At FTW Ranch in Texas earlier this week, as part of our annual hunting episode on SHOOTING GALLERY. That's a classic Hill Country buck, 11 points. I used a Ruger FTW Predator in 6.5 Creedmoor fitted with a Swaro X5(i) 3.5-18X, probably the best scope I've ever used. Ammo was Hornady Precision Hunter ELD-X 143-grains. Shot was 280 yards in late afternoon (why the picture is so dark…it took us a while to work our way down from the ridge where we were camped out). And yes, it was cold…I'm wearing, like, 20 layers…
Earlier in the week I'd been shooting out to 700 yards with that gun/scope combo, except with the Match 140-gr ELDs. One of the big points of this episode (which we may split into 2 parts) is to encourage hunters to challenge themselves to raise their skill levels. If you're steadily hitting at 600/700/800 yards, a 300-yard shot — and most hunting shots in North America fall inside 300 yards — becomes much easier.
To be completely truthful, I wasn't totally happy with the way the Predator was grouping with the Hornady Match, which I have had great luck with in other rifles. I was shooting 1 1/2 inch groups prone at 100 yards…I honestly expected 1 single hole at that distance. I figured I was just having a bad day, but 2 of the FTW instructors — 2 of the finest shots I've ever met — got the same results. We did all the "standard" things you do with a Ruger bolt gun…check the action mounting screws, make sure the scope was appropriately torqued, etc….to no avail. So we switched to the Precision Hunters, and the groups shrank to inside an MOA…still not what I expected, but acceptable.
I'm trying to decide how to go forward with the rifle. I love the way it handles…it's a little beefy at 8+ pounds, but with the 6.5 it has the recoil of a .22. Plus it's the same stock I use on my Ruger Guide Gun .300 Win Mag and my much-used Ruger Gunsite Scout. Yes, I am boringly consistent. My inclination is to give it an EXTREMELY good cleaning, run 100 rounds through it, a second cleaning, foul it and then shoot it for group. I'm also going to be running some other ammo through it to see if there's something sympatico that the rifle likes. I have a bunch of the Winchester 140-gr Match, and I have some American Eagle on order. I'll let you guys know how it works out (on SGO, match).
I can't say enough good things about the scope. I meab Swaro is Swaro (and, sadly, not a sponsor). The combination of 6.5 Creedmoor and 3.5-18X makes this a super combo for most North American hunting (and, no, I'm not talking about the big bears, jeez!). I got the scope with a 4W reticle:
I'm a proponent of dialing the elevation. Like probably most of you who grew up hunting, all I ever heard was "Kentucky windage," or "just hold up a little if he's way out there!" Of course, in west Tennessee an northeast Mississippi, 100 yards was a looooooooooong shot with that 30-30! Dialing the elevation is more accurate than that holdover, which is why I oped for the 4W reticle. Makes me do what I know is best.
FTW "doctrine," if you will, is to zero at 100 yards, then, in the field, dial to 200, which gives you a "dead on" shot from close up out to roughly 300 yards with the Creedmoor. When we got to the ridgeline where we were going to camp out and wait for dusk, I lasered what I thought might be my closest shot, 220 yards, and my farthest shot, right at 300 yards. Accordingly, I dialed up 250 yards on the Swaro, which worked perfectly for a 280 yard shot.
I know I said last year I was going to stick to strictly mil-dots, but…well, the best laid plans, etc. BTW, the X5(i) is not Swaro's latest entry in the tactical scope market…it is designed from the ground up as a hunting scope. Here's a great review from Jason Keim at Sniper's Hide that sums it up well:
Swarovski truly set out to design, build and deliver the ultimate long range shooting and hunting scope. Did they do it? Honestly, I think they might have, the scope is both optically and mechanically one of the best I’ve used. I personally will have one on my rifle come October when I’m shooting game at long ranges in Colorado this year.We were working off range cards generated by FTW, and I found their numbers consistent with the Swaro ballistic app.
BTW, I am happy that both Producer John Carter's and my venison will be providing an excellent Christmas dinner for needy families in south Texas! Enjoy.