s worth the trouble.
The end product of this twin practice rifle matchup is an advanced version of “Beware the hunter with one rifle…” except you’re getting the benefits of a matched pair.
“Do as I say, not as I do,” says author Ron Spomer, who has to work with many different rifles, cartridges, and bullets each year. His shooting skills suffer.